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THE ARTFUL DIMAGGIO
by Charlie Finch
 
Once the Yankees had won their 40th American League pennant, it was time to go over to Cinders Gallery in Williamsburg, where my pal Eva Lake has a collage of the greatest Yankee, Joe Dimaggio, in the international collage exhibition there.

I talk a lot about Dimag with our mutual friend Dr. Rock Positano, Dimaggio's closest pal up until Joe's death in 1999. Positano, a Yale-trained podiatrist, rescued Joe from a lifetime of foot pain, which began in 1949 when Joe injured his heel and his trainer used live leeches to suck out the swelling. Every year in the 15 years left of Joe's life, Rock would drive the Yankee Clipper to Marilyn Monroe's crypt, 12 dozen roses in the back of their Cadillac. Dimag would always say the same thing, "Doc, I can't go in," so Positano would carry the mountain of flowers inside and say a prayer for Marilyn's soul.

Another time, back in New York, to do a favor for an art gallery, Rock went over to a West Side apartment to pick up a famous Robert Mapplethorpe photo showing a close-up of a large black penis. Positano put the raunchy piece in the back of his car and then drove off to pick up Joe. When Dimag got in the car, he took one look at the Mapplethorpe and freaked, "Doc, do you know how many people recognize me in New York! What if a cop pulls us over to ask for my autograph and sees me with this picture?"

Even into his 80s, Joe D was still catnip to famous actresses. One time Positano and Dimag were having dinner with actress Susan Anton at a kosher Italian restaurant in the theater district. Anton excused herself, only to have the waiter come over to Dimag and indicate that the gorgeous blonde had gone upstairs to wait for him. Joe looked at Positano wistfully, "Maybe five years ago, Doc, but now I'm retired."

What hasn't retired is the interest of artists in Dimaggio's life and legend, as depicted in Eva Lake's wistful and poignant new piece.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).