Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stephan, Art Deco, and Erte

I love Art Deco. I love the old movie palaces. I love the images of Erte.
I enjoy seeing these images and reading about them. Stephan, however, lives the walk and talks the talk.
He is immersed in the world of art deco and Erte. Stephan lives in Oregon, but later this month, he will be in New York to give a special presentation for The Ziegfeld Society. How I wish I was available for that! He will be talking about Erte and especially Erte's involvement with The Ziegfeld Follies.
Stephan and I sat down to explore his world today and to get a glimpse into his upcoming event on April 26th.

Stephan's love for this world began when he was a kid. His grandmother had certain items in her home that Stephan liked.
This was before Art Deco even had a name. The term "art deco" wasn't even coined until around 1968. At the time, Stephen just referred to it as "Grandma's stuff."

As he got older, he developed an interest in art history. That led to an interest in art deco because art deco was the first style of art and design that had incorporated all previous styles of art.
There is Egyptian style art deco as well as Greek style and Roman style (which is called Greco Deco). There is Asian and South Pacific Art Deco. Art Deco was truly the first type of international art. It had the ability to adapt itself to whatever area or region or country it was in.

Erte is probably the most famous and well artist to come out of this genre. Stephan attributes that to the fact that Erte lived such a long life. He was also part of OUR lifetime.
With the media and publicity of our time, that made him more famous later in life than he actually was working during the twenties and thirties.

Stephan's real immersion in this world began in his early twenties. A resurgence in the world of art deco really began to take off with the release of the film, Bonnie and Clyde, in 1967. The movie became very popular and sort of changed fashion for women. The "Bonnie" look was very in and popular thanks to Faye Dunaway (and, of course, costume designer Theadora Van Runkle).
Around the same time, musicians started incorporating twenties tunes. I very much remember Winchester Cathedral at that time.
  Winchester Cathedral was released in late 1966 by Fontana Records, whereupon it shot to the #1 spot in Canada on the RPM 100 national singles charts and shortly thereafter in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was released by The New Vaudeville Band, a British novelty group established by the song's composer, Geoff Stephens. Stephens was a big fan of tunes from the British music hall era (or what Americans would call "vaudeville"), so he wrote "Winchester Cathedral" in that vein, complete with a Rudy
Vallée soundalike (John Carter) singing through his hands to imitate a megaphone sound. Although recorded entirely by session musicians, when the song became an international hit, an actual band had to be assembled, which toured extensively under the tutelage of Peter Grant, who later went on to manage The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin. (Source: Wikipedia)
The Mamas and the Papas had a huge hit with Dream a Little Dream of Me which was also from the twenties.Tribute bands like the Pasadena Roof Orchestra began to form.
The Spirit of the Opal
A private commission to represent the client's birthstone, Artist: Stephan)
This orchestra has always been the first port of call for film producers requiring authentic soundtracks for international movies.Although this band formed in England, they have a big following here. Big Band music started becoming popular again. 
There was also a new crop of younger architects coming in who were doing new kinds of art deco things and going back to the twenties and thirties for inspiration. You would see little touches here and there from new buildings that were going up.

It was an homage to
Art Deco Society of Los Angeles
the art deco era. Many architects during the forties and fifties were trying to turn away from that.
There are art deco societies in major cities all over the world. People join them for different reasons. The main goal of the art deco societies is education and preservation of buildings. They try to generate to the general public and people in politics why these buildings should not be torn down. Look at all the gorgeous movie palaces that we have lost over the years. Finally, it has dawned on some that these buildings can still be used.
They can still be turned into legitimate theatres or performing arts centers.
All of this is both a full time career and a sideline for Stephan. He became involved with the Art Deco Society of California, which is in San Francisco, where he was living in the early eighties. They were formed in 1984.He had heard about them when he saw a flyer in an antique store that carried a lot of art deco items. He called them and they invited him to one of their board meetings. He made a presentation of his portfolio of things he had been doing for several years. The board members went off into a corner and all that Stephan could hear was loud whispering.
They came back and asked him if he
The Spirit of the Emerald
A private commission to represent the client's birthstone (Artist Stephan )
would like to be on their board. They named him artist in residence. He has been artist in residence since they formed in 1984, almost thirty years. He has done magazine covers for them and signage and posters.
He designed their logo. He designed their preservation award which is presented every year at the Art Deco Preservation Ball. Every so often, he has gotten to design a gown for one or two of the ladies in the Society.
Hus favorite art deco building is the Chanin Building here in New York.
The Chanin Building is a brick and terra-cotta skyscraper located at 122 East 42nd Street, at the corner of Lexington Avenue, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Built by Irwin S. Chanin in 1929, it is
The Chanin Building in NY
56 stories high, reaching 197.8 meters (649 ft) excluding the spire and 207.3 meters (680 ft) including it. It was designed by Sloan and Robertson in the Art Deco style,with the assistance of Chanin's own architect Jacques Delamarre, and it incorporates architectural sculpture by Rene Paul Chambellan. (Source: Wikipedia)

The highlights of Stephan's involvement in this world are the times that he spent with Erte.
They met several times, usually at art galleries that were exhibiting Erte's work usually in celebration of his birthday. They first met on Erte's 87th Birthday. It was at Circle Gallery in Los Angeles. Stephan had become friendly with the gallery director and she had seen Stephan's art and knew that one of the things that he was trying to do was carry on the art deco legacy. Stephan had written to Erte about two months prior saying that
Stephan with his display of Erté memorabilia.
he was looking forward to seeing him at this exhibition. Erte wrote back to Stephan which surprised him.Erte said that he was looking forward to meeting Stephan. Stephan got to the gallery very early before anyone else arrived with his portfolio. He hid it behind a potted plant. The gallery eventually got very packed with people.
Erte's manager had set up this big butan chair at the back of the gallery. The manager and the gallery had planned on no one speaking to Erte. He was just going to be a presence there. There were so many people that that plan did not work. Everyone was going up to Erte and talking to him. Erte was loving it all. Every once in a while, Stephan would go to his portfolio and pull out a few things and
Erte as a young man (courtesy Stephan Artist)
take them over to Erte and show them to him. Erte was absolutely intrigued and delighted. Erte asked Stephan what he was doing with his art. He liked Stephan's work. They carried on a mail correspondence for several years. Stephan, of course, has saved all those letters. The last time Stephan saw him was in New York in 1985. The Art Deco Preservation Ball had actually fallen on Erte's birthday on November 10th. Stephan suggested to the board of directors that the entire ball be a tribute to Erte. The board agreed and that's what they did. They put together one of their preservation awards for him and Stephan flew back to New York and presented it to him at Dyansen Gallery which was in Greenwich Village at that time.
Every year for the Art Deco Ball, Stephan would design a limited edition poster. For that year, it was a tribute to Erte. Stephan took one to Erte wrapped up very nice. During that evening, at the art gallery in New York, Erte and Stephan went into an office room in the back and Stephan presented the poster to him as a birthday present. Erte opened it up and
unrolled it and he looked at it for the longest time and then looked up at Stephan and said, "You did this?" Stephan answered in the affirmative and Erte looked at it again and studied every detail of it. He looked up at Stephan again and asked once again, "You did this?" Once again, Stephan answered in the affirmative. Erte then sat the poster down and looked up at Stephan and applauded him.
Talk about passing the baton! Stephan's heart was going pitter pat!
On the 26th of April, audiences will be able to see and learn much more when Stephan appears with The Ziegfeld Society here in New York.
Stephan knew about The Ziegfeld Society and contacted them. He had originally contacted the Art Deco Society of New York. One of his Facebook friends is on their board. His friend suggested that Stephan come out east and do a lecture. Stephan contacted the person in charge and was quickly dismissed. Basically, he was told that all of their members knew everything there was to know about art deco and Erte. He was told that because of that, their members would be bored. Instead of being defeated, Stephan contacted Mark York of The Ziegfeld Society. Mark is their president. Mark jumped at the opportunity. This is the first time that The Ziegfeld Society is going to have a speaker that is not speaking about an entertainer or musician. Stephan is the first to discuss an actual
designer who worked for the Follies.
Stephan tells me that the relationship between Erte and Ziegfeld was not a good one. Ziegfeld was very excited about having Erte design for him. Erte was such a star designer at the time for the Follies Bergere in Paris.  
Ziegfeld was excited that he was able to get Erte to design various scenes and tableaux for The Ziegfeld Follies of 1923. However, Ziegfeld was about "glorifying the American girl" and showing off the women's figure and Erte's costumes had a tendency to be very drapy, hiding all the curves and Ziegfeld did not like that. Even though the public was very much delighted with Erte's designs, Ziegfeld was not, and he never used him again. Erte developed a very strong relationship later on with George White of the George White Scandals and ended up designing seven productions.
 In 1925, Erte spent almost an entire year in Hollywood designing for MGM which had just been formed. Louis B. Mayer had bought Erte out from Paris and he was hoping that Erte would be his main production designer in charge of designing or overseeing the costumes for MGM films. Even though Erte was excited about working in Hollywood, he could only do so much in film. He had more freedom and flexibility on the stage.
Hollywood turned out to be a very frustrating time for him. He wasn't used to working with movie people. Movie people weren't used to working with very famous designers. Even though he did a lot of wonderful things at MGM, he couldn't stand the pace and the attitudes and all that that entailed. He had a bad encounter with Lillian Gish, for one, designing costumes for the movie, La Boheme.She was playing Mimi, the seamstress, who was supposed to be very poor. Erte designed her costumes out of cheap wools and cottons. Miss Gish went to him and told him that she was sorry, but her skin could only tolerate the finest silks to come in contact with every pore.
Stephan tells me that he does all of this because this is all he knows how to do. People are always complementing him, not only on his art, but also on his entertaining and singing and directing shows and designing shows. He is often asked if there is anything he doesn't do. He always steals Barbra Streisand's line from Hello, Dolly!, " If you're going to live from hand to mouth, you better be ambidextrous".
There are many innovations that Erte made in his lifetime that people don't know about. He designed the one
The North Sea costume for The George White Scandals
shoulder dress, the accordion handbag, unisex clothes. He was the first designer to incorporate metal in designs. He designed the first caftan.
Stephan is hoping to impart a little bit of theatre history to those lucky enough to spend the afternoon with him and The Ziegfeld Society on April 26th.
Please GO! I wish I could!!

 Erté recollections by Ellen Easton
My maternal great- grandfather's cousin was Iva Pactevitch, the CEO of Conde Nast.  NY TIMES, "Mr. Nast was taken with him and in 1928, named Mr. Patcevitch as his personal assistant. Mr. Nast's last wish before dying in 1942 was that Mr. Patcevitch be named his successor as president. He became chairman of the executive committee in 1942 and retired in 1971. 
Iva Pactevitch, the CEO of Conde Nast. (Courtesy: Life Magazine)
Lean, cultured, and fashionable, Mr. Patcevitch was a troubleshooter at various Conde Nast publications in the 1930's, including Paris Vogue.
Reva Paul 1947
Through Iva, my mother, Reva Paul, a budding artist in her own right, was fortunate to be introduced to many great artists, including Erte.  One of the thrills of my life was accompanying Reva to Erte's 90th birthday party in 1982, at an art gallery in New York City. ( No, I do not specialize in 90th birthday parties, although I do hope to reach mine!) 
My impression of Erte, while a small, rather shy and unassuming man, once he began to discuss his art he lit up in conversation.  Having admired the work of Erte since my childhood, to have the opportunity to not only meet him but to discuss his craft was a mini master class for which I feel very privileged. 

More about  the Art Deco Society of California and Stephan Artist can be found at  http://www.artdecosociety.org/stephan

Erte and Carmel Myers in her Ben-Hur costume
The Life and Art of Erté....Saturday, April 26th  -  3:30pm-5:30pm.  Lang Hall on the 4th floor of Hunter College (69th Street between Lex and Park Ave)
You will hear songs from the various famous revues that Erté designed.....The Ziegfeld Follies of 1923, George White Scandals, The Hollywood Revue of 1929.
La Traviata costume (Courtesy: Stephan)
Erte with Barbra Streisand (Courtesy: Stephan)

Singers from West Chester University from West Chester University performing in this show as well as New York artists.
This will be their first presentation featuring a designer from The World of Florenz Ziegfeld. So you won't want to miss it.

They will be raffling off various Stephan posters and will have a display of original Erté sketches and artwork.
Tickets are already on sale  online.  So get your tickets now!
Erté - The Life and Art of Erté
Saturday, April 26th 3:30 - 5:30pm (doors open at 3:00pm)
Lang Hall at Hunter College 69th Street Entrance
4th Floor
Erte in the 1980s (Courtesy: Stephan)
$7 - Ziegfeld Members and Students
$15 - Non-members PURCHSE TICKETS ONLINE at www.theziegfeldsociety.com  or mail your check to: The Ziegfeld Society
                400 East 58th Street, Suite 16C New York, NY 10022 
Like on Facebook!
For info - Call 917-371-5509 or email ziegfeldsociety@aol.com

For those of you who cannot make The Ziegfeld Society Celebration on the 26th, Stephan will be doing it again on May 3rd as a fundraiser for the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet in Beacon, NY. He will give his talk on Erte as well as his lecture on the history of Art Deco and a short presentation of own paintings and designs. The time of the event and the admission price has not been set yet but people can call the academy for that information later. Call 914-788-8886 and ask for Ken Ludden.
Let's start celebrating artists again rather than tearing them down.

Thank you ALL of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

 With grateful XOXOXs ,

A Testimonial from Richard Skipper's most recent event
What an incredible evening Richard Skipper presented at Pier 701 on Saturday night, April 5th, 2014 -

He is the quintessential host/emcee. I was thrilled to be on the bill with such an outstanding array of truly talented performers. Thanks for including me in this successful evening! - Joan Jaffe  (Richard Skipper.com Guestbook)
with Anita Gillette, Penny Fuller, and KT Sullivan
Check out my site celebrating the FIRST Fifty years of  Hello, Dolly! 

I desire this to be the definitive site for all things Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!
If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
                                                              Keeping LIVE entertainment LIVE!
                     Aileen Pringle in The Mystic                   



  1. Thank you, Richard, for such a lovely story on my upcoming visit to NYC. You have presented it beautifully and what a surprise to have a personal tie-in to Erte through your own family. That is thrilling, I must say. I'm so excited to be able to make this presentation for the Ziegfeld Society. Thank you again.

  2. Stephan is one of the great undiscovered talents on our planet. He should be a multimillionaire! That he is not only magnifies the gem value that resides in his talents. Nicholas Varzos - Art Auctioneer

  3. What an excellent article on Erte--and Stephan, a brilliant artist and performer himself. We're thrilled that NY audiences will be able to see and hear Stephan bring Erte to life. It will be a memorable event! ENJOY!
    Jeanne St.John

  4. Thank you for writing an excellent preview of Stephan's presentation! He is truly an amazing talent with wit! The more who know about him, and see him in action, the more he (Stephan) is able to give back to all of us.

  5. Hooray for a wonderful article for a great person and very talented visual and performance artist. We're only letting Stephan go to New York because he promises to come back home to us! Jan

  6. How sad I am not to be able to attend your delicious lecture in NYC . You have been such a stalwart champion of Les Artes Décoratif and such a lovely friend to me. You are truly a multi-talented "polymath" of the arts and I am honored to know you. Having grown up in Miami Beach, art deco is veritably burned into the right heisphere of my cerebral cortex. All the best on your lecture, Stephen. Another of my Deco heroes is Joseph Urban. What a GREAT SHAME they demolished his gorgeous Ziegfeld Theatre. Much Lovde
    =David Edawrd Byrd=

  7. What an excellent preview, chock full of interesting facts of Erte and tantalizing highlights of Stephan's unique talents, knowledge and life experiences. We are happy that share Stephan with New York and know it will be a wonderful experience for him and everyone who attends. Sherre R

  8. What an excellent article, rich with interesting information. Thank you for featuring Stephan and his upcoming lectures in New York.
    Linda C

  9. A wonderful read about amazing talent!

  10. It is my joy to know Stephan and have a copy of one of his beautiful drawings hanging on my home wall! Good trip wishes to you Stephan, have a ball!!!

    Collette H.

  11. The arts community on the Central Oregon Coast appreciates Stephan's great talents. We hope New York knows he is just visiting. Great article!
    Jessie Treon

  12. Anyone who attends this event will be well rewarded, and very lucky. It is a little too far away today from the central Oregon Coast where I live and enjoy knowing Stephan. He is an excellent artist and performer and designer of sets as well as director of shows. It seems he can do everything extraordinarily well. As someone commented, he should be rich. It would make a perfect addendum to his resume. BTW, excellent article. I will share it.
    Patsy Brookshire

  13. Stephan is the foremost historian on Erte and a has magnificent talent in painting with the feeling of Erte in every brush

  14. What a wonderful & informative article about 2 great artists. We on the central Oregon coast are very lucky indeed to have Stephan here so that we can enjoy his many talents. Audiences in New York are in for a real treat. Lee Anne C.

  15. Stephan's wonderful work defines amazing. I am so glad that he is getting some of the attention he so rightly deserves. Ken Bunch

  16. Stephan's work transcends the miraculous. I am indeed honored with the treasure his friendship