Swinging on Scaffolds


I was on fire all the time.

I have had thoroughly miserable jobs working for people who would have benefited the world by being institutionalized. But never with painting.

The first job I had getting paid for holding a loaded brush in my hand all day was on billboards. I did that five days a week and then tended bar Friday nights through Sundays. It was on West Broadway, which was not then but became SoHo and a crappy little smelly delightful place called The Barnabus Rex, run by an overly dramatic southern girl who liked violent boyfriends.

Local artists and bikers were drawn to it, it was always incredibly crowded and lively. You cannot begin to imagine (or maybe can) the amount of crap I was subjected to by the ‘ARTISTS’ who came in and cleared bar space to study and fill out GUGGENHEIM and MOMA grant forms, filled with ridicule for me because I was making commercial art!

Not one of them with an ounce of guts, all looking for some free ride.

And meanwhile five days a week I was swinging in the breeze on scaffolds 10 to 25 stories up above Times Square, New York City’s 42nd Street mecca, having the time of my life. Coney Island the same.

We did cigarettes and booze and Broadway openings. John Belushi’s “1944”, The Wiz with young Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones 1973 World Tour. A bottle of Dewars sinking into the Manhattan skyline sunset. You had to work fast, we mixed all our colors on the scaffold, pots of pigment, Japan drier, linseed oil and benzine. Eyes were painted with four-inch brushes. The standard billboards were 30 X 60 feet.

Big. Sweet.

In l972 I worked on the mammoth New York Times Square billboard. A city block long marquee, since torn down. It was my first billboard gig, I did the MADE IN THE SHADE (David Bowie in Drag) cover that was the first of a series to be added to the turbo eagle’s talons.

[Sparhawk painted the album cover, about 20  4×8 sheets of Masonite. Paul Chan painted the turbo eagle.]

 Whether I was painting dripping ice cream cones or steaming hot dogs, oh GOD!!!! it was incredible. Color and paint and turps and brushes.

I was on fire all the time.

I worked for ArtKraft-Strauss and Villepigue. The companies never wanted women in the business but I was good at faces and they hired me. I’d get fired every 30 days, then brought back in, kept me ineligible for the union.

The last job was 25 stories up. The street temp was 18 degrees and it was a windy November and I decided they weren’t paying me enough for all that, and quit.

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