As any writer knows, it is very hard to get published. A vaunted role, such as an arts columnist, is a near impossibility. This is my story of chutzpah and success.
Literary talent is subjective; therefore, talented writers must have an extra advantage far beyond writing skill. To model my future career, I had made a study of success in literature from 1650 to the present. My findings were consistent throughout every era in history. Brilliant writers are related to, or are sleeping with their editor and/or publisher. The next day, I quit school, got a haircut and bought a new, rakish suit.
I came to Los Angeles with a gleam in my eye that was soon blackened by the Philistines. The New Yorker, Esquire, Confidential, Variety, Hush-Hush and even Bazoombas turned me down. Not one of them wanted my column about hot jazz, champagne, art issues and silk stockings. Nonetheless, I always kept a copy of my proposed column in my back pocket.
You can trip me, but you can't stop me. One night I was in downtown Los Angeles at a huge art event, a happening of hundreds of artists, joyful and free, when I stumbled upon an ugly act of violence. A ham-fisted bully was badgering and shouting at a bespectacled, shaggy-haired literary type in a striped T-shirt. The furious man was screaming with accusations of slander and slight.
With increasing aggression, he was calling out and threatening the young man who answered back in a clear, steady and logical voice. I recognized the young Lincoln as Mat Gleason, editor of Coagula, the most lauded and hated art magazine in the nation at that time. Some doughy, Westside nutjob was hounding this art world titan. A crowd was beginning to form around the combatants.
Suddenly, with the howl of a bull moose, the bully bureaucrat lunged at the editor. I was impressed with the way Gleason parried. Anyone with street smarts knows if you swing first you go to jail and mandatory anger management classes, both environments to avoid. I liked this Gleason, for he never tossed a punch.
The terror monger was flying fists and blubber, really throwing his weight around. Gleason was soon overcome by the ferocity of the ugliness.
I sensed an opportunity. I dove into the fray and separated the two. The attacker, who I had saved from his own deranged hubris, continued to bluster and steam scream. The crowd was now large enough that the browbeaten bully had no choice but to back off.
Gleason was a little unsteady after several blows. Realizing he might be woozy and susceptible to persuasion, I introduced myself and whipped out the column that I always kept in my back pocket. I tucked the pages into his.
Gleason had a hard, smart face, but he looked addled. I shook his hand and spoke slowly as if we had been conversing for hours. Gushingly I said, "I am so excited you like my work. Thanks for lunch. Next time is on me. I will take the job as columnist for your fine publication."
Gleason was obviously confused but in no condition to answer. Concussions have their benefits. I smiled and ran off. A week later, I sent in my first 1,200 words.
And that's how I became a brilliant art columnist without ever having to sleep with the editor or marry his sister.
GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles-based artist and writer. His visual and literary work can be found near www.GordyGrundy.com
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