A 1950s Pontiac parked on a street in Cuba. Image by Zahav511. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Cash for clunkers has a different meaning in Cuba

A 1950s Pontiac parked on a street in Cuba. Image by Zahav511. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

A 1950s Pontiac parked on a street in Cuba. Image by Zahav511. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

HAVANA (AP) – Dairo Tio cruises the streets of Havana in a gleaming black 1954 Buick with polished chrome highlights and the diesel motor from an electric plant bolted beneath the hood.

When the brakes failed in his beautiful Frankenstein of a taxicab, Tio couldn’t work for 15 days as he waited for a machinist to hand carve the necessary screws.

The half-century-old embargo on most U.S. exports has turned Cubans into some of the most inventive mechanics in the world, technicians capable of engineering feats long lost to the modern world of electronic ignitions and computerized engine calibration.

President Barack Obama’s announcement that he is loosening the embargo through executive action has Cubans dreaming of an end to the era of cannibalizing train springs for suspensions and cutting tire patches by hand. One of the measures announced by Obama last week would allow U.S. exports to Cuba’s small class of private business owners, which includes thousands of mechanics and taxi drivers who shuttle both Cubans in battered sedans for about 50 cents a ride and tourists in shiny, restored vintage vehicles for $25 an hour.

While the details of Obama’s reforms remain uncertain, Cubans are hopeful that their publication in the coming weeks will end a five-decade drought of cars and parts.

“Maybe it will be possible to get parts faster, at better prices,” said a hopeful Raul Arabi, 58, who spoke with The Associated Press while seated behind the wheel of a cherry-red 1952 Chevy convertible that still runs on its original 6-cylinder engine. “If they opened a specific store for this, even better.”

Cuba long restricted car ownership almost entirely to prominent bureaucrats, high achievers in their fields and professionals who completed government service abroad.

That limit was dropped last year but replaced by markups drove prices as high as $262,000 for a Peugeot that lists for the equivalent of about $53,000 outside Cuba. That leaves classic cars as one of the only options for Cubans needing private transportation for themselves or a business, although prices around $20,000 for old cars mean buyers on the island often need help for the purchase from relatives abroad.

With so much invested in their cars, new engines, hoods, fenders and transmissions is a dream for the owners of what were once known as “Humphrey Bogarts” and that remain a fixture of the landscape.

“It’s pretty complicated,” said Tio, 27. “The government won’t sell you glass for these old cars. They won’t sell replacement parts for these old cars. Everything is made by hand.”

A few years ago, the only way Tio could get new tires for his car was to rely on the generosity of a relative who brought some back from Venezuela.

In the meantime, necessity will drive invention when it comes to maintaining the thousands of classic cars that fill Cuba’s cities and countryside. Many are used for daily needs and commutes, others transport curious tourists soaking up nostalgia, newlyweds, or young girls celebrating their “quinceaneras,” – traditional 15th-birthday celebrations.

“When the material doesn’t exist, one has to invent it,” said a mechanic who agreed to reveal some of his secrets to the AP on the condition that he not be identified because he feared possible repercussions.

Suspension systems are among the most complicated to repair, simply because there are no parts available. But he noted that trains have similar springs that support a lot of weight.

Train coil springs are smaller than those of the cars, but the mechanic described how they could be stretched with a manual press until they are the necessary height.

“We fix everything, all the time,” he said proudly.

Such haphazard methods are not ideal in terms of safety: Putting powerful engines in cars with old bodywork and no seatbelts or airbags increases the risk of dangerous accidents.

And while Cubans’ ingenuity at keeping the cars running is impressive, the fact that they have patched together the old cars with scraps means the cars have little chance of becoming collectors’ items in the U.S. once the market between the two countries does open up.

“I’m not sure there’s a single car on the road in Cuba you could bring here and put in a car show,” said Tom Wilkinson, a classic car lover from Detroit who recently visited the island as part of a cultural exchange.

“You have to admire how resourceful the Cubans have been, keeping these cars running and modernizing them as much as they can,” Wilkinson said. “That said, by the standards of the American collector, they’re way too rough.”

That’s probably OK with Cuba, where such cars are like old friends that would not be easy to let go.

“This is part of the national culture,” said Arabi, who parks his red Chevy convertible on Havana’s iconic seafront boulevard, the Malecon, waiting for tourists to pay for a ride.

“It is part of the culture that tourists want to see here … and it is part of our own culture. … Cubans want to celebrate their weddings, their 15-year-old birthday celebrations, in these cars.”

With that, Arabi ended the conversation with a rev of his engine as a couple climbed in for a spin in his classic auto – a timeless ride that, somehow, despite years of use and against engineering odds, keeps on running, day after day.

_____

Wyatt reported from Miami.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-12-24-14 1506GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


A 1950s Pontiac parked on a street in Cuba. Image by Zahav511. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

A 1950s Pontiac parked on a street in Cuba. Image by Zahav511. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Monumental ‘Sputnik’/starburst chandelier with illuminating glass spikes, $19,520. PBMA image

Evans ‘Cityscape’ pieces soar at Palm Beach Modern auction

Monumental ‘Sputnik’/starburst chandelier with illuminating glass spikes, $19,520. PBMA image

Monumental ‘Sputnik’/starburst chandelier with illuminating glass spikes, $19,520. PBMA image

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Palm Beach Modern Auctions’ (PBMA) autumn-themed Nov. 22 sale included the most expensive grouping of furniture ever to be offered by the company. Buyers signaled their approval of the carefully curated selection with bids that set records for many specific designers and resulted in an 85 percent sell-through rate (by lot). The 400-lot auction grossed $850,000, inclusive of 22 percent buyer’s premium.

Internet live bidding was facilitated by LiveAucitoneers.com.

“As we prepare for each auction, we analyze the market and study recent buying trends,” said PBMA auctioneer and co-owner Rico Baca. “We do not use a preset formula in selecting what to include in our sales. Instead, we try to identify what collectors currently want, then pick pieces that are the best possible representations from categories that are trending positively. Based on the results we’re seeing with some consistency, I’d say this method is working quite effectively.”

Furniture and lighting designs by Paul Evans (American, 1931-1987) – whose star continues to soar within the auction marketplace – attracted broad geographic interest on Nov. 22. Ten of the 11 Evans “Cityscape” pieces entered in the sale were sold, with several garnering record prices for their respective forms. Among them was a mixed-metal cabinet/dry bar that reached $48,800 (est. $20,000-$30,000), a record for a design exhibiting Evans’ distinctive patchwork technique.

Lighting was popular across the board and lit up the auction room as Baca hammered one record price after another, either for an artist’s general classification or specific form. Among the top lots that landed in record territory were a pair of rare Tommi Parzinger floor lamps, $7,930; a pair of Karl Springer floor lamps, $9,760; and a Sergio Rodrigues (Brazilian, 1927-2014) “Sergio Augusto” floor lamp, $5,185.

“Sergio Rodrigues is a name to watch. American, French and Italian midcentury design is well established in the secondary market, but Brazilian midcentury is still a relatively new category and one that we enthusiastically support,” said Baca. “Rodrigues was the acknowledged father of modern Brazilian furniture design, and in terms of quality, his pieces are top tier. His furnishings are also comfortable and utilitarian, so they meet the three criteria that place them in a very desirable league.”

Italian lighting was in particularly strong demand. A pair of large, five-arm Stilnovo sconces commanded a record $20,740 (est. $10,000-$15,000), while a monumental Italian “Sputnik”/starburst chandelier with illuminating glass spikes followed an upward flight path before settling at $19,520.

Italian furniture enjoyed an equally impressive level of success, led by an Alberto Rosselli “Confidential” sectional sofa and chair, which knocked down a record price of $15,860. A pair of rare and early Marco Zanuso “Milord” lounge chairs settled in at $11,590.

Two pairs of chic slipper chairs designed by American William “Billy” Haines were offered as consecutive lots, each having an estimate of $4,000-$6,000. The first pair realized $6,710, while the second pair took it bit farther at $7,320. Both results exceeded the previous record for the form. A Philip and Kelvin LaVerne “Spring Festival” occasional table estimated at $2,000-$4,000 rose to $7,930 – “not a record but still a noteworthy sale,” Baca said. All of the Donald Deskey “Micarta” furniture offered, and almost all of the Walter Lamb California-style outdoor furniture, found new owners.

Bidding was active on the more-expensive items, whether they met their reserves or not. “We always encourage consignors to think carefully about their reserves,” Baca said. “We offered a pair of fine Gio Ponti chairs that would have sold to an online bidder for $16,000 or $17,000, had the reserve been just a bit lower. The chairs were of a type that previously sold in the $10,000-$15,000 range. After the sale, the consignor told us he would have accepted the top bid placed on the chairs, but we had to follow the instructions we had been given. They didn’t reach their reserve, so they didn’t sell.”

An upbeat event, the Nov. 22 auction drew 125 people to the venue and another 560 online through LiveAuctioneers. Phone and absentee bidders represented no fewer than 13 countries on four continents. Baca said in-house bidders were enthusiastic and applauded whenever high prices were achieved. They also were treated to a complimentary catered buffet of autumn soups, savory sweet potato pies, ham sliders, turkey sandwiches and a choice of fall-harvest desserts.

Baca said he is confident that the buoyant prices paid at the November sale will encourage consignors to part with even higher-end pieces than before.

“Consignors like to test the waters,” he said. “They’ll give you a piece to sell the first time around, but not their most expensive piece. If you do well with it, then they’ll entrust you with their top-end items. With each sale, we’re seeing more consignments of ten-, twenty- and thirty-thousand-dollar pieces.”

Palm Beach Modern Auctions will conduct a Modern Design & Art Auction on Jan. 17 featuring dress designs and correspondence between Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her designer; and 50 lots of luxury goods. The latter grouping includes a coveted Hermes Birkin and Kelly bags, and one of five exclusive backpacks created by Louis Vuitton.

To contact PBMA, tel. 561-586-5500 or email info@modernauctions.com. Visit the company online at www.modernauctions.com.

Click here to view the fully illustrated catalog for this sale, complete with prices realized.

Click here to view the fully illustrated catalog for this sale, complete with prices realized.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Monumental ‘Sputnik’/starburst chandelier with illuminating glass spikes, $19,520. PBMA image

Monumental ‘Sputnik’/starburst chandelier with illuminating glass spikes, $19,520. PBMA image

One of two pairs of William ‘Billy’ Haines slipper chairs offered consecutively. The pairs sold for $6,710 and $7,320, respectively. PBMA image

One of two pairs of William ‘Billy’ Haines slipper chairs offered consecutively. The pairs sold for $6,710 and $7,320, respectively. PBMA image

Large Emil Stejnar chandelier, $7,625. PBMA image

Large Emil Stejnar chandelier, $7,625. PBMA image

Tommi Parzinger floor lamps with pierced brass shades, $7,930. PBMA image

Tommi Parzinger floor lamps with pierced brass shades, $7,930. PBMA image

Rene-Jean Caillette cabinet with bi-fold doors revealing two interior shelves, $6,710. PBMA image

Rene-Jean Caillette cabinet with bi-fold doors revealing two interior shelves, $6,710. PBMA image

Stilnovo five-arm sconces or ceiling lights, $20,740. PBMA image

Stilnovo five-arm sconces or ceiling lights, $20,740. PBMA image

Marco Zanuso ‘Milord’ lounge chairs, $11,590 the pair. PBMA image

Marco Zanuso ‘Milord’ lounge chairs, $11,590 the pair. PBMA image

Paul Evans mixed-metal cabinet/dry bar, $48,800. PBMA image

Paul Evans mixed-metal cabinet/dry bar, $48,800. PBMA image

Sergio Rodrigues ‘Sergio Augusto’ floor lamp, $5,185. PBMA image

Sergio Rodrigues ‘Sergio Augusto’ floor lamp, $5,185. PBMA image

'The Visitation' is an exceptional religious scene by the Baroque master Mattia Preti, whose work illustrates the realistic tendencies perfected by fellow Italian artist, Caravaggio. Image courtesy of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art

Virginia art museum displaying painting of ‘The Visitation’

'The Visitation' is an exceptional religious scene by the Baroque master Mattia Preti, whose work illustrates the realistic tendencies perfected by fellow Italian artist, Caravaggio. Image courtesy of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art

‘The Visitation’ is an exceptional religious scene by the Baroque master Mattia Preti, whose work illustrates the realistic tendencies perfected by fellow Italian artist, Caravaggio. Image courtesy of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is putting a timely and powerful painting on display.

The museum in Richmond recently acquired The Visitation by 17th-century Baroque master Mattia Preti (1613-1699). The painting depicts the meeting of the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, the first episode in the life of Christ recorded by Luke.

Elizabeth would soon give birth to John the Baptist, following the annunciation by the angel Gabriel.

Officials say the oil painting by the Italian artist went on display Wednesday and will remain on long-term display as a part of the museum’s permanent collections.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts houses more than 33,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of world history. It is open 365 days a year.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-12-25-14 1543GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


'The Visitation' is an exceptional religious scene by the Baroque master Mattia Preti, whose work illustrates the realistic tendencies perfected by fellow Italian artist, Caravaggio. Image courtesy of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art

‘The Visitation’ is an exceptional religious scene by the Baroque master Mattia Preti, whose work illustrates the realistic tendencies perfected by fellow Italian artist, Caravaggio. Image courtesy of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art

Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XII championship ring given to running back Scott Laidlaw. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Heritage Auctions.

Archivist keeps track of Dallas Cowboys’ attic

Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XII championship ring given to running back Scott Laidlaw. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Heritage Auctions.

Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XII championship ring given to running back Scott Laidlaw. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Heritage Auctions.

IRVING, Texas (AP) – The Dallas Cowboys for decades have kept memorabilia ranging from old player contracts to the team’s earliest video footage piled in storage buildings and stashed in filing cabinets – sometimes only vaguely remembered.

Although the Cowboys’ history is revered, many details are only now starting to come into focus with assistance from an East Texas native who arrived via the Philadelphia suburbs.

Joshua Thorn was hired over the summer as the Cowboys’ first team archivist, a position more commonly associated with museums and universities. The lifelong Cowboys fan and former archivist for Campbell’s Soup has the job of consolidating and organizing more than 54 years of local football history.

“You’re only as a good as your collections, and you’re only as good as what you can find in those collections,” the 31-year-old Palestine native told The Dallas Morning News.

Thorn said that what he’s discovered since July is impressive. His rough estimates are that the Cowboys have about 20,000 videotapes of various formats, thousands of film reels, thousands of footballs, cleats, jerseys and other memorabilia, and tens of thousands of photos, slides and negatives.

“This isn’t unusual really, but more interesting than anything: pairs of practice shoes/cleats and game shoes/cleats from former players that still have the grass stuck all in the bottoms of them,” Thorn wrote in an email.

Important pieces of team history were saved, but finding any given item could be a difficult task for Cowboys staff. These pieces of the past were scattered around team headquarters at Valley Ranch and AT&T Stadium and warehoused at different storage facilities.

Thorn is still in the early stages of understanding what’s there and how it can help tell the story of the Cowboys.

After 41/2 months of work, materials are still being consolidated at a nearly 2,500 square-foot climate-controlled section of the Cowboys marketing warehouse near Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

At some point, parts of the collection will be on display at AT&T Stadium and The Star in Frisco, the team’s new headquarters and commercial development. The Cowboys have opted for this approach over a pure hall of fame museum.

Thorn found the original data reports from the early 1960s when Cowboys general manager and president Tex Schramm worked with IBM on computer programs to grade players available in the NFL draft. The documents include the methodology used to evaluate them.

“You can read about that in books and articles,” he said. “But to be able to see what they were looking at, at the time, is amazing.”

Among the films, Thorn has found footage of Cowboys exhibition games – what’s now called the preseason – from the inaugural 1960 season. Those are the Cowboys’ earliest games.

Little has been neatly placed on shelves yet, as Thorn continues cataloging the collection.

Boxes with game-worn jerseys from 1990s and 2000s stars Leon Lett, Darren Woodson and Jay Novacek sit near stacks of film reels dating back to the start of the franchise. There are copies of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader scrapbooks dating back to the 1970s, one of former head coach Barry Switzer’s playbooks and a copy of a U.S. Senate subcommittee report on the 1964 professional sports antitrust bill.

“Every day, I’m doing some cataloging, some boxing, some processing, some researching, some discovery, some evaluation, some digitizing,” he said. “I’m going to do everything all the time.”

At one end, wooden pallets are stacked with boxes bound together with plastic wrap, waiting to be opened. Thorn isn’t certain what he’ll find in those.

Not all NFL teams have staff archivists or historians, and the ones that do take varied approaches.

Cliff Christl, a retired sportswriter and now historian for the Green Bay Packers, arrived at his current job through his hobby. In retirement, he researched team history and created a Packers Heritage Trail tour.

Unlike the Cowboys, little original material exists from the Packers’ early days.

“Nobody had any idea that what they created in 1919 would grow into what it is,” he said.

Instead, Christl researched about 50 years of newspaper articles about the team and has taken at least 200 oral histories from former players and those familiar with the team. His history column appears weekly on the team website, and Christl is also writing exhibit panels for the renovated Packers Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field.

Charlotte Anderson, Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer, said the creation of Thorn’s job has long been in the team’s plans. Since her father bought the team in 1989, she said, Jerry Jones has had a strong appreciation for Cowboys history.

Anderson said he always insisted on photographing and documenting all that happened and saving everything found related to the franchise.

“Everything we do becomes a piece of history,” Anderson said. “That actual piece tells the story of who we are.”

That led the team to keep as much as possible of what it has produced during the last 25-plus years and hang on tightly to what was already there.

Anderson said she’s looked at old contracts with much different compensation packages, a reminder of how much the league has changed. For example, in 1966, running back Walt Garrison’s signing bonus included a horse trailer.

It’s unlikely today that the same type of sweetener was part of the negotiations with quarterback Tony Romo or would be pitched to the agents of wide receiver Dez Bryant or running back DeMarco Murray.

Much was kept from the franchise’s beginning, but Anderson said there’s no way to know how much history was discarded.

She once saw a photo of Cowboys founder Clint Murchison’s office door with carvings of a trophy, helmet and stadium. She asked around about that door but learned that it was probably discarded when the team moved its headquarters from North Central Expressway in Dallas to Irving’s Valley Ranch.

Nothing like that is likely to disappear in the future.

Thorn is cataloging both the team’s past and present. The hundreds of thousands of items will be archived in the system he’s created, while new material – such as video for in-game entertainment and printed documents – is preserved.

The goal one day is to have the material digitally archived so staff can instantly find everything related to a specific moment in Cowboys history.

A large amount will eventually make it to the public, too.

Touch-screen video columns were installed at AT&T Stadium in the off-season and give fans an in-depth glimpse at Cowboys players and history. The databases for those columns are expected to be supplemented with treasures Thorn finds.

Some of the work involves transferring outdated media into digital formats that are easily shared. Those duties are similar to Thorn’s work as staff librarian and audio-video preservationist for the University of North Texas Music Library.

Thorn received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Denton university. In keeping with his fascination with old technology, he wrote many of his papers there with a manual typewriter he rebuilt when he didn’t own a computer.

Other artifacts and photos will be appearing on Cowboys social media accounts, on the team’s website and during game presentation.

Thorn’s efforts are now spent on sorting what the Cowboys already have. Anderson said she could see the team eventually contacting fans with private collections and seeking to digitize those.

“We have fans all over who have incredibly interesting pieces of our history,” Anderson said. “There’s another layer to this.”

Anderson said the team’s plans for a stand-alone Cowboys Hall of Fame at AT&T Stadium changed in the past few years. Instead, the team is now looking at spreading the collection throughout the stadium and The Star in Frisco.

“We don’t want to just hang a star on the wall,” Anderson said. “We want to have the live part of that history.”

___

Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-12-23-14 2242GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XII championship ring given to running back Scott Laidlaw. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Heritage Auctions.

Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XII championship ring given to running back Scott Laidlaw. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Heritage Auctions.

Mark Twain in 1867. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Museum mystery: artifact of Mark Twain’s duel that never was

Mark Twain in 1867. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mark Twain in 1867. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

RENO, Nev. (AP) – The story of Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ hasty departure from Virginia City in the spring of 1864 has been stretched and massaged for much of the 150 years since it happened.

The legend has it that Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, had to light a shuck off the Comstock or face prosecution for violating the Nevada territory’s law against dueling after he challenged rival editor James Laird to a duel.

What’s left are dueling theories and compelling an artifact of “the duel that never happened” a rusted, fire-damaged piece of pistol, which has been in the collection of the Nevada Historical Society for more than 100 years.

The gun is on display along with other Clemens family artifacts including a cigar butt sent by his daughter at the historical society in Reno and it will be shown in a segment of the History Channel program Mysteries at the Museum, which starts a new season this week.

Christine Johnson, curator of artifacts at the historical society, said the gun itself is a good story and, while it can’t be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it once belonged to Clemens, it also cannot be proven that he didn’t own it.

“We know it’s an 1858 Remington, which is the right time frame,” Johnson said. “The people that are known to have touched it, we have the record from 1910 of who gave it to who and why, it seems pretty solid. We can’t prove it’s not his gun. That’s the fun part of this particular story.”

According to his autobiography, Sam Clemens was in in charge of the Territorial Enterprise during his editor’s absence in May of 1864 and ended up in a heated back-and-forth with James Laird of the rival Union newspaper.

“He was hurt by something I had said about him some little thing I don’t remember what it was now probably called him a horse-thief, or one of those little phrases customarily used to describe another editor,” Twain wrote in his autobiography.

The feud escalated to the point where one challenged the other to a duel (some stories say Twain issued the challenge, others say Laird did so.) It was set to take place at 5 a.m.

The story is that Clemens wasn’t much of a marksman. He said in his autobiography that when he and his second, Steve Gillis, set up a rail from a fence against a barn door to practice shooting, not only could he not hit the rail, but he couldn’t hit the barn door.

As luck would have it, Gillis shot the head off a bird “no bigger than a sparrow” just minutes before Laird and his second arrived for the duel. When it was asked who shot the bird, Gillis said Clemens had done it from 30 yards.

“The second took Mr. Laird home, a little tottery on his legs, and Laird sent back a note in his own hand declining to fight a duel with me on any terms whatever,” Twain wrote in his autobiography. “Well, my life was saved by that accident. I don’t know what the bird thought about that interposition of Providence, but I felt very, very comfortable over it satisfied and content. Now, we found out, later, that Laird had hit his mark four times out of six, right along. If the duel had come off, he would have so filled my skin with bullet-holes that it wouldn’t have held my principles.”

Sam Clemens left Virginia City on May 29, 1864, leaving the gun he’d practiced with in the possession of his Enterprise co-worker and friend, Dan DeQuille.

The pistol remnant came into possession of the Nevada Historical Society in 1910 coincidentally, the same year Mark Twain died.

It came from Joseph Conboie, a well-known Virginia City resident, who, among other business interests, was the town’s undertaker. Conboie served on the first board of museums for the state of Nevada and was acquainted with Jeanne Wier, who founded the Nevada Historical Society in 1904.

Conobie donated numerous artifacts to the historical society over several years, including the pistol remnant, which he had gotten from J.E. McKinnon, who was the lessee of the Territorial Enterprise at the turn of the 20th Century. Conobie said the pistol had been reduced to a burned remnant in Virginia City’s great fire of 1875. DeQuille had recovered the pistol remnant from the charred remains of the fire. He gave it to McKinnon shortly before his death in 1898.

The historical society’s Johnson said there is more research to do to improve upon the provenance of the piece. In the meantime, it can be viewed inside the “Prominent Nevadans” case, along with a pipe, cigar butt, a bonnet that belonged to Mark Twain’s mother, and other Clemens family artifacts.

“This is a cool story,” she said.

___

Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-12-23-14 2047GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


Mark Twain in 1867. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mark Twain in 1867. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

‘That’s Amore,’ oil on canvas, signed, titled and dated, 1996, 24 inches by 18 inches, $39,360. Photo courtesy of New Orleans Auction Galleries.

Artist’s hometown honors him with blue Christmas lights

‘That’s Amore,’ oil on canvas, signed, titled and dated, 1996, 24 inches by 18 inches, $39,360. Photo courtesy of New Orleans Auction Galleries.

‘That’s Amore,’ oil on canvas, signed, titled and dated, 1996, 24 inches by 18 inches, $39,360. Photo courtesy of New Orleans Auction Galleries.

NEW IBERIA, La. (AP) – Some people have griped that New Iberia’s Christmas lights are too subdued this year, but the blue lights on Main Street are a quiet memorial to hometown artist George Rodrigue, whose blue dog paintings became internationally famous.

Rodrigue died a year ago.

It’s a temporary change from white lights lining trees, store windows and other decorations, Phyllis Mata of the Magic on Main committee told The Daily Iberian.

“I think the decorations are what’s needed, as a one-time theme for one of our favorite citizens,” Mata said. “When the idea came up, I loved it, and still do. The idea of honoring George Rodrigue, I felt, was an important one. Important to his family and to New Iberia.”

Jennifer Toups of the Downtown Business Association said some people have told her they want the brighter white lights back.

“It is a soft and gentle tribute, like him, like his paintings, a hauntingly mysterious and quiet tribute,” she said. “White is the norm. (Rodrigue) was not. Blue is so very him. They are both quietly beautiful.”

Son Jacques Rodrigue said, “Dad never forgot his New Iberia roots. He always said if he wasn’t from New Iberia he may never had started painting to begin with. The uniqueness of the culture and the landscape really inspired him to start to start painting.”

___

Information from: The Daily Iberian, http://www.iberianet.com

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-12-23-14 1554GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


‘That’s Amore,’ oil on canvas, signed, titled and dated, 1996, 24 inches by 18 inches, $39,360. Photo courtesy of New Orleans Auction Galleries.

‘That’s Amore,’ oil on canvas, signed, titled and dated, 1996, 24 inches by 18 inches, $39,360. Photo courtesy of New Orleans Auction Galleries.

An overhead view of Dakota, the dinosaur mummy, which is on exhibit at the North Dakota Heritage Center. Image courtesy of the North Dakota Geological Survey.

Revamped North Dakota museum sets attendance mark

An overhead view of Dakota, the dinosaur mummy, which is on exhibit at the North Dakota Heritage Center. Image courtesy of the North Dakota Geological Survey.

An overhead view of Dakota, the dinosaur mummy, which is on exhibit at the North Dakota Heritage Center. Image courtesy of the North Dakota Geological Survey.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – North Dakota’s Heritage Center has seen a record number of visitors this year thanks to a $52 million upgrade of the facility, which sits on the state Capitol grounds in Bismarck, officials said.

The new museum, which has doubled in size, features everything from dinosaur fossils to antique farm machinery to an experimental Mars spacesuit. It has been dubbed the “Smithsonian on the prairie” by Gov. Jack Dalrymple and others.

State Historical Society Director Claudia Berg said about 150,000 people have visited the museum since April 28, when the expanded facility’s first two galleries opened.

“It’s very gratifying to see all the people using the facility,” Berg said.

Scores of school children from across North Dakota have toured the new facility which houses thousands of artifacts, high-tech displays and interactive exhibits that help tell the story of North Dakota, Berg said. Some teachers are incorporating the exhibits into lesson plans, Berg said.

The original facility was built in 1967 and had averaged about 100,000 visitors annually until the expansion, Berg said.

The number of visitors surpassed the prior annual average in about four months after opening, she said.

The grand opening for the revamped center was held Nov. 2 and coincided with the state’s 125th statehood anniversary. More than 2,500 people attended the event, including Dalrymple and former governors John Hoeven, Allen Olson, Ed Schafer and George Sinner.

The expansion also includes a new theater, cafe and outdoor space.

State lawmakers approved about $40 million for the 97,000-square-foot expansion in 2009, while stipulating that the remaining cost had to be raised elsewhere.

The historical society raised an additional $12 million in private donations, including $1.8 million from billionaire oilman Harold Hamm, the chairman of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc., one of the largest operators in North Dakota’s booming oil patch.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-12-23-14 1558GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


An overhead view of Dakota, the dinosaur mummy, which is on exhibit at the North Dakota Heritage Center. Image courtesy of the North Dakota Geological Survey.

An overhead view of Dakota, the dinosaur mummy, which is on exhibit at the North Dakota Heritage Center. Image courtesy of the North Dakota Geological Survey.

Pablo Picasso lithograph. Image courtesy of the Nicolaysen Art Museum.

Wyo. museum gets oilman’s lifetime art collection

Pablo Picasso lithograph. Image courtesy of the Nicolaysen Art Museum.

Pablo Picasso lithograph. Image courtesy of the Nicolaysen Art Museum.

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) – Eric Wimmer was in shock when he stepped into a Casper home full of art.

The curator of the Nicolaysen Art Museum was visiting the home in March because its owner, who recently died, had donated his vast collection to the Nic. Wimmer entered and was immediately greeted by a painting.

Was that an authentic Thomas Moran?

Wimmer has a master’s degree in art history. In grad school, Moran, a titan in Western art, was one of his all-time favorites. He’d spend hours at a Denver art museum looking at Moran’s paintings, and now there was one sitting right in front of him in the foyer of the Casper home.

But that was only the start.

Around the corner from the Moran was an authentic Pablo Picasso lithograph. There was a signed engraving from Salvador Dali. A lithograph from famed French artist Toulouse Lautrec.

Art was in every room, except for the bathrooms. There were paintings from legendary Western artists like Charlie Russell, Frederic Remington and W.R. Leigh.

“I’m like, ‘Where am I?’” Wimmer recalled.

Wimmer was in Harry Ptasynski’s home. Before he died last December, Ptasynski donated his beloved art collection to The Nic, more than 140 pieces valued at $4 million to $5 million.

“It was just an incredibly generous gift,” Wimmer said. “When he passed, we came in and packaged all of the art and took it to the museum. As his wishes were, we could determine which pieces we wanted to keep in our permanent collection. It was up to the museum to find a new home for the remainder (of the art) and use the new funds to help and keep the doors open for years to come.”

Ptasynski was an independent petroleum producer. He was a strong supporter of the Nic and served on its board for years. He started collecting art about 50 years ago, and as his collection grew, so did his connections to art dealers, spanning from San Francisco to Paris to New York.

He attended auctions and traveled the world to find the art he loved.

“He bought art I think not as an investment, but as a true passion,” said daughter Lisa Ptasynski, who grew up in Casper but now lives in Washington state. “He never sold any of those paintings. Once they were obtained, never was one traded or sold for one another.

“He knew what he liked, and that’s what he got.”

Ptasynski’s collection ranged from the well-known to the unknown. There were no labels or plaques naming the artists. You just had to know.

At night, he would linger in front of his art with a glass of wine. Instead of moving from one to another, he’d pick out a piece, study and appreciate its beauty. There were bronze sculptures, watercolors, oil paintings, engravings, lithographs and more.

“It was like being in a museum,” Lisa said.

Some of the pieces cost more than a sports car. For example, three months before Ptasynski died, Lisa asked her father if she could have her favorite painting. It was by Frank Tenney Johnson, depicting an Indian scout coming through a valley on a white horse in the moonlight.

“And he said, ‘Honey, that’s just too much responsibility. I don’t know how you would insure it. That is a $110,000 painting,’” Lisa recalled. “And he was right. When your $100,000 renter’s insurance doesn’t even cover one painting, it’s clearly too much.”

Instead, Lisa selected a less expensive painting.

She wasn’t the only member of the family who loved art. Harry’s wife Nola, who died just months before him, painted. Their son Ross, who also died last year, was a photographer, painter and drawer. Lisa studied art history and portraiture photography.

“Sometimes (Harry) would go out and buy (Nola) a $75,000 W.R. Leigh (painting) for her birthday,’ Lisa said. “Much better than any Helzberg diamond, in my book.”

Art is what brought the Ptasynski family together, and now Lisa is happy to share her family’s passion. She was thrilled when she learned of her father’s plan to donate his collection to the Nic.

The exhibit is titled “Recent Acquisitions from the Ptasynski Collection’ and features 24 pieces of art. ‘It goes from his wife’s work, Nola, all the way up to Picasso,” Wimmer said.

It will remain on display until Jan. 25. The works will appear at other shows in the future.

In honor of his donation, the Nic named a section of the museum the Ptasynski Gallery. As for the pieces that were not selected, the museum is in the process of finding the right institutions to house the classic pieces of art.

“We’re very happy to be able to show this to the community. It’s awesome,” Wimmer said. “To be able to say, ‘In Casper, you can go down and see a Picasso or a Dali,’ that’s really cool.”

___

Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-12-23-14 1505GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Pablo Picasso lithograph. Image courtesy of the Nicolaysen Art Museum.

Pablo Picasso lithograph. Image courtesy of the Nicolaysen Art Museum.

Signed engraving by Salvador Dali. Image courtesy of the Nicolaysen Art Museum.

Signed engraving by Salvador Dali. Image courtesy of the Nicolaysen Art Museum.

Lithograph by Toulouse Lautrec. Image courtesy of the Nicolaysen Art Museum.

Lithograph by Toulouse Lautrec. Image courtesy of the Nicolaysen Art Museum.

The Pompidou Centre in Paris. Image by Leland. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Koons sculpture pulled from museum over plagiarism claims

The Pompidou Centre in Paris. Image by Leland. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

The Pompidou Centre in Paris. Image by Leland. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

PARIS (AFP) – A sculpture by U.S. pop artist Jeff Koons has been pulled from a retrospective of his work at the Centre Pompidou in Paris after he was accused of ripping off a French clothing advert, the museum said Tuesday.

The multimillion-euro artwork depicts a large pig and a tiny penguin with the bust of a woman lying on snow in a fishnet top revealing her breasts.

Titled Fait d’Hiver – a play on the French term for a short news item fait divers – the sculpture resembles a 1985 advertising campaign of the same name for French clothing brand Naf-Naf.

The Naf-Naf campaign showed a young girl lying in snow, apparently the victim of an avalanche, being nosed by a pig with a barrel of rum under its neck in reference to the famous Saint Bernard rescue dogs.

Koons’s porcelain artwork shows a similar looking woman being approached by a pig with a barrel under its neck.

Franck Davidovici, the creator of the campaign, accused Koons of stealing his idea.

The president of the Pompidou Centre, Alain Seban, defended the artist however, noting that “similar questions” had already been raised in the United States about other works from Koons’s Banality sculpture series, “the very principle of which is to draw on objects bought in shops or images seen in the press.”

“It is essential that museums be able to continue to give an account of these artistic endeavours,” he said in a statement, which emphasized that the contentious piece had been withdrawn “at the request of the lender.”

A bailiff was called to the Pompidou Centre last month to photograph Koons’s creation and compare it with the Naf-Naf ad.

The sculpture, which was sold at Christie’s auction house in New York for about 3 million euros ($3.7 million) in 2007, is one of four copies of the artwork.


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


The Pompidou Centre in Paris. Image by Leland. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

The Pompidou Centre in Paris. Image by Leland. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Before Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys, the game was called Chimp to Chimp. Photo by the author

An American classic, Barrel of Monkeys opens up about turning 50

Before Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys, the game was called Chimp to Chimp. Photo by the author

Before Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys, the game was called Chimp to Chimp. Photo by the author

NEW YORK – Everyone of a certain age remembers playing the game Barrel of Monkeys. The author provides a behind-the-scenes account of how the popular 1960s game came to be.

When Pixar featured Barrel of Monkeys in all three Toy Story movies, it was proof that this celebrated toy was not only iconic, but still a whole lot of fun. It’s hard to believe that it has been hanging around us since early 1965, and yet, 2015 will mark Barrel of Monkeys’ 50th year in stores. As popular as it is, finding facts relating to this classic game’s origin is nearly impossible.

Milton Dinhofer, now 91, provides the missing links regarding this nostalgic toy’s evolution. After earning his engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dinhofer went on to design the recognizable monkeys found in those plastic barrels today. Dinhofer didn’t work for a big toy company; it was at his Long Island home where he toyed with his many game ideas.

Leonard Marks, the Barrel of Monkeys inventor on file, was a schoolmate of Dinhofer’s. Marks told Dinhofer in 1961 that he had an idea for a game – an idea that came to him while waiting to sell his line of greeting cards to a small mom-and-pop shop. Dinhofer recounts the story Marks told him: “As he waited for the shop’s owner [Robert Gilbert], Marks started fiddling with [an open box of] snow-tire-replacement-chain links that were on the counter – hooking them together. Later when the owner approached to look at Marks’ greeting cards, Marks was still playing with the links.” Dinhofer adds: “Marks was so interested in playing, he hadn’t realized so much time had passed. He said to the owner, ‘this would make a great toy.” Gilbert then said to Marks he was friends with a successful toy promoter named Milton Dinhofer.” Marks immediately reached out to his old school friend.

Dinhofer had already had two major toy achievements to his credit. He created what he believes to be “the first full-size wearable space helmet.” His helmet made the covers of both The Saturday Evening Post (Nov. 8, 1952 issue) and Collier’s magazine (April 18, 1953 issue). Prior to that, he invented, designed and successfully brought to market Sip-n-See. This was a line of twisted plastic drinking straws with characters on them. Dinhofer says it was not only the “first twisted straw,” but also the “first plastic drinking straw” on the market. It provided an alternative to the glass and paper straws being sold at the time, and Dinhofer says it sold over “five million pieces.” One of those straws would influence the design of Barrel of Monkeys.

Recounting his first business meeting with Marks, Dinhofer said: “Marks brought a pile of his links over and started playing with them.” They are in Dinhofer’s possession today and are red, s-shaped links made from a one-quarter-inch plastic rod. Each link has pinched ends for connecting. Dinhofer said that as he watched Marks play with the links, he thought to himself, ‘monkeys!’

“I told [Marks] he had a winner …  I would develop it and he should sell it … We signed an agreement that night.” Asked why he chose monkeys, Dinhofer responds: “What else would you make them? Monkeys came to my mind instantly.” Dinhofer modeled the monkey’s arms after his Sip-N- See cowboy straw which had s-shaped arms just like a link.

“Our first step,” Dinhofer explained, “was to have a patent search made. Many linking games were disclosed but nothing with animals.” Dinhofer said that while none of those patented toys were successful, he still believed in theirs. It would take Dinhofer three months to go from a sketch to a functional monkey – in other words, likable and linkable. “We had to have 10 to 15 perfect pieces in order to see how they played,” he said, adding that the biggest challenge in designing them was the monkey’s balance. After that, he said, “I researched monkey photographs and made numerous sketches until I got a cute face down on paper.” Dinhofer selected a body he liked from another of his sketches and then hired a professional model maker. A. Santore of A.S. Plastic Model Co. carved, under Dinhofer’s supervision, one perfect sample. Dinhofer then found a company that would make a beryllium mold from Santore’s monkey and run sample monkeys from it. Looking at Dinhofer’s first-run monkeys, one sees that they look exactly like Lakeside Toys’ 1965 debut version. The only difference between Dinhofer’s monkeys and today’s is that shortly after the toy’s release, more hair was added to their bodies.

Next Dinhofer had to name it. “More fun than a barrel of monkeys,” was a common phrase in the ’60s that dated back to at least the 1800s. But that was not where Dinhofer and Marks got the name for their toy. Dinhofer disclosed, “I also have one package…with the name Chimp to Chimp on it.” Chimp to Chimp was Barrel of Monkey’s initial name and like BOM, it had 12 monkey playing pieces. Twelve monkeys “seemed just right,” said Dinhofer. “Three to 12-year-olds had to stand to link all 12.” Thus too many links would require actually lifting the children higher to accommodate the growing chain of monkeys – a situation where more wasn’t necessarily better. Asked if Chimp to Chimp monkeys came in a cardboard tube like Lakeside’s 1965 version, Dinhofer says: “Lakeside had more experience at $1[retail prices]. I had designed very expensive packaging. It was much more expensive than the cardboard can that Lakeside used and much more expensive to load.”

At last Chimp to Chimp was ready to be shown to retailers. Dinhofer says, “Marks showed to Woolworth’s … it was the biggest chain with 2,100 stores. They liked it but wanted a guarantee that we would put it on TV for 13 weeks (approximately $150,000-$275,000 worth of commercials).” TV advertising was becoming the norm, but was impossible for Marks and Dinhofer to agree to Woolworth’s deal; it was too expensive and too risky for them to chance a failure. After that, Marks told Dinhofer there was no further interest from retailers. Marks moved on and partnered with another man named Herman Kesler.

In 1969, Dinhofer met James R. Becker at Lakeside. Becker would eventually become Lakeside’s president and go on to help pioneer global licensing as we know it today. But at the time, Becker was a vice president and still relatively new at Lakeside. Through Becker’s recounting, Dinhofer came to learn how Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys from Kesler and Marks. In 1964, Kesler called Zelman Levine, the chairman and president of Lakeside Toys, and set a November meeting in New York City. At the meeting were Levine, Becker and Lakeside’s soon-to-be national sales manager, Stanley Harfenist (Harfenist was trying to bring the Gumby toy line to Lakeside, which he eventually did in February 1965. Harfenist then went on to become Lakeside’s general manager.)

Becker told Dinhofer that Kesler walked into Levine’s room and just as Marks had done with his links at Dinhofer’s, Kessler uncupped his hands, dropped the monkeys onto a table, and started to link them together. Becker also said that the phrase “more fun than a barrel of monkeys” was brought up at that meeting by Becker himself. Zelman Levine immediately approved the item, and Zelman took all the samples back with him to Minneapolis.

Dinhofer’s legal documents show Kesler and Marks signed an agreement with Lakeside on Jan. 29, 1965. Dinhofer also has royalty statements showing gross sales beginning in the first quarter of 1965. He speculates that if Lakeside used his original mold, that would explain how the toy got to market so fast after contracts being signed. Lakeside also used similar packaging to their already successful Pick-Up-Sticks game, which probably sped up the release process. Dinhofer’s news clippings show that that by April of 1967, Barrel of Monkeys was No. 2 on Toy and Hobby World magazine’s “Toy Hit Parade” chart. Coincidentally, at No. 3, was BOM’s future Toy Story co-star and eventual Hasbro-brand mate, listed simply as Potato Head.

Today BOM is part of Milton Bradley under the Hasbro umbrella. As one of Time magazine’s “All-Time 100 Greatest Toys,” (2011) prepares to turn 50, Dinhofer can’t help but reflect. Taking it all in, he shares: “I had a lot of talent. Too bad it took me 50 years to realize it.”

But thanks to Dinhofer and many other talented people, Barrel of Monkeys has successfully run without batteries for almost half a century. Why is it so successful? Is it the barrel, the monkeys or the links? Maybe it’s the game’s simplicity? It certainly doesn’t hurt that it brings a smile for under $10. Quite possibly, it was just a perfect storm of ideas, people, timing and luck.

Whatever the reason for BOM’s longevity, after hearing Dinhofer’s recounting, one can’t help but imagine a big 50th bash with monkeys swinging from chandeliers, barrels of champagne flowing, and Dinhofer photoBOMbing us all. At the very least, we can raise a glass and toast to him and all who put those monkeys in a barrel, and those barrels into tiny happy hands. And when Milton raises his glass, may he be beside his favorite links – his family, his children, his great-grandchildren, and his great-great-grandchildren, because, truly, what could be more fun than that?

Tracy Leshay 
is the granddaughter of Milton Dinhofer.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Before Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys, the game was called Chimp to Chimp. Photo by the author

Before Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys, the game was called Chimp to Chimp. Photo by the author

These are the original links Marks brought to Dinhofer. With them are Dinhofer's original drawings that the links inspired him to create. Photo by the author

These are the original links Marks brought to Dinhofer. With them are Dinhofer’s original drawings that the links inspired him to create. Photo by the author

Dinhofer's Sip-n-See straw sold over 5 million pieces. Photo by the author

Dinhofer’s Sip-n-See straw sold over 5 million pieces. Photo by the author

Leading toys from the April 3, 1967 ‘Toy and Hobby World’ magazine. Photo by the author

Leading toys from the April 3, 1967 ‘Toy and Hobby World’ magazine. Photo by the author

Barrel of Monkeys inventor Milton Dinhofer. Photo submitted

Barrel of Monkeys inventor Milton Dinhofer. Photo submitted

Covers of leading magazines featured the toy space helmet designed by Dinhofer. Photo by the author

Covers of leading magazines featured the toy space helmet designed by Dinhofer. Photo by the author