MY FIRST JOB before Armageddon
Prologue: I left Texas in 1974 and headed West to California to search for a job as an artist. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life toiling for minimum wage as a janitor Jehovah's Witness.
It was the year BEFORE 1975. As a JW, that should be a scary year. NOT FOR ME!
I was determined to escape from all the influences of crazy people and to start living a real life.
And now the story begins...
He was a tall man with a full and kinky black beard, glasses, and pretentious poseur pipe.
His name was Jim Rakey (rhymes with "flakey") and he belonged to a cult dedicated to the eternal truth: ATLANTIS (the lost continent) would rise again from the sea as the enlightened government for all the world. Or some shit.
Jim--besides being a lunatic--was the bane of my existence.
I'd never had my very own bane before, however, the dictionary assures me "a cause of great distress or annoyance" and that is spot on!
I was working at my very first Art employer: a gigantic factory, manufacturer, studio, blah blah dedicated to churning out schlock for profit. TRIANGLE ART was the sign above the factory (which employed hundreds of undocumented workers who just happened to speak Spanish. Only.)
The art department of my assignment was NOVA ART.
NOVA created fake paintings in multiple duplications of a "master sample painting". Long rows of easels with the very same image, canvas after canvas, is an astonishing sight the first time you behold it. Especially if you are from Fort Worth, Texas.
I took for granted all paintings in our world are the work of a single, tortured genius, whose product is one-of-a-kind.
I was wrong!
These paintings were created by a different sort of torture and a nongarden variety duo of artist/geniuses.
This was "art" for furniture showrooms, bank lobbies, cheap motels, designed to complement decor, drapes, bedspreads and shag carpets.
The two lead designers were the Yin and Yang of human existence.
Mark Groseclose was a science fiction fanatic who wore spangled studs on his tight, faded jeans as he spoke non-stop about L.Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He was pale skinned, with large, expressive blue eyes, a blonde, droopy mustache, and the personality of Bugs Bunny.
The other artist was an eager warm-hearted and gentle creature named Ron Riddick whose Christian ethos shot sparks of love and friendship off into the air around him.
I've already mentioned Jim Rakey. Rakey had been the fellow who came up with the idea of NOVA as a production art facility inside of TRIANGLE the factory. He and his other cult members formed the core of 1st generation founders and exploiters of the artists and workers.
The classic description of these ATLANTEAN people can be found nestled inside the poetic phrase: "Crazy as a shithouse rat".
Mind you, I'm not one to be casting aspersions! I was still inside a cult of my own choosing, Jehovah's Witnesses. This particular year of 1975 was slated by the Watchtower organization as the End of the World.
Consequently, there was plenty of lunacy and clashing eternal 'truth' to go around.
Instead of taking my place alongside the other hirelings and splashing my share of acrylic paint on doppelganger canvases--I discovered I possessed other talents I never dreamed were lurking inside my DNA simply awaiting proper stimulus.
Properly to understand my meaning, I'll have to explain something first.
Jim Rakey told NOVA how many of each canvas to churn out in order to fill each order (generated by traveling salesmen shlepping from one furniture store to the next all around the U.S.
Jim (Atlantis will rise from the sea) Rakey inflated the number of paintings from 1 each to as many as a dozen. He figured it was better in the long run to have extras IN STOCK. The man was an idiot!
I came up with a plan for an INCENTIVE system, whereby the artists would be remunerated for piece work rather than an hourly wage. The more they produced, the more they would earn and the owner of the company (Atlantean nutjob Zoltan Friedman) went for it.
I was promoted to Production Manager!
My career as "artist" lasted not even 3 weeks.
I later discovered, after the rest of us went home in the afternoon, Jim Rakey and the other Atlantis believers would hold seances, sitting in a circle lit by candles, using an Ouija board to contact the souls of departed Atlanteans drowned in the sinking of that "lost continent" way back in the mists of time.
Today, looking back through time, I'm struck by the number of cultists under one roof!
Weird memory. That's why I shared it with you.
Below, left to right: Donny Villaneuva, Terry Walstrom, Arvant Benjamin