Since I try to keep this blog positive and up and hopefully interesting I’ll start with the good first. I had a wonderful 83rd birthday with all sorts of celebrations with real family as well as three of my adopted families. I of course wish it had been my 50th birthday but I’m not complaining. I may be slowed down a bit by health problems but I’m still having a wonderful life and still able to contribute to those in need and other such things that have always been of major importance to me!!! Speaking of which, everyone brought a huge number of gifts which was very heartwarming since the only gifts I allowed had to be new toys to be delivered to Transition House for Christmas gifts for children there. Transition House is a very worthwhile organization in Santa Barbara that helps families who have lost their jobs and homes until they can get back on their feet.
The bad was the loss of three people I tremendously admired and in two cases truly loved very much. First was wonderful Evelyn Lauder who has been a dear friend for so many years. I’m sure you have been reading endless articles on this fabulous woman the world has just lost. Her great work for breast cancer research, the pink ribbon project she started that grew to world wide proportions, the parks she and Leonard donated for underprivileged areas — these and so much more that was done very privately. So I’ll just say a bit about personal reasons for my love and respect of her. Evelyn was always there as a friend. Not just fun lunches at Le Cirque when I was in New York. She was there when I had a frightening medical diagnosis and within a half hour after a call to her in New York she had set me up with the finest doctor in the USA in the field I needed. A man otherwise impossible to get an appoint with in less than a year or more. When my daughter was trying to get my granddaughter into a New York kindergarten, more difficult than being accepted at Harvard or Princeton or Yale!!! I went to Evelyn though I hated to ask such favors. I knew the demands on her were endless. But knowing how major it was to my daughter I did and Evelyn not only wrote a letter of recommendation but hand carried it and personally presented it to the headmistress. She was also responsible for kickstarting my daughter’s career as a scriptwriter. After going with me to a reading of a play my daughter had written and hearing my tale of woe about the difficulties she was having finding an agent Evelyn sent a copy of the script to her close friend, a leading theatrical agent in New York, and a successful career was off and running. Evelyn Lauder was not only a wonderful friend to thousands, she was a miracle maker and a magnificent human being.
Then I lost a dear friend of more than 40 years, artist Jack Baker. I first met Jack when we moved to Santa Barbara in 1963 and I became active in the Art Affiliates of UCSB where he was a major participant. Jack and I worked together for the group and his then wife Lynn and Jack became dear friends.
Jack was the most wonderfully UP person. He thought life was beautiful and if it wasn’t he helped make it so both physically and with his glorious colorful paintings. His travels were an inspiration to others to be more adventurous in their travels. And he brought back so much color from his travels which showed up in his paintings and his tales of travel. After a trip to India with the late Hattie von Breton and Guy and Sylvia Roop he and Lynn recreated a two story tall beautifully lighted replica of the Taj Mahal over the dressing rooms for their swimming pool at their downtown Santa Barbara home. This was for their Indian themed “we’re back in Santa Barbara” party where he taught us Indian dances in the early morning hours. Jack gave great parties! The years he spent in Ethiopia tutoring Emperor Haile Selassie children and grandchildren influenced some his greatest paintings. He loved his gardens and flowers and he created magic with both. Color was everywhere in his far from conventional home. I remember one dreary Christmas eve driving down to Rincon in horrendous rain. But entering the house we found springtime. Instead of Christmas decorations the house and dinner table were filled with crates of brightly colored primrose. And somewhere he had found great branches of fruit tree blossoms in December.
I could tell so many Jack Baker stories. The time I went to visit Jack and Fred Gowland in Jack’s house on a tiny remote peninsula in Maine where he lived for some years during a sabbatical from Santa Barbara. One day Fred had gone out lobstering at five in the morning and came back with 15 live lobsters. So Jack prepared a real Maine lobster dinner. He did a great table for the three of us covered with white paper as was done for lobster feasts in Maine so you could really make a big mess and enjoy them to the fullest. But being Jack he created a wonderous shipwreck scene of rocks and sand and a small boat replica on one end of the table. I was standing in the kitchen being no help at one point when Jack, busy slicing tomatoes, said, “Bev would you please get me some lettuce out of the bottom crisper in the refrigerator.” I jumped to be of service, opened the refrigerator door, started to open the crisper to reach in when claws of 15 live lobsters anxious to escape came after me. They roared with laughter. I didn’t!!! I’ve always thought it was Fred’s idea, but if he had asked me to do it I might have been suspicious. But Jack I trusted!
Sadly serious cancer struck a few years back leaving Jack’s speech impaired and he became very reclusive, seeing almost no one except Fred and occasional visits from his daughters who both live far away. However he lived the life he loved as best he could, walking his beloved Rincon Beach finding treasures in the sand — shells, rocks, tide-worn glass, all of which would end in some decorative fashion in his home; caring for his incredible fern forest and gardens. Gardens and flowers were magic in Jack’s hands.
But he did come out to my 80th Great Gatsby birthday party at the 1929 estate Val Verde to everyone’s amazement and was the hit of the party. I was so happy to relinquish the spotlight to dear Jack who truly shone that night. Except for impaired speech and less hair he was again the Jack of Art Affiliate and party giving and traveling days. See the photograph attached. Sadly it was the last time most of us saw Jack in person as he went back into hiding. But I know he’ll be there right with us at his “bon voyage party” at the Santa Barbara Zoo. He’ll want it to be a colorful happy laughing time. And I hope he and Fred haven’t pre-planned another lobster surprise for any of us with some of the zoo animals to divert us from being sad he isn’t there in person!
The third loss was someone I’ve been proud to call a friend again for over 40 years, the late Jon Lovelace. He and wife Lillian are people I have known and respected but sadly haven’t seen enough of during the years. They have been quiet family people who contributed tremendous amounts of money anonymously to almost every important cause. I knew in some cases how big their donation was because it was to charities where I was a board member. But they never wanted it known publically. They’ve never wanted their names on plaques or on buildings. There were times at charity benefits where they did show up and I watched them quietly in the background, frequently being ignored by new money people in town making their donations very public. Donations generally SO much less than the Lovelace secret donations. I chuckled thinking if those people only knew. But I have to admit, although I knew John administered the Capital Group mutual fund company his father founded in Los Angeles in 1931 and it handled billions of dollars when there wasn’t even a Forbes billionaire list, only millionaire list, I admit I was pretty surprised reading the large New York Times obituary on Jon to read his company now oversees one trillion dollars in their 40 funds. I wonder what that group who considered their own money was there to be flaunted, and on occasion ignored Jon Lovelace, are making of this figure. I’ll bet Jon is up there chuckling quietly to himself now that his secret is out!
And to end with a laugh, the following was sent to me by Susie Mitchell whose son J.J. is one of my “sort of adopted” children and grand children. J.J. has a really hot/cool, I guess both words work, vintage “Muscle car” in which he just drove Aunt Bubbly (which he’s called me since he was two and still does in his twenties) up to Santa Ynez to visit a friend of mine who has just arrived from Hyderabad. It was indeed an experience!!! Just getting me in and out from a seat practically dragging on the highway is an event. All I can say is when we reached our destination my friend said “What did you arrive in? We heard you coming from half way down the hill!”
DETROIT, Nov. 21, 2011 “The muscle car could only happen in the U.S. because we’re the only ones crazy enough to stuff a V8 into the smallest possible car and scare the hell out of mothers everywhere.”
Kathleen Fetner, Technical Advisor and Friend