Here is Jen Colletta’s review/press piece on the book in the Philadelphia Gay News – page 25. They also gave me a 1/3 page ad–which if you look past the handsome shirtless musclemen, can be seen on page 33. Many thanks to Jen Colletta and Mark Segal.
In writing my story about the time I spent with Danny Allen, the Vietnam War was raging politically in the background during the era–mostly by way of war protests–but we were not directly in the line of fire. The same cannot be said of Dan’s younger brother, Lee.
I owe a great deal to Dan’s siblings for providing additional information about Danny’s life and filling in blanks that had remained mysterious to me for decades. Dan’s brother Lee was very generous with his time, talking to me about his recollections of his older brother. Much of what Lee and his family shared helped to shape the book. But with this being Memorial Day Weekend, it seems appropriate to take a side trip to honor Danny’s brother, Lee Allen.
On December 1, 1969, the Selective Service System of the United States abolished the military draft which was akin to slavery. During the draft days, a man was told he was free–but if he chose not to answer the call of the draft and be placed in harms way to kill or be killed–he had to flee the country or face prison time. If he didn’t acquiesce to fight a war almost no one understood he was branded as a “draft-dodger” and a “traitor” to his nation. A lottery system was instated, and while no less unfair and amoral–it was merely more random.
Lee was a Vietnam veteran who passed away this past Monday, May 20th, 2013 at 7:10pm. During our interview for the book some months before, Lee and I discussed his service during the Vietnam War. He and I were the exactly same age–only a couple months apart–and Lee was also an artist–specifically a sculptor. Back when the draft was repealed and replaced with the “Lottery System” both Lee and I pulled very lucky numbers close to 300–which exempted us from being called. Lee confessed to me that he had been fooled–tricked by U.S. Army recruiters who convinced him–as a young, inexperienced man, that a high lottery number wouldn’t prevent him from being drafted. Lee was told if he enlisted he’d be assigned to a “cushy desk job” and avoid combat. Of course that turned out not to be the case. We all know that recruiters use unscrupulous methods to enlist soldiers–there’s enough hidden camera footage on that subject to be it’s own blog.
Lee–like most of us at the time–didn’t fully grasp the reasoning behind the Vietnam War. Nor did he believe in the war, but he wasn’t about to skip to Canada and turn his back on his country. The Vietnam War was being “sold” to Americans as “stopping the spread of communism” as if it were our responsibility to tell other nations how to govern. It turned out to be a war of profit with dark and murky motives much like the wars of recent years. And none of it should ever have happened. That in no way disparages the service of the brave men and women who fought and died. But like our recent wars, it does besmirch the character of our leaders who entangled us in these horrible and mishandled conflagrations in the first place.
While interviewing Lee, I had no idea that he was ill. I’m not sure Lee himself realized he was ill. But he did mention to me that he’d never owned a piece of his brother’s artwork, and I promised, as the “keeper” of Dan’s collection that I would remedy that oversight.
We all have a way of putting things off due to life’s endless distractions. And it wasn’t until my last visit to Rochester that I learned exactly how ill Lee was. His mother told me that Lee is suspected to have Agent Orange exposure–a lethal chemical warfare wepon–and lapse in America’s moral judgement that was produced by a company named Monsanto–who now wants to sell you the food you eat–but I digress…
I rushed back to Philadelphia to mat and frame an original piece of Danny Allen’s artwork so that it might pass through Lee’s hands before Lee himself passed. Sadly the drawing arrived one day too late. His cancer claimed him even before family could travel to the west coast to say their goodbyes. Lee is now with two of his brothers, leaving his wife and grown children behind–and a mother who has witnessed the cruelty of having three of her sons predecease her. Another of Dan’s younger brothers, Robert, was also claimed by cancer.
The Vietnam War is over–but it’s effects are not. We as a nation might best serve the memory of reluctant warriors like Lee Allen by never allowing our elected officials to mislead us into another war of choice. History is more than merely the past–it’s a reflection of the road map that leads toward the future. This Memorial Day, I honor and salute, Dan’s brother Lee Allen, and thank him for his kindness, generosity of spirit–and his service. I assure Lee’s widow, Joyce, his large and loving family–and especially his mother, Bernice, that while we all mourn the loss of her sons, we will never doubt that the world is a better place by remembering that they once walked among us.
In Memory of Leon James Allen – 1950 – 2013.
I had a wonderful time reading excerpts from my book, An Early Work Late in Life in a very well attended auditorium at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery this past Thursday, May 16th. There was a sense of things coming around full circle. There I was as an older man, who at one time worked as the janitor at the very museum where I was giving a talk–and talking about another artist who had also briefly been a janitor at that same museum.
The management and staff of the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery could not have been more gracious, and the museum as well as the show where Danny’s painting is being displayed are both wonderful. I found myself thinking “hey Dan–your painting is hanging on the same walls in an exhibit that include artists that range from Gainsborough to Man Ray and everything in between.” Danny never in a million years might have dreamed that his work would hang in such august company. But no one better deserves that recognition and at the same time–this whole process has brought me home. The city of Rochester, New York remains a place where I’ve planted a second set of roots–and it’s more than just memories–it’s the wonderful and generious people who populate that city.
My book, An Early Work Late in Life is available through PixelPreserve for $29.95 plus shipping and handling at: http://www.pixelpreserve.net/bookstore/
A book signing is scheduled for Saturday, June 1st at 5:30pm at Giovanni’s Room, 345 South 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA. http://www.giovannisroom.com/
This coming Thursday, May 16th Bill Whiting will be giving a reading of his recently published memoir, An Early Work Late in Life at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery at 500 University Avenue, Rochester, New York 14620. The reading/signing is free with museum admission, and starts at 5:30pm.
An Early Work Late in Life is the true story of an exceptionally talented young artist named Daniel Arthur Allen, and how one of his mysterious little jewel-like paintings was rediscovered in the vault of The Rochester Memorial Art Gallery nearly four decades after his untimely death.
Told through the lens of a lover’s older eyes, An Early Work Late in Life takes place in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the sexual revolution, gay liberation and anti-Vietnam War protests made everyday life anything but predictable. Sometimes raucous and funny, sometimes heartbreaking, this memoir is ultimately a tribute to a wonderful, quirky, gentle young man who might have been a little too good for this world—and who believed he could exit this life and move on to a better one all on his own.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DannyAllenArt?ref=hl
Becca Rafferty of the Rochester City Newspaper has just published a glowing review about my book, An Early Work Late in Life. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Becca when I was in Rochester for the book’s informal launch at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery last March.
Here is Ms. Rafferty’s review in ‘City’ – http://www.rochestercitynewspaper.com/rochester/artlit-an-early-work-late-in-life-the-art-and-life-of-danny-allen/Content?oid=2219394
This is the kind of review anyone who has ever written a book dreams of receiving. I’m delighted…!!! Book are available through PixelPreserve: http://www.pixelpreserve.net/bookstore/
* * * * *
I have a limited number of books available. Anyone who’d like to purchase a copy contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Put the words “Sunny Ducks” in the subject heading. $34.95 includes shipping and handling. $29.95 if you live within walking distance.
An Early Work Late in Life – Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/DannyAllenArt?ref=hl
Books are on sale at the Memorial Art Gallery’s Museum Store for $29. It Came from the Vault: Rarely Seen Works from MAG’s Collection
March 17–June 9, 2013 500 University Avenue · Rochester, NY 14607-1484 585.276.8900 · 585.473.6266 http://mag.rochester.edu/