I Wonder What Took Me So Long?

Danny Allen, watercolor of Bill Whiting as a naked hippie, ca. 1972.

Danny Allen, watercolor of Bill Whiting as a naked hippie, ca. 1972. (Newly framed.)

I wonder what took me so long to get around to properly framing Danny Allen’s watercolor of me displaying my birthday suit during my long-gone and misspent youth? Perhaps I was deferring to a shyness I once had but subsequently dismissed. More likely it was a case of having overlooked how much this drawing really meant to me–up until I gave Dan’s portfolio back to the Allen family. Like the work returned to the Allen’s this past July, this piece along with the other pieces I’ve kept, will eventually go back to Dan’s family. I remain the keeper now of only a few sentimental pieces that have tremendous meaning for me–but would be of no real interest to my own heirs.

It’s odd to think of myself now as having once been an optimistic if not totally naive hippie with long hair and youthful, unrealistic life expectations. A gray old man stares back at me in the mirror–an old man who wouldn’t be caught dead skinny dipping in broad daylight. Perhaps I should work on that….

Currently I’m working on digitizing the book to make it available to a larger audience. I’m looking into online publishing options now, and hope to have more information in the near future.

Previously Undocumented Artwork Keeps Surfacing

Danny allen, 1972. A detail of a newly surfaced watercolor collection of Eva Weiss. The full image is inset as the subject material might not otherwise get past the "thought police."

Danny Allen, 1972. A detail of a newly surfaced watercolor from the collection of Eva Weiss. The full image is inset as the subject material might not otherwise get past the “thought police.”

Previously undocumented artwork by Danny Allen keeps surfacing. Much of it is very psychological in nature, more often than not, focusing on gender identity. This particular watercolor is of a hydrocephalic drag queen with one club foot. It’s a troubling image to say the least.

Back when I was living with Dan, there was a limited theatrical release of the 1932 horror film classic, Freaks. Dan was influenced by that film. Most of the characters in the movie were real-life individuals with birth defects and various abnormalities that made the more physically fortunate among us extremely uncomfortable–which to some degree was the point. For some reason that film resonated with Dan and his fascination with all that is outside of our collective comfort zone.

DSC_0061One “freak” image already in the book depicts a pregnant man with an erection, and a bearded man/woman in a bikini. They appear to be playing ‘doctor’ as the figure to the viewer’s right is handing two pomegranates to the pregnant male/female figure to the left. Strawberries are floating on the wallpaper above the wainscoting behind the couple. There was green wainscoting in our first apartment with strawberries on fabric covering the walls in our the bathroom. To call the pieces in this post “unusual” is to employ understatement to the extreme.


Danny Allen, watercolor, ca. 1972. Collection of Adele F. McCarthy.

Another example of the “freak” series was located after the book went to press. This example shows a pair of Siamese twins in a polka dot bikini for two. The sisters are attached at the hip and the hairstyle.

I can only speculate about how the invention of  these unusual figures resonated with Dan and his feelings of disenfranchisement. I believe Danny had very low self-esteem and identified with the outsiders he chose to conjure-up from his imagination. It’s only my opinion, as we’ll never know for sure, but I believe Dan felt profoundly out of place and misunderstood–bouncing back and forth from the bizarre to the beautiful and expressing it through his art.

This is the entire piece. I won't be publishing it on the Kickstarter blog or on Facebook. I think it would generate too much controversy.

This is the newly located piec in its entirety. I won’t be publishing it on the Kickstarter blog or on Facebook. I think it would generate too much controversy.

A Peculiar Little Doodle & Poem

Pencil drawing attributed to Danny Allen. Unsigned and undated--probably from the late 1960s.

Pencil drawing attributed to Danny Allen. Unsigned and undated–probably from the late 1960s.

Work continues to surface, and I’m awaiting a scan of a watercolor from a collection in New York. Shortly before Danny Allen’s sister and brother in law came down to Philadelphia to collect up Dan’s portfolios, I went through them one last time to look at everything and make sure it was all in order. There was a small section of drawings that weren’t Dan’s. There were only a couple drawings in the folio that weren’t Danny’s work–but rather were things done by college friends of mine that had just somehow found their way into Dan’s portfolio. As I went to remove the pieces by other artists I took a closer look at a particualr piece I’d never before considered to be by Danny, but I’ve since changed my mind.

The piece is heavily influenced by another Rochester artist (also deceased) by the name of Ramon Santiago. Santiago had quite a following in the late 1960s and early 1970s. To the best of my knowledge Dan didn’t know Santiago personally–but it was difficult to escape his work, tt was literally everywhere. Ramon Santiago’s art had a “harlequin” quality with a dash of “Yellow Submarine.” This unfinished drawing also has that feeling, but very much in Danny’s hand. However, it was the poem off to the right that makes me think this is one of Dan’s pieces. The poem is written in the abstract jabberwocky style he favored, so I included it with the art being returned to the Allen family. To the best of my ability, this is what I believe the handwriting says:

Digitally darkened detail of the face and animal.

Digitally darkened detail of the face and animal.

If she rises from

a half shell

she rises with

glow and forth luck

and some time.

He falls from the

Other half shell.

Note: Other poems by Danny Allen reference Botticelli’s ‘Venus” but I don’t see the relationship to the drawing itself. The drawing looks to me like a man wearing a helmet and the start of a pony or unicorn off to the viewer’s lower right.

Most of Danny Allen’s Art is Now Back with His Family

Danny Allen, watercolor of Bill Whiting, not signed or dated, ca. 1971.

Danny Allen, watercolor of Bill Whiting, unsigned and undated, ca. 1972.

I had a wonderful visit with Dan’s sister, Christine and her husband, Art. We had a very specific agenda–to return almost all of Danny work to the Allen family. I’ve asked to keep three pieces that have a particular sentimental value for me, but I now consider those pieces to be on loan from the Allen family. The piece shown above is currently at the framer. Chris and I discussed trying to put together a retrospective of Dan’s work, but no particular location has been selected. Christine likes to cut mats, so she certainly has her work cut out for her–there are a lot of pieces of art to be matted and framed.

I greatly enjoyed my time with Chris and Art, and I loved getting to walk them from pillar to post showing them the historic sites here in Philadelphia. I only live a couple blocks away from some of the most famous places in early American history.


Danny Allen, India ink on newsprint, 1973.

Danny Allen, India ink on newsprint, 1973.

But back to Dan’s art… One of Dan’s pieces that I’m particularly fond of is a drawing of an Egyptian done in India ink on newsprint. That piece has a hairline tear down the middle, and I’d like to keep it at least until I’ve found a proper paper conservator to repair the damage. It doesn’t show while in the frame, but the tear was discovered when I unframed it to have it photographed for the book. I’m not sure what a conservator will do, but I’m thinking they would most likely add a fine linen backing or something similar to strengthen the brittle old paper. This piece took a very circuitous route to find it’s way back into my hands after a series of different owners. That story is covered in the book.


Danny Allen, unsigned and undated, ca. 1974.

Danny Allen, unsigned and undated, ca. 1974.

The final piece I’m keeping for the time-being is an unfinished acrylic of a young man kissing a orchid. I’ve always loved this painting, and have it framed in a lined shadowbox so the painting itself floats as if hovering in midair.

Handing over Dan’s art back to his family is another giant step in healing and moving forward–and long overdue. I believe the final puzzle piece for my own personal bucket list of accomplishments would be a retrospective of Dan’s art. we’ll find a way to make it happen.


Another Painting by Danny Allen Surfaces

Danny Allen, non-objective. Further information about this piece will be posted as ti becomes available.

Danny Allen, non-objective, acrylic on canvas – 23 1/4″ x 31″”. Further information about this piece will be posted as it becomes available.

I knew the book would become a conduit for locating other artworks by Danny Allen.

I’m very excited to announce that another of Danny’s paintings has surfaced. This piece, a rather large non-objective color-field painting with graphic lines is part of a private collection in Woodstock, New York. It was originally purchased by a Rochester designer who later gifted it to his sister. When the sister became aware of the book, she came forward with the piece she owns so that our records of Dan’s art might be that much more complete. This piece is particularly special, as it’s one of Dan’s larger works. (I’m waiting for a return reply as to the exact measurements, but it’s an acrylic and about 30″ x 40″.) This will most certainly be included in a second printing of the book. I’m not going to further “tumble” the book design as art by Danny Allen surfaces–but rather add to the addendum at the back of the book.

If anyone reading this blog knows of the whereabouts of any other pieces by Danny Allen, please contact me here at the blog–or on Facebook under the page for An Early Work Late in Life.

My life long friend, Susan Moliken and me, looking dazed while waiting to give my reading and PowerPoint in Rehoboth, Delaware. Photo courtesy of Cade Gibson.

My life long friend, Susan Moliken (seated left) and me, looking dazed while waiting to give my reading and PowerPoint presentation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Photo courtesy of Cade Gibson.

This past weekend I had a reading and book signing at PROUD Bookstore in Rehoboth, Delaware. PROUD is a small venue, but a few loyal readers and friends stopped by for wine, cheese and a reading. I’m continuing to look for other venues for readings and have a couple irons in the fire.

Books are available through PixelPreserve at: http://www.pixelpreserve.net/bookstore/

The Next Phase for Danny Allen’s Artwork

Danny Allen - India ink on bond. Not signed or dated, ca. 1972.

Danny Allen – India ink on bond. Not signed or dated, ca. 1972.

I know it’s not going to be an easy thing to, but it’s the right thing to do. I’m going to hand over ownership of all of the artwork that I have in my custody, done by Danny Allen to the Allen family sometime after the 4th of July, 2013. My role for the past four decades has been to serve as the “keeper” of Dan’s collection. I’ve seen to it the art has been safely stored, but the time has come for it all to return home.

Dan’s sister, Chris is going to come to visit me here in Philadelphia for the transfer. The way my will has been written, the art was always intended to go back to the Allen family–but I see no purpose in delaying that exchange of ownership and responsibility. I’ve loved and enjoyed having Dan’s work and lived with pieces on my walls for decades. Now it’s time to move-on.

Someday I’d like to have a small exhibit of Dan’s art–and Rochester, New York is the natural choice for that exhibit to take place. I’ve been putting out some “feelers” as to where the exhibit could be shown, but no location has yet been determined.

Danny Allen, Graphite and color pencil. Collection of Robert Henning (former curator of the Memorial Art Gallery) and his partner, Brian Stenfors. This piece has been given to the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. (New York State).

Danny Allen, Graphite and color pencil. Collection of Robert Henning (former curator of the Memorial Art Gallery) and his partner, Brian Stenfors. This piece has been given to the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. (New York State).

Following the shock of learning the tragic fate of Dan’s art from other collections where there was no legal will in place, I felt compelled to make this transfer. The location and virtual existence of some of Dan’s finest pieces remains ominously uncertain after collectors passed away without specifying how their collections were to be handled. The pieces I’ve watched over will be distributed among members of the Allen family. I urge anyone who has original art (not just by Danny Allen) but any pieces of note–to provide for the future owndership of that art. Several collectors have expressed an intention to leave their examples of Dan’s work to the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, and others intend to leave art to the Allen family. Both choices are good choices.

My next reading/book signing will be in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on Saturday, June 29th at 4:30pm at PROUD Bookstore – 149 Rehoboth Ave  Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 – 302.227.6969. I’m hoping to include a PowerPoint presentation if the space will allow.

Books are available online through PixelPreserve:


A Drawing by Danny Allen Not in the Book

29822_541226335904463_1375663835_nIn all my efforts to organize myself, I should know by now that something was bound to slip through the cracks. A while back Dan’s and my friend, Steve Carpenter sent me the scan of this drawing done by Danny Allen on January 31st, 1973. Somehow I neglected to get the piece to Katherine Denison, who designed the book. My apologies to Steve. I found the drawing while going through a stack of DVD’s looking for something else entirely. The piece should have been included, and perhaps will be in a future edition. Several other pieces of artwork have surfaced since the book was published, and I’ve included them here on the blog.

My next reading/book signing will be in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on Saturday, June 29th at 4:30pm at PROUD Bookstore – 149 Rehoboth Ave  Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 – 302.227.6969. I’m hoping to include a PowerPoint presentation if the space will allow.

Books are available online through PixelPreserve: http://www.pixelpreserve.net/bookstore/


A Successful Book Signing & the Reviews are Good: Three for Three!

leah_dan_living room copy

Photo ca. 1070 by noted fine arts photographer, Eva Weiss. Pictured are Leah Warnick with Danny Allen in the foreground. If you look carefully you can see Eva Weiss working the camera while reflected in the mirror.

I’m still floating on a cloud following my reading this past Saturday at Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia. I’m hoping to schedule a reading for mid-summer at Proud Bookstore in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware. My original reading date had to be postponed for reasons I won’t go into now–and I’m waiting for confirmation on a replacement date.

The reading at Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia was standing room only. I sold a slew of books and signed them all until my signature looked like I’d had a stroke. Truth to tell that’s what my signature always looks like.

The latest review on my book ‘An Early Work Late in Life’ comes from critic and journalist, Susan Jordan of The Rochester Gay Alliance’s publication: The Empty Closet. So far in terms of reviews, they’re all good: Three for three. Thank you, Susan!



Signing books at Giovanni’s Room. You’ll have to take it on faith that there was a long lie to my left. The photographer managed to only get ME in the picture.

My First Philadelphia Press Coverage – The PGN

Photo of Bill Whiting by Eva Weiss

Photo of Bill Whiting looking like an author by Eva Weiss.

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.


Loss and the Layering of Lives on Memorial Day

A drawing that depicts a gentle spirit--sent to Danny Allen's brother, Lee and his wife Joyce.

A drawing on textured paper that depicts a gentle spirit. The drawing was recently sent to Danny Allen’s brother, Lee and his wife Joyce.

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 Allen with his youngest sister, Christine.

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.