Monday, February 4, 2008

Who Is This Really?

One day in the early 90s I came home to find my answering machine blinking. Not unexpectedly as an original art ad had just broken in the Comic Buyers Guide and calls would be starting to roll in. I hit the play button and heard, “Hi Scott, this is Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, & Nash and I want to buy some art from your ad. I can’t leave a number because I’m on tour. I’ll call back later.”

The next message came on, “Hi Scott, this is Graham Nash again, from Crosby, Stills, & Nash. I’ll call back later.” The following two messages were pretty much the same, and in each he said “Crosby, Stills, & Nash.” I had just finished listening to the final one when the phone rang. The voice coming over the line asked for me and then said, “Scott, this is Graham Nash, from Crosby, Stills, & Nash, I want to buy some art from you.”

It was one of those moments when you just have to look at the phone. I said, “Okay, who is this really?” The voice came back, “Really, this is Graham Nash!” I asked him which band he had been in before CSN and he replied, “The Hollies." I told him everybody knew that. I said if you’re Graham Nash sing something. I was actually pretty sure at this point it was Graham Nash but I thought it would be funny to have him do a few lines of “Our House."

So the person who was apparently Graham Nash tells me he wants to buy a number of originals from my ad. But there’s a catch: he won’t be home for a couple of months because of the tour. And he’s anxious to get the pages. He tells me that CSN will be playing in New Jersey in a couple of weeks and asks if I could deliver the art to him there. He’d arrange for tickets and back stage passes to be left at the Will Call window and we’d complete our transaction before the concert. Oh, and he wanted me to bring along more art.

I hung up the phone and started to get a nagging feeling. Maybe this wasn’t what it appeared to be; maybe one of my friends was playing an elaborate prank on me. I had no number for him (in those dawning days of cellular) and no payment was en route to me. But, what the Hell, the worst that could happen was I schlep a portfolio out to New Jersey for a few hours.

So on the appointed day my girlfriend and I take a cab down to the Port Authority and are herded onto a bus bound for Holmdel, New Jersey, home of the Garden State Arts Center. When we arrived it was still a couple of hours before the concert and the crowd wasn’t too bad yet. We found our way to the Will Call window where…my name wasn’t on the list.

I was stunned. All I could think of was that depressing bus ride back to the city, what a drag it was going to be. We started to walk away and then I stopped. Screw it, they were going to have another look. This time the lady checked a different list, the one that had backstage passes. VoilĂ , we’re on the sheet. Guess we didn’t fit the standard VIP type.

So we headed down towards the stage, showed our passes, and were escorted to a waiting area inside. There were a lot of people standing around; some who I presumed were with the band, some with the Arts Center, and some who looked out of place (just like us). They had won a radio station promotion. The guy who ushered us in goes to tell Graham we’d arrived and a few minutes later Graham Nash comes out to meet us. He says hello and tells me he has to take care of something before we can talk art. He walked over to the contest winners and introduced himself. He’s a charming fellow, polite and funny, and he treated them like people. It was a nice sight. When he’s done he walks over and says, “Okay, Whattaya got to show me?”

I heft a large portfolio onto a table and open it for him. First he looked at the pages he called about and then puts them aside. Next he scrutinizes the three-inch stack of art he requested I bring. He started separating art into two stacks, one short, the other tall. When he was done he looked at me and asked, motioning to the larger stack, “How much for these?”

After adding it up I gave him a number. He asked if I could do any better. Soon we had a deal and he wrote me a check. In the background there was a guy who had been leaning over now and then to check out what was going on, he seemed very interested. When Graham and I were done he stepped up and pulled out one of the pieces that remained, a Beetle Bailey comic book cover. He asked how much it was. I told him $90. He said, “I’ll give you $75 bucks, cash!” I laughed and said sure. He was positively giddy as he walked away.

We said our goodbyes and walked out to be with the paying customers. The Garden State Arts Center is an open-air venue and it was a pleasant evening. We enjoyed the concert, it was my first time seeing CSN, and then headed out towards the parking lot when the show was over. Buoyed by a lighter portfolio and a fat check, I decided to spring for a cab back to New York and home…paid for courtesy of Stephen Stills’ $75 bucks, cash.

39 comments:

David Schlobohm said...

Scott,
I was very touched by this story. I hope one day someone calls me in the same fashion with wanting some of my artwork. Congratulations and best of luck in all you do.
David

Mark said...

Funny how he introduced himself as "Graham Nash from Crosby, Stills and Nash". What about poor old Neil Young, man?

Steve Stills was an army brat, so I can see him going for a Beetle Bailey cover alright.

Is it rude to ask what Nash bought? It would be interesting to hear what rock royalty was into.

Jason Johnson said...

Small world, man.

Tony Marine said...

Another great story! Scott, you've lived a charmed life!

Scott Dunbier said...

Mark, didn't know that about Stills, makes sense. I only remember a few things that Nash bought: A Woody Woodpecker cover painting for a coloring book from the 60s, a bunch of John Byrne Doom Patrol pages I had just gotten in, and a really cool Robert Crumb page where he drew himself as Buck Rogers. If anyone has any CBG's from the early 90s the Crumb page was pictured in the ad.

Tim G. said...

Years ago, when I was in college, I played varsity hockey. I messed up my left knee during a game and wound up hopping around campus on crutches for two weeks. One day, between classes, I hobble over to bookstore located on the first floor of the Avalon hotel. While looking at the comics on the self, a hand reaches by me to grab an issue and then I hear this voice with an English accent asking, "Did you take a spill in a pub?". I turn my head and look at the person speaking, then start to stammer "You...You...You're Graham Nash!". Must have sounded like a complete idiot. But he couldn't have been nicer. We talked comics for a minute or two; he asked about my injury which lead to a chat about sports in general and soccer specifically and then, not only does he pay for the two comics I was about to buy, but he hands me tickets to the show that night. What a gentleman.

Kurt Busiek said...

So the moral of the story is...David Crosby's a cheapskate?

Seriously, that was fun.

kdb

BBayliss said...

You should have flipped him for it!

Mark said...

As I never tire of telling people, Paul McCartney bought a full set of DC's IDENTITY CRISIS from me on Ebay a few years ago. I couldn't help myself and checked what he'd been buying recently at the time through his feedback - dude buys a lot of comics!

Scott Dunbier said...

Thanks, Jason, Tony, Kurt.

Tim G, that's great--are you my old pal from Chicago?

Mark, cool story. Which reminds me of the first time I visited Jack Kirby (which is a blog I'm working on, BTW) and he told me that Paul McCartney had visited him at his home in the early 70s. Mark Evanier could probably answer this for sure but I believe Jack told me that he was a guest of McCartney's for a Wings concert and was even introduced on stage. Now that would have been a very cool concert to be at.

Hypersonic said...

Nice one. Alan Moore bought a stack of Ditko's from me once and John Higgins a bunch of Good Girl art.

Mick Gray said...

And I thought I was cool cuz Glenn Danzig bought LOTS of Promethea art from me! That is the BEST comic/rock story I've EVER heard! Except, of course, the Kirby/ Mac story. Hope you are well, Scott...it's been a while since we have talked.
Let's talk soon!

Mick

Scott Dunbier said...

I sent Mark Evanier an e-mail asking if he could shed some light on the Jack Kirby/Paul McCartney connection, here's what I got back:

"Jack got invited to a Wings concert when McCartney had that record out -- "Magneto and the Titanium Man." He was introduced from the audience to thunderous applause and before that, he went backstage and he and his family met McCartney. Jack presented him with a drawing of Paul and Linda M. with Magneto, and it's reproduced in the book on Jack I have coming out later this month."

The Kirby book Mark mentions is one of the most highly anticipated books of 2008 (well, by me anyway). I'm having trouble placing a link here to Mark's site but if you click his name on the right, just above my handsome portrait, it will take you to his site and you can learn all about it. Highly recommended.

Hypersonic said...

Why not put a permalink on your links list...like wot I do.

Mark said...

The Kirby/Macca connection has been touched on a few times in John Morrow's always excellent THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR, too.

Drew said...

Great story, Scott!
Being an ex-NJ Shore resident, I'm very familiar with the former Garden State Arts Center. It's a great venue for concerts-- glad to hear you had a good time.
Back in the day, "lawn seating" was the thing-- about $20 to be half a mile (or so it seemed) from the stage, sitting on a blanket (often in the rain), but it was always fun. Nowadays, I hear that they have assigned seats even there.
=sigh=
ah well.
Probably not the sentiment you were going for, but this post takes me back to many concerts in Holmdel.
all best,
Drew

Cheeky said...

Didn't the artwork Mark Evanier mentions end up on ebay a couple of years ago? I did wonder at the time how it had ended up there.

Joseph

Scott Dunbier said...

Yes, I remember seeing that too. I just scanned for it on CAF's market data search engine but didn't find anything. Can't remember if it sold or not. I'd be curious to hear how that got away from McCartney, would be hard pressed to believe he would knowingly part with it.

Neil Hill said...

I have a feeling that you have a million stories just as colorful and gasp inducing as this one, Scott, and that's why this blog is so great!

Randolph Hoppe said...

Hey all,

I just posted the Kirby McCartney art on the Kirby Museum site, along with a (barely intelligible) audience recording of the band introducing Jack, and a clip from Rockshow.

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