I’ve Been to a Marvelous Party
No. Wait. Scratch that. But I have been to a couple of marvelous parties as of late. Under normal circumstances I don’t mention them all that often, but this week I’ll make an exception. [Note: If you don’t like party posts, avoid this one at all costs. Even if it does involve Lemony Snicket on a merry-go-round built for two . . .]
The two parties were very different, but of great interest to all parties involved. The first I will mention was the party held last week to which all Kidlit Drink Night attendees were invited. Mr. Robert Forbes (yes, THAT Mr. Forbes) was kind enough to invite us to attend a little soiree at The Forbes Gallery here in New York City. Why would he want grimy children’s literature people mucking up his space? Well, Mr. Forbes recently published a book of children’s poetry called Let’s Have a Bite, illustrated by the illustrious Ronald Searle.
Now, I had never been to the Forbes Galleries. Truth be told, I had no idea that they were (A) open to the public and (B) awesome. In point of fact, they are both. And if you happen to be interested in visiting (which I highly recommend) I would suggest that you do so before November 22nd. You see, until that moment in time the galleries have a magnificent selection of toy soldiers, toy boats, and old Monopoly games on display. And what a display! There is an art to their presentation. A skill to the little hidden rooms in which you will locate them. To top it all off, there was a retrospective of Searle’s from the last 40-50 odd years. Should you be nowhere near New York right now, much of that same work is visible in this recent interview he conducted:
And what of the book itself? Well, a special side room exists in the Galleries of the work Searle did for Mr. Forbes’s newest. The two collaborated back in 2007 on a similar book called Beastly Feasts. Both books contain poems with accompanying illustrations. In what I imagine must be very much the spirit in which Mr. Searle works, Mr. Forbes served us lots of tiny food made out of the very animals featured in the poems. Grilled octopus, turtle of some sort, as well as a little cheese fondue that was liable to tempt you into thinking that you’d never had anything quite so good ever before (a little mouse appears in each of the paintings in Mr. Forbes’s book).
As for Mr. Forbes himself I was rather expecting him to look like his portrait here:
He was a bit of that, but really he was the most approachable host one could hope for. I think we were all a bit intimidated, but he made the rounds, spoke to everybody, and even snapped a few digital pictures that I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on. All in all, a wonderful evening, and one that allows us to tip our hats to our gracious host. You can read more about the gallery and its Searle showing here.
That was Party #1. I have begun with the low-key party because I feel that if I began with Party #2 you would be disinclined to believe me about it. Here is a taste of what I am talking about:
Do you know what you are looking at? Alas, you do not. It is a dark picture and I’ve found that Android phones don’t quite match iPhones in terms of picture quality. Well in any case you are looking at Daniel Handler a.k.a. Lemony Snicket on the roof of a penthouse, sitting on a merry-go-round built for two (complete with animatronic monkeys and a bubble machine) as he merrily sings in the shadow of The Empire State Building. THAT is what you are looking at.
You see, I have over the years made the acquaintance of a very fine, very fascinating, very interesting young lady. She is known as Cynthia von Buhler, and you may know her best as the mad genius behind the intense picture book But Who Will Bell the Cats? which came out a year or so ago. A performance artist, artist artist, and friend of the wandering musician, Ms. von Buhler was kind enough to invite me to her recent FREAKS party. The thing is, if I tell you what went on it’s best that I mention everything seen in a list. That way it’s a bit more manageable.
At this party there were:
- Original pieces of art.
- Tarot card readings. Make that Shakespeare Tarot Card readings. My reading got Queen Elizabeth at one point. I take that as a good sign.
- A popcorn machine, a cotton candy machine, an open bar, and hot dogs.
- A room full of mermaids, seemingly post the Gulf Oil Spill, in various states of disarray. If you looked carefully you’d find our hostess in this room wearing a mermaid tail that would shame the makers of Splash, whilst reclining in the bathtub where she welcomed guests for the better part of several hours. Eventually she was moved to a bed, whereupon strapping young men would move her about, reminding one of a slightly damp Cleopatra.
- Live musicians. In this particular case the group was called Walter Sickert and The Army of Broken Toys. That was their official name. You’ll understand why we referred to them instead as Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. The reasons are fairly self-explanatory.
That said, I doubt that the real Dr. Teeth has ever sung during a burlesque dance or in front of a mad violinist.
This is a flavor of what I’m talking about:
- Ladies on stilts.
The aforementioned merry-go-round on the roof. My friend Lori and I took a turn up there. We even managed to coerce the fellow running it into hiking it up to full speed. You’ll be proud of me. I didn’t fall off once.
- The (also) aforementioned Lemony Snicket. Faithful readers of this blog are aware that I harbor a dire and unrelenting fear of the Snicket/Handler. No such fear exists in terms of his editor, however, so when I was introduced to Ms. Susan Rich I immediately latched onto her like a woman drowning in the Seine. This move rebuffed Mr. Handler, which allayed my fears but, consequently, drove him far far away from my sphere. This I regret, but it cannot be helped. The fellow intimidates the living bejeezus outta me.
Of course, I couldn’t quite figure out how Mr. Handler and Ms. Rich were at this party in the first place. Neither of them lives in New York, after all. It turned out that the two of them had been giving away free ice cream earlier in the day (like you do) and Neil Gaiman stopped by to tell them about this event and to bring them along. All well and good, but why does Gaiman know Handler? I knew that there was a reason but I just could not think of it. Why why why? Is Helquist the connection? I know that Brett Helquist illustrated Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants as well as all the Series of Unfortunate Events books. Was he the link?
The answer came to me long after the party. Of course.
Of course! Stephin Merritt! He did the music on The Gothic Archies album that accompanied the release of the last Unfortunate Events release (and Handler plays the accordion on 69 Love Songs). As for Gaiman, Merritt wrote the music for the staged production of Coraline. THAT was it.
Oh. Right. This brings us to our last party element.
- Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.
Did I mention that this party was partly in honor of their engagement? Yup. And to top it all off Ms. Palmer was able to play a song or two for the eager masses.
Eager masses, in this case, meaning me. You see Matt and I were able to secure a small space behind the poor tech guy who had to keep riding the levels with each song.
I swear to you that I was having way more fun than that picture indicates. Note, if you will, the awesome couple to my left. Anyway, eventually everyone sat on the floor and Matt and I ended up blocking Ms. Palmer’s access to her coat. I think she had to walk by us about four times. I should probably feel worse about this than I do.
The best part was getting to be right next to the happy couple as they spoke to the audience about said engagement. Sadly, it didn’t make for great pictures (I don’t like sticking cameras into folks’ faces, which is why that college major in photography sits moldering in my closet) but it was great for a listen. Here they are being congratulated by the fantastic Sxip Shirey (whom I adore).
And that, as they say, is that. Big time thanks to Cynthia for the party. Her own recap of the party is on her blog now. I had entirely missed the contortionist. Grr. Molly Crabapple also came up with the best photos. Enjoy!
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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