On Sunday, the wife and I went to Central Park to view "The Gates," Christo and Jean-Claude's installation that Mike Lupica posted about a few days ago. While I am impressed by the fact that they paid for everything including the volunteers who helped install the piece, I was slightly underwhelmed by the experience feeling that it was similar to arriving at a party and finding that the only drink available was Budweiser. The kind of party where you keep eyeing the exit though you stay longer than you plan to. I wasn't expecting much, but I had walked through the park the Friday before they lowered the curtains and had seen the poles, bare of fabric, waiting for their moment. I couldn't help but think how great it would be if Burt Lancaster and his little mute friend, Nick Cravat, were to leap back and forth among the pylons for the twenty three miles measured out in naked orange steel?
After being amazed by the number of people who were out to look at large orange pieces of fabric, I spent a few moments wondering if shower curtains, beaded curtains, or blinds would attract similar crowds. My favorite part of the day, however, was when we went down to the boathouse and, though posted very clearly that the ice was too thin to support anybody, a little old man stepped over the fence and began to test the ice. While I can't stand rubbernecking on the highway and would never shout "jump" to a potential suicide, when presented with the chance to watch an act of pure folly I will gaze like the rest of the sheep. Alas, I was dragged away by the wife, who does not share my interest in such matters.
But "The Gates" did start me thinking about curtains and their place in popular culture. Not surprisingly curtains are minor players in this world unless we speak metaphorically or talk like a gangster. But there are four moments when curtains rise to the forefront becoming major players in the drama (or comedy) playing out before us.
4) Monty Python and the Holy Grail - "Someday son, all of this shall be yours!" "What, the curtains?"
3) Twin Peaks - The red curtains which signal the dream appearance of the backwards-speaking dwarf or the giant or Laura Palmer or Bob or whatever other strangeness is going on at the Black Lodge. Also, curtains billow about Julie Cruise in Industrial Symphony No. 1 and supposedly play roles in other films though I can't remember any at this moment.
2) The Cobweb - I think I saw five minutes of this film once when I was younger and melodrama held very little interest. The plot has always struck me as a great moment in salesmanship:
At an exclusive psychiatric clinic, the doctors and staff are about as crazy as the patients. The clinic head, Dr. Stewart McIver, thinks that it would be good therapy for his patients to design and make new drapes for the library. Mrs. Karen McIver, who is neglected by her hardworking husband (and a bit unbalanced herself), wants to make her mark on the clinic, so she orders new drapes. Miss Inch, the business manager, who has been with the clinic longer than anyone, sees this as an intrusion into her territory, and she too orders drapes. All this puts everyone in a dither, as they fight over drapes and clinic politics.
Imagine trying to sell that in thirty seconds.
1) Psycho - You know about this but did you know that you can remix the shower scene for your viewing pleasure and share it with others?
That's all I could come up with. I'm sure there are significant curtains somewhere in literature; there is important wallpaper after all. And I really didn't look for further examples of curtain art. "The Gates" ends this weekend and it is worth a look because there's something amazing about thousands of people walking around looking at similar pieces of fabric hanging from similar structures. Just be glad you didn't travel far to see it. It would be nice if New York actually had an event worth traveling to like a Feast of Fools, Carnival or a running of the bulls down Wall Street during rush hour.