By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Weschler put it this way: "The ongoing problem in my career as a writer is the continuing existence of the role of your subjects. I wrest art out of the chaos of this material, give it a form and wholeness, and dammit, they keep on living! The ending I have right now for the Boggs book is perfect. In practice there may be a different ending. But that's the trouble with making art out of the human clay."
ABOUT TWO WEEKS AFTER I GOT BACK to Los Angeles, I spoke to David Wilson on the phone. He told me that the benefit for the Jurassic hadn't raised very much -- about $1,500 after various expenses (including a hefty $1,000 to cover Boggs' plane and hotel costs) had been defrayed -- and admitted that he had initially been reluctant to stage the event, partly because Ricky Jay had already raised $25,000 for the Jurassic, and partly because he didn't want the museum to become too identified with Weschler. ("Even though he wrote a book about us, we're very independent, we're not the same thing, obviously," he said.) Wilson conceded that some people at the Jurassic had been unhappy about the evening's finances but insisted that he was not one of them. "I have a great deal of respect for what Boggs has done," he told me, "and for the way he's persevered through all this and held on to the coattails of this crazy thing he happened to grab on to."
As for the money Boggs raised from his book signings, and which he had pledged to donate to the Jurassic, Wilson had yet to see it. "I just learned recently that he was going to donate that to us," Wilson told me. "Apparently he's said that he will, but we haven't heard and he hasn't told us."
Perhaps Boggs will give Wilson the money when he returns to L.A. for an exhibition in September. From September 14 to October 16, he will be renting the Frumkin-Duval gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica at a cost of $10,000. The rent at Frumkin-Duval will be paid in Boggs bills of various denominations, and the bills themselves will be on display while he is there. (Boggs and Megan will be sleeping, John-and-Yoko-style, at the gallery.) Also shown will be the various items Boggs manages to purchase during his stay, along with the receipts, change, etc. If all goes as planned, by the end of his visit the gallery will be filled with a multitude of consumer goods testifying to the purchasing power of Boggs' own private currency.
Boggs' primary reason for coming to Los Angeles, however, is, ostensibly, not an artistic one. If the Supreme Court doesn't hear his case (and Floyd Abrams doubts it will), Boggs thinks it will be open season on him as far as the Secret Service is concerned. There will be more harassment, more confiscation of property, and no trial. Which is where L.A. comes in. Judicially speaking, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the most liberal in the country, and Boggs doubts that the Secret Service will want to confront him here. This seems slightly dubious, however, since all the Secret Service would have to do is wait for Boggs to return to Florida.
Boggs doesn't always add up. He dodges questions about his income, and the financial side of his work is conveniently shrouded in secrecy. Is there really a four-year waiting list of collectors eager to buy his art? Did someone in Switzerland really pay $420,000 for a Boggs transaction? Quite possibly, but because the Secret Service can legally seize his work anywhere in the United States, collectors are reluctant to go on record, and I was unable to find one independently who would speak with me. According to Boggs, Secret Service agents are among his most avid collectors, but, again, one has to take his word for it. Still, given that Boggs persuaded Thomas Raymond Hipschen, chief master engraver with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the man responsible for the portrait of Andrew Jackson on the new $20 bill, to do a portrait of him -- which Boggs will be putting on a set of $100,000 Boggs bills -- his word does carry some weight.
With Boggs' help, I finally got a chance to speak with a collector. On July 20 at around 8:30 in the evening, I received a call from a baby-voiced woman who would identify herself only as "Tiffany." She was calling, she said, on behalf of J.S.G. Boggs, to confirm that a transaction for $420,000 had taken place in Europe about a year ago. She claimed to own a gallery in Florida and to represent Boggs in the south-eastern United States.
"How long have you been collecting Boggs' work?" I asked.
"Can you tell me what the transaction in Europe consisted of?"
"So," she continued in her soft little voice, "I'm just making a courtesy call on behalf of J.S.G. Boggs to confirm that the transaction was made in Europe for $420,000."
"Well . . . thank you!" I said.
"Thank you!" she said. And we both hung up.
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