By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Kafka’s dream is to found the American Road Transport, or ART, Museum, a nonprofit museum dedicated to the history of the American motor coach. He speculates that between 35 and 75 of his buses are true collector’s items (unlike cars, buses often had production runs of between 35 and 1,000 units).
He wrote to Elizabeth Dole, then head of the Red Cross, offering the Mobile Hospital Unit for the Red Cross Museum. He tried to donate the Rosa Parks bus to both the Rosa Parks Institute for Self-Realization and the California African-American Museum. But no one ever takes him seriously, or worse, they’re suspicious of his motives. He has approached the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Petersen Automotive Museum, the Department of Transportation, various politicos — he even contacted Lakers owner Jerry Buss (get it?).
“I’m just a custodian,” Kafka says. “I need a docent. We need grants. But I’m so busy just trying to pay overhead to barely keep this fleet in existence that I don’t really have the time to properly focus on museum development. I don’t want to be obsessed. Really. There are other things I’d like to do with my life.”
Meanwhile, the buses gather dust and weather the elements in a corner lot in Fontana. Sic transit gloria: “Thus passes away the glory.”
Being Skip Arnold won’t get you very far at a supermarket or a gas station, but at an art event, doors fly open. The L.A.-based performance artist, famous for his claustrophobic live nude self-portraits, perhaps most aptly described as sculpture or installations, slithered through the entrance to the SCOPE art fair — held a few weeks ago at the high-hip-quotient Standard Hotel downtown — without paying a dime or being on the list. The rest of our party had to cough up 10 bucks. Skip asked if I was going to keep my receipt.
The Standard had closed off its third and fourth floors for the international exhibition, which promised emerging “cutting-edge artists” in each gallery/hotel room. One of the first rooms we visited featured crude documentary photos of bondage scenarios by a collaborative from New York. The work’s criminal aspect piqued Skip’s interest, but the receptionist kept reminding us the acts were voluntary. “Oh, it’s just fetish art then,” Skip said. But that didn’t stop him from gathering catalogs and pamphlets and schmoozing. He wants to be on top of things, keep informed, and at the same time let everyone know he’s in the room.
Despite the stains on a wife-beater’s T-shirt, worn underneath a moth-eaten suit with pants that have never seen a dry cleaner, Skip comes off looking classy. Every ensemble includes his signature Italian scarf hung loosely over his spindly body. In each room, he made a beeline for the dealer, his hand outstretched. “Hi, I’m Skip Arnold.” Half of them didn’t know who the hell this guy was, but they would never dare let on. Skip seemed oblivious — such a thing would never occur to him. Fame is almost every artist’s objective, but Skip makes it an art form.
After a while following Skip from room to room, watching him work the crowd, wondering if he liked this art or that, we began to get thirsty. It was a breezy, sunny Sunday afternoon, and we were thinking about the celebrated rooftop bar. But Skip was lagging again, exchanging numbers with a gallerist, gathering a stack of ink. An artist friend looked on with envy and admiration, then ‰ self-pity, realizing what a rank-amateur networker he really was compared to the Skipper.
It was time for a pick-me-up to cure our low self-esteem. “Hey, what about that rooftop with those stiff, dry, exorbitantly priced gin martinis?” I suggested.
“After we finish all the galleries on the third floor, then we can go to the rooftop, then the fourth floor,” Skip said like a den mother to her Cubs. Since I’d be paying for Skip’s drink (Skip never has cash), why did he get to decide when we could go to the rooftop?
Yes, Skip. Okay, Skip. Hi, we’re not Skip Arnold.
We took the elevator downstairs to take the escalator upstairs to the only elevator that went to the rooftop. “Hold on there just one minute!” a bouncer barked. He told us we’d have to go back downstairs to get a $20 wristband and then come back upstairs — just to have an overpriced drink on the fucking rooftop. Even Skip Arnold couldn’t come through for us on that one. We decided to take our refreshments at the downstairs bar.
Next thing I remember we were on the elevator to the fourth floor. On the fourth floor we found girls in bikinis with tattoos and fluffy white hotel towels. Needlepoint pornography. Shag-carpet lapels adorning upholstered suit jackets. Celebrities’ names — Saddam Hussein, dead rappers — engraved on bullets. A rubberized wardrobe hanging on the coat rack. Warhol Liz Taylors sewn with furry rug remnants. It felt like the arts-and-crafts section at a county fair, only with John Waters in charge of the quilting bee. Skip fit right in, a Felliniesque character reveling in his element.