Sunday, January 24, 2010
HESS MONKEY TOWN
This little painting probably evokes, more than any other piece that I have done in my nostalgia series, responses from people of all ages. It's funny -- one night in 1988 I was sitting around trying to remember what that Hess Monkey Town window looked like and so I started to paint what was inside my head. I thought it would be a private painting just for me. I did not realize at the time how many people would need to see it, too. The painting and memory are based on a true story. The two little girls are myself and best friend Charlotte. We are wearing our school uniforms from Trinity Prep in Ilchester, MD where we spent our formative years side-by-side laughing at everything.
Crazy live monkeys provided the distraction barbers required to buzz the locks of junior while mother and daughter shopped in the adjoining Hess Shoes store. Located in Edmondson Village on Route 40 West in Baltimore, MD this store and barbershop made even buying saddle shoes for school entertaining. Children ascended carpeted steps to a ramp where salesman and parent observed at eye-level the little darling’s feet in motion. There was an X-ray machine (later rumored to cause poisonous radiation leakage) where you could view medical-like images of your feet inside new shoes.
One night after seeing “A Ticklish Affair” at the Edmondson Movie Theatre my girlfriend and I were waiting for one of our parents to pick us up and so we walked down to visit the monkeys in the window. We quickly realized that the monkeys were very interested in us and we began to taunt them. Before long we had them so stirred up that a lady, flashing a badge, warned us to move on. I will never forget the terror she instilled in us as she waved her wallet in our faces and promised to have us arrested if we persisted in laughing out loud and provoking the monkeys to hurl themselves at us. We meekly apologized walked back to stand in front of the theatre hoping that she would not pop out and and tell our parents about our bad behavior. I realized years later that she more than likely was not a detective or policewoman, but merely an animal lover who wanted the crazy monkeys to be calm. But from what I understand from the residents of the neighborhood, those monkeys were rarely peaceful.