June 2015


Oh No, It's Ono


Yoko Ono is an acquired taste. A taste that no doubt eludes many palates. Maybe it’s her head-in-the-clouds life perspective, that seemed even simplistic to those who lived in a bubble of naiveté back in the Sixties. But of course I still have my copy of her book Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings (1970’s edition).


Reads one such “instruction”:




Imagine one thousand suns in the
sky at the same time.
Let them shine for one hour.
Then, let them gradually melt
into the sky.
Make one tunafish sandwich and eat.


(1964 spring)


To which I’m inclined to respond: I imagined a thousand suns in the sky, and unsurprisingly, they blinded my mind’s eye.


What if she is just putting us on? What if it’s just a sharp wit about her that we missed then? And still miss now? A sense of whimsy that we take so literally? What, Zen? (You mean you didn’t like all that cat-in-heat shrieking on the records she made with the Plastic Ono Band?).


In any case, she is usually described as being a conceptual artist. And so I head over to the Museum of Modern Art to check out the concepts, in this reprise of her greatest hits entitled…



This is the first time she will have had a sanctioned showing there (which runs till September 7th), as her first appearance at MoMA in late 1971, was decidedly “unofficial.” More like a party crashing.


At that time, she advertised her “one woman show” at the Museum of Modern (F)art according to a sign outside, which also stated that she had released flies on the museum’s grounds, and asked that people track them as they flew about the city. (She could have at least put identifying tags on their legs to make it easier, no?).


The point of that alleged exercise (did she really do that?) was said to be, to make us ever more focused and watchful. And in that sense, it echoes a tenet of Buddhist philosophy having to do with being awake as a means toward attaining enlightenment. Or not. Anyway, more than 40 years later, she is back. Officially.


Yoko’s art might better be described as a sort of “Marcel Duchamp meets Maria Abramovic.” Where Duchamp had his urinal or snow shovel, Ono has her hammer and nails, or green apple. Where Abramovic once invited an audience to use any one of 72 objects on her —which included a feather, honey, a scalpel, a whip— to give pleasure or inflict pain, Ono had her “Cut Piece”; a performance piece in which she directed an audience, one at a time, to come up and cut off a piece of her clothing with a long tailor scissors, and keep it. All the while, she sat there passively.

While this might have seemed just an indulgent avant-garde artist stunt back then, looking at a film of it now, a meaning emerges that would not have been so apparent when she “performed” it at Carnegie Hall in 1965, prior to feminist movement coming to the forefront. It suggests metaphorically, a gross violation of women as they are reduced to sitting by silently without protest. And yet this is something that still reverberates today, as evidenced by allegations from nearly thirty women— at last count— about Bill Cosby doing this very thing. Though he didn’t use his scissors.


There are other pieces of an equally serious nature throughout the exhibit, dealing in particular, with anti-war protests and seeking world peace. Yet in the main, most are light hearted and her sense of whimsy now comes through in a way it may not have before.


We see for example, a reprise of that white ladder leading up to a spyglass hanging from the ceiling. It is a reminder of how John and Yoko first met in ’66.


As the story goes, Lennon was invited to attend a gallery where Ono was preparing a conceptual art exhibit. He was at first unimpressed, but when he climbed the ladder and looked through the spyglass at the top and saw the word “YES,” it instantly connected with him as an expression of optimism that all things are possible, as he later said. If it had said “NO,” who knows. And the rest, as they say, is history.


In a variation on this ascension to a new perspective theme—in a piece commissioned by MoMA which she entitled “To See the Sky,” — Ono offers a steep spiral staircase leading to a skylight atop the museum. One is encouraged to climb the stairs for a look-see. As described by a Times art critic…

“But as you reach the top of the staircase, something unnerving happens. The structure starts to wobble and sway, like a ship on a moody sea. Looking skyward becomes hard; your gut tells you to focus on where your feet are. Even when you’ve come back down, it takes a minute to find your land legs. So, just when you thought you were in for a bit of transcendence, free and clear, you’ve been given a wake-up poke, a little slap of fear, a reminder that looking for light is perilous; danger is always near…”

While I was never personally reminded “that looking for light is perilous,” I did take some pictures through the skylight at a fragment of skyline while up there, and it was …cool. And as for the “wobble and sway, like a ship on a moody sea”? Poetic, but hardly anything on the level of a theme park ride, as this overly zealous reviewer implies.


At the bottom of the stairs is the fact, that Yoko Ono, now 82, is still at it. However she, or we, define “it.” She has long since transcended the snickering that would accompany any mention of her name or talents in the same breath as mega-star husband John. And for all the eye-rolling that might accompany some of her Grapefruit life instructions— oh no, Ono…


Stir inside of your brains with a penis
until things are mixed well.
Take a walk.

1961 winter

…she has long since become a legend, an icon, a star, in her own right. This MoMA exhibition is a testament to that






Quote of the Month










Artists Without Walls


      Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…

                            —Robert Frost


In desperate search of a podium
from which to give voice to a voice within
from the dregs that begged to be heard
I walked through a door and into a gathering
that called itself “Artists Without Walls.”
Though they performed in a space called The Cell.
A descent into madness closely follows
the loss of a sense of irony.

Young people from the old sod singing
Irish elders from a once Catholic God strumming
violin solos to make even an Alpha male weep
and this stunning woman with a head of hair
more intricately quaffed than the world has ever known
read her poem one night from her phone.
Could I not be as hip, before one need be replaced?
Yes, I stuck in my thumb and pulled out a pun
then pulled out my rotary cellular phone.
But I could not decipher in iambic pentameter

not one fucking word with my eyes gone to seed.
You can say “fuck” all you want in the absence of walls.
And in time I discovered you can dress as a lobster,
or in drag, or a lobster in drag, what the hell…
when artists are ensconced without walls in a cell.
But I digress. And dare I do so in a dress?
I must get back to my hard copied poem
before some in the back row slip out the back door —
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
as Frost implored in Mending Wall.
Though that back door is sometimes the front door depending
on that night’s chair positions and tenancy;
natural selection or intelligent design?
And people might enter to find themselves
in the midst of a scene from a play never seen.
Perhaps one mid-wifed just five minutes ago
with the ink on the script still drying.
But is not the play the thing despite
whatever walking shadow walks in late in the night?
              One time the door was way off to the right
and I found myself strutting my stuff in the round,
an alignment wreaking havoc on my visual aids
meant to be seen head on— silly props, I know—
but needed to prop up the low moan of my monologue
of time passing where once there was a booth with a phone.
Of what matter though the passage of time
in that like water we’ll seek and find
our own level while testing ourselves in new ways—
tearing down even the fourth wall if we must
to enter and exit a stage as we must,
whichever way the door is facing.


                                                Ron Vazzano




Has It Been Twenty-Five Years Already Since...



In surfing the net in search of information for a piece I was working on, I came across a site,, that invites one to “see what famous, scandalous, and notable events happened in”… pick a date, a month, a year.


With 25 years seemingly an appropriate time span for all sorts of wows, ironies and head shaking over the fleeting passage of time, I clicked June 1990. As a public service, I offer a smattering of that which jumped out at me, either for its heft, or its head-scratching lack thereof. Not to mention in some instances, its profound obscurity.


The question of what constitutes something newsworthy, and ultimately a piece of “history” worth recording, continues to confound. But I’ll spare the parenthetical remarks, as you will no doubt supply your own in perusing this chronological list of headliners in a June month from another galaxy. Imagine Barbra Streisand intoning “The Way We Were,” as you do.




- Cowboy Channel on cable TV begins transmitting.



- Dow Jones Avg. hits a record high of 2,900.97



- Greyhound Bus files bankruptcy



- NY Telephone company announces that it wants Bronx area code 917



- Dr. Jack Kevorkian assisted an Oregon woman to commit suicide, beginning a national debate over the right to die



- South African troops plunder Nelson Mandela’s home



- Michael Jackson hospitalized for chest pains



- "It's Garry Shandling's Show" last airs on Fox-TV



- Kerry Kennedy (daughter of Robert) & Andrew Coumo (Mario's son) to wed



- Michael Jackson is hospitalized with inflamed rib cartilage




- Burger King begins using Newman's Own Salad Dressing



- Supreme Court says law prohibiting desecration of US flag unconstitutional



- Egypt (500-1 longshot) ties favorite Neth. 1-1 in World Cup game



- "Les Miserables" opens at S Alberta Jubilee Centre, Calgary



- Wash. DC mayor Marion Barry announces he will not seek a 4th term



- "Dick Tracy" with Warren Beatty & Madonna premieres



- 40,000-50,000 die in a (7.6) earthquake in Iran



- Asteroid Eureka is discovered.



- Little Richard gets a star on Hollywood's walk of fame



- NYC's Zodiac killer shoots 4th victim, Larry Parham



- US House of Representatives votes 254-177 to stop US flag burning, doesn't pass



- At Yankee Stadium rally, Nelson Mandela dons a NY Yankee baseball cap & proclaims "I am a Yankee!"




- Florida passes a law prohibits wearing a thong bathing suit



- Adam Sandler joins "Saturday Night Live"



- Moldavia declares independence



 - Police find marijuana at Chuck Berry's home



- TV Guide selects Arsenio Hall as TV personality of year



- Supreme Court rules family members cannot end lives of comatose relatives unless those relatives previously made their wishes known



-122°F in Phoenix Arizona



- 8 KS. & OK. radio stations boycott k.d. lang, due to her anti-meat ad



- Salman Rushdie, condemned to death by Iran, contributes $8600 to help their earthquake victims



- Emmy 17th Daytime Award presentation - Susan Lucci loses for 11th time



- World's first female diocesan Anglican bishop, Dr. Penny Jamieson, appointed, New Zealand


  30th - East & West Germany merge their economies







When the View is More than Meets the Eye: One World Observatory on Opening Day



After what has seemed an eternity, from that infamous day on 9/11 until a few days ago on May 29, 2015, the public has once again been invited back into the World Trade Center. Now one building officially named Freedom Tower, with the top three floors designated as One World Observatory, like the Phoenix, has risen from the ashes.


I stood on line for an hour awaiting the moment, with the moment running well behind the scheduled time for our 102 story ascent. Unsurprising, what with this being opening day and all the attendant frenzy that can accompany Day One occasions.


“If you build it they will come.” And if you re-build it, they will really come, despite the skepticism behind Chris Rock’s opening SNL monologue back in November: “…they should change the name from the Freedom Tower, to the Never-Going-In-There Tower…there is no circumstance that will ever get me in that building.” I don’t know what the official headcount was for that day Chris, but there were a whole lot of passionate I-Can’t-Wait-To-Get-Into-That-Tower folks awaiting their turn behind the barricades.


I had been to the original World Trade Center observatory on a couple of occasions, in which you literally could go out on the roof for an unobstructed view. So if you’ve seen one spectacular 360° view, you’ve seen them all no? Even though this one is officially trademarked as “See Forever”? (Or at least as far as Philadelphia). Not so.


It begins in anticipation while on the sidewalk and looking up at a vanishing point on a building which to be honest, is not one of architectural splendor, nor comparable to other iconic structures in this city. Even the original World Trade Center towers were not really a sight to behold, and were much maligned by critics and public alike when they first went up. Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between them in 1974, gave them a personality and a sense of imagination that was clearly lacking in their design. But entering this new building, is in itself, an experience unmatched by its forerunners or even the beloved Empire State Building with its classic art deco lobby.


You walk beneath street level through bedrock left exposed, that you are informed by white font lettered projections upon it, is 425 million years old. (Yet doesn’t look a day over 424). And the well-orchestrated montage of talking heads appearing and disappearing—the men who have built this structure; who work with their hands trying to put into words what it means to them— already beginning to put a lump in one’s throat. Hard to imagine, say, a narration by the builders of the beautiful Chrysler Building (which I think of as the Marilyn Monroe of skyscrapers), creating any undercurrent of emotion as you begin to feel here.


This is followed by an elevator ride offering the techno-wizardry of a panoramic 515 year old history of this place we call Manhattan. With such stimulation, the arrival to the top on the 102nd floor, seems far less in time than the indicated 47 seconds. And when you arrive, you are greeted by still more video montage on a wall before you.


Then the wall gives way.


And for the first time, you are exposed through floor-to-ceiling windows, to something real, not virtual, a VIEW which gives you a chill. And you find yourself, along with the crowd, breaking out into spontaneous applause.


I had never experienced in a lifetime, a view getting an ovation. But of course that is not what we are applauding. We are applauding something more than meets the eye. We are applauding triumph over tragedy, good over evil, life affirmation of the human spirit. Which on this day, we later toasted over a glass of champagne with the world—or at least the city and parts of New Jersey—beneath our feet. Corny perhaps, but as they say, you had to be there. And hopefully at some point you will. Combined with the 9/11 memorial museum below, (“9/11Memorial Museum Opens” JUNE, 2014 MUSE-LETTER) it will become a point of destination for visitors and natives alike. Death and rebirth. To get even more metaphorical about it.









Chewing up the scenery in performance of the above poem, “Artists Without Walls,” at The Cell in Chelsea on May 25th.



As appears on their website:

“Ron offered a quartet of poems that played thematically with a couple of current pop culture events: the concluding of the Mad Men series—as he once toiled at an ad agency on Madison Avenue in the late 60’s —and horse racing, which is in the midst of its “Triple Crown” season. He ended with a “send-up poem” about our esteemed group (“…a gathering that called itself “Artists Without Walls”/Though they performed in a space called The Cell”) that was both hilarious and poignant, and enthusiastically received by an audience of fellow artists.”





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