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Harold Kepnes, my friend, has died. I’m very sad.

Harold S.Kepnes, 1947 – 2012

He was a year younger than me, but we were both in the Class of ’64 at Tabor. Harold was my best friend and in the summers, when I worked on Cape Cod at the Candle Factory doing tours, Harold, who lived close by in Hyannis, had the home I hung out in.

Harry and Billy… that was how everyone knew us… wandered the Cape, went to drive-in movies, chased girls and hung out at his family’s private chunk of Craigville Beach. Even when I went off to college in Illinois and Harold went off, too, we would get back together in the summer.

Harold was the kind of friend you didn’t have to see in years and yet nothing changed. You don’t get many like that.

He spent the last couple of years fighting pancreatic cancer… in and out o9f hospitals and with the caring support of his wife, Monica, and his daughter, Caroline, who came in from California to be with her Dad. Caroline, a television writer of talent, has been keeping everyone informed about Harold and his condition.

Now he has died at age 65 and I shall miss him. What awful news to get from Monica this morning as I packed for Georgetown Hospital.

Harold Kepnes still lives and I am thrilled…

Harold and I have been friends for over 50 years, now, and it’s that kind of friendship that goes on whether we see each other regularly or not. We can go several years without speaking with each other, then one of us will pick up the phone and it is like no time has passed. I’m sure everyone has at least one friend like that.

Harold and his Daughter Caroline (the Reel Girl on E!)

Harold and his wife Monica own a furniture store in Hyannis, MA (his big story is that he sold furniture to Teddy Kennedy). As young teens I spent half my Cape Cod summers over at Harold’s house where his parents treated me like another son. It was a great time.

Last year, however, Harold called me telling me he had cancer and was given about 18 months to live… meanwhile he was undergoing chemo and had lost weight (close to 100 lbs… and Harold started out as a chunky like me.)

Sunday, Harold called me to say he was 11 months into the chemo and was in partial remission. They were stopping the chemo because it was no longer working, but he was feeling pretty good. He’s pretty sure he’ll make it past the eighteen month point… I sure hope he does… and we had our regular phone call and discussion about families, basketball, the move Elly and I are making into “farming” (why does everyone say “Green Acres” to me when I talk about it?).

I don’t know what the situation will be the next time we talk, but I sure hope Harold continues to move ahead.

Helen Frankenthaler dies at 83…

When I became the Director of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA in the 70s, one of the framed images in my office was of Helen Frankenthaler and her then husband Robert Motherwell standing in front of “The Barn,” an old painting studio at Day’s Lumberyard, which later became the Center’s property. It reflected summer, when a large number of NYC abstract expressionists headed to the end of Cape Cod to vacation and paint and drink cocktails together. Franz Klein, Myron Stout, Jack Tworkov, Hans Hoffman and others made the tip of the Cape an exciting place.

When the FAWC started, “The Barn” became studio space for our own artists, but it was clear that the space was haunted by memories of Frankenthaler who, after breaking up with Motherwell, moved her summer studio to Long Island. We always felt like she was part of our lives.

Frankenthaler was a leading abstract expressionist at a time when women were not taken seriously by critics and peers (Hans Hoffman once commented ‘who would believe this work was done by a woman?’), yet she became famous, highly thought of, commected sand a presence in major museums.

Aside from her paintings, Ms. Frankenthaler was known for her lithographs, woodcuts, etchings and screen prints which she started makinfgin the 60s… indeed, some critics have suggested that her woodcuts have made her most original contribution to printmaking.

Frankenthaler died at age 83 on Tuesday at her home in Darien, CT.

 

A disturbing afternoon…

I learned, in a long phonecall with him, that my oldest and best friend, Harold, is dying from a combination of bladder and spinal cancers. Harold and I are the kind of friends who can go a decade without contacting each other, then pick up where we left off as if nothing had gone by.

Harold and I met at prep school on our first day in 1960 and have been friends ever since. He spent his life living on Cape Cod and working in Hyannis, while I traveled all over the place pursuing theatre, then non-profit, then photography then computer careers. For a few years we were both living on the Cape and, for some time, we could get together for lunch almost every day. You know the kind of friend.

Now Harold is undergoing chemo and other medications and, like me, is retired and looking back on his life. We had a great talk about our kids and grandkids, our parents both living and dead, our wives and sisters and all the things we have done for the last 51 years.

I won’t sleep well tonight, however. There are things I can’t get out of my mind.

Budd Hopkins, 1931 – 2011

Elliot "Budd" Hopkins

According to the NY Times, Budd Hopkins, a distinguished Abstract Expressionist artist who — after what he described as a chance sighting of something flat, silver, airborne and unfathomable — became the father of the alien-abduction movement, died on Aug. 21 at his home in Manhattan. He was 80. I only discovered this today and I’m sorry to be just getting around to it. I knew Budd at the beginnings of his UFO phase when he was an advisor to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, during my period as Director.

Budd at that time was married to the second of his three wives, art historian and critic April Kingsley, and they lived in a futuristic

Artwork by Budd Hopkins in the 1980s

concrete cottage that looked a lot like one of Budd’s paintings, in Truro. It wasn’t long before his artwork was overshadowed by his observation of a “UFO” and the publicity it gained. Being a member of the circle of New York artists that in the 1950s and ’60s included Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline, Budd had access to the press and was somewhat of a celebrity in summers on the Lower Cape.

Budd’s UFO sighting occurred on Cape Cod in 1964. After that he researched other sightings, people who claimed to have been abducted, and the government’s denial of the existence of any such phenomena. He was quick to point out that he had never been abducted.

He wrote about his experiences as a UFO researcher in his memoir, “Art, Life and UFOs,” published in 2009 by Anomalist Books.

Remembering My Father…

My father didn’t make it into his sixties as I have, so I don’t know how he would have approached the requirements of age. I know he tried for an early retirement a number of years before he died… selling the Bristol Pharmacy which he had developed and built into a thriving business that put my sister and me through prep school and college. He moved down to Saint Pete with my mother and tried to enjoy the good life. One day he left the house and didn’t come home all day. My worried mother asked him where he had been all day and found out he had taken a pharmacist job in a drugstore. My Dad just couldn’t stop working… he was bored if he couldn’t work.

When the guy he had sold the Bristol Pharmacy let the business almost go bust, my Dad went back to Connecticut, called in his notes on the detail, and took over the store. It took a couple of years, but he built it back to where it had been.

It was hard to do “spare time” things with my father. The one thing he really liked was flying small planes (at different times he owned two classic Stinsons), something my mother found hard to deal with. When he was flying back from our summer house that we had on Cape Cod for three years, he had to make a forced landing due to weather near Willimantic, CT, and rolled down a hill on a small farm ending up crashing into a barbed wire fence that got the propeller all wrapped in sharp-pointed wire. He had to have the plane towed out and repaired and soon thereafter he sold it and never flew planes again.

When I was somewhat younger and, for a few months, took up golf, I went out golfing with my Dad late in the afternoon (don’t gt we wrong… he hardly ever played, but this was something we were attempting to do together.) There was a water hazard on the approach to the first hole and his ball plopped into it. Instead of pulling out another ball, he waded into the small pond and found the ball… and discovered there were lots of others there.  So he decided to recover as may as he could… after all, golf balls cost money. He picked balls until it got dark, and that was the end of our first…and last… golf outing.

There is no one I have missed more than my father over the past 35 or so years, and I am fortunate to have many fond memories.

Kevin McCarthy has died at 96…

Kevin McCarthy, the suave, square-jawed actor who will always be best known as the star of the 1956 science fiction movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” died Saturday at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Mass. He was 96 and lived in Sherman Oaks, Calif. His death was confirmed by his daughter Lillah McCarthy.

Nothing in the NY Times notice said why he was on Cape Cod, but I assume he was vacationing. The Hyannis hospital serves the entire Cape, so he might have been staying in any of the towns from Provincetown to the Canal. One of his daughters, Mary Dabney McCarthy, lives on Cape Cod.

Kevin McCarthy was born on Feb. 15, 1914, in Seattle, the son of Roy Winfield McCarthy and the former Therese Preston. Both parents died in the famous influenza epidemic of 1918… their four children (one of which became the famous writer Mary McCarthy) were sent to live with relatives in Minneapolis. After five years of near-Dickensian mistreatment, described in Ms. McCarthy’s memoirs, the youngsters moved in with their maternal grandfather.

McCarthy went to college at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University with the intention of having a career in diplomacy… but at some point he took up acting and went to New York in the late 1930s. His first part was in Abe Lincoln In Illinois.

After serving as a Military Policeman in WWII, he returned to NY to actively pursue a theatrical career. At 35, a veteran of seven Broadway plays,  he was cast as Biff, the shallow, elder son of Willy Loman, in the London stage production of “Death of a Salesman,” Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1949 drama about illusion and the common man. His portrayal of Biff in the 1951 film version earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

Although Body Snatchers is what most people knew him from during his long life, he never abandoned the stage and did both live and filmed performances for the rest of his life (his last film was 2 years ago.)

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