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“Oh wow,” I thought, as I read the Times article on what to do with the rusting 1964 World’s Fair New York State Pavilion. I jumped because the so-called exhibits in that suspended steel oval with a 226 foot swivel stick tower were designed by the firm of Robinson, Capsis, Stern – yes, this George Capsis.

I had done a deal for RCA to swap equipment at cost for free space just under the “Space Needle” in the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and met Al Stern and Jack Robinson who were doing the “World of the Future” exhibit in that same pavilion.

Al, who had worked with Billy Rose in the 1939 New York Fair, stood less than five feet tall and delivered measured, self-protective insults with a theatrical accent (he could not resist a good insult even when directed at the judge testifying in court). He married early, only to discover his wife cheating and switched to the other side, which brings us to Jack Robinson, who was more openly gay.

“We would like you to become our full partner,” offered Al Stern and as I sensed later, it was that they needed a straight partner that could meet and help sell to straight clients.

My big contribution was getting Clairol as a client. Hair dye producer Clairol (they started at 14th Street and 6thAvenue) had only one obsession and that was to secure 10 minutes of riveted attention while they sold “if I have only have one life to live let me live it as a blond.” I remember the Borden’s “Rotolactor” from the 1939 Fair, in which cows entered a stall on a slowly revolving turn table and were milked leaving the stall for the next cow. We could mathematically deliver how many women the Clairol Carousel (my name) would deliver the booth and had a mirror in which they could see themselves in different color shades; I invited Jackie Kennedy for a ride.

Back to the Times article.

Philip Johnson, who, according to Wikipedia, came out very early and was known as the “Gay Architect,” designed the New York State Pavilion. Now, Wikipedia has a startling revelation that Johnson right up to 1940 was openly pro-Nazi and openly anti-Semitic. Wow! Perhaps his willingness to entertain such an outrage is the key to his design “philosophy” – he didn’t so much designed as allowed a momentary design outrage to find his pencil and bang, he made the AT&T building look like a Chippendale dresser. I visited his New Canaan square cheese bell with Mappie in 1949, my then 5th Avenue girlfriend whose father “jumped” in 1929.

Fifteen years after I had viewed Johnson’s unmade New Canaan bed, we were scheduled to meet to talk about what world visitors would learn about New York State when they walked under the red and white hanging plastic cover held aloft by an oval ring and a series of reinforced concert pillars.

Johnson giggled as he repeatedly said, “We have no money for the exhibits. I spent it all on the tent – tee hee.”

That was the problem. While Johnson whipped off a sketch seemingly on the back of an envelope, the real architects and structural engineers made it a reality. It ate all of the budget his pal Governor Nelson Rockefeller had given him, “tee hee.”

I can’t remember anymore how much was left for the exhibits, but it was practically nothing and we had another problem, the Johnson tent had no walls – the exhibits had to be rain proof. Jack Robinson did them and they were like Calder “mobiles” – sheets of steel fitted together with “exhibits” etched or attached, not great.

Yet at that meeting, half a century ago, the Times article of today got its start. One of the requirements of all fair pavilion budgets was, as it was in the 1939 Fair, that money had to be set aside to tear the building down after the fair and leave the place a park. However, profligate Johnson had simple ignored it and commented, “Oh, oh, we have no money to tear it down, tee hee, they are going to put us all in prison tee hee.”

Indeed, right now “it will cost $14 million just to demolish the site” and I wish they would, and I wish they would.

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