March 6, 2010

"Edith started screaming, 'Stop the car, let me out!' [Jackson Pollock] put his foot all the way to the floor. He was speeding wildly."

The Oldsmobile 88 convertible threw Ruth Kligman clear of the death wreck and back into a long life, in which she was not only able to write that description of how her lover Pollack killed himself and her friend Edith Metzger, but she got to paint her own abstract expressionist paintings and to become — if I am to believe this NYT obituary — a great muse:
Irving Penn and Robert Mapplethorpe made portraits of her; Willem de Kooning, with whom she was romantically involved, titled a 1957 painting “Ruth’s Zowie,” supposedly after she made that exclamation upon seeing it...
"It" being the painting, right? Or are these buried sex jokes? "Ms. Kligman said that de Kooning had called her 'his sponge'" — supposedly because she absorbed so much learning about art from him. I'm thinking a man calling a woman "his sponge" — presumably the quote is "my sponge" — is thinking about spewing something other than information.
Andy Warhol mentions her in his diaries several times, and she wrote that they “had a terrific crush on each other” for many years; she was friendly with Jasper Johns, to whom she once proposed, and with Franz Kline, whose former studio on 14th Street became her home and the studio where she continued to paint almost to the end of her life.
The full text of Andy Warhol's diaries ought to be on line.  That's what the internet is for. But you can go to Amazon and do a "search inside the book" for Kligman. So let's check out the substance of that terrific crush. Page 7:
I read the Ruth Kligman book Love Affair about her "love affair" with Jackson Pollock — and that's in quotes. It's so bad — how could you ever make a movie of it without making it a whole new story? Ruth told me she wants me to produce it and Jack Nicholson to star.

In the book she says something like, "I had to get away from Jackson and I ran as far as possible." So do you know where she went? (laughs) Sag Harbor. He lived in Springs. So that's — what? Six miles? And she was making it like she went to the other side of the world. And then she said, "The phone rang — how oh how did he ever find me?" I'm sure she called hundreds of people to give them the number in case he asked them. 
Ha. Terrific crush. Page 17:
Read the Ruth Kligman book again, she was driving Jackson Pollock crazy in the car and that's when he ran into the pole.
Page 19:
Ruth Kligman had called me that afternoon and I told her I was seeing Jack Nicholson and I would talk to him about starring in the Jackson Pollock movie. She asked me if I would take her to meet Jack and I said no. (laughs) I wouldn't take her anywhere after reading her book. She killed Pollock, she was driving him so nuts.
Terrific crush. Terrific crash.

Page 35:
Ruth Kligman kissed me and I didn't know what she was doing, she started talking all about a love affair she and we had had together, apologizing for breaking it off, kissing me, and it was all a fantasy, so I thought if she could do that with me, then she probably never had a love affair with Pollock. She looked good. She was in a velvet Halston. 
Terrific crush. Can I bitch about the accuracy of the journalism in the New York Times when it's the lady's obituary? She died at — not 88, like the Oldsmobile — 80.

She never got her book made into a movie, but they did eventually make a movie "Pollock" — and Kligman sued the filmmakers for ripping off her memoir. The obit doesn't say if she won, lost, or settled. (And I'm not seeing a reported case.) Jack Nicholson never played the role. It was Ed Harris. Kligman — who looked, it was written,  like one of those "earthy, voluptuous movie stars of the era, such as Elizabeth Taylor or Sophia Loren" — was played by Jennifer Connelly:


rhhardin said...

Do we have to take sides between these two ways of enduring oppression badly? ...The sponge is only a muscle filled with wind, with clean water or dirty water, as may be: this gymnastic is ignoble...

Ignoble as it may be, and lacking in natural nobility; poor in its genealogical extraction, and unable to choose between proper and improper, the economy of the sponge is nonetheless better able to resist the oppressor -- its ignoble labor enfranchises it.

- Derrida _Signsponge_ p.66

traditionalguy said...

Sponges absorb everything they touch. That is no way to live. The sponges need to be inside of glass shells so they can see and not touch. Even then, sponges definitely need to beware of lips offering to kiss and be kissed.

Phil 314 said...

To see your literary fantasies fulfilled in.....
your obituary!

The Crack Emcee said...

Needless to say, reflecting on my story, this all sounds too familiar. I can't tell you how insulting it can be, when someone suggests I "had to have done something" to drive my ex to her actions, when her fantasy life is not only out there for all the world to see but is shared by so many other NewAgers. (In my "sponge's" case, she was absorbing so many different belief systems - including my own non-existent one - she might as well have been a cartoon character.) These are the Rielle Hunter's of the world, encouraged by the "make your own truth" Oprah's, to lie about their role in destroying other's lives.

Good riddance to this one.

That's The Macho Response.

Good riddance

Mike Rophone said...

There are a few photos, including one of Jackson Pollock and Ruth Kligman, and more self-serving soap operatic dialog--err, book excerpts--here

rcocean said...

Wow, that was a long 90 seconds. Hope the rest of the movie is better.

rcocean said...

Shows how out of touch I am, I can recognize

Pollack, Warhol, De kooning, Wyeth.

Nobody born after 1925. Amazing we're still talking about Pollack even though he died 54 years ago. Nobody in 1980s was talking about Sargent.

Methadras said...

Jennifer Connelly had such an awesome rack.

William said...

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the very rich who made a mess and then moved on without ever wondering about who had to clean the mess up. That was probably a projection on his part. It's the very artistic who get to complain about the repressive nature of the guardrails and, when they crash through them, walk away from the carnage complaining about how much they suffer for their art. The obituary and your comments describe heedless people who created an awful lot of misery to leave a few dabs of paint on canvas. It's an unbalanced form of entropy. You create disorder there in order to create order here. The forest is gouged, and you have a nice house. But their art was as disordered as their lives. They destroyed the forest to build hovels.

The Crack Emcee said...

I almost forgot:

Speaking of this type of woman, we definitely shouldn't overlook this little troublemaker.

Nichevo said...

So what you're saying is, somebody misspelled "spooge?"

...Yeah, Meth, wonder what happened to her. Gym rat fever? Cancer? Heaven forfend, she felt overboobed and took a trim?

Howard said...

Hey, read what I write about a similar subject on my lame-ass blog...

Crap MC Hammertime Namedropper

The Merkin Repose!

More starfucking after my pathetic bleg for traffic. Just another Valley wannabe.

William: how is putz working for you? It's obvious that you cannot relate to people with balls.

Fuck JS Sargent, no one remembers Innes either. The Po Mo Ho Mo realist loves Bouguereau still. Go figure.

Penny said...

Let's take a look at a zowie...Ruth's Zowie

It's the painting on the left, with de Kooning appearing to point to it.

Revenant said...

Maybe it is just me, but I don't see any artistic merit in Pollack's output.

The Crack Emcee said...


And you are? And your contribution to *anything* is?

Do you even understand blogging?

That's what I thought, with a name like "Howard".

Shut up, Howard.

Penny said...

"I'm thinking a man calling a woman "his sponge" — presumably the quote is "my sponge" — is thinking about spewing something other than information."

That may well be so, but it wouldn't be the first time, nor the last, that a teacher and a student had a sexual relationship.

"Sponge" has a much more positive connotation for me than it seems to for others. Soaking up knowledge about a subject of interest is still an admirable trait to my mind. Heck, most of us do it every day.

PatCA said...

The obit was a nice way of saying "groupie."

The Crack Emcee said...


First of all, because of power, boundary, and exploitation issues, a sexual relationship between "a teacher and a student" is, by definition, unethical.

Second, we're not discussing "a teacher and a student", but just some guy trying to live his life - and maybe even love someone - when the crazy lady starts going through mental gyrations so severe the Tilt-A-Whirl would be a better option for a relationship. And then, when it's over, she spreads her fantasy version to the world with her as the heroine.

Third, I can't count the number of times I've talked to guys after a break-up, resenting ever teaching the crooked bitch anything, just so she can then confidently re-enter the world, without a thought about him, pretending she attained that hard-won knowledge somehow on her own.

The culture of women - especially when it comes to concepts like honor and ethics - can be beyond contemptible.

And, please, don't start in about men

The Crack Emcee said...

I don't know why it didn't come through but that last line should be:

"And, please, don't start in about men - that's another thread."

wv: curse - don't get me started.

Ben Gage said...

an era is disappearing...