Smear Campaign

Decades after the death of a great doctor, a pair of jet setters claims his legacy

It is a week before PAP's first benefit exhibition, "The Man Behind the Test." The show is the culmination of two years' worth of letters and transatlantic phone calls by Rocky. Olga's bright paintings share wall space with squares of sunlight shining through picture windows. The show (which opened September 21 and runs through November 12 at the Cornell Museum) includes artwork from an array of Olga and Rocky's artist friends; nearly all of it is unrelated to George Papanicolaou, gynecology, or Greece. Upstairs, workers are preparing a display of personal items from Dr. Pap, some books, some letters in Greek.

The paintings are done in realistic style, with bright colors and bold geometric shapes. There's a painting of Pap and Mary in tones so soft and light they seem to disappear, as if the portrait were not of the couple but of their ghosts. Another painting is a closeup, larger-than-life portrait of Rocky in hat and sunglasses, sipping an enormous cup of coffee at an outdoor café. The cup is nearly as big as his head, but it doesn't seem to be for effect; rather it appears amateurish.

Olga's work: the product of painting while on a patch of grass under a tent
Olga's work: the product of painting while on a patch of grass under a tent
Over the years Dr. Pap perfected his now-ubiquitous test using a single, special subject: his wife Mary
Over the years Dr. Pap perfected his now-ubiquitous test using a single, special subject: his wife Mary

"This isn't the traveling exhibit," Rocky points out. "This is just to raise funds for the traveling exhibit."

PAP, Rocky hopes, will become a threefold tribute: a traveling multimedia exhibit stopping at college campuses ("a really hip venue"), a documentary about the good doctor, and Papmobiles that roam the streets, giving free exams to the poor. While they are at it, Rocky and Olga wouldn't mind selling a few of Olga's paintings. "I call it my hand-grenade theory," Rocky says. "Just throw it out there and see what people are interested in."

Olga praises her husband's organizational skills, but Rocky demurs. He wouldn't call himself a manager. Rather he's "more of a visionary," he says. "I can visualize how things are tied together."

To Eleanor Kalvin, Rocky's vision is blurry at best. An otherwise bubbly, Bette Midler­ esque woman with neatly coifed hair and tinted, gold-framed glasses, Kalvin hardens at the mention of Olga's companion. "He's a dreamer," she says dismissively. "He's trying to get in using the Papanicolaou name." As president of Papanicolaou Women's Corps For Cancer Research, Inc., she too has a stake in the Papanicolaou name. And she doesn't like Rocky using it: "He's a dreamer and has wonderful ideas, but he hasn't got the authorization, and he hasn't got the money."

The Papanicolaou Women's Corps has both the money and the name recognition that Rocky and Olga's foundation lacks. Founded in 1952 under the aegis of Dr. Pap, the Hollywood-based nonprofit is one of South Florida's oldest charitable organizations. Its members reside in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties but are concentrated in south Palm Beach enclaves like Boca Raton, Delray Beach, and West Palm Beach; many of them are cancer survivors.

More than 1100 bejeweled, pastel-suited matrons turned out for a celebratory luncheon in May at the posh Boca Raton Resort and Club. The corps presented a giant cardboard check to Dr. Jerry Goodman, medical director of the University of Miami/Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Research Center; made out for the sum of $1.35 million, its size was hardly hyperbole.

In fact the fluffy, feminine image of the Papanicolaou Women's Corps belies its power and history. Dr. Pap spent the year before his death in Miami as director of the then-brand-new Papanicolaou Research Institute, which was dedicated on his 79th birthday, May 13, 1962. A handful of the corps' most senior members met the man before his death later that year of coronary heart failure.

The center was later renamed and eventually became part of the University of Miami. Although there is still a Papanicolaou Research Building on campus, the 10,000-member, 30-chapter corps is largely responsible for keeping Pap's memory alive. Each chapter hosts activities, like dinners, luncheons, raffles, and golf tournaments. The corps is UM/Sylvester Cancer Center's largest donor. "They're an enigma in the world of volunteering," says Victoria Rogers, executive director of development for Sylvester. "When most groups are dwindling, they continue to grow."

Rogers' office is down a long, Creamsicle-color corridor in Sylvester's opulent coral compound on the UM campus. It's the end of the day at the end of the week, and she distractedly runs her hand through her spiky salt-and-pepper hair. Though invited to Rocky and Olga's gala in Delray Beach, Rogers didn't attend, because, she says, she had to go to another function. A thick, shrink-wrapped stack of postcards promoting the exhibit sits near her desk, unopened. She chooses her words carefully when discussing PAP: "To my knowledge they have not yet acquired a not-for-profit status."

"I can do more good by lying than by telling the truth, and make more deserving people happy, including myself and the sweetest girl alive -- the end shall justify the means!"

Had Rogers gone to the gala, she might have noticed that Rocky and Olga listed her name alongside Eleanor Kalvin's on the dedication page of a glossy, 40-page catalog. (New Times is also thanked.) Rocky and Olga had 1000 copies printed for the show, which cost them about $7000. "Anything that's being done to heighten awareness of cervical cancer is a service," Rogers says evenly.

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