By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Nobody knew where Svengali lived, and few knew how or why.
Dusk descends on Kozy Kampers RV Park on Commercial Boulevard in Lauderdale Lakes; the campers are cozy in their Winnebagos, their folding lawn chairs empty save two near space number ten. A string of icicle lights twinkles in the newborn night, illuminating the green-and-white striped awning like a circus' big top on Christmas Eve.
"We're like gypsies," Olga says, and indeed, after meeting in Maine, they did nine-month stints in Miller's Falls, Massachusetts, and Charleston, South Carolina, and three years in Sarasota, Florida.Ach! What an existence! what travels! what triumphs! what adventures! Things to fill a book -- a dozen books! Those five happy years -- with those two Trilbys!
Their rolling home, a metal camper towed by a red 1961 milkman's truck, is chock full of the detritus of everyday life. Plastic dinnerware and bottles of wine clutter the kitchen; tubes of Tom's of Maine toothpaste and boxes of L'Oréal hair color spill out of the tiny bathroom's crowded cabinets. By day the shaded area provided by the awning doubles as Olga's studio. "It's very cozy, and I love it," she says gaily. "It's like being in a big bubble."
An artist's life should be away from the world above all that meanness and paltriness... all in his work.
Tonight they are having dinner for a few friends and family, who have assembled for the show. At the stove, peering into a mass of macrobiotic rice, is Olga's sister Kathy, an interior designer who lives in London. With ten different grains (Rocky's recipe), she's unsure how long to cook it.
There's Hillary, a photographer and friend of Olga's for more than 20 years, who has photos in the show. Today, as often, she is wearing black; her long dark ringlets stretch to the middle of her back. With Hillary is her husband, Fritz, a bearded, bespectacled German who spent a career making public-television documentaries.
At dinner, between passing bowls of salad and plates of grilled fish, Hillary tells the story of how she met Fritz at a wine bar in Cologne. He was married. "It was unfortunate," she deadpans. Everyone laughs. She shrugs and pours more wine.
This is Olga and Rocky's inner circle; it is small by design. "[Although] we have a lot of acquaintances," Olga says, "mostly we just like to be together."
Olga pulls her knees to her chest and hunkers down over a laptop, frustrated. She doesn't know how much to charge for her artwork, nor can she line up the numbers on the screen. The prices are arbitrary, Olga admits, and one piece, her painting of a woman holding an umbrella, is not for sale.
Like an amateur, in short -- a distinguished amateur who is too proud to sell his pictures, but willingly gives one away now and then to some highly-valued and much-admiring friend.
She says she'll donate the proceeds from her work to PAP. Taped near the stove is a photocopy of a document from the state of New Jersey regarding their nonprofit corporation application. Olga finally settles on a range of $3000 to $6500 for her paintings. She says she sold eight of them at her last show in Greece. Rocky, however, will not say how many paintings they have peddled. "We sell enough to live on" is his only comment.
Nikes propped against the door jamb, his large frame folded in a mauve-andwood-grained chair, Matt Zappia is trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid breaking a rule. Room 106 of the Ocean Mile Motor Lodge is nonsmoking, thus he's hovering, lit cigarette in hand, on the threshold. When the ocean breeze blows through the door, smoke curls inside the room anyway. Matt just laughs. He wears corduroy shorts the color of rippling wheat and an orange T-shirt with a flowery, psychedelic print on the chest that reads, in tiny letters, Polo. His hair is short and brown; a few days later it shows a rakish patch of bleach, as if the Florida sun has gone to his head.
At 23 years old, Matt is at once self-assured and painfully self-aware. His stop-start relationship with his father, Rocky, gives him an usually fresh perspective on the man he calls "Pop." Matt gestures toward standard-issue motel tables piled with an artillery of not-so-standard equipment: a digital video-editing console, monitors, and a keyboard, all worth at least $20,000. Rocky bought it and it belongs to PAP. Rocky has always been an entrepreneur. Even in 1979, when he moved from New York to a commune in Gill, Massachusetts, he was making what those around him constantly refer to as his "connections."
"Forty people in the woods eating turnips," Rocky says, chuckling at the memory of communal life. "I convinced everyone to go out and make $1000 and buy the land from a farmer." He learned organic farming and met friends who would later become his business partners in a Maine company that produced wooden storage units for videocassettes. For the most part, though, he says the commune was simply a place to crash when he wasn't traveling the country as a roadie for rockers like Joe Cocker.