The Model

This lovely lass turned out to be my most important model now that I think about it. Certainly the one I photographed most.
She would patiently do whatever I asked when I was learning to use my first Nikon camera and some of the shots of her are the best I have ever taken.
Since my paintings used photos for a base it was natural that she was the focus of several attempts.

I believe I made at least four paintings of her. Some came out well… some did not.

I actually sold two that were based on her. She is the only real person, as in ‘person I actually knew’ that was the subject in any of the paintings I have actually sold to date.

This is one of my most commented on paintings when people see a photo of it. It is her head superimposed on a model from an ad I saw in a Cosmo magazine. She did not actually pose for this painting…I’ve never seen her unclothed. But it’s a good capture, I think…

It’s beautiful, to tell the truth…

Even if I do say so myself…

From The Bar ~ Chantilly Lace

websizeAnother segment of a project The Rise and Fall of a Saloon In The Latter Part off The Twentieth Century. These excerpts are not chronological. In fact very little logic prevails… Some of them might even be true…

   Hiring Crew
Job Focus:
The perfect customer space:
A clean table
A clean Ashtray
One drink
One dry napkin
No dead glasses

My Crew Rules were simple:
No drugs or drunkenness on the Job.
Wear What You Want…you know what Looks Good on you…
Gawd HELP you if you show up with chipped nail polish.
“Check your dip.”
Leave Your Lover Home. Don’t Let Your Lover Loiter.

Wearing what you want. Most of the women preferred this. They did not care for uniforms because uniforms are not always flattering. They felt this could affect their tips.
The Nail Polish rule Customers see your hands. A bad manicure looked shabby. Most girls, even those with short nails, used polish because wiping out dirty ashtrays made keeping nails clean difficult at times.
(I kept a bottle of polish remover in the office for those who did come in with chipped polish) I also kept a box of sewing thread and safety pins on hand. You learn that safety pins are a needed item sometimes. “Wardrobe malfunctions” are not confined to Super Bowls.
The ‘Check Your Dip’ rule
This was in reference to what a customer should or should not be able to see when a waitress bent to serve drinks.
You can’t fight nature. A woman’s nipples have a mind of their own and will appear boldly for any number of reasons and can do wonders poking through even several layers of cloth but I drew the line at customers getting a Full View as a girl bent over placing drinks on the tables. Their clothing and their cleavage, their “dip” should never allow the customer to know the color of their aureoles.
The drugs were always An Issue. This was the period of high cocaine usage among the Young and Invincible in saloons across the country. Saloons, after all, are not churches. Still, The Owner had a sudden death, instant termination rule about dealing drugs at The Bar. It was not worth risking his license for Stupidity In Action.
Personal usage, of course, happened but was never officially condoned. When it or drinking became too evident or distracting… ‘Off with her head’ so to speak and she’d be gone.
The ‘Leave Your Lover Home. Don’t Let Your Lover Loiter’ Rule
I hired you, not him!
“No Dangling” This was in reference to smoking tobacco.
There are people reading this today who really have no idea what the air in a Saloon was like in those days. People smoked. A lot. I did. Some (but not all) of my crew did. But what I forbade them to do was to ever (and I mean EVER ) be seen with a cigarette dangling from their lips. I would cross the room and yank it out of their mouths To me it made the girls look hard and tough and I Just Would Not Have It. Tell them it made them look tough didn’t seem to faze them. Tell them it made them look old (not ‘older’… just old ) worked better.
I hadn’t been on the new job very long when I found that managing a crew of women had its quirks.
First and foremost was the fact, already stated, that waitressing, at least cocktail waitressing, was a transient occupation.
You may find ‘lifers’ in your diners and restaurant chains but not in a saloon. Sooner or later the girl wants out. To get married. To finish school. To just find a different job in a different bar hoping maybe the next saloon might pay more or give them a shot at bartending. Whatever the reason the problem remained that there was a turnover that had to be reckoned with.
Many times I would find that some of the women were unstable and needed weeding out. Some emotionally so and some due to drug use. Some just never caught on to the trade. Firing someone is never a pleasant task but I kept it private and short.
I initially learned to dread the onset of menses as much as if not more so than any married man could. I finally came up with something of a solution that I probably couldn’t get away with it in today’s politically correct world. During my ‘You’re hired” speech I would tell them to let me know when “the moon was on them” so I would know not to kill them because of the mood change. The honesty of this worked out pretty well, actually.
Another thing I did was to read a good, easy to understand book on ailments common to women and they soon found that I understood these things more than most men did. The women already on crew told the New Hires what to expect from me and I had a generally loyal, happy crew.
Some managers like to manage thru fear and intimidation. I didn’t care for that because waitressing had its own stresses without them needing to be afraid of me. My management “style” such as it was was simple. I was a guy in the unique position of hiring the very women I worked with. My ‘style’ was this:
Love them. Love them all. Pet them when they did well and keep it short and private when they did not do well. What happens is their dignity remains intact. Give your crew some love, respect and praise and they will kill for you.
Still, I found it prudent to have an on-call list of temps… girls who, on short notice, could and would get in there with a tray and cover a shift so I was constantly looking for attractive females to sign on as temps or potential New Hires.
The Owner didn’t have much respect for the trade of waitressing. He often said he would like it if I could replace the entire crew every six weeks or so for variety’s sake. He was the only one who felt that way. There was no ‘waitress tree’ where all you needed to do was walk over and pick one…
Whether to hire an experienced girl or not was always a changing decision. I liked the ones I called my ‘War Horses”. There are some women who are so good at waitressing that they can cover bigger floor single-handedly than two lesser girls put together could.
I called them ‘Warhorses’ after the special horses favored by the plains Indians, horses that would go into the thick of a fight with heart and not shy or spook. It was one of the highest complements I could bestow. The difficulty was keeping a Warhorse on crew because they anticipated bigger tips and disliked sharing a floor with other women. They would get frustrated thinking there was more money to be made down the road…
On the other hand there is an endearing quality about a fresher girl, one new to the trade. They were usually younger and hadn’t had time to gain the cynicism that many of the more experienced girls had.
The down side of that of course was that it takes a while, at least a month, for the new girl to get the hang of the call order and until a girl learned a proper call order and other skills of the trade some bartenders were almost cruel in their impatience with them. This also meant customer service was slower. We didn’t have a good training regimen for New Hires which was bad but on the good side the survivors were keepers.
Some New Hires couldn’t take it and would quit. Some bucked up and took hold and became keepers.
Some got thrown back.
When I took over the crew The Owner had already cut back on live music from six nights to three. He had jazz on Tuesday nights and rock and roll on Friday and Saturday nights.
One reasonably qualified girl could handle Tuesday’s jazz crowd but weekends needed more crew because those bands tended to draw better.
On weekends I would book three girls. I called the shift turns “Legs”. The “First Leg” would come on at six and work until eight at which time the “Second Leg” would come on duty giving the other a break of maybe a half hour. Sometimes the First Leg wanted to keep working particularly if she had a couple of hot spots of good tippers.
As lead girl, the First Leg, got to make the call which side of the room she was to work for this very reason, to keep her good tippers in her section.
When required, the Third Leg would come on no later than nine and so it would go. If, as it sometimes happened, the night lost part of its crowd I would allow the girls decide to send one of their number home. I did this to avoid claims of bias. It worked pretty well. Most of the time.
Sometimes I would have to pull rank and make the woman on duty let the next girl come on line. The starting girl obviously wanted to make as much money as possible and would be reluctant to allow the next girl up. But there comes a point where customer service suffered and something needed to be done.
I had to be careful to not show too much favoritism although this was not always possible because my crew was seldom equally skilled. Like any other skilled trade some were just better at it than others. I developed personal biases, too, because I was human. I’d be lying if I said otherwise but I tried to keep a balance. If I had a favorite I was careful not to let her act like an Overseer.
In one area I had a brilliant stroke. That was division of the floor in sections. I made copies of a hand drawn layout of the tables in the building and gave two copies to each of the girls currently on crew at the time and asked them to draw what they thought were fair boundary lines for a two girl floor and a three girl floor.
I took these maps and used them as a basis for the “Official” floor diagram which all of them agreed was a fair, acceptable compromise.
This of course made for “turf” and sparked some infighting if a girl happened to do a little pirating in another’s section.
Great fun was had by all…
   The Mississippi Two Step
When I saw too much infighting starting to happen I would go to each one of them and say “We got a Mississippi Two step going on here and it Will Stop. If it does not stop I will get a bucket of water and hold your heads under ’till the bubbles stop.”
That usually worked.
No one ever asked me what a Mississippi Two step was. They already knew what The Problem was. When I said a Mississippi Two Step was afoot they knew I was aware of The Problem and, amazingly, it would cease.
Sometimes a firing was needed but in the long run they felt better served working with what they had rather than breaking in a New Hire.
The position of being waitress manager made me look at women customers a little differently particularly if my on call backup name list was getting thin. That pretty customer might be my next New Hire.
When looking for a New Hire I learned how to scan a woman like other women look at them. That One First Look-Over that is a mental flash picture…a rapid scan. A quick glance that takes in her clothes, how they fit, how she moves, what she thinks of her body and herself which is reflected in how they groom themselves. I learned this by listening to the women discuss how they discussed other women among themselves.
Most guys seem to focus just on The Face or The Boobs. It’s a rare man that learns to do this all encompassing quick scan. It’s a skill that cannot be taught.
…a woman doing this very same scan is merely sizing up the competition…
I additionally learned to ‘look at their edges’ and see if they might have a Daemon or have a Dark Cloud over them… “Looking at their edges” was one of the unexplainable feelings I had. I wouldn’t call it psychic because I have a dim view of such terms but at the same time I felt my knack of ‘looking at their edges’ was more accurate than any other method for spotting a woman who had problems lurking beneath the surface and sometimes the feeling was so strong I would not use the girl or if I did, I used her only sparingly. They sometimes came on board with social or chemical problems of the day and this always complicated matters. And if you complicated matters too much you were Gone.
Most “interviews” I conducted were pretty brief. Talk to the girl, check out her grooming. Always had her show me her hands because this spoke volumes sometimes. You could tell a lot about a person by how they react to “let me see your hands”. I liked a well kept hand and I knew customers always saw a girls hands. They didn’t need to have long nails but they did need to look clean.
If I had any doubts about her willingness to work or even show up I would ask if I could think it over and ask her to come back in a day or two (always specifying the day). If they didn’t show for the second interview I saved myself a lot of wasted time.
Some went like this one…
I was standing near the pinball game. A guy and a girl are playing. I look over at her. Blonde. Blue eye shadow. Short, nice figure wearing jeans. Pretty girl.
It’s quiet. It’s a Sunday night. Not many people in attendance. My back is to the pinball machine and I’m looking over the main room.
Suddenly I feel like I’m being watched and look down to see the blonde standing next to me, looking up at me.
“Who does the hiring here?”
“I do most of it.” I said.
She looks out into the main bar. “It doesn’t look like it but could you use another waitress?”
“You any good at it?
“Yeah!” she said with a defiant yet almost bored emphasis. I got the distinct impression it was the same way Bill Hickok would have answered someone if the asked him if he could shoot a pistol well.
‘Warhorse!’ I knew instantly that she was Very Good at what she did. I also knew she might be overqualified. But it so happened that I had the Tuesday jazz night open as was second leg on weekends.
I told her as much. Not a whole lot of money but it would be a start. Pays minimum wage.
“Can I try it?”
I looked at her a little closer. Looked at her ‘edges” and saw a murky soup a-stirring… Looked into her eyes for the first time. Had a blueness to them that was more than just the color. There was sadness but also there was just an edge of defiance…
“Lemme see your hands!” I said.
She held them horizontally and spread her fingers. Beautifully kept, red painted nails, one small ring on her right hand.
I took her hands and turned them over, looked at her palms a little and turned them over again.
I looked at her and said “I gotta be honest with you… I think you’re trouble on the hoof but I need somebody. You want to see how the place feels come in at 8 on Tuesday. Give it a try.” Tuesday night was Jazz Night. If she didn’t show it wouldn’t be a disaster but it would be nice to have someone on the job. I needed women to work the quiet gigs as well as the busy ones…
She asked what she should wear and I said “…anything you wanted to but no jeans. And check your dip before you get here.” She looked at me quizzically. “Bend in front of a mirror before you leave. The customer must never see the color of your nipples.”
Tuesday night came and she arrived in wearing a strapped green dress; one of those ‘bare shoulders’ things that allowed good cleavage and displayed the tops of her breasts nicely. The dress had a cleverly wrought skirt section that opened as she moved and exposed her legs as they were brought forward in her walk. She had beautiful legs.
And she worked the floor like the pro I knew she was.
I thought she would choose not to stay on because she was a class A Warhorse and those seldom stayed long but stay on she did.
…and brought a freight train of baggage and became a Featured Player in many scenes at The Bar ‘disaster movies’ as she lived her somewhat chaotic life.
That’s how it was… I loved then all…
Never a dull moment…

From The Bar ~The Face On The Barroom Floor~


Another segment of a project The Rise and Fall of a Saloon in the Latter Part off The Twentieth Century. These excerpts are not chronological. In fact very little logic prevails…

The Face On The Barroom Floor…

Actually, that’s a poem by Hugh Antoine D’Arcy.

This is more about the face on the barroom ceiling.

One of the Bartenders had an interesting idea, one he had seen at another bar somewhere down the road.

The ceiling at The Bar was made of simple twelve inch tiles of pressed paper. His suggestion was to buy new tiles and give them to the customer’s to decorate and put the results on the ceiling, replacing the old ones as we went along..

This went over very well. For every ten tiles passed out we would get six back. The missing tiles usually consigned to closets and are probably still there waiting to be decorated. Some were quite spectacular. One was a four tile masterpiece of a Japanese style tiger.

One was another four tile creation reminiscent of the sixties psychedelic hippie artwork.

Someone put up a cartoon dog. Droopy Dog.

I put one up. By then my artwork was taking hold. I actually ended up putting four up. One pair of tiles was God’s hand reaching out to Adam suggesting the Sistine rendition and a couple of panels of women’s heads, nicely drawn, one in black and white and the other in color.

But there was one I made that was off to one side. It was definitely eye catching and seemed to be the most spoken of. People constantly pointed at it and anyone who made a study of the ceiling project always remarked on that particular panel.

There wasn’t a lot of drawing involved. The lips and eye mostly. The shape of the face was just hinted at by a wash of airbrushed paint.



It resembled Marilyn as it was so intended.

In any case, I felt good because I could see how it affected new people. Any artist likes to know that people really like something he did.

The Owner? Well, he never said anything about it. At least not about that plaque.
The Owner… with The Owner, art just wasn’t his thing. He fancied himself a connoisseur in All Things. In truth, he had the artistic acumen of a goat. He tried to control the project of course. Claiming most of it was crap and he wasn’t going to allow it to be put it up.

I argued that the lesser efforts enhanced the better ones and if the project really took off then the lesser ones could be replaced. But The Owner. wasn’t having any of that. He finally said no tile could go up without his approval and the finished tiles just started piling up, unapproved. Some of it unremarkable, some of it superb, all of it colorful…

It got so people stopped asking “Where’s my tile?” as they looked in vain for the piece they had worked on and brought in. Finally people stopped asking for tiles altogether. They eventually knew whatever they made was not likely to go up so they didn’t try.

My Paintings…an Array…

A friend, Troy Weidenheimer, and I had an email exchange and he, being a talented man, told me about his work primarily in oil paintings. He posted a link to his site and I saw and liked what I saw.
Which put me in mind of photo friends I knew who had created “albums” accessible to the public to share their wares so I looked around and found a trove of my watercolors I made during my Barney Steels days.

There was a Certain Painting I saw and was forced to look at due to its placement that so offended me I said “I can do better than that.” and commenced working on my dormant drawing skills.

To shorten the saga I will say I disliked the idea of oil painting because of its inherent odor and messiness and went for watercolor. It helped that this was Alberto Vargas’ medium too. I also focused strictly on women, using photographs in lieu of live models although I did pay one lass who had a perfect figure a modelling fee to come and stand naked in front of me while I looked closely at the Female Body Assembly which is a subtly elusive thing to catch on paper.

Time was spent going from doodling on napkins to various types of paper and paints. I discovered the Windsor Newton Series Seven number two brush by reading a book written by Bill Mauldin and Vargas inspired me to take up the airbrush…
I also learned calligraphy and spent a couple of months designing a signature “Paper Dolls by Vann”

I’m not all that good an artist. The extremities are generally too small…hands and feet… but after they trend they become a trademark almost. But still, a trained art major can make me look like a finger-painting first grader. I sold a few but not enough to even make a chicken scratch in the money I spent on materials but, be it music, writing or art, I get driven and consumed by whatever stokes the creative furnance.

I had photographed many of my efforts but analog film takes a toll on color that digital does not so the colors are not true here, unfortunately. But, they are all I have. Some of my most iconic are gone…probably in landfill. Some I made I did not photograph and are forever beyond my reach.  Sadly, in August of 2016 I was forced to move and my new digs did not have room for my remaining paintings, easily over a hundred items.  I had to abandon them except for a few rescued head paintings and by now are gone forever.

Still, I wanted to be able to share some of my stuff, some that I dug up here and there. It was a fascinating period of creativity in my life… I love women and I like to think some of that shows in this slide show.

It might be worth checking back from time to time to see if I found any more photos…

Paper Dolls by Vann

The Recording


After I retired from the workforce I became ill with COPD, a creeping, degenerative condition, that has a direct effect on one’s breathing process.

It is not curable but one can learn to live with it and maintain optimism.

I decided I wanted to put some of my musical “bon mots” on YouTube so after I board the “Freedom Train” people can perhaps share them and say, “Oh yeah…I remember him. He could play some and he sounded like this…”

So I put up a bunch of tunes.
I used a free recording program called Audacity that was easy to use and edit and commenced recording.

Polished CD quality they are not. They are more like what they used to call “demos”… one time through runs of a given song. But they served their purpose in that they show I was able to play guitar and Dobro as Chet Atkins would say, “slightly above below average.”

Elsewhere on this Blog is a write-up called “Poppa Played The Dobro” which is my history on playing the Dobro and, woven through it, is reference to a certain song actually called, “Poppa Played The Dobro

This song kinda became my trademark back in the day when I played in public a lot. I gave it my own spin and it consistently delighted people.

When I finally decided to record this song I had an immediate problem.
I no longer had the capacity of just singing the song. I ran out of air too quickly. Too many years of Pall Malls had done in my ability to sing any song all the way through.

But how could I not include Poppa Played The Dobro in my collection?

I sent an email to a friend asking him if he would do the vocal for me but he wasn’t that familiar with the song and may never had heard me sing it. That, and he was a blues singer.

He was encouraging, though, and promised that I would find a way. I thought it interesting that he could make such a promise since it was my vocal shortcoming I was dealing with but he knew me better than I knew myself.

I took up my acoustic guitar for foundation and sang the whole song recording it as I went along.

One line at a time.

Thanks to the multi-track ability of my recording program I was able to cobble a melody line that worked and blended all the single lines into a continuous sequence that has little trace of my affliction.

I added my Uncle Josh style Dobro licks and even managed to insert a particularly tricky lick in the song and ended up with one of my more victorious musical efforts.

Could it have been done better? Perhaps…probably… but the process I just described was intense and tedious and doing it all again really didn’t seem necessary.
I wasn’t out to sell it.

I just wanted people like you to hear it and perhaps have a smile for a while afterwards…

Some of you will remember hearing it.
Here’s the link if you haven’t heard it…