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Edward Gorey

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I would love to hear any impressions of this artist from longtime NYCB go-ers. I read recently that

n 1957, Gorey began attending performances of the New York City Ballet. Enamored of the choreography of George Balanchine, Gorey achieved perfect attendance for twenty-five years, unfailingly attired in a floor-length fur coat, long scarf, blue jeans, and white sneakers, which, in combination with his full-bearded visage, created an appearance "half bongo-drum beatnik, half fin-de-siecle dandy" according to Stephen Schiff, writing in The New Yorker in 1992.

Anyone recall seeing him or know much about his history as a ballet lover? I also read that he left NYCB only after Balanchine died.

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I used to see him, unmistakable in his racoon coat. I believe he used to attend every performance of the Nutcracker each season. He also worte several books on ballet such as Lavender Leotard, that were for sael in the NYCb gift shop. By the mid-80's, he was already quite old and subsequently retired to Maine or Vermont - I think. I don't remember seeing him at that many of the repertory performances.

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At intermissions, he used to hold court seated on a bench at the left side of the Promenade, surrounded by two or three acolytes. (Goreyphees?) It used to be amusing to see him, but one night I came within earshot and was shocked to hear him bad-mouthing Tchaikovsky's score for "Mozartiana," without so much as a word for the sublime performance by Farrell we'd just witnessed. I was less impressed by him after that. Nevertheless, I miss his presence, and still have a coffee mug and poster he designed for NYCB.

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He could often be seen sitting on the stairs (house left) near where the dancers stand in the first ring at State Theatre. The coat was huge.

I still have a two set deck of playing cards he designed for the NYCB boutique - on one set was drawn a female dancer in "Rehearsal" and the other set "Performance."

My mother used to have several of his books and I used to love the picture from 4 Ts where one of the dancers is wrong exiting the second theme.

I saw "Gorey Stories" on broadway in previews. Gemze DeLappe was in the cast. I think it might have closed before opening night. Did anyone else here see it?

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Gorey adored Allegra Kent --and she adored him. When he died, she wrote a very

touching memoir of him in Ballet Review. As artists they had a lot in common -- each was the real thing, one of those kissed by the fairy, who have that mark of strangeness on them, as if the other world is more real to them than htis one.

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A rural anecdote off to the side here, but this will give you another reason to visit Cape Cod, Vagansmom, as they set up a little Gorey museum somewhere in Barnstable. Although I think he was more involved in one of the little theaters in that town, for a couple of years the Cape RepTheatre in Brewster staged a selection of his writings for Halloween time perfomances. He was involved putting the productions together and a very mild presenced in the lobby at intermission and afterwards. The first year, my daughter, aged 10 or so, was asked by her ballet teacher to be Maude (I think was the name), the youthful version of the main character in "The Gilded Bat." Her teacher played the dancer. It was a wonderful night, local actors of all ages. They did his alphabet book, and a number of other things. I was unfamiliar with his work, so it was all a delightfully bizarre and often very funny surprise to me.

He was amiably compliant when I asked if I could snap a pic afterwards in the lobby with him together with daughter and teacher. He struck a rather whimsical ballet pose, so that's my souvenir of the event.

No raccoon coat.

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For those not familiar with the man:

Born in Chicago in 1925, Edward St. John Gorey reputedly began drawing at the age of eighteen months. Some time later, he was drafted into the army and assigned to the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. His job there, he says, was to test poison gas.

In 1950, Gorey saw his art in print for the first time--as the September cover for the "Harvard Advocate," his college publication, and endpapers for Merrill Moore's "Illegitimate Sonnets."

A founding member of the Poets Theater (with Frank O'Hara, V. R. Lang, John Ashbery, and Alison Lurie), Gorey designed sets for the first play the group presented--O'Hara's "Try, Try" (1951). Between 1953 and 1963, Gorey worked as a staff artist and art director for Doubleday and Random House. His "Doubtful Guest" was published by Diogenes Verlag of Zurich, the first of many of the artist's works to be published by that company. In 1965, Gorey held his first major exhibition at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California.

When Gorey's first anthology, "Amphigorey," was published in the early seventies, it was chosen by "The New York Times Book Review" as one of the five most noteworthy art books of the year. Gorey designed sets and costumes for the 1977 Broadway production of "Dracula." His costume design earned him a Tony award. In 1980, an animated sequence of Gorey's work was used for the first time on the PBS television show "Mystery!" Nineteen years later, the series and the sequence are still going strong.

Edward Gorey left New York for good in 1983. He lived in Massachusetts with six cats and continued to produce his darkly hilarious work until his death, April 15, 2000. Gorey's drawings are widely collected and exhibited at notorious institutions throughout the world.

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i had the great pleasure of being a friend of edward gorey's for about 25 years.

a few things to modify some of the observations offered here:

when he left NYC he lived for a time in barnstable, mass. in a family house and ended up living in yarmouthport, mass. where he died in 2000.

his house there is now the edward gorey house, as a museum. here's the website:


his classic ballet work, THE GILDED BAT, followed his classic opera work: THE BLUE ASPIC.

THE LAVENDAR LEOTARD - the color was in great homage/honor of a favored color of karinska's. this work began life as a series of illustrations in a NYCB playbill called 'ballet-hoo' (there was a special slip-case edition of this 'leotard' book with the slip-case specially lined in a severe rust color specifically chosen to clash, karinska-like, w/ the lavendars. alas among all my gorey items i don't have a copy of this special edition.)

until the early 80s he did much work, for no fees, for the new york city ballet guild gift bar under the guidance of the late rosalie lewis.

he actually only attended, ALL performances of THE NUTCRACKER one particular year, all told 30-some shows. i attended many that season too, at his 'inspiration,' but by no means all. i think i clocked some 17 or so that year.

for years he bought every subscription available at NYCB and then filled in the non-sub perfs. as necessary. toward the end of his stay in NYC to be sure he missed the odd perf. here or there but had many a year when he missed none.

he did an illustration for DANCEMAGAZINE of himself and some of his friends on the n.y.state promenade - i see no reason to call any of his friends acolytes; he was a fine friend, as many of us knew, and he would not have suffered such 'followers,' he could shy away from anyone who wanted to 'hang around' him without hesitation.

as arlene croce said in the loving tribute she published about him in BALLET REVIEW, and i'll have to paraphrase for now, as i don't have the essay to hand: she made a point of noting that she never considered him to be a 'camp' figure - as some wanted to call him - rather, a.c. wrote something like ' the edward gorey i knew was a very cultured and intelligent man.'

anyone who was lucky enough to make spend time with him knows the truth of a.c's astute comment.

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indeed, after diana adams, arguably his all-time favorite, p.mcbride was his big favorite. he was also fond of her mother, who would appear now and again at the n.y.state theater (and i assume at city center, when i didn't yet know EG).

i can't quite remember now if he ever published 'the admonitory hippopatomus' but i recall his mentioning often that it was going to be dedicated to miss mcbride as EG often called his favorite ballerina, a.k.a. patty.

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There's a performance this weekend that's inspired by Gorey. It's modern dance, not ballet (Jonathan Riedel's company, with dancers from the Limon company), and one of the works is The Upcher’s Warbler. We just put a review up on DanceView Times and I thought I'd post it here, so that Gorey fans would know about this performance (at Joyce Soho. Go to www.joyce.org for performance details.)


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