Jack Paar – Host of The Tonight Show

August 1958

Jack Paar

Jack Paar

The Managing Editor of Time Magazine, Otto Fuerbringer, called my Dad into the Time offices in the first week of August 1958 to do some some quick sketches for a cover portrait of Jack Paar the comedian and host of The Tonight Show.

Fuerbringer chose an idea from the my father’s sketches, and told my Dad he had one week to do the painting. Usually my Dad had two weeks to paint a portrait, though sometimes, like the portrait of Germany’s Ludwig Erhard (October 28, 1957) he was given as little as 2 and a half days.

Jack Paar and Judy Garland - The Tonight Show

Comedian Jack Paar hosted The Tonight Show during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and all the top celebrities of the day made appearances. This is Jack Paar with Judy Garland.

Fuerbringer told my Dad that there were no photographic references of Paar yet – Paar was in Cuba at the time and was apparently being uncooperative. So my Dad started painting the background first.

The reference photographs of Paar didn’t arrive till two days before deadline – meaning that the most important part of the portrait had to be rushed.

(There were other occasions like this that I remember, when my father was under a lot of pressure and we had to be very quiet in the house because he was working hard – no running and screaming with my friends (a favorite past time).  I remember not being allowed to disturb him or go into the studio til the rushed painting was done – or at least until my father was through the worst of the work.)

My father managed to deliver the cover on schedule.

Jack Paar by Bernard Safran, August 18, 1958 - source: Time Archives

Jack Paar by Bernard Safran, August 18, 1958 – source: Time Archives

And while delivering it he met for the first time the Senior Editor Henry Grunwald. Grunwald liked the painting and said that all the “lights in the windows of the houses in the background were all the people in their bathrooms during commercial break”.

NBC Peacock logo designed by John J. Graham in 1956

NBC Peacock logo designed by John J. Graham in 1956

NBC ran the cover during their station breaks the entire week after it was published – it was a great success.

A few months later in December my Dad was invited to a luncheon for Jack Paar held in a suite in a Park Avenue hotel. Also attending were Otto Fuerbringer, Jim Keogh, Louis Banks, Baker and a couple of other senior editors.

Apparently Parr talked throughout the entire luncheon and didn’t eat. My father was seated next to him and it came up that my father was building a house in Bronxville. Paar asked “Where did you find the land? I had a choice of two lots,” and my dad answered – “I had a choice of one” – Paar didn’t find this very funny.

According to my father’s notes Paar built himself up publicly as a nice guy but everyone who knew him thought “he was a swine”. Throughout the lunch he proceeded to bad talk everyone he knew in show business – talking about their ingratitude towards him, etc.

After eating, the senior editors presented the cover portrait by my father to Paar as a gift from Time.

Time gave many of the cover portraits away to the people in them – usually to the great delight of the receiver… but Paar was unhappy. He complained that my father hadn’t got the color of his eyes right and that he’d made his eyes too baggy.

As they left the hotel and were walking down the street, Feurbringer said to my father within hearing of all the Time people, “I thought you caught him very well to me”.


Ain’t Life a Bitch?

In an earlier post (A Painful State of Mind) I wrote about the early influences in my father’s life that might have had some bearing on his mental health. Now I’m going to write about things that happened in the 1960s that seemed to reinforce his misery and paranoid beliefs…

Bernie with beard, c 1960

My father Bernard Safran – the only time he ever grew a beard – it didn’t last long, c 1960

In 1965 my father Bernard Safran, was deep in the throes of depression and paranoia. Everyone and life in general, just seemed to conspire against him.

The last cover portrait my father painted for Time Magazine was of Fidel Castro in August 1965 – it ran in October of that year and was featured on a double page spread in the New York Times.

The only other commercial job he did during this period (1967) was a cover portrait of Jackie Kennedy for The Ladies Home Journal: a very high profile person on a very successful magazine. (my father had already done a number of portraits of the Kennedy’s for Time)

But when it was published, the editors decided to put the portrait inside the magazine instead of on the cover, and they reversed the image. This was unforgivable to him – everything looks ‘not right’ when a face is printed backwards – there are subtle differences between the features that we recognize unconsciously as normal but when they are reversed look wrong – a lower lid on one side, a difference in a nostril, and so on. Its also looks wrong because its not how the artist meant for the work to be seen – he’s already worked out the composition and the focal point, etc. for it to have the right visual impact.

He felt that Time had interfered and done this against him – he was convinced that he was blacklisted and he’d never work again.

When he left Time in 1965, he had no income coming in so we were living off my father’s savings. He took a chance and decided to join Portraits Inc. to try and get some “bread and butter” work.  Portraits Inc. is a large business that acts as an agent for portrait artists and provides commissions. My father was unable to get any work through them however, despite having been one of the most popular and lauded portrait artists in the country just months before. Again he believed that Time had interfered and this was just more proof to him that he’d been blacklisted.

Fitzgerald Gallery with Adele and Betty 1965

Fitzgerald Gallery with Adele and Betty 1965

In 1965 he had his first solo show at the Fitzgerald Gallery located at 718 Madison Avenue in NYC from November 9th – December 4th. The day before the opening, the art critic John Canaday of the New York Times came to review the show and met with my father at the gallery. He was very genial and appreciative of my father’s painterly abilities, but his published review the next day was devastating for my father – he said that he felt that my father had not fully integrated the figures into the scenes and that many people simply would not relate to the subject matter – a criticism, by the way, that my father had to agree with. After brooding over it for a while my father destroyed most of the paintings – representing several years of work.

But there’s more…. The Fitzgerald show opened at 5pm on November 9th, at just about the same time that the Great New York Blackout started: the entire northeast coast of the US and all the way up into Canada lost electrical power for about 12 hours.

christ on cross by Bernard Safran

Christ on the Cross by Bernard Safran (destroyed by artist) oil on masonite? dimensions unknown

New York City was completely shut down – no lights, no trains, no heat. Obviously, no one came that night for the opening – so my father and Ed Fitzgerald drank warm champagne and slept on the cold floor of the gallery all night until the trains were back up and my father could come home.

In 1968 the timing for my father’s second solo show at the Capricorn Gallery in Bethesda, Maryland (a suburb of Washington D.C.) was as terrible as for his first show in New York City. The Capricorn show was scheduled to open on April 5th, but the circumstances that arose were dreadful – just the day before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The country was in shock over the murder, and within hours Washington, D.C. erupted into one of the worst riots in US history. The National Guard, US Marines and troops of the US Army were called in to restore order. Very few people ventured out of their homes for days. (my father was a great admirer of Dr. King for the record)

My father did sell works from both shows and continued to sell works through the Capricorn Gallery well into the 1970s but he never achieved the fame and money he’d enjoyed during his Time years.

Please consider, dear reader, that this was the 1960s and realist art was empirically treated with derision and disfavor during this period. Very few artists would do realist art at this time, and even fewer galleries sold their work. The Fitzgerald Gallery and Capricorn Gallery were rare on the East Coast of the US, in that they only showed representational art during this time. (Capricorn’s roster included such 20th century painters as Manon Cleary, Andrea Way, Peggy Bacon, Adolph Dehn, Audrey Flack, and Moses Soyer.)

One and Three Chairs by Joseph Kosuth, 1963 MOMA collection

An example of Conceptual Art from the 1960s:
One and Three Chairs by Joseph Kosuth, 1963 MOMA collection

The 1960s is synonymous with the modernist movement in art – and every kind of modern art was being touted as the new big thing (Conceptual Art, Pop Art, Op Art, Color Field Painting, Performance Art, etc, etc,); this is the period that artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein made it big.

By choosing to paint realistically, my father had chosen a very difficult path to follow and though he understood that it would be an uphill battle to be accepted by the critics – I don’t think he believed that it would be such a one-sided war. And worse, my father’s humanist point of view was considered by those in the know to be old fashioned at best – his personal vision just didn’t jive with what was in favor during his entire life.

Self Portrait by Bernard Safran, December 1960, oil on masonite, 9" x 11"

Self Portrait by Bernard Safran, December 1960, oil on masonite, 9″ x 11″

Its not an easy thing to be dismissed so readily, especially when what you are putting out there is part of your heart and soul. But the thing is – he had no choice – his art was what mattered most to him and he had to do it the way he felt it – not the way that would be fashionable – it had to be meaningful to him.

to be continued…

A Painful State of Mind

For years, I have been searching for a rational explanation for my father’s mental illness – looking for anything that might help me understand the painful state of mind that made him so paranoid of everyone but his closest family (see my blog post Paranoid Dreams).

Since I have no background in psychiatry I can’t pretend to be able to understand his mental state: was his illness biological – a family trait? or a response to his environment? an inability to cope with life’s challenges? or all the above?

So I go back over his life to find clues or perhaps signs of when this sickness began hoping to know him better.

Bernie in a sailor suit age 2, 1926

Bernie in a sailor suit age 2, 1926

One of the earliest things that I know of happening to him, is that he was in a bus accident when he was about two years old. I remember seeing the old newspaper clipping, yellowed and fragile, that showed him still in his seat by the smashed bus window; a toddler, hurt and slumped. The accident was such that he had a flattened part of his skull (on the rear right side) for the rest of his life. The injury was apparently bad enough that the City of New York paid damages to my father’s family – money that later paid for his college degree at Pratt Institute of Art.

My father also nearly died of pneumonia when he was very little. There were no antibiotics back then to save you from deadly infections (penicillin wasn’t discovered til 1928 and not commercially produced til the 1940s) so the family relied on practices they knew from the “old country”.

He told me the story of how a man came and put a mustard plaster on his chest that burned. The man also cupped his back – the practice of placing the rims of hot glass cups on the skin to create a searing suction that presumably pulled the infection out of the body and brought down the high fever. My father remembered the pain of these procedures vividly. He also remembered, when he finally pulled through, the absolute delight of eating a baked potato.

When my father would tell me stories about his childhood sometimes they were full of wild fun, like a Dead End Kids story – as when he and his buddy would sneak into the movies through the alley door, and then eat raw garlic to breathe on people to get them to move seats so they could have the good seats to themselves… or playing street hockey on roller skates and zooming down the middle of streets jumping pot holes…

Bernie Safran boxing on the roof, Brooklyn c 1934

Bernie (on the left) boxing on the roof with his best friend, Brooklyn c 1934

Sometimes the stories were dark and scary – he lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood where Murder Incorporated operated – one time he saw a store that had been shot up with dead men inside, another time he saw a man shot and dead in the gutter…  His best friend was the local bookie’s kid, so they hung around the pool hall, ran errands for the bookie, and watched the tough guys place bets and play pool.

Bernie and Harry Safran c 1929

Bernie and his father Harry Safran c 1929

But perhaps the most negative influence on him when he was a kid was his relationship to his parents.

He wrote in his personal papers about how much he “resented, despised and hated his father until he was in college and began to develop a better relationship with him”. All through his childhood his father said such things to little Bernie as “when you grow up you will support me” and “you don’t know what you have cost me” , “You are a coward” ” You will never amount to anything” and “You have it too good”.

My father  also wrote about his resentment of my grandfather being stingy and controlling of money –  but he became that same person as I grew up –  spanking me in front of my friends when I was about 7 because I spent ten cents at the movies that he hadn’t given me permission to spend (I never forgave him for that) or fighting with my mother because she spent $5 he hadn’t approved of for a lipstick…(me never forgiving him for that either).

My father also resented my grandfather’s “violent temper” and says in his papers that he never wanted to behave like that, especially because it was embarrassing to him when his father lost control in a rage – but he was the same way. He could be terrifying in his rage – his face turned a deep red and one eyebrow would go up and his eyes would blaze – a sure sign that things were really bad.

As for his mother, she belittled him and used to tell him that he was very stubborn and had no patience. She would try to make little Bernie feel guilty by saying things like: “I have failed. You don’t love me” (she was the ultimate Jewish Mamma, and Grand-Mamma too I might add). Though she often neglected my father’s care and left him to run wild, she indulged him with praise for his artistic endeavors which perhaps gave him the insecure need to be the center of attention.

Grad photo High School of Music and Art, 1939

Bernie’s Grad photo from the High School of Music and Art, 1939 age 15

She saw herself as a revolutionary and a suffering writer and felt burdened by her responsibilities and disappointed in her working class life. She believed that people were actively trying to squash her dreams and her success with her writing. According to my mother, by the time my mother had married my father, my grandmother resented and despised my grandfather (a long story) and didn’t let him speak at the dinner table – saying he was a peasant and beneath her.

She was promiscuous and carelessly (or defiantly) brought her lovers into the apartment while my grandfather was at work. More than once the kids met men who were “sick” and needed to lie down in her bed…one time when my father Bernie was about 14 he walked in and found his mother ‘in flagrante delicto’ and threw the man out…

Whether any of this had any influence on my father’s mental state – we’ll never know.

What we do know is that my father suffered from depression in the 1950s. My mother told me that after they were married and she was working as his agent in the illustration business, she’d come home to find my father sitting in the dark, brooding. She thought he was depressed because his work was unsatisfying and not bringing in much money despite the long late hours he put into it. Perhaps that was the cause of the depression… or perhaps – since it was just after WWII, he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his military service in Southeast Asia?

At any rate, he never sought help for his mental health, nor did my mother encourage him to get it. She never spoke of any of these problems to anyone – not even to her mother or sisters or best friends. She was his confidante and all his emotional support for their entire married life – she spent hours with him listening to and discussing his paranoid theories. She never tried to dissuade him from his beliefs or challenge him.

She told me once that to be a great artist you have to be very sensitive – more sensitive than other people, to be able to see and express things with raw emotion. She felt that life was just too hard for these people.She told me that she saw my father as a great artist and she felt it was her role to help him get through life so he could paint.

He had a few good years from 1957 to about 1962 when he was working at Time Magazine – he was happy, satisfied with his work, and enjoying money and fame. But even this came to an end in 1962 when he started to doubt the senior editorial staff at the magazine and to believe they were out to get him. By 1965 he was convinced there was a conspiracy to destroy him and from then til the end of his life in 1995 he believed he was continuously harassed and blacklisted by the corporation.

Bernard Safran, early 1960s

Bernard Safran, early 1960s

to be continued…

Paranoid Dreams

This is a subject that I have resisted writing about for a long time but it will inform many further posts so I have to address it sooner or later…

Bernard Safran November 1965

Bernard Safran, November 1965.

It wasn’t clear to me for most of my life that my father suffered from a devastating mental illness til a few years ago when I took out my father’s personal journals after his death, and found meticulous entries recording the time and location of a neighbor in Bronxville, NY who went out twice a day to walk his dog. Since this neighbor lived down our street he would have to go past our house in one direction or down to a major road in the other – so naturally he went by our house frequently.

My father interpreted this as the neighbor spying on him, and every time the dog would defecate on our property my father took it as a personal threat and act of intimidation. The pages are manic in their details and start a few months before we finally left New York forever. Included are entries about his suspicions about the real estate agents and the people looking at the house for purchase. It is a wonder that the house ever sold.

1962 The Safrans (and family friend) about to leave the US

This is us in 1962 on the dock by our ship saying goodbye to my mother’s best friend in New York. My Dad is holding me – I’m in my pretty pink coat. Europe here we come!

His paranoia first became evident early in my life when I was just 2 years old. In the first few months of 1962 he received a paltry number of cover assignments and when some months passed without any work my parents decided to go away on a long trip to Europe. (He had signed on exclusively with Time in 1957 so this was his only source of income).

Our trip to Europe in the fall of 1962 was thus inspired because my father believed that the senior editors at Time Magazine were playing games with him due to his immense popularity – he believed they were teaching him a lesson to put him in his place.

One of the reasons we went to the Italian city of Florence was that my father wanted to study the art masterpieces there. Despite his best efforts he couldn’t get permission to copy paintings at the galleries even though many other artists were there doing just that. He believed Time had intervened – that somehow they were following him and influencing the Italian authorities. He grew so frantic about this that we were packed up and went instead to Munich, Germany so he could go see the Rubens paintings there.

My sister became very sick in Germany and we had to suddenly fly home. When we got back to Bronxville, it turned out that Time had been trying to get in touch to offer my father the 1963 Man of the Year cover of Pope John XXIII – a major and illustrious assignment. He felt tremendous relief when he got this – but when he later found that his painting had been severely damaged (deep long grooves slashed into the paint at the Time offices) he felt desperate again. Why had they done this?

By 1965, when my father left Time Magazine, he had formed a conspiracy in his mind about the men at Time. His story was that he had insulted Henry Luce Jr at a late night gathering and Luce fired him on the spot…. then blacklisted him, and set up a siege of intimidation and spying that lasted til the end of my father’s life.

Betty Safran c 1967

A not so happy Betty circa 1967.

From 1965 on my father’s behavior became extreme and a black cloud descended on our house. Everything the neighbors did was evidence that they were spying on us. Every job that fell through was evidence that he was blacklisted. Every wrong call, every crackle and click on the phone was evidence that our line was tapped. Every time I came home from a friend’s house I was interrogated – I was literally held at arms length and asked probing questions about what my friend’s parents said or did. By Grade 4, when my best friend moved away to Florida, I had no friends outside school. I spent most of my free time with my Nanny next door.

The paranoia followed us to Canada too. It must have driven him mad that we had a country party line and our neighbors could literally listen in to our phone conversations (we could too if we were interested in who’s cow had calved, and how their potatoes were coming and other country news). Time Magazine remained the puppet master in his mind – this time working through the art department and administration of Mount Allison University. I avoided going to the art school but was still regularly questioned since I knew other professors at Mount Allison who knew other people, and so on, and so on, and so on…Eventually I left the Maritime provinces to get as far away as I could – but it still continued.

Since I grew up with all of this it was especially hard for me to look objectively from the outside – much of what I accepted while I was growing up really seemed to be happening at the time. There is still a part of me that wants to believe he wasn’t paranoid and that we were spied on and he was blacklisted and his career destroyed for vengeance…

There were many sad outcomes from this sickness – the worst being that my father destroyed his career  – he trusted no one and in the end refused to show his work or even sell it. Though he had modest success and recognition in Eastern Canada – it was never at the level he should have achieved – he just burned too many bridges and closed too many doors.

Getting in the Door at Time Inc

Bernard Safran in the 1950s

My father Bernie c1950s

In December 1956 (just four years before I was born) my father Bernard Safran decided that after an intensive 6 months of self study of the Old Masters and painting portraits for practice in his Brooklyn neighborhood, he was ready to move up in the world and paint Time Magazine cover portraits.

He painted a sample cover of General Ulysses S. Grant, the American Civil War hero and 18th President of the United States, with a non-objective background. This showed that he was capable of painting anything well and that he had a sound grasp of composition and color.

For some reason he called Life Magazine first to get contact information, and serendipitously spoke with someone high up who was very genial and switched the call directly over to Ed Cerf, Senior Editor at Time Magazine. Mr. Cerf was polite but told my father he was busy that weekend and to leave his portfolio at his office. My father did that – the portfolio contained the portrait of Grant and a sampling of other works.

A week went by and my Dad went back to see what happened.  Apparently Cerf’s assistant had broken her ankle skiing and had been out all week recovering and nothing had happened with the portfolio. So he sweet talked a woman sitting near Cerf’s office to take the portrait straight into the Senior Editor right then and there. Cerf looked at the portrait and called my Dad in, and soon after my father became a Time cover artist.

His first cover was of the Sultan of Morocco (edition April 22, 1957). Bernard Safran, The Sultan of Morocco, Time Magazine April 22 1957

In this day and age we tend take it for granted that every bit of information is at our finger tips, but not that long ago it was very difficult to get accurate information quickly. Here’s an example of how Time Magazine fact checked back then:

When my father took in his finished cover portrait of the Sultan to a meeting of the senior editorial staff, the cover researcher was unsure that the red color that my father had painted was correct for the hat. Cerf instantly picked up the phone and called Time’s Paris office and had them send a man over to Morocco to find out what color the Sultan’s hat actually was. A few days later my father got a call and was told the Sultan’s hat was the same blue as his robe, so he repainted the hat just in time for publication.

It must have cost the company several hundreds of dollars to get that one bit of information – and it really impressed my Dad. He was told that if he needed anything for source material, anything at all, to call and it would be made available to him asap. This was definitely a new way of working for him.

My father who, for the previous ten years, was used to being paid measly amounts for commercial illustrations, was now paid the princely rate of $1500.00 a portrait.

This was a huge step up for my Dad, not just financially but for his reputation as well. Time Magazine was one of the most influential weekly magazines back then and it had a world-wide distribution. Being one of their cover artists meant having your work seen by millions of people.

fan letter Bruce Henderson

A fan letter from the influential businessman Bruce Henderson regarding Bernard Safran’s portrait of Fidel Castro.

fan letter Jack Strauss Macy's

A glowing letter from Jack Strauss of Macy’s – he received the cover portrait by Bernard Safran as a gift from Time Magazine.

He quickly became one of their top artists – his riveting paintings increased sales and a lot of people, including readers and those he painted, collected his covers and wrote fan mail about his work to the magazine.

There are still paintings that he did for Time that are extremely popular even today, such as the one of Pope John XXIII which was the cover for the 1962 Man of the Year edition.

Bernard Safran, Pope John XXIII, drawing on paper

A study my father did of Pope John XXIII, completed sometime after the painting was published.

Just after its publication, Time considered printing the portrait at its full size (17″ x 24″) because of the public demand to buy it.

Bernard Safran, Pope John XXIII, Time Magazine Man of the Year, oil on illustration board 1962.

My father admired Pope John XXIII for the changes he brought with Vatican II. You can see this in the warmth and sincerity of the painting.
Bernard Safran, Pope John XXIII, Time Magazine Man of the Year, oil on illustration board 1962.

But somehow the original painting became badly damaged at the Time offices  (deep long gashes were cut through the paint and into the board below) and the project was scrapped. When my father saw the damage he was very upset, and insisted on repairing it himself. He returned the portrait to Time, and it is now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Time Magazine's printer's proof of the Shah of Iran by Bernard Safran

A printer’s proof of the cover by Bernard Safran of the Shah of Iran

One fan letter he got came from the Shah of Iran along with a personal gift engraved with the royal insignia, in thanks for the beautiful portrait my father painted of him. It’s likely that the original painting was given to the Shah after publication (a frequent practice – many of my father’s paintings were given away by Time executives). The painting has since disappeared, much like the Shah.

Another notable letter my father received was from Jean Monnet the founder of the European Foreign Market. Monnet thanked him for the great portrait (published October 6, 1961) and included an invitation to my father to visit with him at his office in Paris. My father took him up on this invitation in 1962 when we were all on a European holiday (more on that in another post).Jean-Monnet 1961

So my Dad went from being an overworked and underpaid artist – to being one of the most recognizable portrait painters in the world.

These were his glory days  – making money, having fame and social standing, being at the center of world news with real movers and shakers – it was a very heady time for him (no pun intended).

The Safrans and the Drapers

I started watching the AMC series Mad Men like everyone else because it looked so cool, and its about the coolest people, and one of the coolest periods in recent memory (at least for those of us who lived through those cool times.)

Like many people, I am amazed at the attention to details that they manage on the show.

Sally Draper and Betty Safran wore this kilt

I wore the same skirt that Sally Draper did!

I was born in 1960 so I am on the tail end of those who can clearly recall everything about back then, but enough of the show hits me in the emotional center of my brain to make me remember things and feelings that otherwise would have remained buried in there.

1960s tartan book bag just like Sally Draper and Betty Safran had

Sally and I had the same book bag?

For instance I’ll get a sudden flash of recognition as a character walks by a wall near an elevator or a lobby, or the instant recall of a skirt or dress or some item that I knew.

All of my senses can come into play when I’m watching the show – and it can happen just from seeing some small item like the genie vases in the Draper’s apartment (see below).

Draper apartment with genie vases, AMC Mad Men

See those tall glass vases on the right side of the picture – we had them in our living room too – imagine that.

My father Bernard Safran worked at the Time Life Building in Manhattan just like Don Draper.

Time Life Building at Rockefeller Center

This giant black shiny building is the Time Life Building in NYC. It opened in 1959 and Marilyn herself was there to christen it. It was an iconic building then and it still is today. We’d drive by it and I’d think – “Daddy works there”.

He walked the actual halls, took the elevators, went to meetings there, had drinks in offices and ate weekly catered meals with suited men and kitten heeled women. In fact he was there a lot, from 1959 when the building opened, till 1966 when he stopped working for Time Magazine.

My Dad painted 73 cover portraits for Time. He was one of “The Stable” – a group of artists who were regularly commissioned and brought in to do cover art.

He worked closely with some of the most powerful men in American journalism at the time (no pun intended), including Otto Feurbringer and Jim Keogh and Henry Luce Sr. These men helped define American foreign policy and held a lot of power and sway.

In his book, The Powers That Be (Alfred A Knopf, New York 1979) David Halberstam writes about how even President Kennedy was intimidated and bullied by them.

These are the guys that my Dad would stay late with to have a drink.

Or he’d stay late with them to put the magazine to bed (get it into production and printed) which was a social event with lots of booze and food, and big name guests and other artists and writers would sometimes join them.

He was in the senior editorial offices when major news was breaking and so was privy to events before most people even knew they were happening.

Bernard and Adele Safran with Jim and Verna Keogh

My parents in the middle and Jim and Verna Keogh on either end. Jim Keogh was Executive Editor of Time, and later became head speech writer for the notorious Richard Nixon. (btw doesn’t Mrs. Keogh resemble Julia Ormond?)

So its kind of neat that my Dad’s painting of Conrad Hilton was included, nay, dare I say, featured in episode 306 of Mad Men – A Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency – (its one of the best episodes too in my opinion). Look for when Connie shows Don Draper that he’s on the cover of Time Magazine…

Well, how about that!

Sunday trips to New York City

Pretty much every Sunday in the Fall, Winter, or Spring, my parents would load us into the car and we’d drive from our suburban house in Bronxville to one of several wonderful museums in New York City.

1960-Red Valiant

The Safran family car – a 1960 red Valiant

We had a red Valiant just like this when I was little.

Cars didn’t have seat belts in the early 60s, so my sister and I could slide around and fight over seat territory in the back. It had a push button dashboard which I always wanted to play with, and snazzy black and white upholstery; the tail lights were especially cool and looked like eyes to me.

Going to museums was a big deal in our house. We’d all meet in the kitchen on Sunday morning; each one of us saying where we’d like to go or what we’d like to see, and then a museum was agreed upon and we’d go after lunch.

map of new york museums 2013

This is a current map of all the museums in NYC. The red dots and red balloons are museums: there are a lot of places to go and things to do there just like in the 1960s and 70s.

My father usually had veto power if the suggestion was too outlandish (or not what he was willing to do) or the desired collection was in too dangerous a neighborhood. For example: by the early 1970s, going to the Hispanic Society of America which was located on the edge of Harlem, was just too dangerous as was even going to the Brooklyn Museum by then.

We always dressed up for museum going. I remember taking the time to choose my outfit which always included my best clothes, and jewellery (brooches, bracelets, rings, necklaces),

Betty Safran dressed to go to a museum

I am dressed and ready to go to a museum in my pretty clothes… just note that my collar is up on one side, my jumper is crumpled, my pin is lopsided, and my hair bow all droopy… I look clean at least. c. 1964

and frequently my little white gloves, a small purse to hold whatever small change I had for the museum shop, and my black patent leather shoes (or my white Courreges style go-go boots that I liked to wear with a white mohair mini skirt – I was a very groovy kid).

Betty Safran a selection of childhood jewellery and scarf

This is all that remains of my jewellery collection from childhood – most of the cheap stuff has vanished. Here is a favorite pin from Venice; a gold letter B; a jade and gold turtle brooch; a choker made by my sister; a copper dove; and a scarf from our 1965 trip to Europe.

We also had to have our hair done properly – my mother put bows in my hair, and later ribbons when I had braids.

And on Sundays I became the family’s shoe polisher – especially for my Dad – I made sure that our feet were as good looking as our hair. This I would do sitting on the top step of the basement stairs, using a shoe polishing kit. I polished my patent leather shoes in my room with spit.

We only went to the museums that had free admission. In fact, although the Metropolitan Museum of Art was probably my parents’ favorite museum, once the Met started charging “voluntary donations” in the early 1970s we stopped going  there. But by then I was finally old enough to go to the Frick Collection (which had an age limit of 10 years old) and that became a top favorite

St Francis in the Desert, Giovanni Bellini c1480, Betty Safran's favorite painting

One of my all time favorite paintings at the Frick Collection -St Francis in the Desert by Giovanni Bellini. The first time I saw it as a kid I loved it, and I looked forward to returning to see it again and again.

My sister and I grew up walking around museums looking at art. We were so well behaved that my parents were often complimented on our comportment by museum guards and other visitors.

Of course there must have been times that I got cranky and difficult too. But my only memories of these trips are happy ones.