Way back when I moved to Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to meet a few great people right off the bat. One of those, Gordy Grundy, was, and is, an artist of great repute, but also an urbane, lanky, freckled and utterly preppy Newport Beach socialite who often balanced his artistic endeavors with bright, sunny marketing activity. When Anne Crawford introduced me to him, he owned the coolest club—in Orange County—called Mocambo, whose motto was “walk in, dance out,” and he was winding down Pincentives, a company he founded that made pins for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. His demeanor—more straight Noel Coward than twisted, tortured artist, belied his work, although certainly a little disturbance, a little darkness, bubbled below the surface.
I attended his wedding, and he mine. My wife Victoria and I made some good friends through him—among them Union Station’s Traxx proprietor Tara Thomas—and when he and his wife Karin divorced (amicably), they actually hosted a party…together. We’ve managed to stay close to both of them through the years.
Gordy’s an artist of incredible range and versatility. More so than other artists I’ve known, his art evolved significantly through the course of our friendship. There are his horny little devils. There are the gold paintings. And there were “Gordy Recommends”—what he calls the Barnsdall Cocktail Series—drinks recipe paintings, which superimpose drink recipes over monumental, stalwart images of sailing and flight. Each has a “kicker” at the end, like “Mix well. Rape and Pillage.” These are actual drinks you can make.
Gordy hadn’t shown in a while, so when Mat Gleason’s Coagula Curatorial hosted a sprawling retrospective, “Burn,” featuring 200 of Gordy’s works, in Chinatown recently, we weren’t going to miss it. Tara put together a Gordy-themed prix fixe dinner at Traxx for the evening. Along with the Gordy-themed menu featuring Bloody Mary Cherries, Artist’s Brawl Soup, Beauty First Fennel Risotto and Kissin’ Fool Rosemary Bread Pudding, she commissioned her chief mixologist (this makes me wonder how many mixologists she HAS) Kurtis Wells to design a cocktail to accompany the exhibition. Wells’ creation, “No Further West”—honoring Union Station’s westward terminus and the only painting that hangs in the restaurant—a tart, fruity, grown-up summer drink that is as good to look at as it is to drink.
Here’s what goes in it and how to make it:
1-1/2 oz. Blue Ice Organic Wheat Vodka
1/2 oz. Torres Orange Liqueur
1/2 oz. Senior Curacao
Four Mint Sprigs
Two Cucumber Wheels
Half an Orange Wheel
Splash of Fresh Orange Juice
Splash of Soda
Splash of Sprite
Top with Varichon & Cerc Champagne
In a highball glass, muddle the mint sprigs and the cucumber and orange wheels. Add ice. Add alcohol, soda, orange juice and Sprite. Stir ingredients and top with champagne. Garnish with cucumber and orange wheel.
And here’s what it looks like:
Tara paired some nice wines by the glass along with this menu and we sampled a few of THOSE before realizing we were late. She came out with five bottles of wine in a reusable shopping bag. I asked, “Maybe we should take one of those in case we get separated,” so she threw us one. We slung it into a bag and rushed over to the gallery, where out front, another old friend, Bryan Carter, was slinging cocktails of his own. After aeons with me working on Absolut and numerous brands since, Bryan’s now working with Bombay Sapphire. He had a very accurate display of all the actual botanicals used in the distillation of the gin, and well entertained the 300 or so guests.
Gordy’s art covered every conceivable wall space inside Coagula Curatorial. I counted but didn’t think it added up to 200 pieces. Then, in a box under the gallery guest book, Gordy had a box labeled, “4 pieces and a prize, guaranteed: $40.” So we had to have one of those. We also bought a watercolor, which, Gordy confided to us, has a period photo of a boat sealed inside the back. “That’s actually WORTH something,” he confided.
Fact is, ALL of his art is worth something. It seemed as if pieces were flying off the walls (and out of the box under the sign in sheet) to giddy, eager buyers but Gordy revealed he really WAS planning on parting with his entire personal collection, and planned a “fire sale” of the remaining works the next day. We don’t know if this took place but the following Sunday, Gordy made some ominous Facebook posts, promising to give his art away at a local ARTillery debate and really burn what was left over.
Later, he thankfully went back on that promise.
Burn, Gordy, Burn. But please don’t tell me you gave “Liberator” away.