Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Buddy, Can Ya Spare $25 Million?

A Landmark Modernist House Heads to Auction
The New York Times
PALM SPRINGS, Calif., Oct. 30 — The Kaufmann House, a 1946 glass, steel and stone landmark built on the edge of this desert town by the architect Richard Neutra, has twice been at the vanguard of new movements in architecture — helping to shape postwar Modernism and later, as a result of a painstaking restoration in the mid-1990s, spurring a revived interest in mid-20th-century homes.
Now the California homeowners who undertook that restoration hope Neutra’s masterpiece will play a role in a third movement: promoting architecture as a collectible art worthy of the same consideration as painting and sculpture.
Those owners, Brent Harris, an investment manager, and Beth Edwards Harris, an architectural historian, are finalizing their divorce, and plan to auction the Kaufmann House at Christie’s in New York in May. The building, with a presale estimate of $15 million to $25 million, will be part of Christie’s high-profile evening sale of postwar and contemporary art.
Commissioned by Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr., the Pittsburgh department store magnate who had commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright about a decade earlier to build Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, the house was designed as a desert retreat from harsh winters. Constructed as a series of horizontal planes that seem to float over glass walls, the house seems to absorb the mood of the surrounding desert.
Auctions of such midcentury landmarks have become more common in recent years. In 2003 Sotheby’s sold the 1951 Farnsworth House southwest of Chicago, designed by Mies van der Rohe, at auction for $7.5 million. In June Jean Prouvé’s 1951 Maison Tropicale, a prototype for prefabricated homes for French colonial officials stationed in Africa, sold at Christie’s for $4.97 million.
Such auctions are bringing a new level of scrutiny to a form that, little more than a decade ago, attracted so little notice that the Kaufmann House was being offered for sale as a teardown.
Still, such sales sometimes draw criticism from preservationists who would prefer that the houses be tended by a public institution or trust that guarantees continued access for architecture students and scholars rather than sold to the highest bidder. (The Farnsworth House, now open to the public, was bought by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, while the Maison Tropicale went to a private bidder.)
But Dr. Harris, who worked toward her doctorate in architectural history while restoring the Kaufmann House, said she believed an auction would further the preservationist cause.
“It’s an odd thing, but the more money this house goes for, the better it is for preservation in my point of view,” she said on Monday while giving a tour of the house to a reporter. “I think it will encourage other people who have the income to go out and get places like these to restore, rather than just looking for some pretty palace somewhere.”
The Kaufmann House is one of the best-known designs by Neutra, a Viennese-born architect who moved to the United States in the 1920s and designed homes for the next few decades for many wealthy West Coast clients. His buildings are seen virtually as the apotheosis of Modernism’s International Style, with their skeletal steel frames and open plans. Yet Neutra was also known for catering sensitively to the needs of his clients, so that their houses would be not only functional but would also nurture their owners psychologically.
When Brent and Beth Harris first saw the Kaufmann House, it was neither a pretty palace nor an obvious candidate for restoration. Strikingly photographed in 1947 by Julius Shulman, it stood vacant for several years after Kaufmann’s death in 1955. Then it went through a series of owners, including the singer Barry Manilow, and a series of renovations. Along the way, a light-disseminating patio was enclosed, one wall was broken through for the addition of a media room, the sleek roof lines were interrupted with air-conditioning units, and some bedrooms were wallpapered in delicate floral prints.
In 1992 Beth Harris, an architectural tourist of a sort, scaled a fence one afternoon to peek at the famous house while her husband discovered a for-sale sign in an overgrown hedge.
“It quite clearly was at some risk of being severely modified by whoever was to buy it, or potentially demolished,” Mr. Harris said, recalling his first glimpses of the house.
In Palm Springs, increasingly dominated by faux Spanish estates, Neutra’s Modernism “wasn’t the prevailing style,” Mr. Harris said, and the Kaufmann House “had been for sale for at least three and a half years.” He added: “No one wanted it. And so it was a gorgeous house, an important house, and it was crying out for restoration.”
After purchasing the house and its more than an acre of land for about $1.5 million, the Harrises removed the extra appendages and enlisted two young Los Angeles-area architects, Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner, to restore the Neutra design. They sought out the original providers of paint and fixtures, bought a metal-crimping machine to reproduce the sheet-metal fascia that lined the roof and even reopened a long-closed section of a Utah quarry to mine matching stone to replace what had been removed or damaged.
Without the original plans for the house, the Harrises dug through the Neutra archives at the University of California, Los Angeles, looking at hundreds of Neutra’s sketches of details for the house. They persuaded Mr. Shulman to let them examine dozens of never-printed photographs of the home’s interior, and found other documents in the architectural collections at Columbia University.
The Harrises also bought several adjoining plots to more than double the land around the 3,200-square-foot house, restoring the desert buffer that Neutra envisioned. They rebuilt a pool house that serves as a viewing pavilion for the main house, and kept a tennis court that was built on a parcel added to the original Kaufmann property.
The Harrises “were visionaries in their own way,” said Joshua Holdeman, a senior vice president at Christie’s who oversees the 20th-century decorative art and design department. With the renovation “they created a whole new public awareness of midcentury-modern architecture.”
Describing the results of the restoration in The Los Angeles Times in 1999, Nicolai Ouroussoff, now the architecture critic for The New York Times, said the house could “now be seen in its full glory for the first time in nearly 50 years.”
The pending sale is bittersweet for the current owners, who said they planned to give a portion of the proceeds to preservation groups. Asked how it felt to be close to selling the property, Dr. Harris looked back at the house, blinking away tears.
“Oh, it’s horrifying,” she said. “But we did our time here. There will be other things.”

Elvis is in the Building...that would be Ruby...with an odd wedding couple

Robert Goulet! Robert Goulet!

If ever I would leave you,


It would be on October 30th, 2007.


So long, Lance (thanks) a lot.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ruby Montana's Coral Sands Inn has provided Shelter for Evacuation Victims this week

Evacuation victims left just today to return to their homes. The Coral Sands held them in great comfort for some several days.

Friday, October 26, 2007

PALM SPRINGS is the PERFECT place to return to from PARIS...

Q knows how to have a good time. The rest of you should make your reservations immediately. We are filling up fast.
Call Toll Free 1-866-820-8302 Ruby will squeeze you in.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


My very precious friend, David Staskowski, turns 52 today in Adrian, Michigan. I raise a jubilliant if slightly jet lagged hand high with a glass of La Grand Dame to you today, my pet. David...aka "Ask David"...aka "Barbi"...aka many other things that I dare shan't report is known to many as a "Genius of all things"...hense, "Ask David"...there is nothing he doesn't know that he can't find out about in less than 10...I challenge anyone to top this Sweet Dog. Gawker extraordinare...friend par none...I love you David...Always There for You...xoxoRZM

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Update from Homeland inSecurity

This was just sent in from our pals in AirForce One, the plane has been spotted in U.S. airspace. Reportedly the RRR's are on their final approach

Peaches sent this one from her iPhone... can you spot Ruth and Ruby?

The Farewell Fêtes go on all night

Tout le monde, that is EVERYONE,
seemed to be out last night in the city of lights
wishing the RRR's a bon voyage.
Of course the famed french paparazzi de crayonne were being naughty
and wouldn't leave our travellers alone, pour UNE moment.

In the sketch above,
seems to be being restrained by Ruth and Rebecca
from giving le paps a piece of her mind...
Hey Rube... Don't mess up that new couture!

And below, the sketching garçons seem to have backed off a little.
One can see Rube, in back, putting her "do" back together.
Is the lady in front, (Peaches, peut-etre), looking a little post-pugnacious?

By the time you read this late night report,
mes amis will be on the plane downing their last sips
of non-imported french champagne.
They'll be home in their own night spots before you know it.

That is of course if Ruth and Rebecca have talked Ruby
out of locking herself back in that hotel closet!
After all, good things must end,
including the magic show that is Paree!

Thanks for reading you american witchballs!
Bon Nuit, Bon Chance,
Barbie Doll

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Blogger Exclusive

"Ruth is now calling me Alice... Rebecca said that at first she thought that the relationship... was keeping us young... now she thinks it is keeping us infantile."

"Truly we have, and are having just a marvelous time and the Trio has not had a snapping turtle moment... amazingly enough.
This has been the most magical journey."

"Our last night in Paris
I am refusing to leave...
I have locked myself
in a closet in the hotel...thank god for wifi.
do not post this until Ruth and Rebecca have gone."

From an intercepted email originating at L’hôtel de Varenne.
The email was written by Ruby Montana herself, moments ago.

Do not post?
Well... So sorry, dear Rube, but a scoop is a scoop,
and this may just get me that gig at Gawker.

You heard it here first!

Reporting from Paris,
Barbie Doll

This just in.

photo by Ruby of Paris

It's the RRR's last night in Paris and the festivities are about to begin.
The ponies have arrived on the Champs Élysées for the parade.

The invitation to one of tonight's parties.

Reporting live, Barbie Doll

As the sun begins to set in Paris

We spent today at the Musée d'Orsay... need I say more?
Ruth is treating us to a fine dinner near the Eiffel Tower for our last supper.
We will catch an early cab to the airport tomorrow morning (9 a.m.)
and head back to the States...
..Southern California is on fire as I am sure you have heard. Jesus.


"America is my country, but Paris is my hometown": G. Stein

As Gertrude Stein said: "Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense"
This report is culled from various sources, copied from many many websites and blatantly plagiarised from a few too many authors.
Let's begin....

A photo and note from Ruby of Paris
"This is me in front of Gertrude and Alice's on Rue Christine. Fab place.
It all went down here.
xoxo Ruby"

After being evicted from their apartment on rue de Fleurus, the couple moved here to this much grander place at 5, rue Christine, closer to the Seine. Then, after residing in the countryside while the Germans were visiting and Paris was otherwise occupied, Gertrude and Alice B Tolkas returned here to their paintings.

Gertrude and Alice B. lived here together, with some brief absences, until the Gertrude's death in 1946; Toklas remained here until 1964, when she was again evicted, three years before her death.
It is the one hundred year anniversary of the pair's meeting. Alice B. Toklas first laid eyes on Gertrude Stein on September 8th, 1907, at Gertrude brother Leo's apartment. Alice later wrote:
"She was a golden brown presence, burned by the Tuscan sun and with a golden glint in her warm brown hair. She was dressed in a warm brown corduroy suit. She wore a large round coral brooch and when she talked, very little, or laughed, a good deal, I thought her voice came from this brooch. It was unlike anyone else's voice--deep, full, velvety, like a great contralto's, like two voices."

The pair is well known for their writings, their friends and enemies, the paintings they collected, the writings they inspired. Their Saturday evening salons are the thing of legend.

An artistic aquaintance, Man Ray, took this portrait of the author in front of a portrait of the author by an artistic aquaintance, Pablo Picasso, who's birthday is October 25th, which, DaDa, is this coming Thursday.

And through the magic of copy and paste, and paste and copy, here is the portrait in color.

Another legend goes that when Gertrude and others saw the portrait in 1906, when she was then just 32, she remarked I do not look like this...

Oh, but you will!, the painter of the portrait, Pablo Ruiz Picasso, then all of 25, replied.

"To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write"
wrote Gertie... and so it is.

Barbie Doll
"reporting" from Paris

Hear Gertie talk!

Have you ever heard Gertrude Stein's voice?

A collection of recordings at
If you hit the blue arrow you can listen, or you can download clips for you MP3. (what would she make of that?)

The clip of her reading "If I told him: A complete portrait.. " is lovely.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Père Lachaise

It was Oscar Wilde's birthday just prior to our visit
and there were many kisses all over his grave stone.
Beautiful...many notes and flowers.

Jim Morrison is also buried at Père Lachaise cemetery.

Kissing Édith Piaf's grave

This is Rebecca "Peaches" Chekouras
acting out a Picasso painting of Gertrude Stein
on Gertrude's grave at Père Lachaise.


The Marais... models in leather... and mussels

We spent alot of time in Place de Vosges...
an elegant little square built by King Henry IV in 1605...
The Marais held our interest for quite some time.

The three Rs dining at place du Marche ste. Catherine Square:
This is a tiny square just off rue St. Antoine...
darling little leafy square ambiance with twig thin models in ostrich and leather...

My mussels at Le Marche were divine. Yum.

Rumors of "Ruby of Paris"

Look closely to see the undercover photographer amid the orchids

International Harold Tribute Monday, Oct 22, 2007, 8:59 AM, Paris, France

Ruby Montanna of California, United States has been seen in almost every one of the arrondissements of Paris examining shops and taking surveillance photos. Rumors (rumours for our British readers) abound that she may be opening up her first european branch. Montana is known in the States for her muliple sucesses in retail, all dedicated to an iconic image of the Pinto Pony.

Speculations of ensuing specializations include a Western themed charcuterie, something hyperbolic relating to American goat cheese, an exotic flower shop featuring Geogia O'Keefeian desert orchids, and a Mid (18th ) century Moderne furniture shop.

At this time there seems to be a different story for every rue in the city.

These prototypes are reported to have sparked Montana's interest.

office in the hip resort town of Palm Springs, California is not returning the IHT's phone inquiries, which will lead, indubitably, to more speculation, rumor (rumour) and fabrication.

Barbie Doll, reporting from Paris

Birthday Wishes just keep on coming

Kay, Fred and Audrey send Greetings .... so sorry we just missed you on the Tour d'Eiffel

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Heights were enjoyed by all

The souls who made it up the Eiffel Tower
to celebrate Ruby's birthday.

Not being endeared of heights never stop
Rebecca and Ruth !

Now that's monumental

Paris = food = Paris = food = Paris

Ruth and Rebecca in a restaurant
Photos by Ruby of Paris

Quelque fois... it's all about the food, n'est ce pas?

Rue Cler neighborhood walk and dinner at Cafe du Marche...
the Fromagerie...a long narrow, canopied cheese table brings the cheese into the street. Wedges, cylinders, balls and miniature hockey pucks... all powdered white, gray and burnt marshmallow...
it's a festival of mold.

Ohhhh the goat cheeses.

This is sooo fabulous. Rue Cler is traffic free since 1984...
so it is abuzz with pedestrians shopping for special foods.


In Paris.... everyone in town goes to church... to the parc...

Photos by Ruby of Paris

We continue to walk for's Sunday and everyone in town is out in the Tuileries...The Champs...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The streets of Paris

Dogs all over Paris are introducing themselves to our travelers.

This shop dog, wants to come out and sniff the funny smelling Americanines.

And this little one insists we play with his carrot.... those french!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Le Nuit en Paris... an update from Ruby

We went up the Tour Eiffel.

Rebecca and Ruth are both afraid of heights
so this was quite a feat...