Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy Boys Club

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that majority of the world's affairs are taken care by a clique of some kind. Even heads of state surround themselves with loyalists and cronies. Just think of the people in George W's inner circle, most of who eventually became disgraced for a reason. Decisions by boards have been decided in advance by a small group of insiders; voting is but a rubber stamp. If you don't agree, too bad: you'll be a former board member in no time. Insider trading takes place on Wall Street every day, however illegal it is. In classical music, a conductor has a small circle of friends and supporters in his band. A musician's success in an audition depends on how likely he or she'll become one of these pawns. The actual professional skill has very little to do with winning a job.

Such cliques and clubs are nothing new. Years ago, to be a successful violinist in America one had to have a relationship with Ivan Galamian and/or the famous virtuoso Isaac Stern. The latter would travel to Israel yearly, listen to the talented youngsters play, and point his finger saying you, you and you will come to the United States. The rest were doomed to become members of the Israeli Philharmonic or accept low-paying teaching jobs. In New York, there was a circle of talented gay composers, all close friends, from Aaron Copland to Leonard Bernstein. They pretty much had a monopoly on whose works got performed. If you fell out of favor, you became a Nobody. David Diamond was one of those less fortunate and rightfully bitter about it.

My last visit to Los Angeles resulted in an interesting conversation with a former colleague. The Pacific Northwest is not exactly a focal point in people's lives down there but there was some curiosity from this person's part. How's the Womanizer these days? He has sort of fallen off the radar screen; is he still up there after all these years? I had to ask which womanizer my friend was referring to, as several individuals fit the term. The matter was clarified. He's probably no longer after young females but rather competing for the attention (and perhaps money) of an older generation. More I didn't know as the person no longer is part of my life. What about the Deadly Duo? Again, as several such combinations exist, I had to repeat the question. The ones with a foot fetish; they're not missed around here. Then I understood. Don't know much about their current affairs. They're probably as busy trying to destroy others' lives and careers as a couple decades ago. For some reason the famous Lewis Carroll poem The Walrus and the Carpenter popped into my head. Those poor misled oysters!

This chat made me think of a discussion my wife and I had with a full-of-himself gay man here years ago. He was bragging about being part of the local Happy Boys Club. The names dropped included some important and powerful local people, from a media critic to a head of a large arts organization. We were made to understand that this club (some members might have been bisexual or still in the closet) pretty much decided who would succeed in this town. This conversation sent shivers down our spines at the time. We are far from being homophobic: both of us have counted many gay and lesbian people among our closest friends. Personally, I have nothing against gay marriage: if two people are in love and want to take care of each other, their sexual orientation shouldn't be an issue. Many of the most gifted and creative individuals throughout history have been gay, or for that matter left-handed, also formerly considered another flaw of character. True, a homosexual critic tried to destroy my career in my teens as I rejected his advances, but as a group gays don't make me feel as uncomfortable as an old heterosexual letch desiring a young woman, possibly a daughter. It is also obvious to me that Nature has to do something about earth's overpopulation and thus an growing number of people are born who won't add to the increase.

But back to the local Club: there was a time when some of its members were eager to ruin my family's well-being. But it is amazing how matters resolve with time and patience. Many of these "Klansmen" have met with an untimely death or are dying; others have lost their jobs and with it their influence. A tiger without its teeth and claws is pitiful indeed. Perhaps we ought to rename it Unhappy Boys Club. The clique has gone the way of once mighty Diners Club in North America, the first charge card. Now it is just another MasterCard, owned by Discover Card yet.

I have no illusions that such cliques won't reemerge in the future or are perhaps being formed as I'm writing this. However, at this stage of my life, it no longer matters. The art scene is rapidly going down the drain and I can't claim to care. Perhaps our children or grandchildren will witness a rebirth from the ashes of the phoenix bird. It has to grow from the ground up. The present model, a sandbox for the aged well-to-do, is most passé indeed. After all, who in his right mind would want to watch half of a local baseball team play against the other half, week after week?

The Walrus and the Carpenter, Victorian drawing