Making the Astaire Awards

One day in May of 1982 I found a note in my mailbox at the Sculpture Center School: contact Larry Klingman from The Anglo American Contemporary Dance Foundation about a commission. I went looking for Gary Sussman, the school’s director and asked, “What’s this all about? It sounds like a joke.” “No, it’s the real deal, I would take it but I have to be in Skowhegan next week. The guy sounds desperate and it really has to be done in the next five weeks.”

I contacted Larry and he quickly informed me that Astaire had sanctioned the whole thing, but that he specifically required that the award be called The Fred and Adele Astaire Award, co-equally honoring his first dance partner. (About this and dance and broadway and musicals I know from nothing.) He also informs me that the figures can’t be too abstract, and that there must be two, clearly recognizable as male and female. “Whaddya mean?” “Well the female figure needs to have tits.” “Ok, I can work with that.” “I need something soon.” “I can give you something in two days.” 

Not being gay I needed to do some serious research into this subject, so I went down to Brentanos and bought every book I could find on the subject: two. Fine, I think, a capital investment (like I should know). This stuff is no help in terms of plastic input. The only thing I get is doppelganger, this I know from. The reflected and complementary image and movement. It’s like sex. Better not go too far down that road, it was his sister, after all. But I decide to do some stuff that I think the guy will like instead of what I’m thinking about because it’s so out there. 

So I bring in some conventional crap, and Larry Klingman turns out to be a real Mensche, not some f-ing patzer. He says “I don’t like this, It’s terrible. I say “Larry, I made a mistake, I gave you something I thought you would like instead of what I really wanted to do.” “So, show me!” I haven’t worked it out, but it’s real NY School, abstract expressionist. Psychological too, like a Rorschach ink blot. “I need to see something now.” I have my pens ink and paper. He showed me into the meeting room where I spread my stuff onto the table and an hour later we had a deal. 

My encounters with Michael Bennett, Anne Miller, Chita Rivera, Mrs. DuBonnet and Rex Harrison I will save for a later time, oh gentle reader. 

Astaire Award Gallery

Theatre Development Fund Astaire Award

Fred Astaire – Wikipedia