Time flies when you are having artistic fun. This afternoon, I am heading over to Wickenburg to introduce my former studio mate at a dinner to celebrate Ed Mell's Fifty Year Retrospective, being held at the Desert Caballeros Museum.
I have known Ed since 1973 when he arrived back in Phoenix from a stint in advertising and commercial art in New York, where he famously got National Lampoon sued by Disney for doing a cover of Minnie Mouse topless!
Of course, Ed grew up in Phoenix and went to North High, where he knew John Harvey Adamson (the guy who allegedly blew up Don Bolles) and Ed's cousin got beat up by Wayne Newton's brother at Coronado Pool. I'm tellin' you, the guy was connected.
Ed had two brothers. The Mell Boys, as we called them, Frank, Ed and Lee, and they were all three excellent artists and they all had a studio, Twin Palms Studio in downtown Phoenix and all three did art and covers for The Razz Revue, the humor magazine founded by Dan The Man Harshberger and myself. Frank did a classic cover, "Turquoise Lust" which is still highly collectable today.
In 1980, I joined Ed's studio, and rented space from him in a run down grocery store which he bought at the corner of 10th and Oak Streets near downtown Phoenix. Once, a famous newsperson asked me to take her to the studio and introduce her to the famous artist and as we drove over there, she said, slightly alarmed, "Oh, this is a bad neighborhood. Look at that gang graffiti on the walls of that building." As I pulled up to the curb, I said, "Welcome to Ed's studio." He left the gang graffiti on the walls to keep out the timid.
Ha. That is SO Ed.
I spent six years in the studio with Ed and I tell everyone I learned more by osmosis, from Ed, than I did in five years at the University of Arizona.
Back in 2012, Ed designed a commemorative postage stamp for the state of Arizona's centennial, 1912-2012. The stamp was unveiled on the steps of the Prescott Courthouse.
Afterwards we were serenaded by Ed's friends, The Tubes, who closed the show with "White Punks On Dope." Afterwards, Ed took me backstage and introduced me to Prairie Prince, the drummer. Ed knew the whole band. They were from Phoenix and were known in the early days as The Beans. Like I said, the guy is connected.
In the 1980s, we started taking trips with our sons, Tommy and Carson, and we went to New York City where we ate soup from the "Soup Nazi," the inspiration for the Seinfeld episode. We went to Mexico and rode the Copper Canyon Railway, where we met the son of Victorio (this adventure is in my Geronimo book) and we went to Santa Fe, where Ed was treated like a rock star (and this was in the eighties!). Everywhere we went, people would buy us drinks and stop and ask for his autograph. It was crazy. Thanks to his son Carson, we decided to short sheet Ed at the hotel we were staying at. We all stayed up waiting to see the prank play out, but Ed finally got in bed, wiggled out of the predicament and went right to sleep.
That also is SO Ed.
When you meet Edmundo, you might think he is shy. He doesn't talk much but he's got a wicked sense of humor. When we were in Mexico, on the train, all the talk was about the devaluation of the peso. It had plummeted in value by 50%. So I turned to Ed and I said, "Can you imagine waking up one day and half your stuff is gone?" And, without missing a beat, Ed deadpanned, "I know exactly what that feels like, I'm getting a divorce."
So, what am I going to say, tonight? Well, for one thing, I agree with ZZ Top:
"Through combining a realist view with a design aesthetic, [Ed Mell's] landscapes emerged bold and bare, with a hard sun and sharp shadow."
—Don Hagerty, in the foreword to the catalogue for the retrospective