Jenny Hurth insisted that I meet Dave Seabury. I met Hurth when working on the Eli Leon collections. She is second-generation Creative and Quirky Berkeley Genius/Royalty, and she knows quirky when she sees quirky. I did not take her words lightly. I arranged to meet Seabury.
It turns out that Seabury knows John Balderston (their parents went to college together) about whom I have written and of course Marcia Donahue knows Balderston and Hurth knows Balderston and – the warm glow of Big Love Berkeley is settling in. Everybody knows everybody.
And in the end it doesn’t matter that Seabury lives in Orinda, which he calls “East Berkeley.” That’s why we have holiday field trips. And that’s where we are going this Christmas. I posted about his brother John and his parents on Saturday. Now Dave.
Seabury went to Berkeley High on the five-year high school program, graduating in 1972.
The school thing wasn’t really working for Dave, although he had several very influential Art teachers. Bill Dane taught him art in tenth grade at the regular Berkeley High. It was the only course that Seabury passed. He moved to the Community High campus, where he was part of the Arts and Media Tribe.
He cites the parents of his best friend Jeff Scales as another major influence on his creative development.
Barbara Scales was a painter and filmmaker. She married Emmet Scales Jr., an African-American, in Mexico when interracial marriage was still a crime in California. The California Supreme Court held in 1948 in Perez vs. Sharp by only a 4-3 majority that California’s ban on interracial marriage violated the 14th Amendment of the United States.
Emmet was an audio engineer who was one of the managers at the hungry i nightclub in San Francisco during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He kept a reel-to-reel tape recorder in the trunk of his red Chrysler 300, and used to drive around town recording local musicians.
The Scales house on lower Alvarado was eclectic and inspired creativity. There was a massive wall-of-sound stereo system, on which Seabury first heard “Purple Haze” by Hendrix. He remembers the sensation. Emmet haunted pawn shops; the first guitar that Seabury played was a pawn shop guitar at the Scales home. The creative pulse in the Scales home was a significant influence on Seabury. His friend Jeff hasn’t had a shabby creative career; he is a street and commercial photographer and a photography editor for the New York Times.
Seabury has worked for Urban Ore, the East Bay Center for Creative Reuse, Ohmega Salvage, and for the last 18 years as the Waste Reduction Coordinator for the Presidio Trust in San Francisco, specializing in architectural salvage. Meaning – for a good part of his life he has (1) done righteous work keeping things that can be reused out of landfill and (2) like Nelson Molina and his Treasures in the Trash Museum in East Harlem, has been in the catbird’s seat seeing treasures that have been discarded.
Plus he plays in the Psycotic Pineapple and six, more or less, other garage bands.
His house is in a part of Orinda that feels more like Canyon than it does Rich WASP Suburb. When he moved from Richmond to Orinda in 2008, the Canyon/hippie vibe worked for him
Noodle greeted us and followed me up the stairs.
Simon looked up at me but didn’t move.
I later met Simon’s brother Rooster but don’t have a photo of him. Dang! A publishing pun – Simon and Rooster.
I also met Filbert, the fourth of four.
The rule of the house is that the cat:person ratio tilts crazy when it is greater than 2:1. There are 4 cats : 2 humans, it’s okay. Not crazy cat people.
But – back to Noodle. Noodle sat with us when we talked.
Noodle is my friend!
Outside and on the porch there are hints of the glory that lies within.
Seabury made these sculptures.
Vinnie Flores made this. Vinnie was a tow truck driver who Seabury met when he worked at Urban Ore.
Inside – what couples on HGTV shows breathlessly call an open floor plan – with lots of quirk and art.
Seabury’s wife Ruth Kaiser found the quilt at Oakland’s White Elephant Sale.
She owns and runs Tot Drop in Lafayette, a by-appointment/as-needed childcare place.
She volunteers with Operation Smile, a charity that makes safe surgery available for children with cleft palates around the world. She has been on four missions. She works with the families and children. She travels with a suitcase of toys and a clown nose. This photo is from an Operation Smile expedition/mission.
Her Smiley Face collection is on display in the living room.
According to the Smithsonian, the Smiley Face as we know it today was created by Harvey Ross Ball, an American graphic artist.]In 1963,
Harvey Ball was employed by the State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester, Massachusetts (now known as Hanover Insurance). They announced a contest to create a happy face to raise the morale of the employees. He won the contest and $45.
In addition to making her collection, Kaiser is the administrator of the Spontaneous Smiley Facebook page.
Back to the house – there are paintings throughout – some by Seabury, some by friends, some found at the dump.
Seabury bought these at NIAD, about which I have written – here.
Peter Shoemaker made this painting.
This painting is by the late Peter Shoemaker. Sculpture too:
It looks like an instrument but isn’t. It’s art. It was gifted to Seabury when he worked at Urban Ore.
Seabury found this tin-can piece at the Berkeley Transfer Station (the dump). WHAT WERE THEY THINKING DUMPING IT?
The fez here evokes Seabury’s fez collection, a small part of which is on display on top of the Smiley Face case.
This was the first fez in the collection. It is from the Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm. Seabury gives this fez-shopping tip – if you see a fez for sale at a garage sale, you can probably get it for $5. If you see the same fez for sale at a flea market, you’ll pay $50.
The fez collection was useful for the FeZztoNes, one of Seabury’s bands, shown in this 2005 photo.
Check out those suits!
Seabury buys used white tuxedo jackets and paints them.
And he paints neckties. What a look – I’d like to think of a situation where I could borrow one of these jackets with tie – help me think!
Yes, these painted shoes are extremely cool. Joy Kaiser, Ruth’s mom, made them. Wait, though, until you see what there is the basement.
Seabury’s computer screen screams BIG LOVE:
Scrabble pieces to convey intimate thoughts – how very, very brilliant!
On the wall near Seabury’s desk is this:
It is the original, first Pynoman, the icon/mascot/spirit-guide of the Pyscotic Pineapple. Brother John Seabury drew him.
This sculpture of Pynoman is by Carlos Alvarez, who has married into the third generation of the Polonco family. The family owned and operated Tijuana Joe’s in Berkeley, first on University and California and then in C.J.’s Old Garage on Telegraph, now closed.
Dave and his musician friends in the Pyno world loved eating at Tijuana Joe’s. Here they are seen vamping with the Polonco family.
There is a totem pole in the living room.
It comes with a story.
Seabury learned that the friend of a friend was on the verge of throwing away a lot of art that his father, George Cesio (1909-1999), had made or collected. Seabury rescued that art. It included the totem and dozens of hand-carved wooden figures:
That last one is creepy AF, no?
We walked around outside before going down into the basement.
There is an old pump house. Jon Balderston is in the process of working with Kaiser to convert the pump house into a guest cottage. Balderston calls his own out-building his Hodgepodge Lodge. Kaiser calls her outbuilding Shangri-la-di-da. Both clever names, no?
Bonus points for the quote from Le Petit Prince. The fox’s secret: Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
On the path to the Shangri-la-dee da is this:
Seabury’s mother Mappie and her sister had a Christmas tradition. Find an object and send it to your sister – you know what it is but she has to guess.
The 1991 Oakland hills fire burned the Seabury home on Alvarado and with it all the accumulated unknown objects. Dave Seabury has carried the tradition forward. He does not know what the object above is but it came to him from a cousin.
Or this one.
Now – to the basement. Allons y!
The paintings at the bottom of the stairs were rescued from dumps. The central but not exclusive organizing principle of the basement is music. Rock and roll to be specific.
This is Seabury’s world. Music and art.
Seabury’s Piglet stuffed animal is from his early childhood days, embellished with a Pynoman pin.
Seabury describes this sculpture as being mid-restoration.
Two national Freedom Trains have toured the United States: the 1947–49 special exhibit Freedom Train and the 1975–76 American Freedom Train which celebrated the Bicentennial. Each train had its own special red, white and blue paint scheme and its own itinerary and route around the 48 contiguous states, stopping to display Americana and related historical artifacts.
That shoe? Magic! Seabury calls it his Jackson Pollack shoe. He found it at the Berkeley Transfer Station (dump).
Pyno eyewear! Who knew?
Seabury has a stunning collection of flyers for folk and rock concerts that took place in Berkeley. How did he acquire this collection? He started while in junior high at Willard. Tuesday was the day that flyers went up for the weekend concerts. He’d hit “The Ave” and gather all the flyers he could. He saved them. Good idea!
What a collection! What a time it was!
This poster celebrates a performance by one of Seabury’s bands at the 2017 50th anniversary bash for the Hog Farm in Laytonville.
“Girls Mob Ringo” – he found this little collage as is.
And then there is the deal about the contact sheet of photos of the Beatles at Candlestick.
In the late 1980s, Seabury found and bought a contact sheet at a garage sale. The photos were of the Beatles at their final concert, played at Candlestick on August 29, 1966.
For years, Seabury tried to figure out who had shot the photos. He consulted every Beatles expert and photographer he could find but came up empty. Nobody knew who might have made the photos.
With the 50th anniversary of the concert approaching, Seabury ramped up his efforts to identify the photographer. He announced a show of the photos at the Reclaimed Room Gallery in San Francisco. Through a Kickstarter campaign he raised enough money to the put the show on. It included a 12′ by 18′ blow-up of the contact sheet and large individual images.
To advertise the show, he thought of the poster for the 1966 concert. Psychedelic poster artist Wes Wilson made the original poster. Seabury asked him if he’d make one for the show. It cost too much. Seabury asked if Wilson would allow someone else to make a poster that evoked his original poster. He agreed.
Seabury’s brother John made the poster for the show.
The show went swimmingly, but nobody stepped forward to identify the photographer. The now-seen, previously-never-seen photographs remained without an identified photographer.
At the closing reception, Amy Snyder (Director of Photography at the Exploratorium, partner in the Lost and Found show) connected with Derek Taylor. He had a series of photos from the Candlestick concert, including several from the contact sheet and several not. The name of the photographer was stamped on the back – Eric Weil.
Weil died in 2006. He was obsessed with the Zodiac Killer, and is believed to have called the Jim Dunbar radio show in 1969 claiming to be the killer. Weil’s sister Rita Weill Byxbe, who was known in folk music circles in the Bay Area, had died in 2013.
Her son, Berkeley guitarist Ethan Byxby, is alive. At the moment, Seabury, Point Reyes/Inverness photographer Richard Blair, and Byxby are working on a book of the photos. Sadly, Weil’s “caretaker” threw all of his art, photographs and writing away, including the photos from Candlestick that are not on the contact sheet.
Good detective work Dave! Good story!
Next to the basement office is a room where Seabury’s bands rehearse. There is a garage door. It’s a garage. Perfect for garage bands.
The two bottom pieces he found at Urban Ore. He likes them – “They’re done when you find them.”
Seabury’s cousin’s daughter made this puppet.
And then the workshop. On the walls are several charts that came with the house.
I don’t think that I have ever used the word “bitchen” in my life. I am tempted to here. These charts really rock. As do these drawers:
Drawers and charts, solid senders.
And then there is art that Seabury has made/is making and objects found and paintings and – quirk.
One last Very Very Quirky treasure.
It is a binder filled with charts, diagrams, and formulas. John Urho Kemp was a customer at Urban Ore when Seabury worked there. Kemp had a great eye for treasure. He wore all polyester (yes, bell bottoms), was very tan, and had bleached hair, He experimented, once using a vaginal contraceptive cream as tanning lotion, getting in the process a horrible sunburn.
He brought Seabury these sheets.
According to this art brut website, Kemp (1942-2010) “graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1965 with a degree in chemical engineering and biochemistry. He worked as a chemical engineer for almost two years, then quit to study Scientology in England and Los Angeles until 1971. He spent the next decade operating an antiques business in Los Angeles. Amongst other interests, he traveled the world to witness solar eclipses and frequented the hot springs of Northern California. Throughout his life he sought revelations through meditation, metaphysics, formulas, and numbers, recorded primarily in pencil and pen on the blank surfaces of scrap papers. Much of his work was refined and compiled into compact documents that were then photocopied and leafletted as a means of sharing his findings with as many people as he could.”
Photographer Aram Muksian has preserved thousands of pages, diagrams, sketches and numerical sequences here.
Muksian writes this of Kemp: “John Urho Kemp, known to some as Crystal John, sought revelations through meditation, metaphysics, formulas, and numbers all inspired by many of his life experiences.”
Seabury visited Kemp at his then-home on Curtis Street. He had never and has never seen a better collection of odd things.
Kemp died at 68. In this photo he is shown late in his life at a Marin hot spring he regularly visited. Kevin Haas wrote this of Kemp: “He was a regular of the Marin hot springs and an interesting human. Once, when a riddle was presented in the pool, a voice came suddenly from the adjacent cave with the answer, half-scaring/surprising my friends who gave him yet another nickname, The Oracle. Although fairly quiet, he often extolled the healing powers of the springs, (which he drank), and the dangers of the toxins found in meat and dairy products.”
Rest in Peace Crystal John.
As I wrote about John Seabury on Saturday, I mentioned that Lenny Bruce said “far out depends on where you are standing.” Pretty much wherever you are standing, Dave Seabury is far out. Sure, he has always held a day job, but it is a day job that is totally in sync with the artistic beast in him.
Jenny Hurth was so right – I had to meet Seabury. The vortex of Quirky Berkeley never ceases to surprise me – Seabury knows Jenny Hurth whose parents Don and Alice were the Print Mint and they know Jon Balderston and of course Marcia Donahue and then Jim Milstead went to school with Dave and both of them go to the Berkeley (Ellis) Rubber Stamp Company and Jim apprenticed for Martin Metal who worked with Mark Bulwinkle and Jim took me to Frederic Fierstein’s for the first time – etc. etc.
It gives me hope in dark hours of thinking that once it came to be that City Council “progressives” ate the forbidden fruit of growth and development über alles, the die was cast – Alea iacta est, a Latin phrase attributed to Julius Caesar in 49 B.C. as he led his army across the Rubicon river in Northern Italy at the head of his army in defiance of the Senate and began his long civil war against Pompey and the Optimates. Perhaps, though, the point of no return has not been reached. Perhaps the Big Love of the critical mass of quirky/creative/artistic who live outside the dominant orthodoxy or paradigm can evolve and survive. What is sickness to the body of a knight-errant? What matter wounds? For each time he falls he shall rise again… and woe to the wicked!
I asked my friend to take a look at the post.
When he got to the final paragraph – “woe to the wicked!” – he motioned for me to follow him to his quarters. He had just gotten a box with an envelope inside from our friend Gabby. In the box was a collection of fez-wearing figurines and an envelope. He had been going through his “time capsule” archive boxes modeled after Andy Warhol’s which you can see at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburg. Inside the envelope was a photo and a Playbill.
The photo is of the old Shubert Theatre on South Broad Street, Philadelphia.
And this a playbill. Of course.
When I first met Gabby at the Dirty Drug near Penn in the late fall of 1969, I slipped a Man of La Mancha lyric into our conversation – something about a “glorious quest.” Gabby perked up and we talked about the musical and I mentioned that I had seen Richard Kiley perform it at the Shubert Theatre in late 1968. In his scavenging forays while in Philadelphia visiting his mother-in-law Tavia, Gabby had found a Playbill from the performance and a photo of the Shubert and slipped them into the 1968 time capsule.
So he sent them to me. And I got them the very day that I inserted a Man of La Mancha lyric in this post. My friend and I used to debate the existence of coincidence, alternating points of view from debate to debate. The day that my friend said that if there were no such thing as coincidence, there would be no such word, the debate was over.
My friend knows Seabury and claims to have heard Dave’s Not Here, a Seabury band with musicians named Dave, honoring the Cheech and Chong routine. He certainly knows that world better than I do. I chose to remind him of the question on the floor – what about the post, my friend?
Tom, you outdid yourself. I’m in awe at the scope, the dope,
the depth and the breadth of your reporting. I have a flyer from 1966 of Big Bro and the Holding Co that Mr Seabury should see. You do know the coolest peeps.
One more connection: Martin Metal lived next door to the Print Mint workshop on 10th St in Berkeley where all the poster mounting was done…. well done Tom. Again.
This a marvelous romp through David’s and Ruth’s space and collection. A visual treat. It’s true that David and my wife Barbara Scales were dear friends and mutual admirers. It is not true that Barbara was Jewish, although it’s not an uncommon assumption. When i first met her she strongly reminded my of Barbara Streisand. At other times i thought she was Sophia Loren. Whatever came to mind was always beautiful.
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