Years ago, I dated a girl who was law abiding. You expected me to say she was pretty, smart and kind. She was, but law abiding stands out because her family was not. The uncles were cat burglars. One Christmas, she asked for a 35 millimeter camera. Poof, she got one with someone else’s pictures in it. Another Christmas, she mentioned her Dad wanted a snow blower. Poof, he got a bright red one that the neighbor claimed looked just like the one he purchased a few weeks before. Graciously, her Dad offered to plow the neighbor’s driveway until he could muster up the cash to get another one.
The uncles were lovable crooks. Even the police spoke reverently of their second story escapades. Of all the things they stole, their favorite items were artwork. The uncles claimed that artwork was more appreciated by buyers than cigarettes or stereos that regularly fell off trucks. “Anybody can find stuff,” explained Uncle Tony, “ but pros like me and my brother were home schooled on oils and watercolors by the best art thief of all time, which was the sentence length for Monty Lisman, known as Smiley, our Joliet Penitentiary cellmate and teacher.”
The uncles would appreciate this year’s Pageant of the Master’s theme, stolen artwork. It’s their picture perfect milieu and one they’d love to be in, if they weren’t engaged now with the stolen identities job with St. Peter. If they were still amongst us, I’d highly recommend them as professional advisors to the show. But they’ve moved on to the big caper now. Should you think you need a good name of somebody else to get through the pearly gates, the uncles are the go to guys.
According to investigative professionals, crime does pay when it comes to artwork. It’s easy to take, worth millions and is a victimless crime. Not so, says art historian and pop tart/art psychologist, Dr. Wals Holsein. “There are victims,” he explains while waiting for his toast to pop. “The country whose artwork is stolen is a victim. Museum personnel have been hurt and killed during past robberies. Art collectors have been devastated financially when lifelong collections have been art-napped.” exhorts Dr. Holsein, as he scrapes and rescues another piece of burnt toast. Holsein postulates there’s mounting evidence that the pictures themselves are victims. Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911. Police detained and questioned Pablo Picasso. He was exonerated when his Cubist movement alibi was corroborated with a sales receipt for Havana cigars. Eventually police discovered that a Louvre employee had taken the painting. The Mona Lisa was returned two years later. “But something was still missing,” exclaims Holsein holding his butter knife high to make a point. “The smile never came back to France,” Holesein exhorts crunching through burnt toast. “Something happened during the two year detention,” theorizes Holsein. “Yes, the picture was returned, but Mona Lisa’s smile was gone. It’s an unrecoverable loss for mankind,” gargles Holsein through his morning mouthwash. And before he rushes off to lecture at the Kellogg Museum of Cereal Icons, the pop tart/art doctor suggests another curious case to look into, the picture of Dorian Gray. “That’s one for the ages,” yells Holsein, brushing off morning breadcrumbs, as he rushes off to class.
Be sure to get tickets now for this year’s Pageant of the Masters “the Art Detective,” to find out who done it, or say “uncles” and they’ll get them for you.
Mark is a transplant to Laguna from Chicago. He occasionally writes the guest column
“Pet Peeves.” His recently deceased border collie, Pokey, is his muse and ghostwriter.