2006-07-14 / Columnists

On The Beach

Sarnoff's Stamp Of Approval
With Beverly Baxter

BEVERLY BAXTER BEVERLY BAXTER Everybody has a back story. A history of events and experiences that make us who we are and that bring us to this point in time called: now. For renowned artist Bob Sarnoff, the genesis, he quips, all began when he was born with a crayon in his hand. Over a long and distinguished career that spans several decades, Sarnoff has expressed his talent through a myriad of mediums.

When you walk into the Sarnoff residence, there is much by which to be intrigued and tantalized. It's a "fun house" of sorts. An art connoisseur's feast for the eyes. There are oil paintings, watercolors, portraitures, collectibles, bookshelves lined with several of the artist's published works, metallic sculptures; and oh yes, the life-sized papier mache guest seated at the dining room table! Indeed, Sarnoff's talent is evident everywhere; but what this writer found to be most intriguing are Sarnoff's eyes, the lens through which he sees and interprets his world. As Editorial Cartoonist for The Wave, you've seen his commentary each week on Page 4.

His work is in the collections of Oleg Cassini, the Estate of Arthur Ashe, Eli Wallach, Bill Talbert, Cleavon Little; he is the official Artist for the Robert F. Kennedy Pro-Celebrity Tennis Tournament and his paintings of Marilyn Monroe are featured in a recently published book, Marilyn In Art and will be exhibited at the Gershwin Hotel Gallery in August. He is also an accomplished film maker and playwright who has depicted Rockaway in his films, but we'll get to that shortly!

What initially brought me to his story was that I had heard that his ubiquitous painting, "Ye Olde Jetty," had been selected by the United States Postal Service as a cachet stamp and matted print. While Sarnoff has always been fascinated and inspired by the people of Rockaway, and has often depicted beach scenes and sunbathers in his work, the Jetty Stamp is very much the iconic image of Rockaway. Its scene is serene and comforting, depicting why many of us feel blessed to live here. The jetty is also an analogous symbol of the stalwart community that we are. The jetty's symbol stands as both protector of our beaches against the erosion of our sand, as well as protector of our strength and stalwart values as an American community.

According to Rockaway Postmaster George Buonocore, "This is the first time in the history of the USPS that a local artist was so honored and chosen to design a cachet stamp and matted print." There is a petition being circulated through the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association, as well as through various other organizations, to petition the USPS to give their final blessing and feature the "Rockaway Jetty" as a bonafide stamp. Sarnoff has participated in several signings of this limited edition at post offices, senior centers, and at the Rockaway Music and Arts Festivals.

Currently, Sarnoff is in production of his film, "The Irish Ropes," a documentary about the world of boxing. Filmed on location in Far Rockaway, the film features Irish Ropes founder, Eddie McLoughlin, and his quest to work with ten Golden Glove contenders whom are from various races and ethnicities. Two of the boxers, John Duddy and James Moore, came over from Ireland to work with McLoughlin and they were actually two of the contenders who competed in Irish Night at Madison Square Garden on the eve of Saint Patrick's Day. Sarnoff filmed the documentary in what he describes as "just a cement garage that McLoughlin turned into this cement box of dreams." There are interviews with former boxer Jerry Cooney, and John Baxter wrote the music.

So what is the back story behind his interest in the Irish Ropes? "I had been working with a homeless shelter for men where I arranged this program teaching them how to express themselves through painting, drawing, sculpting and poetry. From this experience, I wrote a play called 'Men of Substance,' a double entendre about these men of substance whose substance was mostly obliterated by their substance abuse. A play developed and had sponsored readings at The Irish Arts Centre where it was cast and directed by Chet Walker, who was the co-creator of the hit musical, 'Fosse.' The Theatre Studio is planning to mount a production in November."

Sarnoff's interest in those who lead marginal lives brought him to his hometown, where he approached John Baxter about filming "No Rooms Lobby," a short film about a man who gives up the corporate rat race and chooses to live in an SRO where he can simply "be himself." The 20 minute docu-drama features John Baxter and the film is shot on location on Beach 116 Street. The film won Best Docu-drama at the Tulsa Oklahoma 2005 Film Festival and was nominated at The Museum of the Moving Image by the Queens International Film Festival in 2005.

The Jetty Stamp is a personal gift from this most gifted multi-talented artist to us and the town he loves so well. Thank you, Bob. I never cease in my amazement and appreciation for the extraordinary people who reside in our midst.

***A little note to the beautiful and indomitable Mimi McT. May the humidity drop and the days be lovely... just for...you!

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