top of page

The Night The Models Saved Me

Dali Anecdotes - The Night the Models Saved Me

King Cole Bar, St Regis, NY, New York

Among the things I would get for projects to do with Dali from Edmund Scientific were mechanical insects, which were approximately 10-12” in length. They had a wind up mechanism in them that would make them walk after assembling them. I bought a few (A praying Mantis, and a Grasshopper) and assembled them at home to make sure they work before bringing them to Dali. It was Sunday, a normal court Day (Sunday is when the St Regis would close the Cocktail Lounge, and Dali would hold court there from 6PM to approximately 7:30-8PM when he would leave for dinner, picking the most famous, glamorous or bizarre of the group attending to dine with him. (Dinner was almost always at Trader VIcs, in the lower level of the Plaza Hotel) On this particular evening I had only stuck around for the actual “Court” session for around 45 min before I was asked to organize several projects we were working on in ROWLUX films in another room of the hotel. I was still busy in the room at around 9PM when I was told Dali was back from dinner and in the King Cole Bar. I thought now would be a great time to show him the insect models, and made my way downstairs. Dali was at a table already hosting a few models, which as usual, was giving him great pleasure. I was a bit  hesitant launching the insects towards the group because as described earlier, one of these was a grasshopper, which Dali has been known to be deathly afraid of…..but in the end decided it would be OK. From across the room I wound up the Mantis and Grasshopper, and sent them in the direction of Dali’s table. The whirring mechanical sounds of the windup mechanism alerted everyone in the bar that something strange was happening, and because most of these guest were staying at the hotel, and knew of Dali, attributed it all to him. As the mantis made its way close to the table Dali see’s it and me and puts the little plot together. “Mark Oil!!!, Mark Oil!!! You’ve brought accompaniment tonight, please bring them here!!” (Mark Oil, was one of the names Dali assigned me over the years, claiming that Markoya was much too difficult ( I knew it in fact was not because he had no problem with Spanish Guitarist Carlos Montoya’s name), during these years I became known as Mark Oil, Karl Marx, Sad (this Dali called me when I first arrived in Spain with a goatee, which he did not really like and said it made me look sad, so he called me that)and Dou, after Gerard Dou whom Dali had Amanda Lear, and to some degree, myself research for him, to find that Dou indeed had painted stereoscopic images  in the 17th century)and on occasion, I actually would be Markoya) I picked up the insects and delivered them to the table where Dali immediately took them to show off to the models. Having stole a millisecond of the masters thunder, he quickly ordered the staff at the bar to bring him a paste made of flour and water. A bowl of potato chips were already at the table and a waiter shortly showed up with the paste, that we soon learned was to be used as glue to paste the potato chips to the models, slowly and meticulously Dali pasted one chip after another along the bodies of the insects in time covering them with the ochre scales of chips. Some of the lower portions of the legs on the insects were too small to get the paste to stick chips to and Dali had the brilliant idea that he wanted straws to cover the legs. Not any normal straws mind you, but natural straws made from wheat stalks, which, not so coincidentally, I had delivered to Dali for another project the week before. OK I thought , fine, what room are they in? I asked Dali. He answers, they are in no room here, he has had them taken by limousine to Knoedlers, where Dali was to have an opening soon. I complained that it was 10PM on a Sunday night and Knoedlers would not be open, to which Dali replied,” I will give you the phone (number) of the owner, get him out of bed to open the gallery so you can get the straws”. This was one of the moments where Dali made me a little crazy, which happened often enough, but put me in a position where success is difficult, and at times well beyond my means (he could care less). I gave a weak protest, to which Dali followed up with a stern look and exclaiming the straws were necessary to complete his insects, which were now masterpieces. The models must have seen the look of “Ohhhhh, Shit!!!) on my face as they took the initiative to convince Dali that the insects already were masterpieces, and that the straws were unnecessary to add to the already brilliant collages of chips. Fortunately for me after some small objections from Dali, he took the models word, saying that being as beautiful as they are they were qualified to see and know the beauty of the chip covered insects, so it may not be necessary to send  Mark Oil to wake the owner of Knoedlers…..

This was a night that the models saved me from one of a thousand impossible tasks of Salvador Dali.

bottom of page