04 June 2010

Shakespeare and Vonnegut Finally Arm Wrestle.


Greg Bauhof asked for a painting of Kurt Vonnegut and William Shakespeare arm wrestling with Albert Einstein as the referee. Here is the final painting.
Strangely enough, when I was researching the three figures here, I found some historical accuracy to this scene.

Here's the story:
The year is 1969 and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. is spending his summer heading a writer's workshop at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. He is riding the success of his recently released Slaughter House Five and things are going great. He had become a much sought after celebrity.
One morning, Vonnegut gets a call from the then young director Robert Altman inquiring about the possibility of turning his novel The Sirens of Titan into a film. Vonnegut is skeptical but agrees to meet him. Vonnegut inexplicably suggests that they meet Monday, July 4th at the Baroque Music Festival held in the commons of  the University.  
It is important to note that Kurt Vonnegut was a very tall man and to remember that in those days, the people of Iowa were eight inches shorter than the national average. All of the doorways in the faculty housing where Vonnegut was staying were very low, causing frequent bangings. He had visited the emergency room three times in his first month due to head injuries.  
On the day of his meeting with Altman, Vonnegut chose to wear roller skates in an attempt to intimidate the director with his physical agility. However, this made him a dangerous 4" taller than usual. Being very cognisant of this fact, Vonnegut carefully ducked under every ridiculously low entry way. But how careful can one be the first time on roller skates when fireworks are going off in the distance?
Similarly, Altman tried to impress the author. However, being notoriously bad with history, Robert Altman decided to dress as William Shakespeare to pay tribute to the Baroque era that he assumed Vonnegut loved. Young Altman was a dead ringer. It was confusing and ridiculous to see Altman as Shakespeare prancing across campus humming Bach Cantatas. Robert Altman was only 5'1" so he didn't need to duck.
(I forgot to mention that Albert Einstein was co-teaching the writer's workshop. Einstein notoriously liked to stick his nose in everyone elses business where it didn't belong.)
The main roads on the University campus were blocked off for the festival and all traffic was rerouted to the roller stating path. All traffic!

I'm not going to bore you with the obvious conclusion to this scenario. I think we all know where this is going...

2 comments:

Daveedo said...

My history professor told us about this encounter in class! Einstein is hardly ever recognized for his physical bravery and heroism, but his actions on the day you've described show him to be courageous indeed.

bandit said...

Almost too hilarious to be true!

...and what of Einstein's "heroism"?