I got a call from Alisha Brophy, who told me about an art show party she was having. When she said it was for "bad art," I was really intrigued. She and her friends were collecting bad pieces of art. To attend the party, you were supposed to bring something bad. They would invite people to a gallery a few weeks later and auction the pieces off. My first thought was that bad art probably wouldn't sell. Alisha explained, "We are doing this to raise money for the tsunami victims. We're giving it to UNICEF. So we're hoping people look at it as donations for them, and bid on art they like or want for whatever reason."
I remembered having seen a guy outside Balboa Park who sold airplanes made out of aluminum cans. They actually looked cool, but I figured a biplane made from Budweiser cans would be perfect for the "bad art" party. Of course, the Saturday I went to find him, he wasn't around. I was told he was only there every other weekend. So I went to Spanish Village in Balboa Park, where there are a variety of art shops. I found an ugly green frog with purple eyes. It was made of glass and held pens in the back and business cards in the front. It was $25, so I bought it. As I was paying for it, I told the woman at the register it was for a bad art show. I didn't want her thinking this thing was for me. She laughed and said, "Most of the pieces in this shop I made. I'm glad that's not one of them, or I would've been insulted."
I talked with another interesting artist in Spanish Village. Her shop sells baskets that she makes. We came up with what would surely be the hit of the party. It was a grapefruit around which she wrapped a chain and padlock. She put it on a little stand and titled it "Grapefruit in Bondage." As I walked through Balboa Park carrying my pieces of "art," one woman stopped me and asked, "Has your grapefruit been naughty?"
That night, when I arrived at the party, Alisha was stoked about the frog. It quickly got a $25 bid. She thought the grapefruit was stupid. I tried explaining, "This is bad art, isn't it?" Of course, it started to occur to me that not only was it bad art, but it was bad art that would only last a few weeks until the grapefruit went bad.
When I walked into the gallery, they had TV sets by the door showing weird videos with swirling colors. One guy brought in a VCR and was showing really bad movies as his contribution to bad art. I had originally thought about doing a giant poster with bad song lyrics painted on it. But when I thought of songs like "The Name Game," "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," and the America song "Ventura Highway" (where they sing about alligator lizards in the air), or their song "Horse with No Name" in which they sing "rocks and birds and snakes and things" and "the heat was hot." But I figured young people wouldn't even know these songs.
I saw a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. It had rusted bedsprings all around it.
Of course, someone had brought the painting of dogs playing poker. Alisha told me, "Someone said that the original painting of this sold for three million dollars at Sotheby's." They could've gotten this replica cheaper. The bid was up to $45.
There was a teddy bear that had a $25 bid. An ugly unicorn picture, with lots of colors around it, didn't get any bids.
There was no Elvis on velvet, but several paintings of Jesus on velvet. The strangest one was Jesus above an 18-wheel truck. Many at the party voted that the worst painting there.
And someone made sunflowers out of yarn.
There was a hysterical painting of a lazy dog on a couch with food all around him. It looked like something cartoonist Gary Larson would draw. Someone walked by and said, "Look at the picture on the wall." In it a dog had a picture on the wall of another dog's tail and butt. We all cracked up.
I heard one couple looking at a piece of art. The girl said, "This piece should be burned. It's horrible." The guy replied, "That might enhance it."
Alisha came over and said, "Did you see the clown paintings?" She showed me one of an evil-looking clown. Another had clowns in a carriage. She said, "You can't have a bad art show without some clown paintings."
Alisha moved here after attending school in Berkeley. When I told her about my idea for the bad song lyrics, I mentioned William Hung, the Asian guy who was made fun of on American Idol after singing "She Bangs" by Ricky Martin. He ended up becoming famous for being so bad. Alisha said, "I went to school with him. He worked in the cafeteria and we used to think he was slow. There was a friend of mine he had a crush on. When there was a talent show, he sang a song. It wasn't Ricky Martin though. Some people laughed, but I think they felt bad for him. He got all this applause, and we couldn't believe when we saw him in that American Idol."
Alisha then told me about a reality show she was recently involved in. It was called How I Look and they gave her a complete makeover, including a new wardrobe.
I went to get a glass of wine and saw a woman had stacked up eight of the corks. I said, "We should glue these together. We can add it to this bad art." She laughed and then rearranged them in a more interesting pattern.
As I was walking away with my wine, a woman came up and said, "Hi, Josh. Do you remember me?" I didn't. She said, "I am in that band the Ho Bags. You did a story on us." Luckily I remembered she was the bass player. Her boyfriend (who looked like Robert Plant) and I talked about music for a while.