Sunday, November 27, 2011


My innocent, foolish friend David Schoffman has a weakness for cranky, crackpot, paranormal street prophets. Some who find the temporal world unsuited to their temperament find the consolations of philosophy and art adequate surrogates for their metaphysical urges. Not so my transcendent colleague David. He's always on the hook for some astral eccentric, some empyrean swindler or some sacerdotal grifter.

Hence his fascination with the beautiful and clairvoyant  Dahlia Danton.

Schoffman and Danton at the Fénelon Seance, 2010
It started many years ago.

As a young, inexperienced artist trying to make his way in Paris and New York, David visited 'Betina,' the famously beguiling reader/advisor whose small studio on Cour du Commerce St.-André was a favorite refuge for the rudderless and homesick. Tucked away between rue Saint-André des Arts and the boulevard St.-Germain, Betina's had everything one might expect in a soothsayer's lair: crystal balls, wicca sticks, tarot decks, runes, ouija boards, show globesHessian cruciblespendulums, mystic oracles, scrying mirrors, inlaid mother-of-pearl divining rods and scores of other obscure and beautiful objects.

The proselyte Schoffman was always powerless to the seductions of paraphernalia.

He put great trust in Betina and when she predicted in 1979 his future mid-career retrospective at the Musée des Objets Oubliable, he became a life-long dewy-eyed disciple of augury and the occult. (The show, in fact, did take place, though not exactly at the predicted location. In 1998, Schoffman had a fairly comprehensive exhibition at Milan's famous Museo delle Palline da Dimenticare).

Many years have past and Betina has long since retired to her ancestral village in western Romania.  Schoffman replaced her with a series of equally charismatic and equally counterfeit heavenly hucksters, the latest being the wily Los Angeles artist, Dahlia Danton. 

A skeptic may attribute his newfound affiliation to this relative novice in the art of strange sacrament  to Danton's soft, spectral skin, her dark hair faintly scented with saffron and rose petal, her moist pink lips which she always keeps slightly ajar, even when silent and her rough throaty voice suggestive of mutual conspiracy and unearned intimacy. 

The skeptic would probably be right. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Cagey and cryptic, my furtive friend David Schoffman almost never opens his Los Angeles studio to visitors. Curators, collectors and critics all clamor for an audience but to no avail. Schoffman's irrational and self-defeating petulance hold a staunch vigil to his caprice. Those who do manage to pierce the rampart are a priesthood of strange and select dissenters. 

So to whom does this bald head belong?

 Stopping in Los Angeles while touring with the Royal Bismark-Bialystok Radio Orchestra, Irish tenor Briac Scott Bertelsen (a mutual friend of both David and I) and his son Deverell were granted a short visit. Known for his discerning eye, wayward wit and irrepressible rendering of Ponchielli's Cielo e Mar, Bri's enviable access to Schoffman's Sanctum Sanctorum is seen by many as a provocation.

Bertelsen, whose very public profile inspires the type of speculation worthy of a Kremlinologist, is a pawn in Schoffman's perverse assault on the connoisseur class. When his recent visit was reported in the press (the anonymous source being Schoffman himself), embers of antagonism were rekindled from California to Irkutsk. The banished and the blackballed were irate at what was seen as the tenor's unwarranted access.

Deverell Bertelsen, Schoffman and Briac Scott Bertelsen, Los Angeles, 2011

When asked later about the state of Schoffman's work, the cunning crooner crowed with rapacious delight, "... not at all bad ...  menacing though inconclusive... a bit strange, yes ... perhaps even revolutionary ... perhaps not."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


It's rare but from time to time my purist compatriot David Schoffman agrees to allow one of his pieces to be used for commercial purposes. A few years back the State Department put one of David's "Imagined Spaces" drawings on the cover of its Third World Infectious Diseases brochure. The Times published a caricature he did (on a dinner napkin from Laconda Verde) of George Soros . He designed the wedding invitation for the Crown Prince of Lemuria (for his first marriage) and most recently he let legendary tenor Meyer Limon use a painting for his most recent CD, "Prevention Beats the Cure" on EPI Records.

Cover art for Meyer Limon's 2011 EPI release "Prevention Beats the Cure"

Limon is an interesting cat, a sufi mystic who practices Vedic Yoga, speaks fluent Ladino and does freelance consulting work for the IT division at Sony. He has played and recorded with all the greats, most recently touring southeast Asia with the Barry Berry Trio. His 2007 recording, "Buddha and Neruda" was nominated for a Latin Grammy and the current CD with Schoffman's art on the cover recently went platinum.

Meyer Limon 2010, (Photo courtesy of EPI Records)

I recently heard Limon play at Le Caveau on rue Renault and he was smokin'. I'm always stunned how some heroin addicts are able to retain their vital genius, remain active and actually thrive.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Nibbling on a croque-en-bouche the other day with my sweet-toothed friend David Schoffman, the subject of Jewish mysticism came up. We were seated on the terrace of Felix Café am Bellvevue, a place where old Europe strains against the pressures of western gastronomical prudery. "Zurich always brings out my thaumaturgical urges," Schoffman garbled through a tongue tied with oozing caramel, "it's a place where tallis and talisman melt into an incoherent gush of personal melancholy.

study for Birkat Cohanim II, 1997

Pressed on the issue, he continued.

"I've been rereading the essays of the great philologist Mario Robitosen. He has a great quote regarding apostasy, calling it 'the midwife of staunch assurances.' I ruminated on this strange categorization for weeks until I finally realized that it was, at its very root, utterly meaningless. It was then when the future of my work became clear to me."

Schoffman's studio - Los Angeles, 2009

This piqued my curiosity and upon returning to Paris I picked up a copy of Robitosen's seminal work The Ethics of Accident and Bad Luck.

I found it almost completely unintelligible.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Don't Encourage Him!

I'm not at all sure why but there is a lingering fascination with all things Schoffman. From his sordid and sloppy personal life to his mercurial, temperamental and I dare say, simple-minded intellect, the inner workings of this most ordinary man remain vividly alive to a small sect of avid enthusiasts.

Case in point, the following: