Sunday, October 31, 2010


PAPA DUKE was commissioned to paint this portrait of iconic French singer/actor Johnny Hallyday.

Saturday, October 30, 2010



"What do you like, boy, champag-na?"

"This is what the Chiliman says to me every morning outsie his Condamine Cafe, to which I had defected from the Dauphin Verte and Lyin' Leon.

"Hey Chiliman, I say, "just cook me one of your caps of cino and don't be sassy!"

The Chiliman calls everyone boy. I took him to Le Texan once and he wrankled Richie by ordering, "Gimme anudder Mezcal, boy!" Then he took one bite of chicken nachos and pushed the plate away.

"Something wrong?" asked Richie.

"No, boy, 'cept did testes lak sheet."

Then the Chiliman got down to some serious Mezcal drinking, the kind with a worm floating in the bottle, nearly blew his doughnuts on the Alamo Bar and had to be rolled down to his tiny houseboat at the port.

Friday, October 29, 2010


PAPA DUKE was a huge admirer of Pablo Picasso.

He painted this portrait in homage to one of the best known figures in 20th century art.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


In June 2002, Papa Duke's portraits of Padre Pio were exhibited, to great acclaim, at a gallery in Monaco.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


From Monaco Cool:

Isaac strolled the Alamo Bar, king of kool, engaging in small talk and saying, "I'm blessed" to do this and "I'm blessed" to do that. Blessed by Ali Baba or Bibi or something.

Then he dragged Miss Katie to the doorway separating the outdoor terrace from the Alamo Bar. He told her the terrace lighting, the kind that makes bad skin look like a rosy complexion, was all wrong.

"Look inside," he ordered. "Now out. Now in. Now out." Christ, he was trying to twist her head 360 degrees like that horrible scene in The Exorcist!

"Look in, Now out. In. Out." Isaac persisted. "See what I mean? It's all wrong!"

"It looks okay to me," said Kate, with a shrug.

"It's my opinion that it's all wrong," said Isaac.

"Well, everyone has their own opinion," said Kate sweetly.

"It's my opinion that counts." God hath spoken... or was it satan?

Because deep within that super-cool exterior, I sense a Jack Nicholson Devils of Eastwick soul. Something about his eyes.... something about all his friends... they were acting as though they'd come not for a wedding, but for a sacrifice. First, they nail the poor cactus. Next thing, they'll be slaughtering a poodle on the bar.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Leo Ferre was a poet, composer and singer born in Monaco.

Ferre moved to Paris in his late teens and never mentioned Monaco when asked where he was from, a fact that always bothered Princess Grace (according to her son, Prince Albert).

Nonetheless, Monte Carlo commemorated Ferre with a tiny Place Leo Ferre, at which stands a sculpted bust of the poet.

Papa Duke, taken by Ferre's melancholy ballads, painted this portrait in 2005.

Oil-on-board, 28 x 28.

Monday, October 25, 2010


PAPA DUKE painted this caricature of the mad German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche for Bedlam's Wall of Lunacy.

Oil-on-board, 9 x 7.5

From Surreal Bounce:

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche in Ten Sentences

1. Nietzsche adored his father, who died when Friedrich was only five, compelling him to later write, “Black clouds billowed up, the lightning flashed and damaging thunderbolts fell from the heavens.”

2. Maybe, for Nietzsche, that is when God died; or maybe it was six months later when he looked out his bedroom window to see a white spirit rise from his father’s grave and enter the nearby church, organ music playing, then returning to the grave with something beneath its arm; for when Nietzsche awakened from this dream, his brother, Little Joseph, not quite two years old, suffered a stroke and died.

3. It was in Leipzig in 1866, while at university, that Nietzsche contracted syphilis after visiting a brothel.

4. Perhaps Nietzsche felt stronger for it, but anxiety, migraine headaches, nausea and poor eyesight compelled poor Fritz, at age thirty-five, to relinquish his chair as a classics professor at the University of Basle and seek a quieter, calmer place for the full-time writing of experimental philosophy.

5. Thus Nietzsche found Sils Maria, where walking, and the electromagnetic power of the Engadine valley, gave him solace and inspiration, supplemented by hashish oil, which contributed to his very deep thinking.

6. On June 3rd, 1889, while standing on the Piazza Carlo Alberto in Turin, Nietzsche suffered a nervous breakdown when he saw a man beating a horse; sobbing, he rushed to embrace and comfort the horse, placing both arms around the nag’s neck.

7. Nietzsche was led back to his room nearby, and when he awakened from a nap, Fritz believed he had succeeded God (who he’d already declared dead) as ruler of all mankind–-suggesting also that he could control the weather.

8. Nietzsche’s doctor, a close friend, was summoned and, upon arrival, arranged for Fritz to be smuggled out of Italy–-to Basle, Switzerland–-for fear the Italians would forcibly confine him.

9. Throughout the journey by train, Nietzsche sang, danced, shouted and asked that women be brought to him; Swiss doctors soon declared him insane.

10. The mediocrity of man, along with syphilis microbes mulching his brain, and hashish oil and chloral hydrate (which Nietzsche took for sleep), had driven the philosopher mad; and, faithless, since God for him had long since died, Nietzsche spent the last ten years of his life casually strolling a lunatic asylum, before transcending from the chaos of his life into a dancing star.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


From Monaco Cool:

Shorty arrived in Monaco three years before with a pretty wife and a couple step-daughters, and was immediately smitten by the testosterone tick Pickleman yelps about. Mrs. Shorty saw this and decreed the principality unfit for family stability. She packed their bags.

"But Albert needs me!" cried Shorty, who had assigned himself the role of royal fishmonger.

It had nothing to do with mid-life crisis. One day he's living in Arizona, just another short person, consultant, in PR, doesn't matter, all three. Suddenly, he's sidekick to a real prince, rubs shoulders with tennis pros, film celebrities and pop stars, and he's surrounded by beautiful models, many of whom think he's a path to the prince. You think he's going back to Arizona?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010


PAPA DUKE painted this portrait of Russia's Mad Monk for Bedlam's Wall of Lunacy.

Oil-on-board, 12 x 8


One century ago, a Russian peasant named Grigori Rasputin grew his hair long, never washed himself, and claimed to have special powers.

Rasputin belonged to a religious cult called the Khlysty Priesthood. This was where he picked up his special powers, including how to heal people who were unwell, and how to control people's minds.

Rasputin got to be especially good at controlling the minds of women. This special power was reinforced by his rod, which was said to measure thirteen inches.

Alexandra, the wife of Czar Nicholas II, who ruled Russia, heard of Rasputin's special powers. Alexandra's son, Alexei, had a health problem called hemophilia.

Hemophilia is a condition that causes people to bleed for a long time if they are cut or bruised. Rasputin was introduced to Alexandra, and he seemed to have a helpful effect on little Alexei.

Alexandra listened to Rasputin's predictions for the future, and she tried to get her husband, the Czar, to listen, too.

Some of the aristocrats in the Czar's royal court were unhappy about Rasputin's clout with the Czarina. They especially did not like that a dirty peasant with mad eyes and a thirteen-inch rod could use their court to control the minds of women, and sleep with them. They nicknamed Rasputin “Mad Monk”--and they conspired to kill him.

The leader of this conspiracy was Feliks Yusupov, a young do-nothing prince who could not seduce women (aside from his wife) and did not have a thirteen-inch rod.

Prince Feliks invited Rasputin to midnight tea at his home in St. Petersburg. Despite his blue blood, Prince Feliks was not a gracious host. He poisoned the Mad Monk's tea and cakes.

Rasputin ate and drank enough poisonous potassium cyanide to kill many men. But instead of falling over dead, he asked for more.

Prince Feliks was so alarmed by this result, he pulled a pistol from his pocket and shot several bullets into the Mad Monk.

But the bullets did not kill Rasputin.

Enraged by his host's poor manners, the Mad Monk chased Prince Feliks. Prince Feliks's friends--the other conspirators--followed them into the courtyard outside, and beat Rasputin with iron chains. When he fell to the ground, they stabbed him with knives.

Still, Rasputin would not die.

So they dragged the Mad Monk to the Neva River, which was frozen. The conspirators cut a large hole in the ice. As they prepared to dump Rasputin into the water, Prince Feliks used his knife to cut off the Mad Monk's merrymaker. Maybe Feliks wanted a souvenir of the occasion. Or maybe he wanted a thirteen-inch rod.

Rasputin was still alive when they lowered him, castrated, tied in chains, into the river. Legend says that Rasputin managed to untie the chains, and that he remained alive for six hours submerged in freezing cold water.

Rasputin finally died from drowning.

After his death, Rasputin's predictions began to come true: The peasants of Russia revolted and imposed communism, a daffy social and political system that never worked. And the Royal Family was overthrown and murdered, including little Alexei, who bled to death.

As for Prince Feliks, he finally seduced a woman. Having been promised a thirteen inch rod, this prostitute relieved Feliks of his Rasputin memento--which he carried everywhere--while he was sleeping.

In the 1920s, after the Russian Revolution, Rasputin's rod popped up in Paris, where the prostitute had settled. She created a cult, made up of other Russian prostitutes in Paris, and they worshipped Rasputin's rod.

When Rasputin's daughter, Marie, heard about the existence of her father's rod in the hands of a cult of prostitutes, she demanded that it be returned to her.

A rod, in a black velvet pouch, was presented to Marie.

Marie became an animal trainer and joined a circus in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Later, Marie moved to California and co-wrote a book called
My Father Rasputin with a writer. When Marie died in 1977, she willed the writer her various Rasputin mementos.

The writer died a few years after Marie. Her Rasputin mementos were sold as a storage lot at an auction in California. The man who purchased this lot sent the Rasputin mementos to Bonham's, an auction house in London, England. He believed that he had discovered Rasputin's rod and he wanted to make lots of money selling the rod.

However, a lab test showed that the item believed to be Rasputin's rod was really a dehydrated sea cucumber.

So what happened?

The cult of Russian prostitutes in Paris had pulled the old switcheroo, that's what. When Rasputin's daughter Marie demanded the return of her papa’s petrified pecker, the cult fabricated one from a sea cucumber, and Marie was rused.

The cult of prostitutes continued to worship Rasputin's rod. As they grew older, the Russian women moved one-by-one to the French Riviera. The last cultist in Paris, Irina Pekovich, gave Rasputin's rod to her poodle, Pussy, when the cupboard was bare.

Pussy promptly buried the "bone," as dogs will.

Irina drove herself crazy looking for the rod. She ended up as a patient inside the Bicestre insane asylum outside Paris. She told everyone who would listen that she was Rasputin's mistress. Irina was known to wander the corridors late at night mumbling, "Pussy took the rod, Pussy took the rod."

Irina had a room mate named Michelle at the asylum.

After Michelle was released from the asylum, she searched for Rasputin's rod in the neighborhood where Irina once lived. Using a map made from Irina's wild ramblings, Michelle spent four days and three nights digging up a park square where Pussy the poodle once peed. She finally found the rod, buried beneath a rubber tree.

Michelle traveled with Rasputin's rod to Monaco, a wealthy principality on the French Riviera. She hoped to sell the rod to Russian billionaires who lived there.

But no one believed Michelle's story, including Wurz, the world's most exclusive pawn shop, next to Monte Carlo's grand casino. This was because Michelle was a former mental patient. Her tale about Pussy taking the rod sounded nuts, not to mention obscene.

Tired and hungry, Michelle left Wurz and walked twenty yards to Cafe de Paris. She ordered foie gras, escargots, sauteed gonads, and a nice Bordeaux. But Michelle could not pay the tab when it arrived after her creme brulee and espresso. She had no money. All she had was Rasputin's rod. The waiter was not amused. He called the manager, who was even less amused, especially when Michelle offered a dried dick for her meal.

This commotion occured at a table next to where I was sitting with friends. I offered to settle Irina's bill in exchange for the Mad Monk's master of ceremonies.

And that is how Rasputin's rod came to rest alongside Vincent van Gogh's ear at the Bedlam Bar in London.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


From Monaco Cool:

Steven Googer. Half Hungarian, part American, all nutcase--with a cheshire cat grin, frizzy red hair receding two-thirds back and Son of Sam eyes.

"It's all a matter of percentages," says Googer, expounding on women. "I hit on twenty a day. Three respond."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


PAPA DUKE painted this large portrait on commission.

It hangs prominently in Quai des Artistes in Monaco.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


In June 2003, two of Papa Duke's sons opened Bedlam Bar, "a celebration of creativity and madness," on Heath Street in Hampstead Village, north London.

Papa Duke graciously painted several portraits for Bedlam's Wall of Lunacy.

Of course, Salvador Dali qualified.

Monday, October 18, 2010


From Monaco Cool:

Pickleman was at the Alamo Bar, sipping red wine, unusually talkative. He shook his head, glanced this way and that, and spoke.

"Monaco," he said. "It's programmed to get people into trouble."

"Come again?"

"There's a web of temptation in this town. And just about everyone gets caught."

"What kind of web?"

"Take marriages. I've been here ten years, and I've seen every kind of marriage break up before my eyes. The women are always searching for a richer man. Yeah, there's a lot of unhappiness here. A lot of unhappiness in money. The nouveau-riche are the absolute worst. They don't have any discipline. Old wealth grew up with responsibility. They can handle the burden. The nouveau-riche break under the pressure, and that's what this town is full of."

"Broken nouveau-riches?"

"No, broken marriages," said Pickleman. "They find that money doesn't buy happiness. If I woke up a millionaire, this is the last place I'd live. And Bob Bicker agrees."

"But Bicker is a millionaire and he lives here."

"Sure, that's part of his PR show," said Pickleman. "He has to live here. But he agrees. If you've got a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, and a thirty-foot yacht, someone's got two Lamborghinis, two Ferraris, and a forty-foot yacht. You look like small fry here no matter how much you have. Everyone's always trying to out-do each other."

"But you just said it can't be done."

"Yes, but they don't know it, these stupid nouveau-riches. They try anyway."

Sunday, October 17, 2010


When Papa Duke painted self-portraits, he dealt with himself no less harshly than his subjects.

This oil-on-board was painted circa 2005.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


This astonishing life-size portrait of Padre Pio (now Saint Pio) hangs in St. Nicholas Cathedral on The Rock in Monaco Ville.

Oil-on-canvas, circa 2000.

Friday, October 15, 2010


From Monaco Cool:

"Crazy George. Commodity trader by day, party animal at night, and after two hours' sleep professor of statistics at Monaco's new university in Funnyville. He is not a millionaire, but has been able to wangle membership in The Club anyway, as part of the 15 percent not unemployed. And those 15 percent are the happiest people in Monaco--the Monaco Coolest."

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Yorkshiremen are known as "Geordies."

Papa Duke identified the quintessential "Geordie"--a man who used to hang out on Vale Royal, north London, where the artist kept his studio.

"Geordie" posed, Papa Duke sculpted, and the result is this bronze.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


From Monaco Cool:

"The recluse that he is, even Barry Schwartz found Le Texan. He's a world-renowned investment guru and mega-millionaire who rarely ventures from his Monte Carlo sanctuary. Hollywood would cast Barry the Lamster as a flasher in his old overcoat and leering smile, and Tony (the bartender), knowing no better, sat him at Jaw's old table near the door.. That's where I found him, peering at me through the picture window, stabbing at enchiladas.

"Barry is tough on new people, presuming they are part of the Big Brother-Trilateral Commision-IRS conspiracy until proven innocent.

"Socializing is harder work for Barry than analyzing stock market trends, and his quota for the month was over after an hour at Le Texan. He dumped his drink, flashed a leer and disappeared down a Condamine backstreet to elude surveillance, pockets bulging with gold Kruggerands and six different passports."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


In the early 1980s, Papa Duke produced a series of six-foot-tall flamingos. Several, in a fit of kitsch, he painted pink. Others he left naturally bronze.

The flamingo pictured here has crossed the Atlantic a number of times, and has resided, over the past quarter century, in London, Monaco, Washington DC and Santa Barbara.

This sculpture, in hollow bronze, is adored and coveted by all who have laid eyes upon it.

Monday, October 11, 2010


From Monaco Cool:

"When Randy Newman wrote Small people, he was thinking about Bob Bicker. Walking with Bicker toward Le Texan one night, this smug little guy sneezed and inadvertently blew a fart so enormous, it propelled him six feet forward.

"Bicker likes expensive ornaments He sports a top-of-the-line gold and diamond-studded Rolex, carries a crocodile attache case and chain-smokes with a gold Dunhill lighter. Throw in the bouffant hair-do, cigarette holder and effeminate gestures, and you've got the know-it-all caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland."

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Papa Duke painted this portrait of his middle son for the jacket of his son's novel, Parallel Truths.

Oil-on-board, 10 x 8, 2000.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


For a period of about ten years, commencing 1979, Papa Duke went through a sculpturing phase.

He produced a number of works, several of which remain on permanent display at select London clubs.

This bust of George Bernard Shaw, sculpted in 1980, is cast in hollowed bronze.

Friday, October 8, 2010


From Monaco Cool:

"Miss Katie is Le Texan. A golden-haired, blue-eyed cactus flower in beat-up denim and cowboy boots, radiating raw spirit, Miss Katie runs the joint--and the quirrky character cabaret--with a finesse unseen since Amanda Blake and her Long Branch saloon graced our TV screens in Gunsmoke.

"Jaws and Jake are in love with Miss Katie, along with a dozen other Alamo Bar fixtures. And charismatic Kate knows how to treat each one like Marshal Matt Dillon."

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Another Le Texan character sketched by Papa Duke.

From Monaco Cool:

"This is a big, bullnecked longshoreman-type, the Brutus of Popeye cartoons, who everyone calls Jaws because his only teeth are sharp canines, used for gnawing nachos. Jaws sits at the bar and gulps pastis, a strong cheap licorice-flavored liquor, and smacks his tongue against the roof of his mouth, sounding like a squirrel in heat. He sometimes follows pretty waitresses into the communal washroom for an attempted grope, then washes his face and returns to his barstool, water dripping from his moist, grotesque mug.

"On this night, Jaws brought in a nudie magazine and, sans reservation, plopped himself at a table adjacent the door and positioned his dirty book so that anyone coming or going would catch its bawdy cover full in the face."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Papa Duke drew a number of character sketches for Monaco Cool.

The first features Lyin' Leon.

From Monaco Cool:

"Lyin' Leon is the high priest of the Dauphin Verte's currency wizards. He boasts of running fifty-two companies that supposedly span the globe. And if it's true, Dauphin must be world headquarters, because that's where Leon holds court six times a day, walking a beat between the bustling cafe and his Shangri-la apartment around the corner. And if he sees you--bang!--you're nailed for another thirty-minute discourse on the status of his worldly assets.

"It's easy to tell when Lyin' Leon is telling a whopper. His eyes bulge out of their sockets as he says, 'I have three Porsches back home,' and he swings his head a full ninety degrees to the right, twisting his neck, as if to say, Here I go again..."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


An admirer of Francis Bacon, Papa Duke's portraits were rarely complimentary to their subjects.

Papa Duke worked long and hard on this portrait of Vincent van Gogh, changing it several times over several years, until it finally reflected the haunted nature of Van Gogh's soul.

Oil-on-board, 15.5 x 11.5, 1990s.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I discovered the poem If by Rudyard Kipling because my father, Papa Duke, hung a framed parchment of it in our home.

After my father died, I found a version of If in his studio. He had written it out by hand, probably at a young age, as if he intended to commit it to memory.

This is a poem worth remembering.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


This Papa Duke sketch graced the back cover of Monaco Cool.

It depicts Tony the bartender and Papa Duke's middle son at Le Texan's Alamo Bar.

Monaco Cool: "There is no pretension at Le Texan, on a Condamine backstreet in the earthy port quarter. You step inside, greeted by the piquant aroma of ham hock stewing in a crock of beans, and this Tex-Mex saloon is immediately as comfortable as your favorite pair of denim jeans. For a couple of bucks you can linger over a bottle of Heineken, corn chips and salsa at the long Alamo Bar and watch the diverse cliques of Monaco mix it up: young international professionals here to transform the principality from an upper-crust retirement community into the financial center of Europe; the Monegasque establishment; royalty; the neighborhood eccentrics, spies and celebrities. You see them all."

Pen & ink, 12 x 8, 1992.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Papa Duke lived and painted in the Principality of Monaco for many years.

He did this painting--Le Texan Beneath Le Rocher at Sunset--for the cover of Monaco Cool, a book written by his middle son about living a year in the world's swankiest neighborhood.

Papa Duke was credited under the name Tito Vars, a nom de plume he used during his early years as a fine artist.

Oil-on-board, 28 x 18, 1992.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Papa Duke was a trained animator, and had done work for Disney.

One day, Papa Duke's middle son was in his studio looking through a batch of oil-on-boards. He found an abstract painting, which was unusual for Papa Duke, and said, "Why don't you paint Mickey Mouse over this?"

Papa Duke did, and the result, combining an iconic cartoon character with abstractionism, is nothing short of amazing.

Oil-on-board, 11.5 x 11.5, 1998.


Oil-on-board, 9.5 x 7.5, 1998.