When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Maxime de la Falaise

May 7, 2009

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Maxime de la Falaise is dead.

You may not have absorbed the full impact of that yet. When I read on Tuesday that Maxime de la Falaise had died, I felt empty – after all, I’d never heard of her, so it didn’t have much of an emotional punch. But as I sat in the cafe, sipping my latte and reading her obituary in The Age, I was deeply saddened. Partly because the world is a less interesting place without her – partly because I will never have the chance to meet her – and mostly because I will never get to be her.

And it really is a most arresting obituary. A real-life mix of Holly Golightly and Forest Gump, Maxime de la Falaise connects a startling number of people and places that should never appear in the same sentence. To give you an idea, this is taken from a paragraph near the end: “When her second husband died in 1975, de la Falaise briefly dated John Paul Getty III, whose ear had been cut off by kidnappers in 1973.”

Let’s look at that again, shall we? She “dated John Paul Getty III, whose ear had been cut off by kidnappers in 1973“. I’m fairly certain that should I ever have a fling with a monaural heir to an oil-fortune, on my death the newspapers will say “One-Eared Millionaire’s Bit Of Crumpet Dies – Seriously, It Was Cut Off By Kidnappers“. But de la Falaise‘s life is so interesting that a mutilated billionaire barely makes it as a footnote.

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Famous Dead People

August 13, 2008

I read in the paper yesterday that Charles Blackman is having a new exhibition of previously unseen work. Blackman is probably best known for the Alice In Wonderland series he created in the 1950s, and he was also one of the creators of the Antipodean Manifesto – a reaction against the rise of abstract expressionism and non-figurative art. Not that Blackman‘s work was that literal – in 1959 critic Bernard Smith described it as “dreams that break off only half-remembered: the deep questioning of eyes in shy faces, the pleasure of simple things, like a bunch of flowers, in a world fed on the sensational and horrific.”

By all accounts Blackman hasn’t been well these last few years – since he had a heart attack in 1994 he hasn’t been able to paint, although he can still draw. The reason I bring all this up, though, is that on reading the article my first thought wasn’t “great, new work to see of Charles Blackman“. My first thought was “wow, Charles Blackman isn’t dead”.

I don’t think I’m alone in this – I think many of us assume if someone’s out of the public eye for long enough they must be dead. There’s a default in my brain that automatically marks people as “died in 1973”, regardless of how not-dead they might actually be.

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