With wit, charm and style, Wayne entered our lives and gave us laughter and art. We will always remember him for his great eye for art, his tenacity and strength in fighting a cruel disease, and for his wicked sense of humor. I’d like to tell you a few short stories about him.
When I moved the gallery to this space, I overheard Wayne talking to my mother at the opening. She told him how much she admired our ability to work together, and how interesting it was to observe the way our roles had changed. Once I had worked for Wayne, but now he was working for me. With a quick laugh, Wayne replied:
“I always wanted to be a back-up singer.”
But Wayne was really the star. One day, a married couple came into the gallery. We both talked to them and toured the current show. Then I went back to the office, while Wayne showed them pieces in another room. After a while, the husband came to my desk and asked, “Frank, can I open a branch of my business here in your gallery?” “Well, I guess so,” I said. “But why would you want to do that?” The answer: “Because you have the greatest salesman in the world. We’re buying three pieces.” Wayne really was the best. He had an uncanny sense of what people liked. He could even sell something out of the trunk of his car, on the street, in front of another gallery.
He also had an eye for talent, and when he found an artist he liked, he helped them establish their career. He did that with Akio Takamori, and I know that he willed himself to stay alive to see Akio’s show once more. He did that with Gronk, who he had known since high school in East L.A. And he did that with Darren Waterston, who had come to work for Wayne when he was still a student at Otis. He bought their work, he even fed them, and he introduced them to collectors and dealers. He would say: “I want to be their mother.”
We all know that Wayne loved to shop. He liked to try on clothes, and he loved to try new “looks”. But my favorite was when he dressed in the manner of an artist’s work. For instance, Wayne dressed like a Roseline Delisle sculpture—for every day of her show. On the last day, he said: “It’s a great show, but all good things must come to an end. Besides, I don’t have any more black-and-white striped outfits.”
He loved fashion as much as he loved food… and he loved fashionable food even more. So it was especially sad that during his last year, Wayne could not eat. Still, he maintained an interest in recipe books, and would often watch cooking shows. A couple of months before his death, I went over to his house. He could not eat at that time, but he was watching some strange television cooking competition. I asked, “What’s this program?” He looked at me with shock, “Are you kidding? You’ve never seen the Iron Chef?”
Television was Wayne’s true love. He watched much more than the average person. When I told Wayne that I wanted to learn more about architecture, and was going to read some books at home, he replied, “Why? You can learn about everything from television!”
I often attend gallery openings, museum shows and other art world events. When Wayne did not go with me, or he was busy due to television programming, I would describe the events to him. If I got too far into the description of the art on the walls, he would stop me.
“I’m only interested in three things,” he would say. “What did you have to eat? Who was there? And what were they wearing?”
His legendary sarcastic comments were strangely endearing.
Years ago, when I first met Wayne, he was involved in the organization of a group exhibition. At a committee meeting, the issue of the title of the show was being discussed. Many suggestions were made, and when another title was advanced, there was an objection. “I don’t like that one,” said one of the artists. “It won’t look good on my resume.” To which Wayne quickly replied, “Why don’t we just call it the what-looks-good-on-my-resume-show?”
When he knew he was going to die, he called his friends to the hospital room for a final cocktail party. About eight of us were there, but the two with the drinks had not arrived. Wayne turned to me, on is deathbed, and said, “Where are they? I knew we should have had this catered!”
Wayne was a great list maker. He would often come into the gallery, sit down at his desk, and make a list of people to call, then letters to write. But he also made lists for himself. Last year he told me: “Ten years ago, after I got sick, I made a list. I wanted a duplex in Silverlake, a white Chevy Blazer, a trip to Paris, and I wanted Beatrice to live to 105. It all came true.”
There will never be another Wayne. He was all of those things: generous and social, witty and charming, stylish yet brave. But the best thing he did was to bring us together. He is the connection between us, and because of that, his spirit will never die.