By Bob Hibbard aka Waldo
I don’t use the term “bucket list”, but I do have a few things that I want to do before Checking Out. Among them is to visit every state in America. Neither Becky nor I had been to any of the New England states, so in August of 2008, we set out to do that. We flew to Baltimore, because I have a brother who lives in Maryland, and we spent a couple of days with him.
Before heading to New England, we hopped a charter bus to NYC and saw the Broadway musical Young Frankenstein, which was wonderful! We had third row center orchestra seats, and were only 15-20 feet from the actors. We are both actors, and I have to say that was the best theatrical experience I’ve had in 43 years of theatre!
The tour bus took us back to Baltimore late that night, and the next morning (a Thursday) we headed north in our rental car.
The first stop was in Chadd’s Ford, PA, to visit the Brandywine River Museum. I had been there once before over 40 years previously, and knew that there were some wonderful artists represented there. We enjoyed seeing works by Burroughs artist N.C. Wyeth, as well as Andrew Wyeth, Howard Pyle, and many others.
From Chadd’s Ford we drove north to Allentown, PA, where we spent Thursday night. I didn’t want to get to Stroudsburg, PA, where the Frazetta Museum was before the weekend, because it was only open on Saturday and Sunday.
We book-crawled our way through eastern Pennsylvania (Becky mailed a couple of boxes of books back home to Texas), and arrived in Stroudsburg mid-afternoon on Friday. Our plan was to get a motel room and wander about town that evening, and then go out to the museum the next morning (Saturday).
Almost immediately after entering town, though, we spied a large building with a “Frazetta’s Fantasy Corner” sign! It was a huge costume shop. We of course went in. (The shop was actually on the upper floors). I approached the owner and asked if he was a Frazetta, and he said yes, he was Bill Frazetta. I asked if he was Frank’s son and he said: “One of them.” I told him that I was a huge fan of his Dad’s and that we had come to Stroudsburg to visit the museum. I asked if there was a chance that Frank would be at the museum on Saturday, and Bill said very possibly so. I had heard that Frank seldom went over to the museum on the weekends when it was open, and I really didn’t anticipate seeing him ... the artwork was my main reason for going.
Bill (who was quite friendly) told us that he was having a clearance sale at his shop that weekend and if we would come back tomorrow before heading out to the museum, we might find some good deals. I told him that we would return the next day, and we walked outside.
I then saw that at the other end of the building was a golf pro shop that was operated by Bill’s older brother Alphonso (AKA Frank, Jr.). We entered the golf shop; Frank, Jr. was out, but we spoke with his son, a nice young red-headed man of about 15-16 years of age.
We left and went to our motel. That evening, looking for a likely place to eat, we stopped in at Tony’s, an authentic Italian pizza restaurant. Evidently the “locals” eat there. Our waitress, a young woman about 16 or so, surprised us when she said: “You were in the golf shop today.” She recognized my green Irish “Me Lucky Shirt” tee shirt that I was still wearing. It turns out that she was the granddaughter of Tony (the Italian-looking gentleman for whom the restaurant was named and whose picture was by the front door). She was also the girlfriend of Frank’s grandson whom we had met earlier—that was why she had been in the golf shop. She also alluded (unrequested by us) to bad blood between the two brothers.
The pizza was delicious, and we went back to our motel for an uneventful night.
The next morning, we headed back to Bill Frazetta’s Costume Shop, where I did purchase a nasty-looking pirate hook in his clearance sale. Bill gave me directions to Frank’s museum, WHICH WERE NECESSARY. It was several miles out of town, and it was not easy to find the turnoff into the property. There was only a small stone pillar. Without Bill’s explicit directions, we would’ve had a difficult time finding it.
After making the turn, we drove 1/2 mile back through the woods, and then along the edge of the woods with open pasture land on our right. We knew we were getting close when we spotted two giant gila-monster-type lizards on each side of the drive way; one perched on a boulder and the other standing up on hind legs leaning against a tree.
At the end of the drive, we saw a house off to the left where I presumed that the Frazettas lived, and the museum straight ahead. [photo #9] There were a number of cars in the parking lot, and tables and chairs were being set up on the museum lawn.
We found out that we had arrived on the very day that the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) was going to honor Frank with an award—the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award!
I was at first afraid that we wouldn’t be allowed to visit the museum because of the NCS event, but we were welcomed anyway.
How can mere words describe the feeling of seeing, one after another, side by side, ALL of the magical Frazetta paintings that I had enjoyed seeing on book covers, magazines, posters, art prints, ever since I was a teenager! And what a difference to see them in all of their vibrant colors and detail, not washed out, not muddy. Crisp, clear, eye-popping!
I immediately fugued into sensory overload, wandering about, I’m sure with a dazed, daft look on my face. I might have had a little drool running down my chin.
Becky walked up to me and eventually got my attention (I think she might’ve had to slap me). She said: “Isn’t that the guy that drew these?”, as she pointed to a man sitting on a bench. It was the Maestro himself! Frank Frazetta, idly chatting with a couple of visitors. I wiped the spittle off my chin and approached him. I introduced myself and shook his hand, babbling about being a decades-long fan, stuff that he heard from everyone I’m sure. He was quite affable. Others were waiting to say hello, so I continued my tour of the museum. I suspect that Frank wouldn’t have been there had it not been for the impending NCS event.
To my surprise, we saw Frank’s red-headed grandson from the golf shop. I wish I remembered his name, but I don’t. I asked him if it might be possible to have my picture made with Frank and he told me that photos were not allowed to be taken by visitors, but that he would be glad to take a couple using my camera. Well, I jumped at the chance! He walked back with us to where Frank was still sitting on the bench and OK’d it with Frank for the photos to be taken. I plopped down on the bench next to him, and had two pictures taken — one sitting next to him, and one shaking his hand. One might think that a great Frazetta fan such as myself would plan ahead and wear clothing more appropriate to being around the works of the Grand Master...nope... I was wearing my Bass Pro Shops tee shirt! Even though Frank had had a stroke, his right-handed grip was quite firm. I thanked him and continued once more to ogle the artwork.
Since the grandson had been so amenable to taking my picture, I asked him if he would consider shooting me again in front of some of my favorite paintings. He agreed, and I had one made standing beside a Barsoom painting, and another among some Conan the Barbarian paintings.
In the gift shop, I bought a Frazetta King Kong tee shirt, which I wear only at special occasions (like a Dum-dum).
Since the award time was approaching, we departed, happy happy! We headed north toward Uncharted Territory, ie, New England. And that would be Another Story ... one item will be of interest: Becky is a big Stephen King fan, and just as I wanted to visit the Frazetta Museum, she wanted to see the King residence in Bangor, Maine.
1. Famous Funnies plus Rock Album Covers and Eclectica
2. Creepy plus Eclectica & Photos Section
3. Eerie ~ Vampirella ~ Blazing Combat plus Eclectica & Photos
4. Movie Posters - 25 images
5. Frazetta Femme Sketches
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