PinkDeb and A Class-of-The-80′s Coincidence

by Tom Shillue on September 5, 2012

I was hired to MC the ISES Big Apple Awards, a gala event to honor event professionals.

“This is going to be a good gig,” I thought to myself as I walked into the Times Center. There were flutes of champagne and nice hors d’oeuvres so we were off to a good start. As I entered, I walked under a tunnel of colorful stretched fabric arches. “Very cool,” I thought. It reminded me of something. “Those pink girls…”

For a moment my mind flashed back to high school. I was sitting on the floor of a loft in Fort Point Channel in Boston. It was my senior year and I had been spending most of my time in the high school art room avoiding issues of college and planning my future. Norwood High School had a great art program and an inspiring teacher named Jackie Munroe who provided a refuge for a lot of weird, funky, directionless high school kids. Her class was far from a hang-out though. She worked our tails off in a college level studio art environment. One of the things she did that year was invite an “Artist-in-Residence” to Norwood to expose us to a professional artist. He was a fine art painter who always smelled like turpentine and dished out cynical advice to us impressionable students. We liked him. Every so often he would pile a small group of us into his Saab wagon and take us to his workspace in Boston. One day he announced he had a special trip planned. “This ones for you, Tom.” he said. What did he mean, for me? “You’ll see.”

The Artist had taken an interest in me because I was always using my time in the art room to put on little shows. I liked to explain what my work meant even more than I liked creating it. Every critique session was an opportunity for me to get some laughs and perform a running monologue about life. The artist thought I was a closet performer, and wondered whether I had aspirations in that field. I hadn’t really thought about it. There was no theater program at Norwood High, and the only opportunity for creative expression seemed to be Mrs. Munroe’s art room, so that’s where I went.

He drove us into Fort Point Channel in Boston. Very warehousy. Cobblestones. Artist lofts. We took a freight elevator up to a loft space that was crowded with fabric and 3-D sculptures. We sat on the floor and the show began. Lights, music, and two young women “puppeteers” brought these fabric sculptures to life. They sprung up from the floor and danced to the music. They looked like animals, or industrial machines, or insects. The show was avant garde and weird and absolutely thrilling. It was art and performance together. It opened up a world of possibilities in my mind. “You could do this,” I thought. You could combine different media to tell your own story. There weren’t these separate rigid disciplines of visual art, music, theater- you could mix and match them and do your own thing. Forge your own path.

That’s why The Artist had said “This trip is for you.” He’d watched me holding court in the art room and saw that I got more of a charge out of my little in-class performances than out of toiling away in the corner, where most of the art students were most comfortable. He saw something in me and wanted to expose me to something inspiring. How cool is that? These are the little moments that shape our future. Where is The Artist now? I want to track him down and tell him.

This little flashback of mine lasted only as long as it took to walk the length of the fabric archway on the way to the auditorium in The Times Center. Now I had a show to do. I had to MC and perform stand-up in front of hundreds of event professionals. These are the kind of people who hire me. Better step it up. Focus.

The show went well. Unlike a lot of corporate shows, these guys actually laughed. They enjoyed themselves. I even stuck around after the show to do a little networking and have some champagne. I briefly met the new president of ISES NYC, and posed for some photographs, shook some hands. Good gig.

I hopped in a cab and on the way home I checked my twitter and Facebook feed. “@tomshillue great job hosting tonights event!” Well, all right. Who paid me the compliment? The new president. Her twitter handle? @pinkDeb. pinkDeb? Wait a minute. Weird hunch. This couldn’t be. I open her profile. Website: Pink Inc! That was the name of those girls in the loft. I check the website- click, click. About Us: Yep, that was them. PinkInc was the duo that we saw in the loft in Boston in 1984. What a coincidence. I thought about the squiggly artistic paths of me and pinkDeb from 1984 to the present and how they finally crossed again under those fabric arches. I did a quick check and confirmed another hunch- PinkDeb had designed the arches.

I love the instant gratification of new media! You think tools like twitter are not useful? @PinkDeb. Wow. Now, what was the name of that Artist-in-Residence?

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