“It is not like looking at someone at a zoo or some strange creature. We address the issue. He discusses it,” said Marion Cajori of her feature-length documentary on the artist Chuck Close, who has been paralyzed from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair since 1988 as the result of a collapsed artery in his spinal column.
“It just comes up. You see him struggling with-sometimes he gets oil paint on his hands or on his shirt, and he tries to take it off himself. And he just can’t do it; his fingers don’t work. So you see that process, and then he moves on from it. Or he has his CD player like everybody else has. You know how they have all those little minute buttons that are hard to manipulate under any circumstances. At one point, he gets really frustrated at a task that we all take for granted, but which is so arduous for him.”
Mr. Close, 57, whose trademark is cool, psychologically invasive portraits, is still able to paint as well if not better than he did before his crisis. And his story is one that arts-related television programmers want to air-particularly this spring, in view of the current retrospective of the artist’s work at the Museum of Modern Art.
After a mini bidding war, WNET has bought a one-hour cut from the documentary that it plans to air at 10 P.M. on April 30 under the title Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress . “What it came down to was money,” said Jan Gura, director of special projects at WNET. The money was generated through sizable grants from a dozen or so individuals and foundations who were contacted independently by the station. The program will most likely be aired nationally at the same time.
Karl Katz, the president of Muse Film and Television, the distributor of the film, had approached two channels about the documentary: WNET and the New York arts channel Ovation. There was a considerable amount of interest. Negotiations went on quietly for several months until WNET’s offer won out.
In the one-hour cut, Mr. Close discusses his own work and his own condition, giving it the memoir touch that’s in demand. Said Ms. Gura, “It tells his story from his point of view.”
The soundtrack, composed by Philip Glass, one of Mr. Close’s friends, also includes music by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Nina Simone, Mr. Close’s personal favorites.
ABC Airs Tale Of Alleged Art Thieves
How will ABC fare after getting in bed with a pair of cocky self-proclaimed art thieves?
That question will be answered March 7 at 10 P.M. when ABC correspondent Forrest Sawyer goes deep into the world of art thievery in Master Thief: Art of the Heist . Produced by Oren Jacoby for ABC News Saturday Night , the one-hour documentary-style news program investigates the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
But the entire treatment of the Gardner Museum case is from the perspective of the alleged robbers, Myles Connor and William Youngworth, because the F.B.I. and the U.S. Attorney in Boston refused to be interviewed for the program.
Messrs. Connor and Youngworth entered the national spotlight last summer when they offered to return the stolen artworks, worth an estimated $300 million, which include a Vermeer and several Rembrandts. In exchange, they asked for Mr. Connor’s release from prison, immunity from prosecution for the crime and the $5 million reward offered by the museum. Talks between lawyers representing both men and the U.S. Attorney broke down in January.
W. Thomas Cassano, an F.B.I. supervisor in Boston, told The Observer that neither the F.B.I. nor the U.S. Attorney would speak to ABC. That being the case, Mr. Jacoby said, the program would “focus on art crimes in general, including the Gardner heist.”
Working with convicted felons was not always easy for Mr. Jacoby. Mr. Connor, a former lead guitar player for Myles and the Wild Ones, a Boston-area garage band, is currently serving a 10-year sentence in a Federal prison in Pennsylvania. But he is represented by Al Dotoli, a personal manager who has worked with Frank Sinatra and Sha-Na-Na. In an interview with The Observer , Mr. Dotoli said that he soon learned that there is “no money to be made” from ABC for interviews like the one conducted with Messrs. Connor and Youngworth.
“It’s news,” he explained, “they don’t pay for news.” That didn’t stop Mr. Youngworth from holding out until two weeks before programming was scheduled before he would give in to an unpaid interview.
“He certainly asked us for all sorts of money,” said Mr. Jacoby, “but we didn’t pay him.”