Virginia McKendry - Art Bergmann & Gore Vidal's MessiahMonday, February 05, 2007
With Les Wiseman I followed the alternative music scene in Vancouver in the 80s and into the early 90s when it all but disappeared. In those years taking pictures of a band in my studio was a chore. The band members would arrive late, some would not show up. Others would arrive drunk or high on drugs. It was a job that I soon abandoned for boring but predictable ones.
I always went to any concert by Art Bergmann, our very own Johnny Thunders. There was always brilliance and virtuosity even if for a few minutes. But his passion (when he played his guitar) was full-time. Interesting people went to Art Bergmann concerts. A few were junkies and others lived with them. But all were gentle and always treated me with respect. I remember taking my daughter Ale to several Bergmann concerts and I even took her to recording sessions in underground studios. Ale came to appreciate what I saw in Art Bergmann's music.
In one occasion that I remember with fondness, I went to see Bergmann at the Town Pump. I was accompanied by a beautiful brunette. The next day I received several phone calls from my friends telling me they had finally caught me cheating on my wife. With glee I had to point out that the brunette was my 20 year-old daugther Ale!
One of my favourite persons at Bergmann concerts was the classy Virginia McKendry. In the late 80s, before smoking became verbotten, watching her smoke her cigarettes, which she held with gloved hands, was magic. I finally went to her house to take her pictures. At the time I was trying to master George Hurrell's glamour lighting. In many respects I didn't rise to the situation and my photographs were not as good as they could have been. I remember that at the time Virginia lived with a beautiful but very sad looking man, Mick Joy who always dressed in black and accompanied Virginia to Bergmann concerts. Virginia was a well read young woman and when I pointed out Gore Vidal's early novel, Messiah she told me, "You can take it home if you want to." I had enjoyed the novel in my youth when Vidal, and Vonnegut were both considered science fiction writers. Messiah is about an undertaker who becomes the messiah helped by the wonders of advertising.
It was published in 1954. One of the protagonists is reading all he can about Julian the Apostate as he plans to write a biography on the man who tried to bring back pagan gods to Christian Rome. In 1964 Vidal wrote a historical novel, Julian.
I have lost track of Virginia but I always remember her when I notice Messiah in one of my bookshelves. My photograph of Art (left) is the image I always have in my head in the last couple of times that I reread Messiah.