Fuck Frank Gehry

The icon of postmodern architecture has a sense of humor. Who knew?

These days, of course, Duffy is busy preparing to launch Platform, an online-only local news publication that's being put together by former Post-Dispatch writers and editors. He says they're working on bankrolling the project. The name Emily Pulitzer comes to mind, but Duffy says rumors to that effect aren't true, and that she hasn't been asked.

On the topic of Web sites, the third element that made up our Ballpark Village story was www.ballparkvillage.com. Like the e-mails and the architectural drawings (both of which were posted there), it contributed an element of realism.

Being able to flaunt a domain name was something of a fluke. About seven years ago, when the owners of the St. Louis Cardinals ownership began floating the notion of a "Ballpark Village" to augment a new stadium, Randy Roberts had snapped up ballparkvillage.com for a nominal registration fee. (How better to gauge whether Bill DeWitt et al. were serious about following through on their promise to redevelop the downtown acreage?) For our story we brought the dormant site to life on the Internet, throwing in a "secret" username (ERPULITZ06) and password (SAYITAINTSO). Besides being absurd, those touches were intended to divert attention from the fact that aside from the crappy artist's renderings, we had zero tangible pizzazz to offer.

Famed architect Frank Gehry can take a joke? That's news to us.
Famed architect Frank Gehry can take a joke? That's news to us.

But we did have that URL — and still do. More precisely, Randy Roberts does. And guess what? The Cardinals want it.

Cordish Co., the Baltimore-based "urban makeover" specialist that's partnering with the team to develop the real Ballpark Village, contacted Roberts in December, inquiring whether he'd entertain offers for the domain name. Not long after that, DeWitt himself called. Now his lawyers are talking to Randy's lawyer.

Now back to another lawyer, J. David Bournazian.

Publicly owning up to our fictional creation didn't satisfy Mr. Gehry, who took time out of his busy architecting schedule to instruct J. David Bournazian to demand that Riverfront Times and our parent company make financial amends, in the form of a charitable donation.

That could be arranged, our lawyer told their lawyer. How much was Mr. Gehry thinking? Would, say, $1,000 to the United Way smooth things over?

Not quite, said J. David Bournazian.

How much, then?

The number Mr. Gehry mentioned was five million dollars, said J. David Bournazian.

At which point Village Voice Media Holding, LLC bid Gehry Partners, LLP a polite goodbye.

We haven't heard from them since.

If I learned anything about Frank Gehry from that experience, it was this:

The fucker can't take a joke.

But strike that. Evidently he can take a joke. The New Yorker's Lauren Collins says so, and Gehry agrees. Writes Collins: "It was suggested to Gehry, who once had a cameo on The Simpsons, that for a high-powered architect he had an unusual ability to take a joke. 'Yeah,' he said, 'because as I've gotten to be pretty well known there's a lot of negative stuff written, right? People potshot at you. So I sort of ignore it....'"

In fact, as Collins tells it, Gehry is buying "Fuck Frank Gehry" T-shirts by the wheelbarrowful and handing them out to his friends and minions, thus sending forth into the world a cadre of walking billboards for Barnaby Harris' T-shirt business.

Harris himself reports that he made his first Gehry shirt about three years ago, and that they were selling pretty well before their namesake got wind of them. "We never promoted it at all," the entrepreneur says by phone from New York. "We had a retail store with a big sign in front that said 'Fuck Yoga,' so that got a lot of attention. When the store got a little publicity and the 'Fuck Yoga' T-shirt started to get around a little bit, somebody had made mention that there was also a 'Fuck Frank Gehry' shirt, and people came in to get it." Post-New Yorker, sales are brisk, with orders coming in from as far away as Japan, Brazil, Poland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Harris says he has never spoken to Gehry, only heard secondhand of the architect's affinity for his creation. "He thought it was pretty funny, and also endearing," Harris says. "The other thing about it is, he's not a fool, clearly. And it beats his critics to the punch, you know — if he's wearing it before they are, then he wins."

What the hell, I just went to www. itsasickness.com and ordered two "Fuck Frank Gehry" T's: one for Randy Roberts and one for Bob Duffy. I figure J. David Bournazian already has one.

In case anyone's wondering, I take a size XL.

I like 'em roomy.

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