Best Of 2002

For decades, Don Bellon, head demo man for Bellon Wrecking and Salvage, had a desktop statue of a man swinging a sledgehammer, called "The Wrecker." His wife had given him the statue when he started his business back in '73. The statue was made of metal toothpicks, nuts and bolts. "I always had it in the back of my mind: 'I'm going to have that made big one day,'" Bellon recalls. Bellon's mechanic, Bud Knobeloch, started about a year ago to create a twenty-foot-high replica of the statue. "He started welding beams out of the yard, truck rims, whatever we had lying around," says Bellon. At first, Bellon put the statue right in front of this office, next to the sidewalk, near the corner of Chouteau and Vandeventer, but then he decided to set it on a wedge-shaped patch of grass he owns across the street. A metal plaque marks it as "Demo Man." Although Demo Man was not affiliated with the People Project, Bellon admits that the public-art display encouraged him to magnify his small statue. "I honestly can't go anywhere without someone saying, 'You're that guy with the Demo Man down on Vandeventer.'" says Bellon. Demo Man is visible to anyone exiting Highway 40 at Vandeventer. Even though it's a structure of sorts, because Bellon put it on his own land, City Hall didn't mess with him. "My attorney says you don't need a permit for art," says Bellon. All you need is some scrap metal, a welder, an idea -- and a successful business with a bit of land.

Previous Winners

For those of you who're new to the Lou and need to catch up on the Arch City vibe right quick, the most effective place for the bookworm to turn is this 1,200-page collection of essays and previously published works from a megawatt roster of authors and artists. It reads like the Delmar Loop's Walk of Fame: Miles Davis, Dick Gregory, Maya Angelou, William S. Burroughs, Tennessee Williams, T.S. Eliot -- they're all here, delivering prose that reveals the cultural idiosyncrasies and sociological chasms of our town better than any snoozy history book could. Although there is considerable dissension in the pages of Voices -- much of it fomented by (surprise!) Williams -- Angelou's scribblings give the reader a lucid sense of place and coolness sufficient to overcome St. Louisans' much-ballyhooed inferiority complex. We're doin' all right, folks. Don't take it from us, though. Take it from this big fat book.

For those of you who're new to the Lou and need to catch up on the Arch City vibe right quick, the most effective place for the bookworm to turn is this 1,200-page collection of essays and previously published works from a megawatt roster of authors and artists. It reads like the Delmar Loop's Walk of Fame: Miles Davis, Dick Gregory, Maya Angelou, William S. Burroughs, Tennessee Williams, T.S. Eliot -- they're all here, delivering prose that reveals the cultural idiosyncrasies and sociological chasms of our town better than any snoozy history book could. Although there is considerable dissension in the pages of Voices -- much of it fomented by (surprise!) Williams -- Angelou's scribblings give the reader a lucid sense of place and coolness sufficient to overcome St. Louisans' much-ballyhooed inferiority complex. We're doin' all right, folks. Don't take it from us, though. Take it from this big fat book.

"Pornography" is a funny word. It literally means "one-handed writing," which implies that your other hand is doing ... well, you know. Before photography and Internet porn, it took the degenerate French novelists and their nondescriptly packaged tomes to give hardworking Americans manual release. Genet, Bataille, Nin and Huysmans, they wrote beautiful prose celebrating sexuality, debauchery, perversion and all manner of titillation that is either smutty or sublime, depending on your moral fiber.

The myth that the French are great lovers was built on the divinely sordid works of these men and women. And nowhere can you find as many great examples of the classic Dirty French Novel as you will in the front window of Subterranean Books. That's right: As you peruse that copy of Miracle of The Rose (dude, prison sex is hot!), passersby can clearly see you and what you are. Even better, Subterranean will gladly order any of the tomes missing from your collection, so you need not go without the beautiful and brutal Chants of Maldoror just because it's not in stock. Old Mr. Comstock would roll over in his grave at the thought of these classics' being freely available despite all his efforts, but his turgid member keeps him propped sideways in his coffin, like a bike on a kickstand -- which is just the sort of thing the Comte de Lautréamont wanted you to think about when he wrote Maldoror, which is why you should read it.

"Pornography" is a funny word. It literally means "one-handed writing," which implies that your other hand is doing ... well, you know. Before photography and Internet porn, it took the degenerate French novelists and their nondescriptly packaged tomes to give hardworking Americans manual release. Genet, Bataille, Nin and Huysmans, they wrote beautiful prose celebrating sexuality, debauchery, perversion and all manner of titillation that is either smutty or sublime, depending on your moral fiber.

The myth that the French are great lovers was built on the divinely sordid works of these men and women. And nowhere can you find as many great examples of the classic Dirty French Novel as you will in the front window of Subterranean Books. That's right: As you peruse that copy of Miracle of The Rose (dude, prison sex is hot!), passersby can clearly see you and what you are. Even better, Subterranean will gladly order any of the tomes missing from your collection, so you need not go without the beautiful and brutal Chants of Maldoror just because it's not in stock. Old Mr. Comstock would roll over in his grave at the thought of these classics' being freely available despite all his efforts, but his turgid member keeps him propped sideways in his coffin, like a bike on a kickstand -- which is just the sort of thing the Comte de Lautréamont wanted you to think about when he wrote Maldoror, which is why you should read it.

If you've been a reader for any length of time, you know our predilections and our biases (full disclosure: three full-time RFTers have staked claims on KDHX time slots). The simple truth, though, is that for all its glory, the FM band has its limitations: mainly, those who own the stations, who, until very recently, controlled the airwaves. Because these stations are businesses created to make money, they're conservative. But that's changing: In ten years, the volume of sound available on the Web will equal the volume of text, and it'll be beamed into microscopic satellite dishes bolted just outside your eardrum, and all you'll have to do is twitch your earlobe to change the frequency (Kenneth). We're getting there: satellite radio, Web radio, iPods, 300-CD changers, MP3s out the ass. We've got music, and we can program it ourselves, thank you very much, with the click of a mouse; program directors, our ass. We want Top 40? Got them, in a weekly e-mail delivered to our portalstep. Of course, this is corporate America's nightmare, because they've yet to determine how to make money off this template. Boo-hoo. Good riddance. The great stations, those like KDHX and KWUR, will still thrive, because they've got the passion, if not the cash. But still, the best radio station for music is, and will be even more so soon, the one you program by yourself, for yourself.
If you've been a reader for any length of time, you know our predilections and our biases (full disclosure: three full-time RFTers have staked claims on KDHX time slots). The simple truth, though, is that for all its glory, the FM band has its limitations: mainly, those who own the stations, who, until very recently, controlled the airwaves. Because these stations are businesses created to make money, they're conservative. But that's changing: In ten years, the volume of sound available on the Web will equal the volume of text, and it'll be beamed into microscopic satellite dishes bolted just outside your eardrum, and all you'll have to do is twitch your earlobe to change the frequency (Kenneth). We're getting there: satellite radio, Web radio, iPods, 300-CD changers, MP3s out the ass. We've got music, and we can program it ourselves, thank you very much, with the click of a mouse; program directors, our ass. We want Top 40? Got them, in a weekly e-mail delivered to our portalstep. Of course, this is corporate America's nightmare, because they've yet to determine how to make money off this template. Boo-hoo. Good riddance. The great stations, those like KDHX and KWUR, will still thrive, because they've got the passion, if not the cash. But still, the best radio station for music is, and will be even more so soon, the one you program by yourself, for yourself.
For decades, Don Bellon, head demo man for Bellon Wrecking and Salvage, had a desktop statue of a man swinging a sledgehammer, called "The Wrecker." His wife had given him the statue when he started his business back in '73. The statue was made of metal toothpicks, nuts and bolts. "I always had it in the back of my mind: 'I'm going to have that made big one day,'" Bellon recalls. Bellon's mechanic, Bud Knobeloch, started about a year ago to create a twenty-foot-high replica of the statue. "He started welding beams out of the yard, truck rims, whatever we had lying around," says Bellon. At first, Bellon put the statue right in front of this office, next to the sidewalk, near the corner of Chouteau and Vandeventer, but then he decided to set it on a wedge-shaped patch of grass he owns across the street. A metal plaque marks it as "Demo Man." Although Demo Man was not affiliated with the People Project, Bellon admits that the public-art display encouraged him to magnify his small statue. "I honestly can't go anywhere without someone saying, 'You're that guy with the Demo Man down on Vandeventer.'" says Bellon. Demo Man is visible to anyone exiting Highway 40 at Vandeventer. Even though it's a structure of sorts, because Bellon put it on his own land, City Hall didn't mess with him. "My attorney says you don't need a permit for art," says Bellon. All you need is some scrap metal, a welder, an idea -- and a successful business with a bit of land.

In the hit-or-miss world of contemporary art, longevity in itself is a virtue. A longtime professor of art and architecture at Washington University, Leslie Laskey has possessed emeritus status for many years. His demeanor in the classroom is still the stuff of legend -- suffice it to say he did not suffer fools gladly. Now in his eighties, Laskey remains a working artist -- and a vital, terrifically appealing one at that. This year, his woodcuts were displayed at the Sheldon Galleries -- stunning, evocative, bold abstractions that elegantly belied the blood sport that is woodcutting. Laskey also exhibited prints and collages in a gorgeous private home near the Hill in the spring. He displays both artistic surefootedness and revelatory surprise in small-scale works. Longevity is one thing, but combine it with integrity and a daring to continually push the artistic enterprise forward and you have an artist who has long been in our midst who deserves celebratory recognition and gratitude.

In the hit-or-miss world of contemporary art, longevity in itself is a virtue. A longtime professor of art and architecture at Washington University, Leslie Laskey has possessed emeritus status for many years. His demeanor in the classroom is still the stuff of legend -- suffice it to say he did not suffer fools gladly. Now in his eighties, Laskey remains a working artist -- and a vital, terrifically appealing one at that. This year, his woodcuts were displayed at the Sheldon Galleries -- stunning, evocative, bold abstractions that elegantly belied the blood sport that is woodcutting. Laskey also exhibited prints and collages in a gorgeous private home near the Hill in the spring. He displays both artistic surefootedness and revelatory surprise in small-scale works. Longevity is one thing, but combine it with integrity and a daring to continually push the artistic enterprise forward and you have an artist who has long been in our midst who deserves celebratory recognition and gratitude.