March 22, 1999
Video available at The Roadshow Archive.
Gary Sohmers (Wex Rex Collectibles, Framingham, MA): I see you've brought us a painting!
Sandy Cass: Yes, I did.
GS: Can you tell me a little bit about this painting, where you got it?
SC: Well, I got it from Frank Zappa and his family. Um, they were moving, and uh, they were just gonna get rid of it, and I said, "may I have it?"
GS: It's a beautiful piece of strange art . . .
GS: . . . and um, you said when we talked earlier that you had double dated with Frank.
SC: A few.
GS: A few dates!
SC: Yes, yes.
GS: So, you got to know him a little bit.
SC: Yes, I did.
GS: Uh, Frank Zappa is a cultural icon . . .
GS: . . . um, as a musician and as an artist. Um, what you've brought us is a fabulous piece, when did you say this was, uh . . .
SC: He painted this when he was in junior college.
GS: So it's very early.
GS: It's a premonition of his future.
GS: Well, it's a wonderful painting, it shows an orchestra and an opera, it looks like, onstage.
GS: A lot of uh, early images for Frank who went on to become an orchestra leader and write operas, and this is probably the earliest piece of Frank Zappa art or music or anything I've ever seen in 30 years of doing this. It's a very unusual and wonderful piece. Putting a value on something a musician did in the art world adds to its value, so it's really hard to put a true value, 'cuz it's never been seen before. Any idea what you think it might be worth?
SC: I have no idea.
GS: No idea. Well, I would say that his signature is very valuable right now. Frank died many years ago of cancer, and left a legacy of art and music for us. But this is the earliest piece I've ever seen. I would say it's somewhere in the . . . $15,000-$25,000 range.
GS: Having never seen a piece like this sell, it's never been shown, nothing this early, it could even top that.
SC: Oh, I think that's great. He was such a different person, and this represents, y'know, him.
GS: One of the most intelligent people I've ever met.
SC: Oh, brilliant.
GS: It's a wonderful piece and I love it.
SC: Thank you.
GS: Thank you for bringing it to the roadshow.
SC: You're welcome. It's been fun.
The woman who brought it in was my mother, Sandy Cass. She died last June 2005 and the painting is still in our hands. She did indeed double-date with Frank a few times in Junior College—probably around 1958 or so. She picked up the painting at his parents' house in Compton, Ca—they were cleaning out his stuff and threw the painting out at the curb. My mom asked if she could have it (not sure why—it's pretty ugly and he was not famous by any means at that point . . . ). Anyhow, that's the story.
You can put my email address on your web page if you would like, in case anyone wants to contact me.
The entire painting. (Sorry for the blurriness . . . it was the best my video capture would render)
Are you familiar with the public tv show called antiques roadshow? in it, a bunch of appraisers go around to different cities and people bring them their antiques and collectables to find out about them and get a value. last night (3-22) the show was in Rochester, NY, and a woman had an FZ painting. Did not get her name, said she was a friend of the family (had double-dated with FZ) and that when the Zappas were packing up and moving she asked if she could have the painting. FZ said sure. Apparently he painted it while in junior college. It was an interesting piece, depicting a chorus and an orchestra and some red gremlin/devil looking fellows. black, skeletal trees, gothic castle-type buidlings. vaguely reminiscint of the stuff going on in Civilization Phaze III art. Signed, too.
Well, that was NEAT! Thanks to whoever it was that tipped us off about the Zappa painting on the antiques program. In case you missed it, a woman brought in a painting done by Frank while he was in junior college.. She never gave her name, but she said she dated Frank, and that he had given her the painting. The painting depicts an opera.. a guy in a devil suit, a fat lady singing, and an orchestra. It's reminscent both of the "No Picnic" poster you may have seen in books, and of the cover art to Absolutely Free. The appraiser said that due to its signature and it's uniqueness it could bring $15,000-25,000, maybe more. He spoke very highly of Frank and said he was one of the most intelligent people he had ever met.
He's the proprietor of Wex Rex Collectibles in Framingham, MA. I bought a used Jon Hassell CD from him once. Usually whenever there's a collectibles show in the Boston area, he appears on the David Brudnoy show on AM 1030, which can supposedly be heard in 38 states.
It was a pretty cool painting . . . Great Orchestra haze in forground with a prominent chorus. The devil dancing (?) on the fence made me look for titties, but alas there were none—unless you count the mountains on the Wagnerian Tutonic Soloist! Oh, to have 20K!
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