Friday, September 3, 2010

More on Mabel -- from Spud Johnson's Point of View

I know I promised Frieda, but Mabel wasn't ready to relinquish the stage yet...

Poet, columnist and editor Walter Willard "Spud" Johnson edited and wrote news for his own periodical, The Horse Fly, and for a while managed and ran the Laughing Horse Press in Taos. (more on Spud at a later time). In the 1930s he contributed to various newspapers: "The Perambulator" column to the short-lived newspaper, The Santa Fe Plaza; and eventually to the Taos newspaper, El Crepusculo (the dawn), later The Taos News.

Spud knew Mabel (and Frieda and Brett) well. He began working at Los Gallos as Mabel's secretary in 1927. The following piece on Mabel [printed verbatim] was written in the 1930s for Johnson's "Kindly Karicatures" feature in El Crepusculo.  

Drawing of Mabel by artist Oscar Berninghaus

SHE IS A FRIEND of the Indians and the Spanish-Americans, writes about the Olympians of American Arts and Letters, and is the undisputed intellectual high priestess of Taos.

    What Witter Bynner is to the Southwest along poetic lines, Mabel Dodge Luhan is to Taos along creative prose.

    Mabel Dodge Luhan has been described as absorbing, witty, sensational, frank and gay. She is all of that and something more. She is Mabel Dodge Luhan, a Southwestern institution, by many looked upon and envied, she is a character that Oscar Berninghaus's series of kindly caricatures will be incomplete without.

    She is the gayest entertainer on record in present days. She has acted as hostess to fabulously titled persons. Great and near great who at some time or another have visited Taos have absorbed a particle or two of that artistic atmosphere that Taos is nationally famous for.

    Undoubtedly, she is the wealthiest resident of the Southwest. Her income comes from power. The dew drops of Niagra Falls have been kind to her economic stability. Being the grand hostess that she is, Mabel Dodge Luhan has made the whole world her backyard playground.

    At Villa Curonia, in romantic Florence, Italy, she showed all Europeans that when an American entertains, she entertains. Nothing was too good for her guests. Leading world citizens came and went. There was Eleonore Duse; Lady Paget; Gertrude Stein who writes like Gertrude Stein; Gordon Craig, the liberator of the theater; Jacques Emile Blanche and countless others. All have received Mabel Dodge Luhan's hospitality. Her "European Experiences" speak about them.

    An author of the first rank, her books are characterized for their candid expose of the workings of the human psychic machinery. The aesthetic Lorenzo -- better known as D.H. Lawrence -- was her friend in Taos...have you read "Lorenzo in Taos?"

    In spite of her leading position in the literary and social world of America, Mabel Dodge Luhan takes time to think about matters that pertain to Taos.

    As a resident of Taos she has formed definite economic theories regarding the economic salvation of the native Spanish-Americans. She opines that true relief will come by the establishment of community barter markets where the public congregates, exhibits its goods and exchanges the same for other goods from their friend neighbors. She also believes that eating Chile is detrimental to racial imagination.

    The Taos Indians, she cherishes their friendship. She has them nearest to her heart. She married the most picturesque of all Taos Indians, Tony Lujan.
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Spud's words and wit still makes me laugh. I hope you enjoyed his insight on Mabel.

Adios for now,

NEXT WEEK: Mabel and the defense of native rights, and a very special celebration coming up in Taos...

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