Bukowski's father at the art museum


Usually wrong.
I was goofing around on Google Books and did a search for "Henry C. Bukowski", anything published from 1940 to 1960. I was surprised to find that about a half dozen publications of the Los Angeles County Art Museum mention Buk's father as assisting with exhibitions. In one, he's listed as the "special preparator." This made me think of something I'd read or heard where Buk was saying his father pretended to be a curator but was only a security guard at the museum. These publications would suggest he was possibly closer to being involved with the actual art than Buk let on. Maybe he was only hanging paintings and moving sculptures -- who knows. They are from the late 40s through late 50s.
Eh, I don't know that he changed his father's history. We would have to define "Preparator" in the parlance of the times, which may be difficult. It could mean little more than "the guy with the keys to that big room downstairs." It just sounds suspiciously like art-speak for "mover" to me. But I'm just talking out my ass, because I can't tell you what it meant at LACMA in the 1940's.

It is interesting to see Bukowski Sr. credited though, and it does give you the idea that Bukowski Jr. intentionally downplayed the job by calling him a security guard. But then if your father regularly beat you and made you spend half your weekend mowing the lawn like some sort of anal retentive freak, you might tend to have bad things to say about him too.
According to Miles, Dear Daddy was promoted from "security guard to floor assistant helping to hang pictures" after he claimed that he was the Charles Bukowski that had appeared in Portfolio III. You know, according to myth.
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I would never think of his father as a real curator or anything similar. The whole of his biography (even outside what Hank claimed) doesn't point to that at all.

I too guess, it wasn't much more than hanging those pics or something.

What I found cool was the mentioning of him in a publication.

Maybe the lawn-mower-historian of Buknet should get into research here on what exactly that term meant back then.
Nice find, Rekrab! - Preparator? What a nice title for a person hanging up pictures and such...
I agree with all you say, mjp. Glorified picture hanger and heavy object mover. Still, it surprised the hell out of me that he was mentioned at all.
Museums are like little clubs. Everyone is somebody. No security guard left behind.

In the late 70s at the Riverside Art Museum one of my teachers from the city college use to keep large bottles of wine in a large metal cabinet at the museum. It was labeled with a fancy plaque that read: The Allan T. Garrett Memorial Storage Cabinet. I remember toasting it's 3rd or 4th dedication. I sure hope he wasn't the same Garrett who went on hiatus. He did have better tact. Always drank a little wine in class. It was all part of the art.

Oh, I almost forgot, thank you Rekrab for the interesting find.
I worked as a security guard, with Buk's father, and he did get "promoted" to help with hanging the pictures.

Ah, slimedog! You're the perfect information source on this subject. Do you know what exactly a "preparator" of exhibits would have done, aside from hanging /phyisically installing a show? Would he have had any decision maiking powers, as far as chosing and arranging objects, deciding what order they went in, where in the space each item was to be placed, lighting choices, signs, etc.? In other words, did it require him to have any sense of aesthetics, any knowledge of art history, any taste, or was it simply "hang this big oil in the gold frame here, Henry, and that little engraving over there"?

Also, how much prestige did his position have? Was he considered the curator's righthand man, or just a schlub? Did he still have more mundane guard duties after he was promoted, or did he only work on exhibitions?

Any light you can shed on this is much appreciated. Thanks.
It is interesting to see Bukowski Sr. credited though, and it does give you the idea that Bukowski Jr. intentionally downplayed the job by calling him a security guard. But then if your father regularly beat you and made you spend half your weekend mowing the lawn like some sort of anal retentive freak, you might tend to have bad things to say about him too.
Buk Jr. said in his stories that when his father died , he left house to some
woman he lived with for few weeks. Like , father left him nothing, cause
of hate.

As, you can see in Timeline, in real life , father left him house.
Somehow, it gives new look on Buk Sr. who didn't give house to some woman
or to church, but left it to his son. If he realy hated him so much he wouldn't do it, don't you think so?
Ah, slimedog! [...] Any light you can shed on this is much appreciated. Thanks.
Well, you know, it was so long ago but from I recall his father was a real kiss ass (that's how he got his better paying job) & really had no appreciation for art at all. A lot of the guards were artists, I'd say fifty percent, and I at least had a big apprection of it. His duties consisted of merely hanging the pictures due to the instructions of the curators. By the way, I do recall him talking about his son and he spoke very dispairingly of him, saying he was lazy and not a "real man." I would've never imagined that many years later I would be posting on a forum dedicated to his son.
Slime dog, thanks for your memories. It is amazing that we have a first hand witness to behind the scenes events from half a century ago. Do you know if Bukowski's father ever tried painting, or did he ever talk about art? Or was it simply a job to him, making a living?

Your comments on the father's disparging comments on his son are especially interesting. Thanks again.
Let me tell you Buk's dad had no appreciation of art, or at least the most conservative kind-I think he liiked Norman Rockwell but he didn't even like the Impressionist and certainly nothing like Picasso or any modern art. It was simply a job for him. I didn't really dislike the fellpw but he wasn't one of my favorite co-workers.
I was what they called a "break guard"- I relieved guards at their posts for breaks and lunches. With nothing to do all day it's very easy to stroll over toward the next post or gallery and chat a bit. I do remember him as an affable fellow but one who would get upset at patrons touching things, which was our job but I found him a bit harsh. Mostly I just found him somewhat boring especially compared to our struggling artists who while not eccentric still had interesting things to talk about.
Slimedog, you are excellent witness.Do you know if Buk' s father was poor or middle class and he wanted to be rich? Suffered he was not ? He left house to his son and Buk sold it for 7000$, was it descent sum of money back in 1958? Buk always claimed in his novels lack of money and suddenly - heritage , half the value of house...Any idea how quickly he spent it all.
I would say Bukowski Sr. was lower middle class and I only knew him for a couple of years, I don't even recall if he had a house let alone what happened to it after I knew him. I don't recall what he smelled like! We did have to wear these navy blue sport jackets and gray dress pants and some of us were very casual about it but he was always dressed very properly I recall and I don't think he really meshed with the artistic types there.

were you there the day Bukowski Sr. brought a copy of Portfolio III along claiming he was the Charles Bukowski who had written "20 Tanks from Kasseldown?"
Oh, I was there then.

It was way interesting, since on one side he seemed to be proud to be a published writer but on the other, a little ashamed about the content and writing style.

I never knew why, till I discovered the ugly truth about the authorship.
Slimedog, I'm guessing that Hank inherited his movie star looks from his father? He says in Women that his mother was a good looker.

Thought I'd look up the typical duties of an art preparator these days:

... seeks an art preparator to install artwork on- and off-campus. The person in this position is responsible for the unpacking, hanging, installation, de-installation and packing of artwork for exhibition on- and off-campus.

Duties include receiving and unpacking all works for the exhibitions department, ensuring that all works are in perfect condition, and informing the exhibition registrar in the event pieces are damaged. Other duties include monitoring galleries on a routine basis, assessing spaces for necessary maintenance, and checking security of installed artwork.

A bachelor's degree in a related field or related relevant work experience is preferred. Valid driver's license preferred, heavy lifting required, and willingness to travel as necessary.
You know, I was just looking at some old pay stubs, and it turns out that I worked at LACMA with Bukowski's father too. I was the Airflow Design Specialist. I activated a complex and sophisticated battery of electric fans when the temperature got too hot. And I had to monitor the fans too, throughout the day.

Bukowski Sr. handed out pamphlets, as I recall, and mopped up puke and urine on the days the kids came from the schools in the surrounding neighborhoods. He would sing as he mopped, a song that said he wrote himself. He always sang it in a very bad Irish accent. Went something like, "Cry me a moppy rag o' shame/bag me up like a dime store trollop/take me out to the ballgame/give me ass a wallop!" And he would get to the last line and laugh and laugh and we would all stare at him.

I remember taking Bukowski Sr. out for a beer one night after work, and he started crying. I hit him in the face with a beer mug and told him to stop acting like a dame, and he snapped out of it. Then when I turned my back on him, he hit me over the head with a flashlight and kicked my knees from the side to take me down. As he fell on top of me, I reached for the legs of a bar stool and managed to bring it down hard, across his back. He yelped, and I took the opportunity to jump up and kick him repeatedly in the neck. We went back and forth like that for a few minutes, then I stopped because I was thirsty, and I said, "Bukowski, I'm going to the bar for a drink. Don't follow me and don't try to stop me." And he didn't.

The next day at the museum he showed up wearing ladies sunglasses and white tape across his nose. I laughed at him and he choked back a tear and said, "Leave me alone, I'm an artist."

Well I felt so sorry for the poor schmuck that I left him alone. The next day I saw him drive by the museum in a milk truck. He still had the ladies sunglasses on, and three cats sat in the open door, licking the air.

Don't know what to make of that, but that's how it happened, and I will swear out an affidavit maintaining it is so.
Mjp: I always wondered how Hank senior ended up driving a milk truck. Thanks for that firsthand account.

I looked through my old paystubs but all I found is that I've worked at the same damned job since I was six years old.
I haven't been on this site for a while, and, I've got to say, this was a really cool post!
Many thanks to both Rekrab & Slimedog for the insights.
I was amazed when I stumbled across Henry Bukowski's name in those old art catalogs on Google Books. Google Books is like Disneyland for me. The stuff I find there is incredible.
Jeez, this is the best. Someone who actually worked with the beast. Funny, he reminds me a lot of someone. I remember in Ham On Rye?... he remarks about the old man, saying something like, "what is with me, why am I in their way" or something to that effect.

Always could relate to that.
Slimedog, do you remember me ? I was the young woman who was waiting for Buk senior outside the museum at the end of his duty. His mistress. I perfectly remember you :)

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