In case you didn't know, I get around. (cue the Beach Boys).
I didn't get involved with highwaymen art until I saw a Newton landscape bought by John Phillips in a Hood Auction and then read Fitch's article naming them "the highwaymen" in 1995, so I never had the opportunity to meet Harold Newton.
But, for the last fifteen plus years, I've been meeting people who knew and dealt with Harold Newton, speaking with them at the shows I attend around Florida, or talking with them via phone and exchanging emails. These people number in the hundreds, maybe more, a never ending procession, it seems.
Usually their story is the same. "Oh, I worked in a bank and he'd come in and put his paintings around and we'd buy one or two for $ 20 or $ 25."
Or they worked in a lawyer's office, a doctor's office, a furniture store and he'd come around, haul his paintings out of his van or the trunk of his car and spread them out. People would buy them or he'd trade them for services, groceries, dental work, whatever he could get away with.
He would show up anywhere, from Jacksonville to Miami, from Vero to Sarasota.
Obviously he was successful in doing this, as it has been speculated that he created and sold or traded 40,000 to 50,000 paintings in the four decades of his career, mid-1950's to mid-1990's.
Some of the stories, but not many, deviated from the norm.
One guy I spoke with about a year back, who is now in California, piloted a small plane and told me he would fly Harold to the islands with Backus. That surprised me, as I thought Backus allowed Hair to come along on these trips, but I didn't know that Harold would accompany him. I found the old guy to be credible, after all, he showed me two classic 1960's four footers on upson that were both drop-dead gorgeous, the only two he kept for himself having had many. He also told me Harold gave him paintings on consignment to sell for him, as his other job was as a furniture salesman who would visit stores around the state on a regular basis and show the art along with his tables and chairs. He claimed sales were good back then.
Sales have been pretty good for me, too, so his claim was believable.
Since I titled this little interlude "Harold Newton's Vehicle", I should probably get to the point. I originally talked to this lady at the fairgrounds show in West Palm Beach last year and she told a truly amusing tale. She reappeared at my recent Melbourne Auditorium show and repeated the story. This was not unusual, as I KNOW that I've patiently listened to the same people telling me their same story again and again, show after show.
I didn't remember her face, but I remembered her story, and so will you.
When she popped up this time in Melbourne, I was ready for her with this blog in mind and I flat out grilled her for details. Luckily her husband was with her and she dragged him over to my booth to fill in a few facts. I put my reporter's cap on and took notes on an amusing tale.
All for you, gentle reader, all for you. I mean, I'm already amused, now it's your turn.
Harold bought a 1969 white four door Ford from the Bev Smith automobile dealership in West Palm Beach. I imagine he put down a stack of cash, but I know he financed the balance.
The lady I spoke with is Jeanne Harris and she introduced me to her husband Charles Harris, who is known as "Bill". Now, I know some Charleses who are known as "Chuck", but this was the first time...............ah, I digress.
Bill, who worked for the finance company, Commercial Credit in West Palm, told me that Harold made his payments on a regular basis for about the first six months, then stopped. They didn't see him around, so the deal graduated to a repossession situation. Somehow they tracked him down and eventually spotted him and his vehicle across the state in St. Petersburg, of all places.
The car was a little beat up and scratched and the Repo man secured it for the finance company, but here's the good part.
Harold had painted his car not only with typical flames emerging from the engine area, but also with "Rio Mar" beach scenes on both sides as well as the hood and the trunk. He did the same on the interior, embellishing the dashboard.
Now here's the best part. On these painted beaches, running about in the sand, all around the car and on the dashboard he added a bunch of nude voluptuous young women.
It may have been his vision of heaven.
Having read all I have about Harold and his appetites, and as brother Sam says, "He never put down his paint brush or knife", I have no reason to doubt this story.
Jeanne and Bill are credible witnesses and knew Harold as personable and friendly . They would have no reason to fabricate the story, as they told me he sold them a jumbo beach scene for five dollars. Sure sounds like a friendly price for the size. 75% off, just like a jewelry store.
It still hangs in their home.
No, I didn't go see it. It might be one of the great ones.
I did ask them if there were any naked chicks in it.
God only knows what happened with the car.