The Katherine Gianaclis Park for the Arts

Art, Theatre, Music, Workshops, More.

The Son’s Attempt at an Historical Sketch of His Mother by Joey Kantor.

The son’s attempt at an historical sketch of his mother

By Joey Kantor

There was a lot of living done for Katherine Gianaclis. Her history was one in touch with the birth of the American dream. She lived in the shadows of Paramount Studios as a child. She played with her cousins and friends in various Hollywood locales. She attended Hollywood High School. A stutterer, she was once befriended by Burt Larr who played the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz and she learned everything she ever needed to know about her condition. Burt Larr was an expert as his performance in Oz suggests. 

There are many branches on which to swing in considering the life of this painter. As a child she showed a great promise as an artist. Her friends and cousins knew that she was an artist. She could paint and did from her early teens. She was like any other teenaged artist in this world: hopeful. Well, hope, and maybe a little prayer, paid off. She won the poster contest for the Easter Service, the community sing. Her winning drawing showed a shadowed statue of liberty pointing her very real flame toward the heart of something, then you see: the cross. 

Perhaps this gave her confidence, but when she grew up, she learned to paint for real, having won a scholarship to the Art Center in Pasadena. This was the early 1940s. Katherine Gianaclis was in art school during one of the most horrifying human experiences our nation has ever been a part of. She was once awarded a declaration of thanks for her effort in the war.  It is unknown what it was exactly that she did. 

Whatever it was, it was probably art related. She lived her life. Marrying twice and ending the relationships twice. The first was a brief marriage to, rumor has it, a sailor. This didn’t work. There was perhaps an annulment. The second marriage was to a man possibly 20 years older than her. His name was “Doc” and he taught her everything he knew about holistic healing and chiropractic medicine. She became a licensed chiropractor. The vocation as well as the marriage to Doc didn’t last. They separated and Katherine moved to Las Vegas to live near her mother, Vera, and her father, Nicholas, who had bought the property on the boulder highway and turned it into a restauraunt and a lumberyard. She soon met Sol Kantor, a handsome Jewish (non-practicing) showroom waiter for the Riviera Hotel and Casino. Vegas baby.  They had three boys and remained married for over ten years, living near Decatur and Sahara when Mr. Smith still had his Exxon on the corner and they lived on the same block as the family of Lord Buckley.

 Going back to the other side of town,  Nicholas bought the Boulder Highway property as a  restaurant. It was originally named “Bob’s French Dips,” The building is said to have been built in 1940. That would make Bob’s French Dips, which later became Nick’s “The Country Kitchen,” a local historical treasure. 

Unfortunately the sorry tale of Bob’s French Dips includes the slow encroaching hopelessness of the park for the arts ever re-igniting, but not literally this time; a good idea without any backing, not much hope, really, until recently since good ideas are being floated at least, a nice sorta re-start.

We did our best. We threw some good shows. I showed my mother’s art. We all had a good time. I think the park will be remembered as a place where stuff happened. It was our own little desert “Factory” like Warhol had in New York. Everyone is screaming for culture. Well, culture is created in the crevices, in the cracks. 

We had the Yard Dogs, the Know-Nothing Family Zirkus/Zideshow, Circus Contraption, Professor 8000%.  Artists like Gram, Mear One, Checko Salgado, Christopher Reitmaier, Iceberg Slick and a lot of others, too many to remember. We had music shows where a couple of wild howlies from Hawaii left their mark, in the wind, at night, in Vegas with cellos and drumsets, bicycles and baseball masks. We had quiet moonlight shows. We were once closed down by the cops because one of our band’s props that said “call police” was too real and creepy for them. The whole show was cancelled. We threw the Sh*thoof film festival and showed films by local filmmakers like Gilbert Cuevas and Jeff Ski.

It was wild. It was fun. We tried to concentrate on the real things. One time, at the latter part of the park’s existence, a fine fellow in his fifties who had roared up on a motorcycle decided he wanted to stroll the campus naked. So he did. I, of course, asked him politely to please put his clothes back on. He seemed to agree and walk away to do as he had been directed. Later I saw him again. He was still or had always been walking around naked. 

The next week, it turns out, I read that a Citylife reporter had actually been to the event and the naked man was her favorite part of the night. She had come to write a story about it for the paper and she really dug that this guy could walk around naked, It was spontaneous and nuts and we didn’t get slammed.  It was nice to know that, although we weren’t perfect, we were trying to do good and that maybe we were even slightly understood and appreciated. It would have been cool to have had the support instead of the disdain of the powers that be in Clark County, but we didn’t.  The park was declared a “visual nuisance” by Clark County and would be required to be cleared in early November, 2007. This is the same time of Katherine Gianaclis’s  November 2 birthday.

 Of course, nothing works out perfectly in this life. The park closed. Life went on. But this then left the little problem of the art collection. What about Katherine Gianaclis herself? We had shown her regularly at the park, but now there was no way to show her. So we created We put her art on to the net. Let her roam in cyberspace. 

I don’t know much about what to say in a historical context about my mother. It is a difficult thing to do because you love your mother and you don’t have her anymore. You want to remember so that others can have the story, but it is difficult to envision her again, knowing that you will never see her again. You want to let her go, but you can’t. It’s not as bad as you think, though, we all learn to remember and let go at the same time. It’s a healthy balance of saying hello and then saying goodbye. We float away into the ethers of nevermore…I guess…


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