BC Pires writes a weekly column for the Newsday called Thank God It's FRIDAY!
TGIF, my near-30-year-old column, appears today for the first time in Newsday, the paper founded by the late Therese Mills – but it’s not the first time I’ve been in a Therese Mills paper. In fact, the first time I appeared in one, I’d been on the front firetrucking page! The op-ed pages, seen in that light, might amount to a demotion.
How many Newsday readers remember the legendary Cuban artist BC Montana?
In 1987, I was working as a lawyer. In my naivety, I’d convinced myself law had as much to do with justice as it had with shameless posturing that crossed the border into hypocrisy every working day. It was, eg, back then, a major professional scandal that I, a male barrister, wore an earring into court.
That year, my friend James, whose surname I cannot use because he is the only high court judge of Syrian-Lebanese descent, had launched a poetry collection that drew large numbers of hot women in white cotton drinking red wine. I, too, wanted to stand in an admiring pulchritudinous throng and say, dismissively, “Oh, I did that in my Blue Period.” But then, as now, I had nothing to show for myself.
So I became a modern sculptor.
Modern sculpture is all in the titling; consider Tracey Emin’s Unmade Bed. My great work was a running shoe propped at a 45-degree angle, with a Pringle’s tin in the heel, over which I’d draped an ites-green-and-gold tam. It was called, Escape from Babylon. (James’s modern sculpture was the best: a heavy barbell, with barbed wire wrapped around the handles, its points and the portion of the stand below painted with bright red “blood” and called, No Pain, No Gain.)
The late Anthony Milne and the late Allyson Hezekiah-Hennessy, co-conspirators, interviewed me – or, rather, the famous modern sculptor BC Montana – for the Trinidad Express and Community Dateline respectively. On the TTT set, I wore a long-haired wig, dark glasses and a tam, and spoke with a “Cuban acceng” inspired by Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface. I wanted to mock the ignorant crowd who talked endlessly about matters about which they knew nothing – no, not Parliament, the pretentious section of the art crowd – by staging an exhibition they would take seriously that I would unveil as a spoof.
When it hit me I’d get into serious firetrucking trouble for taking the piss – I’ve actually turned that into a career, now – I thought to mitigate the damage by pretending it was for a good cause. When, though, I met a child of 11 at the Rape Crisis Centre, it became a grimly serious fundraiser. The BC Montana exhibition raised $5,500, the equivalent of five figures today, probably.
But then I told Therese Mills about it.
Horace Monsegue, Newsday’s news editor, might be the only person in Trinidadian media who’s ever had me completely to hang. His page one story on the same day as the exhibition, “Cuban Artist Hoax Exposed,” actually helped, though, in two ways: one, many more people bought our fake sculptures with real money; and, two, it made the late Raoul Pantin, then Express news editor, cover the show, which led, a few weeks later, directly to my leaving the BIR and starting TGIF.
So Newsday readers who may have doubts about me – and I’m hoping they either don’t exist any more, like Therese herself, or at least are outnumbered as greatly as Venezuelans outnumber Nigerians in Port of Spain – should understand that, ultimately, you have Therese Mills to thank.
BC Pires is a modern culprit. Read more of his writing at www.BCPires.com