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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Dare Wright Day

 

‘Have you heard of the The Lonely Doll? For my birthday one year, my friend Drew presented me with a reissued copy of A Gift From the Lonely Doll and these solemn words: “You need this book.” It was one in a series of ten “lonely Doll” books by the late photographer/author/model Dare Wright, the first of which was originally published in 1957 with a trademark pink-and-white gingham cover. The story was told via beautiful black-and-white photographs of a curious doll named Edith and her teddy bear friends, Mr. Bear and Little Bear.

‘Like so many children’s books, A Gift From the Lonely Doll was an aching mix of absurd and profound. But there was also something unsettling about its images of dolls come to life. Why was this little doll knitting a scarf for a stuffed bear? Why did she have to go shopping for the yarn in the city all by herself? Why was her skirt so short, and why was she so frequently photographed from behind? My first flip through the book stirred a sense of strange familiarity—I intuitively understood this peculiar universe, yet it creeped me out and left me wanting to close the book and back away, kind of how I felt as a kid after watching too many Twilight Zone episodes on a Sunday afternoon. When Drew pointed out the author’s photograph on the book jacket, I got quiet. Dare Wright looked exactly like little Edith.

‘Edith was named after Dare’s mother, who gave her daughter the felt Lenci doll when Dare was just a child. Years later, Dare unearthed the doll from a trunk, and like Edie Sedgwick to Andy Warhol, little Edith became Dare’s blank slate. She created a blonde wig for her, added small gold hoop earrings similar to her own, and dressed her up in a pink-and-white gingham outfit that she’d made by hand. Soon Edith came to bear an uncanny resemblance to the photographer herself. The side-eye of the Lenci allowed her expression to go from quizzical and innocent to complete bitchface with a slight change of perspective, and Dare proceeded to depict little Edith in a variety of scenes: opening the door to greet the two bears, brushing her hair while gazing into a mirror, hanging out at the beach, standing at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, dressed up as hippies protesting city pollution, tied up to a tree and gagged—YES.

‘The story behind the stories is a whole other story — a true gothic tale. On the surface, Dare’s life was super glamorous. Her mother, Edith (aka Edie) Stevenson Wright, was a successful portrait painter for whom dignitaries and celebrities like Dwight Eisenhower and Greta Garbo once sat. Dare was intelligent and beautiful, and Edie taught her how to paint, draw, and sew. A high school teacher pushed her into acting and then modeling, but she became interested in the camera, and soon became a fashion photographer for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

‘The portrait of Dare that emerges from Nathan’s biography is of a sad and troubled woman. Growing up, Dare felt the absence of her father and her brother, whom she’d last seen when she was three and her parents divorced. Her mother retained custody of Dare, but she worked a lot, and Dare was left home alone with instructions to “keep the door locked” for hours on end. Edie dissuaded Dare from making friends, and the two often played dress-up, photographing each other in gowns and other outfits, and Edie encouraged Dare to pose nude during their summer vacations (in other accounts, it is Dare who orchestrated these shoots, while Edith merely clicked the shutter).

‘Dare eventually reconnected with her brother, Blaine, and was briefly engaged to one of his friends, but the bio suggests her affections were directed toward her sibling, and that their relationship was intense and “highly charged.” Dare remained close to her mother—they often slept together when they stayed at Dare’s apartment in New York, or on their many vacations. After Edie died in 1975, Dare became a recluse and an alcoholic. According to Nathan, she may have remained a virgin all her life. She was reportedly raped by a stranger when she was about 80; after that she moved into a public hospital in Queens, New York, where she lived out the last six years of her life. She died in 2001 at the age of 86.’ — Rookie Magazine

 

 

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Moving


Dare Wright NYC exhibition (walk-through)


Dare Wright~The Lonely Doll Author & Those She Loved


Tosh Talks: DARE WRIGHT


Kodagain ‘Dare Wright’


Dare Wright in Central Park

 

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Her








 

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Story

 

‘Actress Famke Janssen says that an intruder broke into her home in New York City and left a creepy children’s book called, The Lonely Doll next to her bed. Despite the fact that Janssen says she has never seen the book in her life, detectives believe that it is actually Janssen’s book and that there was no intrusion involved. A source said, “They [detectives] believe that the book belongs to Janssen. The book has some connection to her home.”

‘Janssen originally told the police that she discovered the book after coming home from running errands on August 1. She filed a report at the First Precinct station house two days later. “She walked into her bedroom and noticed a children’s book standing on the shelf beside her bed,” a source said. However, after investigating the situation and watching surveillance videos thoroughly , police have found no evidence that anyone broke into her home.

‘“There is nobody suspicious” and “all the people on the video are accounted for,” said the law enforcement. Also, police said they found a “to-do” list hidden between the pages of the book with Janssen’s name on it. Janssen is not expected to be charged for filing a false report because she actually believes that someone broke into her home and left the book.’ — collaged

 

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Books

 

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Counter-story

 

‘Following the news of actress Famke Janssen’s unsettling Greenwich Village home invasion, in which a copy of the 1957 children’s book The Lonely Doll was placed near her bed, the story can’t help but take on a new eeriness. But Wright’s only living heir and the owner of her estate doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea. “My Google Alert is just going nuts,” Brook Ashley, who considered Wright her “surrogate mother,” told Daily Intelligencer today. “But I want to separate the crime from the book.” As for Janssen’s unwanted houseguest, “Perhaps the person who left it there is saying, ‘I can be your friend, too. Let me into your lonely life the way Edith let the two bears into hers.’ That is creepy! Not the book, but the offering,” said Ashley. “That’s the most logical interpretation, but it is disquieting,” she said. “Why The Lonely Doll? This is like a Castle episode or something.” If she could speak to Janssen, “I would say I hope she reads it at some point to see it’s not terrifying,” said Ashley. “No one left a Stephen King book. I wonder if it was the first edition, which is quite valuable,” she added. “I guess it’s sitting in a police evidence locker right now.”‘ — NY Magazine

 

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Further

 

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Work

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** Steevee, Hi. Cool about the ‘Freak Orlando’ screening, yes. The Wire’s free content is pretty good and updated fairly often, but subscribing is definitely the way to go. I check the free stuff regularly, and liking The Wire’s Facebook page is a good thing too, as they alert people there to additions. I strongly suspect that our explosives props will involve a healthy dose of modeling clay. Thanks about the film issues. I sort of laid out the deal to James down below. Really, our producer is being cool. And it’s quite a pleasant thing after our experience with ‘LCTG’ where the producer didn’t understand our film in the slightest or even like it. I’m pretty sure that if we did a film with MK2 involving stars, our producer would not just gently push us to make big changes, we would be ordered to, and we wouldn’t have a choice. Although it is an interesting thought. Tiny Mix Tapes is useful because, like you said, the music they cover is generally interesting and fairly broad, but the reviews there can often be very artsy and self-indulgent, kind of bearing the torch of the way the legendary Creem Magazine used to review records. But for finding stuff, it can be very useful. Still, The Wire is the best resource by far. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I like ‘Ticket … ‘ a lot too. Thank you for sharing your expertise and knowingness regarding her. It’s always a wonderful boon. ** James Nulick, Hi, man. Yeah, the quitting was pretty seriously uncool, but the new guy seems on top of things, so we’ll be okay. No, I wrote what I wrote yesterday in a tired, pissed mood, but our producer is being pretty cool. Zac and I have to shoot a very complex film in too short a time. It’s going to be a very long, very exhausting shoot, and we tried to get 3 or 4 extras days added to our schedule, but our budget just won’t allow it, and we have no choice. Our producer is well aware of how hard the shoot is going to be on everyone because he’s made a lot of films whereas Zac and I are just feeling resigned to the limitations and necessarily gung-ho. It’s not the story and dialogue that’s the problem, it’s rather the set up of the shots, and how long they will take to do in between the takes that’s the real problem. Yesterday Zac and sat down and tried to streamline the process, and we managed to simplify some complicated shots in a way that won’t harm the film at all. And we figured out a few more drastic steps we could take that would remove some big difficulties from three of the toughest to shoot sequences. We don’t want to make those changes, and we won’t tell our producer what those steps are, but we will have them in mind while we’re shooting so, if we get too far behind, we can make those changes in the moment if necessary. So, it’s not a matter of censorship or anything like that. It’s basically an experienced person with a level head trying to help Zac and I understand the possible hell we’re getting ourselves and everyone into. Sorry for the long explanation. Yesterday was much better than Monday, yes, thankfully. Again, enjoy the heck out of Vancouver. ** B, Hi, Bear. Nice to see you, man! Thank you about the scrapbook post. It was interesting and fun to share that stuff. And we are sticking to our guns. We believe too much in this film to allow it to be messed up. That ‘Tribes’ event sounds really cool. I’ve heard a lot about St. Vitus, I can’t remember from where. Yeah, you sound like you have a lot of inspiring stuff going on. That’s heartening to hear. Best of luck with everything, buddy, and, yeah, thanks for checking in. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh. ‘Wizzard’s Brew’ has one of the most insane, bonkers productions I’ve ever heard. The only other comparable record that springs to mind is the A side of Todd Rundgren’s ‘A Wizard, A true Star’ where he deliberately maxed out and overtaxed the available space. Roy Wood is a real hero of mine. Plus, I put him in the highest upper echelon of rock singers. I kind of wish he hadn’t gotten so smitten with the early 60s sound after ‘Wizzard’s Brew’. I like the Wizzard stuff, but it isn’t visionary like ‘WB’. The first Electric Light Orchestra album when Wood was still a member is really good. And all The Move albums are fantastic. I’m very fond of Wood’s first solo album ‘Boulders’. I think that’s my favorite of his solo works. Yeah, Cheap Trick wanted Roy Wood to produce one of their early albums, but it didn’t work out for some reason. ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. I only know UO’s strictly visual art a little bit, but I have found what I’ve seen quite curious, and I’ve wanted to investigate that part of her work more. As of yesterday, things with the film readying process are on the upswing. Let’s hope that holds. Your computer sounds like it should be the subject of documentary film. Zac and I want to make a documentary, and your computer is the kind of subject that Zac would fall in love with. Kidding, basically, but I mean it too in some way. Obviously, I hope that machine rectifies itself a-fucking-sa-fucking-p. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Yes, if your friend has anything to share, perchance, I would be interested to see it. Indeed, that was a truly bad day, and you’re not wrong about the rottenness of what the first assistant did, no. Like I told James up above, we’re managing to simplify things technically a little without changing the script, so hopefully that’ll help. It was your birthday! Happy happy happy birthday!!!!! Everyone, it was the great Dóra Grőber’s birthday yesterday! But it’s not too late to note it. Eat something sweet and delicious or imbibe something bubbly and festive or do something else tributary and think of her while you do today please. Yesterday was better, yes. We did the simplifying thing I mentioned. We met with a editor whom I think we’ll probably work with when we edit the film, and he seemed cool with how we want to do the editing — basically with us having total control of everything — so that was good. And the band finally got back to me, so we do have that Pig Destroyer track for our film, and we’re very happy. And we had a meeting with our sound guy to explain some of he trickier sound things we need him to do. And we did a Skype interview about the film. And we decided what track we want for our film’s club scene, so now we’ll see if we can get permission to use it or not. So, it was an okay day. Today we begin long days of rehearsals with the actors. That should be intense, but I’m really looking forward to it because we’ll get to work on something about the film that we actually care about as opposed to all of these meetings about the process and technical stuff that we’ve been swamped with. How was Wednesday for you, Birthday girl? ** Okay. I had a post on my murdered blog about Dare Wright, but I ended up redoing and updating it to the point that it’s now a new post, and, hence, I managed to spare you an actual restoration today. Enjoy it. See you tomorrow.

11 Comments

  1. Wow! I have strong feelings about Dare’s work, and I’m very honored to be part of the post here today. It seems by your post that there was a gallery setting for her images. She really needs to be discovered by a gallery or someone like Hauser & Wirth. I’m not sure why she’s not a huge interest in the ‘art’ world. She works on many levels. And the biography on her is incredible. Fascinating woman in a fasinating world.

    Mustard? What do you think of that album. I’m asking because I saw the vinyl and it’s not expensive. Should I get it?

  2. I slept 8 hours last night! Victory is at hand (even if I needed sleeping pills to achieve it, which is obviously kinda problematic!)

    i love the Move, but I’m not familiar with Wood’s solo career at all. I remember buying one of his mid ’70s solo albums back when I was in college and hoping to hear something like MESSAGE FROM THE COUNTRY, but I got mediocre imitations of rockabilly, Phil Spector, etc.

    Some of the Tiny Mix Tapes reviews are genuinely smart and well-written. Their “Eureka!” section inspired me to download an album by experimental electronic composer Rashad Becker, which I’m listening to now and quite liking, and I also tried downloading the dance music compilation CLUB CHAI only to learn that iTunes doesn’t sell it. I must admit that short story/review made me curious about Roc Marciano, because the author’s enthusiasm is quite clear and I like the era of ’90s hip-hop that he seems to evoke. But I would rather learn what his music actually sounds like than read a short story inspired by it.

  3. Hey Dennis

    Dare Wright was an interesting diversion, had never heard of her or The Lonely Doll. Thanks!

    No net yesterday, but back today. Yes, thanks for asking, I am very good. Walking outside a lot and eating well. A gentle and pleasing pace of life here. Went to see a cairn yesterday, a 4000 year-old chambered tomb with a big facade of standing rocks. Very impressive. And lots of very charming abandoned and rotting farmhouses. Also took a piss in one of the most threatening, hostile bars I’ve ever encountered in the countryside, and saw a dead badger.

    The pre-shoot sounds beyond hectic man. I hope you and Zac get things the way you want/need them, sincerely.

    Have you read a book called Pond, by Claire-Louise Bennett? Been meaning to ask you. If so, what did you make of it? I had big, large problems with it.

    Hope today went well, and Happy Birthday Dora G,

    Best

    Joe

  4. Dóra Grőber

    April 5, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Hi!

    Thank you so much!! I did indeed consume… tons of sweets, haha. I had a cheesecake.

    I’m glad you managed to come up with a plan about simplifying things! It’s good to have a plan B even if you want to go for your original ideas first. And it’s really good news about the editor and the Pig Destroyer song!! I’m happy for you!
    Have you heard back from the club scene song already?

    My day was a bit busy, I met a few family members and such, but it was nice. I got a Paul Auster book called Invisible and I’m pretty excited about it. He was one of my favorite writers when I was in high school but I haven’t read a novel by him since then.

    How did the rehearsals go? I hope everything’s going just as planned!

  5. Dare Wright comes from the Dovima era of fashion models. Her “Lonely Doll” is interesting. However I find all dolls to be “lonely.” And Famke Jansen is a lot creepier than any doll

  6. Dare Wright’s is a sad and fascinating story. I’m grateful for this restored post.

    I’ve been feeling rather under the weather and have taken a couple of days off work. Just a common cold, and I’m hoping it clears up soon. That’s what I’m hoping because guess what, I’m finally having my first ever driving lesson on Friday! The instructor texted me this week and we set it all up. So these germs can just vamoose, as far as I’m concerned.

  7. Dennis,

    Dare Wright is one of the favorite people of a friend of mine, the writer Quentin S. Crisp. He’s the guy who wrote the lyrics for the Kodagain song you posted, I believe.

    He wrote an essay influenced by one of her books (guess which one) called “The Little One – A Meditation,” which was published in booklet form recently. I have it somewhere around here.

    Anyway, I think I’ll pass a link to this Day along to him.

    Take care.

    PS, it’s my birthday! I decided to celebrate by sleeping in, and then getting high and listening to sunny psychedelic music. Current listening: https://chazbundickmeetsthemattson2.bandcamp.com/releases

  8. chris dankland

    April 6, 2017 at 5:26 am

    hey dennis !! how’s paris these days?

    these book covers & photos are amazing — i love stuff like this, things that push sentimentality into the creepy zone & manage to be both innocent and ominous at the same time. i’ve been finding a lot of things like that in country music lately, like American sentimentality that’s so overblown & melodramatic that it becomes grotesque. there’s this old country music singer named Red Sovine that i’m currently in love with, who wrote these very corny sappy tear-jerker story songs that i find weirdly unnerving & fucked up, haha. it’s kind of a magical thing

    i’m so psyched for the movie !! i enjoyed the scrapbook day, especially that Destroyer song. i LOVE the movie’s premise. it’s interesting to read your updates about how it’s coming along, there are so many moving parts & different people involved.

    awhile back u asked me how my writing is going & it’s good — i put ‘Space City’ away for awhile, my big novel about Houston that i was working on last year, and right now i’m working on a bunch of shorter Weed Monk type ebooks that i want to release prolifically for the rest of the year. I’ve gotten obsessed with writing these short 500 word stories that are taking medieval folk tales & hagiographies as their model, instead of the contemporary short story form. (although i’m not sure if that’s apparent to anyone besides me, haha.) Space City is gonna be such a long term massive project, for now i want to focus on finishing a lot of smaller things that are more manageable.

    anyway that’s catching u up with pretty much everything that’s been going on with me. my life is sort of monomaniacally focused on writing at the moment, which is a very happy place for me to be. and my family’s taking a trip up to Yellowstone next week, i’ve never been in that part of the country before. should be nice.

    i have a guest blog post that I wanted to shoot your way, if you’re interested, but i’m not sure if i should wait to send it until you’re done shooting the movie? i read that ur gonna shut the blog down during that time, so if things are super busy for u right now & the blog is already pretty well queued up with post, it’s nothing for me to wait a little while.

    anyway, i wanted to say hi !! i hope everything is good with u. take care & have a beautiful morning, sending hugs

  9. strangest dream last night i was youngish went home with this man. i remember thinking he seems so nice. turns out it was fucking pogo. so much for dreaming. great news i have a working keyboard again! this doll is great. i like to see women who use seduction effectively. the classic Schiffer is probably the only thing that works for me as woman. love some of the looks of those dolls. fell in love with some of Giseles dolls. i must have stared at them for hours. dolls were my life as a child. i feel i achieved plastic if only a very hard one. off to write. love love love

  10. Hello,
    You are using an image of mine without permission, attribution or compensation.
    My original image can be found here:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/patrickjoust/4456108762/
    The unauthorized and infringing copy can be found here:
    https://denniscooperblog.com/dare-wright-day-2/
    This letter is official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (”DMCA”), and I seek the removal of the aforementioned image from your site.
    I am providing this notice in good faith and with the reasonable belief that my rights are being infringed. Under penalty of perjury I certify that the information contained in the notification is both true and accurate, and I have the authority to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright(s) involved.

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