The latest out of Upland City Hall consumes Friday’s column. The city manager is retiring June 30, but almost everything about his departure, announced Tuesday, raises questions. I list the ones that occurred to me and try to answer them.
When last we left the subject of office decor for Stephen Dunn, Upland’s city manager, he had received a print of “Dogs Playing Poker” from an Upland man who was tickled by a reference in my column to the famously low-brow image. (Dunn had taken everything off his walls and might be thought to be in need of art.)
Then came reader Bob Terry, who dug up a “Dogs Playing Poker” 3-D piece of, er, art from his garage, left over from his days as a salesman for Novelty Inc. Terry gave the piece to me and I presented it to Dunn a couple of weeks back. He promised to hang it if the City Council lets him keep his job. Neither of us are holding our breath on that.
It’s hard to tell from my photo, but rather than a painting, the piece is at least an inch deep and contains figures of the dogs and tables, all handpainted, behind the glass. Let’s see the Getty match that!
Friday’s column is largely about Upland’s seeming inability to organize and hold a town hall meeting. There’s some pointed comments from those concerned, and I do a little editorializing. After that I squeeze in a couple of Culture Corner items (one’s about bowling) and a couple of Valley Vignettes.
Wednesday’s column brings me back to an Upland City Council meeting, where the fun never stops.
I had joked in my column that, after stripping his office walls, Upland City Manager Stephen Dunn might only be planning to redecorate, and that next time I saw him, he might have prints up of Dogs Playing Poker. (Dogs Playing Poker is, of course, famously low-brow art, akin to Elvis on black velvet.)
Next time I saw Dunn, he said he’d considered getting a Dogs Playing Poker painting just for the joke but hadn’t found one. The Fontana Flea Mart would surely have had one, Dunn remarked. I put that in my column last Wednesday.
That’s when Upland reader Harry Scahill stepped up. Scahill, who lives near City Hall, has an aged print of a Dogs Playing Poker poster that he dropped off with Dunn after reading my column that morning.
“I told Stephen, ‘You don’t have to go so far away. Because I live just three blocks up the street,’” Scahill told me later.
The poster is unusual: Scahill’s grandfather, Henry K. Kaiser, made a woodcut engraving of the poster, probably in the 1940s, and then printed copies. “He plagiarized it,” Scahill admitted cheerfully. The time commitment involved in carving Dogs Playing Poker into wood is frightening to contemplate. Scahill inherited the posters and was happy to give one to the city manager, who got a kick out of the whole thing.
“I’m going to have it framed,” Dunn told me.
They’re pictured below, with Scahill at left and Dunn holding the poster and the original engraving. It’s great to see the City of Gracious Living finally involved in the fine art world.
Others commented on the reference in my column too. At noon on the day the column appeared, a fellow Rotarian of Dunn’s wore a Dogs Playing Poker T-shirt to the group’s lunch. A resident came into Dunn’s office to mock-complain about the ridicule of Dogs Playing Poker, saying he happens to have that poster hanging in his bathroom. And Acquanetta Warren, an Upland employee who is also mayor of Fontana, chided Dunn for referring to the Bel-Air Swap Meet as the Fontana Flea Mart.
“I’ve got a lot of buzz about Dogs Playing Poker,” Dunn said.
Dogs Playing Poker originated as a series of cigar ads early in the 20th century. You can read about the paintings at dogsplayingpoker.org and on Wikipedia. The most famous image, “A Friend in Need,” is reproduced at bottom.
I dropped in Monday on Upland’s city manager, back at his desk after a few days off and some drama about his future. We had a good chat about how things are going, as well as about the $4.75 million Colonies-related legal settlement. Does that get Upland out of the woods? No, but it’s nothing to sneeze at. All of this is in my Wednesday column.
The latest political intrigue out of Upland City Hall is the subject of Wednesday’s column.
The monthly downtown Upland walking tour that I wrote about last week definitely did better Saturday than the usual six to eight that had been attending since its debut last September.
“By my count, 37 people, but someone said over 40. Let’s go with the higher number!” enthused organizer Ann Lara via email. With a suggested $5 donation, the tour generated $150 for the Cooper Regional History Museum.
“I am calling it the David Allen effect. Almost everyone came because of your article,” Lara said. (Aw, shucks.) “I told the group if they were real good and took a nice photo it might end up on your blog or Facebook page. They all said ‘David Allen’ instead of ‘cheese’ for the photo.”
Maybe that will catch on. OK, probably not. But the tour seems to be catching on. The next one is May 10.
Items in Sunday’s column begin with a preview of Monday’s Upland council meeting in which the city manager’s fate appears to be the subject of two closed-door meetings. After that: Culture Corner and Valley Vignette items, an update on my Hitchcock film series, a plug for this blog and my reactions to a listing of the 10 Most Boring Places in California that includes Ontario.
Wednesday’s column is about a monthly walking tour of downtown Upland and the woman who leads it. There’s a hyperlink within the column to her Facebook and Instagram pages for more information or images. The next tour is 10 a.m. Saturday.