Thursday, November 21, 2013

An incredible window into the past -- Yousuf Karsh and his Photos

Tonight I stumbled across a YouTube of Estrellita Karsh, widow of the famous photographer, Yousuf Karsh. It has been at least forty years since I met them. It is a shock to be jerked back in time and remember an old friend.

As a feature writer for the Honolulu Star Bulletin in the seventies, my editor gave me an assignment. Peggy Bendet told me I was to interview Estrellita. A Hungarian, male reporter was to interview her husband.

Well, Estrellita and I hit it off. I thoroughly enjoyed her company and invited her and her husband to dinner at my house. She thought it was very funny that I was warming up Chinese take out in my stove when they arrived. I'm sure they were used to fancier fare. In any case, I had gone to the best Chinese restaurant in Honolulu and there is good reason to believe that it was better than anything I could have prepared.

From then on, whenever the Karshes were in town, they would call me and I'd have them to dinner. I remember Yousef telling us about  his famous photo of Winston Churchill -- how he snatched Churchill's cigar out of his mouth and got the famous grimace. There were endless stories. If only I could remember more of them.

It felt as if Estrellita was talking to me on her YouTube video tonight. She met Josef Albers and fell in love with one of his paintings...and with him. The result was that the artist gave it to her. Oddly enough, I am from Connecticut and I used to visit the Yale Art Museum very frequently. The Albers paintings happened to be my favorites.

I can still picture the wall in the front gallery close to Chapel Street where his paintings were lined up -- squares within squares that fascinated me. As they did to many others -- including Estrellita.

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