When I was a little girl in the sixties, my mother to used occasionally take me to the St. Regis hotel for lunch in the little lounge next to the famous King Cole Bar (With paintings by Maxfield Parrish, it was where the Bloody Mary was invented). We’d sit side-by-side on the banquet as Albert, the ancient head waiter, would serve us lunch. Across the room, we often saw Salvador Dali lunching with his pet ocelot Babou, who lived with him in his suite upstairs. Dali described Babou as a normal cat that he had “painted over in an op art design.”
At the time, I had no concept of what I was witnessing: eccentricity in full glory.
I wish my mother had explained it a bit, or that Dali considered his mustache to be an antenna that received alien signals and was, in fact, an ever-changing artwork itself, or encouraged me to go over and say HI. She never said a word about him. An original herself, she was either trying hard to be “normal” OR refusing to acknowledge a kindred spirit, or perhaps, both, a conflict many of us share.
Eccentricity, it seems, is actually a mathematical term, indicating the “deviation of a curve from moving as a perfect circle” or something like that. “Deviation from the perfect…or the norm” seems just right. It has always seemed an excellent practice to cultivate if it means “being truly oneself”.
Perhaps partly due to Dali’s example —he would later walk an aardvark down a Paris street — my life has been peopled with eccentrics, many of whom are artists, all of whom are artful. They are, after all, highly interesting people, daring to live as they please and have fun doing it.
Were it not for eccentrics, where would we be?
top image via Open Culture