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.

Salvador Dali with ocelot Babou

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?

zappa without deviation 790

top image via Open Culture 

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4 replies on “Eccentricity Means Being Yourself (Salvador Dali as Role Model)

  1. True Story:

    Back in the ’60s I was riding on a bus in California, a longhaired hippie minding my own business, flashing on how downright groovy everything was, even the guy sitting in front of me in his seersucker shirt and Bermuda shorts. Suddenly, this same guy turns around on me and, with a vicious snarl, yells right into my face: “CONFORM!”

  2. I’m all for eccentricity (I come from a long line of somewhat batty artists) but try as I might, I can’t embrace any kind of behavior that takes away the rights of other living creatures. Wild animals should be wild, not used as props for displays of their own “wild eccentricity.” Shame on Dali and all those who for their own pleasure torture living creatures by keeping them caged and/or chained.
    Ok, hopping down off my soapbox now.

  3. Hope on your soapbox any time you like. I hadn’t thought of that, perhaps because it was so long ago. Shame on me!

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