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Sonny Rollins

Greatest Living Jazz Soloist

I listened to my brother playing the violin, études, practicing. I listened to a lot of music around. Fats Waller and all of these James P. Johnson piano rolls. We had a piano roll of his. I just heard a lot of music. Louis Jordan. I used to hear the Amateur Night in Harlem from the Apollo Theater. All the bands would come through for one week. So I just heard a lot of music, you know. I went to a lot of movies, because in the days when I was growing up, that was the television of the day, movies. So I went to a lot of movies, I heard a lot of movie music, and liked a lot of the music, Jerome Kern and all of these people. Jerome Kern is one of my favorites, but I have others, too. So that's where I guess I get my inspiration from. I just have a lot of music in my mind that I heard as a child, and I guess it comes out when I am playing. I know a lot of songs, words of some of them, but I mean I know a lot of melodies. My head is just filled with music, and when I'm improvising, they come out at different times. It surprises me. Gee, I played something that I didn't know was in my mind, the recesses of my mind.
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Anthony Romero

Executive Director, ACLU

Anthony Romero: I've been lucky that I've been trained at some of the best schools in America. I've gone to Princeton, I've gone to Stanford, I had some great teachers in high school. So I love our educational system, and I think that teachers in public schools taught me enormous amounts, and teachers in private universities and private schools taught me enormous amounts. But I have learned in life. I've learned on the street, I've learned talking to people. It's the conversations you remember, it's the people who make you stop and think differently about something. It's less the classes I took in college and more about the late night conversations or debates about the world that I remember. It's the conversations you have with people who are struggling in their lives. That one thought from a taxicab driver that just kind of sticks with you and makes you think differently. Or talking to someone who's about to lose their home and finds themselves in eviction proceedings. Or talking to someone on death row, and understanding how they still find meaning in their life, and why it is important to safeguard the sanctity of life, that life is precious. That there's even a sense of the human spirit even for people on death row. It's not the same thing to be on death row as to be executed -- there is life, there's thought. So I've learned most from my interactions with the people, conversations with people, traveling overseas, little interactions. Arguments are sometimes places you can learn. You can learn how to be wrong, you can learn how to apologize. So I think life is an education. I think the schools of higher learning and the public schools and the private schools are great, but they're only training ground for the real education, which is living, which is life, which is the beauty of walking outside a door and confronting something new and unexpected and learning how to adapt to it.
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James Rosenquist

Pop Art Master

I've taught very few times, but when I've been to a school for boys and girls, they're trying to make an expression from a little tube of paint, and they don't know how to mix paint or do any of that, anything practical. So they get very frustrated. And they take a cigarette, they put it out in the mess, and they go home. And everything is dirty and a mess, everything. And so I show them how to take the paint out of the tube, and smear it up, and how much space they could cover with just the little bit of paint in that tube. I show them how to do that, and after a while, they could make these big beautiful abstract paintings, and I said, "Fantastic! Now you have to have an idea, that's the next part." But it's the same with film. To be able to use it, to be able to do it. To be able to light things, to be able to do all that takes someone to show you the knack of how to do that. It's craft.
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James Rosenquist

Pop Art Master

James Rosenquist: I think being an artist is having courage to be original. It's hard to describe, because many great artists, including Picasso, have all been influenced by the great master paintings, Spanish paintings, whatever. Their art has looked like them, they've been influenced by them, and then finally, they leap, they take off. And then they become themselves. Then it looks like they just came out of nowhere. Just like, "Pow!" So I'm a reactionary, and I sort of -- I don't like my work to look like anyone else's. So 20 or 30 years ago, I knew a Japanese artist who won a scholarship to Majorca, and when he got there, he met a Swedish artist who was doing the same kind of calligraphy, so both of them promptly stopped that. So with the advent of communication, and the word getting around, and photographs getting around, I think that it's less likely to copy, or to unknowingly work in a similar vein. And I think that's interesting. But I think it's important to learn how -- it's important to study, to learn. To polish up on drawing, which is very academic. Like drawing from plaster casts, because it's handy to be able to know how to do that. And then when you have everything polished, and all your senses ready, then if an idea does happen, you can do something about it. You can maybe convince yourself with your abilities that way. Because a lot of art is well meant, but it looks like child's play, or it looks like anyone could have done that. And it's hard to see through that veil to see what the artist is really getting at.
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James Rosenquist

Pop Art Master

James Rosenquist: My audition for Artkraft Strauss was to paint Kirk Douglas's picture about eight feet high. So I thought, "I want the job, so I am going to show them." So I put tears in his eyes, the number five makeup on, saliva on his lips, I mean, he looked great, fabulous. And Mr. Strauss came by and he said, "Hire that young man!" He was 80 years old. "Hire him!" So I got the job. And the interesting things about painting signs is that the amount of paint you use is incredible. The people you work with are really incredible, because they have tons of experience painting. They know how to wrap the brushes, they are very practical. They know all the tricks of the trade of doing all sorts of funny things. And for instance, painting a clock on the Astor Victoria Theater, one of my helpers who was about 70 years old said, "Hey kid, do this." And he tied a string on a gallon can of mineral spirit, and he started swinging it. And we are up seven stories and this can is swinging back and forth like this. And he says, "Now it's four o'clock! Blam!" And he snaps the line, and I've got a line going that way, a big diagonal for one of the hands, so we can paint it. But all sorts of color mixing, too. And in volume. You know, like making big gallons and gallons of color. One time, we were going to paint Separate Tables, I think it was. And the background was all orange on the Astor Victoria Theater. And we mixed up all this paint in the truck. And we all jumped in the back of this flatbed truck. And the truck lurched on 11th Avenue, and all the paint spilled out of the truck onto Eleventh Avenue like a huge pancake. And I said -- all these old men are afraid they are going to get fired -- and I said, "Shovel some sand on it, and let's get the hell out of here." And the truck driver backed in with the four wheels in the back, and took off and left these four orange stripes right down to 45th and Broadway. We didn't get caught, but it was funny. We dropped a gallon of purple paint off the Mayfair Theater, ten stories, and it went Pow! like a light bulb, with purple, right at lunchtime. No one got hurt. It was just miraculous.
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James Rosenquist

Pop Art Master

James Rosenquist: Whether you like it or not, after five years passes, after five years go by, you will be five years older. Things may change for the better or they may change for the worse, but you are going to be five years older! Or in ten years you will be ten years older. And in that time, you can be living a much nicer life, a more productive life, more fun, more everything. Or that life will be dictated by someone else. So I've told that to people who work for me. I said, "Hell," I said, "I don't mind if you leave and go on to something else. I like to know successful people." And I've worked with guys, I worked with Fred Clark who used to deliver my paintings in a laundry truck. And now Fred is a big actor in Hollywood. He had a runny nose, and a little son to support, and he was living from hand to mouth, and now his name is Matt Clark and he's been in movies with John Wayne, and he's in movies constantly. He plays judges and tough guys and cowboys and everything like that. It's fun to know happy ending stories, but I also know of stories of people who really have nothing and became successful. That's fun.
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