Friday, July 17, 2009

Ellie Frazetta (R.I.P.)


Ellie was one of Frank Frazetta's most beloved subjects and she frequently posed for his paintings throughout their 54 years of marriage.

I regret to announce the passing today of Eleanor Frazetta, loving wife of American artist Frank Frazetta. I met "Ellie" one memorable afternoon in 2004 at the Frazetta Museum in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania when I took a lone pilgrimage to pay my respects to this hero of my childhood. Like so many young artists, Frank Frazetta's seemingly effortless renderings of primordial conflict deeply impacted my pre-adolescent imagination and his museum was everything I had hoped for and more. His compact iconic works have been part of my visual pantheon ever since I convinced my mom to buy my very first Frazetta book when I was eight years old so it was dizzying and almost overwhelming to finally view these paintings up close. It's a small museum but I had to pace myself and exit occasionally for fresh air and a stroll around the property lake. I spent several hours leaning in close at odd angles trying to peak behind the mysterious curtain of pigment that seemed to conceal the essence of his brush strokes. They looked very much like the reproductions I had grown up with except the colors were even more intense. The museum was nearly empty that day but still some fucking asshole's cell phone kept going off at random intervals. Curse the modern world! This went on for much of the afternoon and I was imagining myself decapitating the inconsiderate douchebag like one of Frank's battle-scarred berserkers when suddenly I felt a soft hand gently touch my shoulder. I spun around on my heels and it was Ellie staring back at me, her head slightly tilted to the side and a sympathetic twinkle in her eyes. "Honey," she said warmly, "You're leaning too close to the paintings. It's making the security alarms go off." I looked around the gallery and we were alone. That was no cell phone after all.

"Artist?," Ellie quickly inquired and with that she took my arm and began leading me around the museum for a personal tour. She shared hilarious stories about Frank's paintings and paused in front of his Creepy covers long enough to fulfill my lifelong dream of viewing these monstrosities up close. I told her I was something of a "horror artist" and she went to a back room and returned with a mint copy of Creepy #1! She even called an old family friend from the house next door to snap a photo of me in full bliss despite the rules that clearly forbid photography. As we walked along the rows of paintings she teased Frank's "relaxed" work ethic like only a devoted lifelong partner can do and said if only he wasn't so damn lazy he would've been more prolific! I quickly realized that the twinkle in her eyes was more mischievous than sympathetic. She was a wonderfully funny and charming woman, still beautiful and vibrant despite her age. She walked me through the Conan paintings- an entire wall- and pointed out how Frank would often return to "fix" paintings long after they were completed. She produced an old yellowing Lancer paperback and pointed out how Conan's expression on the cover no longer matched the original painting. After the book went to press Frank had painted over the face and completely re-worked it until it met his approval (the book is 'Conan The Buccaneer' for those keeping score). Many people have applauded Ellie's fierce business savvy and from what I could tell she commanded her husband's collection with all the passion of an artist herself. I left the souvenir shop that day with a pair of women's panties emblazoned with a glittering iron-on of a barbarian maiden (the painting is titled 'The Huntress' for those keeping score). What can I say? Ellie was a smooth persuader. My girl cherishes those panties to this day. Thanks for not throwing me out of the museum, Ellie.  You will be missed by many but the world will always remember you as the spirited muse to one of the greatest talents of the 20th Century. My deepest condolences to the entire Frazetta Family during this difficult time.

See those little contraptions on the wall near my head? Those are motion detectors that trigger the subtle ring tone-like security alarm if you lean too close to the paintings.

8 comments:

Murdoch said...

Thanks Dennis, Nice story
I don't know a lot about Frank Frazetta but everything i've seen blows my mind.
Sad news

TRAWETS NILTGEOV said...

Ha ha ! Wow... Amazing, D.

I bought the Conan novels from a used book store before I could even read b/c I "like the pictures." Hooked on Phonics worked the kinks out and the rest is history.

Frank's old lady sounds like a dish. You're a dish, too, Dennis Dread. I raise my 13th banquet beer to you.

UA said...

I've always wanted to go to that place and see those paintings up close. It would be kind of eerie for me as I've been looking at them in reproductions for most of my life...thanks for writing this...

Leon Holocausto said...

GREAT story, Dennis. The Frazetta Museum is only about 30-45 minute away, so we can't wait to visit ourselves. Maybe come the Fall?

Mike L said...

Came across your site when checking info on Ellie's passing. Very nice remembrance. I've been a guest of hers on many occasions at the gallery and she was some piece of work. She managed to sell me and my 2 friends the "Cat Girl" print that was signed and re-marqued by Frank. That was over a dozen years ago, and I make a trip every year. She will be missed.

Laurie said...

Oh dear, I'm sad to think that I wont be able to meet her. I don't know why I didn't think of going to the museum, small thinking on my part. I will make it down there within the year, I live in Victoria BC. Your story touched me and I loved the humour, it made me feel like I got to know a little bit about her. I've loved Frazetta's art since the early 70's when my boyfriend introduced me to it. If I ever win the lottery I will hunt down one of his oils. I feel so sad to think that his muse and love is gone, guess I'm a mush. My condolances to Frank and the family...Wish I could've met you Ellie

Murdoch said...

Did you see this?
What a little shit
http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/all-art-theft-1210cn,0,4676143.story

holopass said...

How delighted I was to read this and that you confirmed my suspicions that Ellie in fact posed for some paintings. Years ago I visited the art gallery when it was above the costume store. The only one present was Ellie and one look at her immediately prompted me to ask her if she was the inspiration behind some of the artwork. I will never forget, she simply and gracefully smiled, as if to say, I’ll let you decide…. That memory has stayed with me. Thank you.