The other night, it was about the Taubman Museum of Art. But it wasn’t about the museum. It was about the recent takeover by the local luminaries who brought us that building four years ago. And the behind-the-scenes conversations among them that preceded the recent coup.
I dreamed I was a fly on the wall of Heywood Fralin’s office when his phone rang. You know Fralin — he’s the local art connoisseur and Mid-Atlantic nursing home king. The caller was Nick Taubman, the auto parts titan and former ambassador.
To answer, Fralin pushed the button for the speakerphone.
TAUBMAN: Woody, is that you?
FRALIN: Who’s this?
TAUBMAN: It’s Nicky.
FRALIN: Nicky? Nicky WHO? I don’t know any Nickys.
TAUBMAN: Come on, Woody. It’s me, the guy they named the art museum after.
FRALIN: Nicky, you’ve got a lot of nerve, calling me. That was supposed to by MY museum.
TAUBMAN: Settle down, Woody. You’ve got your museum now. It’s up in Charlottesville and . . .
FRALIN: Yeah. It’s 100 darn miles away!
TAUBMAN: Cry me a river. That’s 20 minutes in your helicopter. They got most of your art, right?
FRALIN: You’re darn right they did. You think I want my stuff hanging with those dreary Thomas Eakin mugs in that monstrosity on Salem Avenue?
TAUBMAN: I’m calling about the Taubman Museum of Art.
FRALIN: You know what I call it? ‘The Taubman Museum of Art and Failure,’ and . . .
TAUBMAN: It’s going under, Woody. They’re going to have to shut down.
FRALIN: . . . I have to say, it’s failing spectacularly. You saw what the University of Chicago wrote, right? ‘Build it and they won’t come,’ ha.
TAUBMAN: That’s why I’m calling. We’ve got to do something.
FRALIN: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any museum flop so badly. Scuttlebutt is, your gross revenue for August was $3.98.
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