Jumping Rope with Rauschenberg

It was the late spring of 1967, maybe May, when I walked into a quiet room in the home of a Philadelphia art collector to step back from the raucous party. There was a lot of scotch, and at 21 I hadn’t heard about knowing your own limit. The large lavishly furnished parlor was inhabited by an older man (perhaps 45) who seemed to have a similar inability to know when he’d had too much. We laughed and talked about hiding from the forced ritual of the party where wild and confrontational artists insulted and amused their patrons (just as they have for hundreds of years) but how the owners of the mansions always seemed to maintain control. I told the stranger how I had always wanted to jump rope with the tassels of the drapes in an opulent room. We both laughed and rushed to undo the braided cord wrapped around shimmering green silk. We tried to get a full swing with the rope in the room but it was too filled with furniture to accommodate our street game. By now we were determined and found a long wide hallway to be a perfect place to allow the full arc of the swinging cord. Laughing and reeling we lurched through eight or ten double jumps when the rope caught on a picture wire that ran the length of the hallway pulling the hook out at one end. One by one the framed prints crashed to the floor breaking the glass and denting the frames. The Matron of the house came running in furious and screaming about the destruction of her entire suite of Rauschenberg prints. Her tirade was cut short when she recognized my fellow rope jumper. Her face softened and she apologized to him for being so upset but she gave me; a young, drunk, mini skirted, long red haired, aspiring but unknown artist the dirtiest look as she walked back to join her party.

Linda Fleming
May 13, 2008