By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Upon receiving an Emmy Award for her work on Cheers in 1991, actress Kirstie Alley jolted audiences with the highly unorthodox conclusion to what was otherwise a standard-issue acceptance speech. Eyes narrowing into sly slits, the actress grinned wickedly at the audience, then gave special thanks to her husband, Parker Stevenson, "for giving me the big one for the past eight years." Paul Wilson should be so lucky. The Phoenix artist has got to be the former teen idol's No. 1 fan.
Best remembered for his role as one of the youthful sleuths in the late-Seventies TV series The Hardy Boys Mysteries, actor Stevenson (to say nothing of his "big one") has been a major obsession of Wilson's for nearly ten years. During that time, the prolific artist has turned out more than 50 sketches of Stevenson, many of them inspired by photographs in a dog-eared collection of teen magazines.
About a dozen of those pieces, many of them featuring homoerotic images of Stevenson (Parker looked up in surprise as I broke into his house to kidnap him" reads the handwritten caption under a detailed drawing of the nude actor reclining on a couch), form the nucleus of a provocative art exhibition centering on Wilson's obsessive fantasies about his idol.
Although many gallerygoers may fail to discern the difference, the smitten Wilson maintains that his Stevenson show is a spoof of celebrity obsessions, not a celebration of same.
"It is important that the Parker obsession is noted as a fictional satire of an obsession," Wilson emphasizes in a handwritten brochure titled The Key to Me by Paul. "Though the artist is truly infatuated with Parker, he wouldn't kill him!"
This last statement will no doubt come as a great relief to Parker Stevenson. The actor, now 41, did not respond to a request, through intermediaries, for a comment on Wilson's unusual tribute to him.
In addition to the racier Stevenson images that draw the most attention at Wilson's show, the artist has also included several goofy panels that chronicle the couple's imaginary "first date" (Wilson depicts himself in incredibly bad drag) and another work in which the pair performs a scene from South Pacific with Wilson (in drag again) as native girl Liat. ( . . . "You Like?" asks the matchmaking Bloody Mary as Parker gazes at Wilson, looking like a refugee from a Hawaiian bar mitzvah.)
"When I was in art class in college, I was drawing Parker so much, people joked that I was 'sick,'" explains Wilson. "So I just decided to capitalize on that and satirize a sick obsession."
In addition to lifelike color-pencil sketches, freestanding cardboard cutouts, dioramas and phony record-album covers depicting Stevenson's ever-smiling visage, the show includes newspapers with doctored headlines (SICK ART STUDENT KEEPS PARKER HOSTAGE," "PARKER STEVENSON RAPED AND MAULED"), as well as a truly creepy video presentation titled What Paul Wants, Paula Gets. In the video, Wilson transforms himself into alter ego "Paula," a bewigged, lip-smacking "woman-thing" who stalks Stevenson, ultimately abducting him and holding him hostage. Perhaps mercifully, the d‚nouement is left to the viewer's imagination.
On view at Alwun House through October 3, the show (which also includes works by Valley artist and Wilson friend Linda Kase) also features art inspired by other Wilson obsessions: actor Sam Elliott (like Stevenson, Elliott is portrayed as nude); Patty Duke as Neely O'Hara, the Judy Garlandlike character she played in Valley of the Dolls; the pre-Psycho Anthony Perkins; and elaborate buffet tables laden with incredibly realistic-looking fake party food, all of it liberally garnished with plastic cockroaches. Adding further flavor to this hodgepodge of fetishes is an overflowing bucket of what appears to be--but, thankfully, is not--human excrement. (It's really just papier-mƒch‚ with corn kernels," reveals Wilson. "The secret is to treat it with a gloss medium finish so it looks fresh.")
Titled "Pretty Things and Dirty Things," Wilson's celebration of "the gorgeous and the ghastly" is the 29-year-old artist's first major exhibition. The show originally opened early last August at Berlitz Gallery, a gay art space formerly located at Park Central Mall. After that gallery lost its lease last month, a streamlined version of the show was hastily relocated to Alwun House.
"In a week, we've had more traffic through here than we'd had in the entire past two months," reported Jack Matter, former part-time gallery manager, shortly after the Wilson show opened at the Park Central venue. "People look in, see these half-naked paper dolls of Parker Stevenson, and wonder what's going on. So they come in, and most of them appear to be fascinated by the whole thing."
@body:Paul Wilson is an outwardly quiet sort, whose earnest, ultracourteous demeanor and retro-natty manner of dress (bow tie and oxfords clash with mismatched plaids) suggest Howard Sprague, the soft-spoken bachelor on The Andy Griffith Show. Wilson's personal fascination with "Parker" began midway through the artist's college career, when he happened to catch Stevenson in a 1985 episode of the new Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV anthology.
"I don't know what it is about him, but the minute I saw that show, I just knew I had to start drawing him," explains Wilson, who makes his living painting considerably more prosaic backdrops for a company that supplies scenery for conventions and industrial shows. "Maybe it's just because he's so artificial in terms of handsomeness, with those big, blue eyes, sparkling teeth and blond hair, but he epitomizes what I tend to think of as perfection."
Still, Wilson claims a lot of his female friends miss the attraction altogether--assuming they recognize Stevenson's name in the first place.