Head Games

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He's Our Ho

Among artists who fret about Phoenix's cultural scene, or the lack thereof, the arrival of Edward Booth-Clibborn was heralded as an event no less lustrous than the second coming of Christ (were artists today actually into the whole Jesus thing beyond Piss Christ).

The Bird heard no small amount of twittering as Arizona State University architecture professor Nan Ellin arranged for Booth-Clibborn, a prominent British art book publisher, to visit local artist studios, architectural landmarks and fashion shows.

The reason: After publishing books about the cultural milieu in hot spots Berlin, Moscow, and Brooklyn, Booth-Clibborn was doing a book about Phoenix.

You heard that right!

Okay, so this is no artists' mecca. But maybe, The Bird thought, we've finally made it. After all, a guy with a plummy British accent chooses our scene as worthy of a coffee table book titled Phoenix: 21st Century City? What a wonderful calling card!

Or, perhaps it would be -- had Booth-Clibborn actually chosen us.

As the publisher admits, he didn't find Phoenix. Phoenix found him.

Specifically, the Maricopa Partnership for Arts and Culture, or MPAC, a foundation-funded startup whose sole purpose is to push the local art scene, found him.

And it's not just that MPAC found the Limey publisher and asked him to give Phoenix a chance. It's paying him to love us, and, where this tweeter comes from, there's a name for that.

You could call Booth-Clibborn's work a vanity project. He prefers to say he's been "commissioned."

But, the publisher hastens to add, that doesn't mean his company is lowering the bar. "My reputation depends on my last book," he says. "You can't just drop your standards."

A former advertising art director, Booth-Clibborn is perhaps best known in London for getting canned as chair of the Designers' and Art Directors' Association in 1992. His mistake? Submitting as an expense a lunch bill of more than $500.

He's clearly a man who likes a good time. But when it comes to Phoenix's art scene, the publisher's still withholding judgment.

"I was impressed by certain areas," he says. "Young people doing fashion. And the architecture is superb. (What!?) You have some great private homes. (Oh.)"

What about the art?

"There are some quality things," he says. "Not, oh, I've got to be careful here. How do I put it? Not a great amount. But one or two quality pieces. The question is, are there exciting things going on? Is this an area where inventiveness is going on?"

Well? this foul fowl demanded.

After a long pause, he said it's his job "just to raise the question."

Here's the question The Bird's raising: Is paying for (sorry, commissioning) a freakin' coffee table book the best use of our arts partnership's money? Really, it's not like this aviary's swimming in money for culture.

"This is a very, very exciting thing for the region," chirped the partnership's CEO, Myra Millinger. "We think it's going to be of exceptional quality, and that it will change some perceptions."

Well, here's The Bird's perception. This is like paying for sex. You can give a whore money to put out, but you can't go around pretending he has feelings for you.

Open Bar

Used to be that VIPs at the FBR Open got VIP perks . . . and, by that, The Bird means unlimited free drinks. But this year, the suits in the "corporate village tents" got a rude awakening. Thanks to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, the poor souls got cut off after drink 12.

Now, this feathered behemoth must admit to downing the occasional 12-pack in the course of a long day. And, maybe, once or twice, making it through three bottles of wine during a boozy dinner.

Mind you, it would never attempt soaring around Phoenix in such a state.

But for 12 drinks to be an officially sanctioned limit? In that case, why have a limit?

After all, most people swallowing a dozen drinks are in pretty bad shape. According to, give a 170-pound man 12 glasses of wine over four hours, and he'll blow a 0.189 -- more than twice Sheriff Joe's strictly enforced 0.08 blood alcohol limit.

And don't even ask this golfing goose about the 110-pound trophy wife of the typical guy who hangs out at FBR. Even if she spaces 12 white Zinfandels over a six-hour day, she's going to blow a .252 -- leaving her not just an extreme DUI, but practically comatose.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela