The Psychiatric Couch Finds A HomeWednesday, September 16, 2009
Sometime in 1994 our Thursday noon lunches at the Railway Club came to an end. It had been going strong for some years. Mutual friends and friends of friends who were in the magazine business would meet to converse over lunch. There were writers, photographers, poets, urbanists, cops, alternative scene punk musicians, literate cooks and ecdysiasts. There were lots of beautiful women. I remembered two of them (Ketheryn and Andrea) today when I went to my studio with somber misgivings. I had mostly emptied my studio yesterday on my own and my son-in-law Bruce Stewart had volunteered to help me move out the larger stuff that might just fit in his old “liftback” Toyota.
One of the beautiful women of the Railway club was Katheryn Petersen. I photographed her often in my studio for several years. It was around 1991 that she told me, “How do you expect women to undrape for you on a hard floor? You need a bed or divan of sorts.” My memory then simply vanishes (as to how I located the item of this blog) except that I know that a retiring psychiatrist sold me his couch for $100 and tacked $25 for its delivery. The couch is a classic mid-century psychiatric couch. It is firm (springs), beautifully upholstered and very heavy. By covering it with rumpled sheets it looked like a bed and I often used satin of several colours for special effects or for a Hollywood look of the 30s and 40s.
What was I going to do with the couch? Would I have to rent a truck? Would I even want it in my house? Would someone want it? Or would I simply put it outside the studio in the hopes that someone would take it away. With the agony of leaving my studio almost behind me the couch became today’s preoccupation. I am happy to report that it has a happy ending.
Bruce and I managed to take the couch down the three floors. Bruce had previously taken measurements and assured me it would fit in his car. He was right. On the way home (what was I going to do with it there? Where would I put it?) I told Bruce, “Why don’t we stop at Cook’s Upholstery on 16th and Oak and ask how much it would cost to re-upholster it?”
The couch has been in my studio all these years and the very strong material is showing wear. We talked to the most friendly Bob Arjun who looked at the couch hanging out of the Toyota and immediately told us, “Good coil springs, original material. It will need 8 yards of material.” “Bob, I know, the owner’s daughter Cathy, she is married to my friend Graham Walker.” To this Bob answered, “I have known Cathy since she was 4.” The labour estimate is $750 plus the 8 yards of material. The material can cost anywhere between $100 and $135 per yard. That is a lot of money so I will not have that couch repaired in the next while.
When we arrived at home, Rosemary directed Bruce and I and after moving some chairs here and there we found a place for the couch next to the piano. Bruce put a cat motif throw rug on it and it looked like it had been there for years. With the couch safely home with its good owner (that’s me!) closing that studio has not been as bad as I expected it to be.
As I thought about the happy ending for the day I pondered on three movies, two of which I never saw (The Red Violin, The Wedding Dress) and The Yellow Rolls Royce. The thread of these films is the story of the subsequent owners of the car, a wedding dress and the violin. Nobody has yet to make a film that follows the story of a psychiatric couch. Nobody will ever know the story of the many people who have lain on the couch, put their hands on their waist and then told their innermost secrets to the doctor. How many were cured?
But I can give you a brief story in pictures of some of the beautiful women who have posed for me in that studio on Robson that is no more.
The first two photographs are Katheryn and the next three are Andrea. The following three are Leslie, the one showing my lights is with VSO violinist Robin Braun and the last little picture is of Tarren the fairest ecdysiast of them all.