I was glad to hear that Drew was there for her father when he passed, with the help of Vicki. This is the family unity that I hoped for when I visited Vicki in June so we can go foreword. We have spent too much time at the stern of the ship looking at the destructive flotsam in our wake. We have been moving to the bow of the ship in order behold a brighter future.
For those who have inherited at least one of the Muses, let us continue to look to our creations, our beautiful children, and the loving bonds we made, for inspiration.
Above are the images of the beautiful Muses that Garth rendered in his mural ‘Hall of the Nine Muses’. Bree is performing a one act show in New York. Drew is working on new artwork. Here is the webpage Drew designed for her father: http://www.garthbenton.com/
The murals on the J. Paul Getty Museum’s garden walls have been seen by millions of visitors since the Malibu institution opened 20 years ago. But who knew that the artist who painted–and is now restoring–the realistic likenesses of columns, garlands and still-life arrangements is Garth Benton, a third cousin of Thomas Hart Benton? The 53-year-old artist never met his famous relative, an American regionalist painter who rejected modern abstraction and championed a muscular style of realism until his death in 1975. But the younger Benton was turned on to art at the age of 8 when he saw a book of his relative’s paintings, and he occasionally corresponded with the late artist, who spent much of his life in his home state of Missouri.
Fine art connoisseurs insist that Garth Benton creates the kind of exquisite murals that “should be admired and treasured.” Insiders say Benton’s “never-ending” skills are made manifest by the diversity of his commissions, which are inspired by everything from first-century Roman frescoes to eighteenth-century Chinese wallpaper to Art Deco and Modern designs.
Benton, who has been described as one of the top five muralists in the world, truly executes museum-quality pieces. He has worked on such notable projects as the 1,000-foot mural in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, and been published in fine art books. Benton studied art at UCLA and Art Center College of Design after being inspired by the work of his cousin, the late Thomas Hart Benton, a teacher of Jackson Pollock and a well-known artist in his own right.
Benton is renowned for his meticulous research, immersing himself in the history of a civilization before he lifts his brush. Benton often paints his murals on canvas so they can be transported, a detail clients appreciate—especially when they decide to move. Though sources say they “cannot put a price” on these works of art, they willingly write a very large check.
Representative Client Comments:
“Benton’s work is breathtaking.” “In addition to being one of most talented artists of his time, he is a wonderful person—soulful and real.” “I am glad to know that this kind of skilled artist still exists.” “Garth transports you to another time with his art.”
“To Garth with appreciation of your wonderful assistance and with warmest, best wishes.”
– Betty and Gerald Ford
“What a joy to have your murals!”
– Bob and Dolores Hope
“Your work is truly fine, and you go above and beyond the call of duty. So when you present your final bill to me, make it for whatever you like…within reason, of course.”
– Barbra Streisand
“To master artist Garth Benton, and his two talented daughters, and with gratitude for your beautiful additon to our new home.”
– Rhonda “Mann” Flemming
Mr. and Mrs. Bob Hope
Pres. and Mrs. Gerald Ford
Ms. Barbra Streisand
Mr. Sidney Sheldon
HRH Prince Saud Al Faisal
Ms. Carol Burnett
Mr. and Mrs. David L. Wolper
Ms. Jaclyn Smith
The J.Paul Getty Museum
M.H. De Young Memorial Museum
Mr. Danny Kaye
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Singleton
Mr. And Mrs. Mickey Rudin
Mr. Dean Martin
Mr. Hugh Hefner
Ralph M. Parsons Company
Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Firestone
The Beverly Hilton Hotel
Squaw Valley Inn
Mr. Richard Cohen
Lily and Richard Zanuck
Mr. and Mrs. George Doheny
Princess of Iran
Ms. Polly Bergen
Mrs. Walt Disney
Ms. Pamela Mason
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Knight
Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Spelling
Mr. and Mrs. Kirk Douglas
Mr. Jerry Magnin
Mr. and Mrs. Warren Clark
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Maguire
Mr. and Mrs. Stewart Resnick
Ms. Danielle Steel
Mr. David Nutt, Esq.
Poor Baby Bree is really Bree Benton, 35 and a newcomer to cabaret. But her arresting characterization—unbroken for the length of her show—is worthy of a small theater. She drifts into view, worldly goods slung over her shoulder, and then, through vintage recitations and songs of woe, she recalls every defeated wretch who traipsed through early-20th-century America, looking for home and hanging on by a thread. Opening her bag, she pulls out her “babies”—antique dolls to whom she sings. Is she insane or just lonesome? Benton draws her laments from tattered sheet music and acoustic 78s; her voice is the frail warble heard on those tinny recordings, her face the portrait of despair immortalized by Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish and other silent-era waifs.
Learning of Benton’s incongruous family connection—she’s the stepdaughter of Richard Belzer, the cranky, politically minded comic actor—makes you all the more curious: What led her to adopt this antique persona? So hauntingly does she inhabit it that you may conclude that Bree Benton is not of this time, nor even this world.
Producers of the abandoned revival of Funny Girl struggled to find a new Fanny Brice, someone with the requisite comedic chops and rafter-shaking voice who could shake the ghost of Streisand. They might have done well to consider Bree Benton, who, in the persona of Poor Baby Bree, evokes the comic pathos of Brice and her contemporaries while putting her own indelible stamp on vaudeville revisited.
Since 2005, Benton has been performing in one-person shows as Poor Baby Bree, with musical director Franklin Bruno at piano—championing lost vaudeville songs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Baby Bree, a street-smart waif with stars in her eyes and “not a plug nickel” to her name, provides Benton with the ideal vehicle for her repertoire of vintage comic songs, ballads, and patter. In Benton’s skillful hands, tough-talkin’, sweet-singin’ Baby Bree is part Bette Davis, part Fanny Brice, part Judy Garland with a sprinkling of Olive Oyl—a sassy comedian one minute, a heart-breaking balladeer the next.
Baby Bree’s latest adventure, “I Am Going to Run Away,” is now playing at La MaMa through April 29. In this outing, Baby Bree runs away from home to join the circus—only to find herself lost in the big city, with only her dolls for company. This provides the frame for such forgotten standards as the rousing “Oh! You Circus Day” from 1912—a lively celebration of big-top glamour—to the poignant “Laugh! Clown! Laugh!, ”a 1928 ditty about the tragic life of a circus clown. For the most part, Benton breezily walks the tightrope between funny and sad, as epitomized in her charming interpretation of the 1932 novelty song “The Angel Cake Lady (And the Ginger Bread Man),” replete with a dancing marionette, gingerbread man, and larger-than-life doughnut. In some places, however, she is still finding her comedic feet. Not all the jokes land, particularly in the awkward first 10 minutes. (A crack about a wild bear eating sauerkraut crashed with a thud). Under Bruno’s musical direction, the band provides lively accompaniment, driving the momentum while providing rich period sound. Consulting director David Schweizer has built a solid framework—though sometimes the transitions drag—particularly the long, unnecessarily complicated and literal shift from the “woods” to the city. (The action stops to a halt as two stagehands dismantle trees and put up a garbage pail and crates).
Still, this is charming evening—a celebration of old songs whose cleverness and emotional truth still resonate—and a showcase for prodigious performer. In all, “I Am Going to Run Away” is a delightful introduction to the forgotten songs of a century ago.
Poor Baby Bree in I Am Going to Run Away; LaMaMa Etc. Conceived and performed by Bree Benton; Consulting Director: Michael Schweizer; Musical Direction and Piano: Franklin Bruno; The Club at LaMaMa; 212-475-7710; http://www.lamama.org, http://www.poorbabybree.com