Art Lessons For My Daughter
A Proposal For A Series
Gregory Prescott picked up his daughter he did not know he had at Billion Air Jet, a private airport that catered to members of the Billionaire Club who flew their own Lear Jets. His patron owned a Lear and flew it to Santa Rosa to fetch Dezmerelda Delpiano so she could meet her father for the first time. At sixteen Greg’s daughter had red hair like his mother, Mary Rosamunde, who was one of Errol Flynn’s young lovers.
“And, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Greg asked, breaking the ice in the back of the limo that took them to Prescotts humble Carmel cottage that used to belong to George Sterling ‘The King of the Bohemians’.
“I am grown up, Daddy. Do you mind if I call you Dad? I am a ballerina. Here are some pics of me performing.”
Three hours later, Dez, is showing her Dad the drawing she did of fmous ballerina she did when she was fourteen.
“You should become an artist. You have talent. Has your mother seen these?”
“No. I did them in the closet because my mother hates artists. She said you were cruel to her and you abandoned her when you locked yourself in your studio and rendered another of those somber ‘I Stand Alone’ paintings that no one wanted but a few retired Generals in Pacific Grove. However, she loves my aunts images of happy, flowery, women. They remind her of her hippie days when she was the Acid Queen of Telegraph Avenue.”
Gregory felt rage, because he already detected the most passive aggressive woman in California had done her thing on their daughter. It was evident she was a Stage Mother out for revenge. When Dez showed her father pics of the ballerina costumes her mother made, the Last Bohemian considered plan B, which was to give his only child the Tourist Treatment, and send her packing with souvineers and a bag of Carmel Taffy.
“Do you know the story of The Red Shoes?” Gregory asked, knowing he was jumping off The Cliff of Commitment.
“Yes. I read it when I was eleven.”
“Your mother has put those shoes on your feet. It is my job to take them off. I want to give you art lessons like I did my sister. But, she was compromised and sold out. Your mother has put you on the path of the Red Shoes. She owns dark ambitions. I can teach you how to free your soul and be true to yourself.”
I Found Marian Salyer
This morning around 7:30 A.M. I found my late sister’s sponsor in AA. It had been over ten years since I looked for her. Tom Snyder says she purchased Dunkin The Frog after seeing Christine Rosamond working on it at the Rosamond Gallery. Snyder quotes Marian who claims it is above her bathtub in Palm Springs. Marian…is dead. If not for her obituary, and her son being convicted of criminal fraud and Racketeering, then I would not have found The Missing Link in my story…Capturing Beauty.
The Tomato King meets Dunkin The Frog
Scott Salyer was The Tomato King. He owne’sd the Ryan Ranch. I suspect Christine met Scott. I titled our father ‘The Spud King’. Mark and I went into a tomato field to glean tomatos with our father who employed us in his produce market, Acme Produce. The artist, Thomas Hart Benton,illustrated John Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’. Did Scott see Dunkin at his moms house when he went to relieve himself. He needs to cooperated with the DA. Christine’s favorite movie is ‘Chinatown’. There is a Fresno connection. The DA needs to talk to Scott Hale who knew of the lawsuit against Ira Kaplan who broke free on this gallery owner who exploited several artists. Did Scott take out a life insurance policy on Rosamond?
Dashiell Hammett had his Maltese Falcon. I have my Dunkin The Frog. There was a huge fight over the Salyer estate. I might take the train to Monterey. Here is the Ranch that Rena was the rightful Queen Cowgirl of. I am going t render images of Rena for my series I am going to sell to HBO or Netflix.
CORCORAN, Calif. —
The Boswells and the Salyers, two of the richest and most powerful farming families in America, have ended decades of rivalry and rancor over their San Joaquin Valley empires with a huge land deal in which one colossus will swallow the other.
Fred Salyer, 72, has agreed to sell his cotton and grain empire–about 25,000 acres of fertile San Joaquin Valley soil–to J. G. Boswell for tens of millions of dollars, according to business associates and employees.
The two men themselves are not talking about the deal that would end one of the most protracted and colorful family feuds in California history. Salyer, a stickler for privacy, waved off a reporter in front of his modest ranch house here: “I’ve got no comment.”
He confirmed the sale, effective March 1, in a terse letter to city and county officials that gave no hint of its symbolic importance. The Boswells and the Salyers have been fighting over land and water and control of this part of the state since their forebears–“the Colonel” and “the Cockeye”–first squared off in the early 1920s.
In this two-company cotton town along California 43, where almost everyone’s bread is buttered by Boswell or Salyer but rarely by both, it was always thought that too much venom and pride stood between the two clans for any deal to be struck. But over the last decade, as his fortunes waned, Salyer grew more open to overtures.
Last week, on the heels of another disappointing crop for Salyer, James G. Boswell II, the largest cotton grower in the world, traveled to Corcoran from his headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles to sit down face-to-face with Salyer.
Salyer initially wanted to sell only part of his empire, sources said, but soon everything was on the table. Boswell sealed the deal with a check that, by some accounts, exceeded $26 million.
“It’s the end of a long chapter,” Corcoran Mayor Jon Rachford said.
The deal is the talk in diners, hardware stores and barbershops in this town of about 10,000, but only in private.
“We’ve got the state prison now, but this is still a town divided down the middle by Boswell and Salyer,” said one reticent old-timer wearing a seed company hat and munching on a hamburger at Tolbert’s cafe.
He said he had done more than $2 million worth of work on cotton gins belonging to both giants in recent years. “I’d be kind of foolish to say anything,” he smiled tightly. “I don’t want to be tarred and feathered and run out of town.”
At the Brunswick barbershop, where photos of deceased patriarch Clarence (Cockeye) Salyer and his two famous dove-hunting partners, Clark Gable and John Wayne, stare down at customers, barber Jim Cook said he hadn’t seen Fred Salyer in almost two weeks.
“He usually comes in once or twice a week for a trim but since all this came out maybe he feels uncomfortable coming downtown,” Cook said. “Anyhow, he doesn’t tell me a thing. He’s a very private man.”
Salyer work crews in their green hats and mud-caked white Chevy pickups seemed to be everywhere, warning strangers not to set foot on the boss’s far-ranging lands. “I wouldn’t be snooping around here if I was you,” snapped one young, grim-faced foreman.
A bad mood had gripped the entire company, he said, ever since Salyer broke the word to employees last week that he was selling “lock, stock and barrel” to rival Boswell–the men in blue. Salyer could not guarantee that his 136 full-time and 220 seasonal workers would find jobs with Boswell.
“He drove field to field in his gray Fleetwood,” the foreman said. “It was a sad day.”
The fear is that Boswell, known as a picky boss, will become even pickier now that workers have lost their one card–the ability to walk a hundred yards across the Santa Fe railroad tracks and sign up with the competition.
Rachford, a real estate man who spent 18 years on Boswell’s payroll as a self-described gofer, said there was little reason to be grim. “The land is still here, the crops are still going to be grown and harvested and ginned. And it’s going to require people to do it.”
Even by San Joaquin Valley standards, Corcoran is a strange place. Few small towns in the country boast so many millions with so little flaunting of wealth. Perhaps that shyness has something to do with the federally subsidized water that for decades has flowed the cotton giants’ way, and the paper games that both land barons have played to get around the law that limits acreage of farmers who get that water.
The town itself has nothing but pride, proclaiming to visitors in bold letters: “Welcome to the Farming Capital of California.” It is no idle boast.
Boswell is not only the largest cotton grower in the world but also the largest grower of wheat and seed alfalfa in America. In California alone, the crop value on 129,000 acres of Boswell land was estimated at more than $100 million in 1993. Salyer was 14th on the list of the state’s largest farms, with an estimated crop value of $40 million on 33,000 acres.
Bales of the finest cotton stand row upon row as far as the eye can see, waiting to be turned into Jockey underwear, Fieldcrest towels and L.L. Bean shirts.
Such abundance is a testament to the vision and guile of two pioneers of California agriculture: Col. James G. Boswell, a military and cotton man driven out of Georgia by the boll weevil, and a Virginia hillbilly named Salyer, who skinned mules and carried the cruel moniker Cockeye on account of a fake eye that wandered so far to the left that the glass iris was barely visible.
Vision was needed because this land, in wet years, was at the bottom of the largest body of fresh water west of the Mississippi–Tulare Lake. In dry years, when the four rivers ran low, the land could sustain any and all row crops.
Scott Salyer stepped into the federal courtroom in Sacramento, his trim frame swimming in an orange prisoner jumpsuit, his legs shackled, his wrists restrained.
It was a humiliating moment in February for the 54-year-old agribusiness mogul, the last prince of one of California’s cotton farming dynasties. The tomato processing outfit he started with his father, Fred Salyer, was in bankruptcy. Scott was being blamed for running SK Foods into the ground — and far worse.
Salyer clenched his jaw as the prosecutor reeled off the allegations: that he and SK Foods tricked supermarkets and big food companies into buying substandard tomato products to put into brands found in almost every American cupboard.
Scott and SK Foods, the government said, conspired to inflate prices on millions of pounds of processed tomatoes sold to 55 companies in 22 states. It was an alleged scheme that ripped off consumers and reaped big profits for Salyer.
Behind him, in the crowded spectator seats, attorneys for angry creditors slapped high-fives. Fred, 86, was not there. Neither was any of the rest of the Salyer clan.
From humble Southern roots, the Salyers became one of the most powerful agricultural families in the West. And Scott’s legal woes are rooted in a litigious family tradition.
For three generations, the Salyers fought one another in court to control multimillion-dollar corporations and, at its peak, oversaw a land empire three times the size of San Francisco. Yet the dynasty ultimately couldn’t withstand the infighting, particularly the falling-out between Scott and Fred.
Fred declined to be interviewed for this story. So did Scott, who pleaded not guilty in May to 12 counts of corruption, including racketeering, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and violating federal antitrust laws. He remains in jail because he can’t make his $6.3-million bail.
It’s the latest chapter in a family saga that’s unfolding through court documents, public records and interviews with colleagues, former workers and others.
No one has suggested Fred is complicit in the tomato debacle. If anything, investigators say, the real trouble started after he left.
Long before produce tore the family apart, the Salyers were known as one of the best cotton growers in the Central Valley. From the family’s dusty ranch home in Corcoran, about 50 miles south of Fresno, they snapped up marginal land with access to water and pushed it to yield crops. Their cotton gins cranked out fibers used in products as varied as car tires and designer T-shirts.
Along with his brother Everette, Fred ran the business that their father built from nothing. Fred was a farmer’s farmer, a tall, balding and bespectacled man who spent more time in the fields than behind a desk. A child of the Great Depression, he possessed frugal sensibilities that shaped his views from national politics to family affairs.
Scott was born Frederick Scott Salyer. He grew into an outgoing man with a movie-star smile and a penchant for racing cars and flying planes.
After Scott came home to Corcoran in 1977 with a degree in agribusiness from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Fred groomed him to take over the family business. At school, Scott had learned that success was achieved through growth, and growth came by leveraging what you own to borrow money.
By the early 1980s, Scott took the lead at Salyer American.
“There’s an old saying: You give a horse its head,” said Thomas Foley Jr., Fred’s attorney. “Fred gave Scott his head.”
Scott borrowed money from banks, using the family farmland as collateral, Foley said. Costs mounted as floods battered the Central Valley and oversupply sent cotton prices plummeting.
Fred tried to step back in, Foley said, but by 1987, Salyer American was more than $100 million in debt. Father and son turned over more than half of the family’s farmland — 40,000 acres — to its main lender, Bank of America, to clear the debt.
Tensions grew. A business consultant was hired to be a buffer between Fred and Scott. Together, they agreed to get into the tomato business.
The plan started simply: Grow tomatoes on Salyer land, broker deals with other farmers to ensure plenty of supply, and build factories to process it all.
By the summer of 1990, the first SK Foods plant was running in Lemoore, Calif., said Richard Jennings, a former president of SK Foods. “We only used the best produce and the best equipment,” Jennings said.
But, he added, “Scott was always asking, ‘Why are we going to all this trouble? Who’s going to know the difference?’”
The strain between Fred and Scott continued. At board meetings, Scott would scream and belittle anyone who disagreed with him, Jennings said, while Fred would stew quietly.
Scott wanted to run SK Foods, so he bought out his family’s interest in 1996, Foley said. But he still had ties to Salyer American Fresh Foods, the family’s produce-growing and -selling firm.
By the early 1990s, production costs were mounting once again. Father and son fought over how quickly to grow the various businesses. In 1995, Fred contacted boyhood friend and longtime rival James G. Boswell II and asked him to buy the majority of the family’s farmland. Boswell agreed.
Years passed and the family feud roiled. In 1998, Scott took Fred, his mother, Marian, and his sister Linda Salyer Lee to court to force the dissolution of Salyer American Fresh Foods.
He accused Fred and Linda of trying to oust him and called his father selfish, according to a complaint filed in Monterey County Superior Court. His father and sister countersued, accusing Scott of using at least $833,000 in corporate funds for personal use, including a 10th-wedding-anniversary party.
“As a result of Fred’s belief that Scott had misappropriated funds … he continually referred to Scott as a ‘liar and thief.’ Scott referred to Fred as ‘dumb’ or a ‘stupid old man,’ ” according to a 2000 court filing submitted by Scott’s then-attorney, Charles G. Warner.
Judge Richard M. Silver ordered that Scott be reinstated as treasurer but denied his bid to involuntarily dissolve Salyer American Fresh Foods. The same judge, Foley said, later ordered the Salyers to record their meetings to try to keep the peace.
The legal wrangling continued, however, and in 2005, Scott filed suit in federal court in San Jose accusing his father and sister of racketeering, fraudulent accounting practices and demonstrating “unrelenting hostility.” When Scott was fired — again — he said they called the local sheriff’s department to kick him out of a board meeting, according to court documents.
The federal case was dismissed in 2007, as part of a settlement: Scott bought Fred and Linda out of the business for an undisclosed sum.
By then, the FBI was well underway in its probe of Scott and SK Foods. Investigators called it Operation Rotten Tomato.
It started with a tip the FBI got in 2005 from Morning Star Co., the nation’s largest tomato packer: Former executive Anthony Ray Manuel, it was alleged, had embezzled money from the Woodland, Calif., firm.
The FBI raided Manuel’s home. According to court documents, Manuel told investigators that the corruption happening at his then-current employer — SK Foods — was far worse. Manuel agreed to wear a wire in exchange for consideration during his sentencing. (Manuel, 58, later pleaded guilty to embezzling $975,000 from Morning Star. He could not be reached for comment.)
Investigators also obtained court orders for wiretaps on a company broker’s phones. In the spring of 2008, federal agents raided SK Foods’ offices in Monterey, Scott’s $6-million mansion in Pebble Beach and several other locations.
What they found, prosecutors say, was that SK Foods was having trouble keeping up with demand. When the firm ran short of the tomato paste customers wanted, Scott had employees relabel poorer-quality tomatoes to fill the order, the government said.
SK Foods sold its customers organic paste that wasn’t organic, changed production dates to make the product seem fresher than it was and altered quality-control documents to hawk paste with mold content that was higher than levels permitted by the FDA, according to court documents.
“You can solve all your problems with a label printer,” Scott told Glen McClaran, a former SK Foods president, in 2007, according to court documents.
To ensure that the companies would buy SK Foods’ tomato paste, Scott allegedly directed his subordinates to bribe purchasing managers to make sure the inflated deals were signed.
By the time creditors forced SK Foods into bankruptcy protection in May 2009, the banks alone were owed about $195 million. Bankruptcy trustee Bradley D. Sharp said he discovered that SK Foods funds were used to buy a $1.5-million lot in Maui and a $2.6-million Lake Tahoe condo and to operate a $1.5-million jet, among other things.
The Bankruptcy Court found there was evidence that, after federal agents raided Scott’s home, he liquidated business assets worth $3 million to $7 million and transferred the money to overseas banks, according to court documents. Then last year, he left the country and went to Europe.
On Feb. 4, Scott flew back to the U.S. to meet with Sharp about the SK Foods bankruptcy. FBI agents arrested him at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Eleven people have been charged in connection with the SK Foods case. All but Scott have pleaded guilty.
SK Foods’ plants were sold for $39 million to a Singapore firm. Salyer American Fresh Foods, which was debt-free when Scott bought it, is now in receivership.
Scott sits in a solitary cell on the Sacramento County Main Jail’s seventh floor, awaiting trial. Back in Corcoran, Fred lives on the same ranch where Scott grew up. He has not visited his son.
After a failed marriage and the birth of her daughter Shannon, Christine fell in love with Scott Hale, an ambitious and demanding lighting designer. Recognizing Christine’s talent, Scott invited her to move in with him so that she could concentrate on her art. Feeling encouraged for the first time, Christine was able to paint with a bold new energy. A year later, at Scott’s insistence, Christine showed a number of these portraits at the 1972 Westwood Art Fair. Recognizing a fresh voice, art dealer Ira Kaplan bought out the collection and commissioned Christine to create an additional painting for him every week thereafter.
“She had me cornered. I was trying to reason with her and get away before things got out of hand. She kept coming at me, and the bed was right there, so I finally whapped her. And it was like Bozo the clown. She bounced off the bed as if nothing had happened, and just kept right on coming. I was finally able to get around and out of the room, and years later I asked her if she remembered me slapping her during that episode. She had no memory of it whatever.”
Christine Rosamond Benton had millionaire friends.
If you invite someone to stay the night in your home, and there is a accidental death, then, you show up at the funeral. As far as I know Alan Fox was not at Christine’s funeral. Alan is a very wealthy man. Did he call his attorney after Christine drowned? Who set up his foundation? Was/is Robert Brevoort Buck Alan’s attorney?
The University of Arizona recently announced a $20 million gift to its School of Music by Alan C. Fox, president of ACF Property Management, a real-estate investment company in Studio City, California, and his wife Daveen. A fifth of that money will be used to create three endowed chairs at the school, and $2 million will establish the Fox Scholarship Fund. The school will also be renamed the Fox School of Music.
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