Jerry Wainwright’s Trunk

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There are two separate strands of inquiry that lead us to this trunk.

The first was inspired by Larry Hankin’s reference to a Tarot Card deck that featured members of The Committee. He couldn’t remember the name of the photographer. We chased this around for a while, but hit dead-ends and abandoned the search.

Our second, more direct, route was revealed via the tapes that we received from John Brent’s son Jeremy Paz. These tapes consisted of recorded interviews conducted by Peter Elbling in 1985 with members of The Committee, in remembrance of John Brent, who died that year.

Elbling’s interview with Howard Hesseman shed light on a production company that Howard ran with photographer Jerry Wainwright in 1970-71. Dubbed “Narcissistic Purposes Productions”, the company’s output included a series of theatrical still-lifes, featuring Committee members, that were used as artwork for the theater lobby. (We already had an example of this work on-hand: an 8×10 image of John Brent as mad scientist Dr. Servo de la Lune which was provided to us by Ruth Silveira. For some time we mistakenly took this image as an ad for a John Brent solo performance. This link from a year ago also shows how off the mark we were.)

Jerry Wainwright (1926-1997) was a prolific photographer who documented The Committee extensively. Wainwright later helped to bring to life the ethnic/hippie fashions trends of the day with his and Alexandra Jacopetti Hart’s book Native Funk and Flash.

To make a long story short, after a great visit with Jerry’s widow Ann, we left with the trunk pictured above.

Ann has entrusted us with a significant piece of history.

The trunk holds an overwhelming amount of negatives, a few printed photographs, a few contact sheets here and there. All are from the late 1960s/early 1970s.

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Most of the negatives are 35mm, in paper sleeves. A few  negatives are 4×5, and one appears to by 7×9. After crudely separating Committee-related material from his other work, here are some highlights.

  • 19 4×5 negatives of Narcissistic Purposes stills, featuring Don Sturdy, John Brent, Ruth Silviera, Gary Austin, Julie Payne, Morgan Upton, Alan Myerson, and many more. The stills read like silent movie posters, with titles, loglines, etc. These are from 1970. (example)
  • The Tarot Card photo series, featuring members of The Committee.
  • studio portraits of John Brent, Larry Hankin, Morgan Upton, Ruth Silveira, Diann Hendrickson from the early ’70s.
  • Action shots of The Committee 1983 reunion/Bread and Roses benefit.
  • Action shots of The Committee at 622 Broadway
  • Country Joe and the Fish photographs, including Narcissistic Purposes Productions album cover
  • Congress of Wonders photos.
  • fashion photography

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We took the Narcissistic Purposes negatives to the lab to be scanned immediately.

For the archive, our priority to make sure the material is safely stored (smaller boxes, new sleeves). We are determining the cost of developing the Committee-related negatives to contact sheets, but will soon start developing the material that intrigues most.

We intend to work closely with Ann and Wainwrights’ estate as we move forward to make use of the treasures in this trunk. If you have question or tips email samshaw@sfimprovfestival.com.

Sturdy on Wainwright and Brent, via Elbling.

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“Jerry Wainwright, a San Francisco photographer and friend of mine and I were sitting around his studio one day. He came up with the idea of producing a series of stills for the Committee lobby. Stills of the actors, like lobby stills, but from imaginary movies. I went to Myerson and outlined the project and Myerson said that they would pay the costs. I think Jerry might have picked up $200 as a photographers fee..There were these hippie veterinarians that lived on the corner of Sutter and Lyon. They had all this old Victorian San Francisco strangoid furniture, and veterinary equipment and antique operating tables and apothecary jars..I came up with the concept of John Brent as Doctor Servo De La Lune.. We shot a double exposure – we laid John down on one of the operating tables and shot him as the patient, and keeping the camera frozen dressed him up as the doctor…I later learned that certain prescription pads were missing from the veterinarian’s office. Some pharmacist called to ask if someone had prescribed Demerol for someone’s dog.” – Don Sturdy aka Howard Hesseman, via Peter Elbling. [thanks to Jeremy Paz.]

Love.

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“My interest in theater was sociopolitical rather than show business; a main objective was getting our boys back from Vietnam, plus a lot of other goals frequently associated with people of the peace and love persuasion. We helped sponsor one of the first initiatives to decriminalize marijuana and also ran actor John Brent for mayor. If Ronald Reagan could be governor of California, surely San Francisco could use an acting mayor.” – Bill Love.