Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Phoenicia Celebrates Davy Crockett Day Aug. 17 at 12 noon! Free! Tiny Catskills Village Rejoices Over Return of World’s Largest Davy Crockett “Muffler Man” Statue

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Lookalike Contest, Valuable Prizes, Free Refreshments, and more – Saturday Aug. 17th at High Noon – FREE!

On Saturday, August 17, at 12 noon, the statue of Davy Crockett, who for forty years has towered above the two block long Main Street of Phoenicia, New York (pop: 309) as its village mascot, will be re-erected in front of Mystery Spot Antiques at 72 Main Street with a gala celebration to mark the American folk hero’s return (and 227th birthday).

The free event will include an official dedication/ribbon cutting, a performance by the Catskill Ukulele Group, and a Davy Crockett lookalike contest open to kids, adults and pets, with valuable prizes.

“Bring your faux coonskin cap and dress up like Davy!” invites Laura Levine, renowned (and MoMA-exhibited) rock photographer and proprietress of Mystery Spot Antiques, Davy’s new home, just one giant step away from his former perch at the Sportsman’s Alamo Cantina. The grand prizes will be two passes to the Mount Tremper Arts 2014 Summer Festival (value $190.) or a $100 Mystery Spot gift certificate; runners-up will receive valuable gift coupons or cash prizes from Tender Land Home, Town Tinker Tube Rental, Hanover Farms, the Phoenicia Lodge, Ruth Gale Realty, Sweet Sue’s, The Ice Cream Station, and other local businesses. The event is free of charge, and open to  everyone. Free refreshments will be provided by The Sportsman’s Alamo Cantina. The event will run from noon to 1 pm.

Davy in his former perch in front of the Sportsman's Alamo Cantina (photo: Laura Levine)

Phoenicia, a tiny hamlet in the Catskill Mountains, is known for its hiking, camping, fly fishing, arts, antiques, restaurants, shopping, leaf peeping and gentle eccentricity. Visitors of all stripes go tubing
down the Esopus Creek, which runs through the center of town. Side by side, Buddhists from the local Zen Mountain Monastery and graphic designers from Brooklyn eat pizza beside motorcycle enthusiasts
at Brio’s or stacks of pancakes at Sweet Sues. The Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice attracts over 4,000 visitors to its annual outdoor event. Close to Woodstock, one of the oldest art colonies in America, Phoenicia has been chosen as one of the Top Ten “Coolest Small Towns” by Budget Travel magazine and has long been a well-known secret among savvy New Yorkers looking for a weekend getaway or a summer escape.

Davy Crockett, who bears the sobriquet “King of the Wild Frontier,” was born in East Tennessee in 1786. He had a varied career as frontiersman, Congressman, and warrior at the Alamo, where he died in 1836. Phoenicia’s statue of Davy Crockett is shrouded in mystery. Most local historians agree that it was commissioned by Roy James, transitory owner of the Sportsman’s Bar sometime in the early 1970s. The actual fabricator of the sculpture is unknown.

With a wide smile, slightly downcast eyes, a rifle slung jauntily over his right shoulder, Davy strides forward. The straps from a pouch and a powder horn form an X across his buckskin breeches. Beneath his double row of fringes, Davy wears pants and high boots on his large feet — large even for a 10 foot tall man. The huntsman has surprisingly long  hair, like a British pop star. The anonymous artist conveyed a jauntiness rarely seen in fiberglass sculpture, which tends towards an Easter Island rigidity. It is the statue of a man taking joy in his personal freedom. Phoenicia has long been a favorite spot for outdoorsmen, which may have influenced the choice of Davy Crockett as its town symbol. “Young kids like having their picture taken in front of it,” notes Robin Kirk, owner of The Nest Egg, Phoenicia’s general store.

Mike Ricciardella, proprietor of The Sportsman’s, is the fourth owner of Davy. When the statue was brutally vandalized in 2003 — toppled, with only the feet and shins left standing — Mike nursed him back to health. After a flood caused by Hurricane Irene damaged the Sportsman’s patio, Davy Crockett was moved to make way for the jackhammers. Patrons of The Sportsman’s, a venerable Phoenician bar once patronized by Babe Ruth, began worrying about the genial giant. (Little did they realize Davy was tied by a bungee cord to a maple tree behind the bar.)

Robin Kirk, owner of the adjacent property, offered to shelter the fiberglass frontiersman. “I thought about it, and I said, ‘Hey, maybe that’s not a bad idea,” Ricciardella recalls. “This would give him a little more exposure; people could walk right up to him.”

Such sculptures — collectively known as “Muffler Men” — are an endangered American art form, especially in the Catskills. Widely constructed in the 1960s and 70s, often depicting such national folk heroes as Paul Bunyan and Uncle Sam, they since fell out of favor, and were largely abandoned. Phoenicia’s statue of Davy Crockett will feel at home with the rustic salt-and-pepper shakers, bronzed baby shoes, vintage clothing, antique medicine bottles, old records and 1920s cameras for sale at the Mystery Spot, the “Catskills Odditorium” which occupies seven rooms in the former Gormley Hotel on Main Street. “One small step for Davy Crockett, one giant leap for the Mystery Spot!” observes Levine, who is throwing a 20 % off sale all weekend in honor of the event.

After the celebration ends at 1 PM, one can walk across Main Street to attend one of seven episodes of Perfect Lives, a day-long public opera by Robert Ashley, performed by the composer collective Varispeed, presented by Mount Tremper Arts.

The Catskill Ukulele Group, which will be performing “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” at the event, is an offshoot of the Killian Mansfield Ukulele Collection at the Phoenicia Library, which loans ukuleles and offers free group lessons to anyone interested in learning more about ukulele. The Phoenicia Library also loans out fishing poles.

Generous support for Davy Crockett Day has come from the Sportsman’s Alamo Cantina, Mystery Spot Antiques, Tender Land Home, Phoenicia Lodge, Threads of Time, Phoenicia Belle B&B, Ulster Savings Bank, Phoenicia Pharmacy, Hanover Farms, The Print Shop, Ruth Gale Realty, Mount Tremper Arts, Rag & Bone Shop, The Ice Cream Station, Sweet Sue’s, Town Tinker Tube Rental, and the Phoenicia Business Association, among others.

The Facebook event page is here:

For more information or photos, please contact Mystery Spot Antiques, (845) 688-7868,,,

Fungus documenting a 1924 climb to the top of the Hunter Mountain Observatory

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Every now and then we find a true treasure in a house contents call. Plucked from the destiny of the dumpster was this tree fungus memorializing a special summer day in the Catskill Mountains eighty-five years ago.

This tells the date of the EVENTFUL CLIMB of mother (Belle Schumer) Aug. 29, ’24.

Started – 10:30
Reached Top – 4:30
Arrived home – 6:30

Glorious day – glorious time – glorious view. Mom is haps.

J.m. Schumer
Leo Jacobs
David Melvin
Rebecca Cohen
Miss Cohen*

*and a few other names we can’t make out.

(These fungi are called “Artist’s Fungus” because you can scratch on them with a stick and the image is burned into the surface permanently. People still draw on them to this day, and for that matter, people still hike to the Catskills’ fire towers to take in the mountain views.

Mystery Spot Theme Song by Half Japanese’s David Fair

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Several years ago I received an email from David Fair of the band Half Japanese introducing himself (though of course I knew who he was!).  We began a fun correspondence and he sent me all sorts of surprise packages of his amazing paper cuttings, music and, one day…..a Mystery Spot theme song which he wrote, played, sang and recorded! It’s totally awesome, and you can hear it here:

Mystery Spot Theme Song by David Fair

Walkin' the Floor Over You.

It turns out that when he renovated his kitchen he decided to forgo the usual linoleum floor for something much more personal and creative. He downloaded images of artwork and photos that he liked from the internet and printed them out into eight by eight inch squares. Added to that a bunch of family snapshots. (And for some reason, lots of pictures of ventriloquists’ dummies). All in all he made 1098 tiles which he glued to the floor and covered with seven coats of polyurethane. I was honored to be included in his floor – he’s got several of my pieces there, which he and his family walk over all day long. If you look closely, you can probably spot some of your favorite artists.

Those are a couple of my birds in the middle.

David, Pam and Harper drove up to Phoenicia from Maryland to pay a visit to the Mystery Spot.

David Fair and his brother Jad Fair (the other half of Half Japanese) have a new show of their paper cuts which opened this weekend at the wonderful gallery Yard Dog in Austin, Texas. We highly recommend you check it out if you’re in the Austin area – or just check out the link for a nice display of some of the pieces, which can be ordered online.

Come Visit Us at MoMA!

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

When we’re not busy climbing over dead raccoons to get into dark, clutter-filled attics, fighting off grabby gabbys at estate sales or aspiring to be the first buyer at a 7 AM yard sale (note to self: give up, you’ll never get up early enough), when the Mystery Spot has taken its winter break to go into deep hibernation mode, we do in fact have another life.

Look, Ma! I made it! (photo by Candace Kaller)

That life has taken us to gallery openings and film festivals, and most recently and thrillingly, through the doors of The Museum of Modern Art and up one flight to the Yoshiko and Akio Morita Media Gallery (just off the atrium) where our photographs are currently on display in the exhibition Looking at Music 3.0.

Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz in front of my 1981 photograph of Tina Weymouth and Grandmaster Flash in front of a Lee Quinones graffiti wall.

We highly recommend you check out the show. It’s an interesting, vibrant trip back to the New York City of the 80s and 90s, the days when music and art had a few drinks, did a little dance, made a little love, and created little art babies. Kraftwerk and Afrika Bambaataa. Spike Lee and Public Enemy. Spike Jonze and Beastie Boys. Sonic Youth, Brian Eno, Run DMC, The Residents, Karen Finley, Laurie Anderson, John Zorn. Christian Marclay’s vinyl assemblages, stacks of riot grrrl zines. Lee Quinones, Cey Adams. Posters, videos and audio stations. Kathleen Hanna, Miranda July. And of course, our own contribution, ten black and white portraits of some of the most interesting musicians and artists of the day.

The entry to the gallery.

Barbara London, Associate Curator at MoMA’s Department of Media and Performance chose a generous selection of my photographs to hang in the exhibition. The gallery room itself is a sight to behold – garishly colored (in a good way!) lime green, acid orange and sunburst yellow walls, music pumping, a big-ass crash pad plopped right in front of a huge video screen where you can chill while Diamanda Galas screeches her way into your heart or Keith Haring paints Grace Jones from head to toe. I can’t think of a better place to be if forced to spend time in midtown Manhattan.

The crash pad in the middle of the gallery.

I must admit I don’t make it to my city’s art museums as often as I ought to, but this reminds me what I’ve been missing. Go on Friday if you don’t have the scratch for the twenty dollar admission. The kind folks at Target have underwritten Target Free Fridays at MoMA and basically, if you arrive around 4:30 you can sweep right in, gratis. Even the coat check is free.

My photo of Keith Haring (1983), in situ at MoMA.

That's me in front of my photos of the Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Treacherous Three, and Afrika Bambaataa. (photo by Muriel Rozin).

Check out the Ab-Ex show, Picasso’s Guitars, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and then wander over to the second floor and say hello to Tina Weymouth and Grandmaster Flash, Madonna, and the Treacherous Three. Wassup to Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, and Salt-n-Pepa. Fab Five Freddy’s in the house, as are Ann Magnuson, Afrika Bambaataa and Keith Haring. That’s the Laura Levine posse, the black and white photographs which can be seen on all four walls.

Can’t make the show? Here you go:

Laura Levine. Tina Weymouth & Grandmaster Flash, NYC, 1981. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches. © Laura Levine

Laura Levine. Beastie Boys, NYC 1987, Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches. © Laura Levine

Laura Levine. Keith Haring in his studio, NYC, 1983. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches © Laura Levine

Laura Levine. Madonna, NYC, 1982. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches © Laura Levine

Laura Levine. Treacherous Three, NYC 1981. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches © Laura Levine

Laura Levine. Afrika Bambaataa, NYC, 1983. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches. © Laura Levine

Laura Levine. Ann Magnuson, Revival Meeting, Life Cafe, NYC, 1982. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches. © Laura Levine.

Laura Levine. Run DMC, NYC, 1987. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches. © Laura Levine

Laura Levine. Fab Five Freddy, NYC, 1981. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches © Laura Levine

Laura Levine. Salt-n-Pepa, NYC, 1987. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches. © Laura Levine

Is Phoenicia One of the Coolest Small Towns in America?

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

We think so! And so does Budget Travel Magazine, as we’re on their short list of America’s Coolest Small Towns. Check out the extra-cool shout-out to the Mystery Spot, and then go to this link and vote for us!

Phoenicia, N.Y. (Pop. 388)

Two and a half hours north of New York City, this tiny town in the Catskill Mountains is a smaller version of nearby Woodstock: quiet and rural, with a hippie vibe and an artsy edge. Phoenicia’s main drag is humbled by panoramic views of the magnificent 286,000-acre Catskill Forest Preserve, but surprisingly trendy stores line the street, like Mystery Spot Antiques—packed with vintage clothing, out-of-print books, and quirky housewares—and the Arts Upstairs, a seven-room gallery of original works, often by local artists. Thanks to a wealth of ex-Manhattanites who settled here a decade ago, Phoenicia has plenty of quality restaurants. Sweet Sue’s may look like a regular diner, but the line of locals out the door should tip you off: The brunch menu includes renowned home fries and 25 types of pancakes, like pumpkin, mixed berry, and even carrot.

A Three-Minute Tour of the Mystery Spot hosted by Anna, age 8.

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

A Summer’s Weekend (or Two)

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Visits with some of our friends, neighbors and customers who’ve popped into the Mystery Spot recently. We’re deep into the summer rush here at the Spot, so forgive us lagging behind on posts. Do keep checking back for more updates, including photos (and video!) from Ida, The Naysayer, and Holly Miranda’s porch shows.

Our friend Michael Gira has been very productive lately. Case in point: new son Swan (left) and a new Swans release (My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky) coming on September 27. And an upcoming world tour. (Extra Credit Fun Fact: we (that is, Laura Levine) took the photos for Swans Children of God album cover.

Swans, NYC, 1985 © Laura Levine

This photograph (above) isn’t from Children of God, but it’s one we took around the same time.

World-renowned mezzo soprano Maria Todaro has sung the title role of Carmen and numerous other lead roles on opera stages around the world, and was tickled to find this 1895 libretto of Carmen in our book room (Homer’s Books d’Arte). She and her partners will be bringing the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice to the Catskills in mid-August and it promises to be an amazing event. You’ll be able to see her perform al fresco in the park in Falstaff on the evening of Sat. Aug. 14. (And the next day come on by the Spot to catch Jonathan and Grasshopper from Mercury Rev and Dean and Britta on our porch at 1 PM for a free show!).

Molly models our favorite vintage Forties child’s green smock (ties in the back) with white piping ($40.). Since we last saw her, Molly has  learned to do a handstand.

Love Notes

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

One of our favorite moments when we open the shop for the weekend is reading what’s been scribbled on our LEAVE A NOTE pad. Sometimes we find notes from people letting us know what they left money for, or notes from friends passing through. Often, we discover little pictures or mini-reviews of the shop.

Last week's missive.

An assortment of recent love notes.

A distant view.

The Mystery Spot Rocks! (Part 1)

Friday, June 25th, 2010

The Mystery Spot must be sending secret rock star pheremones out into the mountains. How else to explain the outstanding musical talent that stepped through our doors the other weekend?First, two old friends of ours’, Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo stopped in. OK, this wasn’t a total surprise, as they told us they were going to stop by, but it’s always so nice to see them and catch up on old times and new doings.

Ira and Georgia headed straight back to the vinyl room (no surprise there) and stocked up on a pile of great vintage 45’s ($3. each) including the original single of CAT NIP by Dave “Baby” Cortez. Kismet, as just recently, Ira recorded a cover of that very song with his friends the A-Bones, with none other than Dave “Baby” Cortez himself joining the session.Here’s a little piece of Yo La Tengo trivia you probably didn’t know: the very first time Ira and Georgia performed together in public  (the debut, as it were, of Yo La Tengo) was in May 1982, at my twenty-fourth birthday party at the offices of the New York Rocker, where we all worked. (I was Photo Editor/Chief Photographer, and Ira was Record Review Editor). In fact, here’s a photo of that fateful, historic moment:

That’s me (Laura Levine, the birthday girl) attempting to carry a tune as Ira and Georgia back me, and Will Rigby from the dB’s is up to his usual shenanigans. (I wish I could remember who took this – Ina G., perhaps? I know I handed my camera to someone when I took the mike….)

Here’s another – this one’s by me – that’s Ira on the left, Georgia on drums, Managing Editor Glenn Morrow (of the Individuals) on vocals, and Peter Holsapple (of the dB’s) on guitar.

It was an annual tradition to host my birthday parties at the Rocker offices – any excuse for a beer-soaked musical free-for-all. The office was on the second-floor loft of a building on on lower Fifth Avenue (166 Fifth). A few ratty sofas and broken metal desks, with an amazing array of records and posters taped up to the walls. All thanks for our editor, Andy Schwartz for making it so homey. As Andy recently pointed out in his blog, most all of our little group still remains friends to this day.

Not to go off on too much of a tangent here, but for those of you interested in reading more about my early days as a downtown New York music photographer, here’s a good, thorough read – a three -part interview conducted by Scott Woods of which really got my brain cells firing on all cylinders as I mined the past to answer his questions. You can also see more of my music photos on my website.

OK, that’s just Part One of our rock star weekend! Keep reading to see who came in next….

Even More Favorite Customers of the Mystery Spot!

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Super Trooper Sylvia looks simply divine in this fresh 1970’s floral chiffon top with pleated cape sleeves ($45., NOS), vintage yellow cords ($25.),  1950’s pink straw hat lined in gingham ($40.) and groovy Zodiac pendant necklace ($15.)

This is Sylvia’s dad – and our good friend – Sparrow: poet, author, former Presidential Candidate. He’s holding a vintage naugahyde red mouse ($10.). Look for his next book of selected works – in stores sometime next year. (Working title: America, This Is Your Last Chance! (Soft Skull)).

The Mystery Spot was thrilled when Helen Hamilton, the original illustrator of the Happy Hollisters book series, popped in for a visit. Helen told us that she used her own children as models for her wonderful depictions of the Happy Hollister family, and then she insisted we photograph her with this decapitated Wanda the Unaided Walking Doll (NFS). Come back soon, Helen!

More happy customers! Photographer David LaChapelle and his friend Anthony picked up a supply of our mint 1960’s trash tabloids, Midnight and The National Informer ($10. each). ARE Nude Models Perverts? You’ll have to read it to find out!

While on a recent buying trip “up north,” we uncovered a huge stash of New Old Stock vintage 60’s and 70’s outfits from a trendy boutique that closed its doors thirty years ago. Spot-ettes Marlise, Tessa and Aidan model some of the one-size-fits-all embroidered gauze hippie halter tops ($20.). But if you want to know where these fabulous outfits came from….they’re not telling!