Meeting Mr. Funt

I was going through some old photographs of my work recently and came across this photo. It reminded me of this funny story.

Years ago, when I was still a struggling artist, I managed a gallery in Carmel, California. It was exclusively a folk art, Americana collection. After working in the gallery a year or so, I was invited to show my work there, much to my delight.

Carmel and the surrounding area has always been home to celebrities and the famous. Many have homes or vacations homes, many vacation or visit there. So, most of the locals are used to seeing familiar, famous faces. We respect their privacy and serve them as any perspective client.

So one day when I was working and looked up, and saw Allen Funt walk in the front door, I recognized him immediately and politely let him know I was available to answer any questions he might have. He told me he liked the style very much and wanted to do a wall in his kitchen in Los Angeles in small Americana paintings.

He was very casual and walked around the gallery selecting small pieces from various artists. We had a good dozen or so picked by then. After he’d passed my wall of paintings more than once, I couldn’t stand it. I told him that I was the artist of those. That was a bit of a no no, but, at that point he’d been wrapping up his choices and I figured it couldn’t hurt.

Well, bless his heart, he stopped and went back and carefully looked over my work. I held my breath a moment and he picked one of mine as well to finish off his collection. Now, I’ve never been all that impressed with celebrities but, he was an American icon and he was buying one of MY paintings. That was a totally different story. I was over the moon.

I sat at my desk and wrote up the sale for him. It wasn’t a huge amount but it was a nice sale. He gave me his credit card and I took it into my little office off the gallery to run it though the machine. I carefully did that and… was declined.

I couldn’t believe it. I repeated the number very carefully and it was declined again. “It can’t be”, I thought. Oh no! He’s playing a prank on me. This couldn’t be happening. No, he doesn’t do that any more. I was pacing around this back office about the size of a postage stamp, and it had taken quite a while by now. Back and forth, back and forth. So, one more time I tried the card. No joy.

I steeled myself then because I had to go back out here and tell Allen Funt his card wouldn’t go through. More pacing. I just couldn’t do it. Back and forth, back and forth. I finally crept back out and told him that there was some horrible mistake at the credit card company. His card had been declined. My hands are sweating now even thinking about it. I have never been so embarrassed in my life.

Oh, he’d been traveling he told me. No problem and gave me another card. It went though immediately. I almost fainted with relief. I didn’t start laughing about it until much much, much later. He thanked me for my help and said he’d be back in the morning to pick up his paintings. He wanted to hand carry them on the plane he said.

So I spent the rest of the day bathed in relief, getting them into some semblance of a carry on piece of luggage. In the end, I had something wrapped up that looked like something that should be slung over the back of a pack mule. But when he picked it up the next day, he was quite happy with it.

I know he passed in September,1999, but I smile every time I think it. And thank heavens I wasn’t on Candid Camera.

Gramma's Baking Day