Drawing: Mark Knopfler

Autographed drawing of Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits

Hailed as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, self taught Mark Knopfler’s career as lead guitarist, singer and songwriter for the British rock band Dire Straits, followed by nine solo albums and nine film scores, including LOCAL HERO, THE PRINCESS BRIDE and THE COLOUR OF MONEY, has resulted in excess of 120 million album sales, four Grammys and three Brit awards among other accolades. His songs such as ‘Money For Nothing’, ‘Sultans of Swing’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and ‘Walk of Life’ have become standards.

Dire Straits was formed in London in 1977. The name referred to the band members’ initial financial situation, but they went on to become one of the best-selling music artists of all time. They disbanded in 1988, regrouping in the nineties for five years. Their trademark sound was produced by the frontman’s unique fingerpicking and laconic singing style influenced by Bob Dylan. Dire Straits spent 1,100 weeks on the UK album charts ranking fifth all time. Their 1985 album ‘Brothers in Arms’ was the first album to sell more than a million copies on the CD format, eventually reaching 30 million.

What’s equally cool is that Mark has an asteroid, 28151 markknofler and a species of dinosaur, that lived 65 million years ago, Masiakasarus knopfleri named after him. While left-handed, he plays the guitar right-handed.

Mark embarked on supposedly his last tour earlier this year. Entitled the ‘Down The Road Wherever’ tour, it included two nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May where he kindly signed my drawing for me.

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Drawing: Matthew Broderick and Elizabeth McGovern in The Starry Messenger

Autographed drawing of Matthew Broderick and Elizabeth McGovern in The Starry Messenger

Kenneth Lonergan’s tale of astronomy and midlife misery THE STARRY MESSENGER completed its British premiere at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End over the summer. It featured Broadway royalty and double Tony winner Matthew Broderick and Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Elizabeth McGovern.

Kenneth, who won the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award for his 2016 film MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, wrote the play specifically for Matthew, a long-time friend, who played the lead role ten years ago in the original off-Broadway production. In his West End debut he reprised his role as Mark Williams, a disgruntled astronomer who teaches the subject at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where his life is spiralling out of control and his marriage is on the rocks.

Elizabeth played his anxious wife Anne. In his Independent Review, Paul Taylor wrote, “The actors play characters that range from laugh-out-loud funny to twisty, wrong-footed ambivalence.”

Both Matthew and Elizabeth kindly signed my sketch based on early publicity images during rehearsals in early May

Drawing: Suzann Pettersen

Autographed drawing of golfer Suzann Pettersen

Wildcard entry Suzann Pettersen sank an eight foot putt on the last hole to clinch the Solheim Cup-the women’s equivalent to the Ryder Cup-for Europe at Scotland’s Gleneagles course on Sunday. The 38 year-old Norwegian and double Major-winner then announced her retirement. “This is perfect closure. That’s it I’m done. This is a good end to a great career,” she said after the finest conclusion in the tournament’s 29 year history.

After taking a career break to start a family, Suzann’s ranking had dropped to 635th in the world. She was a controversial wildcard choice by Europe’s Captain Catrina Matthews and was unable to participate in the opening foursomes due to illness on Friday.

Europe were the underdogs, written off before the start of play against a very strong US team and with half an hour to go on Sunday afternoon it looked inevitable they would claim victory and retain the Cup. But Suzann’s pressure putt and last hole heroics against Marina Alex gave the hosts the one point win.

She signed my sketch at the Ladies Scottish Open hosted by the Renaissance Club last month.

Drawing: Jean-Paul Gaultier

Autographed drawing of fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier

Although Jean-Paul Gaultier and myself are at the complete opposite ends of the fashion spectrum we did find some common ground – albeit briefly – outside the Artist Entrance to London’s Queen Elizabeth hall last week. The French fashion icon’s ‘eccentric, eclectic and erotic’ FASHION FREAK SHOW made its UK debut at the Southbank venue for a short thirteen performance residency.

Originating at the Folies Bergere in Paris, it is Jean-Paul’s staged autobiography, celebrating 50 years of pop culture through the eyes of this charismatic and influential Frenchman, known for his characteristic irreverent avant-grade style dating back to the early 1980’s, when he was labelled fashion’s ‘enfant terrible.’ Jean-Paul challenged the standard views of fashion to cement his place in its history, establishing a haute couture and pret-a-porter empire, including high fashion luxury goods and perfumes.

Some of his signature creations are the ‘Man-skirt’ and the infamous conical bra worn by Madonna in the 1990’s. Jean-Paul grew up in a Paris suburb, where he was introduced to the fashion world by his maternal grandmother, Marie Garage. Without any formal training in fashion design, he would, from an early age send sketches to stylists he admired. Pierre Cardin was one of the first major designers to recognise his talent and hired him as an assistant in 1970.

He recently told Vogue “even if it doesn’t look like it, I’m quite shy. I like privacy. It seems strange shy people do the most exaggerated things.”

In her Guardian review of the FASHION FREAK SHOW, Lyndsey Winship wrote, “A fabulous fiesta of fabric and flesh… as much a celebration of bodies and sensuality and sexual freedom… a famously fun romp through the French designers life and career,”

Jean-Paul signed my sketch, as he arrived on the opening night at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Drawing: Jerry Seinfeld

Comic genius and car collector Jerry Seinfeld returned to London last week to perform four shows over two nights at the Hammersmith Apollo. He is listed as the 12th Greatest Stand-up Comedian of All Time by Comedy Central with his ‘observational comedy’. A couple of examples to remind us of his brilliance, “It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper” or “Make no mistake about why these babies are here-they are here to replace us.”
In collaboration with Larry David, he created and wrote the self-titled sitcom SEINFELD, in which he plays a fictional version of himself, a mild germaphobe and neat freak, minor celeb, stand-up comedian with his best friend George (Jason Alexander), friend and former girlfriend Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and the neighbour across the hall, Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), set in a Manhattan apartment building on New York’s Upper West Side.

SEINFELD ran for nine seasons from July 5, 1989 – May 14, 1998, collecting 41 major awards, including 10 Primetime Emmys and three Golden Globes. It is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms ever, and ranked the best TV show by Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and TV Guide among others. The dialogue incorporated ‘Seinfeldian’ code words and recurring phrases, often referred to as ‘Seinlanguage’ that have become cemented in popular culture such as ‘Hello, Newman!’, ‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that’, ‘It’s not a lie if you believe it’….’Yada, yada, yada.’

Jerry also has an impressive collection of 150 cars, including 43 Porches, housed in a three-story, $1.4m Manhattan garage with it’s own dedicated fleet management team. Some of the vehicles appear in his talk show, COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE.
Jerry very kindly dedicated and signed my sketch for me at the Apollo.

Drawing: Henry Blofeld

Autographed drawing of cricket commentator Henry Blofeld

I had the pleasure of catching up with the one and only Henry Blofeld during this years Cricket Word Cup, which was hosted in England and Wales over the past seven weeks. ‘Blowers’ – one of the true legends of cricket commentary – took to the stage in for a Cricket World Cup Special: An evening with Henry Blofeld in conversation at the Emmanuel Centre in London’s Westminister, where he kindly signed and dedicated my sketch with his signature saying, ‘My dear old thing.’

Before Henry entered the commentary realm, he was “an opening batsman of sorts” with sixteen first-class matches for Cambridge University, scoring his only fist-class century against the MCC at Lords in July 1959 in his penultimate game. Realising he had no taste for merchant banking after leaving university, he ‘drifted into sports journalism.’ While covering England’s tour of India in 1963/64 for the Guardian he was close to being picked as an emergency batsman when Micky Stewart fell ill before the second test in Bombay. He also did TV commentary for ITV and later, in the 1990’s for BSkyB.

In 1972 Blowers joined the BBC Radio’s TEST MATCH SPECIAL team. His commentary is characterised by a ‘plummy voice’ and his idiosyncratic mention of superfluous details regarding the scene, including construction cranes, pink shirts in the crowd, pigeons, buses, and other flying objects. He was also a regular member of the commentary team on New Zealand television while England toured there and I recall once sending a cartoon of him as a seagull, captioned ‘Henry Livingston Seagull’, which he displayed during the live broadcast. After 45 years with TMS, Blowers retired at the age of seventy-seven, after commentating the test between England and the West Indies at Lords in September 2017, receiving a standing ovation on a lap of the ground following the match.

He wrote on his website, “Listeners will now be pleased to know that their chances of being told the right name of the fielders at third man and fine leg have greatly increased. I hope some will be sad that they will now hear less about the lifestyles of pigeons, seagulls and helicopters, although I fear the general feeling will be one of huge relief.”

The final of the World Cup was played at Lords last Sunday between the hosts England and my beloved Black Caps from New Zealand. The thriller ended in a tie, as did the subsequent ‘Super Over’. England were crowned World Champions on a count back of boundaries scored – congrats to them. Writing in his column for the Daily Mail, Henry wrote it was the “greatest cricket match of all time. What drama, what tension, what heroics. My dear old things, in all my years of watching cricket I cannot recall any match that kept me on my toes”.

Obviously as a New Zealander I was disappointed with the result, but immensely proud of our team, for the way they not only played and contributed to such a magnificent sporting spectacle, but also for the way they responded to the manner of their defeat. I was very pleased he wrote, “I felt for New Zealand, truly. Their undaunted spirit, their sense of decency even after they lost by that wafer-thin margin was an absolute tonic and very much in the spirit of the game.”

Drawing: Feliciano Lopez

Autographed drawing of tennis player Feliciano Lopez

While his doubles partner Sir Andy Murray was grabbing the headlines for a successful return to competitive tennis after career-saving surgery five months ago, Feliciano Lopez completed a remarkable double winning both titles at the prestigious Queen’s Club in London on Sunday. Initially ranked outside the top 100 in the ATP rankings, the 37 year old Spaniard became the first wild card entry to lift the singles trophy since Pete Sampras in 1999 and the first player to claim the Queen’s ‘double’ since Mark Philippoussis in 1977.

As a consequence he has leapfrogged a massive 60 places to #53 in the world. He would have also become the oldest player ever to win a grass court event in the open era, but a certain Roger Federer, who is one month older secured his tenth Halle title earlier in the day. Given the inclement English weather earlier in the week, the disrupted schedule meant playing catch-up and multiple games in the same day. In Feliciano’s case it was a remarkable act of endurance.

On Saturday he played five-hours of gruelling tennis to reach the two finals. After beating rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime in the singles semi, he took a 12 minute shower and was back on court with Andy to wrap up their suspended quarter finals doubles clash against British pair Dan Evans and Ken Skupski, before taking on the highly-fancied Henri Kontinen and John Peers, which needed a championship tie-break to decide it. The following day, Feliciano beat Giles Simon in the singles and completed Sir Andy’s fairytale comeback, beating Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram in another tie-breaker to enter the history books.

Feliciano kindly signed this drawing for me when he arrived at the club on Saturday morning. I didn’t need to state the obvious and mention it was going to be a very busy day for him…but I did.

Drawing: Roberto Alagna

Autographed drawing of tenor Roberto Alagna

One of the world’s most beloved tenors, Roberto Alagna returned to London’s Royal Opera house for his 100th Covent Garden appearance in the title role of Giordano’s greatest opera, ANDREA CHENIER. Born in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois fifty-six years ago to Sillian parents, Roberto was discovered singing for tips in a pizzeria. Largely self-taught, he switched to opera and made his professional debut as Alfredo Germont in LA TRAVIATA with the Glyndebourne touring company, a role he would sing more than 150 times throughout his illustrious career.

He won the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice completion in 1988, making his Royal Opera debut in 1992 as Rodolfo in LA BOMEME and has been a popular regular ever since. In 1995 Roberto won the Olivier Award for his performance as Romeo in ROMEO ET JULIETTE, which catapulted him to International prominence. He was appointed a chevalier de la legion d’honueur in 2008.

I left this drawing at the ROH, of Roberto as Don Jose in the Metropolitan Opera’s most recent production of Bizet’s CARMEN, which he kindly signed and returned.

Drawing: Kenneth Lonergan

Autographed drawing of writer Kenneth Lonergan

American film director, screenwriter and playwright Kenneth Lonergan was in London recently, visiting Wyndham’s theatre where his play THE STARRY MESSENGER opened last month with Matthew Broderick and Elizabeth McGovern. The original 2009 off-Broadway production also featured Matthew and Kenneth’s wife, J.Smith-Cameron.
Kenneth’s playwriting prowess came to prominence in 1996 with THIS IS OUR YOUTH, followed by THE WAVERLY GALLERY three years later, earning him a Pulitzer Prize nomination and LOBBY HERO in 2002. All three plays collected Tony Award nominations for their respective revivals.

Kenneth’s most notable film work is YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (2000) and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016), both written and directed by him and both included Matthew in their cast. He received Academy Award Best Original Screenplay nominations the two films, collecting the Oscar for the later. He also won the BAFTA Award. David Fear, writing in Rolling Stone said that MANCHESTER proved Kenneth was “practically peerless in portraying loss as a living, breathing thing without resorting to the vocabulary of griefporn.” In 2002 he co-wrote Martin Scorsese’s GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002), once again receiving Academy recognition with an Original Screenplay nomination.

It was great to meet Kenneth at Wyndham’s Theatre, where he kindly signed my drawing.