Andy Warhol Benches

Phat Man Dee sings

The Stick Chandelier

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

My Cup of Coffee mystic thoughts…

Midway Radio


WARHOL MUSEUM DONATES BENCHES TO WINDBER’S GRAND MIDWAY HOTEL, by Justin Dennis for Tribune democrat, May 26, 2014

WINDBER — Two stylistic fixtures from the largest museum ever dedicated to one artist have found their way to a small, locally owned artists’ commune. The recipient is thrilled to get such a prestigious nod.  Two benches formerly found in the lobby of Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum were donated on May 19 to Windber’s Grand Midway Hotel. Hotel owner Blair Murphy said the benches’ shape and the brushed steel panels hiding the wooden frame beneath make them look like “space canoes.”

“As opposed to a collector with possessions, I’m thinking of it more like: We are an artistic experiment and it’s an honor that we got recognized by an organization that’s more established,” Murphy said. “It could have been two teacups and I would have felt good about it.”

He said the Grand Midway – which is steeped in artwork and odd curios from floor to ceiling – and all the artists, authors, filmmakers and other creative types who pass through its live-in canvas have, from the beginning, tried to emulate Warhol’s New York City studio, “The Factory,” which was based on a similar collaborative motif.

One of Murphy’s friends works with Pittsburgh museums. Murphy said he had put in calls about possible donations from the museum, but many fell through, scooped up by larger organizations. Then, another opportunity arose.

“It was … stay by the phone – there’s gonna be a little window of opportunity and if it opens up, you have to rush out immediately and pick this stuff up,” Murphy said. He said he was in Pittsburgh by 8 a.m. on May 19 to bring the benches back to Windber.

Each weighs a couple hundred pounds, he estimated.

They were hard enough to move between rooms at the hotel, and driving them to Windber was an “adventure” in and of itself, he mused.

The Andy Warhol Museum celebrated its 20-year anniversary on May 17 with a black tie gala, art auction and more.

“It does say something for us, though, that we’re between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and trying to continually work relationships with other artists in those two bigger meccas. And something of significance came from there here, to little Windber,” he said.

“It’s pretty cool.”

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @JustinDennis.

(Below are the benches back when they were in the Warhol Museum)


Phat Man Dee singing her ‘Million Dollar Train’ to our small group late one evening as we wrapped up a Kerouacfest in the Garden Room…



So, in the center of the Garden Room hangs this most amazing, witch-ish looking, most marvelous, brilliant, unusual chandelier made of sticks wrapped with Christmas holiday string lights.  It’s quite striking.  It’s genuinely just fantastic.  Fantastic, amazing, amazing and just so fantastic, you just have to see it to be as enthralled and captivated by it as entirely and magnificently and decor-quintessentially as the rest of us.  And it didn’t cost anything near the thousands of dollars required for your average extra large exquisite chandelier on the  market today.  I know, because I checked.  Thus I was instantly inspired to go back to nature, the mother of all things, including even what would come to be known as our finest chandelier of the day it seems, apparently.  All evidence and visiting guests opinions point to that.    But, let the record show, when said Blair Murphy was describing his plans to create such a said fantastic “stick chandelier” all his visiting friends that weekend (like visiting poetry-pal Margaret Bashaar) mocked the idea most rudely.  “A stick chandelier,” they retorted back at him in a deep, questioning,  ape-stupid voice.   “Yes,” Murphy said with complete confidence.  He drove out into the magical woods of Shaffer Mountain, gathered several wonderful sticks for free, twined them together with simple string, hung it from an iron chain, wove Christmas lights together within it, and voila!  For three dollars in gas said masterpiece now hangs here in the Grand Midway Hotel, best fantastic mystical wish-casting enchanting whispering witchey Garden Room illuminating and for free chandelier ever, thank you very much!


This enchanting prop also now hangs in the Garden Room.  It is from when we put on William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the local community.


One special night we decided to make the town of Windber an offering…  The ad read: “June 27 in the park outside the Midway / bring your own chair / free”

Adam Wisniewski as Theseus

Beth Matera as Hippolyta (with sister Chrissa as Cobweb)

Rob Miller as Egeus / Philostrate

Curtis Caldwell as as Lysander

Mike Falcheck as Demetrius

Nova D’Angelo as Hermia

Jill Gearhart as Helena
Shakespeare to meet Bikers in Windber
Daily American May 28, 2009

WINDBER — Shakespeare never had it so loud. A local group of actors and theater players will bring “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to life during the Windber Rumble.

“I wanted to place ourselves in the middle of another event,” director Blair Murphy said during an evening rehearsal in front of the Grand Midway Hotel.

Murphy, a writer and filmmaker, helped to turn the hotel into a living work of art in 2001 when he and a small group of like-minded friends purchased the building.

Since that time numerous performances and gatherings of artists both public and private have been focused there. The Shakespeare play will be one of the largest public performances to take place at the hotel to date.

The stage will be the front yard and front of the hotel itself and have projection elements designed for a twilight performance. Calling it a mix of guerilla theater and interpretative arts, several dozen people will contribute to the production.

“It’s going to be very interactive,” he said. “There’s going to be some people coming out of the crowd, into the performance.”

The play itself, famous for fairies, romance, whimsy, magic and matchmaking, will take a slightly darker turn with this interpretation, Murphy said. In fact, the part of Oberon is being played by writer/poet/musician Damien Youth and has been filmed already in New Orleans.

“He kind of modeled it after Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now”),” Murphy said.

For actors like Curtis Caldwell, playing Lysander, the organic and interactive nature of the staging is an exciting challenge.

“Blair has a great vision. This is something different,” said the veteran of many University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown productions.

Nova, a Pittsburgh native and integrative artist, will play Hermia, construct masks and build sets.

“I’m going to build a lot of stuff,” she said. “This is just a fun summer project.”

The cast of players also includes the likes of Pennsylvania Highlands Community College instructor Kevin Bean, Windber native Dylan Fornoff, actors Mike Falchuk, Robb Miller, Aspen Mock and Adam Wisniewski.

The play, open to the public, will start around 8 p.m. on June 27, with the rumble of motorcycles visiting for Thunder in the Valley providing a unique background score.

To quote the play: “I never heard so musical a discord, such sweet thunder.”

Mike Petruniak as Peter Quince

Kevin Bean as Nick Bottom

Bobby Karimi as Francis Flute

Bill Eggert as Snug

Mark Swindler as Robin Starling


(Director Blair Murphy with Assistant Director Curtis Caldwell)


I wanted to fill the park out front the hotel with enchantment. That was my main goal. I wanted to dwell on this subject so much for the start of the summer that every time I stepped outside from then on I wanted to see and feel rich enchantment in the trees, in the grass under my feet, hidden in the leaves.

This was my first play. The production proved over and over again how nothing is impossible. My naivatte actually empowered me. The final show was so sweet and innocent. What an enchanted, lovely evening.



Damien Youth as Oberon

Aspen Mock as Titania

Dylan Fornoff as Puck (with Phat Man Dee as fairy)

Nicole as Mustardseed

(Impressions of a mid-summer night’s dream…)
Fireflies flickered in the gathering dusk that night…
There were spirits in the night as part of the proceeding…
I discovered the production by accident…
I e-mailed Blair, expressing disappointment at not being asked
Blair extended an invite to try out;
I got a lion’s part of the play, Snug the Joiner

Numerous rehearsals, sets being built;
Hey gang, let’s put on a show!
Blair & Curtis’ tag team Shakespearean collaboration
New actors/friends to meet; old friends like Puck (Dylan)
Ramping up proved a challenge; schedules conflicted right & left
But through it all Blair & Curtis remained tongue-bitingly calm…

The rehearsals grinded on, slowly but surely
Parts became memorized; blocking became second nature…
Soon the big screen made its appearance…
Mounted on the front of the old Grand Midway…
Oberon would soon make his appearance on the Midway’s face
Titania would speak from the balcony; lovers chased each other

The play drew near; the skies grew dark…
The heat rose and subsided…
As the weekend approached old friends surfaced…
Cameos by Cool Hand Jaemi and Skot materialized
Jaemi was excited about his new camera.
Skott was excited about his new book project
We discussed our mutual love for Jim Jarmusch’s films
Hard to believe, Jim Jarmusch is 56….

The final rehearsal from hell; let it all hang out…
Insults fly with tornadic abandon…
Hey , who let Lou Ferigno in? You’re such a bitch…
Where’s that bearded lady at? Who let the dogs out?
Wither Farrah & Michael?
Goodbye, yellow brick road, where the dogs of society howl
The sun sets; night begins to fall
A crowd gathers in the darkening hour…
The players get set; battle lines are drawn
Lines are silently gone over; cues are memorized
The canned music disappears; the crowd enlarges

The players take the grassy stage to start the play
Oberon appears on the large screen; Puck makes his entrance
Players exit and enter with quiet efficiency….
Soon the Mechanicals make their noisy entrance
There is no such thing as a small part.
Bodies are hurled to the ground; swords are drawn
Threats are uttered; fists are raised
Motorcycles quietly purr past the proceedings
Though some bikers go hog wild….
Waiting off-stage; waiting for important cues
Costumes are put on and/or removed…

The mechanicals make their final appearance
The play within a play’s the thing….
Bully Bottom, Peter Quince, Snout, Robin and Flute
The best of all is master thespian Snug the Joiner
“You! Ladies, You! Who gentle hearts do fear
The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps along the floor”
The Shakespaerean Shatner delivery enthralls
The audience is spellbound at the actor’s voice
A star is born that night (so he thinks…)
The audience gives him a standing ‘O’ (in his delusion)

The final curtain call along the old train tracks…
The crowd gives the players heartfelt applause…

Soon it is over; the crowd disperses..
The players wander back into the bowels of the Grand Midway

“If these shadows have offended
think but this and all is mended…”
Fireflies flickered in the gathering dusk that night…
There were spirits in the night as part of the proceeding…


Emay within the Audience

Blair & Company…
Really? Such wonderful people come together, such magic happens in this place? The stories will never place it as harmoniously in time, but surely there is a clear view of heaven from in here.
Congrats! Can’t wait for the Tempest
-Love Emay


Cast group Shot by Adam Blai

(Skot Jones within the Audience)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A Personal Narrative from the Enormous Hotel
by Dr. S.M. Jones

“The lunatic, the lover, and the poet are of imagination all compact.” (William Shakespeare)

Solve et coagula—dissolve and coagulate, separate and join together.

“Unless the eye catch fire
the God will not be seen…” (William Blake)

Management has requested an account of the happenings of the evening of June the 27th, but as I see it the facts are twisted by conflicting realities: the mandala, the fairy ring, with the motorcycle; alchemical transmutations: a cinematic character emerging from a giant screen to interact with the living cast, couches of twilight Windberians seated on train tracks, soaking in summer air, Otherworld creatures desirous of love, while their mortal actors masked, hunger for the divine archetypes.

I doubt that I can arrive at a conclusion. I took my facsimile edition of the first folio of Shakespeare down from the top shelf of my library and placed it on an Oriental table by the window, opening it to the play in question and placed a small bundle of wildflowers from the Occidental ruins next to my home. Mgmt., this was not the beginning that you had dreamed…

What do motorcycles have to do with the amorous delusions of Titania or our young Greek mortals? Blair Murphy says everything with his production, placing it squarely against the Thunder In the Valley motorcyclists’ bonanza. Love out of balance and misfiring like the profane rumble of trademark Harley Davidson wasted spark gas exhaust in triumphant American roar, a pop-punk sublime panacea oozing through the stage walls, the enchanted exterior façade of the Grand Midway Hotel.

Many members of the cast were unknown to me, except for a rambunctious and confrontational heavy metal Puck played by Dylan Fornoff, famed Damien Youth’s brooding portrayal of Oberon, King of the Fairies, and Kevin Bean’s robust and hilarious Bottom, but all were inspired to follow their ever enthusiastic director’s vision.

Nova as Hermia almost didn’t happen. After their brief and fiery romantic adventure, the actress had a severe falling out with Blair Murphy during a car ride on the return trip from Louisiana to film the part of Oberon that would be displayed via projector and giant screen. The exchange was so profound that Dylan Fornoff refused to finish the journey with the two and opted to stay where they were and take his chances in Tennessee. With only a few weeks before the performance, Nova had quit the play. Dream within the play within the real. As if performing the play on the stage within, the director placed enough magic ointment on the eyes of his female lead to convince her to go on. Rumors have it that if he so much as breathed in her general direction, she was off to the hills and never to be seen or heard from again.

But these incongruities illustrate the difficulty I have in appraising the nuances of the performances, or the costumes, or ingenious use of film for Oberon, or the set design, or that someone would dare put on a play amidst the incredible distraction of a thousand motorcycle engines clearing their throats. They are all a part of the hotel and the man, and the dream of a creative lover in every and all. The audience member gets to be God watching the beautiful folly of man amid the magical complications, and man burning to do all with the imperfect love he is given and perhaps getting it right by burning it completely wrong, leaving nothing left over in the end. I, the petitioned writer, having been so completely wrapped up in mid-summer lust and laughter, my evening embodied of true love without eyes for anything less than the dream. True love is what I give in return.

-Skot Jones


This feature documentary climaxes with the entire troupe’s post-show vacation which takes place right here in the Garden Room of the Midway!


My Cup of Coffee thoughts…

(Oct 23, 2014)  THESE FINE QUIET MIDWAY HOURS… So, I just spent an hour kicking back in the new Midway Garden Room, enjoying sipping coffee, reading, and music. Lucian the wolf dog, my co-coffee October Halloween bud, sits perched at our new decorative graveyard just outside the window. I hand him a bacon treat through the window and he’s in werewolf heaven.

So many projects are swirling right now associated with the hotel. And so many old friends and wonderful new artists are visiting and contacting us lately. It all has been a pretty brilliant and creative month. I’m thrilled to the point of almost being dizzy. The Universe is really churning the hotel galaxy this month. So, just now alone with my coffee, feet up on the new donated Andy Warhol benches, list of seemingly fifty billion new projects for the hotel to come beside my arm, and more being suggested now by the day, stacks of painting by friends of other friends still to be hung, it dawns on me yet again how much of this swirling breathing canvas environment is self-created by the artist friends who come here. I mean, that is stating the obvious, but it is delicious to recall over and over as one enjoys the artwork around here. It sometimes takes a quiet moment like this just to begin to take it all in. For instance, right now, the charming story I am reading is Thom Pulliam’s “Sith Chef”, set here in the Midway, with visiting friends as characters. The music swimming through the air is hotel royalty Damien Youth’s CD “Phantoms of Fables”, set here in the hotel, with friends and memories mixed into music. Even the coffee cup I am drinking from is one of our Wednesday night in-house mugs decorated with the witch photo of visiting guest Nikki Telladictorian. How blessed I sometimes feel in these random quiet Midway hours when I look around and see all the endless art and creation process by friends I know or have known and loved. Some of them are glorious real estate the world is just not making any more of. Poet Manuel Ibarra who appears in Zombie Dream, no longer alive, I have so many rich memories with. Always wanted to be a movie star. Brother, the film you starred in and never got to see is dedicated to you. Director of Photography Baird Bryant, he filmed the graveyard LSD sequence in the movie Easy Rider, lived with writer William Burroughs in France, and drank wine with writer Jack Kerouac, no longer alive, I have so many rich memories with. Baird sat in this very window seat and shared his endless charm and life stories in the arts and Hollywood with other friends here. Baird, you were like a brother to me. My God! Gary Gygax, created Dungeons and Dragons game, used to write me at the hotel and offer joking advice to forget the art and fill the place with women, no longer alive. His game system creation set my young teenage mind ablaze. Poet Stan Rice, married to vampire author Anne Rice, his large photo hangs on the wall just feet away, no longer alive. He let me film him reading his poetry, noting he was a recluse and no one else had ever done this. I remember sitting in this very room that cold December night Stan died watching the tapes of his spoken word we’d recorded. In his final book of poetry he wrote, “The Lord makes me reborn on video.” Later those same tapes paid for the new roof over the Midway hotel. I feel such honor to have known these artists. And this hotel, on the precipice of its new future, whatever that may become, with fabric of artists on top of artists on top of artists in our collective budding mini-counterculture as foundation, makes a fine place to sit and enjoy a simple cup of coffee and just imagine the surging potential of all of this, of all of us, and just appreciate the human efforts in motion here by so many. Gratitude can bring one to tears.

Three random images suddenly come to mind for this quiet hour, sort of floating around the room mixed with the coffee, music, and collective of building memories:

There’s the painting by nearby artist Alex Grey called “Artisthand” of a hand holding a brush with an eye for the brush tip.

American poet Walt Whitman wrote, “Passage indeed O soul…to realms of budding bibles.”

Passage in Aeon magazine interviewing artist/writer Alan Moore. Goes: “Time and again his conversation circles back to contemporary entertainment culture: its laziness, its lack of ambition, its tendency ‘to enslave and pacify more than it does to excite or stimulate’. ‘Jerusalem’ -his new novel- was conceived as the kind of Modernist exercise in literary difficulty that would test both writer and reader, since people today, Moore says, ‘want as much as possible with as little effort as possible, which completely removes the concept of the pleasure of effort’. For himself, he says, perhaps joking, he wanted to find out if ‘you could possibly do something that was so unwieldy it could no longer be called a novel’. The frequently confusing cross-currents of Moore’s late work make much more sense, in fact, when one sees them not just as entertainment products but as attempts at building a better reality: a miniature personal counterculture, rooted in Northampton but with its sights set on the very soul of man. ‘Art isn’t doing its job any more,’ he says at one point. ‘It’s not filled with the real and the marvellous. There’s no vision. There’s no William Blake.’ This microcosm-macrocosm approach, as well as its visionary strand, is a theme in the kind of esoteric occultism that Moore has inhabited since announcing, on his 40th birthday in 1993, that he’d decided to become a magician. It is reflected throughout his writing: whatever one thinks of the much-publicised snake-worshipping and the stories about contacting Asmodeus, the demon of mathematics, and Selene, the goddess of the moon, it would be a grave mistake to underestimate his seriousness. ‘The more I think about it, the more absolutist I get,’ he says now. ‘I believe exactly that art and magic – specifically writing, but art in general, and magic – are almost completely interchangeable. They share the same terminology, they match up in nearly every respect.’ So why call himself a magician, I wonder, rather than a writer or an artist? He replies that magic is the broader and earlier notion: ‘It includes all the other things, and it has other connotations as well.’ A fair definition of magic, he says, might be ‘engaging with the phenomena of consciousness. All modern linguists and consciousness theorists seem to agree that we have to have the word for a thing before we can conceptualise it. The first magical act was the act of representation – just saying “this means that”.’”

As I finish writing this I get a random text from hotel artist Joe Bob Smith that reads: “A solar eclipse is supposed to happen any minute.” Then another text, “It’s happening. You can see the moon breaking in on the right.”

Looking down into a simple cup of coffee in this hotel the reflection of Magic and Art swirl from uncontemplated heights offering promise, daring relationship, and beckoning magnitudes of our human birthright as creators created in our creator’s image which is that of a God.



When he lived here room #18 was Damien Youth’s recording studio.  He had a huge collection of vinyl records.  Our first year our group often discussed creating a local radio show.  At one point they began production, cutting a sound window into the wall between rooms.  Imagine it playing in the background in the Garden Room.  Here are some of those potential broadcasts…

Summer 1 Play List:  Damien Youth Wingless and Wild-Eyed, Dan Oatman Devil Went Down to Sitidos, Greater California Its Great, Paul Kazupas No One Hears, Phat Man Dee Torch of Blue, Majestic Twelve Swim Out to the Jetty, Damian Youth Dead Relative, Greater California Portuguese Hall, Dan Oatman Twenty O Seven, Sisters 3 Chinatown, Paul Kazupas Letter Song, Majestic Twelve Busy Work

Summer 2 Play List: Al Duvall The Neptune Inn, Damien Youth Rooms of December, Phat Man Dee Two Tone Tattoo, Sisters 3 Wistful Wonder, Damien Youth Beneath the Feet of Angels, Greater California Pacific Ave Corridor, Dan Oatman Samson, Dan Oatman Feet in Suits, Paul Kazupas Lovers of Today, Sisters 3 Pleiades, Tiana Krahn Lemon Cake, Dan Oatman It Will Be Okay (?), Paul Kazupas Instrumental (?), Damien Youth Gypsy, Kamasi Washington Family, Paul Kazupas Storytime, Sisters 3 Alien Baby, Sisters 3 Apocalypse, Dan Oatman I Meet You Yesterday

Summer 3 Play List: Greater California She Glows, Al Duvall On the Corduroy Road, Damien Youth Welcome to the Underground, Damien Youth Man in the Middle (A Pusher’s Theme), Phat Man Dee Heavy Roads, Sisters 3 Pleased to Meet You, Kamasi Washington Tears of Sorrow and Rage, Crew of the Half Moon Thanks for Being American, Honey

Goth 4AM Play List:  The Lobster Quadrille Winter at the Plantation, Damien Youth Lament, Riccardo Boccanegra Ligeia, Bauhaus The Three Shadows Part II, Devilz in the Detailz Cemetery Street, The Dark Theater Lynda, Badger Screwdriver, Damien Youth Charles Earnst , Damien Youth Death Head in the Hallway, Bauhaus Silent Hedges, Poppy Z Brite Reading from Lost Souls, Riccardo Boccanegra Sun-dried Flowers, Bauhaus Spirit, Damien Youth Moonspells, Damien Youth Little Star, Damien Youth Song for a World that Can’t Feel, Damien Youth The Serpent and the Fool, Damien Youth The Throne, Damien Youth Candleroom