Legs Good to Go:Larry River’s Legs and the East End

Written By: Alexandra Newton

Legs Good to Go: Larry Rivers’ Legs and the East End

My mother has been insisting I write something, a memory as she says, since after she heard about Dan’s Papers Literary Awards. In 2014 I sent in two essays that were sure to win. My mother even went to the Literary Prize Gala Ceremony in late August with my brother, even though I was in Argentina, and waited expectantly while the winners were called. All three of us were disappointed, I even more than they were because the prize money exchanged into pesos would have taken me three years to earn teaching English as a foreign language in northwestern Argentina.
When my mother recently read a 2012 article on 27East.com – Larry River’s “Legs” Still Stand, ZBA Looks for Compromise – she told me she had found the perfect story for me. I was surprised that she still hadn’t given up. She reminded me several times that when we moved to Southampton in 1970 to 160 Meetinghouse Lane the artist Larry Rivers lived across the street, and though the giant legs he had on his lawn were painted black, Larry River’s legs were now back, but white, in Sag Harbor, and made of fiber glass! She insisted I write something immediately. So I went to the internet.
I loved how Larry Rivers smiled, and even apologized when he took out his cell phone on national T.V. and shared a photo of his son Sam. When he suddenly said his son was so beautiful, I, too, smiled. I knew the awe we feel as parents when we truly see our children. I was mother to five children. I noticed as I surfed the internet for more tracks to follow, that it was his son Sam who helped him install his 35 piece “Legs, Forty Feet of Fashion”. Both Larry Rivers and my mother are immigrants, Larry Rivers more flamboyant, not caring about what others thought, and my mother more cautious, but with a flair, too, in how she solved problems. I thought Larry Rivers was beautiful in the photographs left across the internet as his legacy. My mother is still very beautiful. When she was younger she and her older sister were known as the Franchi sisters, the most beautiful girls in Córdoba , Argentina.
I wondered how to connect Larry Rivers, my mother and I with a place I walked and treasured in the 1970’s, the dunes in Amagansett where my grandmother Alicia lived, daughter to an English family that had settled in Mexico, who had once studied with Bertrand Russell and hiked her strong legs up and down Mexican mountains, the wild roses and ducks of Southampton flying south, endless potato fields, honeysuckle, and the Sound beyond Riverhead. I realized suddenly – legs connect us! And coincidence, which they say are messages from God flown in on winged feet. The artist Daria Deshuk who perpetuated flowers walking everywhere in the 1990’s, planting seeds that burst into bloom across the East Village in the City’s empty lots, mother of Sam Deshuk Rivers, died this year on March 9, my grandmother Alicia’s birthday.
Larry Rivers’ legs still stand. My legs are stronger now, than when I was fourteen and we first moved to Southampton. I train as a runner every day. I love to race. Our legs are united. Strutting. Defying time, time that feels younger as we age, jazzy, beautiful as the East End, as Southampton founded in 1640 on the Shinnecock nation’s lands, dancing as legs love to dance, timeless.
Keats was right in May, 1818 – Beauty is truth. Truth beauty. “Beauty is without time!” shout Larry Rivers’ arrogant legs. Persistent.
My mother says she is going again to the Gala Ceremony in late August! One thing we can count on. Mothers never give up. Just like my legs!