Friday, December 10, 2004

If case it wasn't obvious, has a Gacy fixture...the whole killer clown thing, we guess. Today's old Gacy story....from the Palm Beach Post.

Follow the link to see four Gacys....

Serial killer's art draws collectors

Hi-ho. Hi-ho. My, but life on Death Row is slow.

The Seven Dwarfs seem a weird subject for a notorious serial killer turned amateur artist named John Wayne Gacy, who knocked out thousands of paintings during his 14-year rest stop on Illinois' Death Row.

Just as odd is a clown's skull, the head of Jesus, famous Hollywood monsters and beautiful birds. Then there's a self-portrait in the clown get-up Gacy wore for children's parties, kindly eyes twinkling from behind garish makeup.

Steve Koschal has a simple theory about the art. "Gacy didn't paint because he loved to paint. He found out how to make a lot of money," said Koschal, who began corresponding with Gacy in 1990, four years before the killer's execution for the sadistic murders of 33 young men, most buried in the crawlspace of his home in a Chicago suburb.

Koschal bought about 200 of Gacy's paintings, and 19 of them are on exhibit at the AAA Antiques Mall in West Palm Beach through June. Prices range from $195 for an acrylic painting of a bird, to $9,500 for an oil called Dwarf's Baseball, a rather amusing depiction of Disneylike dwarfs playing the killer's beloved Chicago Cubs.

The painting is pricey because it features the autographs of dozens of baseball greats, and even former President Richard Nixon. Koschal cheerfully admits they didn't realize they were signing a picture by a serial murderer. He also cautions against jumping to conclusions about the Gacy art market.

"You'd be surprised who buys these paintings," said Lantana-based Koschal, an expert on the authenticity of celebrity autographs. "You might think some tough motorcycle gang off the street, but it's doctors, lawyers, professional people, Hollywood and media types.

"Once, a teenage boy from Palm Beach was looking at one of these paintings, and you could tell he was really, really studying it. Later his mother came in and bought it for him."

Not everyone is amused by the Gacy industry, much less fascinated by it. "It's blood money," said Andrew Kahan, director of the Mayor's Crime Victims Office in Houston.

Kahan coined the term "murderabilia," and was instrumental in getting Texas and California to pass laws allowing the states to confiscate dealers' profits from the sale of items associated with violent criminals. Florida doesn't have such a law, he said.

"Gacy was a prolific wheeler-dealer who made tons of money off this stuff," Kahan said. "Nobody would give two cents for his art if it weren't for the fact that he was one of the nation's most prolific serial killers.

"We believe that people shouldn't be able to rob, rape and murder, and make money from it," he said. "That also goes for the people who deal in these objects."

Koschal said "I certainly don't intend to condone or glorify a murderer. But whether you like it or not, there's a huge demand."

Koschal never met Gacy, but they corresponded, and talked briefly by phone nearly every Sunday for many months. He'd buy paintings from Gacy for prices ranging from $40 to several hundred dollars. "He'd always call it a gift, because he'd use the money to buy materials," Koschal said.

In his chatty letters, the killer refers to his paintings as if he were running a prosperous uptown art gallery. He never directly mentioned his crimes, said Koschal, who stopped corresponding with Gacy a year before his execution when a new prison warden wouldn't permit the killer to paint anymore.

The pictures are relatively small-scale, painted on professional artist's board. Gacy carefully signed, described and numbered each one, and would include a note on the back for a work destined for Koschal. Gacy claimed a detailed record of all his pictures is at the famed Art Institute of Chicago, which denies it, Koschal said.

He reckons Gacy created "a few thousand" paintings, often working on four at a time. Many are offered on the Internet by collectors as far away as Germany. EBay voluntarily agreed not to auction off murderabilia on its Web site, Kahan said. But a Gacy painting was auctioned on eBay this week, attracting 18 bids and selling for $357.

Koschal said he has no idea what made Gacy tick. He recalled a letter in which the cordial killer urged, "Write, and let me know what's on your mind."

"My mind!" Koschal snorted at the time. "What's on your mind?"