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Canvas of Stars - Peb's New Mural


What do John F. Kennedy, Babe Ruth, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Arnold Palmer, LeRoy Neiman, Joe Louis, Princess Grace of Monaco, Bill Clinton, Matthew Broderick, and Dogwood's own Cot Campbell have in common? They, along with 62 other celebrities from the world of sports, entertainment, and politics, are featured on a 26-foot long mural at New York's famed Gallagher's Steak House. The "Canvas of Stars" was "unveiled" at a party November 13, 2006.

It took noted cartoonist Peb (Pierre Bellocq) a year to create the mural after he was approached with the idea by Gallagher's owner Marlene Brody.

"Mrs. Brody had seen the mural I had done at Churchill Downs, and thought that something similar could be done at Gallagher's - using celebrities from every decade since the 1920s who had been loyal customers," said Peb.

"It was a thrill to learn that I was one of the subjects on the Gallagher's mural," said Cot Campbell. "Gallagher's is one of the great restaurants of the world and one of our favorite stops when in New York. To be in the same mural with Muhammad Ali and Joe DiMaggio, and all the others, is mind-boggling. Undeserved! But I'll take it!"

Gallagher's first flung open its doors back in 1927 - a New York speakeasy and gathering place for gamblers, actors and sports figures. In 1933 owners Helen Gallagher and Jack Soloman began serving the first New York Strip steaks - and a legendary restaurant was born. Because of its location in the heart of the theater district, Gallagher's has long attracted the stars of Broadway shows... but it is also a favorite haunt of athletes, Hollywood A-listers, the "movers and shakers" from both coasts, city dwellers and tourists alike looking for a splendid meal in a setting that bespeaks another era.

The restaurant was purchased in 1964 by Jerome Brody, a successful businessman, restauranteur, and Thoroughbred breeder and owner. When he passed away in 2001, his wife Marlene took over the reins.

Along with Campbell, other racing personalities include Chris McCarron, Angel Cordero, Jorge Velasquez, Willie Shoemaker, Joe Hirsch, Michael Dickinson, Shug McGaughey, Demi O'Byrne, Guy Harwood, Francois Boutin, and Sonny Jim Fitzsimmons.

"Canvas of Stars" was Peb's second commission for Gallagher's - his set of jockey caricatures done in the 1950s still hangs in the restaurant. In his early days in the United States, Peb drew both political and racing cartoons - pulling double duty at the Racing Form and the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Frenchman also worked for Sports Illustrated for six years, and the sketches he did of athletes served him well when it came time for his new mural.

"I sketched all kinds of people when I first moved to this country," recalled Peb. "Musicians, political figures, actors, boxers... you name it! If I didn't have my own sketch, then I used photographs of the individuals that Mrs. Brody wanted in the mural."

One of the most tantalizing figures in the mural is Josephine Baker, portrayed doing her famous "banana dance" in the upper left corner.

"Josephine absolutely had to be included," explained Marlene Brody. "She was a dear friend of mine who never received her due in this country, but was embraced in France, receiving a full military funeral in Paris when she died in 1975."

The entertainer, who Ernest Hemingway once called "the most sensational woman anyone ever saw," was the highest paid performer in Europe in the late 1920s and worked undercover for the French Resistance during World War II. Mrs. Brody, along with Princess Grace of Monaco and Jackie Kennedy Onassis, helped Josephine Baker stage a great comeback in New York in the early 1970s.

"Canvas of Stars" is Peb's fifth mural - his others are (or have been) at Roosevelt Raceway, Arlington Park, Belmont and Churchill Downs.

"I love how the general public interacts with the Gallagher's mural," said Peb. "I was at the restaurant in December with my wife, enjoying a meal, and everyone in the room was very excited about it - trying to guess who all the people were. The room was abuzz with conversation. I was very proud!"

If you would like to purchase a print of the mural please visit www.pebsite.com.

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