When Gertrude Stein met Alice B. Toklas defines the essence of 100 Years, 100 Roses, a multi-city celebration of the American literary couple who lived in Paris during their lifelong partnership. For Hans Gallas, the organizer of this ambitious international commemoration anchored in San Francisco and commencing June 2007, this is an opportunity to share his Stein-Toklas collection and to find and develop new audiences for Gertrude Stein.
Several years ago and over a memorable luncheon salad—arugula, mint, prosciutto, pecorino cheese, figs—the Steiny Road Poet first learned from Gallas about this project. At that time, Gallas urged the Poet to coax a 2007 production in San Francisco of Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On, her opera with composer William Banfield. He also stood ready to support such a production, but it seemed the Bay Area opera entrepreneurs were not ready to offer the classical and jazz Alenier and Banfield creation.
A NOT SO STILL LIFE WITH STEIN
What will happen in San Francisco in the summer of '07 includes an exhibition of Gallas' collection at the Jewish Community Center and a staged reading of his play Brewsie and Willie & Alice's Cookbook. Other events include a Gertrude and Alice film series, a production of Laura Sheppard's play Still Life with Stein, and food events at local restaurants that feature the celebrated couple. Visit gertrudeandalice.com for specific details.
Other cities participating in the celebration include: Lancaster, PA; Los Angeles, CA; Berlin, Germany; and Paris, France. In September 2007, Gallas is taking his collection to Berlin's Schwules Museum.
STEIN: A TWO-KEYBOARD ARTIST
What makes Gallas' collection unique are objects like a replica of the Smith Premier typewriter that Gertrude bought for Alice. The Premier had a double keyboard, one exclusively for capital letters. In its day, the Premier was quite popular until typists were taught 10-finger touch-typing. Alice, who had trained in her natal city of San Francisco as a concert pianist, said her fingers adapted to the new typewriter where she painstakingly typed all of Gertrude's work.
Another unusual item is a model of the 'Mixmaster' that Samuel Steward sent to Gertrude and Alice around 1941. Alice, who was the family cook, loved kitchen gadgets and Steward always sent a generous gift after he visited them.
ALICE B. TOKLAS AT NINE: A 9/11 STORY
Gallas also owns many first editions of Stein's books and some informationally significant letters, but his most prized possession in his collection is a 1886 autograph book that belonged to a friend of Alice Toklas. In Lilly Kellogg's book, the nine-year-old Alice signed her name. Gallas said he bought this item over the phone in 2001 days before the attack on the World Trade Center. The New York dealer was located close to Ground Zero. As soon as Gallas told the dealer he wanted the book, the dealer mailed it in a nearby mailbox without waiting to receive a check from Gallas. Had the dealer waited for the money, Gallas feels sure he would not have received the book.
The Gallas collection contains many photographs of Gertrude and Alice that were shot by Carl Van Vechten, the man instrumental in arranging Stein's 1934-35-lecture tour. Gallas also has drawings, caricatures, watercolors and a print of the silk screen of Gertrude from Warhol's series Ten Jews of the Twentieth Century. One particularly colorful mixed media piece that Gallas owns is the 1964 work "Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas" by Richard Merkin.
Depicted are Gertrude, Alice, and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle). The letters "LG" refer to Stein's pronouncement to Hemingway and others, "You are all a lost generation." Recently Gallas spoke with Merkin who had wondered if this piece, first exhibited at the 1965 New York World Fair, still existed. Merkin was featured as an upcoming artist who had just graduated from design school.
FROM THERE TO THERE
Gallas, who was born in Berlin but grew up and was educated in the United States, said his interest in collecting Stein and Toklas was a "natural evolution." As a child he was interested in silent movies and the history of the 1920s and '30s. In college and graduate school, he focused on theater between the two great wars. His interest in Stein and Toklas began after he read the celebrated Stein biography Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company. He has been collecting Stein and Toklas memorabilia for eighteen years.
In 1998, Gallas' first exhibition "Gertrude and Alice, From There to There: Being Geniuses Together" at the San Francisco Main Library emphasized that the two women were collaborators promoting Stein's work. "We Love You, Alice B. Toklas," his second exhibition that celebrated the 125th birthday of Alice began in San Francisco in 2002 and went on to the American Library in Paris. John Baxter wrote about this exhibit in his book We'll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light published in 2005. In 2002, Gallas also launched his Web site www.gertrudeandalice.com. In 2004, Gallas organized a program of readings at the San Francisco Library entitled "A Life in Food: A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book."
The Steiny Road Poet who has shared tête-à-tête the love of the Stein-Toklas literary careers (yes, Alice was a bona fide author) with Hans Gallas knows that Gallas is likely to show up for new theatrical productions on Stein and Toklas, no matter the location. Because he makes it a point to know other people promoting Gertrude and Alice, he usually gets information well in advance of any publicity. The Steiny Road Poet considers Hans Gallas an important ally along the Steiny Road.