DCS: mariska veres

Mariska Veres was something of a child prodigy. Her father was a noted violinist and young Mariska would often accompany him on piano for performances.

Teenage Mariska bounced around a number of different pop bands in her native Netherlands. She sang, played guitar and keyboards and enchanted her audiences with her exotic dark looks and distinctive ancient Egypt-inspired eye makeup. She soon became a favorite of the budding psychedelic club scene in The Hague.

In 1968, Mariska was asked by guitarist Robbie van Leeuwen to audition for his band to replace the departing vocalist Fred de Wilde who had joined the military. She was reluctant at first, but soon became comfortable enough to take the lead vocalist position. In 1969, the band — Shocking Blue — scored an international hit with “Venus,” topping the charts in nine countries including the Number One spot on Billboard’s “Hot 100.” Shocking Blue received wide praise, with US entertainment columnist Earl Wilson singling out Mariska as a “beautiful busty girl.” The band released a string of follow-up songs — all hits — but none achieving the status of “Venus.” Some didn’t even crack the charts in the all-important United States or England. The band members eventually went their separate ways in 1974, with Mariska embarking on a successful solo career in Europe. Shocking Blue reunited briefly in 1984, riding on the success of Bananarama’s new-wave take on “Venus.” The reunion, however, was short-lived.

In the early 90s, Mariska formed a jazz ensemble and released jazz interpretations of Shocking Blue’s songs. In later years, she lamented about being treated like a “painted doll” by fans and the press. Diagnosed with gallbladder cancer, Mariska passed away in 2006 at the age of 59.



DCS: claes oldenburg

I have been drawing since I was a little kid. Much to my parents’ chagrin, I decided to make art my chosen career. I went to art school and I have made a living as a professional artist — in one capacity or another — for over 40 years.

Unlike a lot of my colleagues and contemporaries, I am not a fan of art museums. And while I admire some other artists, I am not a “student of the arts.” I don’t study the established “old masters” and those who are revered by the art world. Sure, I can run the various “art” categories on Jeopardy!, but that’s only because I remember a lot of what I was forced to learn in an art history class four decades ago.

I worked in the marketing department of a prominent Philadelphia law firm for about ten years. They were pretty well connected to the cultural community in the city. They were the long-time legal representatives of the Philadelphia Art Museum and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. While I was in their employ, I was offered the opportunity to attend a reception at which Claes Oldenburg was the main honoree.

I froze.

There are just a handful of famous artists whose work I truly admire. Roy Lichtenstein. Edward Hopper. Johannes Vermeer. Seward Johnson. And what do they all have in common? They are all dead, so no chance of meeting them.

Claes Oldenburg, in my opinion, is an incredible artist. I don’t use words like “incredible” often. I reserve using words like that only when I truly mean it. Ever since the installation of the iconic “Clothespin” at 15th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, I have been awed by Claes Oldenburg’s work. His gigantic sculptures of everyday, unremarkable objects are magnificent. They are on display all over the world, from the giant “FREE” Stamp on the front lawn of Cleveland’s City Hall to the Ice Cream Cone atop the Neumarkt Galerie in Cologne, Germany to the Broken Button on the University of Pennsylvania’s Campus right here in Philadelphia, Claes Oldenburg’s art is accessible, while being imposing and slightly chilling. Art should evoke feelings and emotion and Claes Oldenburg knows how to evoke — as the kids say — “all the feels.”

That’s why I turned down the invitation to meet him. I was just too intimated. I have met many, many famous people in my life. Television stars, musicians, Oscar winners, sports figures, politicians — and I was unfazed by all of them. But the thought of coming face to face with the creator of art that I have loved and admired…. that would be too much for me to bear.

Claes Oldenburg passed away in July 2022 at the age of 93. He was an impactful and unique artist.

I have no regrets.



DCS: robin williams

Robin Williams was funny, manic, inspired, hysterical and troubled. Rather than put himself and his family through the potential turmoil that awaited upon his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, Lewy Body Dementia, increasing paranoia and continued depression, he took his own life.

Robin Williams committed suicide on August 11, 2014 at the age of 63. (My 53rd birthday.)



DCS: sinead o’connor

Sinead O’Connor was a true example of how fame is not everything. She was world renowned. She was recognized and praised for her singing ability. She was given awards for her talent.

But, she appeared not to be satisfied.

She led a troubled life, filled with questions. She was brave and she was misunderstood.

I was not a fan, but there was no denying her impact. She was a trailblazer. An advocate. A critic. A rebel. A warrior. A survivor. A truth teller.

Sinead passed away on July 26, 2023 at the age of 56… just 18 months after her son took his own life.