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The Worst Piece of Art I Ever Made: The Drawing that Doomed Dan Rather

Dan, quick, save yourself! Burn that drawing!

Other than the time I was stabbed in the face with a spear by my brother, or the other time when he threw me head first into the TV set requiring several stitches, I led a rather blithefully pedantic existence on the boring high plains of Texas. But everything changed on that fateful day in 1984 when, for the paltry sum of five dollars, my evil father commissioned me to do a pen and ink drawing of some old burned down building. I spent five minutes and collected my dollar-a-minute fee and promptly forgot about the whole transaction.

Well, my mother got a hold of the thing and slapped some watercolors on it, and/or should I say, filled in the lines like in some five-year-old’s coloring book. Somehow someone saw it and the next thing you know, the scribble got slated for a printing in some bank calendar. Well, that’s when all the trouble started—apparently the bank was robbed or there was some raping and the whole calendar idea fell apart, and God bless those poor souls. I hope they are alive and well, and didn’t succumb to the curse of this whole damned thing to come.

Then, the next thing I heard was that Dan Rather of CBS got a hold of it. Apparently this ghost building was the alma mater building of some university and several different views were executed, but somehow my drawing captured the essence the best. So poor old Dan fell in love with it and hung it over his desk. Well, you saw what happened to him, he was cursed from that moment on. The worst of its effects culminated in some misguided junior reporter’s bogus report on President Bush’s privileged youth in the air force and how he didn’t work a day in his life or even fly a plane, or drank too much while all those poor kids were getting their heads blown off in Vietnam or something to that effect. So CBS blamed the whole thing on Dan and made him apologize to the president who actually probably did all those things anyway. Well, now Dan has to sue CBS for ruining his career. Let’s hope that’s the worst thing that ever happens to Dan for touching that accursed drawing.

Back to my sweet and saintly mother, she never did a single thing in this world to hurt anyone except coloring in that drawing. Up until then, she lived a very good and uneventful life, but shortly thereafter she became a Christian Scientist. Later, she contracted a melanomic freckle, which turned into cancer. She could have easily had it removed and might still be alive unto this day. I attribute this cursed drawing with clouding her good judgment. She died a long and painfully contracted death, all the while a photocopy of the hell drawing hung on the wall of her house. Even the dog promptly died from a strange and unidentified malaise. He slept under this very painting. As for my father, after touching the devil’s doodle, over the years he has endured countless beatings, car jackings, heart attacks and several more as sundry matters, which I cannot go into at this juncture. I believe to this day he still owns the photocopy, but I allow him to keep it, so that he may suffer all that I have suffered over the years because of it. Promptly upon his demise I will destroy the copy to relieve myself of any possible involvement and further sufferings.

Here, I briefly mention my brother as sort of the “control” element of the family in this experiment of torment. For you see, to my knowledge, he has never touched this ungodly picture or for that matter seen it, nor will I even mention it to him, for he is the “blind” in this study of pain. As a matter of fact, it is his own blindness which protects him. I believe he has escaped because of his own ignorance and incuriosity. I’m sure he has passed by this devil artwork many times and yet his own myopia has saved him on countless occasions. The old saying, “when ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise” holds true. He has not suffered much at all in his dull and uneventful life.

Dolan and the EMT's at Burning Man

As for myself, although up to that fateful date I too had led a rather uneventful existence, since then I have acquired the nickname “Scar-Man” because of all the traumas I have experienced over the years. I have, at several different times, been cut and stitched, concussed, electrocuted, mugged, run over by a car. I’ve dodged a tornado, dodged lightning, fallen off a cliff, nearly blown off my hand, dodged a snapped power line, been burned and almost burned down some buildings (seven-year arson list of 2002), broken bones and was thought to have broken my neck. Of course, some would say that I’m clumsy or unlucky. However, I have a friend who says I’m the luckiest man alive, that shit flies around me like a hurricane, but somehow I always come out smelling like a rose…knock on wood. My advice to you is to stay on the other side of the street when you see me coming and to never draw a five-minute drawing for your father, even for money, and if at all possible, if you ever run into Dan Rather, if he’s still alive, please ask him to destroy that picture.

Dolan Smith is and artist and the director of Houston’s Museum of Weird.

Check out the previous two articles in our "True Confessions" series:

Michael Bise’s "The Worst Piece of Art I Ever Made: The Black Box"

Ludwig Schwarz’s "The Worst Piece of Art I Ever Made: Hot Dogs For All"


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