Posted by: Dan – Aug 14, 2012
He was sitting on a bench, smoking a Camel non-filter. I ordered a Hennessy and Ginger right before I was distracted by friends. We schmoozed with other media types, musicians, and artists, all rubbing elbows furiously like rats between sheetrock. I looked back in his direction, but Futura was nowhere to be found. I wondered if he left, recalling stories that he wasn’t necessarily a people person.
John, the host of the luncheon event at 2113, interrupted the casual chatter of all in attendance. “May I have your attention!” he requested. Everyone circled around the corner of the bar as he spoke about Hennessy and their nationwide art tour with Futura. I was excited about the opportunity to work with this duo, but never expected to hear “He’s going to take the art tour!” That statement shocked me. I’d been told that Futura never tours the murals. “Don’t hold your breath,” I was told. Earlier in the week, we put together a flip book of all the street art around Richmond and hoped that Futura liked enough of what he saw to check out the scenery. We hadn’t gotten a response from the PR team and it was not till John made the announcement and the applause died down that I realized Richmond was different. Futura said, “I love what I see here and I look forward to joining you all on the tour.” I hung from those words like sneakers from a power line.
The speech ended with a raucous applause, and we all went about our business while the local press joined Futura on the patio. I had the unique pleasure of overhearing the interview for RVA Magazine. It was then that Futura’s legendary status sunk in. No matter how much you read about someone, it’s no substitute to talking to them face-to-face. His long history with everything from grafitti to music to sneakers to toys was fascinating.
The interview ended, and I found a bench seat on the patio. Futura approached me, “I’m Leonard,” with his hand stretched out. I grasped it cautiously and shook. He squeezed tighter, as if to tell me with his clutch, he was a friend. “What are your thoughts on Basquiat?” I inquired. “Jean Michel?” he responded, then proceeded to sing his praises. “I know people say things like ‘my kid can do shit like that’, but Jean Michel was official.” Before I could ask another question we were abruptly herded from the patio to behold the murals.
The tour started and Futura was the first to leave the building, his camera slung over his shoulder, hooked and swinging from a karabiner. We walked from 2113 to view the Pixel Pancho, 2501, and ROA murals around Have a Nice Day Café and discussing their process before he offered his own take on the works. We were then led to the Lelo mural at the back of Canal and 18th Street, moving on to the Aryz mural near the Farmers Market, and then to the Angry Woebots and another Pixel Pancho mural in the parking lot next to Tiki Bobs Cantina to cap it off. He seemed impressed. “Are you guys going to the bottle signing?” Leonard asked, as we huddled up in our group, sucking back our nicotine like it had some sustaining effect on us. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” I replied.
I arrived at 10 N. Thompson Street fifteen minutes late. The Hennessy PR rep, Gina, and I crossed paths in the Ellwood Thompson Parking lot. “The turnout is great in there!” I breathed a sigh of relief before responding as if I knew it would’ve been all along. It was great to see so many fans of the man lined up and you could tell he was having a good time with it. At one point, DJ Mike Kemetic came thru with a stack of records and Futura started signing them right there on the sidewalk. I found it refreshing Leonard was so down to earth and inviting as he was.
Hours later, I’d meet Future and Hennessy at 202 West Broad for the mixer that would be the crowning event to an already glorious day. I’d spent it beside a legend and I got to walk away with a limited edition, autographed bottle of Hennessy as proof of my encounter. What an experience!
written by Dan Anderson
photos by Timothy Tavish unless otherwise noted