A Secret Grave 16: Betsy Shapiro, Not an Odalisque

.

The person who kept the dog was Betsy Shapiro, Victor’s landlady. I know this because we’d talked about Victor when she came to my studio to be photographed for a portrait late in the summer of 2015. Big-bosomed and voluptuous, Betsy is a somewhat odd and elusive woman who wears many hats. She takes care of her ailing husband’s real estate business. She also owns and runs a chain of tutoring services for high school students getting ready for SATs and ACTs. Recently she opened a headhunting agency in downtown Austin. And she supervises her stepson, Clark, now about twenty-six, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. When Margot was frantically looking for a doctor to cure her daughter’s alopecia, it was Betsy who told her about Dr. Victor Goodlove and his curious healing abilities. Betsy also told Margot that Victor had been married once, briefly, to a woman who decided to become a man, and that he had a twin brother who’d died at birth. My interest in Betsy had to do with her flawless skin and large pouty Angelina Jolie lips which most people assumed had been doctored but which I was pretty sure were natural.

.

Betsy Lips

.

I found her face and skin plus her voluptuous body so fascinating that I wanted to paint her (influenced by Ingres’ Odalisque – but I wasn’t fortunate enough to get an image of her stretched out in the nude, as languorous as a cat; maybe next time).

.

grande odalisque

France-003335 – Grande Odalisque, Dennis Jarvis, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

.

Her portrait will also be included in the exhibit on October sixth. Thank god, it’s complete. (In fact, I’m cheating a little because it’s been shown before.)

.

Randi Caught Off Guard - For Web

Caught Off Guard, Oil on Canvas Laid Down on Board 16×20

.

When she came to my studio to be photographed, I tried to get her to talk about Victor, but she was oddly reticent. “You were his landlady, right? What was he like?”

Her face closed a little. “Well, he was an excellent tenant, always paid the rent on time, never caused a single problem.”

“So what do you think happened?”

She wrapped a strand of eggplant-colored hair around her finger. She was dressed in a vivid silk kimono that worked well on her heavy frame. “You know, he used to disappear for weeks on end without a word to anyone, so I never really thought about it. Sometimes he’d leave his dog with me to look after, and since my stepson, who’s usually pretty shutdown, would grow animated around the dog, I didn’t mind. Ranger’s thirteen now and still going strong,” she added with the only smile I got out of her the entire session.

.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

.

Through Margot, always my best source of information, I got this juicy tidbit about Betsy and her connection to Victor. We were hanging out in my studio one afternoon and she gestured toward the portrait of Betsy in progress on my easel. “I heard she charged Victor an outrageously low rent.”

.

IMG_7718

Betsy’s portrait in progress

.

“Really?” I was surprised. Betsy has the reputation of being cutthroat and without pity in all things financial. “Why do you think that was?”

“Well, I’ve wondered. My guess is either she was sleeping with him or he knew something he wasn’t supposed to know and was blackmailing her.”

“Or both,” I suggested.

“Yes,” Margot said quietly. “Or both.”

.

To be continued…

.

Cover Photo ~ Abandoned, Teves Costa, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *