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Never could I have imagined the fabulous life I've had. I am a self taught artist, woodworker, sculptor and car builder, who can go from one medium to another without a break. I have been blessed by having great family and friends, and everyone has always encouraged my insanity. For someone like me, that's a dream come true.
Fabulous Furniture is both my place of business and my refuge. I get to do all kinds of things here, and people stop by and love it. What a treat!
Combining all my passions has been the secret of my happiness. I love that some people know me because they've lived with one of my dining tables for decades, while others look out their front windows to one of my life size dinosaurs, and still others drive the cars that Mike and I design and fabricate here.
I have been written up in all kinds of magazines and newspapers, including Architectural Digest, Hot Rod Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and we are featured prominently in the book Weird New York.
In the last few years I've had some incredibly great things happen — I was part of the Ed "Big Daddy" Roth retrospective at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles; was asked to bring some of my creations to the Art-Car exhibit at the New York International Auto Show; my guitar, The Stratocrusier, was the hit of the 2000 Guitar Festival in Woodstock, NY — and then my custom car "The Marquis De Soto" won the NY Times Collectible Car of the Year Award! A year later, it won first in class at both the 2010 Grand National Roadster Show and the Sacramento AutoRama. Pinch me now.
I met my sweetie, Martha Frankel, in Woodstock in 1974. Fabulous Furniture had been open about 3 years. She was the cashier at the Joyous Lake, the hottest club in Woodstock. She came out to see the shop, took one look around at my mess, and became Fabulous Furniture's business manager. To this day she makes sure that cheap chelsea jerseys all I ever have to worry about is being as creative as possible. She has endless patience for the customers, and is still at the store many weekends. She can remember a face or a name — sometimes of people she hasn't seen or spoken to in 25 years. Between me and you, it's a little scary.
In the mid 80's, she met the incredible editor Annie Flanders, who was just starting DETAILS Magazine. Annie hired Martha as their book reviewer, and Martha's career took off like one of my rockets. She continued to review books, but also interviewed hundreds of celebrities for magazines and newspapers around the world. She has won all kinds of fancy-schmancy awards (NYFFA, MacDowell Fellowship, Squaw Valley Fellowship, SUNY Artist-in-Residence) but still has time to mentor at the local high school. On prom night, she posts our phone number on facebook and twitter so kids will call her instead of getting into a car with a drunk driver. I love her for that, even as I pray that the phone doesn't ring.
Her memoir, Hats & Eyeglasses, about her fabulous gambling family, was lauded by everyone from the NY Times and O, the Oprah Magazine to Heeb Magazine and The New York Post. Her second book, Brazilian Sexy (Secrets to Living a Gorgeous and Confident Life), is a complete hoot.
Check out her fabulous website, marthafrankel.com
Mike Karpf drove past Fabulous Furniture in 1995, saw all the sculptures in the yard, screeched on his brakes, and turned around. He hasn't left since!
The first thing he did was help me with a flame job, and I sort of freaked out — this kid was so talented and he thinks just like me, but he's organized. A few months later Martha and I went to Puerto Rico, and when we came home, he had boxed up all my collections of taillights and chrome do-dads and drew pics of them on the boxes and written things like "FAT-FREE SMALL ROUND TAILLIGHTS" "FREE-RANGE GRILL EMBLEMS" and "THOSE DAMN PACKARD THINGS". It changed my life, just knowing where everything was.
Mike has been making models of cars and motorcycles and trains his whole life. The way we work now is, I draw this little doodle on a napkin, and the next day Mike brings in a concept drawing, pretty much exactly what I imagined. Then he builds a model and we leave that lying around the shop, just thinking about it and dreaming of the finished product. He's a better welder than I am, and I'm still surprised and tickled by the way he can read my mind. He's family now.
His new obsession is motorizing bicycles, fabricating many of the parts by hand. Here are some cool videos about him, shot by Aaron Weisblatt for helleronwheels.com.
Rocket Boy is just like me — tall, dark, and handsome! And we do all the same things; he loves cars and has 2 Jeeps of his own, he moves wood from one side of the shop to the other all day long, and generally causes mirth and mayhem. He's the latest in a long line of way cool dogs that Martha and I have raised. I thought he was gonna be a 100 pound doberman like our last two dogs — but he never grew! And you know what? I love having a 33 pound dog that can easily hop in and out of my fabulous vehicles. (We later found out that he's a Manchester Terrier, which is what they originally bred Dobermans from, so I wasn't that far off.) He works every day with me at Fabulous Furniture, so bring the kids out to meet him any time.
Here's his favorite trick: