medium. digital photograph
by. Gene Everett Szucs
location. Jersey City, NJ
Welcome to Ice Cream Social, the summer's socially distant group art show, featuring creators and makers from all walks of life, coming together to share their love of the greatest treat known to man. Each week through Labor Day, come chill with new artists as they discuss a wide range of topics spanning their personal journeys, art, pop culture, and, of course, ice cream!
Visit the gallery to see these and all the tremendous efforts that stayed cool in the spotlight since July 3rd.
I got to blow things up. It was a great form of therapy for me.
Gene! Welcome to the freezer for final Ice Cream Social Q&A of the season. Let's jump right in. Talk to me about ice cream.
My favorite memory as a little kid in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was going to an ice cream social in Loveland, on the banks of the Little Miami River. My family would go every year for exotic and indigenous flavors that I could only have once a year, because this was where they lived.
My favorite ice cream was red, yellow, and blue – appropriately named ‘Superman’. For about three years, Superman and I would have an annual rendezvous at the social, until one year, he went missing. He had been replaced... by an atrocity of blue and white that was named... Smurf. I was crushed. That was the end for me. I never went back.
Whoa whoa whoa. We're gonna have to back up a second here, Gene. Did you say Loveland, Ohio? Are you familiar with the Loveland Frog?
Haha, yes. I used to school out there.
How does the frog compare to the Jersey Devil, as far as its local "presence"? This is a cryptid I only recently learned about, and I'm fascinated by it.
It doesn’t. It’s not even a ‘real’ piece of ingrained urban legend. There will be no hockey teams named after the Loveland Frog, trust me.
That is a shame. But speaking of Ohio, the Jersey Devil, and hockey teams, in a strange coincidence, you've been involved with all three, working with the Cincinnati Cyclones (I think?), and New Jersey Devils. How'd you get into the sports business?
Funny and true story, after I got out of college, I served as a youth minister for two years. Anyone that knows me and hears that for the first time would probably shudder at the thought of me fostering kids, but it’s true. I am not particularly religious, but I am spiritual, and it was a good fit for me at the time. During this period, I would take my kids as a group to Cyclones’ games, and thought, hey, that would be a cool job... so I approached them, and they bit.
When I was a kid, my parents would take me to Cincinnati Red games, and I always the music, fireworks, fanfare, and the atmosphere. I’ve always been drawn to the way that video and sound shape moods. I studied photography in high school and college, and once I got out I joined the Cyclones of the International Hockey League as a group rep. After a year, I joined the production team, and before you knew it, I was running the game presentation. Hockey loves rock n roll, so it was a great fit for me. I got to create events around hockey to sell the sport, and blow things up. It was a great form of therapy for me.
After another year, I moved to Memphis/Mississippi to join the minor league team there, as well as the sister arena football franchise, and ran the presentation along with the marketing for over eight years. My team brought home multiple show design awards, and after long tenure in the south I was offered the opportunity to come to new Jersey to run the Devils' production.
After a few challenging years up here in the northeast, I decided to try my hand at freelancing, so I gigged with the NFL, NHL, NASCAR, and other corporate clients on content creation, which pretty much brings me up to the present, where I run around doing workshops, private work, and train budding photographers.
Dude. I did not know this amazing story of how you came into the business. So many people think they want to be involved in professional sports, and you basically just walked in the door and said, "I'm here!" Any advice for those kids with big dreams in corporate sports?
Careful what you wish for? I'll tell it to you like this: I've been blessed to do whatever I've wanted as far as career moves in my life. I've been in sports, I played music for money in a band in NYC, and I've been a professional creative outside of that for over a decade. The caveat is I've pretty much worked as hard as I could, had some great years, helped win a few championship rings, but it burns you out. Certainly a young person's game now, and you have to be self sufficient.
But the resources are a lot broader than when I joined up. Be prepared to sell yourself more than you think you can. And be confident. Working for a team means playing well with others, and everyone has an opinion on how you do things. You need tough skin. Be prepared to be overworked, underpaid, and under appreciated. Once you get that set, you'll be fine.
This tracks. What was your band's name? And kind of music did you play? I'm hoping for a bluegrass quintet named Loveland Frog (I'm not letting it go), complete with blow jugs.
I was a hired gun guitar player for a band in the NJ/NYC area called Daddy Nobux. I also gigged a time or two with a band in western Jersey called Sweet Tooth. But my original band based out of Loveland, Ohio, is called Metamorpbosis Pause. We have been in hiatus since 1997, but are in the process of recording some new (and old) quarantine tunes. We were more of a new wave, pop, industrial outfit. Fun times. We used to have live shows out at a barn in the middle of a goat farm where our singer lived. Built our own stage, mounted lights, PA, merchandise... everything. It was amazing fun being in high school and living creatively like that. The songs weren’t bad, either. They deserve new life at some point.
That's pretty cool. Are you gong to volunteer yourself as the auteur of an artsy photo shoot for the album cover?
Haha, I actually am doing a band photo shoot via zoom sometime soon. However, it’s hard to compete when your drummer is an award winning children’s book illustrator. He handled our first album cover, and most of the promo materials for all our shows. Just a real amazing guy.
I know we're here to talk about you, but you have to name drop now.
Jeff Ebbeler, whose hits include ‘Cinco de Mouse O!’, ‘George the Hero Hound’, and of course,
‘Tiger in My Soup’.
Before I got off-track, you said you were doing a photo shoot via Zoom. How does socially distant photography work?
I'm sure I did say that. I've been getting antsy, so I've been thinking of ideas to create some interesting, socially distanced art. As far as how it works, I'll let you know when I figure it out. The plan is to use a high resolution monitor that has a healthy refresh rate so that my camera can capture a decent image while posing my subject with a single, constant light source from 'the other side'.
I don't particularly care about the 'clarity', I want to have fun with it and play around with the chromatic distortion, noise, banding, and whatever else I can get out of it. Photography is about not letting yourself get trapped in a box. 1,000 ways to do the right thing.
If ever there was a perfect metaphor for making a sundae, this is it. So what would you put on yours?
Well, as far as sundaes go, I'm pretty picky. I'm from Cincinnati, and the best sundaes in the world are found at Graeter's Ice Cream, which is as iconic as Skyline Chili in those parts. If you are from Cincinnati, you go to Graeter's. Period. Whenever I drive my family back there, we always stop, and I only have one thing: two fresh scoops of vanilla ice cream, covered in fresh chocolate syrup, and dressed in as healthy scoop of whipped cream, and doused in nuts. No cherry needed. You heard me correct, I do not need a cherry on top. It's the closest thing to heaven I can think of.
One of my favorite bits about Ice Cream Social has been hearing about these mom-and-pop places throughout the country (and beyond), so Graeter's, you just made the list. Gene, I also appreciate your no-punches-pulled take on ice cream, but before we get there, tell me about the specific photo you've submitted to this humble, socially distant art show.
This photo, which is aptly titled 'Bittersweet', is one of those great 'happy accidents' – which coincidentally, would be the name of my ice cream flavor, if I ever had any inkling to try to craft one for my kids. At any rate. we had just gone through the remnants of the latest and greatest super storm that had barreled through the area, and our backyard was trashed. Trees were down, foliage everywhere. I thought to myself, this would be the perfect time to set up my perfect homage to Dave LaChapelle by setting up some studio strobes in an environmental setting and posing my children with ice cream juxtaposing composition.
While I was framing up my son, I was watching my daughter behind me with an ice cream cone, and saw that it was going to break in half and she was going to get miserable real quick. I guess it didn't help that both my kids had consumed more ice cream in twenty minutes that they probably should have, so, emotions were running high.
As soon as the cone fell, I simply moved the light source, and tried to grab the most accurate angle to give the correct narrative, waited a split second before she started crying, and took the picture. And there you have it... a happy accident.
Damn. That is a hell of a lot of work for a happy accident, but I'm glad you did it! What flavor did the kids have?
My son is a strawberry man, through and through. My daughter takes after her old man, and is a true connoisseur of butter pecan.
That is a bold flavor for a kid's palette! You may have a budding epicure on your hands. Do you have a go-to brand for the butter pecan, or do you just grab whatever's on sale at the grocery and lie to your kids that they didn't have Breyer's this time, like I do?
The Blue Bell gets the call a good chunk, but if Walgreens has a sale on Haggendazs, you know I'm there.
Ooh, the high end. You're definitely cultivating expensive tastes.
Well, it’s not Graeter’s...
You've got very definitive tastes here. That should make things easy as we wind down. Sprinkles or jimmies?
Neither! I won’t even eat donuts with anything on them. The kids love sprinkles, but I just can’t stand them.
Like I said, definitive tastes. So I guess you won't settle the chocolate or rainbow debate either?
Let's just put it this way, my favorite flavor on its own – which is a bit of a 'unicorn' for me right now, since we can't travel or anything – is Graeter's Double Chocolate Chip. And when I say double chocolate chip, I don't mean little mini Hershey Kiss chips. I'm talking slabs of the finest chocolate you can think off, encased in some rich chocolate ice cream, which is to die for. My father, who does not like anything sweet, and a man that will only drink three kinds of hot chocolate in the world – Starbucks being one of them – groomed me on this early on. The first thing I do when I get back home (whenever that is), is to go buy a pint of double chocolate chip, and truly remember what it means to be happy.
Chocolate. Cup or cone?
Cup, of course!
Sherbet or sherbert?
I knew a man with such discerning tastes was gonna get this last one correct.
In the absence of Graeter's and places to go, how do you get your ice cream fix on a Friday night?
Torico's, or MIlk, Sugar. Love, or I'll slum it at the local Dairy Queen. I shouldn't leave out the corner piraguas cart. Amazing coconut shaved ice...
Hahaha. Gene, this was my last Ice Cream Social Q&A. Sprinkles and sherbert ran away with their match-ups, but you put the final nail in the coffin of the chocolate vs rainbow debate (10-8, chocolate), and we are officially deadlocked in cup vs cone (9-9). Let this be a lesson: your vote matters.
Hahaha, that's awesome! I have never had so much fun talking about ice cream.
I guess we'll do it again next year. It was a pleasure to close this summer out with a great photograph, and a thoughtful conversation. Thanks, Gene!
Thank you for having me as a part of all these amazing artists. It's truly a privilege, and I can't wait till next year. I hope, like in my youth, this will be an annual assembly of all things sweet and amazing!
In the 1700s, a Mrs. Leeds birthed her 13th child, and exclaimed, "Let it be a devil!" The demon-child she spawned – a monster with a horse or goat's head, bat wings, and kangaroo legs – flew out the window and has terrorized the Pine Barrens of New Jersey ever since.
The legend of Loveland Frog began in March 1972, when several men reported seeing a 3-4 foot tall creature with a frog's face and skin skulking about the Loveland, Ohio, area.
The most recent sighting of the Loveland Frog occurred in 2016 when Sam Jacobs, playing Pokemon Go,
spotted the creature. "We saw a huge frog near the water. Not in the game, this was an actual giant frog."
"The Salish tribe of southwest British Columbia call the being 'Sasquits,' meaning 'hairy man,' from which we have coined the name Sasquatch."
– Robert Bateman, Canadian wildlife artist
Marvel comics' Sasquatch, a member of the Canadian government-sponsored superhero team, Alpha Flight, was created by artist John Byrne. He says the character's face was based on the popular Troll dolls of the 70s.
The most iconic photo of the Loch Ness Monster, known as the "Surgeon's Photo" of 1934, was revealed to be a hoax 60 years later, a convoluted revenge plot against the Daily Mail.
After marrying in 1900, he and his new wife, Regina, moved to 967 E McMillan Street and started selling ice cream in the front of the store while making it in back. Shortly after being widowed in 1920, Regina left with two young sons and an ice cream business got to work. Despite the prejudices she faced, Regina surpassed all expectations of women at the time and ensured the business thrived under her care. In 1922 Regina opened a new ice cream parlor in Hyde Park and continued expansion from there.
It was around this time that other ice cream companies increased output with new mass-production methods for cheaper overhead, abandoning the traditional craft. Stubbornly, Regina decided to continue making ice cream the best way she knew how: in small-batch French Pots."
Where is Engagement, Ohio?
Although its origins are sketchy at best, its said the Superman ice cream – named for it's yellow, red, and blue color – started in the Midwest.
Like a good Johnny Cash song, Gene Everett Szucs is a wanderer. He's been everywhere, man. The former entertainment guru of the Cincinnati Cyclones and New Jersey Devils is currently catching life through photography and videography over here. Book him for your still and moving picture needs.