The Cones: Indifferent,
Embarrassed, & Happy
medium. triptych; airbrush on canvas
size. 11in x 14in
by. Wally Tautz
location. Long Island City, NY
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! This week, we sit down for dessert with comic book creator and digital artist Marcelo Biott, creative director and brand manager of Deli Fresh Threads, Biggie, and jack-of-all-trades and ad agency veteran Wally Tautz.
I still fish the beach at night. But I don't look up.
Wally! Thanks for being a part of Ice Cream Social. Full disclosure, we've known each other for over a decade now, and I'm continually amazed by the quality and variety of work you put out, so I was really interested to see what you came up with here. Why the triptych of three colorful cones?
Anything doing once is worth doing three times? I find if you do the same piece over and over they evolve a bit. That and I've always had a 'thing' for triptychs.
You've got a long history in advertising, so the idea of repetition is probably engrained in you. Are you out of the ad game these days, or a merc for hire?
A razor for hire? If the price is right. The trouble is that digital presentation has made my skill set, in the advertising world, unnecessary. I might as well be making buggy whips in the days of the automobile.
There's some truth to that, especially with the bulk of the business world making a hard shift to exclusively digital meetings, presentations and such, but for years, you were a wizard at solving the problems of account teams – equal parts architect and artist – by elegantly designing tactile presentation materials to wow clients. Do you have any particularly proud moments of some of those creations?
I guess the top of the list would be the "hand made/slave made" sneaker box that I built for the top creatives at TBWA, which was ultimately sent to sneaker unboxing guru Jacques Slade.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Pause for a moment to click that link and watch the very powerful video. We'll be here when you get back.
Now I have to say that the final product was a group effort with my coworkers. We each have a step that we excel at and as a group would always go with our strengths.
It all started with a loose sketch. I'd build something, it'd be fine tuned by the creatives, and I'd make another until everyone was pleased. Then, we'd make the final perfect piece.
Other memorable pieces... a leatherette presentation box for the autographed axe that Danny Trejo used in the Snickers' Brady Bunch commercial.
To be honest, they all sort of blend together. I have to say, I never knew what would be coming in the door. From making iceberg backgrounds for kid's day, to mini piñatas to hold thumb drives, to Japanese book binding, to origami animals. And BTW, "we need it tomorrow"
And for the record, needing it "tomorrow" was a lax deadline in some cases. "NOW" and "ASAP" were often used.
Is there anything you miss about that crazy schedule?
To be honest, no. Not having a regular job is liberating, to say the least. I "grew up" working in small boutique studios where you answered to the man who's name was on the door. Things were well planned and a late night was an ungodly 10pm.
I started in advertising in 1976 and didn't hear the phrase "All Nighter" until my first corporate gig at [J. Walter Thompson] in 1998. I honestly thought they were kidding. I worked over 40 hours in my first three days at BBDO in 2005.
I know you know I can relate. Ending a night at eight in the morning is not something I miss, so thanks, COVID-19, I guess? Onto happier things, it sounds like you've got some time to kick back and enjoy some ice cream. What's your go-to?
My mom's brother owned an ice cream parlor in Brooklyn. She worked there when she came to this country as a 16-year-old in 1928. So I have a happy history with ice cream.
I'm a vanilla guy. Coffee is good too, but not all the time. Stretching the boundary would be creamsicle, aka orange sherbert with vanilla ice cream mixed in.
As a kid we'd go to the ice cream parlor; I could go to two [parlors] without crossing a street, and get a B&W ice cream soda. Chocolate soda and vanilla with whipped cream and a cherry. I don't know how many cars I washed for those sodas.
I'm picturing the candy store/ice cream parlor from the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. How far off is this picture?
Also, chocolate soda?!?
Ahhh, the soda fountain was set up with a bank of different syrup containers. The taps pumped seltzer. So chocolate syrup and seltzer made a chocolate soda. Add some milk and you had an egg cream. If you wanted a Coca-Cola, it was the same deal. Coke syrup and seltzer. Cherry sodas were big, too.
As for what they looked like, Willy Wonka was pretty much it... long counter with spinning stools on one side. White tile floors, glass showcase with all the homemade candies and confections on the other. Usually tables in the back, simple stuff with the iconic, bent wood chairs.
Before my aunt and uncle retired, we'd go there for Sunday dinner. Back then there were 'blue laws' and only a few stores like delis were open. The world stopped on Sundays, and it was a good thing. So if the kids were good during Sunday dinner, we'd get dessert downstairs in the closed ice cream parlor. When you're in grammar school it was as close to royalty as you could get!
That sounds like Heaven to me now, and I'm 38.
So, back to your fluorescent cones, what flavors do you see them as?
I didn't get that literal with them. I was looking for a bright pop art look. Contrast and visual vibration were more important than possible flavors.
You've titled each canvas of this triptych. “Indifferent Cone” (purple background), “Embarrassed Cone” (pink background), and “Happy Cone" (green background). Explain.
After they were done, and I looked at them together, I realized that there were traces of faces in the ice cream. I didn't do it intentionally. The appeared when they were done. I noticed the happy one first, then started looking (kind of like looking at clouds) at the others. Sure enough they were looking back. Can you see them?
I do now! Yes! Happy, right off the bat.
When you create, and it feels right, good things happen.
You've already inadvertently answered one of my rapid-fire questions (incorrectly, might I add) in the sherbet vs sherbert debate, so next up, sprinkles or jimmies?
I think that sherbet/sherbert answer was more a nod to my spelling shortcomings...
We called them sprinkles, but I was never a fan of crunchy bits in my ice cream.
So you stand with Sherbet?
I looked it up. That's the only proper spelling. But my computer didn't correct me until after I looked it up.
Conspiracy theory #98798.
I can't believe we haven't touched on conspiracies already. Some of my favorite moments of hanging out at work has been shooting the breeze with you about these wild theories. We can come back to the merits of cups and cones later. Can we talk about this first?
We've discussed so many different conspiracies, from JFK to aliens to Las Vegas. Is there one that especially grips your imagination?
I'd go with aliens. I've seen some weird stuff out on the water at night.
So let's talk about aliens! Share your Fire in the Sky story!
You know the long straight road between Jones Beach and Robert Moses? Ocean Parkway. Ocean on one side, the Great South Bay on the other. Mid-1970s, my cousin and I are his boat around 10 pm drifting the grass flats, crabbing. (I have to say that this took place so fast, that it takes longer to type it. Probably as fast as it takes to read it.)
My cuz sees a single light coming down the parkway. "Look at that motorcycle! He's really hauling!"
As he says that we both start to say that there's no noise, but before we finish the sentence the light STOPS. Stops so short and fast we looked beyond it and had to adjust back to where it was.
No noise. Then it went straight up in the air to where you just had to tilt your head a little to see it. Paused for maybe a second and then went up on a 45º angle, out over the ocean and out of sight.
Never made a sound. All of the direction changes were abrupt and sharp like a billiard ball bouncing off of a cushion. Needles to say, we called it a night and headed home. Looking over our shoulders the whole way!
Another time, in the mid 90s, I was fishing with my nephews on the beach near Rocky Point, Long Island. It was about 1-2 am when we decided to call it a night. Walking towards the car, we met some other fishermen. One mentioned that we should stick around because some space something, the shuttle? It was due any minute. So the five of us stood watching the night sky in the proper compass direction. One guy spots it. A tiny light moving quickly across the sky. He uses his fishing rod to point it out to the rest of us so we're all watching it. Then it makes one of those billiard ball bounce 90º turns.
The shuttle can't do that! And again, we all decided it was time to leave and let somethings just remain unsaid. I still fish the beach at night. But I don't look up.
That's incredible, and very eerie. As a fairly recent Long Islander, I know Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base is not too far from either of those spots in Westhampton Beach. What are your thoughts on whatever you saw coming out there, a la the rumors of Area 51 reverse-engineered spacecraft?
While I don't discount the chances of intelligent life besides ours, I'm more inclined to believe its our super secret stuff. When they developed the SR-71 the early versions were polished metal. Since they could fly higher than anything at the time, when other pilots saw the silver shape up there they called it a UFO. That worked for the Air Force's secret agenda, so they didn't dispute it.
One hot summer night we were on a jetty in the Rockaway, and there was a distant light in the sky that looked like a burning match. It got larger and larger. Then we realized this fire was getting closer and closer. When it got right near us we saw that it was a 747 coming into Kennedy airport, wheels down and landing lights on. The thick hot summer air made the light look orange, much like a sunset.
This logic is not as exciting as Independence Day, but I tend to agree. Back to ice cream!
I know said you're not a sprinkles guy, but roll with this one: rainbow or chocolate?
Cup or cone?
Either! Cups are neater.
That's a vote for cups! You know what you put a cup on? A saucer... not to be confused with ice cream saucers. Or flying saucers... Coincidence? I think not. Thanks for flying with me, Wally.
Try This at Home!
Root beer, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup/sauce
Ginger ale and vanilla ice cream
Coca-Cola, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup/sauce
Seltzer, pineapple syrup/soda, and chocolate ice cream
Grape soda and vanilla ice cream
Lemon-lime soda and vanilla ice cream
A skeleton walks into a bar and says, "Gimme a beer and a mop."
Tautz describes one of his favorite childhood ice cream parlors, still in business today:
"While they no longer make and serve ice cream and sodas, Marjie carries on the family chocolate tradition. Inside the store is pretty much unchanged since they opened.
At Christmas, we buy 12-14 pounds of handmade chocolate-covered crackers and send them to the extended family all over the country. It's a tradition my parents started."
Carvel's Flying Saucers
Tom Carvel (born Thomas Andreas Carvelas in Greece) built a frozen custard trailer with $1,000 borrowed from family, and then another $20 from his wife to purchase frozen custard. On Memorial Day 1934, his trailer broke down in Hartsdale, NY. Luckily, the owner of the pottery store where the trailer broke down allowed Carvel to use the shop's power to keep his custard frozen. He stayed in that lot all summer, and began building out his trailer to a permanent stand, and Carvel Ice Cream was born.
Flying Saucers debuted in 1951, three years after the infamous Roswell UFO crash that captivated conspiracy theorists for decades.
In 1973, the ice cream company debuted a short-lived comic book (published by Archie Comics) featuring their eponymous hero, Captain Carvel, who rode a Flying Saucer ice cream.