"Chase a Jinx Away," an auction to benefit Willard "The Texas Kid" Watson at the Bath House Cultural Arts Center September 14, was a limited success.
The Kid's much-decorated 1978 pickup truck sold at the minimum bid of $5,000 to a sealed bid from Fort Worth. Most of the clothes, apparently prepared especially for the auction-and not nearly as high quality nor as ornately complex as the Kid's own wardrobe-sold for embarrassingly low prices-usually under $25.
I thoroughly enjoyed bidding up a neatly beaded and doo-dadded straw cowboy hat to $41, the highest bid of the evening, and a price second only to the pickup truck, which received no competitive bids.
Only about fifty people attended the auction. Considering only 250 invitations went out, it was a good showing. But for an auction to benefit Dallas' best known primitive artist, the crowd was sadly insufficient.
The much-abused icon of Dallas art was discovered and rediscovered throughout the 70s. The Texas Kid-whose shuffling colonial manners and easy get-along grace has made him a ripe target for collective greed-has been ripped off by nearly every art charlatan around. Many of the Kid's works have disappeared in recent years, without compensation to him.
Checks for the 'Jinx' auction were written directly to "W. Watson." But Kid Aid hasn't always been that direct or beneficial.
In January 1984, an exclusive benefit auction at Allan Ireland and Don Kriendler's now-defunct Exposure Restaurant on upper McKinney, supposedly raised $18,276 for The Kid.
After more than a year, though, Watson got only about half that amount. It was too little too late.
I tried to attend that "benefit," too. But I and other friends of The Kid were shunted out or never felt right about being part of the white-only, business suited crowd.
Last summer, his government disability checks were stopped, because they figured he was rich as well as semi-famous. But he's not.
He was pleased to sell his recently redecorated pickup truck (although he's yet to receive payment), still has his hallmark Cowboy Caddy, and if he can find a willing apprentice, might be able to finish a few pending projects.
But Willard Watson is well past his prime now and in failing health. He's a talented, if naive, native Dallas artist with a colorful past and an uncertain future.
Willard read this story and phoned me saying it was correct.
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