Sunday, September 7, 2014

Taking Care of Oscar

I have had one of these for 30-odd years, and it showed. Over time it had turned green, brown and even black in spots, and there seemed to be no way to clean it. I tried baking-soda-peroxide paste, silver polish, good old detergent and water, but the tarnish it bore was apparently there to stay.

I love the object more and more as the years go by. It wasn't an Oscar at all, but a going-away gift when I announced I would be leaving Geneva after one last bang-up production in the amateur company I had founded in the early 1980s, The Little Theater of Geneva. The bang-up production was Neil Simon's The Gingerbread Lady,  and I played Evy, an alcoholic nightclub singer just out of rehab. As time for my departure drew nearer, the Little Theater and I had a lot of laughs, and this was presented to me at the official going-away party, after which my husband and I were off for a new life in the States. The "Oscar" says at its base, To Mary Lois Adshead/From your own creation/The Little Theater of Geneva/1981- The date of demise is left blank, in the unstated hope that the group would continue forever. I understand it did last for a while, disbanding after about ten years.

Oscars are nice keepsakes, and this one certainly was a conversation piece, sitting among my books on various bookshelves, from Alabama to Hoboken. I've unpacked it here and hoped to give it a nice place in this house, even though I'd noticed it wasn't aging well. Finally I hit on a solution--I'd paint it white and put it on display as a objet d'art.

I didn't know how to go about painting it as it was composed of some very shiny plastic or something that didn't look as if it would accept paint. I asked one of my painters Friday and he said he'd sand and steel wool it until it was rough enough, then hit it with a strong primer. It became a project for a weekend.

I started using the steel wool yesterday. Smooth as Oscar is, he has a lot of corners, crevices, and cracks, and they all were pretty black. I tried fine sandpaper, and that took off another layer of paint, but there was still tarnish lingering in unattractive places. I still couldn't determine what the material I was sanding was. At last I decided to stop scratching and start painting. I applied a coat of primer and he looked quite nice, dull in color but not tarnished. When that had dried I applied a white enamel. And here he is. There are a few drips, and it's a bit messy about his feet, but I hope not all that many people who look at him will be looking at that.

I think he'll look fine in his new incarnation. Still a conversation piece, but at least now nobody will say, "Is that a real Oscar?" which always embarrassed me a bit anyway. I would counter that it was "a gag gift that wasn't really a gag," which I think is the truth. Now I can add the tale for the renovation of the little guy, and he may come to find he is at home in my new life.

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