Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

One night in the early 1980s, my wife, Peggy, and I were sitting in the second row of the Mark Hellinger Theater watching the musical romp “Sugar Babies,” starring Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller. Mickey Rooney (amazingly, this was his Broadway debut) was standing outside a hotel room door listening to what was going on inside between two newlyweds. It was the setup for a very old joke that I had known since boyhood. “When you get to the umbrella, it’s mine!” Rooney shouted through the door. I let out a guffaw that rocked the theater and the audience followed suit. Rooney marched down

On two successive evenings last week—at the New York auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’s—a half-billion dollars worth of art changed hands. I am fascinated by the art world—the work itself, the lives of the artists, collectors great and small, and the value and prices that art commands. Plus, of course, the business of auctions and museums is intriguing. Relatively few people have money to buy great works of art for their homes and yachts. Fortunately for the rest of us, many of the great collectors either founded public museums of their own or left their art to established institutions. Since no advertisements were booked

For years, I had known of the great painting The Gross Clinic, by 19th century artist Thomas Eakins, that was housed in one of Philadelphia’s many obscure museums. In 10 years of living in Philadelphia, I’d never seen it. Finally, when it came to the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the 2001-2002 exhibition, “Thomas Eakins: American Realist,” I was able to spend time with it. It is a beauty (see the illustration at the end of this article)—a monumental work described by the Inquirer art critic Edward J. Sozanski “as the greatest work by the city’s most famous and talented artist. Any

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