Eleanor Coppola

// 13 August 2008

FF Coppola's OscarsThe Coppolas are a talented, powerful bunch. Admittedly I’ve not exactly been keeping close track, but in all the fuss about the film-making family, I don’t remember hearing a word about Eleanor Coppola, married to Francis Ford.

The Independent ran an interesting extract from her diary this weekend:

In Roman’s nursery-school car pool, I discovered another mother was artist Lynn Hershman. She thought my ideas were interesting. We had intoxicating conversations and created several conceptual art events together. One of our more infamous was held in 1975 in our 22-room Victorian house in San Francisco. Fifty board members from the Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Museums of Modern Art came.

When they arrived, Lynn and I were out of sight, downstairs in the screening-room with a closed-circuit television connection to the living-room. We spoke to our visitors over a large monitor. They could converse with us but only interact with our electronic images.

We invited them to take a self-guided tour of rooms in the house where we had placed exhibits. I knew the audience wasn’t as interested in our art as they were in coming to Francis Ford Coppola’s house, where it was known he kept his five Oscars. In those days when a man won an Oscar, a miniature Oscar was given to his wife to wear on a chain around her neck. I had a jeweller file off the little loop for the chain at the top of the head of my five tiny Oscars, then removed Francis’s from the lighted glass case where they were always kept and displayed my miniature gold statues in their place. In the kitchen the guests were directed to peel a potato and then read a quote from the artist Joseph Beuys, which said, “Peeling a potato can be a work of art if it is a conscious act.”

There were two large cooking pots labelled “Art” and “Not Art”. Each guest had to decide whether his or her peeled potato was art or not and drop it in the appropriate pot. Francis was out of town when Lynn and I staged this event.

From what he heard about it, he saw neither the art in it nor the humour. His feelings were hurt. He thought I was making fun of him, his Oscars, our house. He worked long and hard on his films, and thought conceptual art was too easy. “So some guy shoots himself in the arm [Chris Burden] or pisses off a ladder in a gallery [Tom Marioni] and that’s a big deal?” The only thing Francis finds OK about that period is a Joseph Beuys sculpture I bought him that he didn’t like at the time but is now worth 30 times what I paid. I was not a good wife, by his definition or mine.

Via Sprout Blog

Comments From You

Amity // Posted 14 August 2008 at 7:15 am

She sounds like an interesting person, I’ll have to read more about her.

Miniature Oscars on a necklace? That is beyond tacky. I’m assuming they don’t continue the practice these days. Very strange…

ConservaTorygirl // Posted 14 August 2008 at 8:28 am

Hmmm, I’d like to read more of Eleanor Coppola’s diaries!

Virginia // Posted 14 August 2008 at 8:56 am

thanks for the recommendation! Another book for my reading list. I find women’s diaries (and letters) fascinating as they were/are one of the few places you are truly free to express yourself, without the censorship of male company.

Ellie // Posted 14 August 2008 at 2:53 pm

Wow Francis Ford sounds like a boring sod

George // Posted 14 August 2008 at 3:06 pm

She sounds fascinating… must check her out.

Kate // Posted 3 September 2009 at 6:31 pm

Playing second fiddle to the breadwinner is an awful cage to find yourself in. Having artistic talent and ambition, but not a clear vision of how it will play out…yet still a meaningful connection and love in family. That family connection doesn’t placate the frustration.

Coming from a mediterranean family, this extract makes sense to me, and there are many complex emotions in this story and in my reaction to it.

Eleanor is a courageous woman – this idea would have been received well by all of the immediate family or extended family.

She’s great

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