Movie: Beauty is Embarrassing, The Wayne White Story


Movie Poster for Beauty is Embarrassing, The Wayne White Story via Beaty is Emabarrassing web site.

Working at Disney and living in southern California in the late 80’s, I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t intrigued by or didn’t watch Pee Wee’s Playhouse.  Personally I didn’t miss it.  Just the quirkiness and the design of the set alone had me hooked.  A lot of that had to do with the artist who is featured in the movie, Beauty is Embarrassing, The Wayne White Story.  Wayne is a multi talented artist, and won a number of Emmy’s for his design work and puppetry on Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

The film is a documentary if you will on Wayne, his background and his journey as an artist.  I found his sense of humor and kookiness hysterical and his work in different mediums inspiring; painting, puppetry, sculpture, often using cardboard, discarded, and found objects.  He seems like such a playful artist and just does what he feels like is the flavor of the day.

Wayne is also known for his word paintings.  Taking discarded  or thrift store art and creating phrases in colorful letters with colorful messages that, well let’s just say aren’t  very politically correct.  If you are offended by the “f” bomb, don’t watch.  If you are intrigued on how this country boy from Tennessee ended up in New York, landing a job with Paul Reubens on Pee Wee’s Playhouse, then moving to LA to continue to work on the show, win three Emmys, plus come into his own as an artist, then give it a try.    If you have Netflix you can stream it from the documentary section or rent it from iTunes.

You can also check our Wayne’s book, edited by designer Todd Oldham, Wayne White: Maybe Now I’ll Get the Respect I So Richly Deserve.


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Movie Review: Leonie


Leonie is the story of Leonie Gilmour who was a writer and  the editorial assistant to poet Yone Noguchi.  She became his wife and had a son, artist, sculpture, and designer Isamu Noguchi.  Set in the early 20th century the film chronicles her life meeting Yone, the trials and tribulations of marrying him, the time she lived with her mother in Pasadena California, and her eventual move to Japan to reunite with her philandering husband, and the birth of her daughter, Ailes Gilmour.  (Yone Noguchi is not Ailes’ father.)

I was anxious to see this film. When it was released in the theater, it only played in one theater that was 2 hours from my house!  I couldn’t believe a city as large as Orlando couldn’t support this movie in at least one theatre. We noticed it was available on iTunes so we rented it last weekend.

I’m always drawn to anything relating to Japanese culture, and for those who have studied Interior Design, they are probably familiar with the lighting and furniture designed by Noguchi.  From the movie trailer I expected the film to cover the life of Isamu a bit more, however the movie is titled Leonie and is really more of her life story than his.  The latter part of the film does touch on her support of the artistic endeavors of her son. She made him design their house in Japan when he was 10,  and upon her insistence, he left medical school to pursue his life as an artist.

Noguchi Table

 Noguchi Table via Herman Millers web site.

I wasn’t blown away by the film but did enjoy it. It does portray Leonie as a strong independent free spirit.    Anytime I learn something and enjoy the production design, sets, and scenery I’m happy.  I also enjoyed the performance of Emily Mortimer as Leonie.

I was intrigued to do more research on Leonie, Isaumu and Ailes after watching the film.  I never knew that Isamu graduated from La Porte High School in Indiana, my home state.  And Ailes after graduating high school went on to study dance and performing arts and was one of the first dancers to join Martha Graham’s first professional dance troupe.


 Noguchi Lamp available via Noguchi Museum’s web site’s shop

If you are interested in Noguchi, Japanese Culture, and period films, I would recommend seeing Leonie.  There is also a wonderful web site,, which is the site for the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, accessible by public transport from Manhattan.  Many of Noguchi’s products, lamps, furniture and objects can be ordered through the museum shop on line.


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