Zorthian Ranch Primavera 2015
by Dr. Susan Block
It’s been over a decade since I attended a Zorthian Ranch Primavera, the annual bacchanalian festival of spring in the lush San Gabriel Mountains. My last Primavera was also the last of an era presided over by Col. Jirayr H Zorthian, artist, bon vivant, Yale man, Armenian genocide survivor, rancher, recycling pioneer, connoisseur of fine nymphs and my friend. Among his other friends from even earlier times were Charlie Parker and Andy Warhol.
Shorter than me and larger than life, Zorthian had a big influence on me, as he did on just about everyone he knew. As soon as we met at a Yale event, we knew we were kindred misfits. I produced a show of his spectacular erotic art at my old gallery, and I quote his simple down-to-earth philosophy, “The purpose of life is living,” in my new book The Bonobo Way. He is also the subject of my short documentary, “Zorthian: Art & Times.”
The film climaxes with that last Primavera in 2003, when Jirayr was a sprightly 92, and the vision of a dozen beautiful nude nymphs (mostly his art models) dancing around him in his bacchanalian persona of “Zorbacchus,” feeding him grapes and throwing flowers to the crowd, fills the screen with wonder and merriment. But then, Jerry Zorthian was a virtual fount of wonder and merriment.
Sadly for the rest of us, Jerry passed away before there could be a Primavera 2004, and spring just hasn’t been the same without him or his lovely wife Dabney who followed him (too soon!) in 2006. But the Good News is that the Ranch is still with us, operated with love and care by the Zorthian family. And the Primaveras are back, with some modifications.
So we took “Bonoboville on the Road” to Zorthian Primavera 2015, and what a winding road it was, going up high into those Altadena Hills, mountainous rock to the right, with sweeping Pasadena vistas and alarmingly steep ravines to our left. And what a trip through time it was for me to see the old Zorthian Ranch, sometimes called “Z Ranch.” It’s pretty much the same, though noticeably cleaned up. Jerry prided himself on creating a ranch made of “garbage” before recycling was chic. The ranch also functions as a community of artists-in-residence. Some of Zorthian’s amazing art is on display, inside and outdoors, and his creative, rugged but gentle, life-embracing spirit is everywhere.
It was great to see some old friends, including leading nymphs Lisa Ann Davis and Jennifer Fabos Patton (the “face” of many Zorthian paintings) and violinist-nymph Alma Cielo (Yale ’95), as well as the Zorthian family, including Alan Zorthian who manages the Ranch, Seyburn Zorthian, Alice Zorthian and Tara Elsa Zorthian-McNamara. It’s wonderful that they’re continuing the Zorthian Primavera tradition, though, of course, they’re doing it in their own way.
So, no nude “Nymphs of Zorbacchus” dance at dusk, although some nymphs did do an interesting shadowbox dance later in the evening, and there were plenty of naked people of different shapes, sizes and genders hanging around all day getting their portraits drawn (including our own Chelsea Raw!), and some stayed naked into the night, partying with the clothed—like at a clothing optional resort.
Speaking of party, this Primavera was a BIG one. There were also more than twice as many people winding their way up Zorthian Road than I remember from Primaveras Past. Everybody was in a good, peace-through-pleasure, bonoboësque mood, strolling around the grounds, sipping wine from plastic cups, munching organic corn on the cob, smoking in the smoking section, skinny-dipping in the pool and eating pork from whole pigs roasted in the traditional Armenian manner. The high point was dancing around a big roaring bonfire, drummers drumming, performers breathing flames, all of us glowing, under a big waxing Scorpio moon.
Bumped into Aman Chaudhary sketching models and John Barrymore in the stairwell talking about how he and Alan Zorthian deal with their famous fathers.. It was also great to connect with so many people who said they grew up watching The Dr. Susan Block Show on cable, giving them a good sex education and freeing their inner bonobo so they can now enjoy events like Primavera without too much guilt and shame.
My film, “Zorthian: Art & Times,” was supposed to be screened right before the shadowbox dance (as well as on a loop in Jerry’s old art studio), but they had technical problems with both showings. I do appreciate the thanks Lisa and Alma gave me from the stage, and the efforts everyone made to show the film. Some of you asked where you could see it, so here you go…
Kudos to the Zorthian family and the nymphs for continuing to celebrate Col. Jirayr H. Zorthian’s art and opening the Ranch to neighbors, friends and friends of friends. Though I didn’t get to share my cinematic memories of my old friend Jerry through the planned screening, I did get to commune with his fiery, ecosexual spirit, and that alone was well-worth the winding trip up the hill. We also got some pretty good footage, and maybe we’ll put together another little film. Keep those fires burning…
© May 3, 2015. Susan Block, Ph.D., a.k.a. “Dr. Suzy,” is a world renowned LA sex therapist, author of The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure and horny housewife, occasionally seen on HBO and other channels. For speaking engagements, call 310-568-0066.