The September Architectural Digest carries a one-page salute to the Glass House, a building Philip Johnson designed for himself in New Canaan, Connecticut in 1949. This 32 x 56 see-through structure has become a mecca for young architects. “It’s not uncommon,” according to the director of the Glass House, “for tears to well up in their eyes as they approach the house.”
(The lionized Steve Jobs also gave way to his emotions when seeing a design that moved him deeply. In the September Smithsonian his biographer Walter Isaacson reports that every now and then Jobs “would literally tear up when seeing something of great beauty.”)
If what amounts to a glorified sunroom can cause such emotion among the Fountainhead crowd, what other poignant scenes are taking place that inquiring minds need to know about?
Empathetic followers of Shirley Booth’s travails as Hazel must watch reruns of the series while sweeping uncontrollably.
Ancient mariners who make a pilgrimage to the Stafford, England birthplace of Izaak Walton feel sublimely blessed if they can collapse at its doorstep and utter with their last breath, “My life is now compleat.”
Upon seeing Henny Youngman’s massive joke files, impractical jokers have been observed going into a cackling fit.
Standing inside one of studios where Pablo Picasso created some of his feminineportraits, visitors have been so moved by the artwork they are visibly fighting the urge to push one of their eyes to the other side of their nose.
At the sight of Benny Goodman’s legendary clarinet sightseers seem afflicted with an insatiable hunger for a hot stick of licorice.
Enraptured viewers, upon seeing the kitchen set where Julia Child created so many of her tasty dishes, have given in to the sudden urge to toss a salad at anyone nearby.
In Dmitri Mendeleev’s study, reverent visitors quietly yield to the compulsion to balance chemical equations on the back of their hands.
Leaning on the ropes of the ring where Gorgeous George won his first match, sports fans wrestle with the desire to put a stepover toehold on anyone not in a neutral corner.
Just as rulers in days of old used to rent their clothes upon hearing bad news, so impassioned devotees of Coco Chanel rip out little black tresses at the sight of a mannequin garbed in one of the designer’s creations.
Poetry-lovers travel en masse to Ripton, Vermont every winter so they can stop by a woods on a snowy evening to salute Robert Frost by giving their harness bells a good shaking.
Other visitors to the Green Mountain State make a point to see Calvin Coolidge’s birthplace in Plymouth, a site that inevitably leaves them so enervated they can barely make it back to their automobiles for a communal nap.
Those wishing to pay homage to Maurice Sendak gather outside the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia where most of his manuscripts and illustrations reside, holding hands, rocking back and forth as they sing a dirge version of “Wild Thing,”the 1966 hit by the Troggs.
Even some of women who see the wax figure of Lon Chaney Jr. at Madame Tussaud’s report an insatiable urge to shave their cheeks and howl at the moon.
Just the sight of the replica of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond have caused moist-eyed motorists to drive away from the landmark in a bizarre fashion, sometimes telling officers who stop them “I just had this strange feeling come over me that told me to civilly disobey every sign I saw.”
Some lovers of Cole Porter’s music have also met the long arm of the law when, after seeing rooms at the composer’s birthplace and museum in Peru, Indiana, handcuff themselves to the flagpole in the front yard and declare “You can’t take me away from that!”
A more subdued homage is paid at Rachel Carson’s homestead in Springvale, Pennsylvania where her disciples simply spring about the grounds silently.
After seeing the sarcophagus of Bette Davis at Forest Lawn, numerous fans have been known to speed away from the site, going beyond the forest and shouting at every residence they pass “What a dump!”
Riffers and hot lickers come to Waukesha and endure all-night vigils standing beside the Les Paul Parkway, playing their air guitars with lumps in their throats while the world is waiting for the sunrise
Oddly, this phenomenon of acting up and acting out has not occurred at any residence associated with adventurer Frank Buck, perhaps suggesting that a fitting corollary to “Bring ‘em back alive” is “Let them stay dead.”