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Media Life: Crocker Art Museum expansion unearths Auburn masterpiece

Auburn, Colfax screenings for film featuring area actress Krista Ott; 1950s bandmates have Auburn reunion; Ultramarathon pioneer Gordy Ainsleigh gets attention from cigarette maker Marlboro
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Back on the Media Life beat after a couple of weeks off to recover from surgery and the reports are coming in already about a Martin Ramirez sighting at the newly expanded Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. Ramirez, a mental patient at the DeWitt State Hospital in North Auburn from 1948 to his death in 1963, has earned international attention over the last five decades for the art he created there. The venerable Crocker had been holding five of his drawings for nearly 60 years and as his star began to shine more brightly in the past decade, found itself with some valuable pieces of art that had never been shown before in the cramped confines of the converted Sacto mansion. With the expansion came the space – complicated for a short time by a claim from Ramirez descendents for the Crocker drawings. But in a legal settlement – Ramirez works have sold for up to $300,000 – his family took possession of all five and then re-gifted two to the art museum. With the expansion completed earlier this month and the Crocker once again open, one of the museum’s two untitled works with a “Made in Auburn” stamp is now on display. It’s the first Ramirez to be on display at an area museum – and about time. NICKNAME MYSTERY Gordy Ainsleigh has never been shy of the spotlight and he’s getting plenty of it these days as the subject of a national trivia contest. Ironically for a man whose chief claim to fame – pioneering the Western States 100 Endurance Run – is based on lungpower, the trivia question comes from cigarette maker Phillip Morris. The Phillip Morris Marlboro brand is dangling a $1 million grand prize in front of contestants in its “Outwit the West” contest. And Ainsleigh has been fielding inquiries from contestants who have surmised that the answer to one of 50 trivia questions is that he’s the team member who helped kick off the Western States when his partner – it was a horse – was injured. The trivia question that seems to be stumping contestants is what Ainsleigh’s nickname is. Ainsleigh admits that he doesn’t have a standard nickname, although “Gordy” rather than “Gordon” could be the one Marlboro is looking for. He’s telling contestants that it also could be “The Legend.” It’s a moniker he’s heard a time or two. Or it could be a trick question. Maybe he has no nickname in the eyes of Marlboro. Contestant Gary Steinberg of Laguna Hills said he sees the humor in having someone who has spent his entire life promoting health becoming a trivia answer for a cigarette company. But he’s also frustrated that even Ainsleigh doesn’t have a definitive answer on the question of a nickname. Perhaps it's time for readers to come up with an official nickname for one of the area’s most colorful residents. Will it be “The Legend?” Or is there something more appropriate out there that Marlboro might have missed. We’ll publish some of your ideas in a future Media Life column. INDIE FILM SCREENING With indie movie “Harrison Montgomery” heading for video distribution, Auburn’s Renee Berg is providing audiences with an opportunity this weekend to see a local actress on the big screen. Krista Ott was 13 when she won the role of a precocious tweener living in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. The movie – which stars Oscar winner Martin Landau and Melora Walters of HBO’s “Big Love” – started making the film festival rounds in 2008. Along the way, Ott picked up some positive mentions, including one from critic Eric Campos of FilmThreat that compared her favorably to “Juno’s” Ellen Page. Berg, whose Sky Dog Entertainment played a major part in the Library Garden Amphitheater 49 Fire music benefit, is to screen “Harrison Montgomery” at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Colfax Theater. It’s good to see the rarely used movie house back in action, even on a limited basis. Another old theater – World War II’s DeWitt Theater now known as Music & More’s Theater at 11596 D Ave. in North Auburn – will present “Harrison Montgomery” at 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10. Berg said that she’s planning to show more independent films in the foothills. ROCKING REUNION Finger-style, folk guitar player and songwriter Jack Williams will have a chance to talk over old times when he visits Auburn for a 7 p.m. performance Thursday at High Street’s Unity of Auburn’s auditorium. Williams and Auburn resident Wayne Manning have a musical connection that stretches back to a rock band called The Statesman that played in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Manning went on to perform in country singer Kitty Wells’ band while Williams – now an Arkansan – has lived the life of a wandering troubadour of sorts. A third Statesman – Jimmy Payne – went on to write the late 1960s pop hit “Woman Woman” for Gary Puckett & The Union Gap. Manning renewed their friendship over the past few years and the Auburnite even provides some bass lines on Williams’ latest CD. The show will start at 7 p.m. Thursday.