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Matt Maranian, caught in a rare moment of stillness, at Boomerang, the vintage and consignment clothing store he co-owns in downtown Brattleboro.

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Matt Maranian and his stack of books

Editing, designing, and writing is all in a day’s work for Boomerang co-owner

For more information about Maranian’s books, go to www.taschen.com. If you have a suit that will fit Maranian, visit Boomerang at 12 Elliot Street in Brattleboro, or contact him via www.boomerangvermont.com.

BRATTLEBORO—The stack of books that Matt Maranian has worked on keeps getting taller.

The editor, columnist, designer, and author of Pad, Pad Parties, and co-author of both editions of the best-selling L.A. Bizarro, added two more tomes to his CV in the last few years — and another is on the way in May.

One wonders when Maranian sleeps.

Maranian, co-owner of Boomerang, the vintage and consignment clothing store he runs with his wife, Loretta Palazzo, is at the shop nearly every day.

But most people don’t see him. Maranian is the “back-of-the-house” guy, or, as he puts it, “the man behind the curtain.”

Literalists may note his office is actually behind the shoe display, where he sits beneath a montage of signed photographs of various celebrities — Ronnie Spector, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Divine, Tura Satana — some of them pictured with an arm around Maranian.

“I handle our marketing, promotions, website management, special events, store design and, on the less sexy days, our accounting,” Maranian said.

Somewhere in there, Maranian finds time to help produce books.

A little help from his friends

In the past few years, Lawrence Schiller, the iconic editorial photographer, has worked with art book publisher Taschen to produce special limited-edition, signed, collector’s editions of famous texts of the 20th century, such as Gay Talese and Phil Stern’s Frank Sinatra Has a Cold, and Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Each book includes archival elements such as original notes and manuscripts, and plenty of never-before-published photographs.

When Schiller needed someone to research the photos, identify the people portrayed in them, and write captions for each entry, he called on his old friend Maranian.

“Taschen likes long-form captions, and they want to identify all of the people in the photos,” Maranian said.

The particular challenge with The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Maranian said, was identifying every person, Merry Prankster and otherwise, in photographs taken during very lysergic times more than 50 years ago.

“I had to give each picture a story,” he said, and “I didn’t have a lot of time.” Maranian had a two-month deadline to complete the task.

Having Schiller’s input helped — “he was the first to shoot the acid scene from the inside,” he said. “I had access to the photographs’ original proof sheets, in sequence, with what was taken the same day, with the notes on the back, and dates, times, and locations. I was also able to cross-reference the book to match faces to names.”

Also helping Maranian was his friend Denise Kaufman, known back then as “Mary Microgram.” She put him in touch with others on the scene, such as Ken Kesey’s best friend, Ken Babbs.

“Knowing a Prankster was a great gift,” Maranian said. “They had incredible memories for people who had done a lot of acid.”

“It was a real honor to write the first history of some of these photographs,” he said.

‘A president who could quote Pericles’

Maranian’s work with Schiller on the Taschen books led to Schiller bringing him on to do the same thing for the May 2 Harper Collins release: JFK: A Vision for America, co-authored by Kennedy’s nephew, Steven Kennedy Smith, and historian Douglas Brinkley.

This book of Kennedy’s speeches with accompanying essays by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, and other world figures, celebrates the centennial of the president’s birth.

“This is from an era when people elected a president who could quote Pericles,” Maranian said.

Maranian, who is credited as photo editor for the book, said he “worked with a team to provide the book’s visual story.”

“It’s a visually compelling book that’s also compelling to read,” he said.

Much of Maranian’s research took place at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, where he gathered information for the more than 500 photographs and artifacts included in the book.

But, his work doesn’t end there. Maranian is writing the text for the book’s companion exhibit, opening in May at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

“Caroline Kennedy is hosting the opening reception. My dad worked in the JFK White House when he was in the service. He was at a party with Caroline and Steven. It’s mind-blowing that I’m now working on this book. It’s coming full-circle,” Maranian said. “My dad is beside himself. He’s borderline giddy about it.”

California roots

Maranian is a native of Fresno, Calif., a place he describes on his website, www.mattmaranian.com, as “a Central Valley suburb celebrated for raisin farming, home foreclosures, unemployment, homelessness, drunk drivers, the nation’s worst air, and its infamous 1984 ranking as the least desirable U.S. city in which to live.”

In his late teens, he moved to Los Angeles to purse acting, and got into writing as something to do between gigs. “I had a good time as an actor, but it’s a lot of waiting around,” he said. “Then you get a job and it’s kind of stupid.”

His first published interview was with Russ Meyer vixens Kitten Natividad and Haji in the 1980s.

Flash-forward 30 years or so.

“The experience of working with a Kennedy was pretty far-out,” Maranian said. “The Kennedy book is kind of a big deal. I’ve never been involved in a project of that scale.”

Maranian, who was once photographed with Joey Ramone, now has to prepare for a book-launch party at the Smithsonian with members of the Kennedy family.

“This is more high-brow that I’m used to. I don’t know what I’m going to wear!” he said.

“My wardrobe has changed so much” in the 17 years since he and Palazzo moved to southeastern Vermont from Los Angeles, Maranian said. “If it was a snow-shoveling party, I’d be all set."

Maranian said he hopes “the perfect suit walks into Boomerang: 38 short, slim cut.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #396 (Wednesday, February 22, 2017).

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