[Marxism] Viva Pablo, Viva la vida

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Fri Dec 31 08:06:44 MST 2004

Pablo was CP d.o. in Colorado back when. 



Viva Pablo, Viva la vida


Pablo Davis still believes in the revolution, as only an artist can. He was
a communist when you could get your head cracked open for it (he did,
actually) and he’s still a communist now, when it seems harmless and

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate beautiful women (enough of them
still seem starry-eyed about him too) or the finer things in life.

Where do you find a Jewish communist kid from Philadelphia these days?
Naturally, at the tres chic Ah! Moore (pronounced amoré) International Cafe
on the northern edge of Rochester Hills, in deepest yuppie suburbia. If you
see a black face anywhere within five miles of here, it probably belongs to
Herman Moore, the former Detroit Lions wide receiver.


By the way, he loves Pablo. And the security guys don’t hassle him much,
because he owns the joint. When I stopped by, Pablo was sipping an
occasional spritzer and showing off the latest exhibition of his art, which
is largely for sale.

Much of it is breathtaking; his paintings range in styles from
post-impressionism to angry expressionism; some of his work resembles
Picassos of various periods; one of his child portraits could almost be a

There’s a price for every budget indeed; there is a nude for $600, and a
portrait of a Mrs. Moore, apparently no relation to Herman, for a cool $2
million. Unfortunately, my weekly allowance hadn’t arrived, and I was
reduced to looking.

While I was there, Pablo, all magnificent mane of hair and mustache, flirted
engagingly with most of the female patrons, and confided to me in all
seriousness that he was attempting to persuade one whom he knew well to have
his baby.

She blushed, but didn’t seem to disapprove. Pablo has, in fact, a proven
track record; he has at least five children. He is, incidentally, 88 years

“It’s all in your attitude,” he told me. Like most artists, and to some
extent any of us who have quarried out a life worth living, he is his own
best creation. Much of Pablo Davis’s life is a bit mysterious.

He was born Paul Meir Klienbordt in Pennsylvania in 1916. As he tells it, he
was working in the coal mines at 14, and was radicalized by a bloody strike
that was put down by the police. He became a communist (not all that unusual
a step during the Great Depression) and rode the rails to Detroit, where, in
1932, he met his hero, the great artist Diego Rivera, who was working on the
famous murals that still grace the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Frida Kahlo swept him by the security guards and he struck up a friendship
with Diego, who he said encouraged his art and allowed him to do some minor
work on the murals themselves. After that, he says he fought in Spain and
lived and worked with Pablo Picasso for a time in France.

Then he came back to the States, where he says he did hard time during the
Red Scare, and had a nasty courtroom confrontation with Richard Nixon
himself. How much of all of this actually happened is a matter of debate.
There are those who think he is a storyteller, and those who believe every

For the record, based on my own intuition, his accounts of having known
Diego and Frida, and his description of their personalities, have a ring of
truth. His artwork, while original, is certainly that of someone who closely
studied Picasso.

However, I can find nothing indicating that Pablo Davis ever faced down
Nixon, or did hard time in the early 1950s. What really matters is that he
is a remarkable man who is as passionate as ever about social justice, about
his art, about women and life itself. Even more importantly, he gets things
done. What he is all about now is a proposed “Intergenerational Center” in
southwest Detroit that would be designed to bring preschool children
together with the elderly so that each generation would learn from the

“One of the problems we have that we never talk about is age segregation,”
Pablo says. “Our young no longer feel part of an embracing community. Our
elders are left in their barricaded homes to die alone.”

The center he wants to build will cost about $6 million (detailed
architectural plans already exist), would house day-care programs for both
adults and children, and provide space for various community activities.

When I first heard about it, I wasn’t impressed. Detroit is used to people
popping up and announcing, usually with great fanfare, impressive plans to
renovate the Hudson’s building, the Book-Cadillac, old Michigan Central
Station, etc., etc. Nothing ever happens because there isn’t any money.

Yet a decade ago Pablo Davis decided that what the once-vibrant Hispanic
neighborhood around West Vernor Highway and Springwells Street needed was a
clean, classy and state-of-the-art assisted living center for senior

Somehow, this old commie helped put together a grassroots collaborative
called Bridging Communities. They (and he) got business leaders, union
leaders, the Michigan Capital Fund for Housing and lots of other people on

They raised money, made noise, got it done. When they cut the ribbon in
August 1999, there wasn’t a moment’s worth of hesitation about what to name
the place.

Today, Pablo Davis has an apartment and studio on the second floor of the
Pablo Davis Elder Living Center, which is one of the nicest places of its
kind I have ever seen. (No, they did not allow me to apply.) The idea is
that the Intergenerational Center will be next to Pablo Davis’s center, and
that the elders there will interact with the kids in the neighborhood.

“All we need is money,” he says, chuckling. That’s what the art sale at Ah!
Moore is for; the idea is not to feather Pablo’s nest, but to create a new
one, for adults of various generations to talk to each other.

But you don’t have to buy anything to go look at it — or to get involved in
trying to make the Intergenerational Center a reality. Contact Marian Bloye
(313-361-6377 or mbloye at mich.com) to find out how to help the center.

But if you have time before Christmas (ha) drive out to Ah! Moore, which is
at Silverbell Road and Adams, just past the Palace. The coffee and the art
are excellent, and, if you’re lucky, Pablo will be there. Talking to him is
even better than looking at his art. He thinks, by the way, that all the
predictions that Marxism and revolutionary socialism are dead will turn out
to be dead wrong.

He thinks that, someday, when Americans realize what the corporations are
really doing to them, the revolution may finally happen, and happen here.

That seems hard to believe. Yet so have so many things that have come to
pass in our lifetimes, good and bad. Let’s put it this way: If the
revolution does arrive, I fully expect Pablo Davis to be here to paint it.


Here’s an idea: Whatever else anyone thinks, it’s clear that the city of
Detroit has immense problems, and no relief is in sight. Wouldn’t it be
something if next year’s mayoral elections were as much about ideas as
personalities? What do you think should be the most important priority any
mayor should have? Share your thoughts with me, and I promise to pass the
best ones on.


Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to
letters at metrotimes.com.

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