22 September 2010
I have never met Theo Dimson (Canadian member of AGI since 1977), and yet I feel as though I know him, as we’ve been in contact by email for a few years now. He is 80, exuberant, willful, and seems filled with delight of the world. I’m on his regular email list, and receive exclamatory emails with subject headers such as:
“BETCH YER ALL JEALOUS” “WE LUV IT!” and “THE ANCIENT GREEK AGREES” (that being his moniker for himself).
The contents of his emails are equally exclamatory, funny, joyful, prideful and nothing short of energetic. This, from Superbowl Sunday this past February:
I hope the Saintskick the fucking shit out of thoseGoddamn uppity Colts.
Email exchanges are notorious for giving false impressions of a person’s character, so I’ll try not to paint a picture too much of my imagining. But recent photos of Theo show an intriguing individualist;
and photos from the 70s show a dapper, gorgeous man which he describes as “very Saville Row” and looks to me as the ultimate lady-killer ... or perhaps someone from The Great Gatsby (the greatest novel ever written, in Theo's opinion, by his favourite author, F. Scott Fitzgerald—he is unequivocal about this).
He’s been retired since 2000, after practicing graphic design for 50 years—a profession he describes as “Fun City”—and while he is still fascinated with design (his daughter Nicole is a designer) he has fallen under the spell of astronomy. I count on him to let me know of impending meteor showers and send the latest news of the Hubble telescope.
He is particularly known for his theatre posters, and his accolades and awards are many, the most recent being a retrospective of his work in February 2010, titled “Distinctly Different—The Theatre Posters of Theo Dimson” at the Theatre Museum Canada. It included 50–60 of his posters, spanning 1969–2000. He sent me his impressive listing for the 2009 edition of “Canada’s Who’s Who,” but to list his achievements here seems premature, if you know what I mean. He is, after all, still kicking.
Describing himself as a designer he says he was “Emotional & logical (weird combination) but never intellectual,” and when I asked him for highlights, he said “Hell! my whole life has been a gorgeous highlight,” but continued with his Top Five:
1. Being Born.2. Going to OCA(D) [Ontario College of Art]. In 1947—100% of the students were WWII Vets. All 5 to 15 years older than me, a high school grad. l learned more about art & design & culture & sex than from any of my instructors.3. The Bohemian Mantra, TRUTH, FREEDOM, BEAUTY & LOVE”4. I LOVE, LOVE, beginning with Jenny in grade 1.5. & Loving passionately being a graphic designer for 50 years.
Aside from alerting me to the arrival of celestial objects, Theo has given me a bit of an education in movies—another of his passions. (He is, in fact, listed in the Internet Movie Database, on account of his movie titling for Norman Jewison & Allan King.) He has a weakness for musicals, particularly with Fred Astaire. Indeed there is something of Fred Astaire in Theo, I think. Perhaps it’s the fitted suits and the slender frame—perhaps it’s a dancing attitude. In fact, his only regret is that he never won an Oscar. From what I can tell, he coulda been a contenda.
As I said, I have not yet met Theo Dimson, but I love him because of his fabulous work, and I love him because he’s alive. In Theo’s own words:
In my 80th yearStill interested in innovative style.See life as a 10 year oldDress like an 18 year oldThink like a 25 year oldBeautiful women are my elixir of life +eclectic interest in music, from jazz, big band, classical, The Beatles, Feist etc etc etc +Passion for movies.Federico Fellini is my man.