Two Marriages, Two Birthdays and a Tale of August 28th in Park Slope Copy
Standing behind artist Simon Dinnerstein in line at the Park Slope Copy Shop, we fell into a conversation about the fact that he’d been married twice.
“Oh?” I said.
“Twice to the same woman,” he told me.
“Ah,” I said with obvious interest. I added that I knew the date of one of his anniversaries because I’d once run into Simon and his wife Renee at Belleville Bistro. It was on August 28, 2005 when they were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and my twin sister and I were celebrating our 47th birthday.
“August 28th,” I said.
“Yes, that’s right,” he said.
He went on to tell an interesting story about what happened on August 26th in 1965. But first a little history…
The Vietnam War was in full swing in August of 1965 and 35,000 men were being called up each month. President Lyndon Johnson had decided to escalate US involvement. More soldiers needed to be found. The Department of Defense suggested that the President reverse an old policy which allowed married men a draft deferment. Thus, it was decided that the US would draft married men without children.
According to ABC News: “On Aug. 26, without any advance notice, President Johnson made it law. Anyone who was married before midnight that night would still be eligible for a deferment.”
August 26, 19655 happened to be two days before Simon and Renee’s planned wedding. The two spent the day
swimming at Brighton Beach painting their new apartment and returned to Renee’s parent’s apartment in Sheepshead Bay when they heard the news.
Once Simon and Renee heard the news that LBJ was going to change the draft policy, they decided to get married on the 26th so that Simon would still be ineligible for the draft. It was a no-brainer: either get married or risk being drafted to Vietnam, a hugely unpopular war. Panic ensued as they tried to find someone to marry them.
“I don’t care if it’s a Catholic Priest,” Simon told Renee. The comment apparently aggravated her Jewish parents, who were “not thrilled” with the “crazy artist” she was about to marry in two days. Finally, Simon called the rabbi who was going to marry them on the 28th and he agreed to marry them on the 26th.
Because they’d just come from
the beach painting their apartment “we were covered in splotches of paint! Simon did borrow a suit and squeeky shoes. I wore the veil from my bride doll. my mother got a migraine headache!” writes Renee in a comment to OTBKB. A few hours later they were standing in front of the rabbi (they already had their marriage license and blood test so they were good to go).
“It was a big thing. Lots of people got married that day as word spread,” Simon told me. According to ABC News, 30,000 people got married that day.
Two days later, they were married again by the very same rabbi at the fancy wedding planned by Renee’s parents. ”By the way, the rabbi got paid. Twice,” Simon told me.
Darius, who runs the mailing department at Park Slope Copy (brilliantly, I might add) listened to Simon’s story.
“So according to the government you were officially married on August 26th,” he asked.
“Yes, that’s right,” Simon said.
“Otherwise you would have served in Vietnam,” Darius said.
“Yes, you’re right,” Simon said.
“August 28th, 1965 is my birthday. When you were starting your life, I was starting my life,” said Darius, who was born in Queens Hospital. He grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Simon was absolutely shocked by this information. As was I. Three people with connections to August 28th standing together at Park Slope Copy. What are the chances?
“We should all come back on the 28th and celebrate,” I said.
“I’m not going to be working on my birthday,” he said. “You know Martin Luther King’s I Had a Dream Speech was also on the 28th in 1963″ Darius said.
“Yes,” said Simon. “And I was there.”
“You were there?”
“I was in Washington listening to his speech,” Simon said.
Dinnerstein’s painting pictured above, The Fullbright Tryptich will be on display at the German Consulate in Manhattan through 2014. Roberta Smith wrote in the New York Times: “This crackling, obsessive showboat of a painting, dreamed up during a decade when the medium supposedly teetered on the brink of death, is a three-panel autobiographical allegory of life, love and art that measures 14 feet across.”