You cannot tell from looking at this page that the glasses worn by Jimmy Carter, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Jack Lemmon are pink -- the shade of shocking pink that radiates from Pepto-Bismol bottles and wads of Bazooka bubble gum.
There are hundreds more photos like these, all the work of Mary Ann Morgenthaler, who has spent the last five years of her life creating what she calls "The Pink Link, connecting everyone together, from the man on the street to the president."
Actually, he's an ex-president now, and when Morgenthaler encountered him he was a candidate. This happened during the 1976 New Hampshire primary. She walked up to Carter and invited him to her home in Atlanta for hog jowls and corn pone. She didn't know what hog jowls and corn pone were but, she says with a mouth full of South, "I figured he could relate to those southern things." She wound up settling for a picture of candidate Carter, the first celebrity to don the Pink Link.
Only Morgenthaler could possibly explain -- more or less in black and white -- what it all means:
"We're all taught to let things like money [she considers her work art, but won't sell the pictures], power [she eschews it, and works as a waitress at Lee & Lois' Feed Mill in Atlanta], ego [brash enough to hand her special specs to an exhausted Frank Shorter just after he stumbled across the finish line to win the 1977 Peachtree Road Race], sex [female], appearance [petite; frizzy blond hair; wears pink slacks and a jacket sporting a pink-glasses pin in the lapel] and age [won't divulge, but obviously old enough to know] get in the way of the human connection. The Pink Link removes things that aren't necessary and makes everyone important."
Morgenthaler has used her Instamatic to snap about 1,000 portraits. More than 200 of them are celebrities, including: John Huston, Liberace, Ray Bradbury, Dolly Parton, Lawrence Welk, Jill Clayburgh, John Tunney, Lester Maddox, Herman Talmadge, Count Basie, Linda Blair and Billy Jean King.
Of course, there have been turn-downs. G. Gordon Liddy, she recalls, was the most polite of the naysayers. "He told me he had absolutely no sense of humor. Chris Reeve [Superman] said he didn't want to look like everyone else. Gregg Allman [the rock singer] ran away, saying, 'Let's not and say we did.' Chris Evert would only let me take her picture without the glasses. Big deal. I wasn't interested. She was real tuky." Long U in this Morgenthalerism, which roughly translates as creepy.
On the positive side, Leon Spinks spent two hours with her, gave her a ringside seat and whisked her around Atlanta in his limo. She says she snuck into Billy Carter's suite on the 26th floor of the Atlanta Hilton with a group of Libyans. She got a shot of "Richard Pryor B.A.," as she puts it: "Before Accident." And she snapped two of her childhood heroes: Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob.
"It's all kind of one big adventure," she says. "I love fantasy: parties and ice cream and fu-fu [a Morgenthalerism for the icing on the cake]. I grew up in Sylvester, Ga. That's near Ty Ty, for Ty Cobb. My father was a social worker and my mother was a librarian. Look what they got."
She went to Florida State University, where she majored in fine arts and graduated in 1974. She used to attend art openings there as Ruba Lee Christian in a strapless pink evening gown and the now infamous pink glasses. Her senior thesis was a living sculpture exhibit called Dr. Jane Elda Cordova's Circus, which included peanut hawkers, a gorilla, a snake charmer, a fat lady, a bearded lady and a poodle in a tutu. Not to mention Morgenthaler.
"It's tough to define Mary Ann's art," says Al Nodal, curator of the Washington Project for the Arts, which is exhibiting a show of her work through April 4. "Her art is her personality, sort of like Dali."
Maybe. "I love spontaneity," says Morgenthaler. "If you have an idea, you should do it. I may be off the wall but I'm pretty serious. I don't have a problem with myself. It's other people.