Check out this depiction of Broadway Town Topic circa 1945. Local artist Mike Eifler painted it in 1999. Show here is a photo of the finished painting along with a photo of the painting in progress. So great!
Be sure to check out Hallmarket this Saturday, September 28th from 10-5. There will be over 100 artists at this year’s event, including Mike Schwabauer’s amazing Town Topic photos! Located in Hallmark Square in front of Kaleidoscope. www.etsy.com/shop/
If you’ve ever been in Town Topic and you saw a man furiously sketching the scene in front of him, you very well might have been witnessing local artist Trey Bryan in a moment of genius. Bryan features several drawings of Town Topic and many other KC landmarks in his book “Drawings of KC”. Bryan says, “I draw everywhere, sort of filmmaker with a sketchbook. I’ve trained myself to draw really fast, with creative accuracy and composition. I finish one 100 page sketchbook every month, in-between other freelance jobs and traveling.”
Bryan used to manage a group of artists who drew outside of TT on First Fridays, and says the best times he’s had at there were when he’d come in after being at the jazz houses all night. He loves that you never know who you’ll see at TT. All walks of life dine there – could be a local chef who just won a James Beard Award or an internationally known musician and their crew. He describes it as “a circus where the service is always on”.
Bryan loves that TT burgers taste like food – not fast food – but like something out of Norman Rockwell, where the mailman, police officer and farmer would all be in there reading the newspaper to catch up on the day’s events. He tells the story of a time he was at Broadway TT late on a Saturday. The restaurant was crowded, and as he sat waiting for his food and drawing, a man came in, seemingly determined to stir up trouble. Then the guy saw Bryan drawing and said, ‘Hey man, whatcha doing!? You drawing?! Aw, that’s cool, I wish I had that talent!” Then the guy sat down, ate his meal, and left. He distinctly remembers an anonymous customer buying his meal for him that night.
Learn more about Bryan at www.treybryan.com, where you can also purchase his latest book, “That’s My Jazz, Drawings of A Jazz Seen”.
KC singer/songwriter Mark Montgomery wrote his blues tune “Town Topic” after overhearing a conversation where TT cook, Shirley, told an older gentleman, “If the truth hurts, you ain’t feelin’ no pain!” The song was born, followed shortly after by a music video.
Montgomery has been going Town Topic since he was a child, and hung out there as a teenager. He loves going to TT after downtown gigs, where the staff treats him like family, and there’s always a comedian at the counter.
Montgomery did a five-week tour in Isla Mujeres, Mexico this winter, recently returned from performing in the Nashville Songwriter’s Festival, and will have a two-week tour to the northeast in August. But his heart is in KC, where he says “Town Topic” is still requested at nearly all his gigs. Montgomery is constantly writing, and hopes to get back into the studio in October. His latest release is called “Easyville – American Stories”. Check out his latest music video: “Midnight run to Easyville” on his youtube page.
Read more about this awesome artist and view the Town Topic music video at www.markmontgomerymusic.com. CDs can be purchased through I-tunes, CD baby and ennegramrecords.com.
Town Topic has been photographed countless times over the years. Everyone from amateurs to professionals have tried to capture the image of the well-know neon sign that welcomes those hungry for great food and bygone days.
Arguable, some of the most compelling photos of Town Topic have been taken by local photographer, Mike Schwabauer. Schwabauer started his 23 year career at Hallmark Cards as an artist in the Lettering department. After that, he spent several years at Hallmark in technology and training roles, and was looking for a creative outlet outside his day job. Photography proved to be that outlet.
We recently talked to Mike about his love of photography.
What drew you to photography?
I got my first “real” camera in the 9th grade and have always loved taking pictures. It started more as “documenting life” (vacations, family gatherings, etc.), but in college I learned about it more as an art form. There’s a great combination of being able to capture things “as they are” or “as they happen” to be preserved for the future, as well as finding the fun or artistic angles and using modern technology to breathe additional life into the photographs.
You seem to have a love of neon signs. What is the appeal?
There’s something about the “grandness” of neon signs — a lot of thought and work was put into making them interesting and appealing. They really are works of art. Neon signs and marquees typically are very old, and the textures – fading and chipping paint, rusted metal, broken bulbs – just make them all the more interesting to me. Finding just the right angle for a shot, and then boosting the colors and the contrasts truly does bring new life to what may be a very dilapidated sign. It may not even light up any more, but I can help it shine again. It’s quite thrilling for me. And in some cases the signs that I’ve photographed have since been torn down, so the photos serve as a “preservation” aspect.
Why Town Topic? Was it a planned photo or did you happen upon it one day?
I shot the Town Topic photograph on a whim about five years ago. My wife and I were in the neighborhood at the architectural salvage store across the street when I decided to run over and snap some pictures of the Town Topic sign. It’s actually the one that made me think, “Hey, I might have something here.” That’s when signs became the main focus for my artistic photography.
What do you like about Town Topic?
I love how Town Topic is holding onto some great, old traditions. It’s a little slice of the past in this crazy modern world. Oh – and I also love the Truckstop!
Visit www.etsy.com/shop/MikeSchwabauerPhoto and www.facebook.com/mikeschwabauerphotography to purchase photos of Town Topic and other local neon signs, including Western Auto, Boulevard Drive In, Grand Emporium and many more.
If you’re a Kansas City jazz fan, no doubt you’ve heard The Doug Talley Quartet play around the city. The Quartet holds a special place in Town Topic’s heart, not only for their talent, but because their first CD was called, Town Topic. Talley says he wrote Town Topic as a tribute to our well-loved KC landmark in 1995, saying TT stood out in the late night downtown scene, and reminded him of the Edward Hopper painting, “Nighthawks.”
Talley says they still get requests for Town Topic whenever they play. He says one of the greatest compliments he received was when he attended a high school jazz festival several years ago, and one of the bands performed Town Topic! It was quite a surprise since Talley was the only one who had the written music. Turned out, one of the band students was a fan of the Quartet, liked the recording and took the effort to write it out for his high school jazz band.
Talley says he likes going to Town Topic for a burger and a Coke, and also loves the milkshakes. In Talley’s mind the Broadway location is THE Town Topic. He started eating there late nights in the 1980s after playing at the now defunct Boulevard Beat. After the gigs, they would pack up their horns and walk around the corner to have a midnight burger.
Not only is their CD titled Town Topic, the CD cover was photographed at the Broadway Town Topic. The photographer kept running into complications with the camera angle, traffic and people interfering with the shot. There was even one guy who came up and started using the payphone. They left him in the shot on the inside cover of the CD, feeling he made the scene look all the more authentic.
The Doug Talley Quartet recently composed and performed soundtracks for silent movies, and are working on new jazz arrangements that they hope to record soon. You can hear them this summer at the Blue Room and around the city at outdoor events. You can buy Town Topic and all the Quartet’s CDs at www.dougtalley.com.
Artist Spotlight – Awesome Town Topic photo taken by local photographer Nick Vedros in the 1980s. Vedros was one of the first photographers in the Kansas City Crossroads District. On the day this photo was taken, Vedros and his girlfriend, Patti (now his wife of almost 30 years) were in his studio at 19th and Main (located above a palm reader, no less!). Patti looked out the window and shouted at Vedros to get his camera. Vedros wasn’t in the mood to take photos, but after Patti told him he’d be sorry if he missed this shot, he grudgingly glanced out the window….and “saw these incredible clouds”. He rushed outside and began taking photos, looking for “a foreground to go with the background”. Then he spotted Town Topic, and he knew he had his shot. Vedros is a frequent visitor to Town Topic, saying, “It holds a special place in my heart.” Check him out on facebook or on his website at http:www.vedros.com. Photos are available for purchase.