Those aren’t names you’re apt to see too often in the same sentence. But yes, there is indeed a connection between the late New York Yankee and the famed photographer who had a talent for capturing the likenesses of oddballs, misfits, freaks and mental defectives.
At left is a well-known Arbbus photo titled, “A family on their lawn one Sunday in Westchester, N.Y.” (1968).
A few years ago, I saw this photo at an Arbus exhibit in New York City and wondered who these exemplars of domestic bliss were. I used to joke that they were Al and Jeanine Pirro.
Well, I got the answer as to who they were after recently reading, of all things, “Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain.” the biography of Thurman Munson written by Marty Appel.
On Page 85, Appel talks about a “charismatic record company executive” from Purchase by the name of Nat Tarnopol.
In the 1970s, Tarnopol was a huge Yankee fan who had a box seat next to the home team dugout. Tarnopol managed to finagle special access to the players to whom he gave records and eight-track cassettes. As Appel said, “players always loved free stuff.”
Tarnopol befriended Munson who was a frequent guest at his house. Munson, who died in a 1979 plane crash, often flew his private plane in and out of Westchester County Airport.
Years earlier, before Munson came on the scene, Tarnopol and his wife, June, were photographed by Arbus who, writes Appel, “specialized in disturbing images.”
The Tarnopols, he adds, “had posed for her in their expansive backyard, looking like an ordinary couple, but perhaps demonstrating for Arbus the loneliness of suburban wealth.”