He played the guitar brilliantly (for an amateur), and made a concoction called “jungle coffee” by boiling the grounds directly in milk on the stove.
He was also a frequent visitor to Silverman’s studio, accruing a vast amount of knowledge just by spending time with him and watching him paint, saying nothing.
They were in Goldfus’s room and his shortwave radio was on, sputtering an unfamiliar, Strauss-like tune along with an indecipherable, Central European-sounding commentator. He answered it, and the voice on the other end asked why he was working at such a late hour.
This is a story about a man named Rudolf Ivanovich Abel. on the morning of June 21, 1957, a naked, sleep-deprived and bedraggled Emil Goldfus, a fifty-ish man, answered a persistent rapping on the door of his shabby room in the Hotel Latham on East 28th Street. Goldfus remained mostly silent, grunting one-word, often contradictory or false responses, and denying everything.
He was a colonel in the KGB—a master spy, a mole deeply embedded in the United States, and the central hub of a massive, all-consuming espionage network that threatened all that we hold near and dear. He was also Emil Goldfus, a kindly, unassuming, retired photofinisher and amateur painter, developing his craft with a group of fledgling Realist artists living and working in Brooklyn in the 1950’s. After about twenty minutes, the INS joined this impromptu breakfast klatch and took the subject into custody for violating immigration law.
Just existing.” Emil Goldfus also became a part of the larger group of artists who rented space in the studio, including the famed caricaturist David Levine; the cartoonist, playwright and author, Jules Feiffer; Sheldon Fink; Danny Schwartz; and Harvey Dinnerstein, all of whom would go on to achieve success in the art world.
The men struggled with the realities of the ’50s art world: the celebration of Abstract Expressionism as expressed by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and others of their ilk, the overt hostility to the representational work that they all favored and the idea that what they were doing wasn’t “real” art or could be dismissed as mere “illustrations.” They’d talk late into the night, arguing about their shared aesthetic concerns and the politics of the era.