In July of 1969, 20-year-old Ted Conrad left his vault teller job at Society National Bank in Cleveland, Ohio with over $215,000 that he had stolen. He then disappeared. Ever since, the U.S Marshall’s and F.B.I have been looking for him.
On Friday, July 11th, Ted celebrated his birthday by bringing a bottle of whisky to work in a brown paper bag. He made it a point to show everyone at the bank, and explain, with a big smile, how he was celebrating. When he left his shift at the end of the day with the paper bag, security guards did not check him, as they assumed they knew what was in the bag. In actuality, the bag contained a 12 inch stack of fifties and one hundred dollar bills that he had stolen from the bank. His crime wasn’t even discovered until Monday when he didn’t show up for work, and they could not reach him. Until this event, Ted lived a fairly normal life. He was in the German club, and student council at his high school. He didn’t seem to have a circle of “close friends,” but was well-liked, and known as quiet and articulate. He was taking classes at Cuyahoga Community College in the two years after high school. He worked at the bank in the cash vault- a trusted position- and had a girlfriend- Kathleen Einhouse. But there were some strange things about Ted.
Later, friends of Ted would tell investigators he was obsessed with movies about deception, like the 1968 film ‘The Thomas Crown Affair.’ The plot of this film revolves around a bored millionaire who robs a bank just for sport. Investigators came to believe this was a thought-out heist, and that he got the job at the bank for the sole purpose of eventually robbing it. After stealing the money, he took a cab to the airport, and called his girlfriend to tell her he was going to Pennsylvania to see a concert. Kathleen did end up hearing from him through several letters. The first was postmarked from Washington, D.C, and showed up on July 17th. The second was from Englewood, California on July 22nd. In the letters, he admitted to what he had done. The F.B.I started to monitor the phone calls of Ted’s friends and family, but nothing ever came of it, though he continued staying in touch for a period of time. Ted told one friend he had “undergone a drastic change in appearance.”
The F.B.I even showed up to all of Ted’s high school reunions just in case he showed up, but he never did.
To this day, investigators believe Ted Conrad is alive, and has maybe fled to Canada. The $215,000 in 1969 would equal $1.3 million today. They believe he could be living a new life- maybe even with a family who has no clue about his past. Stranger still, in 1972, thieves climbed through a skylight at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in Canada, and stole artifacts worth over 1 million dollars. Because of its location and similarity to the plot of ‘The Thomas Crown Affair,’ some wonder if Ted was involved.
Bitty is a junior curator fresh outta grad school working at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art*
The museum is an encyclopedic museum, but with the addition of Eric Bittle to the Photography and New Media Department, its exhibitions have been more popular than ever.
Bitty doesn’t want to take all the credit but since he started the head curator, John Johnson has been letting him take the lead on almost every exhibition while he works on publishing his metaphysical analysis of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills (1977-80)
“The film stills have a knowing engagement with a viewer outside of the scene, the frame, and as Clement Greenberg defines it the picture plane itself. This radical subversion was part and parcel of an effort to deconstruct the predominantly white male gaze in portraits of women in film, painting, and photography.”
“I just really relate to her in this universe, Bitty, and I had to get a doctorate Art History and Museum Studies just to move this plot along”
“Um, ok? So about the upcoming preaccessions meeting…”
He would have almost quit his first year if it weren’t for the department’s Admin Assistant, Larissa Duan (who the interns Will, Derek, and Chris call “lardo” (they have their own nicknames too that Bitty can’t help but use because they are so dang cute))
Lardo, after managing a men’s hockey team in New England, manages the department just fine. (Her works are always featured in the staff art shows that are out up every few months in the back halls and offices of the museum).
The interns are a god send in that the museums collection of photographs are housed in a huge refrigeration unit in the department office. The upkeep isn’t as bad as the need to update the museum’s digital archive of information on the works and their current locations. Basically, Dex, Nursey, and Chowder all work on the categorizing and organizing of the collection under Lardo’s guidance while Bitty does… everything else.
His first major exhibition, a Nan Goldin Retrospective is controversial but extremely well received.
The co-curators of the Department of Paintings and European Sculpture Justin Oluransi and Adam Birkholtz walk around the gallery in awe, noting specific works,
“bro we gotta make an exhibition out of this” “bro, I know”
His first year Bitty made a bold commitment to reaching out into the community for fundraising for the museum (museums always need money).
While Bitty’s charm is effective (as well as a lengthy but engaging 7 year plan to expand the museum’s collection in ways that are more inclusive and engaging to the community), his pies are really what bring in some of the largest donors to his department (according to the interns, at least).
Including Bob and Alicia Zimmerman.
Alicia was a proud patron of the arts and after meeting Bitty at a museum luncheon focused on the inclusion of women artists of color in the collection, invited him to dinner at her and Bobs house.
Their son Jack, the youngest ever Captain of the Montreal Canadiens, was home during offseason and joined their dinner
Alicia, always worried about her son, is glad to introduce them hoping he’ll have a friend who doesn’t care about the Zimmerman legacy or jacks past.
Bob is more straightforward and brash
“Jack loves photography! Jack, il et tres mignon, montrez-lui votre art!” “Papa, s'il te plaît!”
thankfully, Bitty is still awful at French
Jack eats 3 pieces of Bitty’s pie before he realizes what’s happened to him (he should have known then that he was over the moon for Bitty, to be honest).
The dinners happen at least once, sometimes twice a month and Jack almost never misses them, even when the season starts up again in the fall.
Alicia and Bob are delighted by Bitty and with his help create the Bob and Alicia Zimmerman Fund, which not only helps fund the museum’s acquisition of works by women artists of color, but also funds free summer courses in photography for local kids (Jack visits the classes often enough the first summer they offer them that he eventually becomes a teaching assistant for one of the classes).
And if he gets to see one tiny junior curator then that’s nice too
Jack eventually shows Bitty his photography,
“My parents got me this camera after the overdose, it gave me a way of looking at the world that didn’t feel broken anymore”
“Oh, Jack that’s wonderful… why so many geese?”
Jack finds more reasons to go to the museum during his down time, even taking some of the habs with him too.
He always stops by the Photography office (by now security knows to just give him the guest pass and let him back into the office (the gallery guards are all fans, but Jack soon befriends and is on a first name basis with most of them)
The Canadiens PR teams goes nuts over this, finally having something they can use to make the captain seem more relatable (Jack even likes their suggestion of him volunteering for a day as a Gallery Guard since the video clip they filmed for the Habs website promotes the museum more than the team (his teammates chirp him for it anyway))
The museum becomes more popular than ever, drawing in Hockey Fans into the museum en masse (turning them into art fans in the process)
He likes discussing Art Law and provenance with the head of the museums legal department (“do they really all call you Shitty?”)
He likes attending the openings of almost every exhibition (from every department) that he can attend
He attends his father’s painting classes (Bad Bob Ross’s painting seminar is the most well attended class the museum offers, with guest teachers such as Vincent VanGretzy and Claude Lemieuxnet) (Jack hates the names they adopt for teaching the class
“why is that even necessary?” he asks himself as he paints ‘happy trees’
Johnson, from the back of the lecture hall,
“Because the author loves puns!”
(he hates the weirdly accurate wig his dad found even more).
He likes the pick up games of shinny at the pond behind the museum that a few of the curators, gallery guards, and building crew members invite him to
He likes how safe the museum feels, how it feels like a second home, how he can get lost in the eyes of a Rembrandt, the curls of Kara Walker’s swirling story’s made of paper, and the wrenching truth he finds in the works of Diane Arbus (he cried when Bitty told him about her, he had been so close to that himself).
The gallery guards stop people from photographing him in the museum (“no photos in the galleries, please!”) and they make sure to pull those aside who decide to follow jack around the museum.
That being said, if people ask him what he thinks about the works he’s exploring that day (whether it’s prairie school architectural designs or Japanese prints) he’s not afraid to have a conversation with them.
Sometimes to conversations turn into mini-lectures, if Jack “110%” Zimmerman really likes what he’s talking about
And if the docents have a problem with his impromptu tours, he never hears about it
Bitty and Jack work on Bitty’s fear of public speaking by practicing his gallery talks, lectures, and the speech Bitty had to give at the museum’s annual gala (in french and english, to Bitty’s dismay)
He likes having Lardo look at his photographs, letting her win at arm wrestling, and likes her paintings even more (his favorite is above his bed, a swirling abstract painting featuring almost every shade of blue Jack can imagine).
He likes how quiet the galleries are
He likes having friends who don’t know him as Jack Zimmerman but as just Jack
He likes sitting in Bittys closet of an office eating too much pie over lunch.
He likes when he knocks his hand into Bitty’s and blaming it on the too many books on his too small desk
He likes Bitty
After he wins his fourth Stanley Cup, he chooses to have his cup day at the museum (donating a years worth of the museums funding to have the place to himself, the team, and his closest friends) wheeling the trophy around in a wagon (seriously) to his favorite works, introducing them in a way.
He thinks Diane Arbus would have liked hockey, and tells the cup that when no one is listening
He kisses Bitty across his desk a year after they meet, and a month after Bitty had been named the head curator of the department.
(Johnson stepped down after publishing his research, and told Bitty that it was about time this narrative wrapped up, Bitty had no idea what he was talking about but cried out of happiness nonetheless (stable employment with a degree in the arts is hard to find)).
Years later, the Zimmerman-Bittle wing of the museum (a space for contemporary and modern art with a focus on non western art and art by women) is something that Jack is proud to put his name on that has nothing to do with hockey and everything to go with the man who saved him.
AN: *While I know museums and curatorial work, I don’t know this museum well at all so forgive me if this is entirely inaccurate (its wildly inaccurate in so many ways omg)