Joseph Randall Shapiro and the Fire Department

1960s Chicago Christo Exhibitions Founders Joe Shapiro

Fire inspectors come to inspect the Christo installation and are "reassured" by Joe Shapiro.

Joe Shapiro, our first fearless leader, our first president of the board, and mentor, like a surrogate father to me—I loved him dearly. And so, Christo comes and wraps it. I’m standing out in the front, maybe three, four days later with Joe, and the fire department came. And they said, “Oh, this is weird, but is this material fireproof?”

So, Joe said, “Well, of course it is.” And they said, “Well, that’s not good enough. Do you have samples? Do you have a laboratory that somebody . . . ” He said, “Oh no, we’ll get it for you. We’re going to send the sample to some kind of a laboratory and they will tell you it’s fireproof.”

So, every day or two, the fire department would come back and they’d say, “Did you get your report back?” And Joe would say, “What’s wrong with them? It takes them so long to do this. I’m going to call them again.” And this went on. Now, by this time, the fire department, we’re such great pals. They could have been docents by this time. They went into the museum, they knew everything that was going on. It was really cute, so we kept kind of seducing them, keep them happy. Of course there was no report. Now, I’m not telling you that it wasn’t fireproof. I’m simply telling you we had no proof that it was fireproof. It was so funny.

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