With the recent passing of jewelry designer Elsa Peretti, I was reminded of the great times I shared with illustrator Joe Eula, who with Elsa worked alongside American fashion designer Halston in the 70s.
Eula was an outrageously fun and colorful character. He had to be to work in the world of fashion, especially during his time. He had made his reputation as a house artist for several designers, including Coco Chanel, Hubert de Givenchy, Gianni Versace, Christian Dior, and Karl Lagerfeld. But it was his association with Coco Chanel, which is most well known as theirs, was an enduring professional and friendly relationship.
I first met Eula at Trattoria Dell’Arte as he was a frequent diner there. Sometimes he’d often pop in to say hello, and then leave. Other times, he’d sit alone at the antipasto bar, at a barstool close to the maître d’ desk, and keep us company. He’d sometimes eavesdrop on our conversations with our incoming guests and interject with a funny aside in the way that only Eula could. I later discovered during his regular visits he was an old friend of my mother’s who he had met through my godfather, Johnny Nicholson, who owned one of the most charming New York City restaurants called Cafe Nicholson’s.
Eula was short in stature, but had an infectious smile and hearty laugh. He talked a mile a minute as he had so much energy, and it was always an exciting, nonstop ride with him. As I got to know Eula better, he expanded my knowledge of his world by telling me about all the people he had worked with. It was truly a veritable who’s who of 20th-century giants. But he had gobs of talent, which is why he was highly sought after. One area he worked in that particularly excited me was music.
Eula had designed some of the most iconic album covers and posters for many great artists, including Miles Davis, The Supremes, and Liza Minnelli. One evening around 1994, he came to dinner with Jerry Masucci, who owned the Latin record label, Fania. I had dozens of Fania records myself because I loved Latin music. It was music I had grown up listening to as my half-brother, Richie Puente, was the son of Latin music legend Tito Puente. So, when I learned Eula had designed many of Fania’s album covers, I was smitten.
That night, I must have spent more time at their table, as they fascinated me. Masucci discussed with Eula his upcoming concert at Madison Square Garden with The Fania All-Stars, and I mentioned I loved that collection of Latin all-stars, or La Estrellas de la Fania as they were known in Spanish. So, Eula said, “Hey kid, do you want tickets to go?” I replied, “Of course.” Then Masucci pulled out a stack of tickets wrapped with a broccoli band and peeled off two for me.
When I left Trattoria Dell’Arte some years later, I often ran into Eula. He used to love hanging out at another Italian restaurant around the block from my apartment called Bricco, which Nino Catuogno owned. He loved Nino and drew many free-hand illustrations for him that graced his restaurant’s walls. I think he may have even designed their logo. Joe even drew a logo for me when I started my music business, which I never wound up using but still hangs proudly on my wall.
When I came across Eula’s obituary in the New York Times in 2004, I was saddened to discover it. Eula had boundless energy and was someone who I thought would last forever.
Former restauranteur, musician, concert promoter, producer, publisher, manager, and impresario, Charles Carlini has synthesized these roles to become a dynamic force in the music industry–noted for his ability to bring diverse talent together to create innovative concerts and recordings that reach and move music-lovers everywhere.