After Shep Paine, no one did more than Philip O. Stearns to raise awareness of the art of military miniatures, and he was particularly fond of box dioramas. An architect of the open system of judging and a frequent presence of modeling shows around the world, Stearns also was the editor in chief of Campaigns magazine during its impressive 49-issue run, from 1975 to 1984. Campaigns was a labor of love for Stearns, who also worked for some time as a photographer for Penthouse magazine. He was the sort of man for whom words such as “raconteur,” “bon vivant,” and “unique character” barely scratch the surface, and he broke ground in advocating that the hobby be celebrated as art in Campaigns and in his books, which included Military Miniatures (Odyssey Press, 1964; co-authored by Peter Blum, the proprietor of the Soldier Shop in New York City) and How to Make Model Soldiers (Arco, 1974). The eulogy Shep delivered at his funeral in 2000 follows below, and also be sure to see his articles “Spoils of the Conqueror” (Campaigns, 1976), “A Military Wedding c. 1890” (Campaigns, 1980), and Total Realism in Model Making (Campaigns 1978).
“Spoils of the Conqueror” (54mm)
“Soiree de l'Empereur” (54mm)
“A Royal Wedding c. 1890” (54mm)
SHEP PAINE ON PHILIP O. STEARNS
From his eulogy at Philip’s funeral in 2000:
“It is true we are here to mourn a passing, but we are really here to celebrate a life—a well-led life, full of adventure, friends, and foolishness, and incredibly rich in experiences.
“Like many of us, Philip was a man of contradictions. He was too kind-hearted to qualify as a true rogue, but he loved to play the part. He was poised and dignified, but delighted in the absurd counterpoints of life as we live it. On one occasion, when he was active in the Sealed Knot, the English Civil War reenactment group, he was leading his regiment in a parade down a city street. As he strutted in all his 17th Century finery at the front of ranks of musketeers and pikemen, an American tourist on the curb gushed enthusiastically that this was the sort of spectacle one could only find in England. Philip turned to her, looked down his nose in his best British aristocratic manner, and said in a clear American accent, ‘I’ll have you know, madam, that I was born in Detroit.’
“A French friend of Philip’s once complained in exasperation that Philip was ‘jusque un petit garçon’—just a little boy. It was a perceptive observation, for if he had the faults of a little boy, he also had the virtues of a little boy—innocent and trusting to the point of ingenuousness; inquisitive; wide-eyed with wonder; eager for new experiences; loyal to friends who sometimes didn’t deserve his loyalty.
“As a photographer, painter, and sculptor, Philip was always open to new ideas and ways of doing things, and this never changed as he grew older. To the end of his days, Philip was always learning, and in this, I think, he discovered a secret fountain of youth.
“Philip was a collector all of his life—of books, figures, and experiences—but his greatest collection was of people. Philip had a greater assemblage of interesting friends and acquaintances than anyone I have ever known—people from all walks of life. He knew and was liked by movie stars and writers, politicians and statesmen, truck drivers and cowboys. He knew Joan Fontaine, Lena Horne, Albert Einstein, George Marshall, Winston Churchill—and the rest of us. His collection even included the occasional dullard, because to Philip, no one was really dull, and that perhaps was the secret of his friendships. Philip genuinely enjoyed people, and because of that he made them feel worthwhile.
“And then there were the ladies. Ah, yes, the ladies. Philip loved women, and they surely loved him. The reason they did so, I think, is the same reason he developed friendships so easily with men: He made every woman he met feel special and important. This was easy, because for him, they were special and important. His three marriages ended in disappointment, but the third was successful in its own peculiar way. It was not so much a divorce as a ‘non-traditional marriage.’ He and Nadine remained close friends for nearly forty years. The love between them did honor to them both, and was a great comfort to him in his later years.
“Above all, Philip knew how to have fun, and how to share with others the enjoyment he seemed so effortlessly to pull out of the most unlikely situations. Traveling with Philip was always an experience, and one was never sure how it would turn out. When Philip traveled, disasters large and small naturally seemed to happen—if not to Philip, then to those traveling with him. There are tales of lost luggage, missed connections, automobile breakdowns, lost wallets, and other disasters too numerous to mention. I recall one poor soul who was driving Philip back from a show, and as he downshifted to turn the corner from Fifth Avenue onto Fifty-Eighth Street, the entire gear shift lever came off in his hand.
“These events became so commonplace that Philip’s friends established the Jonah Society, consisting of those who had traveled with Philip and been victim of, or borne witness to, one of these disasters. Philip, of course, was member number one. Member number two was Alcibiades, his traveling teddy bear, who over the years suffered indignities so terrible they would make a polar bear blanch. The badge of the society was, in the heraldic description, “a whale spouting passant, upon a field of bilge.” Members were distinguished by whales on neckties, belts, pins, and other adornments, which they wore whenever they were with Philip, in a superstitious attempt to ward off further mishaps, much the way a garlic necklace is supposed to repel vampires. If you look around the pews, you will see a number of these ties being worn today, to honor Philip as he embarks on his final journey.
“Everyone here has heard Philip’s wondrous stories. While few of us have had his experiences, we were all able to live them vicariously in the retelling. And no one could recount them as vividly as he could. Only Philip could start a story, ‘I remember one time I was on the roof of the Istanbul Hilton….’ An opening like that guaranteed an attentive audience as the rest of the tale unfolded.
“The story I remember most vividly concerned the liberation of Paris during World War II. As the Allied armies closed in on Paris, Philip was stationed at OSS Headquarters in France. The powers that be wanted to send someone into Paris with the spearhead of the attack to extract and debrief two agents before the city was swept up in the hoopla surrounding the liberation. A request for volunteers who knew the city well enough to find them was met with silence, until Philip mentioned that he had grown up there as a boy, but knew only the neighborhood in which he had lived. These dubious credentials were enough to land him the job, so he climbed into a Jeep with a driver and a map and went off to search for two men in a city of four million. Just before he drove off, some wag jokingly suggested he would probably find them at the bar of the Ritz.
“With the Americans advancing from one side and the French from another, the situation at this point was what the military euphemistically calls ‘fluid’—no one knew where the front lines were, and sporadic gunfire was heard all over the city. Philip said that the strangest part of the trip was seeing the busy boulevards of Paris totally deserted, as the residents waited for the Germans to leave and the Allies to arrive. As he rode down one of these boulevards, his Jeep came under sudden sniper fire from one of the buildings. The driver spun the Jeep up onto the curb, and both men jumped out and took cover behind it. Philip had a pistol and the driver had a carbine, and with this meager armament they attempted to return fire. This stalemate continued for several minutes, until they heard a voice shouting to them from across the street. The concierge of the building from which they were being fired upon beckoned them to come over. Philip indicated their reluctance to do so by pointing to the rooftop: ‘Il y a un petit détaille sur le toit’—‘There’s a little detail up on the roof.’
“The Frenchman nodded in understanding and promptly vanished. Expecting him to eliminate the nuisance that was hampering their advance, Philip and the driver waited. After about five minutes of total inactivity, punctuated by occasional shots from the sniper, the door opened and the concierge came running across the street, bent double to protect his precious cargo, which turned out to be a bottle of champagne and three glasses. And this was how the three of them celebrated the liberation of Paris: hunched down behind a Jeep, drinking champagne, while being shot at by a German soldier on a rooftop.
“Eventually, the German got bored or ran out of ammunition, and when the coast was clear, Philip and the driver resumed their mission. At a loss as to how to proceed, Philip remembered the last advice he had received before his departure and figured, ‘Why not?’ He and the driver swung into the empty Place Vendome and pulled up in front of the Ritz. Philip got out of the Jeep, walked into the hotel, and there, sitting at the bar, were the two gentlemen he had been sent to retrieve.”