February 2, 2020
Written by Kate Johnson
Wallace Potts was brilliant, gentle and beautiful. One of the guardian’s of Nureyev’s film and video archives, Wallace would come to transfer recently found footage to archive it to a more stable format and save it from wasting away into flecks of electromagnetic litter. At the time I was only in my 20′s. Of course, after years of my own dance training I knew who Nureyev was and I would sit stunned beside Wallace as we would watch the flickering traces of his leonine grace leaping across the often milky black and white screen. Each moment was precious and threatened to be as ephemeral as the live performance if it weren’t for Wallace’s keen eye and dedication.
Wallace could spot intricacies not only in the quality of the analog image before us, but in ballet itself. I learned much about analyzing video through his tutelage. I also learned about love, grace, brilliance and humility from him. At the time I was quite naive. It took me a few visits and explanations from others to realize that Wallace wasn’t just hired by the Nureyev foundation, he wasn’t just an avid lover of dance, he was the lover of the dancer himself. It was no wonder that Nureyev chose this man after his many conquests to settle down with. With his soft rolling Georgian accent, his intellectual brilliance (he graduated majoring in Physics from Georgia Tech) and his achingly genteel yet strong demeanor he could break your heart daily. I remember once seeing him at the Armand Hammer Museum for the COLA awards (City of Los Angeles Awards in Art). He was so stunningly gorgeous with his black hair, his dark eyes, and his form commanding his dark suit that I stopped and gasped as I recognized who he was. I could glimpse the ghost of Nureyev proudly walking beside him. I knew Wallace for about 14 years. Each time he called I would be thrilled to hear from him. One of the last times was to tape a good friend of his, Lypsinka, a gorgeous, true to the last sequin cross dresser who created a hysterical show parodying the great stars of the 30s and 40s. Joan Crawford’s lip curling has never been done better. Wallace took the footage and edited it. But he couldn’t simply just edit. In the process he went back to school, learned computer programming and was trying to create new compression codecs and hot rod his PC boards for better video performance. He would often call me for advice, but after a while he surpassed me in his knowledge.
Wallace was sick the entire time I knew him. Various manifestations of the disease would plague his body, but never his mind or his spirit. He would be honest when you asked how he was, but it would not sway him from his incredible spirit or his love of art and knowledge. He died last year. I didn’t find out until a few months ago and I was devastated.
I had lost another angel in Los Angeles.