Terry Helbling's Tenderloin Flat Full of $200K in Stolen Art

Queried about his client, Terry Helbling, attorney Kenneth Quigley rhapsodizes an artful response: "Neurotics build castles in the sky, psychotics live in them, and psychiatrists earn the rent. Terry lived in a castle in the sky for a long time." Today, he will crash to earth.

It goes down on a hazy late January afternoon, when Helbling waddles into a San Francisco courtroom. While he may be the city's most notorious art thief, the Tenderloin resident will never be mistaken for Thomas Crown. Helbling, 53, is short and balding with a dusting of a white beard. His posture is stooped, and he shambles in his oversize orange jumpsuit. Also, he has an affinity for cramming things into his ears; Quigley, his court-appointed counsel, curtly yanks out the wads of balled-up tissue like an impatient mother and drops them into Helbling's shackled hands.

As the list of more than a dozen galleries, museums, and libraries the art thief is now forbidden to set foot in is read aloud in court, Helbling moans and whines. "You mean I can't go to the Academy of Sciences?" he sniffs. No one answers — instead the judge continues droning off the places where Helbling is no longer welcome after their wares turned up in his apartment. Helbling grudgingly accepts the plea deal that will shortly free him from county jail after the eight months he has already served. The judge wishes him luck and beckons a sheriff's deputy to lead the newly minted felon back to his cell.

The only five paintings ever stolen from David Schach’s gallery were hanging in Terry Helbling’s room.
Kelly Nicolaisen
The only five paintings ever stolen from David Schach’s gallery were hanging in Terry Helbling’s room.
In 2005, Helbling was caught in the act of stealing Laguna Coast by Jean Mannheim, valued at $65,000.
In 2005, Helbling was caught in the act of stealing Laguna Coast by Jean Mannheim, valued at $65,000.
Terry Helbling in 1975 — the first of his three junior years in high school.
Terry Helbling in 1975 — the first of his three junior years in high school.
Terry Helbling in a recent, undated photo.
Terry Helbling in a recent, undated photo.
Helbling’s taste in art was nothing if not eclectic.
Helbling’s taste in art was nothing if not eclectic.
Gallery owner Don Cohen, who lost this $25,000 Georgy Kurasov, describes Helbling as “cagey — but retarded.”
Gallery owner Don Cohen, who lost this $25,000 Georgy Kurasov, describes Helbling as “cagey — but retarded.”

Showing a burst of agility belying his wizened appearance, Helbling skips away from the deputy and frantically calls to his lawyer. "Quigley! Quigley! When you gonna talk to me?" Palpably frustrated with his needy client, Quigley snaps back, "As soon as I can, Terry."

A wave of derisive laughter emanates from the assembled defendants, family members, and others whiling away the afternoon at criminal court Department 23. "Savage!" one chuckling man exclaims as Helbling is hustled out. The door slams behind him. One headline that day will read, "Sad Tale of Tenderloin Art Thief Comes to a Close." Terry Helbling has left the public eye.

For years, Helbling — a former homeless man with an IQ between 60 and 72, according to court documents — had craved acceptance and attention. He crashed members-only botanical garden society soirees and boasted between mouthfuls of crackers and brie about his valuable art collection. His neighbors at the Cambridge Hotel — a residence for the formerly homeless — recall Helbling frequently ambling through the front door brandishing an objet d'art or curio and bellowing, "Look what I've got!" He invited building staffers and neighbors alike to visit him in Room 601, where art festooned the walls from floor to ceiling and he lived like a Tenderloin pasha.

And yet, even after police spent hours taking apart the room Helbling had taken years to put together, those who thought they knew him were shocked at the notion that this mentally retarded man with no income and some $200,000 worth of art in his tiny flat had been stealing. Like many of the paintings hanging on his walls, Terry Helbling was himself a trompe l'oeil. He had fooled the eye.


Terry Helbling's room was 10 feet by 10 feet, just like virtually any other single-room-occupancy residence in the Tenderloin. And that's where the similarities begin and end. The first thing to hit your eye if you walked in might be that his mattress was atop the most gorgeous Oriental rug you've ever seen. And that rug was on top of another rug. And so on, and so on — Helbling slept on a pile of lush rugs as if he were re-enacting a scene from The Princess and the Pea.

Police reports would describe Helbling's room as resembling a "gallery." But that isn't entirely accurate — art terminology is evidently no longer offered at the police academy. No gallery would pack 50 items into an area the size of a cubicle, like a Buca di Beppo restaurant. Viewing photos of Helbling's domicile, several art historians described the setup to SF Weekly as being "in the salon style."

And Helbling's Tenderloin salon was nothing if not eclectic. Still lifes, landscapes, and, jarringly, a painting of an anthropomorphic kitty with pert, human breasts and a pickle on its head dangled alongside gaily decorated Italian vases expertly fastened to the walls. Stuffed fish and delicate decanters shared space with Russian dolls and a breathtaking, gargantuan photo of a Chinese mountain vista. The room's microscopic closet was occupied by a pair of grandfather clocks, one of which had a small skeleton dangling from its pendulum. In fact, several animal skulls dotted the room, including the cranium of a male Northern elephant seal — which had been swiped from the aforementioned California Academy of Sciences in 2007.

The ensemble was lit from above by a series of green-shaded bankers' desk lamps, jury-rigged to hang vertically on the walls. But the lamps didn't just illuminate the works of art on display — they enhanced them. Helbling says he modeled the lighting system after the ones he saw at the Legion of Honor and de Young museums. Nobody taught him anything about the principles of museum presentation. And he certainly didn't brush up on remedial electronics from a book, as he's functionally illiterate. "All paintings got lights," he tells SF Weekly. He was born in Corpus Christi, grew up in Houston, and still speaks with a low-pitched, Southern drawl not unlike Billy Bob Thornton's. "It makes the color and texture of the artwork come out better. Mostly everything I do myself. It comes to me naturally. I didn't have no help from nobody."

Helbling has a tendency to repeat the same phrases — and then, as time passes, return to earlier subjects and repeat those phrases yet again. He's on an endless loop. But it is difficult to get him to say what he does not wish to say. Throughout a series of interviews, he steadfastly refuses to admit any guilt regarding his felony charges of burglary and receiving stolen property, even after he had pleaded guilty and been convicted. He uses vague terms like "what I am accused of" and "the things they found in my room."

Still, over the course of many hours, Helbling does utter a few eyebrow-raising comments. Complaining he should be treated with "more compassion," he astoundingly likens himself to serial killer Ted Bundy — "except he's bad." He also lets it slip that "I'm not committing any more burglaries once I get out of here," and "I'm not that bad of a guy. I don't normally commit felonies." In the same breath as claiming he hasn't broken the law, he insists SF Weekly break the law by sneaking a McDonald's hamburger past the jail guards for him: "You could hide it in your bag. You could smuggle it in."

Helbling refuses to review police photos of his room. Those snapshots, along with memories, are all that remain of it. He smirks, with obvious pride. "Too bad y'all didn't see the room."

Glancing between a pair of canvases mounted in the window, you can spy the attendant at Nevska Gallery on Geary sitting at his desk. When he turns his back, you can see that, too.

In March 2008, Joel — who goes by just one name — was seated at that desk. A $9,000 Alexander Baxter still life had been yanked off the wall just the week before. But Joel wasn't worried. Gallery workers had installed extra hooks on the back of another Baxter painting hanging in the same place, not two feet from the door. And a camera was pointed at just that spot. So when Joel heard the sound of hooks being torn from the wall, it came as a surprise. Had he been peering at his monitor, he might have caught a glimpse of the thief. But that would have been his only chance. It turns out there was a compatibility problem between the camera and computer; the image was never recorded.

Joel sprinted to the front of the gallery — a dash SF Weekly later timed at six seconds flat. Several months after the second Baxter was stolen in the course of a week, Terry Helbling would saunter in and plunk $3,000 in cash into Joel's palm for a third — which, notably, was hanging quite a ways from the door. All three Baxters were later discovered in Helbling's room. But, on the day of the theft, the culprit vanished without a trace.

Of course, vanishing without a trace is a Helbling specialty. In the mid-1980s, he reckoned he'd had enough of Houston. "He decided to pick up and leave," his younger brother, Ingemar, recalls. After a decade working as a blade and saw sharpener, "he had tons of money. He bought guns, he bought jewelry, he had the best stuff a man could own. He got rid of it one day and said he was gone. We done seen him off on a bus. I told him to take care, and when you get settled in, call us. And he never did." Some years later, Ingemar did get a call — from a homeless shelter in New York City, informing him Terry had been sleeping in parks.

Helbling told court-appointed psychiatrist Roland Levy that his mental handicap began at age 10 when he "suffered a head injury when bouncing on a bed." Ingemar, however, paints a darker picture. He claims his brother was struck in the head by a hammer viciously hurled by a foster mother. All four Helbling siblings were temporarily placed in foster care in the mid-1960s. When Terry was 16, his mother was killed by a drunken driver. "Terry was very close to my mother. After she passed, he just wanted to be off to hisself," Ingemar recalls. "He went off to hisself, I went off to myself. The whole family went off to themselves. We all kind of split up."

Helbling's great joy in life — aside from obtaining "the best stuff a man can own" — was art. His own art. He drew prodigiously at John H. Reagan High School, where records indicate he was a member of the junior class for three straight years. His modest Houston apartment was full of pen-and-ink sketches of animals, people, and landscapes. Louise Kuhn, who employed the lifelong bachelor at Circle Saw in Houston for a decade, recalls that he'd often bring in gifts for her — paperweights and other knickknacks she still has to this day. He also gave her drawings, "cartoon pictures of Daffy Duck or something like that. And they were good."

Around a dozen years ago, Helbling dropped back in on his family in Houston. For several hours, he regaled everyone with amazing stories of how he'd traversed the country by bus and foot, visited Disneyland, taken up jogging, and become an experienced skydiver. He then said goodbye to his family — the last words they exchanged — and accomplished something every bit as unlikely as his fanciful tales: He moved to San Francisco, obtained a castle in the sky, and filled it with art.

But not his own art.


Conversing with the gallery owners and workers whose goods ended up in Helbling's salon, one is struck by the similarity of their recollections. It's almost as if they are reading from the same script. "I swear to God, I slipped out for five or ten seconds to turn out the light," says Vanessa Viray, the co-owner of Paragraph, an Inner Sunset clothing store that lost a hulking portrait of a coquettish woman with large eyes.

"It was by our front door on an easel. It took him five seconds at the most," recalls Desiree Mitchell, co-owner of Gallery 444 on Union Square, who lost a $36,000 female portrait — also at closing time.

"It didn't take fifteen seconds," says Alexandra Ruhfel, director of the Martin Lawrence Galleries on Beach Street. "He probably just beelined — went in and out." In fact, SF Weekly managed to march into Ruhfel's gallery and march back out with an identical print of the purloined 38-by-45-inch idealized Paris street scene tucked under an arm in fewer than nine seconds. And when that work was stolen, it was hanging 20 feet closer to the door.

SF Weekly contacted every extant establishment whose wares were eventually seized from Helbling's residence. All of them confirmed the paintings were an arm's length from the door — if that.

"I didn't sell this stuff. It was in my room for my own amusement," Helbling says defiantly. "I never took it out in public to try and profit off it." And that makes him a most unusual thief — and the sort of man the city's galleries are vulnerable to. It turns out that you need not be Moriarty to make off with art priced higher than a Mercedes. The security measures we associate with museums aren't present in commercial art galleries — often there's no security whatsoever. Cameras are broken, not set to archive recorded material, or, as one gallery owner sheepishly admitted, simply plastic dummies.

"People don't steal art much. It's hard to resell. The average Joe Schmo knows it has no liquid cash value," says David Schach, co-owner of Dennis Rae Fine Art on Beach Street. "Who steals for themselves?" Five paintings from his gallery were discovered in Helbling's room. Snatched between 2004 and 2010, they are the only items Schach has ever lost. Helbling, however, insists that he never stole those paintings — or any others. He told both the court-appointed psychiatrist and SF Weekly that "somebody on the street" sold them to him. Helbling seethed that he was never "caught in the act."

But that's not true.


On Feb. 4, 2005, Linden Hayes Fine Art owner James Barrett was adhering to the script. It was closing time. He turned his back on the gallery's front door to do some paperwork. There were no cameras or alarms, let alone motion detectors. The door was unlocked and he was alone. And then Barrett heard the sound of a painting being hastily removed from the wall. He peered over his shoulder and was greeted by the sight of Terry Helbling making off with Laguna Coast, his arms spread wide like Cristo Redentor to accommodate the meter-wide canvas by celebrated artist Jean Mannheim. There was an awkward pause — the alcove Barrett used as his office was not visible from the front door, and Helbling certainly thought he'd entered an unattended gallery. Barrett broke the silence with a pointed exclamation: "What the hell?" And then everyone was running.

Burdened by 50 pounds of early-20th-century artwork, Helbling was easy prey. Barrett caught up with him and blocked the door. The two scuffled and the painting clattered to the floor. Barrett latched onto Helbling's collar, but the thief slipped out of his jacket and bulled through the front door.

A pair of 5-foot-7, bespectacled middle-aged men hurling one another into parked cars is not something you see every day along Hayes Street's upscale corridor. Helbling yelped to all who'd listen that he was being attacked, he hadn't done anything, he was just walking down the street when some madman tackled him. But no one was buying it. Barrett wrestled Helbling to the ground three doors down from his gallery. A pair of police officers soon parted the small crowd that had gathered around the combatants. Helbling shrieked repeatedly, "It's not me! You got the wrong guy!" according to the subsequent police report. Nevertheless, he was arrested and booked for felony attempted grand theft.

Helbling's attorney later persuaded Barrett to sign off on a plea deal. "His public defender told me he had some mental problems. He wasn't really as bad a guy as it seemed. He was remorseful for what he'd done," the gallery owner recalls. What's more, Helbling shocked Barrett by giving him $3,500 to repair the damage to the painting's gilded frame.

Where Helbling came up with thousands of dollars — repeatedly — remains a mystery. He served 82 days in county jail. His felony conviction was later reduced to a misdemeanor — and then expunged. (This rendered his bizarre statement that he doesn't "normally commit felonies" true. He was, however, convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery in 2000 — the judge found he "did willfully and unlawfully and for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, and abuse touch an intimate part of" a female accuser. A 2007 indecent exposure rap was dismissed via pretrial diversion.)

After six months of felony probation, Helbling was switched to unsupervised probation in late 2005. And, not long thereafter, the script resumed. Paintings started to walk out of galleries once again.

There is no documentation in either police or court records indicating that anyone saw fit to search Helbling's room after his arrest and conviction for attempted grand theft. Phil Wong, the inspector attached to the case, has no recollection of doing so. The records do note, however, that when Helbling attempted to waltz off with the $65,000 painting, he did so while shod in one Nike and one New Balance.


It was fairly easy to discern that Terry Helbling didn't belong at a members-only reception at the Botanical Garden library, because he was the only one with erasers in his ears. People noticed that. They also noticed him nonchalantly slip $50 worth of for-sale photographs into his jacket before heading out the door. The library's longtime coordinator of art exhibits — who asked that her name not be used, lest Helbling somehow track her down — followed him outside. "I said, 'I think you have something that doesn't belong to you,'" she recalls. He puckered his lips, sputtered "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" and thrust the photos at his accuser. He then hightailed it into the night.

And no one thought much about that for years. Until $15,000 worth of artwork was stolen from the library last April.

In the lengthy interregnum, Helbling was a fixture at the Botanical Garden's County Fair Building, which houses the library and a truly astonishing variety of plant clubs. He attended meetings of the Orchid Society, the Native Plant Society, the California Horticultural Society, the Succulent and Cactus Society, the Bromeliad Society, and, last but not least, the Epiphyllum Society. It's a fair bet most of the folks who show up to hear lectures regarding Bromeliaceae and epiphytes know, for starters, what they are (a pineapple is a member of the bromeliad family, while epiphytes are nonparasitic plants growing on other plants). Helbling did not. Members of the Orchid Society said it was clear he didn't know what an orchid looked like, either. Yet despite his own obliviousness, Helbling didn't just want to sit in these highly specialized meetings. He wanted to star in them.

He eagerly volunteered for the "Vanna White" position of holding up the orchid a speaker would lecture on. This put Helbling — who wore gaudy jewelry and chartreuse, yellow, or traditional pink erasers in his ears — front and center with all eyes upon him. (Why he chose to stuff erasers, tissues, cotton, or earplugs in his ears also remains a mystery. As his longtime neighbor William Turner put it, "Some people, you don't ask them questions. You don't wanna know.")

There was just one problem with Helbling's cherished role as orchid presenter: He was clumsy. Obsessive orchid devotees cringed in horror as he waved their pride and joy around like maracas and knocked over other plants when he chunked the flowerpots back on the table. Eventually the "Vanna" position was eliminated. Helbling took it badly. But he kept showing up. He kept eating massive quantities of free food. And he kept bellowing childlike questions in his always too-loud voice.

That would have continued to this day if not for last year's burglary from the library of 40 plant-related paintings and prints. After that, head librarian Barbara Pitschel grew suspicious of the man with the erasers in his ears. There was the time he insisted on bringing a preserved alligator head to a Native Plant Society meeting. At a Bromeliad Society gathering, Dennis Westler noticed Helbling carrying in plants he had taken from the Botanical Garden nursery. "I had been earlier that day walking through the garden and seen those very plants on tables outside the nursery," Westler recalls. "He was obviously doing this in an attempt to fit in and be accepted by the group more than he had been. I was kind of touched by that."

Police urged garden staff to learn the mystery man's identity. Asked to sign an attendance sheet, Helbling penned the name "Mike Helmlinc." That was cagey. Boasting that his profession was "art collector" was not. Cops then told garden staff to dial 911 if Mike Helmlinc returned.

The noose was tightening, and even Helbling could tell. Staffers' ham-handed attempts to corral him in May induced him to flee the building. And yet, like clockwork, he showed up to the Orchid Society meeting on June 1. Plainclothes cops marched him out of the auditorium and cuffed him in the vestibule as orchid enthusiasts looked on.

Police records indicate Helbling told Officer Troy Carrasco he was an art collector, and confessed to stealing the 40 paintings and prints from the Botanical Garden library. He signed a document allowing Carrasco to search his room; at long last, police were storming Helbling's castle. "There was no doubt in my mind I'd be in trouble sooner or later," he glumly said during a jailhouse interview.

In a way, Helbling's downfall was a sad loss for San Francisco values. Years of beneficent tolerance by garden staffers and plant aficionados led to the coddling of a thief. Indeed, if Helbling had been caught stealing art in San Mateo County, he might be facing a steep sentence. In San Francisco, however, it soon became clear that no one would throw the book at Terry Helbling. "Nobody wanted to put a guy with a 66 IQ in state prison," says Quigley, his defense attorney. "He's lost everything. He's done. That's the real punishment." Once again, Helbling took a plea deal — though, this time, he'll have four years of felony probation, as opposed to the unsupervised variety.

Helbling was convicted of burglarizing the Botanical Garden library, but the dozens of other items adorning his room were treated simply as stolen property. His claim he bought the art from "somebody on the street" stands.


Terry Helbling flips through a book of Impressionist masterpieces while seated in a jail interview room. He opens the tome from the back — the words mean nothing to him. The names Cézanne, Degas, even Van Gogh — they mean nothing as well. Helbling notes that jail guards derisively call him "Picasso Man." While he realizes he's being teased, he has no idea who Picasso is.

Helbling pauses at Renoir's classic, La Loge. This painting, he claims, is in the Legion of Honor Museum. In fact, it is. He lingers over Manet's Gare Saint-Lazare and utters, "I like the way she's looking at you" — which he says about several portraits of women. Perusing Manet's Portrait de Stéphane Mallarmé, Monet's La Japonaise, and Renoir's Un Déjeuner à Bougival — one of the world's most famous paintings — he simply queries "How big?" When told it is 51 by 68 inches, Helbling loses interest in Renoir's masterpiece. It would never have fit in his room.

Helbling clearly had tastes beyond whatever was located near the front door. A pilfered $3,000 piece by Barbara McCann turned up in Helbling's apartment, while an original Joan Miró worth nearly nine times that was left behind at the gallery on the very same easel. Helbling didn't know art, but he clearly knew what he liked.

With the art thief both unable and unwilling to describe what he found alluring about his collection, SF Weekly sent photos of his assemblage to a bevy of art historians, describing Helbling only as "an eccentric San Francisco collector." It turns out this eccentric is a traditionalist.

"The thing that unites these works in my mind is they are all drawing on various kinds of conservative ideas about art and painting," says Gwen Allen, a professor of art history at SF State. "They are reworking tropes or styles of modernism. There's a combination of really weird, eccentric taste, but it's rooted in conservative, traditional ideas about what a work of art should be."

Adds Kevin Chen, curator of San Francisco's Intersection for the Arts, "There's nothing abstract at all about any of the works. People look like people, fruit looks like fruit, seascapes look like seascapes." That would explain why Helbling was uninterested in surrealist master Miró. If Helbling had collected poetry instead of art, everything would rhyme — because that's what poems do.

"He likes the ladies!" notes Nancy Elliott, an art professor at City College. The women of Helbling's collection, like the female protagonists of La Loge and Gare Saint-Lazare, often gaze enticingly at the viewer. The female portraits adorning Helbling's walls were "not threatening in any way," says Liliana Milkova, the curator at Oberlin College's Allen Memorial Art Museum. Helbling, in fact, surrounded himself with nonthreatening art: alluring women, still lifes, and nature scenes that provided a respite from his Tenderloin existence. The cheeriness of the paintings was ramped up a notch by their hyperbolic, primary colors. Milkova notes the preference for bright artwork would make sense if he had deteriorating vision.

A number of the experts described Helbling's collection as veering into kitsch. Michael Frank isn't so sure. When it comes to bad art, he ought to know — he curates the Museum of Bad Art in Massachusetts. Helbling's taste is "interesting ... I don't think this is necessarily bad art," he says.

Well, some of it may be. Frank's eye is drawn to a seminude female portrait by Georgy Kurasov. "Now that's the kind of thing I'd be interested in. It's neo-Cubist, but her butt is round," he says with a tone of befuddlement. "There's no doubt about the center focus point — it's her ass." If Frank saw the Kurasov in a thrift store, he'd no doubt "scarf it up." In the past, he's paid "$25, perhaps even $30" for art of this caliber.

When it was nicked from Don Cohen's gallery, the Kurasov was valued at $25,000. Getting it at a price Frank could afford — well, that'd be a steal.


Huddled in a doorway at Turk and Leavenworth streets on a frigid late February morning, Terry Helbling has descended from his castle in the sky. Not only are his speech patterns caught in a loop — so are his life patterns. He started out in San Francisco a dozen years ago as a homeless man fending for himself on the streets. And now he is doing so again.

Approached by SF Weekly, he lambastes the police, who "cleaned me out. They destroyed and ruined my life." He curses his "lousy attorney," Quigley, who he says was too cowardly to take his case to trial — a case even Helbling earlier conceded was utterly hopeless. The sole reason he took the plea deal, Helbling now claims, was to get out of jail. "I had no choice!" he shrieks. "I am innocent! I am innocent! I am innocent!" The only person not to blame for Helbling's situation, it seems, is Terry Helbling.

In no mood for talking, he shuffles off into the Tenderloin. When SF Weekly offers to give him the art books he pawed through in jail, his pace momentarily slows. But only momentarily. "Nah, you keep your books. They were nice books. But I don't want anything that reminds me about art."

Helbling paces up Leavenworth and into a crowd of other hard-up men. He bobs along, growing smaller and smaller. And then he vanishes without a trace.

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8 comments
guest
guest

Im interested in seeing a closer look of the blue auto pic he stole.I knew his brother Ingemar ~ ~Very Well~~ who actually had a 1956 Chevy.Because I know of the family I find it interesting some of the art had common simularities with his life & family members.Im wondering if his choices in the art he stole were chosen subcontiously to surround himself with familuraritie.He would make a great casestudy! I know Ingemar made a great casestudy for me.I could spend hours watching his bazzar behavior patterns.Never quiet figured him out but would suspect Borderline Personality Disorder.Ingemar was a collector of other peoples items also.~Prior to discovering he was stalking me when we weren't together, I found leaving the top down on my corvet was an open invitation for him to claim my personal items as his own and then display them in his locked china hutch in his room.~ quite strange ~ I really know how to pick um ! lol

Eurosnbaht
Eurosnbaht

So our tax dollars paid for his 8 months in jail- now he'll be back out on the streets to bother society. THis guy needs to be in a locked, mental facility.

Jj
Jj

Cut his hands off.

Flemingrandolph
Flemingrandolph

His tastes in art lean toward Thomas Kinkade's style of traditionalism and away from a Jaon Miro.. As loopy as he is ; he'd probably right at home at a Tea Party rally.

Homer
Homer

That cat painting is super awesome! I would totally steal it.

Offkey
Offkey

So interesting, how someone who displayed conspicuous errant behavior, could fly under the radar for so long. Although now he appears unassuming, he was clever to use a fictious name to throw-off suspicion, plus he has a misdemeanor for deviant behavior and thief.San Francisco prosecutors should not underestimate him or consider him harmless.

Thank you to Joe Eskenazi for bringing attention to Mr.Heibling with recent photo, frankly he gives me the chills.

MJM
MJM

In the art world, of which I have been a part for twenty-five years, our 'industry' magazines sometimes refer to art-crazed collectors as having been born with the "extra chromosome." This charming story of an art-inclined fanatic bears little difference from the tales of obsession with which richer patrons will rake the earth for the right piece! I especially like this thief's attention to lighting detail, jerry-rigged from green banker's lamps -- more evidence he has been touched since birth to be a collector. I have personally known the author of "The Thomas Crown Affair" at Harvard, where he taught us screen-play writing. I bet Mr. Trustman regrets he did not hatch this tale too. It's so annoying when truth is more unlikely than fiction. Alas, we can regret the institutions harmed by theft losses. Sadly, Helbling will not be able from this point forward to legally "crash" their galas, as many of us will dishonestly continuing doing! Just look at the desperate sneaks in line at private parties at Basel Miami and Basel Basel.

 
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