Lisa Eisner: Shriners
Introduction by Glenn O'Brien.
Grown men dressed in fezzes, driving mini-cars, and masquerading as clowns. You hear the word "Shriner" and immediately think of Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone attending a meeting at the Water Buffalo Lodge. On the heels of her book Rodeo Girl, photographer Lisa Eisner has once again turned her camera to a subculture that favors rhinestone-encrusted hats. Coincidence? Probably not. Eisner's grandfather was a Shriner, and, as a child, she used to imagine him going off to secret meetings replete with secret handshakes and secret passwords. She has spent the past five years researching and photographing every aspect of Shriner life--their homes, meetings, parades, football games, conventions, and charitable works.
So, what is a Shriner? Legend has it that in 1872, a group of Masons who were inclined to lunch together at the Knickerbocker Cottage in New York City formed the fraternal order known as the Shriners as a fellowship for Masons who had completed certain requirements. In their heyday in the 1940s-1960s, there were a million Shriners in the United States, including John Wayne, Red Skelton, Gene Autry, Harold Lloyd, and Franklin Roosevelt. Today this slice of Americana is in danger of extinction. Eisner's vivid photographs offer intimate access into a world we won't soon forget.