Succession’s Logan Roy Has Been Framed – West Side Rag

Logan Roy and the man who framed him, Karim Rhamatzada. Photos by Susanna Beck.

By Susanne Beck

Logan Roy, the evil, power-hungry patriarch of the popular HBO Max program, Successionis framed — on the Upper West Side.

Caught looking the overstuffed, larger-than-life, menacing media mogul he portrays on TV, Roy – also known as actor Brian Cox – wasn’t ensnared by wily competitors or any of his two-faced, money-grabbing children. The work was the work of local businessman Karim Rhamatzada, owner of the Amsterdam Art Gallery at 453 Amsterdam Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets.

Yes, “framed” like that.

Succession is just one of the many television and film productions in which the humble staff has worked for more than 40 years in the business. Sex and the City, Blackheads, The Knick. The list goes on, until Rhamatzada admits, “I’ve worked for so many shows. I forgot their names, probably, if you ask me.”

Karim Rhamatzada.

Rhamatzada has owned Amsterdam Gallery since 1992, which he claims has been around longer than any of the neighboring businesses along that stretch of avenue (Beacon Paint and Hardware enjoyed that distinction until it closed in 2020 after 120 years on UVS. )

“They’ve changed so many stores since then,” he told The Rag recently. His neighbors at the time included a barber shop that had been there for 50 years and a photo shop next door that had been there for more than 20, both of which are now long gone. Across the street was a grocery store whose cash register was sealed with bulletproof glass, an indication of the street crime prevalent at the time. Despite those things, Rhamatzada says he chose the area because “it was a good family neighborhood, just like it is today.”

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Amsterdam Art Gallery.

The new business owner was just 24 when he first opened his doors after fleeing his besieged and war-weary hometown of Kabul, Afghanistan, just two years earlier with his parents and three younger siblings. What did he know about framing? Nothing, he says. He had no formal training. What little professional experience he could claim had occurred during his service in the military. “We don’t have time for university,” he explains, “because we’re leaving.”

What Rhamatzada knew was that there were no framing services in that part of the Upper West Side and, as he says, “I like working with the public. I like working with people.”

Former Upper West Sider and award-winning set designer for television and film, Regina Graves, was one of those people, becoming an early customer when she discovered the gallery just around the corner when she moved to West 82nd Street in 1992. One day she looked at a striking print Gustav Klimt in the window – “I fell in love” – ​​and wandered in,” she told VSR on the phone.[Karim and I] started talking because he likes to talk and I like to talk,” she remembers. “We became friends … and because he was my neighbor, I would walk around the corner and have a cup of coffee and just talk to him and look at his stuff.

Graves soon began turning to Ramatzada for some of her professional needs as an assistant set designer on Woody Allen productions. “He had a really large selection of frames and could turn them around very quickly,” she recalls. Upon learning that she was working on period films, he went out of his way to source fabric rugs that were similar in style to those used in the early 1900s.

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Graves also referred family members and work colleagues to the shop for their framing needs. While some were hesitant to trust the newcomer with the time-sensitive job — “they don’t trust me!” Rhamatzada says today with a soft laugh. “If I didn’t have Regina in the beginning, I would never have what I have today” – he soon won them over, serving some of the industry leaders such as Santo Locasto, a production, set and costume designer for stage, film, and dance, known for his work in films like A large and Desperately looking for Susan and musicals and plays like Hello Dolly!

“He’s just a generally good person,” Graves says today. “He was very family oriented, always talking about his family, which amazed me.” They all had houses close to each other and they all took care of each other. And aside from his talent for what he does and his love for what he does, he really has me as a friend more than anything.” She proudly adds, “He calls me his American sister.”

Rhamatzada’s colleague, Marcos Gonzalez.

Thanks to a continuous, steady flow of set design work, and an additional core of loyal neighborhood clients who have come to appreciate the reasonable prices, fast, quality service, and extremely friendly staff (including one of Ramatzada’s younger brothers), the Amsterdam gallery expanded their space a year ago and a half days, immediately after the peak of the pandemic. Rhamatzada wanted more space to accommodate his clients, despite the cost. “You have to spend money to make money,” he says good-naturedly.

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When he goes on to talk about what it’s like to do so much work for the manufacturing industry, he admits it’s stressful, but adds, “I’m used to it now.” His expression doesn’t give it away either, with a look of cheerfulness rarely seen in New York. Even when he describes his most stressful job in years — a very specific, three-hour Saturday Night Live spin job that was called in at 6:00 p.m. on a Friday night when Rhamatzada was already at home on Long Island, an hour away from the shop — he seems like the epitome of calmness, folded hands in front of him, calm smile.

Graves confirms her friend’s unwavering professionalism. “Whatever is being filmed in New York, I’m sure he has a hand in it somehow.” You will see a frame on the wall or a mirror [and chances are] that Karim did it.”

“And it’s funny, because he doesn’t get starstruck,” adds his American sister. Rhamatzada doesn’t watch the shows he helps with, and name-dropping isn’t part of his speech. However, what Graves says really defines him—puts him in a box, if you will—is that he cares about what he does and takes care of his family more than anything else.


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