Glenn O’Brien RIP

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This was a shock, seeing that Glenn died yesterday at the age of 70. If you were any part of the art/club scene in NYC in the 1980s, Glenn was the guru of cool.

 

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Glenn was, as his obit in New York magazine put it, a “rare polymath.” He edited Interview magazine. His TV show, TV Party, shot live at 12:30 a.m. and featured a rotating cast of downtown heavyweights like Robert Mapplethorpe and Debbie Harry, rolling joints more often than not. (We dinosaurs remember the joys of public access television back in the day, when basically anyone could rent a studio for a pittance and get a show on Channel J.) He worked in advertising. He was a journalist. He wrote books. He was the Style Guy for GQ before they stupidly got rid of him for someone younger and cheaper.

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I saw him about a year ago at a screening of the film he made with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Downtown 81, which was incredibly awful and incredibly mesmerizing at the same time–let’s just say Jean-Michel could paint a lot better than he could act, but seeing him so young and vibrant, and SoHo the way it once was, when it was grungy and arty and louche, was rather unbearably poignant.

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So is his death.

ULTRA VIOLET RIP

I didn’t know that Ultra Violet, who died last week at the age of 78, was once the mistress of Salvador Dali (who introduced her to Andy Warhol), or that her real name was Isabelle Collin Dufresne, or that she became a Mormon later in life.

I knew her as one of the most indelible participants at the Factory in the 1960s, an actress in Andy’s movies, an accomplished artist, and a writer. Her memoir, Famous for 15 Minutes: My Years with Andy Warhol, brings back the kind of downtown and dirty NYC that is now a boring theme park for investment bankers. (Andy would have rolled his eyes, done their portraits, and laughed all the way to the bank. Although he never trusted the ATMs, which became commonplace in the early 1980s. He thought his money would disappear.)

Most of all, she was a genuine one-of-a-kind. “I have infinite imagination,” she said. “Maybe I don’t have too much technique.”

I think she had plenty.

LEEE BLACK CHILDERS RIP

Back in the day when I was a book editor at Delilah Communications, I was responsible for pulling in the photos, which were then handed over to the art director, to illustrate the rock’n’roll books we were packaging and publishing. I knew a lot of the most talented photographers from my weekends spent in the Mudd Club and Hurrah and Danceteria, and one of the best parts of my job was being able to get their work used in our books. Few of them were making lots of money—nobody in publishing was, but that wasn’t the point, was it….

Anyway, one name that stood out was that of Leee Black Childers, because I kept thinking his name was going to be misspelled. I’m pretty sure his photos came to me via the incomparable Neal Peters, who coauthored the amazing Ann Margret: A Photo Extravaganza and Memoir. Yeah, those were the days.

Leee just died, and with him a treasure trove of stories. He was there with his camera to chronicle the edgy side of 1970s NYC; he shot Bowie and Iggy and Warhol and the New York Dolls and everyone who was anyone in the Chelsea Hotel. His book, Drag Queens, Rent Boys, Pick Pockets, Junkies, Rockstars and Punks, was published in 2012 and is a brilliant compilation of the dirt and drugs and fun from a much less inhibited era.

I suggest you buy it to see what you missed—or, if you’re a Lurcher, to remember what it used to be like when we were out clubbing and laughing and whatever-ing downtown before the hedge funders moved in.

RONNIE CUTRONE RIP

I was out of town last weekend when the news broke, and only just found out last night that Ronnie Cutrone died. I am in shock. Ronnie was so alive, so vital, so talented, so full of fun and mischief…I just can’t believe it.

I first met Ronnie as my boyfriend at the time worked for Andy Warhol, and Ronnie was one of the “assistants” aka painters at the Factory, too. He was a blast. We spent countless weekends hanging out in the Mudd Club. His girlfriend at the time was a wonderful jewelry designer named Marla. He was still seeing her when the four of us met at an Art on the Beach opening—then held on landfill in near-deserted Tribeca, the World Trade Center looming nearby. At this opening, another painter friend of Jay’s showed up with his girlfriend, named Tama, and she and Ronnie took a shine to each other. Before you could say Stash, Tama moved in with Ronnie.

He supported her while she wrote Slaves of New York. Let’s just say it didn’t end well, and I always felt guilty about that blazing day on the sand. It was just one of those things that happened, I guess.

I’d run into Ronnie from time to time over the years, and he always made me laugh. His hair turned silver but he was ageless.

I’ll always remember the blissful look on his face in the Mudd Club one night. I asked him why he was so happy, and he said, “Oh, I just spent a few hours eating cherry vanilla ice cream out of my girlfriend’s belly button.”

That was Ronnie.

TAYLOR MEAD RIP

 

When I moved to NYC and went to gallery openings all the time (my artist boyfriend was equally broke; we helped ourselves to free cheese and plonk while hanging out), Taylor Mead would often show up too. He was an artist and actor who’d been a Warhol Factory film regular. He was a character, the kind you rarely see any more because the only people who can live in NYC now are finance types with deep pockets and finance sensibilities (read into that what you will….).

Mead died on Thursday of a stroke. He was 88 and staying in Colorado, not a place I ever would have associated with such a Downtown kind of guy. But he’d been living in a rent-controlled apartment on the Lower East Side for nearly 34 years—paying a whopping $380 a month in rent—and the developers in the process of renovating the building to rent/sell to more of the aforementioned finance types made Mead’s life hell.

Never mind that when Mead moved in, the neighborhood was a slum, and a scary one at that. Never mind that the apartment was a dump.

Money always trumps art when real estate is involved.

Something Andy knew all about.

ROBERT HUGHES RIP

Australian-born Robert Hughes, who died at age 74, never saw a painting he couldn’t critique, especially during his many years as art critic for Time magazine. His tongue was as sharp as his wit and his digs. If he loved you (like Goya or Francis Bacon), you were golden. If he didn’t (like Warhol or many modern artists), you were toast.

He had better taste in art than scarves

“The new job of art is to sit on the wall and get more expensive,” he famously said.

But he had a softer side and did a brilliant job with his books The Fatal Shore and Shock of the New.

In an interview with Andrew Denton in 2006, Hughes credited his interest in the art world to a priest, Father Gerald Jones, who was one of his teachers in school. “There was this painting which was on a kind of irregular square of brown hessian with what looked like a spider’s backside and a kind of red squabble, and I looked at that and I thought, ‘that can’t be art. That can’t possibly be art. What is this?'” Hughes admitted.

“And I said to Father Jones, ‘That’s not art, is it?’ And he said, ‘Well, Robert, if you’re so certain that it’s not art, perhaps you could tell me what you think art is?’

He spent the rest of his life figuring that out.