Like many who knew and loved Anita, I was shocked by her death, which was announced last night. My Facebook feed blew up as so many people of our NYC era felt compelled, as I did, to say something about this remarkable woman.
I met Anita when she was the DJ at the Mudd Club, my home away from home on weekends. My pal, the brilliant designer Robert Molnar, worked the door and very kindly let me in for free as I usually didn’t have the cash to pay the paltry entrance fee. Anita and I got to talking every time I was there and I was always in awe not just of her glamazon style but the depth of her musical knowledge. Everyone knew her. Everyone wanted to be her.
We stayed in touch sporadically over the years and I recently saw her at Marcus Leatherdale’s photo show in April. She looked amazing and was full of energy and her usual wit and we made plans to make plans, and then I got super-busy…as we do. And now she’s gone.
My friend Vivien Goldman made an especially brutal and honest observation that women of a certain age, once lauded for their skills and their savvy and their perennial grooviness, now have no value in our society. The writer Michael Musto made the same comment – that Anita felt marginalized and despaired of her professional future. I totally understand the feeling. The NYC world we came of age in doesn’t exist any more. I am very lucky to have a niche as a ghostwriter now because there is no way I could have survived as a journalist – which Anita evidently struggled with as she tried to reinvent herself. (It must have been especially disheartening when 22-year-old idiots are paid six figures to DJ a party and she couldn’t get work.)
That she succumbed to the depression lurking in all of us is heartbreaking.
I spent a lot of the 1980s in London, and New Wave music and New Wave get-ups are embedded in my DNA. We all knew about Steve Strange, of course—and his recent death at the age of 55 is really sad. Not only was he the lead singer for the band Visage but he was better known as the face of the nightclub Blitz, which was sort of the UK equivalent of the Mudd Club or Danceteria at the time.
We were in awe of his style.
And of the time that he turned Mick Jagger away at the door of Blitz because he was “too rock’n’roll.”
Back in the day, when I spent most of my weekends on White Street at the Mudd Club, Tribeca was deserted at night. It was dark and scary. One of the few beacons of light came from Dave’s Luncheonette on the corner of Canal Street. And one of the few beacons of artistic inspiration amid the stalls selling grubby knock-offs and rickety luggage was Pearl Paint.
Pearl Paint opened on Canal Street in 1933 and closed in 2014, thanks to the usual landlord greed. The listing for the 12,000 square feet stated that “the building offers a great opportunity for a developer, investor and/or user.”
Wanna bet some hedge fund oligarch buys the building and guts it for a trophy apartment that will be lived in for a week each year?
New York City is vanishing before my eyes. Stores like Pearl will never come back.
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.
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.
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.”
Back when I’d just moved to NYC, my hangouts were the Mudd Club down in the deserted darkness of Tribeca before it was chic, and Danceteria on W. 37th St., on a nondescript commercial block. I still have my Danceteria membership card.
One of the other regulars in Danceteria was, of course, the very young and very ambitious Italian girl name Madonna. My friends and I paid her no mind. But the DJ did. He was a brilliant mixologist, rivaled only by the divine Anita Sarko, who did the spinning at Mudd and who is still as gorgeous as ever. The DJ’s name was Mark Kamins, and he not only went out with Madonna (let’s just say he was not alone), but he introduced her to Seymour Stein, who signed her to Sire Records in 1982 (when he was in the hospital and she nagged him so much he caved), and produced her first single “Everybody.” I still have a copy of that LP too.
So I was totally bummed to see that Mark just died, apparently from a massive heart attack. He was only 57. He was my generation.
Madonna gave a gracious statement to the Hollywood Reporter: “I’m very sorry to hear about Mark’s death. I haven’t seen him for years but if it weren’t for him, I might not have had a singing career. He was the first DJ to play my demos before I had a record deal. He believed in me before anyone else did. I owe him a lot. May he Rest in Peace.”
You can see more comments and photos on Mark’s Facebook page, which is public.
He knew how to make people get up on the dance floor. He knew how to make people happy. So that is a life well-lived.