Published Feb 01, 2000Travelling to New York lately is a little like running into an old friend from the wild days of your black past who has since settled down and become somewhat conventional, even boring. But that isn't to say you still can't go out together and disturb some shit like you used to.
I'm staying with my friend the handsome Russian dissident poet-cum male prostitute-cum It boy and protean porn star Tom International who lives in the "West Willage" (as he so charmingly pronounces it) - a somehow appropriate throwback to the Old School of Faggotry. Actually, strike that because Tom swings both ways, and is involved in an intermittent relationship with a 23-year-old upper echelon Russian call girl who already has six female escorts working for her, and invests her sizeable income on the New York stock exchange.
Tom is currently in the process of fighting a shoplifting charge with the help of a high-priced lawyer procured by his San Francisco sugar daddy, a Vice President of one of the bigger banks, who also pays his formidable rent. He was caught walking out of an uptown Virgin Megastore on Christmas Eve with three Serge Gainsbourg CDs in the pockets of his expensive clothing (also mostly shoplifted from Banana Republic), with $400 in his wallet, thus ending a three-month five-finger-discount rampage that left no Walgreens, no Gap, and no Tower Records untouched.
On the day of my arrival, he appears in court and is offered community service, but he decides to fight the conviction - he doesn't want the offence to be on record because it may affect his status as a political refugee. Unfortunately, his sugar daddy is also getting a little possessive and cantankerous, and is threatening to pull the plug on the legal defence fund. Lately, things haven't been going so lightly for Holly GoHeavily. As a result, he smokes dope like a fiend and fucks like a rabbit to forget his woes. Currently, he is dating a 20-year-old male Russian Jew clothing designer whose deeply homophobic father was once the official fashion designer for the Kremlin before heading up the pre-Lagerfeld House of Chanel.
I personally have three major agendas to attend to whilst in New York, although when asked I can usually only recall one of them at a time: to propose a show of my photographs to several art galleries with the help of Bob Nichas, editor of Indexmagazine (to which, incidentally, I have just been named a contributing editor); to essay my fifth filthy flesh photo shoot for Honchomagazine; and to visit the set ofJulien, the new Harmony Korine movie for a piece inIndex. On a previous trip, I shot a spread for Honchowith Harmony in his midtown apartment that was so well received by the editor, Doug McClemont, that he asked me to collaborate with the kid on another one, but alas Harmful - as he is wont to call himself, sometimes with good reason - is far too busy with his new creation to bother with such ephemera.
Soon after my arrival, it so happens that Indexis having its third anniversary party, which I attend along with Tom International and his faggot boyfriend and my fotog friend Terry Richardson and his lovely wife Nikki Uberti, both of whom, improbably, appear, along with Mr. International, in my latest porno. We are also accompanied by some gay named Aron, a pleasant fellow whom I know I've met before but can't quite place where. I'm neither alarmed nor surprised, nor should you be; I generally have to meet people approximately 27 times before I can remember who they are and where I met them. Brother Alcohol, I'm afraid, has made of my mind Swiss cheese.
We arrive late at the party at some trendy new club, which is probably just as well, because it is so dark and so noisy that only Helen Keller could feel at ease here. We quickly retreat to the basement, where Mr. Nichas is making introductions, although it seems that no one is particularly connecting; later I discover that this is owing to the fact that Bob had rather rashly ingested some mushrooms of the non-Portabello variety, which effectively robbed him of even the most basic hostly abilities.
Beating a hasty retreat pudding, we dump the young fruits and head to Ellen Von Unworth's birthday party, being held at some divey East Village bar. Highly ironical, considering that it was precisely one year ago today that I met Mr. Richardson through Harmful and he took me to this same German fotog's previous year's bash. On that occasion, however, we were in the clutches of that celebrated opiate; this time all has changed and clearer heads are currently prevailing. Unfortunately, Nikki and Terry seem to be having some kind of a,a,a... and retire early, leaving me with Aron, which is cool because he seems more than willing to drink, an increasingly rare quality in these temperate times. Before we move on, someone at Ellen Von Fucking Unworth's birthday party relieves me of my camera, my dear leather gloves, and my designer shades, but then again I was stupid enough to leave them in my coat pocket unattended.
Aron drags me to a nearby bar called Cherry Tavern, where we proceed to get really happy. As it turns out, he is the man behind the Alleged Gallery, the very space that recently mounted the Terry Richardson photography exhibit. I tell him how funny it is, because here I am in New York to shop a show of my own and I end up on my second night getting drunk with one of the hottest up-and-coming gallery owners in town without even knowing who he is. He is, in fact, one of the very people Bob was planning on hooking me up with (Alleged advertises inIndex, after all), so it's all very fortuitous indeed.
At Cherry Tavern, Aron introduces me to the irrepressible Leo Fitzpatrick, the Virgin Surgeon of Larry Clark's Kidsfame - written, of course, by one Harmony K. - another strange coincidence considering one of the other purposes of my trip involves Harm. I half expect young Mr. Fitzpatrick to be a homo-hater (not that there's anything wrong with that), but as it turns out he's very hip and cosmopolitan. In fact, the drunker I get, the more adorable he becomes - which is saying a lot because he's already pretty fucking adorable - and I start to give him these big faggy hugs, which he puts up with admirably, although to the outside observer he's probably squirming like a cat in the clutches of Pepe LePue.
We are really flying now and the three of us go hunting for some snap crack-le pop, but New York is now such a police state that within 30 seconds of us arriving at the corner where you're supposed to be able to buy it, a cherry top pulls up and a couple of Giuliani's storm troopers eye us suspiciously until we stroll on into the night. I remember jumping into the empty cab of an 18-wheeler that is idling mysteriously in the middle of the street, but that's as far as the memory banks extend.
The rest of my trip is downhill from here. I start drinking too much, which fuzzes all the details. I recall hanging out with Nikki and her friends - including three skinny boys: Eric the stylist, who has modelled for Pierre et Gilles; and the Canadian twins Mark and Ian who were discovered by Meisel via Rifat Ozbeck. Cooking dinner and getting stoned and renting some substandard independent films. Seeing the new Larry Clark picture with Tom International, who declares it a masterpiece. Going to Paul Schrader's Afflictionwith my old friend Glenn and relating intensely to its Canadian angst. (Well, it was shot in Canada, and all that deer hunting reminded me of my youth, like waking up and finding eight deer corpses hanging upside down in the shed - I couldn't help but worry how Santa would now be able to deliver my presents - or a severed moose head lying by the back door of the house.)
Mr. International magnanimously arranges a dinner for me to meet the famous New York painter Ross Bleckner, a card-carrying member of the Velvet Mafia. He's filthy rich and has five kept boys who all look disturbingly similar - slim, swarthy, tight-bodied, bored, slightly smarter-than-average circuit boys whose luck will probably run out with their rapidly expiring youth. The two who come to dinner, dressed in designer black, occasionally lock eyes behind their sugar daddy's back and share a brief rolling of the eyes. It's all too "Play it as it lays."
After almost a week of staying with one of the busiest call boys in the city, I start to get a little frustrated. Every time I return to Tom International's apartment to take a nap or watch some TV, I discover he's there with a john and I'm requested to come back in an hour or two. So it's late Saturday afternoon and I'm slightly hung over and all I want is some peace and quiet and I buzz Tom and he tells me he's in the middle of someone. So I go to any dark bar - not just any, in fact, but the Duplex, the infamous West Village piano bar - and have a little drink on my ownie. When the faggy piano player starts a saggy rendition of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" - with all the Judy Garland implications intact - I book over to Julius', the oldest gay bar in Manhattan, not to mention Larry's watering hole at the beginning ofBoys in the Band.
With its dilapidated, yellowing interior, greasy burgers on the makeshift grill, queenly jukebox, and old school clientele, it provides me with a sense of continuity with the past. I saunter through the sawdust on the floor to the payphones - still, in this day and age, of the dial variety - and try to get through to various friends, but no one seems to be home. Although I wasn't even planning on drinking on this bloody Saturday, I'm already drunk by dinner, and too angry with Mr. International to go home.
And so it is I find myself alone and lonely on a barstool at the Bar, the East Village's oldest gay establishment, recently restored after a deadly conflagration to its former squalid self. (Deadly for the bar's kitty mascot, who perished in the blaze.) Thankfully, in walks debonair, devil-may-care Steve LaFreniere, a fellow contributing ed. to Indexwho, in fact, hooked me up with the mag in the first place. Despite the fact that I once slept with his boyfriend in Chicago whilst Steve was in the hospital with a serious stab wound from a homophobic assailant, all has long since been forgiven and Steve takes me off into the night.
We end up somewhere in Nolita at a birthday party for a former male model whom I actually know from some fag club I went to in Milan. Steve's old Chicago posse shows up, including Jack Walls, former lover of Robert Mapplethorpe and the subject of the late fotog's infamous work "Man in Polyester Suit." Jack and I seem to hit it off, and after bending his ear about my little predicament with Tom International, Jack suggests that I spend the rest of my trip at the empty apartment of a good friend of his who is currently living in London. This friend turns out to be none other than indie It girl Parker Posey. It feels odd having my own private Parker Posey film festival while reposing in her bed in her modest Chelsea flat. And everyone - but everyone - I tell of my situation requests a pair of Parker's panties. Perhaps I can even turn a little profit.