I'm standing nervously at my art opening, hoping that no one will hit me. The two exhibits being presented couldn't be more different. Ed Templeton, who is showing in the front room, has collaged his entire space with baroque punk paintings and lurid photographs of lude nudes that invite minute scrutiny from the visiting throngs. My room, at the back, is starkly minimal, the walls painted alternately red and black, the photographs of eroticised neo-Nazis hung in fascistic symmetry. The overall effect is somewhat sinister to say the least — evil even. Visitors don't seem to be able to stand in the room for very long, or rush through it to get to the sanctuary of the dark, curtained-off space where the porn movie is playing. I finally relax a little when some of my friends arrive, because at least now there are enough of them to form a human shield to protect me if necessary.
Of course the pressure is too much to bear, so I start drinking beer with Ginch and Earsnot. Everyone, in fact, seems to be loading up on booze from the deli next door, so the atmosphere is getting a little raucous. Various art celebrities arrive: Attila Lucacs, Ross Bleckner plus posse, smilin' Wolfgang Tillmans, and some others who are pointed out to me but whom I've never heard of because I know nothing about the art world. The crowd is a pleasing mixture of young, hip-looking kids (skateboarders, punks, homeboys) and older types (art collectors, magazine people, eccentric old school New Yorkers). Maybe I'm being paranoid, but it seems like one or two people are really looking at me askance, like maybe they have a gun under their coat and they're going to pull it out and shoot me in the head. Oh well, as Mink Stole says in John Waters' Desperate Living: "Go ahead. A single bullet can never destroy the beauty of fascism!" Or, in my case, crypto-camp fascism.
One very large man with a beard, who is decidedly drunk, is getting very excited by my photographs. Finally he runs toward me full tilt and I think this might be it, but he merely thrusts a T-shirt from his skateboarding company, "War Skateboards," at me, and then pulls down his pants in front of one of my nudes and directs me to take pictures, which I dutifully do. He then starts yelling, as if possessed, "Nazi fag, Nazi fag," which both alarms and amuses me. I guess he doesn't quite get the point. Or maybe he does.
The after party is at a place called Siberia at 50th and Broadway, a shabby dive inside the downtown subway. It used to be used as a shoe shine stand, the signs for that defunct business remaining on the dingy walls. The place starts to fill up and people are grooving to the DJ's sounds. Tom International is trying to pick up a straight black guy he's met who just wandered in from the subway to see what was going on; Ginch is necking with our female Swedish model friend as usual, even though he's an avowed homosexual; Earsnot is sitting by himself on a wall, glowering at everyone as if he wants to murder the entire room. I raise my camera to take a picture of him and he gives me the double finger, so I snap it fast and run away. A few minutes later, Ginch goes over and also tries to take his picture, but this time Snot angrily slaps the camera out of his hand, sending it smashing to the floor in pieces. He is in some mood.
He lightens up a little when he sees me talking to a rotund, affable, middle-aged art collector named Stuart whose family, my sources have informed me, owns half the state of Michigan. Earsnot sidles up to us and behind Stuart's back indicates to me that he would like me to introduce him. As I may or may not have mentioned before, Earsnot, a handsome, strapping young black graffiti artist of 19, only has eyes for bears — forty-something, husky, hairy white men. I oblige him, and the three of us have our first of what will turn out to be too many drinks together that evening.
Stuart and Earsnot and I decide to head on to sleazier pastures, so we walk over to Stella's, the last remaining hustler bar on 47th Street, but Snot can't get in because he's underage. Undaunted, our unlikely trio jumps in a cab and heads to the always trendy Joe's Pub on Lafayette where, I gather, it's reggae night and therefore a good place to buy drugs. We proceed to get boffo as Snot pours it on really strong, putting the moves on old Stuart. At one point Stuart pulls out an absurdly huge wad of cash. I turn to Snot and say "Bling Bling," his own slang for a monetary windfall that Ginch told me about (it's from some rap song, and is meant to represent the TV commercial-like sparkle created by shifting a big diamond ring on your finger back and forth so it catches the light. Bling bling. Get it?) Snot almost kills himself laughing because he can't believe that a honky like me would pick up that terminology. With the cash Stuart buys some coke and special K, which we start doing in the bathroom. Then we head out into the chilly street.
We can't go to Stuart's place because his longtime companion is there, so he takes us to the Mercer, perhaps the trendiest hotel in New York today. He tries to get us a room, but the Eyes Wide Shut concierge informs us icily that there is no room at the Inn. Reluctantly, I invite the daring duo over to Tom International's pad in the West Village. He generally doesn't like me dragging home tricks at all hours of the night, but it is a special occasion (with an emphasis on the K) so maybe he won't mind.
The combination of special K (ketamine, an animal tranquilliser, and thereby a real downer) and coke (a classic upper) is a favourite amongst reckless young homosexuals in New York. This ad hoc speedball tends to make you feel like you are simultaneously melting into the ground and shooting off into space. I imagine that it's the closest you can get to experiencing on Earth what it's like to walk on the moon. That's what it feels like when I leave Stuart and Snot on the couch, where we have been sitting, to go to Tom's bedroom to see if he's still awake. When I open the door the room is dark, so I lope over to the bed and jump on the warm body under the covers. I wake him up but he's not mad — he knows it's my night. I invite him to join us for a line or two, but he demurs.
When I re-enter the atmosphere of the living room, Snot and Stuart are hard and heavy at it on the couch, making out like bandits. I lope back over with one giant step and find myself slowly falling down on top of them, melting into the menage. It's a strange roundelay — I'm totally into Snot, Snot is hot for Stuart the Bear, and Stuart is keen to see me and Snot go at it. Somehow the drugs just round out all the edges so that it works perfectly. We have sex for a while, then stop to go deep into intellectual conversation mode, then snort some more of the ridiculous piles of snow on the table, then start all over again with the sex. At one point I pull a Woody Allen and accidentally spill a significant amount of the stuff on my knapsack, which in a few days will set off some alarms at the airport, but apparently not enough to bust me. The boys leave at dawn, and I fall into a coma.
I decide to stay an extra couple of days in New York to do some press — promoting what, I couldn't tell you — and to attend Tom International's photo exhibit opening at a corny Soho restaurant called Magnum (the street address is 357, get it?). Tom has been caught up in all the art opening glamour and couldn't wait to get his own show. Unfortunately he has chosen a rather snobby venue where his ex-boyfriend holds a party once a week. After running around like a maniac for five days organising the show, he manages to pull it off at the last second but it almost kills him. A fair number of people turn out, including Yuri Gorbachov, the nephew of Mikhail, the former Russian leader, and perhaps the most famous living Russian painter.
Tom gets up on a table wearing the executioner's mask I gave him for Christmas and starts to recite some of his frightening, anti-capitalist poems, one of which pronounces his spiritual kinship with Andrew Cunanan, the murderer of Versace. This is a bit too much for the owner of the restaurant, who storms out announcing that the photographs are to come down the next day instead of the agreed upon two weeks. Tom is crushed, but it's actually pretty glamorous if you think about it. It's refreshing, in these days of blatant capitalist excess, to hear someone go off on a good old-fashioned, Marxist rant, declaring death to capitalist pigs and yearning for the new revolution of the proletariat.
Yuri Gorbachov is a big bear of a man with a deep, growling laugh. He's a confirmed bachelor — if you know what I mean — and I promise to look him up next time I'm in New York. If you know what I mean. And I know that you do.