Blab February 2001
Published Feb 01, 2000So I never told you about London. It was kind of annoying. The purpose of my trip this time although increasingly the word "purpose" seems too purposeful to be applied to my life was to speak at the Institute of Contemporary Art at a day-long seminar on the issue of art and pornography, a subject on which I am apparently supposed to have become some sort of authority. And as it was all expenses paid, and I had more time than money, as usual, I didn't bother to say no.
I decide to go a few days early to catch the London showing of the latest Terry Richardson photographic exhibition, the same one that I caught in New York last year at the Alleged Gallery. I thought maybe I could weasel my way into getting a show at the same space, but the Shine Gallery where it was held turned out to be more hoity-toity than hoi polloi, and thereby not particularly suitable for a low trash faggot ex-farm boy like myself who's never managed to completely get the farm out of the boy.
Out of all the quasi-illustrious speakers to be participating at the dirty little ICA seminar Dutch photog Anton Corbijn, eccentric painter Marlene Dumas, British novelist Jim Flint I've been paired off with American porn legend Candida Royale, who is famous for graduating from conventional adult films to pornography made from a woman's perspective. Use keyword "foreplay." She often incorporates real life couples who are a little older than the average porn star engaged in acts that are almost embarrassingly intimate. It would appear to the casual observer that Candida's movies, which are somewhat earnest and at times almost instructive in tone, and my own, which are a little more, shall we say, world-weary and fetishistic, have little in common. But on some basic level we share an outsider identity in the porn industry, both of us at least trying to accomplish something a little different, a tad political: we're both sexual idealists at heart.
I convince Candida to come to London a day early to be my date for the Richardson show, and we are also accompanied by my oldest and dearest friend in London, Johnny Volcano, who is now a rising photographer in his own right. We arrive at the very exclusive event in the midst of a throng of black cabs and limousines. Flashing our engraved invitations to the door people, we elbow our way into the crowded event. There's Terry, sporting his usual goofy-chic, an old moth-eaten suit, his trademark mutton chops and clunky aviator glasses. He introduces me to Stella McCartney; Bryan Adams hovers in the bg. I snap some shots. Yawn. Excuse me.
The show is a wall of photographic flesh that reads like a large colour reproduction of the contents of Terry's little black book. Speculation is rampant about how many of the female body parts looming over us are sexual conquests of the artiste, and whether or not that might constitute some form of exploitation. Gee, maybe feminism is coming back after all, and wasn't just another phase, like the hula hoop. The self-portrait of Terry's not inconsiderable boner it appears to be about a niner which hung so conspicuously in the midst of the girl portraits at the New York show, has been relegated here in stuffy London to the gallery's bathroom.
Oh, there's Mick Jagger. He looks like Iggy Pop in 20 years. Apparently he's chaperoning his daughter Jade, who will be involved in a car accident tomorrow.
After the show I (and 50 of Terry's closest friends) am invited to the exclusive, private Chelsea Arts Club. In the front of the club are a bunch of old men with Walrus moustaches and muskets and spotted hounds sitting around smoking Sherlock Holmes pipes and grumbling about us bounders who have taken over the big heated tent in the back yard for a dinner party. Terry sits like Jesus at a long table with the junior McCartney at his side, acolytes, gallerists, and fashionistas on either side, a Last Supper tableau. But unlike Jesus, who at least enjoyed a nice glass of red wine from time to time, Terry is currently sober, and has been for almost a year. He had, in fact, just been at a London AA meeting earlier that day. I should have been attending a GA meeting myself Guinness Anonymous but I had been too hung over to get off the couch I have been surfing on.
Nothing much else happens in London because nothing much else is happening in London. It's just all about MacDonna now, and her new husband, Mr. Ciccone. Johnny and his new boyfriend and I hang out in Old Town, which was the hippest part of London five minutes ago. We drink Guinness. I go to see the controversial Apocalypse Show, and particularly enjoy the Mike Kelly video because it's the most homophobic piece of art I have ever seen. I especially like the part wherein the evil fag sits the pathetic fag down in front of the gas oven and they start watching it like it's a television set and then an diaphanous vision of Sylvia Plath appears out of the blackness and the evil fag encourages the pathetic fag to reach out and take Sylvia's hand in heaven, which he does, but then the evil fag grabs the pathetic fag's ass and says, "You may be holding Sylvia Plath's hand in heaven, but on earth your ass is mine." Now that's my idea of good art.
Well I get back to Toronto and don't feel like doing anything except drugs and sex as usual, so I figure I might as well be doing it in New York. I can't even remember what my real excuse to go is, because of course I always have to have an excuse. I can't just live. Oh yeah, it's to attend a lah-de-dah Index magazine dinner party held at the trendy new Ian Schrager/Phillipe Starke hotel called the Hudson on West 58th St. The party is designed to impress some new corporate sponsors, so the publisher, famous artist Peter Halley, has invited celebrities like Molly Ringwald and Goldie, who looks so sexy smoking his fat Cuban cigar, like a black muscle Daddy bear. I would love to be on my knees in front of him wearing my bejewelled knee pads, let me tell you.
Later I materialise at Gavin Brown's Passerby bar and proceed to do a shit-load of coke with Gavin, the editor of Vice magazine. It's okay though, because he's soon putting out an entire cocaine issue of his mag, so we just file it under anthropology. The magazine will feature a photo by my friend Ginch, who I'm staying with, of our friend Dash, the infamous eighteen-year-old trust fund graffiti artist dreamboat, snorting coke. Although Gavin is going to Costa Rica with his girlfriend dark and early the next morning, he drags us to a couple more bars and we gab until four in the morning. He's a crazy Canadian, like myself.
As I am getting old and infirm, I can only party every second night now, so two nights later I attend with Gus Van Sant the sneak preview of Summer Phoenix's new French movie, her star debut. It's called Esther Kahn, a torturously long period piece about an abused French peasant girl who becomes a famous stage actress with severe masochistic tendencies. It kind of gets painful in the middle, but by the end it's very engrossing, and Summer is, as they say, a revelation. Gus had told me earlier about a dream he'd had at least he thinks it's a dream in which our mutual friend Harmony Korine entered a party he was at but didn't see or speak to him. So before the movie we both see Harmony, but he doesn't see us, and then coincidentally we end up sitting two people down from him in the same row in the movie theatre. Gus and I both say hi, but Harmony looks right at both of us like we aren't there, and then looks away and doesn't say a word. We can't figure out if it's really him or if he's some sort of an impostor or simalacrum or hologram or whatnot. I later hear he's on these dope blockers that turn you into a living zombie, but who knows what's the truth anymore. I don't.
At the party afterward at the Black and White club, hosted by Summer's boyfriend Casey Affleck, I finally meet my fan Michael Stipe after all these years. I know he's my fan because the guy that designed my web site used to stalk him and that's how he heard about me to approach me about designing my site in the first place. The first think Michael says to me is, "I've never said this to anyone before, but you're taller than I thought you would be." I take it as a compliment, of course, regardless of whether it's intended as one or not. He's a little queenier than I thought he'd be in a good way and I pose with him for some pictures and so on. Gus and his new protégé and I get really drunk on martinis as usual and we end up at the Bar in the East Village where I introduce Gus to Margaret-Taylor Meade, the Warhol superstar, whom he's never met before, so he's all excited because he's such a big Warhol fan. We try to go to an after hours bar that serves liquor after 4 a.m., but the doorman says, "Taylor can come in, but you two can't." So Taylor, who is soused, stumbles in and leaves us standing there. Gus thinks this is really funny.
Two nights later I go to the Fischer-Spooner Xmas party with Klaus Biesenbach, a big art curator from PS 1. We end up at a party of a gay porno magazine publisher, getting really stoned and watching a special about Las Vegas show girls on television. Ryan shows up tanked as usual and starts to take his clothes off, and I take a whole bunch of pictures of his big, oozing cold sore which he doesn't care about because of his drunken state. But it's okay, a hundred percent of the population has herpes now anyway. It's a proven fact.