Sunday, September 19, 2010

Only Love Can Break Your Heart


I forgot to tell you my little New York story, my last drunken hurrah in New York story, one that took place in December of 1992, when I went to visit Danny. I had my last drink some time after Christmas that year, a Christmas I have absolutely no recollection of, (if you're a reader of my blog, you know that's unusual) so this was my last party, as it were, and it was a doozy...

Danny was living with his friend Michael, near the top of a ten floor walk up. It was a large, shabby looking building, in the lower east side, and theirs was a tiny little two bedroom apartment. The building felt smaller than it should be; walls and ceilings were cramped in and close, and everything looked covered in the dust and grime of a thousand broken dreams. The stairwell was also scaled down, built for the size humans were a hundred years ago, and deep grooves were worn into the marble stairs, where in my imagination, hundreds of salesmen trudged up and down over the years to hundreds of deaths, and where slipper clad old ladies carried their shopping-bagged burdens til the day they were found partially eaten by their unfed cats. That was one damned depressing looking apartment building.
Was it built this way? I thought to myself, the first time I climbed the stairs with Danny. Or was it carved up and shrunk down, to make as many apartments as they could, out of the original apartments?
Opening the door into the two bedroom place they shared though, the lightness of the walls and floors, and the large, unshaded windows letting in gallons of sunlight drove out any sense of bleakness, and it actually looked like a nice place to live.
Danny covered his bedroom walls with fashion pictures that inspired him, porn, and his artwork, a picture of which I still have, and in typical New Yorker fashion, he made use of every square inch of his room, giving it that 'early storage space' look. He was determined to become a fashion illustrator, and kept at it for a couple years, inspired by Warhol, and fueled by his friend Bonnie's success, and he drew up quite a collection for his portfolio, some of which he gave to me: Danny, circa 1991

(Now that I write this, I'm remembering I did spend Christmas of '92 with Danny in New York; I mistakenly thought I took this trip before Christmas.)

Alphabet City, where he lived, was still kind of dangerous back then, it seemed to me, and at night I would literally run down the street til I found a cab, but during the day, when the sun light shone bright on public school's late nineteenth century façade, I was more relaxed. I remember reading about Alphabet City in a Blondie interview from the 80s, and presenting it to my ninth grade English class as part of an oral project, because I thought it was the coolest name ever, and vowed to myself to one day live there. Now I wasn't so sure.
Danny trotted that portfolio around New York for a few months, never having much luck, and shared with me many depressing experiences he had hearing the word 'no'. I heard his many stories of how unfashionable he found the fashion world; the bowls of junk food on desks, the bad skin and hair, the sloppy dressers, and the piles and piles of crap strewn about in the designer's and fashion mag's offices: lotions, make up, perfume, bags, shoes, sunglasses, anything you can think of, sitting around half used and discarded, all given freely by companies vying for a little fashion mag ink. What he found most depressing though, was the greedy gleam in the eyes of the staffers who saw his talents, and wanted him to leave his work overnight, or wanted to take his portfolio to another room, where he knew it would be plagiarized. He knew it for a fact because he saw an idea of his in a mag a month after they had turned him down. I loved his work, and did my best to make him keep at it, knowing in my heart the depths of his talent.

My flight got me into New York Christmas Eve, and as Danny hadn't a key to loan me, I met him at the restaurant he worked then, Elephant and Castle. It was small and quiet, and he served me a lovely meal. He liked waiting there, for the most part, but his manager got on his nerves, but in true Wickie-Poo fashion, he turned it into a comedy. That night, an infamous line was born, though I had just missed it's arrival, I knew we would be saying it to each other for years to come:
"Brian! Cheng, my manager over there just said the best thing to me! I was talking to Tracey, the other server, and I didn't know it but Cheng was standing behind me the whole time, and after about ten minutes, he yells 'Talking! Talking! Talking! You ne'er shut up! If you no stop talking so goddamn much Danny, I have to fire you!" in his heavy Chinese accent, making us jump and bust out laughing! That's all we've been saying for the past hour! 'Talking talking talking! I ne'er shut up!'"
"But didn't he say he was going to fire you?" I asked.
"Oh, he won't! He loves me, and the customers do too."
To this day, whenever I meet someone who likes to talk, those words echo in my mind...
Danny told me a lot of E&C stories that night: Koons (NSFW!) came in twice a week, getting so wasted and grabby, the staffers begged Danny for him to wait on him.
Oh shit! It's the Artist! Danny, you deal with him! Please! they begged.
Actually, none of them knew who he was, just that he was a some artist, and one day on that trip I bought a Tashen book of his porno art, where Danny recognized him.
Oh, it's the artist. He said, flipping through the book, nonplussed. And one of Danny's heroes, Franco Moschino, came in not long before he died, and Danny saw a glimmer of recognition in Moschino's eyes, because Danny had sent him dozens of pictures of himself and his work over the years. But, alas, although they are kindred spirits, Moschino kept his distance, and even though he waited on him, they hardly spoke.

(On a side note, I must tell you another quick Moschino story. I've been looking for a while now on ebay trying to find a magazine with an ad for his eponymous perfume, to use as the top photo for this story. He launched the perfume in '89 or so, and for some reason, any fashion mag from that time is now twenty bucks. It's an expensive gamble for me to take, not knowing if there is a copy of the ad I can scan. For whatever reason, I can't find it on a web image search anywhere, except for this lone small picture:


I really need a larger version of it. I'll keep searching. I'm also looking for an image of his other infamous ad, one for his clothing line. It's a model shot by Fabrizio Ferri in black and white silhouette, with a large model airplane perched on her head as a hat. I Can't find them any where! [Alright, I'll take a picture of the Ferri ad from a fashion book I have, but it's not the same...]
Anyway, I was walking down Halsted one day in 1990, and saw a crude xerox of that Moschino perfume ad taped to a light pole, with a big black X over it, and the words Women Aren't This Stupid! scrawled on the bottom. You see, in the ad a woman was drinking the perfume through a straw, even though the text proclaimed: For External Use Only!
I saw that image as a satiristic a take on the days of prohibition, when Chanel No. 5 was a hit, and women reportedly drank their perfume, because at the time France made it with potato alcohol, so it wouldn't kill you to do so. I also had that image on a t shirt, which I got a Marshall Field's as a gift with purchase, when the perfume first came out. I knocked people over to get that tshirt! I about fainted when I saw it. But someone was so offended by Moshino's ad, they wanted the world to know. God, how I wish I would have snatched that flyer off the pole for my scrap book, and how I wish I still had that t-shirt, even though I wore it til it hung on me in rags...)


After dropping off my luggage at the apartment when his shift ended, we walked around Chinatown my first night there, buying up fake Rolexes, fake Chanel button earrings and t shirts, and buying vials of ginseng (the only hangover cure, in my book) and weird flavored candy, like chicken soup and orange pekoe. We scoured the surplus stores on Canal Street looking for anything we could turn into a club look, and hung out for a while with Pat Field in her old 8th Street store, trying everything on, and buying more than we could afford, because her stuff is so great and she is so much fun, and running into Steven Sprouse on the way out, who gave us the once over and a smile. You could see infinity into those blue eyes of his. They were just startling.
The first club we went to was Pyramid, because I had never been there, and I had wanted to go since 1984, when I first heard that Nina Hagen song. It was in his neighborhood, so it was first on our list. We were very under dressed, and almost froze jogging the few blocks to the club, on that chilly December night, forgoing the responsibility of a clunky jacket that would only get in the way on the dance floor. Danny wore an outfit entirely of his own creation: sheer black jeans worn with a sheer black jockstrap, and a sheer black tank top under a sheer black t shirt, a Mr. T quantity of rosaries, all topped off with Cherries In The Snow lipstick, and a large white rabbit fur Russian hat.
I was still in my "I want to be Jane Forth from the early seventies!" mode at the time, and wore my silk lined black bell bottomed wide lapeled suit, and a tenné surfer boy hair do, which Danny found most appalling. The only thing he liked about the 70s was that it got him to the 80s. I also debuted my latest hobby, and wore a multi-stranded red and black beaded choker I made especially for the trip. I made many of them back then, usually accented with an ankh or Maltese cross. I made an all pearl one for Danny, and he said, to my surprise, I should try to sell them at Saks. I created them with beads from thrift store necklaces, and wire from Ace Hardware, and thought them too indelicate for mass appeal, but he disagreed.
Behind the bar at Pyramid early that Christmas Eve was what I would call a living sculpture, slinging cocktails in a hooded white shroud, covered from head to toe in rhinestone brooches, silver Christmas tree decorations, and blinking white lights, looking like a gay gay gay version of the ghost of Christmas Past. Only in New York! He greeted us with a hearty Hello girls!, his surprisingly baritone voice echoing around the empty room. We had the place mostly to ourselves, for in New York I've noticed, and London too, if you're not at the right club at the right time, you're alone...

This post is getting very long, so I'll tell you the rest of the story....later.


St Etienne
some of my early 90s illustrations: Michaelangelo and Boy George
(and yes, I sent George many versions of that illustration, back in the day)
I can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the Moschino ad is now in my photo collection to the right. I've been wanting it there for years!

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