Studio 54 Still Looks Like the Best Club of All Time
When you combine an expert, artistically-motivated photographer and late 1970s New York City’s most insanely fucked up, glamorous, hedonistic, and beautiful people, you get some pretty phenomenal photos.
Images from Studio 54 are almost commonplace these days—what with all the articles, documentaries, and biographies of the super club—but something about the pictures Tod Papageorge took there seem to raise the subjects to a new level. They’re not just partygoers, but some sort of weird, artsy, celebrity, cocaine-and-champagne-fueled Dionysian cult clambering around in dinner suits and ball gowns.
Papageorge—who’s perhaps best known for American Sports, 1970: Or How We Spent the War in Vietnam, a piece of searing anti-war commentary—took the time to talk to me about the images in his new book, Studio 54, his motives for taking them, and seeing his work in the club as offering a cohesive view of the world we live in.
VICE: Most biographies of you, or descriptions of your early work, seem to focus on the “street photography” label. Is that a term you’re happy with?
Tod Papageorge: Interesting question. No, it’s not. It was just the work of a photographer, working in New York City. I’m a little less sensitive to the designation now, as I get older and more benign in my temperament. But back then it was a red flag—not just for me, but certainly for Garry Winogrand and the other photographers in our crew. It seemed to be condescending, or at least that was the way we responded to it: that it was a condescending way of describing what we were doing. We thought that what we were doing was making photographs.
It’s what all photographers were doing at that time—going out into the world and capturing some piece of it, whether photographing a mountain like Ansel Adams, or Harry Callahan taking photos of his wife. “Street photography,” it seemed to us, was not a very useful designation. There’s a famous issue of Aperture Magazine called “Snapshot,” which I had some part in putting together. It asked this same question to a lot of photographers and their replies were all negative. Like mine, right now.
Right. So, aside from the unfortunate label that was dropped on you…
Coincidentally, I was looking over some work I did in the 80s, when was making the Studio 54 pictures. I had bought a new medium format camera called a Makina Plaubel 67 that made a slightly squarer negative. Back then, when I was walking in New York I made a study of the debris thrown in the street, and over time accumulated a certain number of pictures. Recently I looked over and edited them, with the idea of doing a book, possibly. The name of the book would be Street Photographs—literally photos of debris on the street. That’s what I think of the designation; that’s how I think it should be properly used.
Norway’s North Sea Divers Lost Their Minds Over Oil
Norway used to be a country of fishermen, lumberjacks, and guys who were really good at skiing across barren fields for days on end. The rest of Scandinavia looked down their noses at their simple whale-eating cousins. Half the Swedish joke book is made up of stories and one-liners that boil down to: “Norwegians are dumb. LOL.” In the land of black metal, it was said, everyone drank moonshine and fought in the street just to stave off the boredom. The Swedes are still making jokes about those hick Norwegians and my friend Tom, who is from somewhere near the Arctic circle, says the whole ‘fights ‘n’ moonshine’ thing is still how they entertain themselves there, but these days the Swedish jokes are full of envy and the moonshine drinking is just for kicks.
That’s because Norway, once one of Europe’s poorest countries, was changed beyond recognition by the arrival of that most precious and deadly of modern commodities: oil. From 1969 onward, huge oil and gas deposits were discovered in the North Sea. The great ocean depths along the Norwegian coast kept the oil from being piped ashore. To lay a pipeline this far down, the Norwegian authorities financed a series of test dives, with the American diving industry helping develop safe methods to allow divers to work up to 400 meters beneath the waves. Vast sums of money lay in wait for anyone who could exploit these resources. Here, in the North, was a new wild west.
At first, foreign companies dominated exploration of the Norwegian continental shelf. These companies were responsible for developing the country’s first oil and gas fields, but in 1972 the Norwegian government created Statoil and the principle of 50 percent state participation in each production license was established. On June 10, 1981, the Norwegian parliament approved development plans for a pipeline that would take oil and gas from the cold North Sea to the mainland. The construction was in the hands of the State. Choosing to pipe the petroleum resources to the mainland made Norway one of the world’s wealthiest countries.
Alice Cooper’s Dead Drunk Friends
by Alice Cooper, as told to Legs McNeil
I first met Alice Cooper at a party on Park Avenue in the mid-1970s. It was really one of those, “I’m not worthy” moments. Alice was one of the few guys I truly respected back then, because he’d made it on his own terms: by “driving a stake into the heart of the peace-and-love Generation,” and by playing delinquent rock ‘n’ roll for punks like me. That night on Park Avenue, Alice invited me to interview him, so we sat down for a long session at his place in Bel Air a few days later. Alice was deeply disturbed by what he’d heard about some of the punk bands, telling me, “I don’t get this scene, I mean, do they wanna make money or don’t they?”
I explained that yes, they did want to make money, but they wanted to do it on their own terms like he’d done. Alice was relieved that the punks wanted to make money—and so we’ve remained friends ever since. He’s just finishing a new album of cover songs by all his old friends from the Hollywood Vampires, the old drinking club he conducted at the Rainbow in LA that included Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Ringo, Micky Dolenz, Keith Moon, and Jim Morrison, among other rock luminaries, I called him up to talk about some of his old pals.
When we put the Hollywood Vampires together, it was sort of a tribute to the old Hollywood drinking clubs, like when John Barrymore, Errol Flynn, and W.C. Fields would drink every night. So I said, “Well, we do that anyways, so let’s just go down to the Rainbow and drink…”
Pretty soon it was a thing called the Hollywood Vampires, and we would go up to the top of the Rainbow and sit there and drink. Every night it was Harry Nilsson, Bernie Taupin, Micky Dolenz, myself, and whoever else would show up. Ringo was there once in awhile. Keith Moon came when he was in town.
John Lennon would come too. He and Harry Nilsson were the best of friends, ya know? So if Harry was in town, he was always with John, and they’d come over. He was great! John was just another one of the guys, ya know?
But the really fun thing to do was to see what Keith Moon was gonna wear that night. One night he’d be in an Adolf Hitler outfit and the next he’d be the Queen of England. I mean he would go all out, Keith was the full package, and the greatest drummer I’ve ever seen in my life.
Keith was everybody’s best friend. When he was in town, he would stay at my house for a week, then go to Harry Nilsson’s for a week, and then stay at Ringo’s for a week. There was nobody like him. I always tell people, 30% of what you’ve heard about me is true, 30% of what you hear about Iggy is true, 30% of Prince is true, whatever… but everything you’ve heard about Keith Moon is true.
House of Jealous Lovers
Between 1969 and 1981, the Bandit soul and funk label put out some of the choicest cuts Chicago’s South Side had to offer. It was run by Arrow Brown, a charismatic, womanizing hustler in a black fedora, the youngest of 22 children in a family originally from Mississippi. In Chicago, he got married and did the 9-to-5 thing, but it wasn’t for him. As his town’s scene exploded, he decided that music was where he’d make his fortune. He didn’t want to work too hard though, and finding that, with his languid smile and ability to exploit weakness, he had a peculiar hold over women, he established a harem on Martin Luther King Drive. A revolving cast of women lived there, did his chores, and funded his musical exploits with their welfare checks. What he established was a personality cult in which he was the revered figure and his acolytes were his wives, daughters, and anyone who happened to be sent to him to make it in the soul game.
Despite being one of the most polygamous men in the US, he was a jealous guy who couldn’t stand it when any of his women became too attached to other men. This was to be the downfall of many of his groups, none of whom really hit the big time. In the end, Arrow’s women left him and he died alone. His daughter, Tridia, was in the most successful of these groups, the Majestic Arrows (Arrow’s acts tended to have Arrow in their name), as well as in a later group, Touch of Love. With a new anthology of Bandit’s music being released by Chicago’s Numero Group, I got in touch with Tridia to find out the real story of Arrow—one that involves guns, surveillance, and underage sex.
VICE: When did you start spending time with your dad?
Tridia Clark: I saw my dad when I was two years old, but I didn’t see him after that until I was 21, when my mother found out he was a record producer and got in touch with him because she knew I loved music. This was in the 70s. He had a group called the Majestic Arrows and he told me that I should try out for them. I rehearsed with them, joined them, and we turned out pretty good until we broke up.
The Majestic Arrows was split up because two members had been getting a little intimate with each other, right?
Dad had a policy about no fraternizing, but of course he was pretty outgoing himself. There was a young lady and a young man in the group who got together and they were both married. Dad didn’t like that. But that didn’t really break the group up. What broke it up was that we did a show with a promoter who my dad didn’t like. They’d had some kind of discrepancy with each other over payment. We went there to do the show and we didn’t get paid. The rest of the group went back to my father’s house and when I got there, they told me that he’d got his gun out, shot over their heads a whole lot, and that the group was broken up.
Did Arrow not see that his “no fraternizing” policy was hypocritical, given that he was living with numerous different women?
Well, he was the leader and that’s the way it went.
David Bowie Stole My Suicide Record, So I Ripped the Hubcaps Off His Limo – Please Kill Me
Above: Legs and Joey Ramone around the time this story takes place. Photo by Tom Hearn
[Editor’s Note: Hi, millennials! We’d like to interrupt whatever Vine you’re working on and introduce you to our friend Legs. Maybe you’ve heard of him—he’s responsible for a little book called Please Kill Me, which is the best book on punk rock ever written. Noisey was filming with him a few weeks ago, and we convinced him to do a little writing for us. Enjoy!]
In my ongoing attempt to rebuild my vinyl collection, I was recently perusing a Brooklyn hipster record store and came across the new David Bowie album, The Next Day. I’ve been enjoying quite a few lesser-known Bowie cuts lately, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and really get wild. I bought the record.
This is a real feat for me, as I’ve never bought a record on faith alone. I’d been hearing good things about the record, and I was curious to hear what an artist like Bowie had to say at the end of his career or—if the rumors are true about his having cancer—at the end of his life.
While I was paying for the record, I was reminded of Mick Jagger’s famous quote about Bowie: “Never wear a new pair of shoes in front of him.” Jagger’s implication was either that Bowie was a notorious thief (of ideas, trends, or the latest fashions), or that he’d run right out and get it in order to claim ultra-hipper-than-thou-trendsetting status.” Yeah, be the first one on the block with a new, red-rooster, unisex cut and ten-inch, sparkling, platform shoes!
In 1974, the Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky set about turning the classic sci-fi novelDune into a major motion picture. He recruited Orson Welles, Pink Floyd, H. R. Giger, David Carradine, Salvador Dali, and Mick Jagger to the project, completed 3,000 pieces of story art, and spent millions of dollars preparing for production. Investors balked when he asked for more—and when they realized the script would account for a meandering 14-hour film—and it was ultimately shelved.
Read about it here
The Richard Hell Interview
Richard Hell—legendary punk rock iconoclast, intrepid novelist, poet, and now memoirist—is lounging on his couch in the cozy East Village pad he’s called home since 19 fucking 75. Considering how brutally forthcoming Richard is about his drug use in his new autobiography I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp (“Thirty years later, I still have the scars on my left forearm”), it’s a surprise that he looks significanty younger than his 63 years. His litany of feats since he escaped to New York are a total mind-blow.
In Tramp, Hell vividly recounts his gun-toting cowboy dreams as a young miscreant and his rabble-rousing school-dropout years before hitting New York City and altering its landscape. He helped create the punk template with a fuck you attitude, birthed anarchic style with tattered, thrift-store threads, botched hairstyles that Malcolm McLaren later swiped for the Sex Pistols, started Television with Tom Verlaine, put CBGB and Max’s Kansas City on the punk rock map, wrote era-defining tunes like “Blank Generation” with his band the Voidoids, survived life as a junkie, and penned Burroughs-level dirty sex ‘n’ track-marked novels and poetry.
Hell’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp is epic badassness. He hides little about his life’s trajectory and his disdain for Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, his undying love for Dee Dee Ramone and Bob Quine, the drugs, the music, and the debauchery. Just don’t ask him about being Jewish and what he thought of Marquee Moon. He’d much rather talk about his dick.
VICE: When did you start writing I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp?
Richard Hell: Right after my last novel (Godlike) came out in 2006. It’s been a long haul. But I did a bunch of things—other projects—as I was doing it, too. Still, it was a slog. It’s twice as long as anything I’ve written before. And also more confusing. It gets delicate to write about yourself [laughs].
I assume it’s much easier to write fiction.
Yeah, yeah. It’s easier to write fiction. You’re right. But it was a long process figuring out what to keep and what not to keep. Things are coming back to me that I forgot to mention [laughs]. Still, it hits you when you’re working on a book like that, that it will be easy enough to spend 600 pages describing one day.
But you kept journals over the years. Did those help in putting the book together?
I did, yeah, but I was never really systematic about it. They were really useful. But it’s not as if I could wonder what I was doing some month from looking at my journals. I’d go three months without writing anything in there and then just open it up and just write a page. But they were helpful. They did nail down dates and did also just show me exactly what was going on in my head.
When you started writing Tramp, was the book already bought?
Oh, I never do that. I’ll write the book, then I’ll go look for a publisher.
So, there weren’t any publishers on your ass to write an autobiography?
Are you kidding me? Noooo! In fact, I was turned down by probably about six or seven publishers. There were basically two offers. The book was in sloppier shape then. I did send it out because I was so tired of working on it. I really OD’d on it. I was nauseated and I just wanted to find a publisher—just to get a little charge goin’, ya know? [laughs]. But I got the ideal publisher for it, and it worked out great. No regrets, really.
Did you plan on Tramp being your next project after you were done with Godlike?
No, I had to figure that out. I thought writing Tramp was gonna be easy in comparison because I figured I had the… narrative… so that solves a lot of problems. Then I’d just try to figure out how to write good sentences. It sure turned out to be a lot more complicated. I kept getting turned around and all the fuckin’ internal turmoil figuring how to regard my own self… I mean, that’s really confusing.
Did you feel like by writing the book, you were penning a de facto obituary?
No, it’s nothing like an obituary. An obituary is just a really flattering curriculum vitae. That wasn’t the issue.
When you were writing the book, were you cognizant about other musicians writing memoirs, like Patti Smith (Just Kids) and Keith Richards (Life)…
I can’t see this interview in VICE magazine.
Why? OK, I’ll ask you some more provocative questions [laughs].
Yeah, you’re supposed to ask me about my dick or something.
Yeah, you’re right. Who’d you bang?
STANLEY KUBRICK WANTED A TASTE OF TERRY SOUTHERN’S LAMB-PIT
I love fucking Terry Southern. That came out wrong. I never fucked the writer, at least not proper fucked. But I have been fucking him intellectually, off and on, for a few decades now. By that I mean I’ve read his literary work: Flash and Filigree, Candy, The Magic Christian, and Blue Movie, on several occasions, going deeper each time. But no matter how deep I go, Southern’s satiric send-ups, lyrical lines, crazy characters, and demented dialogue always leave me hard. I never fully come to a satisfying climax. I’m always left with the feeling that I could go deeper. That I could explore more of the birth canal that is Terry Southern’s sardonic vision of America.
So, just the other day, after eating a few dozen oysters and taking some Ritalin, I read Lee Hill’s biography of that writer I love fucking so much called A Grand Guy. I mean that writer I fucking love so much. And, sure enough, it acted as the satisfying climax to the intellectual stimulation Southern’s writing induces. It’s the kind of stimulation that makes you hard for days, novel after novel, the kind that only a grand guy like Southern has the ability to induce.
He induces it through the TV quiz-show called What’s my Disease? In Flash and Filigree where a panel of semi-celebrities ask questions of a diseased contestant until they discover the undisclosed ailment and reveal it to an audience that then lets out “a great audible gasp of astonished horror,” before “bursting into applause.” He induces it through the beautiful and innocent title character in Candy when a hunchback buries his hump between her “legs as she hunched wildly, pulling open her little labias in an absurd effort to get it in her,” because, as she tells herself, “it means so much to him.” He induces it through the Dog Show scene in The Magic Christian where Guy Grand, the eccentric millionaire Southern wished he was but wasn’t because of the IRS, buys the three largest kennel clubs on the eastern seaboard so he can introduce in disguise a dog named Claw, not Claude, that wasn’t “a dog at all, but some kind of terrible black panther or dyed jaguar… so that before the day was out, he had not only brought chaos in to the formal proceedings, but had actually destroyed about half the ‘Best of Breed.’”
Even though Southern was indebted to the IRS for most of his life and, as a result, never got to pull off the pranks of The Magic Christian’s Guy Grand, who spends millions a year indulging in his hobby of making it ‘hot’ for the entire world, Southern did manage to make it hot for himself: his satisfying climactic biography, A Grand Guy, reads like some kind of biblical story of a literary action hero who jumps through decades and influences generations. Altering his mind with the likes of William Burroughs, he was one of the most head-bobbin’ Beats in Greenwich Village. As one of the original contributors to The Paris Review, both his writing and his crabs were alive and well in that postwar Paris literary scene of the 1950s. While at the center of London’s Swinging 60s, he hit the road with The Rolling Stones and, according to Tom Wolfe, invented what is now called New Journalism. Although Denis Hopper was too hopped-up to remember, Southern wrote the majority of Easy Rider and was responsible for the quality that came to be expected from American films in the 70s. Then, in the 80s, he wrote for Saturday Night Live when both the laughs and cocaine were still pure and powerful. Finally, just before his death at the beginning of the 90s, he lectured at several esteemed universities where I imagine he spread the last of his seeds like a fiend.
Kaufman on Kaufman: An Interview with Andy’s Brother Michael
When I was a kid I used to love Taxi. It had been cancelled for a number of years by the time I got into it, but I watched the syndicated episodes whenever they came on Nick at Nite. Thinking back on it now, most of the characters—even the ones who went on to be megastars—are blurry and ill-defined in my memory. Andy Kaufman’s portrayal of the bizarre immigrant cab mechanic Latka, however, is crystal clear. That’s not surprising. As with everything Kaufman did, Latka was memorable because he was so damn unique. He was miles away from any other character on television—on Taxi, he sometimes seemed to be on a different, more surreal show—and Kaufman was just as far away from any other human in real life. Whether he was standing alone on stage nervously playing the Mighty Mouse theme song and lip-syncing only the chorus, orwrestling women and declaring himself the World Intergender Wrestling Champion, or fucking with Letterman decades before Joaquin Phoenix, he was one of a kind, which is why he is still so widely respected today. Oh, and he was also Elvis’s favorite Elvis impersonator.
On Saturday, an exhibition presented by Jonathan Berger, titled On Creating Reality, opens at Maccarone gallery in the West Village. The show will feature a boatload of Andy’s personal effects, as well as a rotating cast of his close friends and family members, at least one of whom will be at the gallery at all times. These people—who are part of the exhibition themselves—will be available to chat with visitors and offer a unique look into the life of one of contemporary culture’s most enigmatic figures. In preparation of the show, and because I am a gigantic Kaufman fanboy, I called up Michael Kaufman, Andy’s brother, to talk about the show and his brother’s life.
VICE: Hi, Michael. I just wanted to ask a little bit about the show. Do you know what sort of artifacts are going to be there?
Michael Kaufman:I know some of them. His most recognized Elvis jacket will be there, as well as his famous pink Foreign Man jacket that he would take off to become Elvis, and also the mock shirt he tore away. Andy was an author and we published three books for him after he died. Not only will the books be there—that’s not a big deal—but you’ll be able to see handwriting of Andy’s. The World Intergender Wrestling Belt will be there. His 11th grade report card, which has a lot of red on it.
How did he do?
One of his 11th grade teachers said to my mother, “The only reason I’m passing your son is I don’t want to take a gamble at having him in my class again next year.” Also in the collection is a wonderful series of communications where Andy went to visit a girl who was dying. She was a fan of his, and when his plane was delayed in Chicago on its way to Washington, he drove out to Demotte, Indiana, to visit her. Word got out at the hospital and Andy wrestled three people. I have pictures. They were supposedly nurses and maybe one patient’s mother. It’s the only time he ever lost a match. He let them beat him. And then there’s a letter from the mother, thanking Andy for doing that. Seven weeks after his visit, she died. That whole correspondence will be there. Andy never told anyone about that. I only knew about it because I went through the stuff.
What was it like being Andy’s brother? Were there times when you saw a bit he was doing on TV and didn’t know if it was real or not?
Yes. One time I told him not to let me know what was really going on, because when people asked me questions I didn’t want to lie to them.
Can you tell me about one of his gags that duped you?
A couple of months after I told him not to tell me anything anymore, he was on the TV show Fridays.