The Last Blab December 2003
Published Jan 01, 2006New York's a go-go and everything tastes right, especially the green tea tiramisu I've just discovered at an East Village sushi joint. Besides describing Iggy Pop, David Bowie's "Jean Genie," which keeps popping into my head, is supposed to be a reference to Jean Genet, but if Genet got a load of how Manhattan has become a gated community for the rich, he'd probably hightail it straight back to Palestine to slam for Islam. My humble efforts at carrying on Genet's radical tradition by having a pornographic exhibition of photographs featuring hot Muslims and cool terrorists feel like pissing into the winds of conservatism that whip like dust devils around this pitiless city.
On the day of my show I just loll around the apartment I'm staying at on 1st Avenue and 11th Street, trying to keep a lid on the butterflies in my stomach. I always hate that dreadful feeling of anticipation before a public screening of a movie or debut of a photo show. You're always afraid that no one is going to show up, or worse, that everyone is going to show up. But even though I read recently that they have a pill now for stage fright, I wouldn't take it. It's just something you have to soldier through, like Demi Moore in G.I. Jane.
When I arrive by cab about a half an hour late for my own opening at John Connelly Presents on West 26th Street between 10th and 11th, the throngs have already arrived. The gallery is on the 10th floor of the West Chelsea Arts Building, which can be most conveniently accessed by a rickety old freight elevator that has to be operated by an ethnic elevator man. I'm forced to squeeze into the packed elevator with the very people who will soon be mercilessly perusing my work. Thus, the antique elevator, with its wrought-iron flourishes and clanking mechanisms, is beginning to feel like some kind of torture device.
But once I step into the gallery, the butterflies are free. It really is better to have hoards of people than hardly anyone at all, and it looks like almost everybody has decided to come. All the hot young photographers are here Xevi, Slava, Ryan, Miguel, Terrence, etc. and some of the hot older ones, like Jack Pierson, too. Peter Halley, the famous artist and publisher of Index, drops in, as does brilliant Bob Nichas, its former editor, who apparently hasn't seen or spoken to Peter since he left the magazine several years ago. Nothing like a nice festering feud to liven up an art opening, although unfortunately nothing seems to come of it. The goddess of the black arts Kembra Pfahler arrives with tantalising Tatum O'Neal in tow, so I snap some pictures of them in front of my photo of Kembra lifting up her black burqa to reveal the flower of her secret. My dear old friend and current piping hot fashion scribe Glenn Belverio and his friend Bobra, personal assistant to Yoko Ono, have come to provide immoral support, as has the rest of the old school of homosexuals, including the likes of Michael Ilago, Linda Simpson, and Gower and Marge Champion. Hot fashion designer/artist Ben Cho is here somewhere, although no one deigns to introduce me to him. There's Vice editor Gavin Miles McInnes, Village Voice art critic Vince Aletti, and Canadian fashion writer and major art collector Bruce Bailey with his sexy photographer boyfriend and Alfredo Ferran Calle. Mark and Ian, the Canadian twins and former Vogue models stroll in. And then there are the cinema types, like my cinematographer James Carman, rampant cinephile Stephen Kent Jurassic, and Weiland Speck, one of the head honchos of the Berlin Film Festival. It's quite an extraordinary mix of people, if I do say so myself, and I do.
The show seems to be a hit, although you can never tell how you're going to be fingered by fickle New Yorkers, and by the gays in especial. One tired fairy named Tate Dougherty, writing for a website called Gay City news, has the temerity to write that my photographs are easily assimilated into quote a certain contemporary commercial image repertoire: part Hollywood, part Madison Avenue, part classifieds, and part porn unquote. How he thinks an image of an Iranian guy wearing an NRA baseball cap and snorting poppers with his cock hanging out, or a portrait of luscious Asia Argento naked and smoking in a bathtub while eight and half months pregnant, could be construed as commercial or "Madison Avenue" eludes me. Such precious pissant prisses as Mr. Dougherty are so insulated and self-absorbed in their own little solipsistic gay New York world that they don't even recognize the true tenor of the times, the arch-conservativism that is currently invading the fashion and art worlds. I've heard tell of other gallerists and art types pooh-poohing Mr. Connelly for showing my work, which they consider nothing more than pornography. But hey, that's my lot in life. The artists think I'm too pornographic and the pornographers think I'm too arty. I'm caught between a crock and a hard-on.
Okay, kids, on that sour note, I'm afraid I have some rather sad news to tell you. It may hurt your feelings a bit, although on the other hand, some of you will be dancing in the streets. After eleven years of writing for this charming rag, I've finally gotten the proverbial pink slip. You heard me right. BLAB has been downsized. I suppose I could have lied to you and told you that I quit, but I've made it a bad habit to tell things in this sordid little column exactly how they happen in my life and I'm not going to start lying to you now. Actually, I fully intended to quit after the ten year watershed, but a combination of sloth and sentimentality prevented me from self-terminating. Now I'm glad it's happened this way. Just as I generally wait for opportunities in my life to fall into my lap rather than actively seek them out, I also prefer for things to be violently wrenched away from me. That's just the kind of sick faggot that I am.
I have heard some rumours circulating recently that certain people think I've been making everything up all these years, that I invent all these preposterous, frequently perverse stories purely for your entertainment. If only it were that simple. In point of fact, rarely have I made anything up, except maybe for the claim earlier in this column that Gower and Marge Champion, a pair of ancient Broadway hoofers, at least one of whom is deceased, attended my New York photo exhibition. No, unfortunately I don't really have much of a knack for fiction, which would have made everything so much easier so much less wear and tear. Oh, occasionally I would embellish a tiny little bit, but you'd probably be shocked how little. As cliché as it is, truth, in my case, is far, far stranger than fiction could ever hope to be.
Hal Kelly, Exclaim!'s original art editor, handed this column to me, which I wrote initially for free as a favour to him, and I haven't missed a single month since the premier issue despite several trips around the globe and a year-long stint in Los Angeles. I managed to make four feature-length, low-budget films during this period, and publish extensive shooting diaries for each of them in these very pages. I even squeezed a book, The Reluctant Pornographer, largely out of these columns, and currently have a sequel to it in the works. It's been a wild ride, and like the little sparrow, je ne regrette rien.
In my first year of writing for Exclaim! I found myself in the midst of the messy break-up of a three-year relationship. It was often a chore, in my despair, to write the columns, and the tears would drip down on my keyboard. Wait a minute, I don't think I had a computer back then. It must have been my typewriter. Or my feather quill. Now, at the end of my run, I'm coming up soon to the three-year mark of a new relationship, many of the happy details of which I've shared with you, sometimes against my better judgment. Oh, and for those of you cynical bastards out there who think I made the Muslim up, believe me, even though he seems like a crazy work of fiction, he ain't. In point of fact, he thinks I'm the apparition. Or a genie. Or an alien.
Well, I guess that's all she wrote, to incorporate the old school homosexual usage of the feminine pronoun. Some of you have been moved, others have been mortified, but none, hopefully, have remained untouched. I'd like to thank the editors of Exclaim! for giving me such a cool platform and allowing me to ramble on at length about anything I wanted, a true bog of a blog before blogs were even invented. Thanks also to Fiona Smyth for her stylish drawings that accompanied my words. And finally, thanks to all my loyal readers, who should probably have their collective heads examined. Do keep an eye out for the sequel to The Reluctant Pornographer, which may or may not be called Porno For Dummies, depending on how the law suit turns out. Adios. Love, BLAB.