It was just over 10 years ago when Mick Rock, the iconic Rock and Roll photographer, came into my office with a bag full of photos and a DVD to talk about a crazy JT Leroy indie film project we were working together on for Island Records founder Chris Blackwell’s film company, Palm Pictures. By that time, I had known Mick for a few years mostly from attending his very high profile photo exhibits in New York City with my good friend Jane Stuart. These were not photo exhibits for the quiet wine sipping cheese eating art crowd. Mick is rock star! You’d have to do battle with massive crowds at the door through the mounted police because, if you got in, you were likely to bump into Debbie Harry, Keith Richards, Lou Reed or Mick Jagger – all artists Mick has shot over his 4 decade and counting career. At the end of our JT Leroy film meeting, Mick pulls a DVD out from his bag and proceeds to tell me that he thinks there might be something we can do with a bit of footage he shot over the years going back as far as 1972 from his early years photographing Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie).
Naturally, I was more than quite interested in taking a peek. From the flicker of the first frame of grainy b/w footage, I knew he was sitting on a Rock and Roll goldmine. How much of this footage did you say you shot Mick? I ask. Jump to today, just one week from the world premiere of Shot! The Psycho Spiritual Mantra of Rockat The Tribeca Film Festival in NYC. #mickrockdoc #tribecafilmfest
Mick Rock with Lou Reed at Varvatos for Lou’s Transformer launch.
The film is one of the most anticipated of the festival and is already on everyone’s must see list including Rolling Stone. So much transpired over those 10 years a feature film documentary financed and produced the way Mick and I wanted. We had set our sights pretty high for how we wanted the story told, the look, a unique approach. We weren’t going to make another talking heads, isn’t he just great documentary. We wanted to really tell a story. So many meetings, false starts, imploding TV network executives, directional changes, the birth of Netflix streaming, the success of Amazon Prime and, most recently, the deaths of both Lou Reed and David Bowie, two of Mick’s dearest friends. The whole experience is such a New York story because so much of Mick’s professional life has been centered around New York City starting with Lou Reed. Looking back, it was always the City’s unique energy that projected this project forward. So, I’m going to have my own very New York moment this coming Friday when the lights go down and the flicker of the frames appear on the big screen before a sold out, standing room only NYC audience. It’s been an amazing ride so far. I love this crazy town!
It’s hard to miss Markus Kelle, 24, at the door of Westgay, the scruffy Tuesday night party at Westway on Clarkson Street in the West Village. At midnight on a recent Tuesday, he wore a black snood, clip-on earrings made of old celluloid, blood-red lipstick and a pavement-length silver fox coat. [ full story ]
The other night I headed down to The Bowery district in Manhattan to attend a very exciting book signing party for the U.S. release of “Transformer” featuring iconic photos of rock legend Lou Reed taken by my good friend, photographer Mick Rock. Both Lou and Mick were hosted by John Varvatos at his NYC retail store which occupies what was once the legendary rock music club, CBGB’s and a forum for Punk and New Wave artists such as Blondie, Patti Smith, The Ramones and Talking Heads to name only a few. Of course, the neighborhood has changed dramatically since the days of Punk and New Wave. There were certainly no fancy hotels or sidewalk cafes back in those days.
Varvatos managed to keep some of the grime and trash charm that was characteristic of CB’s in his retail store which is now home for his $500 pants and $4,000 jackets. While waiting for Mick and Lou to come out for the Q&A portion of the cocktail party, I took a good look around I recalled standing in almost the same spot at 2AM some 25 years ago anxiously waiting for a band I had booked to go on to play CB’s for the first time and dreaming that I’d be managing a hot new band, getting a record deal if they did well. Unfortunately, like a lot of new bands, they just couldn’t keep it together between the infighting, missed rehearsals and sleeping with each others girlfriends and boyfriends. No big surprise, they never went anywhere and neither did my very short music managing career for that matter. I did end up working for 3 major record labels with great success over the years and I can always say that I walked on the wild side for a night at CBGBs in New York City.
P.S. Pardon the unfortunate Red Sox and Boston reference in the YouTube clip. I decided to repost this video because of the terrific photos of Lou throughout. Lou is 100% New York City.
P.S.S. It was only a couple weeks or so ago when I posted this. Little did I know then, it would be the last time I’d see Lou Reed in action. RIP Lou. Thanks for your artistry and convictions. Mick already misses you terribly. [read NY Times obit]
John Varvatos, Mick Rock and Lou Reed talk about photo book “Transformer”.
The other day, I was interviewed by French public television about my views on the relationship between music and sex. There I sat in front of my living room window with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline behind me (I figured viewers could at least have an intresting view) and spewed out my recollections of sneaking into clubs as an underage teen, dancing and cavorting around until the wee hours of the morning with strangers as an adult in NYC and reluctantly revealed which songs come to mind or I like to hear when making out or making whoopie. Why interview me? I asked this question to the lovely French producer standing before me in my living room. I’m not a famous DJ, musician, club owner or artist I said. I mean, the whole thing came to pass simply because a friend of mine, a former film production executive, gave these folks my name. She thouhgt it might be fun and convinced the producer that I’d be a perfect interviewee. The pressure was on. I love my friends. Totally a who you know moment. OK, I did work for 2 major music labels over a 20 year period and I was pretty crazy about hitting up the clubs back in my more youthful days, but still. And leave it to French public television to figure out a way to turn a Pop music program into something about sex, right? Turns out the angle is to interview regular folk, no flash, no celebrity about sex. Oh yeah, the talking about sex on TV part. Well, I figured, my mom would never see it even if she went to France.
The whole thing really got me thinking about my favorite clubs in New York City. I was fortunate to have gone to quite a few and recalled a lot of great memories when the party was in full swing in the mid 80s to 90s in particular. Legendary clubs like Paradise Garage, Danceteria or more underground venues like The World and Jackie 60. Most of them are gone and have been replaced by a Gap store, Starbucks or an apartment building. You’d never know what transpired there looking at the buidlings now, unless you were there, too, of course (or watch French public television). So, what’s my favorite song to make love to you ask? Well, you’ll just have to travel to France and catch the programme. Until then, I thought I would share with you an article about the ten most iconic New York City clubs then and now. But, I would love to know what your favorite sex song is, so feel free to post it here with your own personal story. Oh, don’t worry, I won’t tell your mom.
Tonight, Barbra Streisand will be presented with the highly prestigious Chaplin Award by The Film Society of Lincoln Center here in New York. What a night it will be! Everyone who is anyone will be there; Bill Clinton, Catherine Deneuve, Kris Kristofferson, Michael Douglas, Liza, the list is impressive. Previous honorees have included Sidney Poitier, Jane Fonda, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart, Sir Lawrence Olivier and, the first recipient, Charlie Chaplin 40 years ago in 1972. She deserves it all. I’m a big fan, always have been ever since watching Funny Girl with mom, dad and sis when TVs had tubes. I was hooked like everyone else around the world. Her voice is a large chunk of my life’s soundtrack growing up a big dreamer the first generation child of immigrant parents. I think I wore out the grooves of the soundtrack to A Star Is Born. Imagine my delight when I broke in to show business by landing a job at CBS/Fox Video – the original home video company – as an assistant in the music department and quickly learning that I would be working together with Ken Ross on the release of Barbra Streisand’s first and second television specials! An incredibly special experience and one I will always cherish. Thank you, Ken.
Barbra Streisand and New York City are synonomous. From Broadway to the small screen to the silver screen, New York City is featured prominently in so much of her work. Her first television special “My Name is Barbra” originally aired in 1965 when Barbra was performing in Funny Girl on Broadway. She watched the program from her dressing room. “My Name is Barbra” was released on home video in 1986. It hadn’t been seen by anyone since it was broadcast live on CBS some 20+ years earlier. Now of course, everything’s just a point and click away which is marvelous. I found a great clip that showcases the incredibly iconic Bergdorff Goodman Department Store on Fifth Avenue.
My fondest Streisand related memory was being invited by Barbra’s manager Mr. Marty Erlichman to join him for a one-on-one drink at Sardi’s where he proceeded to share with me old Broadway war stories, tales of the opening of Funny Girl on Broadway where the top producers and stars used to sit and the story of how he had discovered Barbra. I was just a little pisher assistant back then, but he made me feel like a big shot producer – a moment that solidified for me that if you just follow your dreams, life serves up some amazing moments. So, thanks for discovering Barbra Marty and, Congratulations Miss Streisand on The Chaplin Honor. I’m looking forward to more great New York moments together.
Barbra Streisand at New York’s iconic Bergdorf Goodman.