Tuesday 25 September 2007


This weekend, I watched some footage of Edie Sedgwick during the filming of Ciao Manhattan in 1965. The movie itself was rank, but hurrah that the camera was lit and rolling during that whole speed addled - max's - downtown scene in this town in the sixties. What was fabulous about it was that that was a time when you could be the strangest creature in the world and fall into living in some apartment in downtown Manhattan and not have to worry too hard about getting the rent paid. And there were plenty of other people like you to hang out with. The downside for me, though, would have been all the requisite drug addiction, and more to the point, the fact that everybody around you was fucked up.

So there was Edie and crew, Edie tanked up to the max in makeup and Dr. Robert's specials, eating in new york's very first sushi restaurant, back in '65.

You know, this was a landscape of amphetamine and cocaine and heroin and drinking all day long as the natural landscape of things. Everybody you knew for miles around was injecting themselves with speed several times a day. It was the norm. David Weisman describes the vibe: "this was the very first sushi restaurant in the city! We all thought we were on a health kick going in there.. and if you went to the gym aswell as eating sushi, well you HAD to be queer."

At any given time, a rotating 20 people lived in his 43rd st. duplex on an informal basis, and somebody had built a little cupboard for herself to live in, for privacy's sake. Fun. For a visit. Probably a total pain in the arse to be paying the rent on that flat. So what's the difference today?

All the artists are graphic designers, and everybody's in advertising or branding! Somebody mentioned that this was a time before marketing was invented. So Edie picked up whatever random garments lay on the floor of her Bentley and put them together and they became the look of the era. This was a time when people hadn't quite learned the skills of mass manipulation yet. They hadn't yet learned how to herd people into marketing pens, lock the door shut and sell to them.

So this is why people talk about that sixties era as having been "an innocent time". But to me, that's all kind of shot to shit by all the people who roll around in the glory of it, ever since. Whoever these middle aged farts are that talk about having been at Woodstock and lounged on the Silver Couch, it's all bollocks. They weren't anywhere in sight in that infra red-lit backroom at Max's Kansas City.

From the glimpses you get of that particular scene from this footage, it seems to me that what you're really seeing is boredom in motion in new york city, old style. Boredom has always had options in a town like this. There's plenty of trouble to get into. And if you throw some heiress' disposable cash and Warhol, the world's first artist marketeer, into the mix of heroin addicts, Vogue editors and drag queens, you've got a party.

I think then, as now, there was probably a multitude of new yorks, a multitude of scenes, and the ones with the sexiest pictures got made into posters. That's how we remember the sixties, through its iconography. The sixties are a bit like the effect Joyce had on Irish prose writing: it could take the culture a hundred years to get over it.

So this kind of new york came up and sank back. What kinds of new york are rising from the murk today? What are today's adventures in new york city?

Keep your lamplight trimmed and burning, baby.

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