The Thin White Duke

The Side Effects of the Cocaïne

DAVID BOWIE 01 APRIL 1975 – 02 FEBRUARY 1976

WRITER SEAN T. COLLINS©
ARTIST ISAAC MOYLAN©

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If that flyer of ”Sound” in Berlin, here labelled as ”the most modern discothèque in Europe” means something to you, try clicking on it and then try to find the same image in the clip.

The Sound

Henriette Valium

ICTUS LUMEX IDATUS BORGIA

Click!

Henriette Valium is a comic book artist and painter based in Montreal, Quebec. Born Patrick Henley, ever since his beginnings in the early 1980s, his provocative and hallucinogenic style has kept him well away from the mainstream comic book industry. 

Valium is for sure one of the greatest cartoonist of all time. For the last three decades his creations have been widely dispersed in numerous underground anthologies, fanzines, self-published oversized silkscreen comics, and various mixed-media collaborations. He’s become a regular in almost every independent zine, compilation and catalogue in North America and Europe. The heavy black lines and manic detailing of Valium’s psychotic storylines demand attention, weeding out any casual readers.

In his extremely peculiar way, Valium explores the rotting decay of an urban environment that he obsessively renders and depicts in horrific, sometimes nonsensical way. He’s hilariously fascinated as well with every possible corruptions of the human body and it’s mind: sickness, addictions, abnormal sexuality and social decay, exposing our culture’s fears and hypocrisies with an acute, caustic, sharp and absurd sense of humor. Many say that his books are more about creating an experience than reading a comic book. I say there’s nothing wrong about being both.

Collage by Valium©

Valium has been exposed all around the world for his works of art and collage. Google him. This is just a very tiny part of his work. Enjoy the roller coaster ride!

©Henriette Valium’s Lâcher de ChienS
©Henriette Valium’s Lâcher de ChienS
©Henriette Valium’s Lâcher de ChienS from Descant 164. Comics ar art?? Manu Ter in Facia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front and Back from Valium’s ”Coeur de Maman” (Mother’s Heart”)©

All images above by ©Henriette Valium.
The Palace of Champions (2016)
VALIUM® A brand of diazepam used as a tranquillizer given to people to calm their nerves when they are very depressed or upset.
The Real Stuff! Valium by ©Johnny Faucher

Beat Muhammad Ali

Afterthoughts on Bockris’ ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven”

by Tobe Damit

I was reading ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven’, one of a mutlivolumesque serie of very thorough biographies written by Victor Bockris, treating of everything that has to do with some specific thinkers and doers that were behind the 60’s counterculture and social revolution. Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven” was published the day after his victory over Foreman in 1974 and it was Ali’s favorite book about himself (and mine too!). If you check out the author’s bibliography you will find some of the most iconic figures of that revolution: All of which can be related in one way or another to Beat Punks. I’ve already reviewed in-depth his remarkable biographies about Andy Warhol and Lou Reed . By the way, I intend to review all of Bockris’ biographies in the near future here on LAN.

So, in the blue corner, you have all these writers, painters and musicians and then, in the red corner, there is a real boxer, an athlete so good that he left for sure a permanent mark in the boxing world. And you may ask yourselves ”How did he get there? How does Ali fit in with all these people who triggered a revolution in the 60’s?” Let me just say for starters that they all, in their own ways, shed some blood, sweat and tears. Muhammad Ali was much more than an athlete or an inspiring success story. Most people remember him from the early days of his celebrity for being a loud mouth. He sure was one. For each and every opponent he fought he would ”bust some rhymes”, taunting his opponents, predicting in how many they would go down, making fun of them any which way he could as well as giving names and meanings to his fights like Thrilla in Manila, (Ali-Frazier III in Manila, Philippines, October 1, 1975) and Rumble in the Jungle (Ali-Foreman in  Kinshasa, Zaire, October 30, 1974) that led to a documentary called ”When We Were Kings”.

Ali remembers the origins of his poetry: ”It was ’62, when I fought Archie Moore. Moore rhymed with four, so the publicity for that fight was:
Moore will
hit the floor
in round four

Then I fought Henry Cooper, I said:
This is no jive
Cooper will
leave in five

*This is a quote from Ali in Bockris’ ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven”.

Doesn’t that sound like rap to you?? It sure does to me. The very roots of rap were precisely a verbal fight between 2 opponents and organized as such in official contests and in my mind, those verbal assaults were the very first rap rhymes ever made. Some might deny him that but he did write poems. Now Ali also was a success story and a very good story-teller, you can’t deny him that. The very first ”big book” I read was Muhammad Ali very own striking autobiography ”The Greatest” that was later put into a mediocre movie in which Ali played his own character (of course!). Doesn’t it sound a lot like ”8 Mile’ to you?? (except for the fact 8 Mile is a good movie and Eminem a good actor). The irony is that ”The Greatest” was a fake bio written by a back muslim propagandist. Ali never read it and did not like it.  Bockris’ book about the champ was Ali’s favorite book. Victor gave it to him in 1975 and Ali had himself photographed with the book in the 1990s. His wife told me she was still reading the book to him in 2009! Because it is the most accurate account of his inner life and what he planned to do after he retired from boxing in 1975. The horror of the fights he was forced to fight from 1976-1981 made it especially appealing to the peace loving champion.

But first and foremost, Ali was an actor in his own life. He was an artist as a boxer, as a promoter, as a poet, as a spiritual figure, as a counterculture thinker, as a civil right champion, as a family man, as a life coach. Furthermore as you read Victor Bockris’ ”Muhammad Ali In Fighters Heaven” you are told that they were rocks painted by Ali’s father, Cassius Clay Sr., and transported by a guy named Harvey Moyer, huge rocks on the grounds of his training camp on which were painted the names of great adversaries, each of them representing a milestone in Ali’s life, installations that should be considered as conceptual art to be on the technical side of this but his skills were in every detail. These rocks meant a lot to Ali. What made Ali so inspiring is not so much what he did as how he did it and who he was, because who he was always transpired in the way he did things. Reading through ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven’‘,  you can very well imagine how everyone around him; his family, his supporters, trainers, organisers, doctors, lawyers, etc. were all devoted and loyal to him because they loved him as a person. He was running things with love and discipline, using one or the other along the way as required by the circumstances. Always true to himself and his beliefs, as a man, as a father, as a colored man and as a muslim.

One of the milestones on the training camp grounds. This one dedicated to Sonny Liston (obviously). This was taken during his training for the ”Rumble in the Jungle” fight.

Ali saw in his birth name Cassius Clay the mark of the slavery that was a burden to his colored brothers and that is the reason that he changed his name and his faith.

Muhammad Ali Remembered, by Those Who Knew Him as Cassius – The New York Times

On April 28, 1967, with the United States at war in Vietnam, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” This guy did what many thousands people promoting peace never even dared to do. This ”Black Muslim guy”, who was mistreated for as long as he can remember in his own country precisely because of the fact that he was black, said to the face of his recruiting officer that he had no intentions whatsoever to go kill another human being at the other end of the world, whom he had never met and further more who had never caused him any harm. Now it may not seem such an act of bravery but don’t forget that this young fellow still officially and originally named Cassius Clay, born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, this Muslim Black Boxer who at age 18, won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and turned professional later that year, was arrested, found guilty of draft evasion charges, and stripped of his boxing titles.

He successfully appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971, by which time he had not fought for nearly four years and thereby lost a period of peak performance as a boxing athlete. Ali’s actions as a conscientious objector to the war had made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation but he definitely paid a very steep price. Those years were lost forever for him and for all of the world to see him boxing at his best even if he is still considered by many to be ”The Greatest”.

Andy Warhol-Muhammad Ali at Fighter’s Heaven, 1978©Photo by Victor Bockris

Of course the ultimate integration as a counterculture figure was Ali’s placid but unmovable resistance to go fight the Viet Nam war. And the unveiled interest Andy Warhol had towards him just confirmed the fact that Ali had become one of the greatest leading spirits of the 60’s and the 70’s.  The encounter of Andy Warhol to Ali’s training camp is detailed in Bockris’  ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven”. A man who’s dazzling virtuosity within the prize ring was matched only by his articulate and outrageous showmanship and integrity outside it.

I can see no better ending than to leave you with a poem written by Ali himself. This one of three poems that were exclusively published in ”Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven” for the first time… This one is a poem about…

FREEDOM

Better far from all I see
To die fighting to be free
What more fitting end could be?

Better surely than in some bed
Where in broken health I’m led
Lingering until I’m dead

Better than with prayers and pleas
Or in the clutch of some disease
Wasting slowly by degrees
Better than of heart attack
Or some dose of drug I lack
Let me die by being Black

Better far that I should go
Standing here against the foe
Is the sweeter death to know
Better than the bloody stain
On some highway where I’m lain
Torn by flying glass and pain

Better calling death to come
Than to die another dumb
Muted victim in the slum

Better than of this prison rot
If there’s any choice I’ve got
Kill me here on the spot

Better far my fight to wage
Now while my blood boils with rage
Lest it cool with ancient age

Better vowing for us to die
Than to Uncle Tom and try
Making peace just to live a lie

Better now that I say my sooth
I’m gonna die demanding truth
While I’m still akin to youth

Better now than later on
Now that fear of death is gone
Never mind another dawn.

– by Muhammad Ali (January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016). ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven” contains an outstanding collection of his poetry, along with his commentary on how he wrote the poems.

”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven” also contains a complete utterly interesting chapter detailling the historic encounter that took place when Warhol went to Ali’s training camp to take pictures of the champ. Here’s a glimpse…

Andy Warhol was far from the only artist to depict Ali in his art, though Ali himself said Warhol’s piece was “by far the best painting I have ever had of myself.” The painting, he felt, successfully conveyed his “many moods.” In preparation for these prints, Warhol traveled to Deer Lake Pennsylvania where Ali was training for a match with Ernie Shavers. It was at the training camp that Ali and Warhol met, and where Warhol took the photographs that would eventually become Ali’s portrait. Initially, Warhol seemed unafraid of the larger-than-life boxer. After being teased about the excessive price the pictures would be sold for, Warhol asked “Could we, uh, do some, uh, pictures where you’re not, uh, talking?” According to Bockris is “Nobody had ever told the champ to shut his famous mouth in quite such a not-to-be-trifled with way.” By the end of the shoot, however, Ali managed to unnerve the artist. When Warhol was finished taking photos he reached to shake Ali’s hand and mumbled, “Thanks er, champ.” The boxer spun around and furiously demanded, “Did you say tramp?” Ali laughed, but not before Warhol lost his cool in a brief moment of panic. *Direct quote from the chapter recounting Warhol’s visit to the camp in Bockris’ ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven”. 

This post is dedicated to Ali’s children: Laila Ali, Maryum Ali, Rasheda Ali, Asaad Amin, Hana Ali, Khaliah Ali, Jamillah Ali, Mya Ali, Muhammad Ali Jr. It is dedicated as well to all the children victims of crimes against humanity or civil rights violation. 

Read interview with the author here

All rights reserved tobedamit.com 2017

Vivian Maier

Streetwise ”Mary Poppins” Never Missed a Shot!

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by Tobe Damit

Vivian Maier never displayed publicly any of her pictures while she was alive but left behind a very impressive collection of photographs. She was never published and many of her negatives were never even printed while she was alive. Impressive in quantity for sure, but also in terms of quality. Vivian Maier’s photos have this ethereal but also very human quality to it,  a sense of tragedy, a sense of humanity, an eye for the details, the framing and a perfect timing, all this coupled with a dark and bizarre edge.

An American of French and Austro-Hungarian extraction, Vivian bounced between Europe and the United States before coming back to New York City in 1951. Having picked up photography just two years earlier, she would comb the streets of the Big Apple refining her artistic craft. By 1956 Vivian left the East Coast for Chicago, where she’d spend most of the rest of her life working as a caregiver. In her leisure Vivian would shoot photos that she zealously hid from the eyes of others. Taking snapshots into the late 1990′s, Maier would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives. Additionally Vivian’s passion for documenting extended to a series of homemade documentary films and audio recordings.

Vivian Maier was a very secretive, mysterious person and if John Maloof wouldn’t have gambled 400$ at an auction, buying a full box of negatives without even looking at them first, nobody would have gotten the chance to see the amazing pictures that gained this unconditional sympathy Vivian seems to be getting from a constantly growing number of admirers. Trusting his gut instinct about this woman who had now passed away, leaving behind her a huge trail of clues (she was a pack rat!) that would be very helpful for anyone who would try to know as much as you can possibly know about a person who is now deceased, Maloof proceeded to not only connect the dots about her life but also, and maybe more importantly, to have her works revealed to the public. With the help of a few people, he started to devote his life to this arduous and challenging task: put the name Vivian Maier in history books. This article is my way of helping him to do exactly that because I truly think that’s where her name belongs. I want her to have the posthumous love and recognition she never had during her life.

Now there is a documentary about her written and directed by
John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, books and numerous exhibitions and events occuring all around the world as we speak but much of the art world establishment still hasn’t accepted Vivian Maier’ work. She didn’t defend herself as an artist, she just did the work and it’s so good that it’s winning over people who were dismissive of it previously and fortunately people aren’t waiting for that kind of validation anyway. They don’t care and they are already claiming Vivian’s work for themselves and her work can now be seen around the world. 

‘Nuf said, here are a few pictures I chose, a very small part of the very legacy Vivian Maier left behind for us.  You can also watch for free the documentary called ”Finding Vivian Maier” that reveals the incredible story of this mysterious nanny, who loved taking pictures.  But let’s have a look at the pictures first.

September 24, 1959, New York, NY
September 24, 1959, New York, NY
August 16, 1956, Chicago, IL
August 16, 1956, Chicago, IL
Emmett Kelly as the clown figure "Weary Willie", Undated
Emmett Kelly as the clown figure “Weary Willie”, Undated
March 1954. New York, NY
March 1954. New York, NY
August 12, 1954, New York, NY
August 12, 1954, New York, NY
Undated, Canada
Undated, Canada
1959, Grenoble, France
1959, Grenoble, France
Christmas Eve 1953, East 78th Street & 3rd Avenue, New York, NY
Christmas Eve 1953, East 78th Street & 3rd Avenue, New York, NY
1961
June 25, 1961
Undated
Undated
May 5, 1955. New York, NY
May 5, 1955. New York, NY
Armenian woman fighting on East 86th Street, September, 1956, New York, NY
Armenian woman fighting on East 86th Street, September, 1956, New York, NY
Undated, New York, NY
Undated, New York, NY
April 19, 1971. Chicago, IL
April 19, 1971. Chicago, IL
May 1953, New York, NY
May 1953, New York, NY
January, 1953, New York, NY
January, 1953, New York, NY
Audrey Hepburn at the Chicago premiere of "My Fair Lady" at the RKO Palace Theater. October 23, 1964
Audrey Hepburn at Chicago premiere of “My Fair Lady”, RKO Palace Theater. October 23, 1964
August 22, 1956. Chicago, IL
August 22, 1956. Chicago, IL
December 2, 1954, New York, NY
December 2, 1954, New York, NY
May 16, 1957. Chicago, IL
May 16, 1957. Chicago, IL
FINDING VIVIAN MAIER - 2014 FILM STILL - Woman at the NY Public Library still - Photo Credit: Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection
Woman at NY Public Library
January 9, 1957, Florida
January 9, 1957, Florida

All photos credits Vivian Maier/ John Maloof Collection

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Click and Watch”Finding Vivian Maier”

Burns’ Love Nest and Vortex

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Two Brand New Releases Unleashed! 

I have written at least one post about Charles Burns before but maybe I failed to mention that to me he is amongst my 3 favorite graphic novel artist. I sincerly, deeply admire the quality, the releveance and the genius behind each of his books and other creations like the pocket sleeve of Iggy Pop album Brick by Brick, this guy always taps right up into my alley when he picks a subject on whatever topic it is; music, movies, writers, trends from a certain era.. I really appreciated his Black Hole, went back and read all his previous work and wouldn’t miss reading his X’ed Out Trilogy and now this. It never fails to deceive me. Burns brings you in a world of his own. Icons from our childhood now coming back to haunt us in a twilight zone that might be awaiting some of us, Burns brings evil with candor from the least expected things but giving it a estheatic treatment that is suppose to be reassuring, very definite lines, 50’s like cartoons and a technique that is flawless and is not unique but if you take it as a whole, Charles BUrns has really managed to make is style recognizable instantly, unequaled, unparalleled. Hergé drawing and writing pop surrealists stories simpler but close to what Burroughs could have done when he was a kid.

R. Crumb once observed that “The work of Charles Burns is a vision that’s both horrifying and hilariously funny, and which he executes with cold, ruthless clarity… It’s almost as if the artist… as if he weren’t quite… human!” And it’s true that Burns’ icy pen and ink drawings, which came to popular attention with the publication of the graphic novel Black Hole, depict disturbing realms that similarly attract and repulse, while being both alien and yet familiar.

The good news for Burns fans is that two new titles, Vortex and Love Nest, will be published this month by Cornelius. But if you’re in Paris there’s no need to wait since you can currently snag copies at Galerie Martel, while checking out original drawings from the titles, such as the ones below.

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All images © Charles Burns / Cornélius 2016.

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Click image for more

Fuco Ueda

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click to access fucoueda.com

JUST LIKE HONEY

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Fuco Ueda Solo Exhibition ” Odd-Eye “
December 10th – December 31th 2016
Opening reception : December 10th 6:00 – 9:00pm
Open : noon – 6:00 pm
Close : sun and mon
Thinkspace gallery
http://thinkspacegallery.com
6009 Washington Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 558-3375

RUSSIAN CRIMINAL TATTOO

Prison Storytelling, Subcultural Anthropology and the Allure of Darkness. 

by

In the 1970’s, while American hippies were busy inking themselves with peace signs and psychedelic rainbows, Danzig Baldayev, a guard at St. Petersburg’s notorious Kresty Prison, began documenting the far less Woodstockian body art of Russia’s most infamous criminals.

For 33 years, Baldayev used his exclusive access to and rapport with the prisoners to hand-illustrate and capture in artful photographs more than 3,600 inmate tattoos — as admirable a feat artistically as it was sociologically.

In 2003, when he was in his late 70’s, Baldayev began releasing his magnificent archive as a series of books revealing a rich and eerie intersection of art and violence.

Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volumes I, IIand III offer not only a visceral record of this intersection, but also Baldayev’s aambitious effort to, through text and illustrations, parse the meaning of these tattoos and place them in the context of this fiercely self-contained subculture. (Or, as it were, institution-contained as well.)

Perhaps even more striking than the body art itself is how Baldayev was able to talk some of Russia’s most dangerous convicts into posing for such intimate and often vulnerable portraits, an intimacy also seen in the work of Canadian photographer Donald Weber:

For a related glimpse of this darkly enigmatic world, the excellent Oscar-nominated 2007 film Eastern Promises about the Russian mob in London, starring Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortensen, offers an intriguing look at tattoos as storytelling, a narrative through which prisoners told their life stories and conveyed their credos.

Each of the volumes is an absolute masterpiece and a fascinating slice of subcultural anthropology. It’s the kind of thing that adds instant conversation potential to any home library or coffee table, and guaranteed you’re-cooler-than-my-other-friends gifting recognition.

Some images by Donald Weber

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John Lennon

A Visual Narrative

In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle fanatic named Jerry Levitan, armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck, snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room in Toronto and convinced John to do an interview about peace. 38 years later, Jerry has produced a film about it. Using the original interview recording as the soundtrack, director Josh Raskin has woven a visual narrative which tenderly romances Lennon’s every word in a cascading flood of multipronged animation. Raskin marries the terrifyingly genius pen work of James Braithwaite with masterful digital illustration by Alex Kurina, resulting in a spell-binding vessel for Lennon’s boundless wit, and timeless message. ”I Met the Walrus” was nominated for the 2008 Academy Award for Animated Short and won the 2009 Emmy for ‘New Approaches’ (making it the first film to win an Emmy on behalf of the internet).

I Met the Walrus!!

 Actors: Jerry Levitan, John Lennon

Director: Josh Raskin

Producer: Jerry Levitan

Scenario: Josh Rankin

Release Date: 2007

Just Kids by Patti Smith

patti-and-robert

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” ― Lester Bangs

I have just finished reading ”Just Kids” for the second time and I can’t help feeling a bit of anguish as I’m about to express my perception of Patti’s first book of prose mainly, I suppose, due to the fact that it’s a best seller. Not that I disagree, Au contraire! All the praise about ”Just Kids’‘ is very well deserved, but so much has been said already that I forbade myself to read any of it so that everything I would say would  be 100% mine. Therefore I will simply pretend I’m the only bloody diamond geezer who was clever enough to read it, heartily hoping to bring something new to the table in the process. I chose this quote by Lester Bangs as an opener because these words seemed to be the very foundation of one of the most sincere and coolest relationship ever, one that’s been told through the pages of ”Just Kids”, a true story that would in itself become an inspiration for so many more to come. It’s a call to be who I really am no matter what, because by doing so, I might be able to bring something unique and new in this bankrupt world.

”There Will Always Be Us!”

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     In ”Just Kids”,  legendary, highly authentic American inspired singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist Patti Smith, who  became an influential component of the New York City punk rock movement, offers a very unique, never-before-seen glimpse of her honest, enduring, sister-brother, Yin/Yang, boyfriend/girlfriend magical everlasting relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late 60s and 70s.

The relation itself is the guiding light and the whole purpose of this book and if, at times, certain passages might seem trivial, well, they never were. This unconditional love they shared –  creative, sensitive, stimulating and artistically prolific – becomes a sincere and deeply moving story of youth, friendship and ultimately success. The best thing being that anyone can relate to it in a very intimate, personal way.  ”Just Kids” fully grasp the heartfelt passion and holds this very same unique, sensitive and lyrical quality that is written between each lines of her formidable body of work, from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.

patricia-lee-smith
Photo©by Frank Stefanko scanned by Patricia Lee Smith 

No one else could have better described all the ins and outs of the unique, constantly evolving story she shared with Robert Mapplethorpe, and this means way more than just itemizing their body of work, for the whole represents way more than the sum of it and their relationship in itself was on its own an expression of art. It just couldn’t be contained in its entirety in little works nor in big works for all to see.  Parts have been laid in music, paintings, poems and photographs but even all these, as inspired and beautiful as they are, fail in giving us a complete picture. Even if it celebrates a friendship that left a permanent impact on almost every artistic aspect and style in America, it still had to be told in a book. It was essential and sacred. Patti had to share their journey under the blue star, a symbol of their undying love for each other, one last time.

Patti writes in a Last Note to the Reader:

”We were as Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the world. There were temptations and witches and demons we never dreamed of and there was splendor we only partially imagined. No one could speak for these two young  people nor tell with any truth of their days and their nights together. Only Robert and I could tell it. Our Story, as he called it. And, having gone, he left the task to me to tell it to you. ” – Patti Smith, Just Kids, May 22, 2010

What makes this book so special is how Patti manages to express a magic that started almost immediately. Patti arrived in NYC with almost nothing but her wish to accomplish something no one has done before. Robert was already in NYC and struggling on an urban survival mode, but nevertheless they both had a deep sense that life had something very special in store for them and that it was written in the stars. They never thought it would be so hard, that they would have to struggle so much just to survive but nevertheless it didn’t take very long for them to be able to recognize the signs. We can feel that they saw in each other something true and very real, something which they felt they would later be able to rely on as persons and as artists. Of course there were moments of doubts but maybe it was these crucial moments that would prove them to be essential to one another. It never was a give and take type of relationship. The base for it might just be honesty, true faith in each other’s talent, the hope that there was a place for them as they were and that with a lot of work, perseverance and a little bit of luck, they would both find their niche as people and artists. Lots of spoken, unspoken pacts were made, very few ever broken.

Patti Smith by ©Andy Warhol , Ca. 1972

Despite a certain ”twinlike” aspect, their part in each other’s life could also definitely be seen as complementary. One could say that Robert was the eternal dreamer, on some aspects, even alien to practical knowledge and certain everyday life faculties and that Patti possessed a more down to Earth perspective on life but this is only a half truth since, when needed, on several occasions, they could trade roles and when the other one would be in dire need of a trait that would normally be the other one’s unsaid character/task assignment, they would put their egos aside and would manage to trade places if it would help the other to get through a rough patch.

”The premise was simply that one of us always had to be vigilant, the designated protector. If Robert took a drug, I needed to be present and conscious. If I was down, he needed to stay up. If one was sick, the other healthy. It was important that we were never self-indulgent on the same day.

In the beginning I faltered, and he was always there with an embrace or words of encouragement, coercing me to get out of myself and into my work. Yet he always knew that I would not fail  if he needed me to be the strong one”

The Chelsea Hotel

Patti Smith on the balcony of the Chelsea Hotel , 1971
Patti Smith on the balcony of the Chelsea Hotel , 1971

“I loved this place, its shabby elegance, and the history it held so possessively”

Back in those days, New York City was a very dangerous place. Some areas were filled with what is commonly regarded as the lowest forms of the human species likes thieves, pimps, rapists, thieves, hookers, murderers and so forth. Being young artists who strive to survive, of course they were bound to have to live in such areas. At one of their lowest points they were plainly told that they had to get out, that they wouldn’t make it if they stayed. Fortunately, there was a place that offered hope if you were an artist, a little island of optimism, gathering past, present and future generations of artists of all kinds where you didn’t even need to have money right away. Stanley Bard would keep your portfolio, or take a work of art until you could get it back and you were now part of a community that was very special, during the 60s and the 70s especially. The Chelsea played a huge part in the history of the new generation of artists of the 60s and the 70s.

”Gregory made lists of books for me to read, told me the best dictionary to own, encouraged me and challenged me. Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs were all my teachers, each one passing through the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel, my new University. ”

”The Moon Turned Blood Red”

robert mapplethorpe and patti smith in their chelsea hotel apartment, circa 1970, photo©Albert Scopin.
Robert and Patti Smith Chelsea Hotel, circa 1970, photo©Albert Scopin.

Yet they came to a point where one or both of them needed more space, more freedom. Some things are meant to be faced and dealt with on your own even if they knew the other one will still be there for me if need it be but never taking one another for granted and always being grateful of each other’s effort to play the right part when needed, never taking advantage of one another. In one word: Respect was of course the cement that sealed the ”deal”. Robert soon had to face his inner demons and question his sexuality again and again. Of course this was heart wrenching for both of them.

”He had been with a fellow and not for money. I was able to give him some measure of acceptance. My armor sill had its vulnerable points, and Robert, my knight, had pierced a few, though without desiring to do so.”

Their relationship morphed and this had major effects on their everyday lives. It is during theses major changes and adaptations that could have tore them apart that we see that love makes all the difference in the world and that instead of trying to exert control on each other’s lives, they simply went ahead with the flow and they grew stronger. I would say that we witness how something some would see as a humiliation becomes merely a chance to humble ourselves and let life take its natural course. Never stop to love and support those who are true soul mates. A bond stronger than marriage.

I will not spoil all the fun and tell you everything that happens. I already told you the big lines and a few little ones but Here is one last thing that I realised reading ”Just Kids”.

I so happened to notice that in general there can be two different kinds of artists. Some very callous, careless, aloof and undisciplined that are successful because of their God-given talent  and so much passion that they seem to evolve in a different space and time, going all the way with everything they’ve got, with all their worries and genius. They truly appear as some unstoppable forces of nature, pushed by some alien powers. Then there are others with which they share the same gift, also having a remarkable imagination, but very rooted in their reality, very lucid and conscious of the space they occupy in space and time as well as having a clear view on what is their place in society and what their relationships made of, how strong can they be.

Now certain artists are lucky enough to have just about the right proportion of each of these components within themselves, to be well supported by a team of people they trust and that have faith in their work. I think ”Just Kids” is about the encounter of 2 people who miraculously manage to complete each other perfectly as people and as artists.

Patti Smith and Sam Shepard in their play, Cowboy Mouth, in New York in 1971
Patti Smith and Sam Shepard in their play, Cowboy Mouth, in New York in 1971
smith-dylan
Dylan, Smith and Sam Shepard attended a party at Allen Ginsberg’s Greenwich Village house, where ©Ken Regan took several photos of Dylan and Smith in conversation on the stairs.

So?

”Where does it all lead?What will become of us? These were our young questions and young answers were revealed.

It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”

Fred
Fred “Sonic” Smith (September 14, 1949 – November 4, 1994) , was an American guitarist, best known as a member of the influential and political, Detroit rock band, the famous MC5. He married with poet and fellow rock musician, Patti Smith. The couple collaborated musically, and raised their two children together. 

Together the Smiths had a son, Jackson (born 1982) and a daughter, Jesse (born 1987). Jackson, a guitarist, was married to Meg White (formerly of indie band The White Stripes). Jesse is a pianist. Both have performed on stage with their mother along with other members of the Patti Smith Group.

Patti Smith never forgot Robert Mapplethorpe and wrote ”Just Kids” in 2012. She had made a promise to Robertthat she’d write a book about them and she did, Patti wrote this memoire of their friendship in her own unique personal, direct, sensitive and wholhearted style and we should be all damn happy she kept her promise!

photobooth

Just Kids won:

Also by Patti Smith

9781101910160
Click and read my review!