Bowery Bingo Legend & Andy Warhol Star Taylor Mead Has Passed

On Wednesday, bad news came as it does these days, via tweets and facebook. Taylor Meadan Andy Warhol "superstar," has passed. Other publications will get into the details of his life and death. They’ll list the underground movies he was in and repeat notable poems he wrote which were much more notable when he recited him. Those other periodicals and blogspots will tell of his long-running run-in with his landlord who finally bought him out. 

He was in Colorado when he left us. He was visiting a niece when a stroke stopped his heart. I won’t get into the details, but they are out there for you if you care. 

What can be said about him that Taylor didn’t say about himself before on the street, in a bar, or one of the countless Bowery Poetry Club readings I attended? I’ll just say this…when I heard the news, all I could think of was the people who loved him. I could see their faces weeping from the loss.

Taylor was wonderful. He was brilliant. He was a lovable monster. He was a definer of the downtown altar that I worship. Decades ago, a friend and I would seek him out in the East Village bars that he haunted. We’d buy him drinks in exchange for tales of life within the candle. He told us of Andy Warhol and the coolest peeps on earth. Sometimes he would hate them all, sometimes he would love them all. Sometimes he would love himself, and sometimes he would hate himself. I always felt that his love/hate for Andy’s gang was because they could appreciate him on a level far above us all. Taylor was a player with the most "in" of the "In-Crowd."

A year or so ago, I was playing Bingo religiously at the Bowery Poetry Club. It usually sold out, so I got there early to reserve seats for my crew. Taylor would read poems he randomly chose from a satchel bursting with them, and in between, he’d tell tall-tales while playing classical music or Charlie Mingus tunes on a small beatbox. 

There were times he would yell at the early Bingo aficionados for talking while he was enlightening. Once, he yelled "Bingo" when he didn’t have it, just to disturb the later event to get even. 

I went every week. Sometimes I’d hear the same story a dozen weeks in a row. Sometimes something new and bold sprang up. When Bowery Poetry closed to give way to Duane Park, no one made room for Taylor. On his last night, I thought I’d never see him again. And so it goes. 

The Leader of the ‘Twilight’ Wolf Pack: Chaske Spencer

Chaske Spencer is not a household name. In fact, when I hang with my neighbor and friend, it is more likely that someone will recognize me than the face seen by millions and millions. Chaske is a movie star who is well-known or, at least, well-seen as the head of the wolf pack in the Twilight movie series. Once in a while, at brunch, I’ll ask him to make that werewolf face and make him recite a line from the flick … he never goes for my bait. He just smiles that movie star smile and laughs that hearty movie star laugh. His star is on the rise and I suspect his anonymity will soon be lost. There are movies in the can and in the works and TV things being talked about. He is, like, 6’5,” good looking, of Native American heritage, and might be the nicest person I’ve ever met.

This Thursday he will have his debut photography show at the Dream Hotel, 210 West 55th Street, up on the roof. I will be there. I have been trying to get him to Monday night Bingo for a year and if he gets me uptown then he better show up for Murray Hill and Linda Simpson’s Monday Night Bingo extravaganza…or else. Chaske is half my age and twice my size and I’ve watched him turn into a bad, bad wolf many times….. so it might be a fair fight.

Let’s get the elephant-in-the-room question out of the way… I know you as a friend, a brunch and Bingo buddy (soon), but to a great many people you are the leader of the wolf pack in the Twilight movie series. Tell me about your film career and how it affects your normal routine for good …for bad?
Yes, brunch pals and hopefully go-to bingo pals soon. My film career started about a decade ago. My first film was a movie called Skins. The director was Chris Eyre. Since then, it’s been a slow climb to the working-actor mountain top. When I landed Twilight I was broke and hadn’t been able to land a job in two years. I actually thought that if I didn’t get this I was going to pack it in… call it a day on the acting career. For the good part, I’m working a lot now. I have three films lined up. They should be out next year. I also, just got back from Australia. I was filming a pilot called Frontier for NBC. I don’t let my career affect my normal life. I keep pretty low-key. It’s just a job that I like to do. I’m pretty lucky.

Have you always been a photographer? Tell me about your work, especially shooting rock bands. Which ones have you shot?
I’ve always been fascinated by photography. I wanted to be a painter but I found out that I don’t have the patience for painting. I like the instance gratification of a really good photo. I started taking photos as soon as I moved to NYC, when I was 22. I was using a Canon film camera. I bought it for very cheap at a pawn shop in Calgary, Canada. At the time I needed to spend money on food and rent, not film. So, photography sat on the back burner for a time but, since I’ve been working and traveling, I take my camera everywhere with me. I have a digital Canon Rebel. I started shooting bands a couple of years ago. My roommate at the time, Adam Morse, plays bass for the Five O’Clock Heroes. I started going to their shows and taking photos of them. I’ve also shot this band called Roma. I like going to clubs and finding bands to shoot.Chaske Spencer  You are a Native American. How did you grow up and how did you end up here? Also, tell me about your charity work and let’s throw Michelle Obama into this mess of a question.
I grew up on a couple reservations in Montana and Idaho. I moved around a bit. My parents were teachers and taught on Indian reservations. They did the best they could raising me with a strong since of self. But, living on a reservation I saw a lot of poverty and addiction. There is not a lot to do there, so I would get into some trouble from time to time. Nothing big; just regular teenage shit. It wasn’t until I started to go to an all-white school that I noticed how different things were, how the living conditions on a reservation are pretty much that of a third world country.

After high school, I tried to do the college thing. But I failed at that. I wasn’t doing much with my life. I was just hanging out in bars, getting drunk, and smoking a lot weed. One night I just decided I couldn’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. I decided I wanted to move to NYC. I bought an airplane ticket to NYC. I had saved some money from working some shit jobs.

But the weekend before I was ready to fly out, I got drunk and put my dad’s truck into a woman’s fence. I had to postpone my flight, and repairing the fence and her yard took all of my cash. So I ended up coming to NYC with only $100.

I look back on it now and I’m glad I left when I did. I was getting out of hand with the partying in a small town. My charity work comes from seeing a lot of bullshit that goes on in a reservation. I try to use the spotlight of the media to bring social cause to the forefront that wouldn’t normally be picked up by the mainstream media. One of the causes I’m in involved in is Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move. It’s to help inform people about eating healthy and getting exercise.

Where will the film world take you ideally, and where will photography take you ideally?
I don’t know where the film world will take me. I hope just to keep working. I love what I do. I’m a pretty lucky guy that gets to have a job that I already love to do. I learned a long time ago that you really can’t make a plan. Life takes you where you’re supposed to be. As a photographer? I hope that I can capture some really beautiful images. I hope one day to shoot some amazing landscape for National Geographic, or do a photo shoot with someone like Waylon Jennings. I love faces that tell a story.

You’re having way more than 15 minutes of fame, but I know you as this shy, polite guy. Is there a hunger for the limelight and loot? What else is driving you?
I’m not big into the limelight stuff. I found that out after the media blitz of Twilight, that the spotlight is not my thing. It’s a part of the job, and I can live with that. But it does make me uncomfortable. I try to keep a low profile while I’m in NYC. I do notice I’m getting more and more noticed in my hood. I do love making movies though. It’s like joining a circus. Playing pretend and having fun. And being a photographer is an outlet I have. It keeps the boredom away. Keeps me being creative. I had an acting teacher tell me once, “Don’t be an actor. Be an artist.” I try to live by those words in everything I do.

From Bartender to Mayhem Man: Talking to Dean Winters

Dean Winters is living that dream. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, he was a NYC bartender pursuing an acting career. He worked all over town and everybody knew him. He was and still is one of the good guys. In the mid ‘90s he broke out big with numerous TV roles. His Ryan O’Reily character on Oz had me tuning in for years. His Johnny Gavin on Rescue Me kept me glued to the set. Now, because of a TV commercial deal that he almost turned down, he is recognizable to everyone. He is Mayhem, that Allstate gremlin of a man that shows us how dangerous and unpredictable our world can be. He knows a little about that. He had a near-death experience in June 2009 that left him little short in some areas but certainly long in experience and self-awareness. He has always been a friend and supporter of mine, and when he sent me the following e-mail, I gladly gave him this space to tell us all about it:

"Hi, I’m a big supporter of The Heroes Project and I’m excited to finally share the campaign we’ve been working on. I just launched a Wish on Facebook Causes to support the organization. The funds raised will go toward The Heroes Project’s upcoming Indonesia climb with US Army Retired Sgt. Noah Galloway who lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee in an IED attack in Yusufiyah, Iraq. You can check out the Wish page and donate here. This project is near and dear to my heart so I’m trying to get the word out wherever possible. Any love you can show on Facebook or Twitter would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Dean"

How did you get involved with The Heroes Project?
I was introduced to ‘Big Tim’ Medvetz by my L.A. family Richard and Laurie Stark, creators of the Chrome Hearts dynasty, a couple of years back. Tim and I immediately became fast friends. He had been a bouncer at Hogs ‘N Hefers back in the day and a former Hell’s Angel. A number of the Angel’s had been on Oz and I had bartendeded in the clubs so we had immediate common ground. The guy is built like a brick shithouse: 6’5" at around 250lbs – the kind of guy you want on your side, no matter what. Cher, who is also a member of the L.A. family, was an early advocate of The Heroes Project as well, so all of their passion for this project was intoxicating. Having a climbing background as well provided this whole experience for me to be a no-brainer.

What can people do?
People can simply go to The Heroes Project website and donate 10, 20, 50 bucks, any amount helps really, to help fund Tim’s next climb. It is Tim’s sole mission to help restore the confidence in America’s finest young soldier’s after they have suffered these debilitating injuries, by getting them to face their worst fears realized and helping them to climb these peaks all over the world. Watching these young soldier’s summit with prosthetic arms and legs has been a life highlight for me. I’m hoping it will be for other folks as well. Like so many others, you were a bartender in NYC chasing a dream to be an actor. I guess nowadays you are recognized as “that Mayhem dude.” Tell me how you worked at being an actor, your breakout, your career, and where you are going? Also… do you miss bartending sometimes? 
I have had a very rewarding and a very peculiar career, one that I could never have come close to predicting. I have been fastidious to a point of nausea by trying to remain a NY actor. I like L.A. but only for a quick wind sprint, but I also realize that that is really where the business is so I am planning to spend more time there in the future. When we did Oz, which was the first drama series on cable, it was so raw, in-your-face, and new that I think we were all scratching our heads when it was over and thinking “now what?”

Tina Fey and every single faction of 30 Rock has been an absolute gift to me; that cast is one of the fiercest casts in the history of television. So with Oz, 30 Rock, Rescue Me and Law and Order: SVU, I have been spoiled in NYC. Everyone in this business knows that to be spoiled as an actor in NY is the Holy Grail. When Allstate first came to me with the Mayhem campaign, I was reluctant. My smartass answer was no because I became an actor so I wouldn’t have to put on a suit and sell insurance. My dumb ass. My managers – Bill Butler and Sandra Chang – quickly steered me in the right direction. I’m lost without them, and this campaign has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. One of the smartest decisions anyone has ever made for me (wink*). The sheer talent behind the people at Allstate and Leo Burnett (the ad agency out of Chicago led by Britt Nolan) is mind boggling. The creativity in the campaign is beyond what I would ever have expected.

As for bartending, I worked in 17 bars and clubs in the ‘90s. I do miss it sometimes. The music back then – the actual clubs – nothing like that will ever happen again in NY. You can thank the real estate market and a few no-fun politicians for that. With bartending came a certain amount of power and control – two things I am missing in my career these days. It was fun to be the captain of a crazy ship every night, never knowing where your actual destination was or where you were going to possibly be shipwrecked. Wouldn’t trade those days for anything.

I still run into you on occasion at a club or an event. Where do you like to go and what is it about the night that still draws you to it?
It’s always a pleasure to run into you Steve. I feel like I’m not the only one looking around wondering “what happened?” It’s different now, yes, but you have to admire the moves these young guns have made. Richie, Scott, Jason, Noah, Satsky, Ronnie, The SL crew. I mean I remember when those guys all reported to you. Now they have legitimate empires. Very impressive. I’m an old house-head and that music is slowly disappearing into this new horrible cesspool of dance music. You couldn’t fuck with the likes of Junior, Danny, Frankie, Little Louie, Victor, Boris. And sometimes they all played on the same night at different clubs around the city. Insane. I’ll dip into Provac or Pacha for the house. Ritchie, Scott, Noah, and Jason seemed to have pinned down the baby giraffe crew.

God bless Amy Sacco and David Rabin, true warriors if there ever were any in NYC. David was actually the first club owner I ever worked for, back at Rex. I’m also real happy in my hood. A pint of Guinness at Ear Inn suits me just fine these days. Don Hill was a very close friend of mine and his passing rattled NY nightlife to the bone. I truly miss that man. NY is NY though; it is the greatest city on the planet, nothing even comes close. I am very proud to be from here; I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Clive Owen Opens Up About His Surprising New Thriller, ‘Shadow Dancer’

In director James Marsh’s latest film, Shadow Dancer, Clive Owen plays Mac, an MI5 agent who is in charge of interrogating Collette McVeigh, (played by a fiercely luminous Andrea Riseborough) the daughter of a tightly-knit IRA family from civil war-torn Belfast. While traveling to England, she places a bomb in a London tube station. What ensues is a tense, quietly resonant political thriller, and Owen’s Mac is someone whose word is all he has left in the world. It’s a terrific, taut performance, and co-stars Riseborough and Gillian Anderson, and the largely Irish supporting cast round out this slow-burning thriller. Here, Clive Owen–a real movie star by any definition–discusses what it was like working with  Marsh, (known for his award-winning documentaries Man on Wire and Project Nim), his own dedication to the project, and the delicate politics portrayed in Shadow Dancer.

What preparation did you do for the role of Mac in Shadow Dancer, and how aware were you of the IRA conflict’s history?
I didn’t get a chance to do that much research, because I was coming off the Hemingway project (HBO’s Hemingway and Gellhorn, starring Nicole Kidman) and I was really tired, and I wasn’t going to work at all for awhile.

And then I was sent the script, and James Marsh’s name came attached with it. I loved Man on Wire. And I really fell in love with this script.  It’s one of those rare scripts that was really ready to go.

 So, I went straight from that set onto to his set. In terms of the IRA, yes, I do remember it. If you grow up in the UK, the whole threat of the IRA was ever-present, really. It was always on the news. It was always in the air. It was the danger of it.

How did James Marsh’s experience as a documentary filmmaker affect his directing process?
Oh, it was a big plus for me. Documentary filmmakers are always after something truthful. It’s a huge reason for me doing it. He’s not interested in manipulating an audience, or doing anything fake.

Is there a particular type of character you enjoy playing? 
I remember way back when I first got to LA, people asking me if I played “goodies” or “baddies” And I remember saying, “I really don’t look at it like that!” I meant it. I’ve never played any character that I pre-judged. One of the strengths of this script is that it wasn’t judgmental; it wasn’t clear cut. People are not just good or just bad. It was a complex time, and these characters are complex people.

When I look at my career, it’s just been led by material and by director. I’m sure it’s the fact that I started out in the theater, and I wanted to play different parts. That’s why you go into the theater in the first place, not to keep repeating the same thing. And for me, that’s one of the joys of doing it.

Does your character actually fall in love with Collette, his informant, during the course of the film?
I don’t think he falls in love with her, no…I think he has empathy for her. Every character in the movie is struggling.  The scene with that strange, furtive kiss, surprised me…And it’s rare when you read a script like that, where you get to a scene and go, “gosh, that’s really….” It was a furtive, kind of lunge from her for some kind of contact.  I think it surprises them both, and confuses them both. And I love that it sort of rears up. It’s not dealt with in a corny way.  It’s very real, human. Surprising.

[More by Francesca McCaffery; Follow Francesca on Twitter

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Criminals, Lovers, Sexual Chess Champions. McQueen and Dunaway Style.

Want to make next year’s Valentine’s Day more memorable? Start planning a heist. Not small-time petty theft, but Art heist of the highest order, Monet’s $200 million, San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk. Once in possession of your art object, act like it’s no big deal. This is sure to turn your partner on and he/she will want to sleep with you immediately. But, instead go play an hour-long game of dirty, naked, one-on-one…chess.

At least, that’s what Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway would have done. In their stylish 1968 film, The Thomas Crown Affair, the dashing millionaire (a million was quite enough back then), played by Steve McQueen, meets his unlikely match, an Insurance Investigator played by the preternaturally sexy Faye Dunaway. The Faye Dunaway character tries to seduce McQueen into giving up details of the heist, but somehow during the ‘investigation’ she gets her heart stolen too. (Or is it the other way around?)

[expand title=”READ +”]But forget the details and lose the plot, this movie (and indeed, this post) is all about style and an impossibly contrived love story. Watch this exquisitely styled film for its luscious cinematography and its Martini mix of flirtation, innuendo and loudly said un-saids. No doubt, a lot the sex happens off-camera. All we get to see is an elaborate and multi-position chess scene, masterfully fore-played by McQueen and Dunaway. So does the guy get the girl or the $200 million painting? Does the girl get her millionaire in bed or into high-security prison? It doesn’t matter, switch off the brain and get all mushy in the name of V-day. We think that love is a crime worth committing, just don’t get caught stealing the Monet.

Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures 

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Almodovar Women

A Technicolor palette of emotion and complexity

She’s a Prada-wearing Nun who deals drugs. She’s a bullfighter. She’s a girl in a coma who gets pregnant. She’s a struggling single mother; a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown; a hostage and a sex toy. She’s a fighter. She’s a daughter. She’s a prostitute. She is feisty, passionate, vulnerable and earthy.

Pedro Almodóvar’s career as a director has been inextricably linked to his portrayal of women. His representations of women have led to accusations of misogyny, but also admiration for his deep understanding of women. These two distinct labels have been applied to the award-winning Spanish filmmaker throughout his career and while seemingly at odds with one another, both hold some truth.

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“Yes, women are stronger than us. They face more directly the problems that confront them, and for that reason they are much more spectacular to talk about. I don’t know why I am more interested in women, because I don’t go to any psychiatrists, and I don’t want to know why”.

What Almodóvar Women have in common, apart from their characterization as victim or martyr or heroine, is that they are survivors. They struggle to overcome tragedies and adversities that often involve the men in their lives and a betrayal of some kind. A key Almodovar Women trait is that they overcome hardships together, forming close bonds and a deep reliance on each other, a collective force against the harshness of life.

As Pedro Almodovar said of his own upbringing, “It was the women in our house who were in the saddle. If men are the gods, women are not only the presidents, but all the ministers of the government”.

Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures 

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Jean-Paul Belmondo

Defiant, reckless, witty and amoral. The perfect male lead.

Jean-Paul Belmondo, the laconic anti-hero with street-smart charm, lead the French New Wave of the late 50s and 60s. Working with directors like Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, Belmondo became part of a cinematic style that would later influence modern filmmakers from Martin Scorsese to Quentin Tarantino.

Belmondo started out life wanting to be a professional boxer, but soon realised it was better to have his ego bruised than his body. His unconventional looks and rogue charm lead him to numerous roles, typically playing dashing adventurers or cynical heroes.

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But it was his performance as Michel Poiccard in Jean-Luc Godard’s A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) 1959, which made Belmondo an international star. The success of the film even resulted in a wave of “Belmondism” in the hipper circles of Paris, with young men modelling themselves on him.

His personal life mirrored often his on-screen persona, attracting publicity for his numerous marriages and affaires, even at age seventy. In 2011, the Cannes Film Festival paid tribute to Belmondo by awarding him a special Palme d’Or to commemorate his exceptional body of work.

 Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures 

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