Cult Artist Clayton Patterson on His Folk-Futuristic Collaboration with Siki Im

For cult Lower East Side artist Clayton Patterson, collaborating with designer Siki Im was a natural fit. Patterson’s work in embroidery requires a certain level of craftsmanship, it’s hands on and impossible to mass produce — one guy in Jersey is overseeing each individual stitch.

“That’s a big part of [Siki’s] aesthetic, is the craftsmanship,” says Patterson. “I know his style and his look, he has that sort of Asian, almost martial arts, kind of working people’s clothing, and high fashion, so it was an honor for me to work with him.”

Im’s all black collection receives punches of hyper bright colors — all Patterson’s own threads — done, as Patterson mentioned, by his guy in New Jersey. Patterson, along with his partner Elsa Rensaa, has been using this artisanal chainstitch embroidery method as a social commentary on the changes and gentrification of the neighborhood. This is their folk art.

“It’s interesting because [Siki’s designs are] sort of pre industrial in a way. This kind of embroidery is more like a craft, like folk art. Nowadays things are most things are all computer and are sort of just mass manufactured. This is a lot of hands on, craftsmanship, individually made,” said Patterson.

The two were introduced by a mutual friend who put together a recent show of Patterson’s on 9th Avenue, when Patterson and Im realized they had similar interests in the Lower East Side, skaters, hardcore bands, and Patterson’s LES imagery. The collaboration kicked off from there.

“Siki’s clothes remind me of traditional Asian clothes. I think that combination of ideas of ancestors, antique, preindustrial craftsmanship, handmade, all of that is part of this whole aesthetic.”

Siki Im’s collection is, as usual, completed in only natural materials. Cashmere, wool, cotton, and silk from Japan and Italy in all black allow Patterson’s vivid chainstitch embroideries to really pop and speak on Im’s collarless, lapel-less designs. Oversized, and cropped wide trousers paired with kimono overcoats, and crew necks with elongated sleeves create new, super elegant silhouettes. There’s an ease of movement to Im’s designs that allow the wearer total control over his immediate environment. The clothes speak for themselves as always, but this season they’re saying something extra.

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Images courtesy of Siki Im

 

Wednesday Night: Documentary on Newsstand Owner Jerry Delakas, Candy Darling Art Show Opening

As New York emptied into and out of vacation paradises, I was here holding down the fort. I went to a few BBQs, hung with friends at McCarren Park, and walked the puppy…a lot. When the city empties, you can get a good look at it. I watch with a certain schizophrenia always found in my work and my social life. As new construction tears down the old and makes way for the new, I am sad or nostalgic for what remains of the past era, but I’m often awed by the visions of the modern architects and designers. Evident as we walk are the old advertisements for fabric or tradesman fading on ancient brick facades. On NY1 I caught a glimpse of a story about a barber shop closing that opened even before the television became a popular household item. A similar tale of the new crushing the old was told to me by my friend Dani Baum. It seems that the newsstand on Astor Place is being redone and its owner Jerry Delakas, who has been there forever and a day, is being told to hit the road. Tomorrow night, Wednesday, for those of you who are also confused what day it is after the long weekend, there will be a screening of a documentary about Delakas’ plight and an after-party at W.i.P., which is tomorrow’s scandalous story, btw. Here’s the event info:

Actresses As Allies presents a screening of The Paper House Report, a documentary film by Nicole Cimino and Jack Boar Pictures. Join us for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at W.i.P. on Wednesday, May 30th at 9:00 PM. Complimentary Admission.

The Paper House Report is a 25-minute documentary about Jerry Delakas, a Greek immigrant who immigrated to the United States in the 1970’s. Over the years, Jerry has become an icon of the Cooper Square area and the face of the Astor Place Newsstand, which he has been running for past 25 years.The Paper House Report is the story of his fight to continue running the newsstand after the DCA denied the renewal of the license. Director Nicole Cimino & Jack Boar Pictures teamed up to create The Paper House Report, a documentary which brings awareness to support Jerry and his struggle.

Filmmaker Nicole Cimino is an Italian actress and filmmaker whose past credentials include The Wall, Conscience of Zeno, The Blue Wind of Madame Sauvage, Play it Again, and Sam & Les Bonnes. She has also acted in several feature films, short films, television series, and webisodes. She is currently developing two plays: Once Upon a Time in Rome, which pays tribute to the Italian Neorealism genre, and her one-woman show A Night with Nannarella based on the Italian icon Anna Magnani.

Actresses As Allies was established by actress Dani Baum and serves as an alliance between talented, passionate, and dedicated actresses in New York City. The actresses comprised of "A3" support each other, share information about the business and their work, produce original works, and inspire greatness in each other. Many in the community are rallying to save this newsstand, believing its loss would hurt the traditional values of the ever-changing hood. You can sign a petition if you agree that the stand should be saved.

I caught up with Nicole Cimino and asked her all about it:

What has happened in regards to Jerry’s case since The Paper House Report was filmed?
When the shooting was in progress we were waiting for the final decision of the Supreme Court. It was supposed to be the last appeal and that’s why we tried to finish the documentary as soon as possible to support Jerry’s case. On last April 26th the court gave the decision and we lost. Fortunately, we lost for two to five. This was incredible since the result allowed us to go for another appeal with the higher Court of State, which was not supposed to happen. This result also shows how the Court is starting to understand the human aspect of this matter. The possibility to go for another appeal with the Court of State is an important chance to keep fighting for the renewing of the license and hopefully to win his case.

To some, Jerry potentially losing his license is a testament to the progress of modernization. But to you and his supporters, it’s a loss of what makes up the essential fabric of the neighborhood that is Astor Place.
Jerry is a landmark of the community. Astor Place is a historical neighborhood and Jerry is part of it. It’s like cutting a corner, which makes people remember the past and history of New York. The changing and the progress could be considered a “measure” of growing, and the legality could consider it a “measure” of humanity in its own way of looking at things. I think eliminating a human icon like Jerry is to forget an important part of the city and to diminish the dignity of a honest man.

Is compromise possible? Do you think the neighborhood is becoming less bohemian and more gentrified? When you say that "the neighborhood wants Jerry to be able to keep his newsstand," how are gauging that?
In this matter, a compromise is only possible if the Department of Consumer Affairs opens a new path in its own perspective. There are things in this case where the battle becomes meaningfulness without a deeper comprehension of human heart. You can keep screaming at each other your own reasons without asking yourself how we can create value together. I would say there is a possibility to look at Jerry’s case from a human perspective and to understand why granting a license to him is way more important than defending a bureaucratic principle.

I don’t think the problem is to search into two opposite ways of being in the world; bohemian and bourgeois attitude will always exist, as gentry and plebeian – if we want to use these terms – will too. The neighborhood is changing and transforming. The problem is when this change loses sensitivity toward people and keeps moving in a selfish, self-centered direction. I have spent more than a year talking to people in the neighborhood, attending the meetings of Community Board #2, talking to Jerry’s customers, and even looking on internet blogs and newspapers that gave opinions about this matter.

At the end of this process I found an outstanding support for Jerry from people of different backgrounds. That’s why I am saying it is only a matter of making an effort to go beyond the surface. It’s clear why a man, Jerry Delakas,  who  immigrated here in the 1970s on a ship, with just a few dollars and a dream, can be granted what he deserves, as all people who honestly strive for what they believe in with hard work and determination should. People understand that and support him.

What can people do to support Jerry’s cause?
People can sign the petition on line on the website or sign the petition which is displayed at Jerry’s newsstand in Astor Place. In this moment the most important thing is for the Department of Consumer Affairs to understand that New Yorkers and thousands of people all over the world are asking to grant a license to Jerry.

Political organizations, non-profit organizations for human rights, or organizations that take care of old-age people are vital in this moment to really go to the Department of Consumer Affairs and stand up for Jerry’s case and ask for the license.

In this moment we need to spread the voice through publicity. I am also planning to work with other artists to start several events throughout the city to support Jerry Delakas till the end of this trial. My desire is that the official screening of The Paper House Report will be only the beginning of several events that peacefully and creatively start all over New York City with the common Save Jerry-spirit.

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Another peek into the past, into the fabric that clothes NYC is the Candy Darling Art Show Opening at the Clayton Gallery, 161 Essex Street between Houston and Stanton, tomorrow night from 7- 9PM. That’s the place run by man-about-town Clayton Patterson and his lovely.

“CANDY DARLING (1944-1974) was born James Lawrence Slattery in Forest Hills, NY and "was – and remains – best known for her roles in two films produced by Andy Warhol and directed by Paul Morrissey, Flesh (1968), and Women in Revolt (1972). She was, however, in a number of other noteworthy independent films, including Brand X (Win Chamberlain, 1970), Some of My Best Friends Are (Mervyn Nelson, 1971) and The Death of Maria Malibran (Werner Schroeter, 1972).

Known for her beauty, wit, and talent, Darling was also a sought-after actress in off and off-off Broadway productions of the sixties and seventies, best known for her work in plays by Jackie Curtis and Tom Eyen, and for appearing in the role of Violet in Tennessee Williams’ Small Craft Warnings. Born a male, and having lived the latter part of her life as a woman, Darling is now celebrated as a pioneer among transgendered communities worldwide. She is the subject of the documentary Beautiful Darling (2010), produced by Jeremiah Newton and directed by James Rasin."

We can go on and on about Candy and her Warhol, Bowie, Francesco Scavullo, Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Lou Reed, The Rolling Stones associations but that will happen tomorrow night at the opening. I do remember watching her with Andy at Max’s before I knew anything about that which I will never understand. Ask me about that line tomorrow night and I will…clarify.  

Artist and Archivist Clayton Patterson on the Evolution of the LES

Artist, photographer, and videographer Clayton Patterson has spent the past 33 years documenting life on the Lower East Side. A pivotal member of the neighborhood as well as the underground art community, he’s seen it all from the early days of drugs and violence to the area’s present state of utter gentrification. Patterson’s massive archive, which is believed to include over 500 thousand photographs, isn’t limited to photos and tapes, because he’s saved everything: press clippings, artwork by New York artists (himself included), protest banners, punk fliers, graffiti, even books full of stamped heroin baggies.    

With the help of his wife, Elsa Rensaa, and the newly available video camera, Patterson was able to expose the frequent cases of police brutality plaguing the area in the late ‘80s. After witnessing the disgusting abuse of police authority during the infamous Tompkins Square Park police riot, where unarmed squatters, homeless people, and anarchist punks were violently attacked by police, he became more involved in resistant political activism. When he refused to give up his footage of the riot to authorities, which included scenes of cops who had illegally removed their badge numbers before bludgeoning citizens in the head and face, he was sentenced to and served 90 days in jail. After his release, he became an equally active figure in the neighborhood’s anti-gentrification movement.  

Patterson’s work is currently on display at another LES cultural staple, Tribes Gallery. The show, called "93 ’til Infinity," features Patterson’s photos from the LES in the ‘90s, mounted on heavily graffitied walls done by downtown artists Mint, Serf, and the Peter Pan Posse. On May 21, Clayton’s anthological film Captured will be screened in the gallery’s back yard. The film is a fascinating look into the area’s past and the event should not be missed.             

After walking around the East Village with Patterson, we sat down together in a park on the corner of Houston and Essex as the night grew closer and talked about his upcoming show.

Are you originally from the Lower East Side?
No, I’ve been in the Lower East Side since 1979. I’m originally from Western Canada. 

When and why did you start taking pictures?
Elsa gave me a camera for my birthday in 1972. They used to have those little introductory cameras for sale at places like Rite Aid. It was a Pentax 125. They had it on sale there for a very reasonable price, and she bought it for me for my birthday. Big mistake. 

What was the LES like in the ‘90s, around when the show was based on?
Well, it really kind of varied. I came over to Essex where I am now in 1983. At that time, one of the demarcation lines was Avenue A from Houston to Delancey. Below Avenue A was serious, and the deeper you went the more serious it got. And then this side between Houston and Delancey was like no mans land because there was really no reason to be over here, especially below Orchard Street. So this area was pure hardcore drugs. First night we moved to our place, we saw somebody get shot across the street. And then from Houston north to 14th Street, it used to be divided off. If you go back and look at maps of the East Village, it used to stop on Avenue A. Eventually the maps get redrawn and it went to Avenue B, and maybe by the end of the nineties it went to Avenue C. So that’s how much it’s changed. It basically wasn’t that populated in terms of like it is now where anybody can walk around doing anything. The World was down there, where we just walked by.

Oh yeah, Steve [Lewis]’s place.
Yeah, Steve’s place. That was like right off Avenue C. So that’s kind of what gave it its energy too. A lot of people would shoot up there, my friend Susan got shot there, and sometimes cabs wouldn’t even go down there. But because that’s right off of Houston, taxis would sometimes go there. But it was a great club. It’s interesting because when they mention club life they really mean a lot of different clubs. Like you know that band the Grave, which Basquiat was in; the first place they played was A’s, and anybody who was anybody had come through A’s, which was at 329 Broome Street between Chrystie and the Bowery. And everybody always talks about the Mud Club and Studio 54, but really there was other places like club The World that were great. Once in a while someone will mention A7, but that’s just because that’s where Keith Harring went. But in reality there was a lot of other spots down here that were really hot and happening, which really gave the juice to the whole world.

When you were photographing drug addicts and the generally disenfranchised, did you ever feel voyeuristic about it? Like, self conscious in taking the photo?
Oh yeah, of course. Wait, you mean if they were wrecked or something?

Partly, yeah.
In that case no. You have to look at it like this: that was the environment. Real life exists in real-life situations, and if something like that is going on that was the environment. I mean, if you went to the North Pole you’d photograph a polar bear, right? My ambition for the most part was to make people look good. I don’t try to take shitty photographs of people—that’s not my ambition. But if I come into this part of town and photograph some guy over there, who, like, ODed or something… I mean, that was the life at the time, a record of what was. It’s equal to when in war, you photograph people getting shot because that’s war. Down here it was like a war zone. So I’d photograph people that’d be slashed and stabbed and shot, but that was part of the culture. I didn’t try to glamorize it or turn it into something heroic.

Captured is playing at the closing of the show on May 21. Can you talk a bit about the film?
Captured is really taken from my archives. The material comes from things that I’ve shot, or Elsa Rensaa shot, she’s my… We just got recently married. We were together for like 40 years, but because of the politics now we figured we better get married so that if one of us croaks we can still share the shit after one of us is dead. So the film is done by these three young guys, Ben Solomon, Dan Levin, and Jenner Furst. They’re all in their 20s. When we put it out to the festivals, because of the content—guns, drugs, politics, police riot—it really got banned and bounced from all the festivals. Then we did this thing on rooftops and 2,000 kids showed up in their 20s. I realized the cut-off age for the most part is about 35 and under. A lot of people in their 20s like it, and I think part of the reason is because the people that did it were all in their 20s.

Would you ever leave?
You know, I think about that a lot, and in a lot of ways I’d have to say yes. I mean I’m very attached to the area and whatever, but the area’s been rolled over—it’s not really what it was before. When I look across the street here I see H&R Block, I see Dunkin’ Donuts, I see Sleepy’s, I see Western Union, I see Federal Express… It’s just all corporate stuff that could be anywhere. The originality and the genius behind New York was really attached to cheap rent, and that period is over. Now it’s just people struggling, and it’s not that interesting anymore. It’s super expensive, and then you have people like Steve who’re still paying off things that he paid for already, and it’s just like everything here now is about money. So here you have a guy, just take Steve as an example, you know, a smart guy who works really hard, is very creative and original, but everything he’s working for he doesn’t get to keep because he owes the government. Well what’s that about? And then they’re making it almost impossible to do business here, and they’re really gentrifying it to the point of making it into…. You know, you have to remember that people think New York is the all time art place. Well, there’s no guarantee on that. The muse left Paris after WWII and came to New York. You have to realize it was in Paris for probably 150 years; you had all the Romantic movement, the Surrealists, and Cézanne, and all those people. Same with Rome after the Renaissance. Who would go to Rome to be an artist? Not that no artists live there, but if you’re thinking of a world message, that’s not the place. I’m thinking now it’s probably more like China and Beijing with Weiwei and all of that. I mean, they do everything they can to destroy art here. It’s just about making it nice, and art’s not about just being nice and everything being cool. It has to have an edge to it, and we’re losing that edge. So if I croaked here, and then I have this whole archive, people would come in after it, break it up and sell it, it would disperse. It’s just like, is this really where I want my stuff to be?

You should make a massive book.
Well, I’ve put out several books. I did the Front Door Book, which is about 500 pictures from in front of my door. I did a book called Wildstyle: History of a New Idea, I did Tattoo Messe, I’ve done Captured, the anthology of the LES. I did Resistance: A Radical Social and Political History of the Lower East Side, which is also an anthology. I’m finishing up a three-volume Jewish history right now. But you know the truth is there’s no support for this stuff, so I have to do it on my own. I’m trying to start a Kickstarter to fund the Jewish book and things like that, but there’s no help for this stuff. Then you turn around and you’ve got a guy like Bloomberg who started out with seven billion dollars and now he’s got 20 billion. I’m sure it’s even a struggle to keep BlackBook going, and it shouldn’t be like that. The mayor should be supporting that because it supports nightlife, nightlife supports tourism, and tourism supports the economy of New York. But they don’t think like that. All they think is, "I want the money, I want the money," but nobody’s putting anything back. 

‘Captured’ & the New Downtowners

I attended the screening of Dan Levin’s Captured, a documentary about the iconic chronicler of downtown culture Clayton Patterson, at Collective Hardware last night. All of the unusual suspects arrived to witness a world that has largely disappeared as a result of more than a decade of hardcore gentrification. The Lower East Side, where I learned to stand up, is full of defunct clubs, and squatted buildings have long ago been replaced by condominiums, co-ops, and baby carriages. At this point it’s too long ago to point fingers or even think what could have or should have been. Captured just shows downtown as it was without pulling punches, needles or blood. Nothing was hidden from a new generation who might not be able to imagine what it was like without this amazing film. My special friend, a pretty young thing from Southern California with more than a fair share of cerebrum lives on Essex Street, and she was awed by the changes and indeed by the history portrayed in this film.

In Captured, I saw my old pal Ray of Warzone and a half-dozen friends who have passed since the film was shot (mostly in the late 80s). The fundamental message that resonates with me is that Clayton — and to some extent myself — live in a world which we never wanted. The culture of those streets — where so much art, music, and fashion were created — has long since dissipated, and there has been no such creative cauldron since. But still, I argue that the scene is coming back right now. There are hundreds of small scenes getting so much less publicity than the 1Oaks, or as my special friend calls it, “1Jokes” and “miss-the-Marq(uee).” Now, I love the scene at 1Oak, and I used to love Marquee, but I understand my special friend’s point. The job of clubs at one point was to push buttons, push the boundaries of our culture, and to bring together different people with different talents to help develop fashion, art, and music. And it was also just a way that some people made loot. Sure, there was always money being made, but that wasn’t the ultimate goal. Collective Hardware continues to expose me to new art, music, film and culture, and there are intelligent conversations and brilliant people doing installations all over the joint. It is simply the best thing I have experienced in downtown culture in 15 years.

I caught up with Clayton, and this is what he had to say about the documentary. “Yes, I am pleased with the movie, but the real magic is that yes, it is my footage, but it is the three young men’s point of view and their vision for the material over the years that’s amazing. I had some serious people look at my footage but ‘the boys’ are the only ones who have been able to do anything with it. They are the magicians that made me look good … without them the movie would be nothing. Dan Levin and Ben Solomon are the directors, and Jenner Furst is the editor — it is their point of view that attracts the young crowd and for me they are a total blessing.” Captured is available on Amazon and will be available in the iTunes movie store this week.

After the flick I went to Otto’s on 14th Street and caught the Lux Interior tribute. I wrote an obit about The Cramps’ frontman a couple months ago for this blog. I saw self-proclaimed rock ‘n’ roll terrorists, the Goon Squad perform, headed by my favorite misnomer Miss Guy; Justine D. and a half-dozen others played relevant sets of music in the front room … yeah, no Beyonce, Kanye West, or any of that bull bore that most DJs are offering up. This Serato thing is cool, but I can’t help but wonder how much stuff never makes it onto those playlists, like Michael T. and Mistress Formika who were there and taking no prisoners. I did hear that Mistress is hosting an insane weekly party called “Hose,” which I’m afraid to go to — so I will. I saw people at the Lux tribute that I haven’t seen in years, including rockers all out of the woodworks or the copy shops that many have been exiled to. There was more life in these zombies than what I’ve ever seen in “hot spots” around town. Mother Chi Chi Valenti MCed a little in an outfit fit for the queen she is. There is something happening here — what it is ain’t exactly clear — but there is a huge underground scene, and no club is embracing it. Michael T. said it: The kids want to go out. I pogo-ed to The Cramps’ “What’s Inside a Girl,” and yes, I danced with Jenny and Vandam door-diva Cynthia Powell and a crowd of people I felt real comfortable letting my hair down around.

Clayton Patterson & ‘Captured’

imageClayton Patterson is that strange-looking dude taking photos of everybody at all those art openings and downtown events. He has amassed a history of downtown — warts and all – -that really needs its own museum. Ask him about it the next time you see him, but bring coffee and something to eat because you’re going to be there for awhile. A long time ago, I was married to a model, and we decided to go on a camping trip hitting all the major parks out West. At one point, we had been in the woods for about two weeks with only a jump into a cold river for a bath and lentils and add-water type items for food. This story is a story in itself, as my never-camped-before wifey entered the wilderness in a black Azzedine Alaia dress and Chanel boots. She chased a bear cub because she thought it was cute, and I waited for the grizzly mom to eat us, but somehow we survived. Anyway, we emerged from our safari and checked into a real nice hotel for real food, a real bed, and most importantly a warm shower. She went first, and I flipped on the TV to see if the world was still there, and on the national news, there was my bloody friend and club owner Rudolf, who had been clubbed by a rioting police officer in Tompkins Square Park in New York.

This riot, with scores of NYPD cops bashing citizens, was well-documented by Clayton Patterson. You should look this up. Over the years, Clayton, a good friend of mine and a good friend to anyone who likes to see the truth in black and white, photography or video, has been beaten arrested and harassed. He just keeps on snapping away, and all of us in the downtown world owe him for just keeping “them” from getting away with it. He’s always been there, and he has thousands of images that tell it like it was. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Clayton has accumulated billions of words. Check out his documentary Captured, which gets shown around town once in awhile, to see some of the footage.

How did you first get started filming everything? Nelson Sullivan was a genius with the video camera, and he turned me onto it. Before that, I was photographing the dressing room at the Pyramid Club, so I have a large archive of the drag queens from the Pyramid Club from that whole period. And then in August 1988, I was going to the Pyramid Club to document what was happening that night, but there was this huge police gathering in and around Tompkins Square Park, and people were starting to protest, so I decided to film this 3 hour and 30 minute video tape of what was going on. One of the people who showed up was Rudolph, and he got his head cracked — there was blood all over. And I actually got that classified as a police riot.

So you ended up filming a historical police riot? Yeah, it got classified as that because if you look at the videotape, there’s lots of time where people are getting beaten up — and although that generally happens, the really critical shot in the tape is the ten seconds where the white shirts are trying to stop the blue shirts from running down the street, and they just didn’t pay any attention and ran right by. So the police had no control over the police, and that turned it into a police riot.

And this caused you a lot of publicity and a lot of harm. A lot of people came after you. You’re an activist, and since then you’ve been harassed occasionally? It was interesting, because there were two people in the Bronx House of Detention at that time for shooting six cops. I was one, and Larry Davis was the other. Now Larry Davis actually shot six cops with a gun, but I shot six cops with a video camera and got criminally indicted. Over the years, I’ve gotten more cops in trouble with a video camera than anybody probably in the history of America, and I was pretty good at it. But after I filmed that specific riot, the chief was retired, the captain was moved out of the precinct; the cops were fired, etc., so I did a good job. But over the years, I ended up getting teeth knocked out a couple of times, getting knocked unconscious, getting arrested, etc.

So what else were you doing at that point? I was an activist at that time, documenting what was happening downtown and on the LES. At that time, the LES was a heavy drug neighborhood, and there was certainly a relationship between the drugs and the police. Eventually the Mullen Commission came along and proved that, with the Dirty Thirty, etc. — it proved that the cops at that time were totally out of control. It’s a different world now, and it’s hard for people to imagine; even down where your club The World was, it was very brave of you to open in that area because it was a heavy drug neighborhood at the time.

What’s your relationship to nightlife? I see you everywhere, every party, and every art opening. How does your relationship work with nightclubs? I was really blessed because every time I went to these clubs, I never had a problem. I never had a problem at the Limelight, Palladium, etc. — thank god for Fred Rothbell-Mista, he made it possible, Arthur Weinstein made it possible, and you made it possible. So the clubs I really documented were Limelight, Palladium, The World, and the hard-rock scene at clubs like CBGB.

What do you have footage of, and what do you plan to do with it? I have tens of thousands of photographs of artists, poets, activists, people being arrested, a lot of drug stings downtown. The other thing I had was a window which was called the Hall of Fame. I used to have two things at my place — the door which kids could sign called the Wall of Fame, and then the Hall of Fame, which was 32 small pictures that I used to rotate and change all the time. It was of the kids in the neighborhood. Now out of anybody that’s photographed on the LES, I’m probably the only person who has photos of all the crews and posses, and I kept them all in a neutral place.

What happens with the archives now? The major blessing I have is that a couple of kids who grew up in New York City — Ben Solomon and Dan Liven (Dan is a third-generation New York City filmmaker; he’s recently made Mr. Untouchable and the movie Slamming) made a film on Cuban hip hop that I thought was really great, so I did a review of that in a magazine called Mass Appeal. After that, they went to film school and graduated with Jenner Furst, and these kids knew that I had this archive, so they took on my footage and it took a young persons’ point of view; they made it very contemporary. Now the amazing thing about it is that we got bounced from every film festival, Tribeca, Sundance, etc., but the youth loved it. When we showed it on rooftops, 2,000 people showed up, and 4,000 people were turned away. The movie, called Captured, is really about my archives. Kind of about me as the central figure, but it mostly focuses on the archives.

So with the archives, you’ve basically documented 30-something years of downtown, and a lot of the people you’re recording are in and out of the clubs. Where is this going to end up? Well basically, at this point it’s garbage. Nobody really has an interest in it until the right taker came along. It took Peggy Guggenheim and Clement Greenburg to make Jackson Pollock; otherwise he would’ve been just a crazy guy making pictures. So I’m waiting for someone to come along who really understands what the archives are really about. Now thank god for these kids making the movie, Captured, it was big step in getting some exposure for the archives.

What happened after Captured was created? Bush happened. Bush came along, and for the most part, I dropped out of activism because Bush made it really dangerous. If you’re out there photographing, and they don’t like it, they can turn you into a terrorist. So realizing now that I have this huge archive that nobody knows about, I’m now starting to look backwards. I did two books, Captured, a film video history of the LES, which is an anthology done by a large group of people, and then I have Resistance Radical Political and Social History of the LES, which is a similar thing. These are both about 600 pages each, but they are mostly word books, not picture books. Anyway, what I’m trying to do is save the history because as we both know, all of this history just evaporates and gets lost.

So your mission is to preserve the history of these places and of the downtown scene? Yeah, if you look at some of the clubs I’ve documented, like Area, there’s no other history of them. So all of that is history that needs to be saved. There were a lot of people at that time who were famous or became famous, but there a lot of people that we thought were geniuses that didn’t become famous. One person for me is Nelson Sullivan. What happened in the club scene is that there were certain people who really perfected an image and perfected an idea. Like coming out of the Pyramid was Rue Paul and Lady Bunny and a lot of other people who got lost. So what I’m trying to do with these books is put people that I think are really significant and important next to people who are famous. For example, if you go look up Alan Ginsberg, you might find Lionel Zippern, who I think is probably a bigger genius. So part of the idea behind the books is to keep those histories alive and to bring all those people together in one place.