When Andy Warhol Walked In… & Walked Out (His Diary Excerpt Inside)

This past Monday would have been Andy Warhol’s 84th birthday. It’s hard to imagine a world without Andy, and it’s hard to imagine Andy at 84. He hasn’t been replaced. The concept of "downtown,” of art-influenced clubbing, has never adjusted to his loss. Going back before "back in the day” for most of you, there was a scene that was led by the creative crowd. In my club days, I started each night with the concept of having my joint cool enough "in case Andy Warhol walked in.” It was the way I set my goals, got up for the game. On occasion, he would walk in.

I can’t think of a celebrity that would define the "cool" in this era. I guess club owners were fawning over Lindsay Lohan until recently, and at one point it was Paris Hilton. Of course Jersey Shore peeps or Kardashians or basketball stars bring excitement to the hoi polloi. Maybe Jay-Z or Beyonce are the pulse. An art star like Julian Schnabel is often seen at downtown spots. Although he carries impressive credentials, he doesn’t influence the thought process like Andy did. I thought Banksy might create a stir – until we got used to his face.

Andy charged up a room. Any gathering he attended was defined by his presence. He hobnobbed at Studio 54 with Bianca and Mick and Truman and Halston and Elizbeth Taylor, but then snuck south to Max’s Kansas City for Lou Reed, The Dolls, and his crew. The profound difference of celebrity back then and now mirrors the profound difference of VIP, then and now. Then, it was the wonderful, the creative, the style-influencers. Now, it’s all about the Benjamins.

Until a few weeks ago I would catch Taylor Meade’s act at the now-shuttered Bowery Poetry Club. Stories about Andy would drift into his act – one day disdaining Warhol, one day adoring him. Taylor is 87 now. He’s still brilliant but very frail. I don’t know if and when and where I will see his schtick again. I miss my weekly dose of his and Andy tales. Just before his death, Long Nguyen and I produced a fashion show for Kohshin Satoh at Tunnel. Andy, Miles Davis, and Devo’s Gerry Casales were the celebrity models. Andy was complaining about the place being cold, although it wasn’t. He looked ill, so we forgo him walking up and then down the steps from the dressing room he shared with Gerry. We put him on the ground floor with Miles. We weren’t being mean, but we couldn’t make him comfortable. He smiled and waved on the runway and no one in the audience suspected a thing. We knew he wasn’t himself and we found out later that he was sick and in pain. He died a few days later, on February 22, 1987.

Here’s Andy’s own recollection of the event at Tunnel, straight from his diary:

Tuesday, February 17, 1987:

…Then went over to the Tunnel and they gave us the best dressing room,but it was absolutely freezing. I had all my makeup with me. Miles Davis was there and he has absolute delicate fingers. They’re the same length as mine but half the width. I’d gone with Jean Michel last year to see his show at the Beacon, and I’d met him in the sixties at that store on Christopher Street, Hernando’s where we used to get leather pants. I reminded him that I’d met him there and he said he remembered. Miles is a clotheshorse. And we made a deal that we’d trade ten minutes of him playing music for me, for me doing his portrait. He gave me his address and a drawing-he draws while he gets his hair done. His hairdresser does the hair weaving, the extensions.

      They did a $5000 custom outfit for Miles with gold musical notes on it and everything, and they didn’t do a thing for me, they were so mean. They could’ve made me a gold palette or something. So I looked like the poor step child.and in the end they even(laughs) told me I walked to slow…

Boldface Publicist R. Couri Hay On the Next Week’s Black Party and His Book “Secret Lives”

Someone once told me that, with rare exceptions, the sign of a great rock and roll drummer is that you don’t notice he’s even there. He is there to keep things sure and steady. Usually, publicists are like that: rarely the center of attention, although they are always around keeping the place in the news, controlling uncomfortable situations, being an honest steady ear and an independent but inside-voice. R. Couri Hay is a boldface name that handles and sometimes creates boldface names. I have known him for decades, and adore and respect him as one of the top guns of PR. I asked Marie Assante who works with Couri to tell me a bit about him and got this:

 "R. Couri Hay specializes in media relations and image/brand development. He is a creative strategist, image counselor, and campaign and crisis manager. Known as a social commentator with a focus on Hollywood, high society, and philanthropy, he has been featured on The Today Show, CBS Early Show, Extra, VH1, Fox News, CNBC, CNN, ET, and ABC World News Now. 
In print, his experience is vast. He started his career as one of the original contributing editors of Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, and went on to help create the chatter column for People magazine and write for Town & Country. He currently is a Society Editor and Columnist for Gotham, Hamptons, and Avenue Magazines."
If the party is good, Couri is there either working or mingling. He has a sharp wit and tongue to go with it – I have been on the good and bad side of it. He is always a gentleman, a concept that has great meaning for me. He has always been there for me, often the voice of reason in unreasonable situations. He is the consummate professional and can be found on every major players’ list of potential PRs. With the infamous Black Party looming, I caught up with him and asked him about his involvement and other stuff.
 
Five thousand gay men are converging on Roseland Ballroom for the Black Party, and you are the publicist? How does one do publicity for this world?
To clarify, the publicist for the Black Party is Dan DeMello. My only involvement is that SaintatLarge.com is generously and bravely excerpting the last chapter from my novel Secret Lives. The reason they’re doing this is that the last chapter takes place on March 21, 1981, the day of the inaugural Black Party. I take the reader back in real-time to that night and my friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, who was the party’s official photographer. I bumped into Stephen Pevner, who is Bruce Mailman’s cousin and now owns The Saint, at the LGBT Center’s Art + Sin Black Party Poster Party last week and he told me all of the statistics on the March 24th event, which I was happy to share with Emily Smith at Page Six.
 
Because Stephen Pevner allowed me to excerpt my novel Secret Lives on SaintatLarge.com, it’s getting the party some additional attention, which it deserves.  It was the first gay circuit party on Earth and remains the gay world’s premiere S&M "convention."  Pevner has published a special magazine about the Black Party and has a major advertising machine in GLBT publications around the world, which have been covering the event since its inception. Their website has a series called Stories from the Saint, in addition to video testimonials. My observation is that you publicize this circuit party in the same way publicist’s publicize the Oscars, only it’s targeted to the gay press rather than the mainstream media. In essence, the Black Party is the Olympics of the S&M world.
 
You have been a publicist for a good minute. Tell me about your clients over the years. What boldface names stick out and which were the easiest to work press for?
I’m very proud of the work I have done for the children of my friends. I helped launched the careers of Amanda Hearst (the daughter of Anne Hearst the publishing heiress), Lydia Hearst (the daughter of Patty Hearst one of John Waters’ favorite actresses), Lauren Bush (the daughter of Sharon Bush) who I helped when she became the UN’s spokesperson for the world’s hungry children, and Sarah Bradford, the half sister of Matt Damon who became Page Six Magazine’s #1 It Girl.
 
I represented Harry Winston, Bergdorf Goodman, and opened the Prada, Bulgari, and Chopard stores in Aspen. I had a lot of fun representing the champagnes Krug and Vueve Clicquot where I got to giveaway tens of thousands of glasses of champagne to celebrities ranging from Catherine Deneuve to Naomi Campbell.  While I was the publicist for Grand Classics at Soho House and Cinema Society, I did screenings with dozens of movie stars ranging from Gwneth Paltrow and Philip Seymour Hoffman, to Signourney Weaver and Dennis Hopper. This week (March 13th), I did publicity for Paper Street Films producers Austin Stark and Bingo Gubelmann around the screening of their new film Detachment, starring Adrien Brody, Lucy Liu, and Blythe Danner.
 
In nightlife I’ve worked with Studio 54, Tatou, Nell’s, MK, Red Zone, Pink Elephant Club, M2, and most recently Pacha, District 36, Hudson TerraceViktor & SpoilsSway, Snap, and STASH, which have played host to an endless stream of boldfaced names.
R. Couri
 
These days, many clubs are not looking to get traditional press as a way to protect their clients privacy. Is this really new or was it also sometimes your job to keep things quiet?
It was always my job and is still my job to keep 90 percent of what I know under wraps. It’s the other 10 percent that ends up on the front pages of the Post and the Daily News, in Page Six, GatecrasherPeopleUS Weekly, etc.There’s always a fine line about what’s acceptable to write about a celebrity, such as a sighting, and what’s unacceptable, which would be brawls and other naughty acts they wouldn’t want to see in print.
 
Tell me a damage-control story.
Most of my damage-control stories have been on behalf of victims. I worked with both women that ended up letting Oscar De La Hoya talk them into their underwear.  Both of these stories ended up on the front pages around the world. I did my best to control the public’s perception of these women. I also represent George Soros’ ex-girlfriend Adrianna Ferrera who is now suing for $50 million.
 
Tell me about the book.
The novel Secret Lives is about a bisexual designer, partially based on my ex-lover Halston and other designers I knew in the ’80s. The fictional Rodney Sparrow marries Blandy Bradford, the debutante of the decade, who shoots him in the first chapter after discovering that she’s pregnant and that he infected her with the AIDS virus, which he contracted during his secret gay sex life. The book then flashes back to both of their personal and family histories. The lead characters are based on composites of real people that I knew intimately. Secret Lives is set within real events including the Oscars, Grammys, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Galas. The book has cameos by virtually every boldfaced name that mattered from the ’80s. Secret Lives is a first-hand diary of the times that I lived in.
 
Are you attending the Black Party and, if so, what are you wearing?
Sadly, although I’ve attended 27 of the 31 Black Partys, I’ll be skiing in Courchevel France with my family and goddaughter who is on spring break. The last one I attended was in 2009 where I danced alongside Marc Jacobs and his then-lover Lorenzo Martone.