Malcolm McLaren: Renaissance Man & Vivienne Westwood’s Baby Daddy


Those who declare themselves punk or glam have Malcolm McLaren to thank, should they care to, (though Lou Reed might have taken issue) for directing punk’s style beginnings from a shop on King’s Road in London. McLaren and designer Vivienne Westwood opened the shop, Let It Rock – later renamed SEX – and it was there that they sold clothes and records and made costumes for the New York Dolls out of red patent leather.

McLaren met Vivienne Westwood when he was a teenager, getting her pregnant by the time he was 18. His grandmother gave them the money for Westwood to have an abortion, but against McLaren’s wishes, she spent the money on a cashmere twinset.

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The Internet Dons Spandex; Ryan McNamara Scores

Since its last iteration, Performa has rewarded its top Biennial commission with the Malcolm Award, named in honor of the late, formerly ever-multitasking Malcolm McLaren. This year the honors go to New York-based multimedia artist Ryan McNamara for his MEƎM: A STORY BALLET ABOUT THE INTERNETIf this dispatch from T is to be trusted, the performance was truly as overloaded and intense as the World Wide Web itself:

“Next, I was wheeled to another room, where two women in oversize black-and-white-striped prisoner blouses repeated the same laconic pas de deux to a suspenseful orchestral score that may or may not have been the theme to Vertigo. I felt like a patient in a nursing home, passively moved from place to another, never quite able to focus entirely on what was happening right in front of me…”

The Malcolm jury (comprised this year of rising star Adam Pendleton, omnipresent critic Linda Yablonsky, and Lawrence Kumpf of Issue Project Room,) said that MEƎM turns “the idea of spectatorship on its head, furthering the passivity of the audience by literally moving them around the theater, one by one, on specially designed chairs, echoing the ways in which we surf the web, constantly moving between images.”

McNamara gets the not-insignificant sum of $10,000 for his efforts, plus the exposure that comes with it: Keep in mind that the first Malcom Award winner was the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, who is now prepping for a major show at the New Museum in 2014.


Performance photos by Paula Court, courtesy of Performa.

Punks Fretting Over The Met’s Upcoming Punk Fashion Exhibit

An exhibition on punk music’s influence on fashion is headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute this May, which is great news for those of us who loved the Met’s Alexander McQueen exhibit and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London’s exhibit on Vivienne Westwood. But not everyone is so excited about Punk: Chaos To Couture.

Young Kim, the widow of godfather of punk Malcolm McLaren, said the exhibit is riddled with inaccuracies and mispellings of names. A fashion writer and expert on punk clothing, Paul Gorman, also criticized the Met’s work on the exhibit, suggesting standards were a bit slack. Both are questioning the authenticity of some of the clothes in the exhibit, which is explained in detail in this Guardian UK piece.

Some of Kim’s complaints about the Punk: Chaos To Couture are fruitless, if not outright silly: she faults the Met for not "engaging" McLaren for the exhibit, who died in 2010, while he was still alive. It would be lovely indeed if anyone who could help with a museum exhibition was alive to assist, but that’s usually not how museums work.

But their points are fair and well-noted. Fortunately the Met still has almost three months until Punk: Chaos to Couture opens to the general public to address them.

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RIP Malcolm McLaren: The End of the Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle

In the end, all who are writing about the passing of Malcolm McLaren are merely putting their two cents in. Maybe that’s the price for sharing memories and all the talk and recollecting only add up to two copper pennies. But it feels like if we put in anymore than our two cents Malcolm would laugh at us or pocket the change himself. That’s the kind of guy Malcolm was, he was one of us and in a lot of ways he was all of us. He helped define the world I live in, forcing me to think outside the box, gather no moss and try not to be a cliché. I got a text from my friend, interior designer Jim Walrod. “Malcolm’s dead!’ He had just got a call from McLaren’s girlfriend and admitted that he hadn’t known he was ill. I asked Jim to write something about Malcolm. He knew him well and would often tell me amazing stories that gave me insight to the genius. Here’s what Jim had to say.

“The man never stopped looking at the world, and he always had a fresh perspective. When you spoke to Malcolm you felt that anything was possible. He always had something going on – from video art installations, to a line of children’s clothing, to a musical on the life of Christian Dior. Malcolm made it seem as if it was all happening NOW and if it wasn’t going to begin immediately he was going to pound on doors until it did!

The man changed the way people view pop culture. He treated hip-hop as if it were folk music and opera like it was disco. The man sold clothing and mocked fashion simultaneously. He stood for everything that we wanted to stand for and he always made you feel as if you were in on whatever it was that he was scheming, even if you weren’t. Boy will I miss him.”

When you lose a Warhol or a Rubell or a McQueen, there is no one who will ever fill that creative niche. Until the last few years Malcolm led the way. The New York Dolls, Bow Wow Wow the friggin’ Sex Pistols– the fashion collaboration defining the punk movement with Vivienne Westwood. The attitude. Where Warhol came off as a gentle genius, Malcolm was hard, angry, deviant unpredictable, unstoppable. He didn’t just open doors, he kicked them in. He was vogue-ing before Madonna. My mentor Chi Chi Valenti provided lyrics for “Deep in Vogue” which featured my lost friend Willy Ninja:

“Sometimes on a legendary night Like the closing of the Garage When the crowd is calling down the spirits Listen, and you will hear all the houses that walked there before”

In the early 80’s, McLaren stopped me in my tracks as I watched buffalo gals and double dutch. Now it seems so dated but it was jaw dropping new as so much of what he gave us. The Bow Wow Wow lyrics turned me and my generation onto DJ scratching. “All that scratching is making me itch.”

In an incredible coincidence, I heard ex Sex Pistol Jon Lydon played the other day. Malcolm named him Johnny Rotten. Maybe Malcolm didn’t pay him or the Pistols what they wanted, but he surely gave them everything they ever had. I saw Malcolm at dinner one night a long time ago. The place was called Bernard’s in a hood that was the edge back then, but is now full of yuppies. Bernard’s was famous for mixed-matched plates and inconsistent food. McLaren was dating Lauren Hutton then and she was holding his hand in anger, digging her nails deep into the flesh. He wasn’t pulling his hand away and he was pleading for forgiveness. I winced at the violent grip even though he did not. He had gotten used to criticism and was notoriously thick skinned.

He once said “To be bad is good. To be good is simply boring.” People used to say a picture is worth a thousand words but these are much faster times. Where a picture wont do, a Youtube video might. I revisited his masterpiece, Madame Butterfly. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s as relevant, sexy, beautiful and hip as ever it ever was. I watched it 3 times, straining to hear the last lyrics of the song. They are “He’ll be back.” Unfortunately, that ain’t so.

Malcolm McLaren, R.I.P.

I was thinking about Malcolm McLaren earlier today, which is bizarre, because he only sporadically popped into my head since we’d first met a couple of years ago at Mark Ronson’s Allido Records studio in SoHo. Ronson showed up a few hours late to interview his musical icon—the night before, he and his sister Charlotte celebrated the release of her debut fashion collection, presumably well into the morning—and so McLaren and I had ample time to discuss his music, his art, his family and all of the many wonderful things he’d accomplished during his rich and rebellious life. I was in the studio again with Ronson today.

He played many of the tracks from his upcoming album—all of which are fantastic, by the way—and it reminded me of sitting in that other studio, listening while McLaren spouted off pearls of wisdom like they were afterthoughts. A real raconteur, stories came naturally to him, and often. “Today’s music is sold by the yard,” he’d say, grumbling. Or, “The wonderful thing about the Amy Winehouse record [which Ronson produced]—and don’t take this as a derogatory remark—is that it has the sound of the amateur in it… I’d say punk was the glorification of the amateur.” But my favorite of McLaren’s many comments came when he described the sexual revolution in London, which coincided with his ascent into adulthood. “I was throwing caution to the wind,” he said, “entering a new culture that wasn’t about necessity, but complete desire. We wanted everything and we wanted it now. It was a real moment.” And from his time spent managing the Sex Pistols, to his relationship with Vivienne Westwood and even his recent multimedia artworks, a nod to ’60s sex films, he was always there, right at the center of it. Malcolm, you’ll be missed.

Malcolm McLaren Fires Off!

image1. I hate airports: They smell like old socks, rotting bodies, and filthy food. The cattle ranch aspects, the airless, timeless, boring sense of death about them. Their pretense at being beacons of knowledge about the cities they are built around. They’re presumptuous and odious products that are supposed to inform us and celebrate the city they fly out of and the cities they fly into.

2. I hate warm, red wine from California. I hate the words “Californian zinfandel,” Californian “champagne” (Champagne is a place, a part of France where only champagne can be made.)

3. I hate the English. They are a nation of liars. Their survival depends entirely on how successful they are at practicing a culture of deception.

4. I hate TVs in taxis; London and New York both have them. They make you lose faith in information. They destroy your imagination. They ruin your appetite for everything, including sex. They are a curse on people and animals. Taxis were the last place you could rest your feet and not have to buy anything, be sold anything, where you might simply make love in the back seat. Now, it just feels like war getting from A to B.

5. I hate certain people who speak with dull confidence. I experienced it once with an English girl’s parents whilst Christmas holidaying in France. I locked myself up in a church afterwards, just to get away from them. I never had sex with that girl again.

6. I hate anyone who speaks badly of Apple (the company). It is the best thing about America besides Thom Browne.

7. I hate music that doesn’t look like anything. 8. I hate fashion that doesn’t have the “beat.”

9. I hate myself if I can’t understand an idea.

10. I hate not being an artist all the time.