Mark Lancaster Interview (Part 2)
by Gary Comenas (2004)
(to part 1)
In the Ray Johnson collage mentioned in part one of this interview, you were wearing a t-shirt with your name across it. Was your name actually printed on the t-shirt or did Ray Johnson add it?
Yes, the t-shirt was printed with my name, and of course that has a story. Richard Hamilton commuted to Newcastle every week from London where he lived with his family. His wife, Terry, and he had become my friends by the end of my first year at Newcastle.
In summer of 1962 Terry told me she had seen David Hockney at a party, and he had on a t-shirt with DAVID printed on it. She asked him about it and he told her he had made it at the Royal College of Art, where he was a student, using old wooden letter blocks. She asked him if he would make one for her friend Mark, and he said he would, if she supplied him with a t-shirt with the position of Mark's nipples marked on it, so that he could print the name between them. I sent a new white t-shirt to Terry, via Richard, and eventually it got back to me.
I think the photograph was probably taken in 1962 by Richard or Terry Hamilton. I know I got it in 1962 because Terry Hamilton was killed in a tragic automobile accident in November of '62. I still have the t-shirt.
Did you ever meet David Hockney, yourself?
I actually met David Hockney for the first time two years later, in September 1964 in New York. He had been teaching in, I believe, Iowa, during the summer, and we met at Dick Smith's loft on the Bowery. I was by then staying in Henry Geldzahler's apartment on West 81st Street, after Henry and Frank Stella had left on a trip to Iran.
David had a car and offered me a ride uptown. As he drove he got out of the glove compartment one of those early "underground" Gay Guides to the USA, and checking it out as we drove up 6th Avenue, he said, in that unforgettable Yorkshire accent, "It says here there's a Gay Ham 'n Eggs at 64th and Broadway". I think we stopped outside and it showed no sign of being gay, and he dropped me at Henry's.
Then back in England we became friends, and I got him to come up to Newcastle to give a talk on his work, for which he made a little drawing of palm trees which I printed as a poster. In 1971 after he and Peter Schlesinger broke up, David and I made a trip around the world, which I suggested might cheer him up. We met in San Francisco and went to Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong, Bali, Bangkok and Rangoon, Burma (Myannar), staying when we could in old fashioned grand hotels.
The Strand Hotel in Rangoon was a classic British Empire Hotel, with an elderly trio playing in the dining room, formal service and mostly canned food. One of the many drawings he made of me on the trip shows me in a white suit I'd had made in Hong Kong with this quaint trio in the background. By the Reception desk was a "Lost and Found" display case containing various bits and pieces that had been waiting to be retrieved for up to 50 years. Then we had to cancel our visit to India, as the India/Pakistan war broke out. We returned to Bangkok and flew to Istanbul and then Rome, where we relaxed at the Grand Hotel,where David had stayed before. I loved the idea of making my first visit to Rome by approaching from the east, and it was wonderfully civilized.
What about when you lived in England - did you ever know Derek Jarman?
I knew Derek Jarman from 1967 when he and my friend Keith Milow were in the first show when the Lisson gallery opened. I met Maggi Hambling around the same time. Derek was painting then and in 1968 he got a great commission to design a ballet called Jazz Calendar which Frederick Ashton made for the Royal Ballet, with wonderful music by Richard Rodney Bennett. Rudolf Nureyev and Antoinette Sibley were the stars, I guess, and Wayne Sleep, who is a friend, was in it too.
Derek had a marvelous loft in a dock warehouse on Upper Ground on the South Bank, before anything had been developed there, and there were parties with Andrew and Peter Logan, Herbert Muschamp and a mass of friends from everywhere. He worked for Ken Russell on The Devils and Savage Messiah. I liked what Ken Russell had done for television more than any of his movies, but for Derek this was the way into eventually making his own movies, which he did with tremendous nerve and cliff-hanging finances. I didn’t see them all, and never found them as profound as some, but a friend of mine, David Meyer, was in The Tempest which I liked when I saw it in New York, and of course some of them, like Sebastiane were very erotic and ahead of their time, as they say. I guess Derek was on to "punk" as fast as anybody as a subject, when he made Jubilee.
He was an amazing person. I read that his father was an RAF Wing Commander, I believe, and his mother was "artistic." Derek was a total combination of them. Aggressive and totally sweet. Hopelessly romantic and deeply ambitious. Marvelously defiant when he got sick. And very loyal, I think. When somebody who was writing his biography called me, years ago, to ask me about him, I said something to the effect that I liked him very much, I didn’t like much of what he did, and, by the way, I can’t be the first person to tell you he had a really big dick.
What about Yoko Ono - Did you ever meet her?
Thinking of meeting Derek Jarman in 1967, I think that was the same year Yoko Ono came to London with Anthony Cox, her second husband, and their young daughter, Kyoko. She had been first married to Toshi Ichiyanagi, the Japanese composer, who had studied with John Cage in New York. Yoko was friends with a neighbor of mine on Bath Street in Shoreditch. They made the Bottoms movie then, which I declined to be in because it seemed to me so sub-Warhol, and silly, at the time.
Yoko had her show at the Indica Gallery, Tony ran off with the daughter, Yoko met John Lennon. I am not sure of the order of any of this, but it was well known that the John and Yoko story was going to happen some time before it became public. I don’t know if Yoko ever found her daughter again, but she certainly tried to.
In New York, John and Yoko lived next door to John Cage and Merce Cunningham in the West Village for a while. We were acquaintances rather than friends, and I saw them a few times when Sean was a baby.
In part one of this interview, you mentioned Robert Rauschenberg. When did you actually meet him? Was it when you were working for Jasper Johns? Wasn’t Cy Twombly involved with Rauschenberg at one point?
I am not sure when I first met Bob, surprisingly, since he is such a memorable personality, probably around 1966, but I had already met him when he was in London in 1967. I was in a survey of the series of New Generation shows at the Whitechapel. I was showing a very big red painting, about 12 feet long, called Red End, quite minimal, and Bob looked at it quite intently and then he said “I guess you were going for red”.
That reminds me that whenever I saw Francis Bacon in those years, when my work was pretty minimal looking, he would always greet me by saying “Hello, dear boy, I do loathe abstract painting, don’t you?”
Cy Twombly is a wonderful guy, and a terrific painter. I got to know him much later, in the late 70s. The story is that he and Bob Rauschenberg were involved before Bob and Jasper met. I actually met Cy in December of 1964, when he came from Rome to the opening of Jasper’s exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. When Bryan Robertson, who was the Director of the Whitechapel, had been in New York that summer [see the Provincetown/Mailer question in part 1], he had arranged to get the show, based on the one organized by Alan Solomon at the Jewish Museum in New York in the Spring of 1964. In New York I had taken some photographs of Jasper working on According to What, and Jasper chose one of them to be in the Whitechapel catalogue.
What about Marcel Duchamp? When did you meet him?
I met Marcel Duchamp, at Richard Hamilton's in London, when he came for his exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1966. He asked me,"Êtes-vous artiste?" and when I said yes, or "oui," he said "Moi aussi." I met him and his wife, Teeny, in Carnaby Street, a few days later, where I had just bought a bright yellow suit. They admired it and I didn't have the nerve to ask him to sign it. And in 1968, at the ICA, the Duchamps were present when Arturo Schwartz gave a lecture on Duchamp's work, including implications of possibly incestuous feelings between Marcel and his sister. Duchamp appeared to snooze throughout. This occasion was on June 5th, 1968, two days after Andy Warhol was shot, and just hours before Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles. Duchamp died later that year, too.
That reminds me of 1964 again. By the time I had to leave New York in mid September, I felt to have become so much a New Yorker in my way that one day I found myself handing out RFK buttons in Grand Central Station, as Bobby passed through, as he was campaigning for the US Senate. And, as I look at the notes that I am so glad I hung on to, in one weekend in the Hamptons, I met Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Adolf Gottlieb, Saul Steinberg, Larry Rivers, Jack Youngerman and his then wife, the star of Last Year at Marienbad, Delphine Seyrig, Alfonso Ossorio, John Chamberlain and Wynn Chamberlain, and went swimming with Frank O'Hara. It’s hard to believe now. It was a different time, another art-world. Forty years ago this year.
Did you ever meet Al Hansen, the American artist who was part of the Fluxus movement and whose daughter, Bibbe, was in several Warhol films?
I met Al Hansen the first time in Provincetown in 1964, the same day I think that Norman Mailer punched me. He had a gallery there called the HCE gallery which meant Here Comes Everybody. He was very sharp witted and funny, and was making Hershey bar collages. I used to run into him from time to time but never for more than a minute. He was always funny. Beck must have had a lot of chocolate bars because Al was using all the wrappers! [Ed. note: The recording artist, Beck, is Bibbe Hansen's son and the grandson of Al Hansen.]
When you were in New York did you ever come across the American artist, Harold Stevenson? According to an article in Art in America, Warhol shot some footage of Stevenson soon after buying his first movie camera - although the footage doesn't seem to exist. Have you seen his New Adam painting?
I take it that you have the Art in America April 1999 piece on Harold Stevenson, which says the film Harold is "in restoration." The Stevenson New Adam is a 29 foot long by 8 foot high portrait posed for by Sal Mineo on several panels. Kind of amazing looking, even in reproduction. It was on show in New York last year, but I didn't see it. It might have been shown at the Iolas gallery, and I met him one time, either there or in Paris, at an opening.
He is/was extremely flamboyant and, like Iolas himself, extremely "camp" - I recall high-heeled boots. I heard of him from Henry Geldzahler who told me about his naked cowboy paintings. There was also an interview with him in the Art Newspaper last year which I thought one should take with a pinch of salt. I think he was maybe a protegeé of Tchelitchew - and Charles Henri Ford.
The Jackson Pollock sexual connection he claims seems to be questionable at least, but who knows. Anything is possible. Alfonso Ossorio must also have known him and he was close to Pollock as a patron as well as artist in the 50s, and he was gay - boy, was he ever! I had heard of the Harold film but have no idea of when it was made.
That photograph of Stevenson on the roof, with the silver pillows - I think it is on Sam Green's roof and not the Factory, if its the one I'm thinking of, in 1966 or so? I don't know why I think that roof isn't the Factory roof, with the big silver sausage balloon. It's just a feeling that somebody told me or something. I looked at the photographs in the Stockholm book and don't actually recognize the buildings surrounding it, but they could be East 47th Street I guess. I don't remember there being access to the roof there, though that doesn't mean there wasn't.
While you were in New York, did you ever visit the Empire State Building? Were you around the Factory at the time it was filmed?
On July 8th or 9th, just after my first day at the Factory, I met my friend Gloria Wood (she was a student at Newcastle) and her mother, and we went up the Empire State building. It was marvelous of course, the place itself, the stuff at the top, the elevators, the views above all. I got some postcards. I had a big thing about postcards, still do to a lesser extent. My oldest friend, from age 14, Richard Morphet, is a connoisseur of the postcard. In the late fifties he and I had a prolific correspondence, when he was a student in London and I was working in Yorkshire at the mill. Richard kept me aware of all the things going on in the arts and his postcards were like a kind of air supply to my miserable existence. (He recently retired from a long career at the Tate, where he curated the first Warhol show, as well as Lichtenstein, Hamilton, Kitaj and many others.)
Then when I went to Newcastle I started making altered postcards, like cutting two of them in half and making two "mirror image" cards. Richard Hamilton did this too, and I have no idea if I got the idea from him or not. Probably.
Anyway there was a lot of postcard stuff going on. So I got this bunch of Empire State postcards, and made an extended image of an Empire State building twice as high as it is, with 2 or 3 postcards. The next day I took it as a present for Andy, who said "Oh" and when I told them that I had just been up to the top, nobody had ever done that, which I found quite surprising.
Was anybody else around when you gave your Empire postcard construction to Warhol? Was John Palmer there?
John was there. Everybody was there, and I don't know who else but probably Billy and Gerry. They were kind of amused that I had done something so corny but I kept telling them how great it was. I have the feeling that John had only been to 47th Street, maybe once or twice if at all before the day I first went.
My first or second day was I am pretty sure the day Henry Romney came in, and I think that was when John brought him and introduced him to Andy. I remember the Clockwork Orange project being mentioned and it didn’t interest me because I didn’t like Anthony Burgess's writing and still don't. I probably thought at the time why would they think of a movie from such a bad book, and English (or Irish) too. Then I remember them discussing the name of the production company that was going to be Rompalmhol, from the three names. But I don't think that ever happened.
When you gave Warhol your Empire cards did he or John Palmer mention that they were planning to film the building?
No, they made the film about ten days later, but I wasn’t told about it until the day after and I felt a bit excluded for the first time.
Can you tell me anything about Henry Romney whose office they used to film Empire?
I could never quite figure Henry Romney. He was very affable, seemed wealthy, he didn’t seem to be gay, and I got the idea at the time that he was getting a painting, maybe a 40" Marilyn, in exchange for the Empire $$$, but that was hinted at in some indirect way.
Henry told me he had been to school in England, to Harrow. He was very elegant and formally dressed. I think he may have known Jane Holzer as well as whatever the connection with John was. We went to her apartment for drinks one time and I'm pretty sure he was there.
You also knew Fred Hughes who is often criticized in Warhol biographies although, in my opinion, he deserves a lot of credit for making Warhol the commercial success that he became.
I knew Fred for thirty years. The first day I met him we left the Factory together and went straight to 42nd Street to see, I think, Valley of the Dolls. We came out and immediately went to another movie, maybe Nevada Smith, or even The Carpetbaggers, which I definitely remember seeing twice in 1964 at the old Paramount in Times Square, just before it was torn down. Fred was a wonderfully elegant guy with beautiful hands. He used to wear his watch over his shirt cuff, because that’s how Gianni Agnelli wore his.
What you say about his contribution to Andy Warhol’s success is true, and he was devoted to Andy for a long time. I think Bob Colacello’s book Holy Terror gives a pretty good picture of the strains their relationship developed. After Andy died, Fred was instrumental in the Warhol Foundation’s early life, as well as trying to cope with the MS which started I think around 1986. It affected his personality in increasingly erratic ways, poor guy. I saw him in Venice, by chance, in the early 90s, and then one more time in New York as he was leaving a party by wheelchair, still wearing one of his perfect Saville Row suits. A lot of people couldn’t stand Fred, but I loved him.
Did you know Jackie Curtis?
I saw a lot of Jackie for awhile on the lower east side in both genders. He used to drop by my place on Houston Street on speed and just talk for hours - and I used to stop by Slugger Anns once in a while, his grandmother's bar. Slugger Ann's was a small gloomy dive on 2nd Avenue I think. There were a few regulars and the grandmother, behind the small bar, who was rough and Irish I guess, friendly, though. I only went a couple of times, once to meet Jackie I think. He lived there on and off.
And I also saw some of Jackie’s performances. My favorite was in one of the reviews when she came on in roller skates and rain gear and an umbrella, singing Stormy Weather while somebody threw water. One of the times I saw Jackie sing, she had John Wallowitch on the piano, and referred to him throughout as "my husband." I can't remember which show that was, and it might have been the one where she sang Stormy Weather.
John Wallowich is a wonderful pianist and singer/songwriter who still performs. He and his partner Bertram Ross - who was Martha Graham's partner for the last hundred years of her performing life - did a wonderful cabaret act. Ross died earlier this year after they [Ross and Wallowich] had been together for about 30 years.
In regard to Jackie, I also remember that there was going to be a wedding to somebody - Leo Castelli was going to preside. I had to go to Paris or somewhere and missed it.
I think you are referring to Jackie’s last wedding - the one that took place at One Fifth Avenue in 1978.
The 1978 wedding must be the one I’m talking about. One Fifth Avenue was then fairly new and had been done up with some bits of an old Cunard liner. It was fashionable for a while and was on the first floor of that beautiful building which had been converted from a hotel in the 70s to condos. Sam Wagstaff lived there. The restaurant was run then by an artist called Kiki Kogelnick and her husband who later bought Keens Chop house. I never went to the wedding because I left for Paris I think the day before. That reminds me - Jackie once told me he thought Joe Namath should be President.
Did you ever go to the Ninth Circle?
I was a regular at the 9th Circle from around 1972, when they actually served food there, until about 1984. I think it closed about ten years ago and I think it might be a bookshop now. It was sad to see it finally gone. You probably know it was originally a restaurant started by Micky Ruskin before Max's Kansas City, hence the same sort of sign, which continued to say "Steakhouse" to the end.
In about 1972 I had a studio on 14th Street (with a view of the Empire State building) and used to go over there for hamburgers. It was in transition to a gay bar then, and was fully fledged and popular by the time I moved permanently to NY in 1973.
Have you read Brad Gooch's Scary Kisses? It's in there, including a reference to me hanging out there after coming downtown from some swank uptown dinner party, with Kevin Sessums, who now writes for Vanity Fair, and a whole gang of poets and movie people like Brad's boyfriend Howard Brookner, the writer Richard Elovich, Joe Brainard (great artist) and James Grauerholz, William Burroughs' companion. Even people like Allen Ginsberg would show up there sometimes and Henry Geldzahler who had a big crush on a boy called Larry Stanton, who was there every night, and the great model Joe McDonald, whom David Hockney painted and who was the first person I knew to die of Aids - in 1981 I think. Then when Uncle Charlies opened on Greenwich Avenue it began to decline I guess. But what a great place it was. I saw Lance Loud there a few times, and even that porn star Jeremy Scott. And that German one, Peter Berlin. Reminded me that Andy once told me in '64 that one of the best places in NY to meet guys was the Oak Room at the Plaza, which was then all male and, as I found, a secret place for businessmen in suits to offer a young man a drink.
Did you ever go to Max’s Kansas City when you lived in New York?
I did go to Max's a bit, but by the time I moved to NY properly it was "over." Andy was there a lot in the late sixties, into the early 70s I guess and I sometimes saw him there on my visits from London, and said "hi" or sometimes joined his group, depending on the circumstances. I would usually make a visit to the Factory on these trips and he would still say "How's Jasper? He's so great, he's so famous" - but he was never bitchy about it. I think he probably admired me for it because he admired Jasper so much.
David Whitney, whom I had first met in 1964, was there a lot too. He had a loft and a gallery across the street from Max's for a while. And I saw Janis Joplin there once, with her bottle of Southern Comfort.
In the eighties, Warhol would often hang out in the Mike Todd room at the Palladium. Did you ever go there?
The Mike Todd Room. Wow, I had almost forgotten that name! I was there at opening night. Must have been 1984. Arata Isozaki, the Japanese architect, had something to do with the design – it had been the 14th Street Academy of Music before, a big old fashioned concert hall that had been turned into a movie theater and a rock concert venue.
Andy was there, of course, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente and Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf, who had all made commissioned works for the space. Did Keith Haring do the bathrooms and Kenny Scharf the phone booths? I think I went maybe once after the opening. I used to pop into CBGBs once in a while. I liked the New York Dolls, and the young Ramones.
Did you know many of the New York artists that were big in the eighties. What about Jean-Michel Basquiat?
I knew some of those guys. I always kept up with people closer to my generation, like Elizabeth Murray, Jennifer Bartlett, Terry Winters and Brice and Helen Marden. And Richard Serra, whom I first met when he made a molten lead sculpture for Jasper Johns at East Houston Street.
At the beginning of the eighties there was the Schnabel/Salle/Fischl phenomenon. And the three Italians, Clemente. Cucchi and Chia. Some called it the Mary Boone phenomenon. I remember Irving Blum, the dealer who had shown the Warhol soup cans back in 1962 in Los Angeles, coming to a party wearing a sweat shirt that said on it “Mary Boone. Soon to be a Major Motion Picture."
I knew Francesco Clemente and David Salle and Julian Schnabel, and enjoyed what they were doing. Keith and Jean-Michel I barely knew, but I remember a dinner at Michael Chow’s after a Basquiat opening at Mary Boone, probably after his first show with her. We were seated opposite each other and Andy was having fun, watching us as we seemed to be competitively downing Martinis as we chatted. I guess he won, because I excused myself and left before the main course (is there a main course at Mr. Chow’s?) because I was extremely drunk and did not want to misbehave. Andy kept whispering in my ear about how Jean-Michel had “such a biiig one.”
When was the last time you saw Andy Warhol?
In 1986 the D’Offay Gallery showed his last self-portraits. I liked the show. It was very classic and I told him they were the best paintings he had done in a long time. But that was never the right thing to say to Andy. He described the show in his Diaries as “walking into a room full of the worst pictures you’ve ever seen of yourself,” and he says Anthony d’Offay “art directed” the whole show, choosing the pictures he wanted and not the ones Andy liked. Saying he didn’t like the ones where his “hair’s up, like Jean Michel’s”. The ones in the show all had the “hair up” which is one of the things I thought made them interesting formally.
Andy looked less haggard in person than in those paintings, which in retrospect have a prophetic and scary sense of imminent death. Andy sat at a desk signing things in the gallery, and afterwards there was a big dinner at the very glamorous Café Royal. The London art world was there; Fred was there; Christopher Makos had come with them; Catherine Guinness, who had returned to England and married a Lord and had children, was there.
What was your reaction when Warhol died?
I was watching the BBC 6 o’clock news, it was a Sunday I think, and Andy’s face flashed on the screen, in that way they show a few images before they read the headlines. I thought to myself that can only mean he is dead before the newscaster read the headlines, and the last one was that he had died in New York.
I was kind of stunned. The next day I decided I wanted to make some sort of painted "souvenir," in memory of him. I thought of a soup can and went out to get one, to find that the design of the Campbell’s label had completely changed. Then I made a little Marilyn, traced from a reproduction, a bit like the underpainting he would do before the silkscreen was put on. This set my mind working, and without initially intending to I kept on making variations, all 12 by 10 inch canvases, until I decided after about fifty of them that I should show them. The Rowan Gallery had become the Mayor-Rowan by this time, and we scheduled a show for the first anniversary of Andy’s death. It was called Post-Warhol Souvenirs. I had made 180 paintings by then. I kind of liked them. They were corny, but now I look at the ones I still have and they look interesting in a way. They are of course 17 or 18 years old, now. Some are reproduced in a book by Marco Livingstone called Pop Art – A Continuing History.
Marilyn August 5 1987 (25th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death) (L)
and Marilyn September 28/29 1987 (R)
by Mark Lancaster
Just before the show started I saw a picture of a Marilyn look-alike modeling a Monroe blouse at Christies, and contacted her to see if she would come to the opening. She was a she, a very sweet girl called Kay Kent, and she was a stunning Marilyn. She appeared in the doorway of the gallery blowing kisses, and, this being England, 1988, nobody knew what to do so they kind of ignored her. I walked around the gallery with her and then she left. We repeated this a few days later for a local TV station. A year later she did the ultimate Marilyn impression and killed herself, making the front page of the Daily Mirror. As Andy said when told of Jackie Curtis’s death, “and that wasn’t something I wanted to hear”.
Marilyn September 7 1987 (L) and Marilyn August 24 1987 (R)
by Mark Lancaster
Andy’s death, like somebody said of Elvis’s, turned out to be a good career move. His work, with a few exceptions, had been in considerable decline since the 70’s, and it was not until after his death that the prices, particularly for early classic works, skyrocketed. Fortunately this has made the Warhol Foundation able to give out millions of dollars a year, and produce the Catalogue Raisonneé, of which we still await the second of several volumes.
I got a lot of the Andy Warhol postage stamps when they came out. They are very beautiful, but it became too strange to see him and peel him off and stick him on an envelope, and I stopped using them.
Many thanks to Mark Lancaster for his comments.
to part 1
Contact sheet of some Post-Warhol Souvenirs
by Mark Lancaster 1987-88
[All rights reserved by Mark Lancaster. Enquiries to email@example.com]