There is so much that I didn’t appreciate when I was a kid, things as basic as living in New York City and as specific as my godmother taking me out, every month or so, for an Earthquake sundae at Swensen’s on Second Avenue. Earthquake? That’s nine flavors of ice cream and nine toppings, plus whipped cream and cherry, of course. The bowl was bigger than the one my mother made Caesar salad in.
There was one “in” I had that can still stop cocktail party conversation, 20 years later. Another friend was a writer for Saturday Night Live. Pretty much any time I wanted to I could drop hints and find myself in the SNL studios, after cruising past all the poor saps who had to wait on line down in the lobby. If, say, my favorite band Men at Work was in town, and appearing on the show, well, I didn’t even have to say anything, because the involved parties all knew Men at Work made me swoony. And I had already been given all the relevant M.A.W. schwag that had appeared in the SNL offices. Someone, as they say, had my back.
One show I got to sit next to Darryl Hannah (she was there to see Tom Hanks, post-Splash), another time a secret message (to me!) was artfully inserted into an item on the Weekend Update. Afterwards I’d get to go backstage, literally rub elbows with Sting or Prince or whoever, and go home the most pumped-up pre-teen in the history of the world. And the stupid thing is I never knew how good I had it. Sure, I had an inkling when a bunch of school friends saw me in the audience one weekend and nearly assaulted me the following Monday morning, but by and large I was oblivious.
I’ve figured it out now, now that I’m old and learning how to be grateful for the things people do for me. I remember those moments behind the scenes, hanging out with whichever silly celebrity was my hero of the moment, and the funny thing is, I don’t really remember who any of them were. Yeah, I still like Sting, but the rest are a blur, all those one-hit wonders and handsome actors. What I do remember was my friend’s bemused expression, watching me blush my way down the halls, watching me trying to be cool around the cast, and watching me flip out over the gift of an early 70s SNL satin jacket. What I remember is the generosity of a grown up with countless famous friends bothering to make a place for me, a gauche and uncharming kid, in an exciting world. We should all be so lucky
FROM VOLUME 3 ISSUE 10
57 Great Jones street
I was walking down Great Jones Street the other night, and was amazed to see yet another of my adolescent temples filled with moneychangers (so to speak). The beautiful arch-fronted carriage house that was once the studio and home of Jean-Michel Basquiat is now an upscale Japanese restaurant. I was living around the corner, on the still-skanky Bowery in the early ‘90s, and would walk by the place everyday: its story revealed itself in stages as I passed with various art-oriented friends. We all knew excerpts from the life of Basquiat, had seen him here and there downtown in the years before his death. An early version of our story had him locked up in the building, the prisoner of Mary Boone, everyone’s favorite love-to-hate art dealer. Our little urban myth had her scoring for him, and plying him with drugs to keep him in the studio and producing his cash-cow paintings.