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Then I heard that the building belonged to Andy Warhol, that he had perhaps given it to Jean-Michel, in an attempt to buy, or keep, his friendship. In reality Basquiat rented the studio from Warhol beginning in 1983: After chasing Warhol through the streets as an unknown graffiti artist and trying (unsuccessfully) to gain admission to The Factory, moving into the carriage house must have felt like success, like an assurance of acceptance. Through the mid-eighties the two collaborated on a couple of series of paintings; their friendship was for a time intense, with Warhol playing a pseudo-paternal role.
It was after Warhol’s death that Basquiat began his own spiral toward oblivion, sinking deeper and deeper into self-loathing and what he claimed was a 100-bag-a-day heroin habit. He died here at 57 Great Jones in the summer of 1988, was seen by his neighbors being put into an ambulance in the middle of a hot afternoon, and a dumpster filled with his belongings appeared outside not long after.The tragedy of it all was, to me, so profound, that I always imagined the building left as it had been. Sure, the vultures came and stripped the place of art, but the splashes of paint were surely still on the walls and floor, dirty paintbrushes and paint-spattered suits collecting dust in the corners. I always imagined it eventually a Basquiat museum, a fitting downtown space for a downtown artist, scaled not to the his talent, but to the brevity of his career, a small monument to the brief time when the same old shit was the king of the world.
FROM VOLUME 3 ISSUE 09
Oh, NYU, how do I hate you? Let me count the ways… There’s the endless marketing of your third-rate adult education classes, and Mary-Kate and Ashley, who really should have stayed on that other coast. But most despicably, you tore down the Palladium and replaced it with the ugliest institutional residence ever wrought by the hand of man. And then you had the audacity to name said residence the Palladium, just to rub our noses in it.
In the 1980s the Palladium was the apex of the NYC club scene. Opened by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager after the demise of Studio 54, it outdid 54 in glamour and excitement, a superstore to 54’s boutique.
When I was 14 years old, we’d dress up in our best Betsy Johnson, lie to our parents, and take the 6 train down to 14th Street, steeling ourselves for the style police who guarded the doors. I was lucky enough to be sort-of friends with a niece of Rubell’s, which guaranteed us super-VIP status (what was Uncle Steve thinking?). If said niece was not with us there was our safety net: a senior at our incredibly uptight school was one of the doorpeople. Only 18 herself, blue haired at a time when blue hair really meant something, especially on the Upper East Side, I think she fancied herself a corrupter, or perhaps educator, of the headed-for-preppy (I modeled myself on her for years, from the blue hair to the pointy-toed multi-buckle boots).Inside was the equivalent of three or four clubs — pounding dance floor area, strange multicolored basement; the Michael Todd room upstairs was our spot. There we could camp out surrounded by the Jean-Michel Basquiat murals (our favorite painter, bien sur) and quaff sloe gin fizzes until we were queasy or someone offered us something better. Oh look, there’s Andy! And Jean-Michel! Michael Musto! Allen Ginsburg! It was an Uptown girl’s finishing school for Downtown, and the beginning of my adult life, I suppose. The bathrooms were coed, for chrissakes, and me a 9-year veteran of single sex education. I hardly ever danced, but I sure did learn a lot.