Poet, underground movie star, and “beloved icon of the downtown New York art scene since the ’60s” Taylor Mead died in Colorado yesterday after suffering a stroke. He was 88. This comes just a month after accepting a settlement from his landlord Ben Shaoul to vacate the Lower East Side tenement building he called home for three decades. Mead had fled to Denver to live with family, but told friends he longed to return to downtown Manhattan. From Wikipedia: “Born in Detroit, Michigan, Mead appeared in Ron Rice’s beat classic The Flower Thief (1960), in which he ‘traipses with an elfin glee through a lost San Francisco of smoke-stuffed North Beach cafes…’” making him, as The Village Voice noted, “the first underground movie star.” Taylor, of course, is most famous for appearing in countless Andy Warhol films, including Taylor Mead’s Ass, a film that consisted of, as Art Forum famously described it, ‘seventy-six seriocomic minutes of this poet/actor’s buttocks absorbing light, attention, debris.’” Ah, the ’60s. He was also the subject of the 2005 documentary Excavating Taylor Mead (left). The New York Times today described Taylor as a Warhol “superstar,” Beat poet, stray-cat feeder, and the sweet face and voice of an era, saying that with his death “he takes a large slice of Lower Manhattan’s cultural history with him.” And of course I say this every time an icon passes, but we will not see the likes of him again. It’s very sad day, indeed.
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