It was a beautiful, early Spring night in New York at the Time Warner Center facing Central Park, with a full moon and a dazzling sort of crowd like you don’t get to see that much anymore. We gathered, first for cocktails at 7, with a couple hundred people you wanted to talk to all at once. A smattering of bold-faced names you might recognize, like Chloë Sevigny, Carson Kressley and Parker Posey, but mostly a real cross section of what we once called “Downtown New York” –now it’s all mixed. Paper magazine’s Drew Elliot & Micky Boardman, gallerist James Danziger & his wife Lucy, Dovana Pagowski, Stella Schnabel, Ricky Clifton, Aaron Gell, writer and filmmaker Jacob Bernstein (whose documentary about his mother Nora Ephron just premiered on HBO) photographers Idris + Tony, musician Bill Coleman, Sandy Long, Robin Byrd, Ike Ude, RuPaul pal and designer Zaldy, Joe Dolce, Mary Boone, photographers Brigitte Lacombe, Michael Avedon, Henny Garfunkel, Ryan McGinley, Jeremy Kost, Steven Klein, artists Sabina, Streeter, Ryan McNamara & Walt Cassidy and the list goes on…
I confess, I shirked my duties a little since I did tell Wow Reporters Pete Williams & Nigel Zeff that I would try to send some pictures to post last night (the not-so-great ones here) but
A. I was too busy talking and
B. They weren’t really that good, you see, because I was too busy talking.
After drinks, all 196 of us (I know because the maximum capacity was posted right there) filed into the theater for the main event.
Sheila Nevins, THE woman at HBO who has shepherded more great documentaries than anyone on earth, introduced producer/ directors, World of Wonder big daddies Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, who she obviously really ADORES, not only because they’ve made more than a few of those great documentaries themselves. The two spoke very briefly, thanking a few people. Randy said that they usually have a planned introduction that really sets up the film perfectly, but it was tossed out in favor of keeping it short as this was a hometown crowd and they really wanted to see the movie.
Geez, where do you start with something that is SO heavy, so real and so much fun, all at once. I guess, that’s also a pretty good review of Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures too. I turned to my date, (also my friend and book publisher), Judith Regan, after the film ended and said,
“…that was the alternate history of my life in New York.“
Yes. I can watch a two-hour documentary about the life and death of one of the best and most controversial photographers of the 20th century (who I didn’t know personally but who was also accused of being self-centered) and make it about ME. But isn’t that what a good biography does –make you think about your OWN life? I think we do project ourselves into documentaries, but when you live through AIDS in the 80s in New York City, it’s not hard to do when it hits home so hard. It cuts through a lot of lives you might know about, like Debbie Harry, Fran Lebowitz, Brice & Helen Marden and Patti Smith, but also many lovers and models and friends of Robert’s that the world doesn’t know on a first name basis. As one of the film’s most memorable interviewees, David Croland says at one point,
“You want me to drop some names?… really, can I help it if everyone I know is fabulous?“
Honestly, I did know a dozen or more of those fab names in the film personally too, including ones not present like photographers Lloyd Ziff & Marcus Leatherdale and the late gallerist Holly Solomon, who I worked for briefly as a designer. They are all woven through my NYC life too. Of the 50 subjects interviewed for the film, 20 or so were in the audience seeing it for the first time including Robert’s sister, Nancy and brother, photographer Edward Mapplethorpe, although Ed has seen it more than a few times. After the screening talking to myself and Henny Garfunkel he agreed that it really was a “cathartic” experience. I can’t even imagine for him, but it sure was for many of us…
Also in the film and in the audience Susanne Donaldson, Howard Read, Mary Boone, Tina Summerlin, Ken Moody, Jonathan Becker, Jack Walls, Carol Squiers, Mapplethorpe biographer Patricia Morrisroe. Plus, producers Mona Card and Katharina Otto-Bernstein and former Mapplethorpe boyfriend, my old pal, the aforementioned, Mr. Croland, who as Randy said to David & me before the screening,
“…sort of steals the show.“
He sort of does.
Movies aren’t applauded much anymore, especially ones that will mostly get seen on in your own living room, but this was not clapped for in an obligatory way. By the end of this journey, the audience was applauding not only the filmmakers excellent job (as Croland said to Fenton & Randy, they “REALLY got it right”) but also Robert’s work and life and a tale well-told and a life lived as unflinchingly as you can imagine. See it and recall the life and the images and if you don’t you don’t already know some of them, tell me if you don’t agree. It airs April 4 on HBO. If you are so moved, please applaud in your own living room. It counts double.