I believe that each of us is given one sentence at birth, and we spend the rest of our life trying to read that sentence and make sense of it.
Li Young Lee
Monday November 11, 1989
Cookie died Friday. I saw Victoria Pedersen in the Korean deli near Simon’s place, I had gone over there to eat some Chinese take-out with Simon. I was in an access of frustration about having wasted the whole afternoon writing a reply to the woman who reviewed Hanuman Press in the Voice, who then wrote a long letter against my review of her review. Raymond says this girl is a complete liar. I think she was just ignorant about various things and is now being stupidly defensive. The first draft of her letter was actually conciliatory and admitted certain mistakes in her article, but after being “advised” by various editors she’s written a new one that’s totally abusive and hysterical. I just love all the support I get from the Village Voice. They would much rather have people calling each other names and sounding like idiots than anything like a reasonable discussion. The whole thing has gotten completely out of hand and I wish I’d kept my mouth shut. Anyway, Victoria told me Cookie was dead and we both cried and I sat around Simon’s feeling like I’d been in a car wreck.
16 November 1989 Thursday
The funeral was grueling. People wandered in and out of St. Marks Church before the service, viewing the body. When Sharon arrived I was outside smoking cigarettes with Stephen Mueller and she sort of pulled me along with her into the church—she had a dog on a leash, and an urn full of what later turned out to be the ashes of Beauty, the dog Jackie Curtis gave Cookie when we were working on A Couple of White Faggots Sitting Around Talking years ago, which were evidently buried with Cookie—and marched directly up to the coffin, which was ringed by dozens of white candles spluttering away in little glasses. I’d vowed not to look and there I was, suddenly. Cookie looked shrunken and green-violet in color, not at all the miracle of preservation Sharon had led me to expect a few nights earlier on the phone. Scott Covert, quite unhinged by everything, he said he was moving to Egypt. I told him Egypt was a death culture and it wouldn’t be much of an escape. I guess everybody in the world showed up for this, I couldn’t really focus on anything though I was trying to take Stuart’s advice and look at it “as a writer.” Clarissa said when I called her, “I don’t know what to say, I’m not really the sort of person who can produce emotions on cue.” I thought: me either. Sharon sang at the end, in an incredible voice. It was just like the end of Imitation of Life.
One thing that crossed my mind was, I should really take steps to avoid this kind of thing if I pass on anytime soon—I only want Barbara and Lynne and Betsy present, and maybe a few other people, and they can dump my ashes off the Staten Island Ferry or use them to coat the rims of margarita glasses for all I care.
Collective grief is really for the birds. Even when I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on what was really taking place, I kept thinking: “God, this room is full of people who wouldn’t piss on me if my guts were on fire.”
December 11, 1989
Saturday, went with Bob Gober to Vito Russo’s lecture at the Public, and then he and his friend John went with me to Noho Star to pick up Tina. Tina and I took a cab to Brooklyn. The cab driver was Chinese or Japanese or something, and everything in his noisy rundown cab was crooked: the front seat tilted funnily to the left, his rear view mirror was tilted almost straight up. Marianne Faithfull was terrific, though I could’ve lived without the opening Bach cantata and the piece by Stravinsky, a composer I really detest. Living in New York you get sick of loud noises.
Coming back, we took a car service after walking around in subzero for a long time. The car service driver was mental. We had to share the car with some yuppies who didn’t quite know where they were going. The driver expatiated at length his theory that “more neuters are being born every day than regular males and females,” he went on and on with these scarily irrational “theories” which he said “philosophers” knew all about. We got out at Wooster and Prince and went into 150. The usual clutch of overdressed hyenas, but Taylor Mead was there as he’d said he’d be, so we hung out with him, drinking way too much rum and coke. Frankie Clemente showed up. Brian McNally came over to banter with Taylor, who’s just come back from Portugal extremely flush and described working with Donald Sutherland, Valentina Cortese, Geraldine Chaplin, and some gorgeous German actor. At one point Taylor said, “I resent what was done in some of my crucial scenes,” and I said, “Taylor, I want that inscribed on my tombstone.”
December 22, 1989 Friday
Dinner last night with Tina at a restaurant called Woody’s on 4th Street. It’s owned by Rolling Stone Ron Wood, apparently. The front room set up like all the cappucino places in the neighborhood, spindly-looking tables with fake marble tops, too small for serving dinner, some square, some round. The food was not awful but very pedestrian, sort of what you’d expect from people who think Ron Wood is anything special. Next door they’ve got a Florsheim Shoes sort of art gallery with actual paintings by Ron Wood. They should specialize and handle Tony Curtis, Xavier Cougat, and other showbiz artists. Maybe Mel Torme paints, too. I had carpaccio and spaghetti putanesca, which they make with bits of chicken in it.
January 2, 1990 Tuesday
New Years’ Eve with Sharon, at Cookie’s. Frank and Stephen were there, John Heys, Nan Goldin, Scott Covert, and a lot of people I didn’t know. Ronnie Vawter came down from upstairs, he’s started smoking again. Afterwards I went with Sharon to Cuando, a mob scene. Then at around 4 AM we went back to Bleecker St. and took some of Cookie’s leftover painkillers. We considered taking the AZT but decided against it. Last night Anne Livet had a party, black eyed peas and hamhocks and collard greens, Clarissa and Frank and Stephen and Sharon again, Anne insisted we stay until the very end. Sarah Charlesworth and Amos, Sarah dancing all her old Hullabaloo dances and insisting that people who didn’t want to dance dance. Iris Owens with lots of advice about quitting cigarettes.
January 4, 1990
Last night: nothing. Trouble sleeping. I found myself watching or at least listening to an idiotic Dario Argente movie featuring Karl Maiden and Tony Franciosa. Sharon called this morning at 11:30, waking me up; the article on Cookie had appeared, she wanted to come over for coffee.
This was a bad beginning. For one thing, I’d some free time today and could have used it productively. But, all right. The article was basically unobjectionable: full of inaccuracies and stupid cliche statements, naturally, and the kind of gross oversimplification American media thrives on. Sharon, however, kept grousing as she read along, about trivia, and then some wide statements which were in fact offensive, but could have been a million times worse. Sharon’s always picking herself apart, or else distracting herself with this sort of thing. I pointed out that Newsday is a daily paper and every single copy of it would be in the garbage the next day. Including mine, actually.
I somehow bought into Sharon’s negativity about the whole thing, but after an hour or so I began feeling suffocated by it and proposed lunch at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central. We took a cab up there and pigged out on clams and oysters, I had two beers which I really shouldn’t have had because the depressive overlay of the afternoon simply thickened under the alcohol. We did talk about other things, but mainly things that depressed us. Anita Sarko was having lunch with someone in the other dining room. When we came back downtown, Sharon asked to come upstairs and listen to music for an hour. I should’ve said no but I just couldn’t, and by the time she left I felt this intense despair, almost a suicidal despondency.
January 10, 1990
Dinner with David and Tina at Mary Ann’s—the Mexican place we were going to on Avenue A was packed—and I have never seen such an ugly plate of anything. Chunks of duck covered in some kind of green pumpkin sauce, plus rice and beans. It really looked like vomit and I couldn’t eat any of it. Tina had some kind of enchilada that smelled like bad feet. David said later his dinner was off, too. I despise restaurants like that, where they serve big heaping portions of questionable food … but this duck dish was really beyond anything I’d ever seen before. The duck seemed to be cooked enough but besides being smothered in this grainy green sauce, it came in layers of pale oily skin … The waitress seemed to derive sadistic pleasure out of asking if we were enjoying the meal, and of course we like idiots told her everything was just fine.
January 15, 1990 Monday
A horrible visit to Charles with Taylor. The place overrun by dogs and cats, which would be all right except that Timmy, the dog Charles rescued after its intestines or bowels got somehow twisted and had to be operated on, regularly deposits big pools of liquid shit and vomit all over the place, provoking endless agony outbursts from Charles, who needs no provocation anyway. I mean the shit and puke were bad enough without him going on about it. Sometimes Charles is terrific, and then there are these times when he just isn’t. Namely in the wintertime when you can’t go outside to get away from him. His car had broken down and a cab had to take us to his house. From then it was just nonstop lamentation and complaint. He doesn’t even offer a glass of wine, let alone anything like a meal. So we had to pick up a ton of frozen food at the Grand Union and fix whatever we wanted, not that either of us felt like eating, what with the shitorama in the living room. The house was cold, uncomfortable, and listening to Charles for 24 hours was like being locked up in a psychiatric hospital.
January 16, 1990 Tuesday
Yesterday some awful bitch called from German Vogue, asking me for “2000 words on Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, and Haim Steinbach,” explaining their wonderful ideas. I told her it wasn’t something I wanted to do. In actual fact, I would rather go to hell. This sailed right past her. These editors are not trained to hear a refusal and I think she went into shock when I again told her it wasn’t anything I was interested in. I tried to recommend David Riminelli but she wasn’t hearing anything at that point. Well, fuck her, and fuck German Vogue.
January 24, 1990 Wednesday
Sharon called up late Monday night and we met at Eileen’s. She was on her way home from I forget where, she seemed in one of her stark moods and I’m sure I didn’t lift it all that considerably. The benefit for Carl Apfelschnitt is in a week and a half. After a point in life, a lot of things become absolutely incommunicable unless you really strain yourself to communicate them—last night, John DeFazio’s place turned out to be a block east of where Carl used to have the top floor of the Bowery Savings Bank, and I remembered the day I walked east from Carl’s and discovered all these Jewish shops along there, how it was like this whole strange little microworld opening up in my mental landscape. There was the one summer when I spent a great deal of my time with Carl—just before and during the time when Betsy lived there, starting with the Mary Lemley period. He was in love with (name deleted), a real sex trip that Carl always made sound terribly desperate and bizarre.
I can see Carl at all these different moments in time, the same way I visualize Cookie at different moments, and it is so queer and disturbing. It’s as if you should be able to rewind the film and step into that moment and be there, and you can’t.
Saturday, February 10, 1990
I called Tina just before six. She told me the Gotti verdict had come in, acquittal, and that hoardes of people were hanging around outside the Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry Street. I took an extremely slow cab down to the gallery and Matthew joined us eventually and we walked over there. Tina is in Mafia entrancement mode, but what really surprised me was Matthew carrying on like a 13-year-old in transports of admiration for the Godfather. I mean, without irony. The scene in front of the Ravenite was very Thomas Pynchon: dozens of news cameras and pocket tape recorders, and wedged between the screen door and the inner door of the place two Irish drunks clowning it up for the crowd. A beefy enforcer type was perched in the next doorway, where there’s another entrance. Monica Canning showed up with her fiance. We were both interviewed by Channel 5. Annie Liebowitz was skulking around, and later was whisked off in her limosine.
Whenever anyone came out of the Ravenite there came this frenzy of anticipation. Finally Gotti and friends emerged and they began walking directly towards where I was, and suddenly this human wave assault started, and we all had to run to avoid getting crushed and also to keep Gotti in view. Tina climbed up on the rear of the Lincoln, but they headed for the Mercedez midway and the crowd snaked around in a stampede.
Monday, February 19, 1990
Yesterday I … don’t recall.
Yes, actually. F. called, and we went for brunch or lunch, he came here first, and we talked about him wanting to move soon to Los Angeles. He’s changed his mind about San Francisco, which he says will always be provincial. I was in a dour frame of mind myself and kept saying I wanted to leave New York, though I’m never entirely convinced that I do. Anyway, I suggested Noho Star, and we went there and found it completely packed, and then went to Acme, where the food was horrible. I got fried chicken, which turned out to be extremely fried chicken, surrounded by cindered home fries. F. looks well, though there’s some sort of lump on his neck near the corner of his jaw. He says he does everything: suck, fuck, rim, etc., and that he’s not at all concerned about it since he’s already HIV positive, and he’s not especially concerned about his partners, since “we’ve all got to die.” I thought that was a little extreme, but that’s his problem.
Today I decided to look for pictures of Berlin at the Strand, but when I got there I ran into Richard Gere and this woman named Susan—I think it was Susan—who played one of his wives in Internal Affairs. I told him about the Gotti trial. He didn’t know who John Gotti is, but she did. He’d just come back from Russia. Richard now fancies himself a real expert on Russia. There’s something lovable about Richard and of course something monstrous, but then, he’s a movie star. He asked me if I wanted to go for a walk so we all went to Barney’s to look at jewelry.
Wednesday, February 28, 1990
Yesterday Kathy called in the early afternoon to tell me that Ann Getty had put Grove Weidenfeld up for sale, which everyone knew she would eventually, and that Fred Jordan was leaving to go to Pantheon. We decided to send Fred some flowers. We went to that florist on University and tenth. They had these ridiculous little stuffed bunny rabbits with valentines, “I Love You” and “I Touched Your Heart,” so we got those and had each wrapped in clear plastic with a single rose and a card, then went up to Grove and left them for Fred in the reception area.
Then we had cappuccino in some place on University. Kathy told me that Marianne Wiggins and Salman Rushdie were about to split up the same day the Ayatollah issued his whatever it’s called. His jihad. Paul Bowles told me last year that M. W. was the craziest person he’d ever met.
We went through the papers looking for the story of the Grove sale but only found an item about Fred taking over at Pantheon.
Monday, March 12, 1990
An unsatisfying, formless, whiney, unfocussed session today with Stuart, who seems pleased that I’ve gotten so much of the book written in the months since I began seeing him. Dinner last night with Iris Owens, Rudy Wurlitzer, and Lynn Davis. Lynn talked a lot about the Mapplethorpe Foundation, which involves a lot of work for her. The foundation is giving $1 million to one of the hospitals for an AIDS center. Iris complained about the difficulty of getting uptown on public transportation. Looked at Lynn’s pictures of Egypt. Lots of pyramids.
Madonna is on the cover of the new Vanity Fair, a boring article full of nothing. She shows one tit and talks about her David Salle drawing in the bathroom.
Friday, March 16, 1990
Among other things that came in the mail today, a letter from an artist I ran into at the ICP lecture who importuned me very nicely by saying that now that I wasn’t writing art criticism he felt he could ask me to come look at his work; rather than be a prick about it I wrote down my address and phone number, and a while back he called, and of course I didn’t pick up the phone; anyway, his letter began, “One of the worst things about being an artist—unless you make $200,000 a year—is that people don’t return your phone calls,” and then went into his song and dance. His name is something Rothman and at first I thought it was an irate letter from my accountant, since I left a nasty message on his answering machine last week.
I thought: maybe not having your calls returned is “one of the worst things” about being an artist, but the very worst thing is to have so little talent you need to harrass people who have absolutely no interest in you. I find it incredible that young “artists” think you’re there to service their careers and cater to their ego needs like a big mamma tit. Leaving aside the fact that art and artists do not interest me in the slightest these days, what do people think writers do?
It would have been different if this jerk had written a really charming letter, full of wit and humor, or made even the slightest conscious effort to imagine what might be going on in my life, or my head … oh, well, why should he. People in New York think everybody else is just toilet paper to wipe their asses with. It’s nothing, except that sometimes these people really are crazy and become obsessed with your indifference to them, and then they work at creating a really unpleasant scene somewhere.
Spy has a cover “expose” about Jay Mclnerney’s second marriage. Who are they fooling? He probably paid them to run it.
Tuesday, April 3, 1990
I finally finished reading Donoso’s Obscene Bird of Night, which strikes me as an utter waste of time. It has many charming fluid passages but the total effect of it is one of complete confusion and obscurity. It’s another of those sprawling South American texts that seems to wallow around in its word magic without saying much of anything.
Taylor’s in the hospital with an infection from a cat scratch. I visited him on Saturday, bringing him a little wooden Mexican tableau of a skull-headed figure playing pool with skulls, also some flowers, some nice peach-colored tulips, and some Hershey bars. Then on Monday, yesterday, I brought him a great big orchid and a box of fancy chocolates, a box of strawberries, and this kitschy ornamented vanity mirror I got at some gift shop in the West Village. Laurie was late at the gym and I couldn’t stay. When I left the gym I immediately saw this golden retriever running around loose on the street, and tried to keep hold of it and look for the owner, and instead these workers who were unloading stuff in a loading dock started playing with the dog, with the upshot that they walked away down 6th Avenue with it. Naturally, today the owner, a girl, had posters up all over the place. The question is why the fuck the dog didn’t have any tags on its collar. I felt guilty about not being more forceful, but this girl must be awfully stupid to risk having the dog run loose without any identification.
Thursday, April 5
They found the dog.
Thursday, April 19, 1990
The Supreme Court made it legal for states to pass laws that make it illegal to have “child pornography” in your private possession …
Burroughs sent me a card with one of his paintings on it. On the back he wrote, “A dealer paid me $8000 for this.”
Wednesday, May 2, 1990
Had sex with D. last night. Exciting.
Monday, May 7, 1990
Another hard to believe day. I lost my house keys first thing, after leaving Gilmar here to clean. I took in the laundry and then went to Astor Place for breakfast. Ran into Mark Tambella on Third Avenue, so we had breakfast together. Then I realized the keys were gone and rushed back so I could get in while Gilmar was still here. He, of course, was long gone, in the middle of an hour I’m paying him for, so I had to get the locksmith to break in.
An interesting story in People about children with a rare disorder that makes them unable to tolerate sunlight without developing cancer. Therefore they must live entirely in the dark.
June 30, 1990
Back from Los Angeles, a confusing spell. I saw Monte Streitfield on 11th Street today: older, still distinguished-looking, he’s living once again at the Sailor’s Club, having recently shipped out aboard the last steamer to South Africa and other places; some time in New Orleans; funny, but I was talking about Monte, who designed the alligator costumes for Alligator Girls Go To College 11 years ago, to Bill Rice last month … We were recalling how odd he is. When I met him we were both desperately broke and planning to disguise ourselves as begging nuns in front of Bloomingdale’s.
Ten days at the Chateau Marmont, a week and a half at that asshole Walter’s apartment … Interviewed Laura Dern, which just about paid for everything, thank Christ.
July 3, 1990
D. came by this evening. Fuck fuck. He really wanted to hear about my debacle in Los Angeles, and after I told him about it he said he could see why I wouldn’t want to talk about it.
David R. tells me that unspeakable crepoid TW who asked if she could publish a collection of my work, having gotten in over her head financially, is now telling people she’s read through the collection and “doesn’t think the essays hold up.” I’d like to know how such a trend-chasing hyena like herself would ever know the difference anyway. The only things she’s ever read are the dollar amounts on checks and the ads in Artforum. She’ll probably be selling carpets on lower Broadway after the recession kicks in, then I can tell people she didn’t “hold up.”
August 1, 1990
Sent $200 to a man in Long Island who has AIDS and needs a bone marrow transplant … his identical twin is an ideal donor, but Blue Cross Blue Shield wouldn’t pay the $150,000 … the same night, a court ruled that they had to pay. I’m glad I sent the money anyway. He can probably use it towards his legal fees.
Sept. 17, 1990 (Monday)
Back from publicity tour of the UK and a week in Paris, much of it spent sick from a head & chest cold in the Hotel de Varenne, a place I picked out from that “Great Little Hotels of Europe” book, and which wasn’t bad, nor anything special for that matter, stuck in one of those lifeless administrative pockets of Paris just far enough from everything to make you feel out of it. The Quai Voltaire was full and it would’ve been too awful to stay at the Luisiane. Saw Judith Aminoft who now lives in the country with and is married to Claude Gintz. Judith in very, very good form.
England a mad irritating blur, constant interviews, constant running about, getting worn down to a frazzle in no time: just like the Berlin Film Festival, in fact. Had dinner with Paul who used to work uptown in that gallery—I always forget, Paul Morris—who’s moved to London for some reason, he was staying with Simon and planning to move to his own flat any minute. The next night, after all day in Dublin, saw Simon and Jean-Paul at their place and then Simon and I went out to an Indian restaurant very late, both of us exhausted and wrung out. I felt sour and barely alive the whole time owing to lack of sleep and proper meals. Lousy four star hotel in London, the Green Park.
Stephen amplified details re: summer on Hydra … Mary Boone came there in a yacht. This reminds me that dreadful Peter Owens has published Paul Bowles’s “Diaries 1987—1989” in an extremely slender volume. In this month’s Vanity Fair, Debra Winger goes on and on about how intense her friendship was with Bowles during The Sheltering Sky, but he doesn’t mention her once in his diary. Maybe that was later. Lots about Malcolm Forbes and a little about Bertolucci and plenty about Rodrigo and Mrabet and the odious Buffie Johnson. What an obnoxious bitch, and she’s a multimillionaire, and cheap. I guess it isn’t so much famous names Bowles is obsessed with, just the tidy cultivation of his legend. How weary he is with the incessant parade of visitors who turn up uninvited! Well, if he would just install a phone he wouldn’t have that problem. I wasn’t at all tempted to visit him last summer, and that day I did run into him in the Casbah and spoke to him I immediately regretted that I had, because he insisted on dropping me at that Cafe Haifa that he loves so much, and where this swarthy bore kept trying to get me to smoke dope with him. He says in his diary that other people were always dragging him to that cafe. I can’t imagine how they’d even know about it. I did enjoy running into Rodrigo, maybe because it was in this tourist restaurant off the Boulevard Pasteur, and he was eating alone, and when he came to join me I thought: Well, he’s been living here for years and he doesn’t know where to eat, either.
I’ve still got a rotten cold and no appetite. Ethyl Eichelberger committed suicide a few weeks ago, and I read somewhere that he didn’t even have any AIDS symptoms, just bad reaction to AZT. Actually, that seems like enough, anyway.
Gary Indiana is completing his second novel.
I believe that each of us is given one sentence at birth, and we spend the rest of our life trying to read that sentence and make sense of it.
Li Young Lee