FABULOUS NOBODIES- SISSYDUDE talks to JOHN SIMONE about his AWESOME NYC Party Photos! (via Daily Xtra)
Sissydude: Photographer John Simone has two photo retrospectives happening during Toronto’s World Pride. The shows feature New York club culture icons from 1987- 1990. They include Rupaul, Kenny Kenny, Leigh Bowery, John Sex, Quentin Crisp, James St. James, Divine, The It Twins and of course “Party Monster” Michael Alig. Even Cher, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Sandra Bernhard pop up!
Simone left Toronto for New York in 1986 and immediately started working for Club-18 (The Roxy), Details Magazine (including Details’ influential nightlife column by Stephen Saban), Vanity Fair and The Village Voice. Of course the magic really started happening for him when friend Michael Alig appointed Simone chief photographer for his Project X Magazine.
I recently went to visit the very excitable and engaging Simone (above, pictured on the right, with Michael Musto) in his studio apartment in Toronto to get a glimpse of his gorgeous photos and talk, talk, talk about his subjects and his very interesting life during that time. Of course the magnificent creatures in the photos are what really gets him going…
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JS: Now here’s Leigh Bowery with the It Twins, who were famous for never wearing the same outfit more than once. Trust me, (pointing to their outfits’ pattern) artillery shells by Stephen Sprouse.
SD: Prada totally ripped off that pattern with the lipstick dress that Charlotte wore when she went on a date with Bradley Cooper in Sex And The City.
JS: The It Twins were big ecstasy dealers. That’s why they could afford to make their own outfits in the daytime …
SD: Did you hang around with these guys?
JS: Ya, we were all friends… (Simone points to Rupaul pic) This is the night I hired Rupaul for a birthday party of the first Caucasian person who was in the House Of Extravaganza… Marlon De La Ungaro!
Throughout our conversation, Simone runs around the apartment searching for photographs that are perfectly organized in neat piles on his pink dining room table or framed and stacked on his hardwood floor. Practically every picture is a winner.
SD: Everything is everywhere! How different is the show at The Gladstone from the one at Buddies?
JS: Ok, 12 images… big, at Gladstone. Over 50 images at Buddies. Here’s Divine’s last club performance at 10-18… the last. He was dead a month later. Here’s Miss Perfidia… she was nominated an Emmy award for HBO’s Pee-Wee’s Playhouse On Broadway… and she’s now doing the wigs for Hedwig.
SD: Did you have to tell these girls how you wanted them to pose? Like when you took my picture at a party at Buddies recently… you were “move your head to the left”, “neck up”… and I looked great.
JS: That’s because I spent 5 years at Princess Cruises. No, but these people are professionals. Here’s Sister Dementia.
SD: Love John Sex.
JS: Here’s John with Miss Perfidia and the It Twins… and… you know who The International Crisis is?
SD: (Laughs) No I don’t.
JS: Yes, you do. She’s the 16-year -old little wannabe in the 1968 documentary The Queen. A muse for Salvador Dali. She died horribly from pancreatic cancer like all the football players and drag queens… from steroids.
JS: Here’s event producer Susanne Bartsch’s discovery Lady Hennessy Brown… flames in the pussy… pulling out magician’s hankies from her pussy… like hundreds of them. She would lactate on the audience…
JS: And there would be Bartsch with her glass of Kaluha, getting her cream. Oh, here’s Michael Alig.
SD: Did we like Alig?
JS: Oh, Michael was not on drugs when I worked with him. He gave me my start as a promoter. We did Deviate magazine together. We’re in contact. I’m going to be providing him with photos for his memoir “Aligula”. A filmmaker named Ramone Hernandez is in the middle of making a documentary about him called “Glory Daze”.
SD: Did you have a favorite subject?
JS: The top person to photograph was always Leigh Bowery. There are more shots of him in my shows than anyone else. It’s not a coincidence that Leigh Bowery is considered a patron saint of the club kids. He led the way in so many aspects of inventing a new reality for yourself. You are never limited… if you believe that there are no rules in art and fashion. Leigh lived that.
SD: Look how cute you are there. (a picture of Simone in a cowboy hat with Village Voice columnist Michael Musto)
JS: That’s me. That’s at James St. James’ birthday party in The Tunnel’s basement. All the club kids hung out at The Tunnel’s basement. Not like the movie (Party Monster) says… the Limelight’s basement. That’s a fabrication. Never happened. Never happened.
JS: You’re talking about Nelson Sullivan!
SD: Yes! His videos are AMAZING.
JS: He was a dear friend. Oh, and I’m in half of them! Oh my god… me taking Michael Alig’s photo and then me giving Alig my camera to photograph me. See, Nelson had the house at 5 Ninth Avenue. Only free standing house in the city. Not a condo. Everybody lived there… Rupaul lived there.
SD: Was there ever a dull moment during this period? I mean everything looks like “Fun, fun, fun”… “Go, go, go!”
JS: Getting stuck in cross-town traffic when out hitting lots of clubs was always a bore.
SD: Who’s this? (We’re looking at a hot picture of a young stud in a loose unbuttoned shirt tucked into very tight cut-off jeans. His dick head poking out of a leg of his shorts)
JS: Now this boy… (Laughs) I don’t remember his name or anything.
SD: You must look at all the photos you’ve taken and think, “Damn, I took amazing shots.” “What a life!”
JS: I’ve been saying that since the 80’s. It’s nice other people will get a chance to check them out and live a little precariously through my work.
On to another picture…
SD: John Stamos! I heard he’s a swinger.
JS: He told me he had sex with Paula Abdul and she was a lousy lay!
Oh, here’s Joey Arias. Look at that camel toe. Is that what they call it? No, moose nuggets!
SD: What did Musto call you?
JS: “The Paparazzo from Hell”. That’s what Michael Musto called me. He gave me that name.
SD: So many great photos, John. People are going to love looking at your images. What do they mean to you?
JS: They represent crazy memories, wild personalities and a time in New York when the city was still gritty and real. It was before Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg actively campaigned against nightlife. I’ve got enough pictures for twenty more shows!
SD: Yes, you do. Now I must head off.
JS: OK , thanks for coming. Did I bore you enough?
“Legends Of N.Y. Nitelife” @ Buddies In Bad Times/ June 21-29, 2014. Opening reception June 21 @ 3pm & “Exploding Pink Inevitable” (The Ballroom at The Gladstone/Saturday, June 20- 26, 2014, Opening Reception Sat June 21, 7pm- 2am).