Sunday, March 31, 2019

Ian Schrager / How we made Studio 54


Don’t stop the party … Bianca Jagger sits on a white horse at Studio 54 in 1977. Photograph: Images/Rex Shutterstock

Ian Schrager: how we made Studio 54 

‘We wanted a mix of rich, poor, gay, straight, old and young … somebody topless could dance with a woman in ballgown
and tiara’

Ian Schrager, founder

New York was on the verge of bankruptcy in the mid-1970s. Danger was in the air, people were getting mugged, but it was also a creative, bohemian time. You could really feel the energy in the gay clubs: there were frantic, intense, sweating bodies everywhere. Straight people hadn’t yet learned to let it all hang out.
I was a lawyer and my friend Steve Rubell was in the restaurant business. In bad times, people look for escapism, so I suggested starting a club. We saw an old TV studio in the west side of Manhattan, which was like Lebanon at the time – unsafe to walk. But it felt right. We persuaded a store owner called Jack Dushey to lend us $400,000 to convert the building and put lighting in, then we put a team together and it all instantly took off.
Right from the opening night, it was like holding on to a lightning bolt or walking into Disney World. The lighting and the sets were an assault on the senses. People danced with wild abandon. The door policy was controversial, but we wanted a mix of rich, poor, gay, straight, old and young, because when you have that alchemy, magic happens. Somebody topless could dance with a woman in a ballgown and a tiara.
Over the next few years, every celebrity or big shot came to Studio 54. But nobody pestered anyone for an autograph, so they could be themselves. Andy Warhol was shy and just liked to watch. Mick Jagger was the same as he was on stage and Diana Ross was an amazing dancer. I never saw Donald Trump dance, though. He was a serious guy.

‘It was like holding on to a lightning bolt’ … Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Brooke Shields and Steve Rubell at Studio 54 c.1981.
 ‘It was like holding on to a lightning bolt’ … Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Brooke Shields and Steve Rubell at Studio 54 c.1981. Photograph: Robin Platzer/Images Press/

We were always trying to wow our customers. We dumped four tons of glitter on the dancefloor. When Bianca Jagger jumped on a white horse, the photo went all over the world, but those moments only ever lasted a few minutes because we didn’t want to stop the party. There was a huge “man in the moon” hanging over the dancefloor, who lit up whenever a giant spoon rose up to his nose. But this was more about being arrogant and subversive than celebrating drugs. Studio 54 was no more hedonistic than any other place.

I’m lucky to have survived it. Success made us do stupid things, like fighting the US government. After Steve said, “Only the mafia make more money”, Internal Revenue were all over us. It’s a myth that we had cash hidden all over the club. It was in the back of cars.

Michael Overington, manager

I started as a $3-an-hour cleaner but I made myself invaluable and ended up manager. I kept the place going while Ian and Steve were in jail for 13 months [for tax evasion]. I’d visit them, take in dimes for their phone calls, tell them what was happening in the club.

Grace Jones performs at a Studio 54 party in 1978.
 ‘Visiting artists loved it’ … Grace Jones performs at a Studio 54 party in 1978. Photograph: Ron Galella/WireImage
I was the sensible guy who’d crack the whip and get the bartenders and cloakroom girls in position. Every night, we played Earth, Wind and Fire to get the staff in the zone. There was a lot of cocaine back then and the music was energising, so people would speed up and dance till 4am. Visiting artists loved it when we played their records. Madonna lip-synced to a tape. Diana Ross sang along to her songs in the DJ booth.
Because it was a big space with an opening out on to the street, we could bring cars, furniture or animals in, to create different environments every night. At $20 or $30 admission, the door take alone would pay for the scenery, actors and costumes for drag parties and such. The neighbours thought we were crazy. Once, for a Grease party, we brought a load of 1950s convertibles in and the fire department told me to take the gasoline out of them. So we pumped it into the sewers. You could smell it for two blocks. I said: “Well, you told me to get the gas out.”
I recently found an old letter from the health department that said: “You are in violation of the regulations by having a zebra in the club.” The animals would take dumps on the dancefloor.
And one New Year’s Eve, we had a 200ft ice wall which turned the club into a giant blue igloo. I piled the ice out on to the sidewalk the next morning – it was 6ft high and 20ft long. This drunk guy came along with his eyes wide open and said: “Man, they must serve some big drinks in there.”
  • Ian Schrager’s book Studio 54 is published by Rizzoli International. Michael Overington is now president of the Ian Schrager Company hotel group.

The Rolling Stones postpone tour due to Mick Jagger's health

Mick Jagger
by James Lee

The Rolling Stones postpone tour due to Mick Jagger's health

Singer ‘devastated’ but expects to make full recovery and tells fans to keep tickets

Saturday 20 March 2019

Sir Mick Jagger has said he is “devastated” to let down fans after the Rolling Stones announced they were postponing a tour of the US and Canada while the frontman seeks medical treatment. 

The singer, 75, has been told by doctors that he cannot go on tour at the moment but has been advised that he is expected to make a full recovery. No further details of his condition were given. 

A statement from the group said: “Unfortunately today the Rolling Stones have had to announce the postponement of their upcoming US/Canada tour dates – we apologise for any inconvenience this causes those who have tickets to shows but wish to reassure fans to hold on to these existing tickets, as they will be valid for rescheduled dates, which will be announced shortly.

“Mick has been advised by doctors that he cannot go on tour at this time, as he needs medical treatment.
“The doctors have advised Mick that he is expected to make a complete recovery so that he can get back on stage as soon as possible.”
Jagger wrote on Twitter: “I’m so sorry to all our fans in America & Canada with tickets. I really hate letting you down like this. I’m devastated for having to postpone the tour but I will be working very hard to be back on stage as soon as I can. Once again, huge apologies to everyone.”
The band were due to kick off the US and Canada leg of their No Filter tour at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida on 20 April , finishing at the Burl’s Creek Even Grounds in Ontario, Canada, on 29 June.
Tour promoters AEG Presents and Concerts West have advised ticketholders to hold on to their existing tickets because will be valid for the rescheduled dates.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Penelope Fitzgerald / A Life by Hermione Lee / Review by Philip Hensher

Penelope Fitzgerald

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee – review

Hermione Lee has done a superb job, capturing the novelist's elusive personality and telling a complex, sometimes harrowing story

Philip Hensher
Friday 1 November 2013

hat does a novelist's career look like? A male novelist might have a short struggle, like Dickens or Waugh or James, then a big success and a series of novels of varying success and accomplishment; the great masterpiece comes 20 years in, when they are in their 40s or 50s. (Think of Mann or Naipaul.) They might have some kind of family connection to the world of letters, or acquire one and know how to exploit it. Women novelists often have a more complex path, perhaps interrupted by children and a more difficult relationship with literary fame; even without children, they are more likely to creep up on fame in a series of books.

Nowadays, of course, writing is often seen as a profession like any other. To take this year's Man Booker winner, Eleanor Catton, as an example of what might be seen as a novelist's ideal career in 2013: one does a degree in English literature, and immediately afterwards a master's degree in creative writing. Your first published novel is your MA thesis. Afterwards, you are given a post teaching creative writing in a university, and your second novel wins a major prize.
Not to criticise the excellent Ms Catton, but this model of a novelist's career is going to produce novelists with a narrow grasp of human experience, whose novels are increasingly going to have to come from historical research and meta-fictional game-playing and, ultimately, novels about creative writing degrees. For a different, though ultimately not tempting vision of a novelist's career, we might turn to Hermione Lee's excellent biography of Penelope Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was, by general consensus, among the handful of great novelists in English after 1980. She had the misfortune of being not only over 45, but in her 70s and 80s when her great masterpieces first appeared. In an unusual turn of events, her daughter Tina published a novel 18 years before she first did. Tina was 10 years old. Fitzgerald would be 61. Surely, it was Tina who got the business of a novelist's career the right way round. What went wrong? More to the point – in the light of The Blue FlowerAt Freddie's and The Gate of Angels – what went abundantly right?

It is easier to answer the first question than the second. Fitzgerald was born Penelope Knox in 1916 into a famous and brilliant family – her nobly eccentric account of her four uncles, The Knox Brothers, hardly overstates the case. One uncle was the saintly and ingenious Ronnie Knox, Evelyn Waugh's friend, Macmillan's tutor and the establisher of the rules of detective fiction, among other distinctions. Her father, EV("Evoe") Knox was the editor of Punch during its golden age of the 1930s and 1940s. Fitzgerald grew up in Hampstead, the granddaughter of a bishop with intensely literary interests: Harold Monro's Poetry Bookshop is so powerfully evoked in Fitzgerald's non‑fiction that one regrets the absence of the novel on the subject that might have followed her biography of Charlotte Mew. Up to a point, what followed was what might have been expected: a brilliant Oxford first, some work for the BBC, the creation and editing of an interesting literary magazine, a sparkling circle of friends. A novel from this superb mind would surely follow.

Instead, there was the abandonment of the Hampstead ménage with husband and three small children. There was a period in Southwold, Suffolk, working in a bookshop. They couldn't pay the grocery bills, and the household possessions were sold on the pavement outside their house. A period living on a decrepit barge in London, Fitzgerald having to teach in a crammer, ended when the decrepit barge sank. She had to live, with her daughters, in a hostel for the homeless before being rehoused in a council flat, going on with the immense grind of teaching and cramming. Only in the 1970s did she begin to publish books, first a pair of biographies and then novels, to quite rapid acclaim. She lived with her grown-up married children, in spare rooms, on sofabeds, in annexes. By then her husband Desmond had died.

Hermione Lee has unearthed the full story of the catastrophe that overtook the family from a mound of rumour and literary gossip – strikingly, the collected letters, edited by a member of her family, omitted any explanation of why the family was living on a barge and then in accommodation for the homeless. The name of the catastrophe was Desmond. Though plausible and, by many accounts, personally charming, Desmond was a feckless alcoholic who could not sustain much of a career as a barrister. Work must have dried up towards the end of the Hampstead period, and Desmond's income could not help them during the Southwold humiliation. Worse was to come. While they were living on the boat, he was discovered stealing and forging cheques from his chambers. He was disbarred and ordered to pay back £373 – money the family didn't have. London gossip always had it that he had been sent to prison, which was not, it turns out from Lee's investigations, accurate – his sentence was suspended. He was lucky to find a job working as a clerk for Lunn Poly, the travel agents.

"It sometimes strikes me that men and women aren't quite the right people for each other," Fitzgerald writes in The Bookshop, benevolently turning her experience in Southwold into the experience of a childless widow. What is striking about Fitzgerald's story is that her professional experience was seamless and well-considered before she met Desmond; it starts to move again very efficiently in the very last years of his life, and, once he died, her career took off. She published her first five novels between 1977 and 1982. Did she just need solitude? After Desmond's death, though she was only 60, there is not a whisper of any desire for another partner in life. There would have been no shortage of gentlemen happy to take on an acclaimed, brilliant novelist of impeccable manners and fascinating conversation. Yet she had learned her lesson, and now it was time for the books.
Whatever it was like to live through, one can't as a reader regret the immense delay and traumatic contributions of Fitzgerald's life. After the first, amusing fantasy, The Golden Child, her first novels mine her experiences with great concision and depth of psychological analysis born, surely, of long afternoons of boredom supervising in the crammers and in a Suffolk bookshop. The days on the barge, so hungry that she could sometimes be found eating blackboard chalk ("I felt I needed it"), bore some positive fruit. The Bookshop drew on Southwold; Offshore the period on the barge Grace; Human Voices the wartime BBC years; At Freddie's – in some ways the deepest and most wonderful of her books – the experience of the crammers, transformed into a stage school with an extravagant menagerie of posing prodigies. They are not simple statements, and far from romans à clef. They use the long-observed situation to penetrate into the mysteries of human manners.

There is no doubt, really, that Fitzgerald made an awful hash of her career, for the most part. It happened to her despite her very best efforts. Her novels were initially published by Duckworth, controlled by the beady-braying-claret-and-malice pair of Colin and Anna Haycraft. It is difficult to imagine Fitzgerald at home here, and her novels are not much like the brilliantly poisonous satires of Alice Thomas Ellis (AKA Anna Haycraft) or the music-hall raucousness of Beryl Bainbridge – Colin Haycraft's star novelist and mistress – other than in their concision. When Fitzgerald won the Booker prize for Offshore, she seems to have taken it for granted that Haycraft didn't really think her books were much good, and wrote to him thanking him for his effort, and saying that he would be relieved that she was now going to another publisher. Haycraft was, understandably, astounded by Fitzgerald's attitude, and put it down to cunning self-advancement, quite wrongly. She genuinely thought he had lost interest in publishing her. No doubt Haycraft had been going round sharing his disbelief at Offshore's success with most of London, but it was definitely a strange moment for the novelist to be convinced of her lack of success in the world.

Or was it a good, propitious moment? What followed, given admirable prominence in Lee's biography, was the devotion, verging on veneration, of a sequence of publishers. At the very end of Fitzgerald's life, I shared an editor with her, and well remember the immense respect and love of her publishers at Flamingo. In Richard Ollard, Stuart Proffitt and Philip Gwyn Jones, Fitzgerald had editors who would have done anything for her, and did. It was just as well, since her grasp of the business was so vague that she never employed a literary agent, despite being hopeless with money. (She "began to keep a regular (if idiosyncratic) account of her earnings in a notebook labelled 'My Takings'" only in 1992, we are told; "every so often these sums are annotated: 'I've no idea what this is for,' or 'Oh dear where is the Observer [cheque]? I'VE LOST IT.'") There is a comedy about her publishers trying to work out, with no input or, apparently, interest at all from Fitzgerald, what they should pay her as an advance.
What they were working on was a creative volte-face as noteworthy as Lucian Freud's shift from sable to hogshair brushes in the late 1950s. Fitzgerald's first five novels were stories of English life in her lifetime, drawing on her experience. Her last four are remote, dazzlingly complete and quizzical reconstructions of historical, or geographically remote reality: 1950s Italy (Innocence), just before the outbreak of the great war in Cambridge and Moscow (The Beginning of Spring), and finally, in her greatest novel, The Blue Flower, the German Romantic poet Novalis. They came at a point when a number of English novelists were discovering possibilities in the long-disdained historical novel, but they are peerless. They come not just from research – interestingly, in the light of their dense specificity, one of her editors says that she "didn't have an eye for detail" – but also from experience. We hear exactly how much it cost in the 1790s to cross the bridge at Weissenfels, and how much to take the train from Moscow to London before the revolution. What does not come from Bradshaw's Railway Guide, or from the archives, is the knowledge of what a clever boy feels his life is like in a dull small town, or what the stroke of love is like when a figure turns in a dusty room. The long years of frustration, of doing nothing, of serving the general good in unhistoric acts, as George Eliot put it, justified themselves.
In the difficult years, Fitzgerald could easily have taken to reviewing books and writing short fiction. She did a little – readers should prepare to allow their jaws to drop when they get to Lee's reproduction of "Jassy of Juniper Farm", a serial Fitzgerald wrote for a comic for younger children, Swift, in the 1950s. But a little dedication would have led to some comfort in an age when VS Pritchett could live in some style on short stories and book reviews. Why did she not? Could she perhaps not afford, at the family's worst, a typewriter? She would always have been a writer: she would have been a different one, and the distilled experience of those last books not quite the same.
There is a definite comedy about Fitzgerald's rueful eye falling on her success, when it is all rather too late to be thoroughly enjoyed. She carried on doing her duty by the literary world, and there is an amusing story here told by a novelist who was set on accompanying her when returning from a conference. She, on the other hand, was clearly determined, by travelling in second class, refusing a lift in a taxi, and heading down to the underground, to give him the slip. ("I do seem to have involved you in some low forms of transport.") I met her twice: she was very civil about a book of mine; I found her, personally, very daunting, without quite being able to account for the impression. Other people seem to have had the same experience.
Lee was a perfect choice as Fitzgerald's biographer. She has done a superb job, capturing an elusive personality and a complex, sometimes rather harrowing story. She managed to get a good deal out of Fitzgerald's three children, who one sometimes thinks were the people who saw the whole experience most clearly – certainly Fitzgerald's bad behaviour over her son Valpy's early but very happy marriage is given full coverage. (You feel that she might have understood why he wanted to find security in family life as soon as possible.) There is a surface of restraint and orderly decency in the life as it is told here; beneath it, the wildness and fury of the books, where girls' legs are hacked off at the knees to make them suitable companions for aristocratic dwarfs; where a Cambridge intellect falls in love helplessly with quite an ordinary nurse; where poetry happens, from who knows where. At the end of At Freddie's, we glimpse the violence and terror that a mind in love with the possibility of perfection can wreak, as the child actor Jonathan tries to perfect the stage leap in a Covent Garden back yard. "In the morning there would be someone to come and watch, and tell him whether he was right or not. Meanwhile he went on climbing and jumping, again and again and again into the darkness." Someone indeed came in the morning, for Fitzgerald and her writing career. By then she, like Jonathan, had been jumping into the darkness, trying to create perfection, for a good long night.

Women we love / Shu Qi

Shu Qi

Friday, March 29, 2019

Werner Bischof / One of the most important photographers of the twentieth century

Werner Bischof, On the road to Cuzco, near Pisac. Peru, May 1954 

Werner Bischof

One of the most important photographers of the twentieth century

22 Sep 2017 — 25 Feb 2018 at the Casa dei Tre Oci in Venice, Italy

From 22 September 2017 to february 2018, Casa dei Tre Oci in Venice will host a large-scale anthological show devoted to Werner Bischof (1916-1954), one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century, and one of the founders of the Magnum Agency.
The show, curated by his son Marco Bischof, is organised by the Fondazione di Venezia and Civita Tre Venezie with the collaboration of Magnum Photos and the Werner Bischof Estate, media partner Radio Monte Carlo. It will present 250 photos, mostly vintage, including Werner Bischof’s most important reportages, and will allow us an overview of the long journeys that led this Swiss artist to the most remote corners of the earth, from India to Japan, Korea, Indochina, and then on to Panama, Chile, and Peru.
Werner Bischof, Bonn, Germany, 1946 

For the first time there will be seen a selection of twenty previously unexhibited black and white photos that have Italy as their subject. In them we can discern the originality of the shots which reveal the “neorealist” eye of Werner Bischof.
The exhibition’s itinerary will lead the visitors back to the golden age of photojournalism by following the footsteps of Werner Bischof.
It will be an itinerary that, starting from a Europe that had was still devastated by the Second World War, will continue to India where you will be confronted by a country in the grip of poverty and misery, but where there can already be glimpsed the industrial developments that were to make it become one of the new millennium’s leading nations.

Werner Bischof, Cambodia, 1952

There follows a ruthless comparison of the elements of Japanese traditional culture. The drama of the Korean war then leads on to an analysis of the American continent. In fact, Bischof’s journey continues to American cities, captures metropolitan developments, also with a series of colour photos, and it closes imaginatively with the villages of Peru and the peaks of the Andes where he was to die.

Bischof, considered to be one of the greatest photojournalists, did not restrict himself to recording reality with his lens, but stopped to reflect in front of his subjects in a search to express the dichotomies between industrial development and poverty, business and spirituality, modernity and tradition.
There will also be a section devoted to his landscape and still-life photos made in Switzerland between the mid-1930s and 1940s.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The metafictional, liminal, lyrical ways of writer Carmen Maria Machado

The metafictional, liminal, lyrical ways of writer Carmen Maria Machado
Philadelphia Latina writer Carmen María Machado is making waves. She’s been mentioned, nominated or the recipient of some the most important awards a writer of speculative short stories can aspire to. AL DÍA caught up with her shortly after the announcement that her debut collection of short stories will be published by one of the nation’s leading nonprofit literary publishers.

By Sabrina Vourvoulias
December 03, 2015

Philadelphia Latina writer Carmen María Machado is making waves. She’s the recipient of several Speculative Literature Foundation grants, and has been mentioned, nominated or the recipient of some the most important awards a writer of speculative short stories can aspire to: Pushcart Prize, Hugo, Nebula. AL DÍA caught up with her shortly after the announcement that her debut collection of short stories will be published by one of the nation’s leading nonprofit literary publishers.

AL DÍA: First, you sold your first book! Tell me about that: the book, the process, the challenge. When will it be available? Are you planning to do any readings in Philly? 

I did! My debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was recently sold to Ethan Nosowsky of Graywolf Press.

Fernando Botero / Women

Mujer sentada (1999)

Fernando Botero

Mujer con lápiz de labios (2002)

Baño (2002)

Mujer con pájaro (2002) 

Mujer (2002)

Baño (2002)

Mujer sentada en una silla (2001)

Mujer delante de una ventana

Mujer sentada

Mujer desvisiténdose

Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero