Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dennis Hopper R.I.P.

Dennis Hopper died yesterday and I'm sad. They say you should never meet your heroes for fear of disappointment and while that can be true, with Hopper it wasn't.
Like most people I found him via Easy Rider and thought he was brilliant. His inability to keep it real on and off screen just endeared him further to me but meant he became increasingly difficult to insure or bond to make movies.
When he disappeared off the screen I found him again first via photography and then art. His early years as a student actor at the Lee Strasberg School had introduced him to the New York Artworld and he took to it like a duck to water. Dorothy's line "You're no longer in Kansas" was never truer. Being a TV arts producer it was only a matter of time before I managed to engineer a crossing of paths.

He was a patron of the Whitney in Manhattan and agreed to show me around a newly renovated wing. We got off to a bad start. He arrived a little late because of traffic and unexpectedly turned up with his wife. During the introductions an effervescent young PR girl made enthusiastic conversation with Mrs Hopper. "I believe you're from Boca Ratan" she beamed, showing off her knowledge of celebrity minutae, and the more gauche communites of Florida.
"No" Victoria Duffy began, "That must have been one of Dennis's many previous girlfriends. Actually I'm from Boston"
Being from the UK, I recognised the use of the word "actually" when it's used as cold steel to insert cleanly into your enemy but I was too busy trying to remember the difference between "frosty silence" and "froidure" at that point, wondering what might have happened if anyone had ever said to Princess Margaret "I understand you're from Peckham?"

I talked us through it and we set off to look at the paintings, the camera crew stifling giggles long enough to bet on an early lunch. They were wrong. Hopper talked and talked and talked. He not only knew every painting intimately but knew the artists as well, including some recently dead.
When we got to Edward Hopper, I joked about them 'being related' and he said that yeah he'd been through all that but actually knew him well, as they both hung out in the same place.
"Where?" I asked, thinking some downtown arts club.
"Georgia O'Keefe's house in New Mexico," he said, "we'd spend a lot of time there. I had my own chair. Took all kind of things out in the desert. Y'know."
I didn't need to ask - the camera was still running - what "all kinds of things" were.
He turned to the (Edward) Hopper painting and stared, wistfully. "It's all about the space, the expectation, the waiting," he said, "It's not the people, or the buildings, it's the nothingness" he went on to describe his last meeting with his namesake and declared excitedly "he showed me this painting he'd done upstairs. There's the room, the wardrobe, the bed, and the window, and you know what? There was NOBODY in it!!" He laughed excitedly, turned on by the very idea, and also the fact that he had been the first person, ever, to see it.
We diverted from the new wing and went to his favourite art, the abstract expressionists, and as he stood in front of the plain black, and red, canvasses of Ad Reinhart, he explained what they meant to him, what their depth conveyed, why there was a stillness on the surface, but a raging maelstrom underneath.

"I don't know how to explain these things, " he said, " I don't know the language of art, I don't read magazines, but I do know how this stuff grabs you"
There was never a more eloquent translation of 'I don't know about art but I know what I like'

We kept in touch and a short time later I suggested a TV show to him, a tour around the 'outside art' of the US in the company of Damien Hirst, then also a bad boy of his art. He loved it. Damien loved it. We set it up. It was a goer. But unfortunately our favourite UK TV company didn't love it, and it collapsed at the very last minute, as these things have a habit of doing.

A couple of years back I was at a London art preview and became aware of a small man in a cap standing beside me. He looked up and greeted me, remembering my name. "Howya doin? What happened to our tour of James Turrell and Walter de Maria? Call me, anytime!"

And after a short chat he wandered off, smiling and waving, a little camera hung around his neck just like all the other American tourists you see in London everyday.
"There goes the man" I thought to myself, "that scared the living bloody daylights out of me in Blue Velvet, looking like an extra from Monsieur Hulot's Holiday."

I liked him.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Close Shaves

First off, have a look at this video. I defy you not to smile. Jean Yves Bordier has made the cheesiest (he's an affineur and buttermaker from Normandy) video of all time, borderline excrutiating for the staff I'm sure, but very, very funny for us out here due to it's general bonhomie and sense of fun. Go on, watch it again.

It's a close shave, well done Msr Bordier, you are a hero, not a laughing stock. One day we will meet. In the meantime, read on..

If you like The Onion, the funniest online presence on the planet right now, then you may have read sometime ago one of their wittiest pieces, fuck-everything-were-doing-five-blades, a laugh out loud satire on the increasing number of blades in disposable razors. It seemed unlikely, but the joke is that Gillette were about to manufacture the most preposterous idea ever, five blades to outdo their French rivals Bic.

Idiotic, isn't it? That that number of blades on a razor could make any sense.

Well, yes. Except that I've just been bought a present a few weeks ago. It's made by Gillette, it's got five blades, and at the flick of a switch, it vibrates for God's sake. Not only that, it gives the closest, smoothest, gentlest shave you've ever experienced......

Stop! You probably think I got a free one (I did, it was a present, but from the loved one, not some PR department). And SHE likes it too!

I have history with shaving. If you're 13 and reading this, hoping that one day you'll stop nicking yourself, forget it, it gets worse. I've used more bits of loo paper to stop the bleeding that can possibly be good for me. At one stage I was taking a drug that thinned my blood and I would bleed for hours, if not days.
I travel but never carry very much. The single blade disposables they sell in Africa cut you to ribbons, the two blade jobs in supermarkets around Europe are sore, lethal, and since I never get past the first one in a packet of 5 a waste of money. I never seem to have anything that I can use to remove the stubble that doesn't injure me. Until now.

This new five blade vibrating job is an absolute joy. I have yet to cut myself, my grizzly chin is as smooth as a baby's bum, and the female target of my affections assures me that it works, especially since my face is apparently normally closer to sandpaper.

This really sounds like an advert, doesn't it? Tragically, it's all true. get one!

And talking of close shaves, right now in British Politics, the day after a general election where absolutely nothing went to plan, we appear to be on the verge of chucking out one of the most experienced politicians of all time, a former Chancellor who has steered us through one of the most turbulent economic disaster zones of modern times, a prime Minister who has integrity oozing from his pores and experience that is unrivalled at the top level. He's honest too!
His job isn't finished but two college boys, one even less popular than the other, seem to think they can do the job better, despite having no experience.

If voters had simply looked at their CV's, particularly the posher one, instead of lapping up the rantings of the feral press we now have whose job used to be something to do with informing the public, then we wouldn't be in this position. But surely, we're not really going to do this, are we? (let's see how this reads in a few days)

I mean, that really would be a close shave. But not a funny one.