Ona Gritz: ‘I had expended more than enough time concealing and pretending’

For years, the poet and author tried to keep her cerebral palsy secret. Then motherhood and a new love taught her to make peace with her body

There are ways to cover for the fact that you cant run like the other children, or skate, or climb fencings, or ride your flowered banana seat bike without educate wheels. My own strategy was to suggest alternatives, offering to bring out a board game, colouring volumes and crayons, or my brand new, unopened jigsaw puzzle with the picture of a farm scene on its box. If my friends countered by asking to play hopscotch, a game that would require each of us to stand first on one foot, which I could do fine, then on the other, which I couldnt do at all, Id act like the idea was too dull to hold. If they suggested we play cards, Id say yes, but reluctantly, willing someone else to insist on shuffling since it takes two good hands to bend and riffle each half of the deck. More often I told them, truthfully, that Id instead grab our dolls and play house or store or any other game of pretend.

Pretending, after all, was the thing I was best at. It was the sorcery that allowed me to occupy any capable, agile, graceful body I chose.

In our mobbed box of curled family photos there is only one picture that includes the leg bracing I was made to wear because of my cerebral palsy, though even here it is barely visible. A slight protrusion beneath the fabric of my pants, a hint of metal peeking from the hem, the single angled strap that attached it to my shoe. Im three years old in the photo, the same age I was the first time I held it in my hand. Oh, I said. Id watched posters for the March of Dimes with images of children leaning on crutches or sitting in wheelchairs, and now I assured that I was like them in some way. This struck me as nothing more than an ordinary fact. Oh.

Shortly after that picture was taken, my doctor decided I only needed to wear the bracing in bed at night. Daytimes, it lived in the back of my closet, tucked in a brown paper grocery bag. My mother let me to leave it home whenever I slept at a friends house, or in its hiding place when a friend sleep at mine. Maybe this was how I got the idea that my cerebral palsy could and should be kept secret. This, coupled with the fact that my father never mentioned it, and that my mother, when she did discuss it, said, Its nothing, hardly noticeable, dismissively waving her hand. To me, my body was simply my body, the only one Id known, and so I thought the brace was my disability. As long as I kept it out of sight, I fitted in with my friends.

Lets feign we walk like people who limp, Lisa Lowenstein suggested one muggy afternoon in our sixth summer. She slid off the stoop and began hobbling in a circle, and though the game constructed me uneasy, I get up and did my best to imitate her awkward moves.

Lisa paused to observe me. Just walk like you always do, she advised. You walk like people who limp.

Oh, I said, just as I had when I first saw the photo where Im wearing my bracing. Merely this time my throat tightened around the word.

In middle school, I detected it helped to carry fictions in my backpack. That way, if my friends decided to pay handball at the park or zip around the neighborhood on their 10 speeds, I could pull out my volume and say, Im too caught up in this right now, which, soon enough, would be true.

I also get good at finding the girls who were happy to sit inside, listening to records, and the few left who, like me, were slow to give up Barbies and other daydreaming various kinds of games.

Ona,
Ona, aged three, with the leg bracing she had to wear.

What do you want to do? Jody might ask me.

I dont know. You?

I dont know.

Rock star spouses? one of us would eventually ask, sighing like it was a last resort.

I guess.

After that marriage play for hours, immersed in the elaborate narratives we created for Elton, Paul and beautiful grownup versions of ourselves.

Still, the next time Jody and I got together, whoever asked would be tentative about it, afraid the other “wouldve been” first to outgrow the game.

By high school, pretend games were no longer an option, unless you count pretending to have my period so I could sit on the sidelines in gym class. Or claiming to be too behind in homework to join my friends at the ice rink. Or acting as though my antipathy of disco was the only reason I stood pressed against the wall at dances while the other girls mastered those perfectly synchronised steps.

Why dont we go to the movies? I was always the one to indicate. There, in the comforting darkness, all I had to do was sit perfectly still, along with everyone around me. Row by row by row, we imagined together, lost in the drama of fictitious lives. The movies offered a means of playing pretend that was still sanctioned, a way to be social that asked nothing of my faulty legs.

For college I selected a small, artsy school where the only squad athletic offered was Ultimate Frisbee and there were signs posted on the bulletin board throughout campus that proclaimed Its Okay to be Gay. I extrapolated from this that here, in this heady oasis, it was OK to be different. Among my classmates were daughters with unshaven legs, boys who wore lipstick, children of both genders with spiky magenta hair and splatters of safety pins on their clothes. Still, while I admired these outliers for their boldness and originality, I conceal my uneven legs under long gauzy skirts in my usual attempt to blend in.

If my new classmates noticed my limp, or my childhood friends had considered through my excuses, the latter are kind enough not to say so. This allowed me to believe my own fabrications. I see it now as a wilful and instantaneous sort of amnesia. As soon as I succeeded in avoiding a physical challenge or a potentially embarrassing moment, the memory, along with any guess about my disability, scattered.

The
The young Ona: If my new classmates noticed my limp, the latter are kind enough not to say so. Photo: Leonard Gritz

Even so, as I settled in at college, an unnamed tension left me. I now lived in a place where I could curl up with my books hour after hour , not because my friends were off having adventures I couldnt keep abreast with, but because this was the escapade. I majored in literature and had plans to become a writer. As I read and honed my craft, it felt as though the body, my body, with its limits and awkwardness, was the least of who I was. Eventually, I could live the life of the mind. How perfect was that? Except, of course, it was only part of the narrative.

One afternoon in the campus library, I highlighted this line in my slim paperback transcript of Virginia Woolfs A Room of Ones Own :

Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the sorcery and delicious power of reflecting the figure of human at twice its natural size.

I marked the sentence, having brushed past and already forgotten this, from earlier in the same chapter, about the fact that so many men have written books about females:

…it was flattering, vaguely, to feel oneself the object of such attention provided that it was not entirely bestowed by the crippled and the infirm

Had I, a 19 -year-old crippled girl, flinched when I read this? Had it stung? I dont know. Id forgotten those terms existed, and merely detected them now, decades later, while searching for the looking glass quote that has stayed with me all this time. This was precisely how my self-protective amnesia ran. Virginia Woolf devalued people like me in a chapter about the importance of confidence? But I loved Virginia Woolf, so the insult quietly left through some back door in my mind.

Ona
Ona at home: A verse workshop, I sat beside a human named Dan. Photo: Gene Smirnov for the Observer

What did interest me that afternoon was the metaphor of the mirror, and the idea that humen utilized us to construct themselves up. Id recently joined a feminist consciousness-raising group, and had begun insisting, sometimes petulantly, that I be referred to as a woman rather than a girl. When I marked Woolfs terms it was because they struck me as poetic and true. What I couldnt yet watch was that I had begun to use men similarly , not to reflect me at twice my natural sizing but as attractive enough. As OK.

This is where my college life wasnt all disembodied intellect. I had also begun seeking validation through sex.

Here is another truth. I wasnt at all beyond the racisms expressed in Woolfs forgotten passage. The young men I pursued had to be not just smart-alecky, creative and interesting, but handsome too. It ran without saying that they were also able-bodied. Everyone I knew was able-bodied. There may have been a handful of other students with disabilities on campus, but I paid them no intellect.

I choice humen for the incorrect reasons and, in turn , none of them choice me for anything more than an occasional intimate night. Then, when I was 25, I gratified Richard. He was athletic and handsome in the way of the popular sons who were completely out of my league in high school. The two of us had very little in common. Richards passions included skiing and mountain biking, and though I could never join him on either terrain, he was passionate about me too.

Richard was earnest, playful and affectionate. He was also hot-tempered and impossible to please. Nonetheless, I invited him to move into my apartment. Soon after, we got engaged. All the while, my friends seemed on warily.

One friend told me she had always imagined that the man Id wind up with would be someone she found amazing.

Someone smart and actually kind. The type of guy Id love for myself, only Id be so happy for you I wouldnt be jealous.

She watched me carefully and I realised that her comment had not just one subtext, but two. First, and more obvious, Richard, who was more conventional and less intellectual than my previous love interests, didnt gratified her expectations. Worse, it seemed shed always believed that only person amazing and actually kind could possibly opt me. What hung in the air, unspoken between us, was the reason she thought it would take such a remarkable person to love me. I was defective. This built me cling to my handsome boyfriend all the more.

One weekend, while Richard was off mountain biking with friends, I decided to spend an afternoon in the city. After a movie and lunch at a cafe, I observed myself following a strange woman down a meandering street.

Is that what I look like? I wondered, carefully studying her from a distance. Shes pretty enough, but how much does her hobble detract from that?

Over the following weeks and months, for the better part of a year, I maintained an eye out for women with physical disabilities. When I determined them, I trailed them. For a while, my curiosity remained on the surface. Could women who moved like me still be considered attractive? Did I find them so? But as I continued my stalkerish experiment, something shifted. I began to want to know about their lives.

The best route I knew to process this, as with most issues I grappled with, was through penning. Alone at my desk, I entered into a kind of the negotiations with these strangers I was too reticent to approach in person. I did this by writing a lyric in the voice of a nonverbal quadriplegic female who was in the news at the time.

By now I had completed an MFA in creative writing and had procured my place in a community of poets. One wintertime afternoon, I ran into an acquaintance who invited me to take part in a verse reading and panel discussion for Womens History Month. Each participant would be from a different culture background, she explained. Shed already lined up an African American poet, a Latina poet, and she wanted me there to represent disability. My initial reply was to take a step back when she said this. But then I felt a stirring of interest.

Ill be there, I heard myself say.

I had the persona poem, and one about my mother helping me on with my nightbrace, and a third, titled What the Mirror Knows, that used my partial disability as a emblem for other styles I felt divided. At the reading, I surrounded these pieces with poems that built no mention of disability and that, to my mind, demonstrated I resulted a perfectly normal and interesting life.

The panel discussion ended with questions and comments from the audience. There was one girl, seated a few rows back, whose insights caught my attention. She referred to writers I loved, and made connections that surprised and intrigued me. Afterwards, as I was gathering my things, I looked up to find her waiting to talk to me.

I really liked your poems.

Thanks. I liked hearing what you had to say.

We smiled shyly at one another. Well, she said, I was likely to use the bathroom before I head home.

It wasnt until the woman, who had introduced herself to me as Hope, started to walk away that I noticed her palsied gait. What could I do but follow her into the restroom?

Cerebral palsy is caused by damage, most often at birth, to a part of the brain that controls motor abilities. There are various forms, and it affects people to widely differing degrees. Many dont have enough balance to walk or need crutches to do so. Some have uncontrollable tremors. Some are intellectually disabled, while others are assumed to be because their facial muscles are affected and their speech is unclear.

Hope and I both have relatively mild cases and forms of the disability that affect only half our bodies. She has diplegia, which entails the palsy is only in her leg. I have hemiplegia, which entails the split is horizontal. The muscles of my right extremities are tight and underdeveloped, and the fingers of that hand lack the dexterity, tactile sensitivity and fine motor skills of those on the left.

Its luck shes left-handed, a doctor once told my parents during a consultation, since shell always have to depend on that side. I was nine at the time, old enough to resent being spoken about in the third person, and also to find the flaw in his logic. Maybe I was born left-handed, maybe not. The body learns to compensate, just like the mind.

Years afterwards, I read an article suggesting that right hemiplegics are likely to be more creative and less practical than our counterparts whose disability is manifested on the left. The hypothesis is based on left/ right brain differences. Left hemiplegics have undamaged left hemispheres, which is where pragmatism lives. Meanwhile, we right hemiplegics need to rely on our intact arty and imaginative right hemispheres.

The theory appealed to me. It fitted me so well. But then, just as I understood at nine years old, when it comes to cause and effect its hard to assess the true order. Surely, my cerebral palsy and my drifty, daydreaming styles are connected. But to what extent is this due to the physical brain as opposed to the simple desire to escape the confines of a limited and disappointing body by imagining it away?

Hope and I spent several hours in a coffee shop that late afternoon, commiserating about what it felt like for each of us to be the one kid on the block who couldnt operate, climbing fencings, or ride a motorcycle without educate wheels. I learned I wasnt the only one who coped by making excuses, hiding behind volumes, and living too much in my head. This was the first time either of us had ever spoken about these experiences. It was also the first time that I could remember when I wasnt expending effort and energy to pretend my spastic paralysis didnt exist.

While Hope took the fuel of our connection and almost immediately got involved in disability activism, I went home to Richard and my notion that his love for me meant that my spastic paralysis was, as my mother had assured me all those years ago , nothing, hardly noticeable.

A few months later, Richard and I wedded. With Hope now in my life, I had a growing consciousness about disability that came close to acceptance, but it was a place I visited , not yet one where I lived. More real to me was my marriage licence, which I insured as a kind of passport. It proved that where I really belonged was in the enviable world of the unscathed.

Something I had wanted since I was a child trying to coax my friends away from their games of hopscotch and tag to play house with me was to one day has become a mom. Six years into our marriage, Richard and I concurred the time was right.

Through my pregnancy, my midwife never once mentioned my cerebral palsy, so neither did I. She did suggest a number of tests to rule out potential birth defect. Always I declined, feeling vaguely insulted, though I couldnt have said why.

Our son Ethan was perfect: seven-and-a-half pounds, 14 inches, with active extremities, the right amount of digits, and a hearty weep. For the first hours after his birth, Richard and I sat together in the hospital room and stared at him in wonder. Eventually, a nurse came in to help me with breastfeeding.

You need to lift your elbow so his head sits a little higher. Not working? How about we try the other side? Can you change him so hes in a better posture? Let me prove you something called the football hold

Nothing we tried run so she brought in another nurse and then a third. They piled cushions around us until I could ultimately hold Ethan at the right slant and height.

There we go, the nurses said once he began to suckle.

Problem solved, Richard put in.

This tiny new person nuzzling at my breast depended on me. Yet, somehow, as Id floated through my pregnancy, daydreaming as usual, it had never occurred to me that I wouldnt be able to meet his needs. Now, as I touched his cheek with the one hand that could really feel him, I understood that I didnt have the balance or coordination to be this fragile, trusting people mama. I may have learned early in life to cover for being unable to run, skate or climb fences, but there would be no covering for being unable to safely bathe a newborn, carry him on stairs, or walk any distance while he flailed in my limbs.

From that moment on, the daily and very physical tasks of caring for a baby forced me to recognise my disability for what it actually was. A set of very real and specific limitations I had to either work with or around. There were constant puzzles to solve, along the lines of, Ive arrived home with a baby and a bag of groceries in his carriage and now I find that the one elevator in our apartment building has broken down. What do I do? Often the only answer was to ask for help from a neighbor. The first few periods I did so, I stammered and felt myself flush. Then the working day I simply stopped feeling apologetic. So, I had a disability. It was what it was.

Meanwhile, Ethan had begun reaching his perfect pudgy little limbs towards me the moment we were together in a room. His absolute acceptance, despite my funny stroll and clumsy touch, struck me as both lovely and familiar. It reminded me of my three-year-old self , noticing my brace in a photo without judgment.

Its tempting to aim the tale here with the happy ending of a renewed self-acceptance. I would, except it gets even better.

Its neither a surprise nor a misfortune that my marriage to Richard aimed when Ethan was still small. Richard remains active in Ethans life and the divorce provide proof the best choice for us all.

One holiday weekend, when Ethan was eight, he bided at Richards while I went to a novelists retreat. There, in a verse workshop, I sat beside a man named Dan, who had a soft-spoken gentle way and, I could tell from his responses to poems, an incisive mind. When he brought out his own lyric to be critiqued, I liked him even more. His piece had rhythm, humour and heart. This was definitely person I wanted to know.

I watched him read and take notes by tapping on a braille laptop, his guide puppy sprawled at his feet. After the workshop aimed we stayed in our seats an extra few minutes talking, then he slipped his hand into the crook of my elbow, and we strolled together to the next event. I wondered if he noticed the lilt in my walking, and actually hoped he did. I wanted Dan to know that, along with verse, disability was something we shared.

A week afterward, Dan called me and we stayed on the phone for four hours. In many styles, it was like my first conversation with Hope in the coffee shop. We were so happy to share our stories with each other, and while, in this case, the details of our disabilities bore no similarity, when I talked about the long and circuitous road I took to attaining peace with mine, he let me know hed been there too.

Still, I thought about how, as a young lady, Id considered my disability a cosmetic flaw, akin to having a bad complexion or being a bit overweight. My concern had been whether people noticed. Now, it passed to me what an indulgence that was. Born blind, Dan never had the luxury to feign.

When we fulfilled, Dan and I lived a hundred miles apart. This entail we only got to be together on weekends. The rest of the week, we talked on the phone, building our relationship on a foundation of ideas and conversation. From the beginning, I was captivated by how smart he was, and by how intently he listened. Of course Dan listens well. Hearing is the sense he relies on the most. But Id never met a man who did so with such presence and interest, and somehow I knew that this had more to do with who he was and what he valued than given the fact that he was blind.

Long before Dan and I got to know each other, hed begun to write beautifully and candidly about their own lives as a blind man. He also had a community of friends who were writers and artists with physical disabilities. I wanted in, and they embraced me without hesitation. Soon, I began to seriously take on disability as a topic in my work. It felt scary at first, a little like pulling my childhood bracing out of the closet and putting it on display. But I had expended more than enough time concealing and feigning. I wrote as truthfully as I could about how it felt to live in my particular body, which allowed me to see how universal my experiences actually were.

Dan and I were married on a bright, breezy day in June. Hope slept on our couch on the nights bracketing our wedding day. Ethan stood with us at the altar, holding my palsied hand.

We have been together for 12 years now. The work we do includes disability awareness presentations, literary reads and panel discussions about disability poetics. During one such event at a large poetry celebration, a member of the audience, a man with a visibly awkward gait, took the microphone during the Q& A portion and asked in a shaky voice, How did you learn to like yourselves?

There were four of us up on the stage and for a long moment we were silent, touched by the vulnerability in the question. I thought of Hope whod approached me after hearing my first tentative lyrics about disability. I thought of Dan and our community of disabled friends, including those with us up on that stage. It struck me that, in some manner, “were in” each a pleasing and accurate mirror for the others.

Do you like us? I asked.

The man nodded.

Well, thats a start.

Ona Gritz is the author, most recently, of On the Whole: A Story of Mothering and Disability( Shebooks, 2014) and the poetry collection Geode, which was a finalist for the 2013 Main Street Rag poetry book award. Her essay, Its Time, which appears in the Rumpus, was named a Notable Essay in Best American Essays, 2016

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Madonna raises $7.5 m for Malawi and criticises Trump at Miami show

Singer says plight of Native Americans induces her ashamed to be an American at benefit performance and auction

Madonna has repeatedly criticised Donald Trump and said she is ashamed to be an American, in a performance and auction in Miami that created more than $7.5 m( 5.9 m) for her Malawi foundation.

Images of the president-elect appeared behind her as she sang the line You know that youre toxic from her covering of the Britney Spears hit.

The singer also uncovered she had once been in Trumps bed for a publication photoshoot when the tycoon was not at home. She took a shot at his cheap sheets, saying: They wont be Egyptian cotton since we all know how he feels about Muslims, dont we?

Madonna encompasses Toxic

Madonna also spoke about the plight of Native Americans and asked why their land was being destroyed. It just really stimulates me feel ashamed ashamed to be an American, ashamed to be a human being, really, she said before performing her 2003 hit American Life.

The benefit show, billed as an evening of music, arts and mischief, insured Madonna resuscitate her cabaret depict, Tears of a Clown, first performed in Australia earlier this year.

It was one of the many parties held during Art Basel Miami Beach, the biggest art fair in North America, which attracts super-rich art collectors and celebrities from across the world. Guests, who paid at least $5,000 to attend, included Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, former boyfriend Alex Rodriguez, Courtney Love and James Corden.

Before her hour-long performance, Madonna auctioned pieces from her personal art collecting, including a Tracey Emin print that sold for $550,000 and three Herb Ritts photographs from her 1985 bridal to Sean Penn that fetched $230,000.

Other plenties included a Damien Hirst painting, a private performance by the magician David Blaine, who also attended, and a week-long stay at DiCaprios home in Palm Springs that went for $140,000.

Penn bid on several items when the auction stalled. At one point, Madonna strolled into the audience, climbed on tables and dedicated one man a lap dance. She abruptly stood up at another point, grabbed the chair on which she had performed and said she also want to get auction it , noting $600 could send a girl in Malawi to secondary school. The chair selling off $10,000.

Madonna adopted her 11 -year-old son, David, from an orphanage in Malawi more than a decade ago. At the time, she said she didnt know where Malawi was. David had pneumonia and malaria. His mother died in childbirth and his siblings were also dead.

He was at the event to introduces the singer, telling the audience: I realise Im one of the lucky ones.

Madonna indicated videos of Malawi, asking for help to build a paediatric surgery and intensive care unit at a hospital there. Half the population are under the age of 15, according to her foundation, Raising Malawi.

As well as political statements and corny buffoon jokes, Madonna lamented the fact she was very single and had not had sex for some time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report .

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Acid house legend DJ Spank-Spank of Phuture dies

Earl Smith Jr was one of three founders of the Chicago house legends who released the groundbreaking 12 -minute single Acid Tracks in 1987

One of the innovators of acid house has died. DJ Spank-Spank was one of three founders of Chicago house legends Phuture, alongside DJ Pierre and Herb J, who released the groundbreaking 12 -minute single Acid Tracks in 1987.

DJ Spank-Spank real name, Earl Smith Jr suffered a stroke in May, but the cause of his death was not apparent. The news was initially broken via a tweet, since deleted, from Chicago DJ The Black Madonna, but it had now been been confirmed on Phutures official Facebook page.

The post read: To our Acid House family and Music family at large we are very sorry to say that our friend and partner DJ Spank Spank has passed away. Spank is( was) a legend. We will for certain continue the run hes started on his final album project and his innovations in music. Please for now: Pray for his family and DJ Pierre two brothers. Allow them is high time to grieve. We will come back with news. Much love.

DJ Pierre told Thump: Spanky is the reason why the group Phuture was formed. The world has no idea how talented he was and how much I depended on him. He texted me last night saying he was working on music and how excited he was to have this opportunity to perform again. We were working on our album project and he was so excited about that. Im simply speechless right now. He lived for this music. So we will make sure he forever will live in this music we created together. He will be in a better place. Love each other people. Love life.

Dance music legends queued up to pay tribute on Twitter.

Justin Robertson (@ robertsonjustin) September 22, 2016

Phuture – Spank Spank your music changed my life. Thank you for creating such great jacking greatness #DJSpankSpank https :// t.co/ NvFI1MZyYH

Gilles Peterson (@ gillespeterson) September 21, 2016

RIP DJ Spank Spank … Phuture https :// t.co/ kljovMVsQG

alan_oldham (@ alan_oldham) September 21, 2016

#RIP #Chicago Acid House pioneer #DJSpanky. I used to play this on my old radio demonstrate back in #Detroit https :// t.co/ ibsOyDb9Ts

Mike Servito (@ mikeservito) September 21, 2016

that sound is still resonating 30 years later and changing my damn life one squelch at a time. https :// t.co/ hVn6u 4OJT7

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Koko the rhyming gorilla and the woman trying to get her pregnant

She tells gags, talks in verse and is chums with DiCaprio but theres one thing missing from Kokos life: a baby. A riveting new documentary investigates the controversial bond between one both women and her ape

It wasnt the first time I had looked into the eyes of a gorilla, but it was the first time a gorilla had asked me to sit down so she could check out my nail varnish.

Koko is a 44 -year-old Western Lowland gorilla who comes into contact in sign language. I was in California to make a documentary about her life and, uniquely, Koko had to give final signoff for the cinema to go ahead. Despite the appalling nation of my fingernails, she agreed.

She is a rather unusual gorilla. According to Kokos long-time caregiver, Penny Patterson, she uses more than 1,000 signs, can speak in sentences, tell jokes and talk in verse. She has a number of cats for pets, her own fundraising charge card( for the Gorilla Foundation, the nonprofit in charge of her care) and has gratified celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Isabella Rossellini, Sting and Robin Williams.

Not bad for a gorilla who started their own lives in captivity in San Francisco zoo in 1971. At six months old, Koko became ill and had to be separated from her mother. As she recovered, she was adopted by Patterson, then a Stanford University student. Patterson began to instructor Koko in sign language as part of her PhD dissertation. The project was supposed to last four years, but has ended up lasting 44. Patterson and Koko have a bond like that of mom and daughter. Their life together is a source of inspiration to some, but has also ignited intense controversy.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Should Hollywood do more to portray safer sexuality?

Last week, Insecures Issa Rae responded to fans who claim the reveal should do more to depict safe sexual practices but the show isnt alone in its portrayal of condom-free action

Theres still something undeniably obligating about a good sex scene. Whether its to build intrigue, advance the plot or, well, indulge our collective wish to see Hollywood stars undress and simulate coitus, they remain attention-grabbing set-pieces.

But even in the best sex scenes, the industry has generally eschewed condoms, a trend that climaxed, if you will, when fans pointed out that Issa Raes sex-heavy series Insecure has, over the course of one and a half seasons, failed to show its characters discussing, buying or applying protection. And the HBO series isnt alone: if youve ever wondered how movie and TV characters seem miraculously capable of bypassing foreplay, moving quickly from a shared glance of reciprocal desire to a carnal espouse, its because a) it isnt real, and b) they dont seem to use contraception.

Of course, the dearth of contraception use in cinema and TV is scarcely Issa Raes own cross to bear. But the show-runner and star of the Golden Globe-nominated make answered nonetheless, explaining to her Twitter adherents that she and her crew tend to place condoms in the backgrounds of scenes or connote them, attaching to the tweet two stills from the episode where open condom wrappers appear on a bedside table. We hear you guys and will do better next season, she added.

Issa Rae (@ IssaRae)

We tend to place condoms in the backgrounds of scenes or connote them. But we hear you guys and will do better next season. #InsecureHBO pic.twitter.com/ q9quKK3ZB8

August 14, 2017

Prentice Penny, the presents executive producer, took a less conciliatory approach, telling fans on Twitter that in the writers room its assumed characters use condoms. We are not a PSA, documentary, or non-profit, he added. They should not look to ANY decisions our characters make as a compass.

While Insecures been asked to shoulder the burden of promulgating safe sexuality recently, its still worth asking just how scarcely its practiced, or referenced, in pop culture writ large. And a dive into the annals of the cultural condom canon shows how regularly theyre utilized simply as information sources for slapstick slapstick or to cause an unintended pregnancy.

When explicitly mentioned or shown in sex scenes, condoms function as a gimmick or plot device, like in The Naked Gun, when Leslie Nielsens Lieutenant Frank Drebin and Priscilla Presleys Jane Spencer put on full-body latex suits before fooling around. The whole gag, in true Naked Gun form, was less about sexuality than it was the absurdity of these performers looking like contraceptive Teletubbies, just as it was when Steve Carrell slips a Magnum on his arm in the 40 -Year Old Virgin as Catherine Keener looks on in horror.

The plot of Judd Apatows Knocked Up is of course singularly driven by a misunderstanding between Ben( Seth Rogen) and Alison( Katherine Heigl) about not using protection during their one-night stand. I assumed you were wearing a patch or, like, a dental dam, Ben says. Then they have a newborn. The opening scene of the Master of None pilot demonstrates Dev( Aziz Ansari) having sexuality with Rachel( Noel Wells) before the condom transgress and they Uber to a convenience store to buy Plan B. One of the few hours in recent years where condoms were depicted without much fanfare was in the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, where the sex is otherwise mostly vanilla; twice Christian Grey puts on a condom, and theres even in a brief joke about the oral contraceptive clause in Anas sex contract.

Steve
Steve Carrell in The 40 -Year Old Virgin Photograph: Youtube

Fifty Shades acknowledged that using protection is a safeguard against not only unintended pregnancy but sexually transmitted infections too; Girls, Transparent and the British sitcom Lovesick have also addressed STIs in ways both big and small. And based on a 2016 report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, STI rates recently reached an all-time high: in 2015, there were more than 1.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, nearly 400,000 of gonorrhea and close to 24,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis. A study by the informational site BirthControl.com found that, in their past 10 instances of intercourse, women utilized condoms 58% of the time and men 79%.

But onscreen, you wouldnt know it; characters mostly head straight to the sack without skipping a beat.

The question of protection in Insecure was first raised by Jozen Cummings in a article last week for the Root. Some wrote off the op-ed as more pearl-clutching from the media police, while others argued that its worth Issa Raes time to show some compulsory condom application, even if it messes with the rhythm of the depicts sex scenes. But the trends too pervasive to fall on the shoulders of one demonstrate, since condoms are practically nonexistent across the industry when theyre not the butt of a joke.

A 2010 study undertaken by the UK Department of Health entitled Mis-selling Sex investigated 350 episodes of television with sexuality scenes and found that merely 7% of them featured any sort of discussion of contraceptive utilize. More alarming still is that in 99 of 102 instances of intercourse examined for the study which included British soaps such as EastEnders and Coronation Street, as well as American dramas such as Desperate Housewives and Greys Anatomy condoms didnt appear to be used at all.

But some think that we overestimate pop cultures capacity to normalize safe sexuality. And others, like Penny, argue that movies and television demonstrates arent public service announcements but creative, for-profit entities, with no responsibility whatsoever to lead audiences towards contraception and safe sex.

Theres validity to both debates. But truthfully, how hard can it be for shows to throw a condom in there for good measure, especially since the sexuality scenes unlike the kind had in porn studios in the San Fernando Valley, where legislations been proposed to mandate contraception to stop the spread of STIs arent real?

I think its easy enough to include condoms because this is fiction that is supposed to simulate certain specific types of reality, said Dr Dennis Fortenberry, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana Universitys school of medicine and a member of the American Sexual Health Associations board of directors. I think including contraception in useful ways actually accentuates the reality of the situation. And many of these demonstrates intend to create models of reality, so I dont find any particular reason to leave contraception and condoms out.

As for whether calling for more depictions of contraception employ constitutes an undue onu on a cinema or television displays writers, Fortenberry believes that we already police sex onscreen in more established and indiscernible ways.

I recognise the difficulty of defining standards and policing film and television in ways that are compatible with other social values, but we police it already in terms of prohibiting some kinds of content, with restrictions on the kinds of sex acts that can be shown or even discussed, he told me. Most of the sex thats shown on television and in most widely available cinemas is not very explicit. You actually cant understand sex by watching it on TV.

Unfortunately, theres no barometer to measure the extent to which real-life sexual practices are influenced by sexuality in cinema and Tv. But the imprint left by seeing characters simulate intercourse like the family movie night gone awry when adolescents are forced to watch a sex scene opposite their parents is potent. Fortenberry believes the issues akin to that of cigarette smoking onscreen, which Hollywood studios began to legislate when anti-smoking lobbyists framed it as a matter of public health.

If you take, for example, cigarette smoking and the limits on advertising for and portrayals of cigarettes, thats part of a larger social understanding of the harms of smoking and the importance of this approach for the prevention of those damages, Fortenberry explained.

And though he remains skeptical as to whether presenting safe sexuality would affect spectators own practices, Fortenberry thinks its worth a shot, insofar as we continue to encourage contraceptive use in other ways too.

I think by itself, depicting more contraception use wouldnt be all that helpful, but it would contribute to a larger social stance that puts value on prevention and on sex health, as a part of sexuality educated in middle and high schools and access to this kind of information through a variety of public health venues, he said. I couldnt easily support this with extensive data, but my impression is that parental values and influences, influences from peers at school and other places, sex education at schools, all of those I think are more immediate influences on young peoples attitudes and behaviors.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

The Jean-Michel Basquiat I knew …

The graffiti artist turned painter became the starring of the 1980 s New York art scene. Since his death aged 27, his reputation has risen. On the eve of a major UK show, we speak to his friends

It’s always seducing to mythologise the dead, especially those who die young and beautiful. And if the dead person is also astonishingly gifted, then the myth becomes inevitable. Jean-Michel Basquiat was just 27 when he died, in 1988, a strikingly gorgeous young man whose stunning, genre-wrecking run had already brought him to international attention; who had in the space of just a few years morphed from an underground graffiti artist into a painter who commanded many thousands of dollars for his canvases.

So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that all individuals I talk to who knew Basquiat when he was alive, from girlfriends to collectors, musicians to painters, speaks about him as special. Still, it’s noticeable that they all do. Basquiat- even before he was acknowledged as an artist- was find by his friends as exceptional.

” I knew when I satisfied him that he was beyond the normal ,” says musician and film-maker Michael Holman, who founded the noise band Gray with Basquiat.” Jean-Michel had his flaws, he was mischievous, he had certain things about him that could be called amoral, but setting that aside, he had something that I’m sure he had from the moment he was born. It was like he was born fully realised, a realised being .”

” He was a beautiful person and an amazing artist ,” says Alexis Adler, a former girlfriend.” I recognised that from the get-go. I knew he was brilliant. The only person around that time I felt the same thing about was Madonna. I totally, 100% knew they were going to be big .”

Basquiat the man and Basquiat the painter are hard to untangle. He lived hard and died harder( from an unintentional heroin overdose ), and had more of the rock-star persona than the art aesthete about him, a cool celebrity sparkle that didn’t always work in his favor. Some art connoisseurs find his work hard to take seriously; others, though, have an immediate, almost visceral response. To me, a non-art critic, his work is fantastic: it feels contemporary, with a chaotic, musical sensibility. It’s beautiful and hectic, young and old, graphic, apprehending, packed with equivocal codes; there’s a questioning of identity, especially race, and a sampling of life’s stimuli that takes in music, cartoons, commerce and institutions, as well as celebrities and art greats.( Not sex, though: though he had lots of partners, his paintings are rarely erotic .). You could stand in front of a Basquiat painting and be fascinated for hours.

Since he died, Basquiat has had a mixed reputation. There was a time in the 1990 s when he was dismissed as a lightweight. Museums repudiated him as a jumped-up wall-sprayer. But over the past few years, his superstar has been on the rise and even those who are snooty about his art can’t argue with his cultural influence. A few years ago a Christie’s spokesperson described him, pointedly, as” the most collected artist of sportsmen, performers, musicians and entrepreneurs “. As one of the few black American painters to break through into international consciousness, he is referenced a lot in hip-hop: Kanye West, Jay-Z, Swizz Beatz, Nas and others cite Basquiat in their lyrics; Jay-Z, in Most Kingz, uses the” most kings get their head cut off” phrase from Basquiat’s painting Charles the First . Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz own his runs, as do Johnny Depp, John McEnroe and Leonardo DiCaprio. Debbie Harry was the first person ever to pay for a Basquiat piece; Madonna owns his art and they dated for a couple of months in the mid-8 0s.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 painting Untitled( LA Painting) selling off $110.5 million( PS85m) at Sotheby’s in New York, to became the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. Photo: Shutterstock

A household name in the US, Basquiat is less well known in the UK, though the sale, in May, of one of his paints ( Untitled( LA Painting ), 1982) for $110.5 m( PS85m ), the highest amount ever for an American artist at auction, attained headlines. Now, Boom for Real, a vast exhibition at the Barbican- the first Basquiat show in the UK for more than 20 years- aims to open our eyes. Researched and curated for four years, it follows his career from street to gallery, acknowledges the exceptional periods he was working in, and expands its references from straightforwardly visual art to music, literature, TV and movies, all areas in which Basquiat experimented. It tries to see things from Basquiat’s point of view.

Eleanor Nairne, co-curator of the depict, explains why there hasn’t been a full retrospective until now. Although Basquiat was immensely prolific during his short life, organizations were slow to recognise his talent.” The period between his first solo indicate and his death was six years ,” she says.” Institutions do not move that speedily. During his lifetime he only had two displays in a public space[ as opposed to a commercial gallery ]. There’s not a single work in a public collect in the UK .” There are not many in the US, either: the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York has a couple, but when the city’s Museum of Modern Art( MoMA) was offered his run when he was alive, it said no, and it still doesn’t own any of his paints( it has some on loan ). The head curator, Ann Temkin, later are recognizing that Basquiat’s work was too advanced for her when she was offered it.” I didn’t recognise it as great, it didn’t look like anything I knew .”

Basquiat was born to a middle-class family in Brooklyn. His father was Haitian- quite a strict figure- and his mother, whose mothers were Puerto Rican, was bear in Brooklyn. His mothers split up when he was seven and he and his sisters lived with his father, including a move, for a while, to Puerto Rico. His mom, to whom he was close, was committed to a mental hospital when he was 11. Basquiat was rebellious, angry, and moved from school to school. His education ended in New York when, for a dare, he emptied a box of shaving cream over the principal’s head during a graduation rite. By 15, he was leaving home on and off. He once slept in Washington Square Park for a week.

New York City in the late 1970 s was utterly unlike it is now: un-glitzy, rough, with many houses burnt out and abandoned.” The city was crumbling ,” says Alexis Adler,” but it was a very free time. We were able to do whatever we wanted because nobody cared .” Rents were inexpensive( or people squatted) and downtown New York was a grubby, exhilarating mecca for the artistic dispossessed. The punk scene, centred on the venue CBGB, was giving way to something more experimental, involving art, cinema and what would become hip-hop. Everyone used to go every night, everyone was creative, everyone was going to make it big.

” We were all these young kids in New York to carry out our Warhol fiction ,” says Michael Holman,” but instead of being a ringleader as Warhol was, we were in the band ourselves, making art ourselves, we were acting in cinemas, constructing cinemas, “weve all” one-man depicts, with a lot of collaborations. That was the norm, to be a polymath. Whether you were a painter, an actor, a poet … you also had to be in a band, in order to truly be cool .”

Basquiat was, of course, in a band, with Holman and others including Vincent Gallo; they were called Gray. They formed in 1979, but before that, Basquiat constructed his presence felt through his graffiti. Working with his school friend Al Diaz, from 1978 he was spraying the buildings of downtown NYC with their shared SAMO tag. SAMO( c ), originally a cartoon character Basquiat had drawn for local schools magazine, was derived from the phrase” same old shit “. It was meant, in part, to be a satire on corporations and the tag was straightforward , not decorative. Instead of pictures, SAMO( c) asked odd topics, or constructed enigmatic, poetic declarations:” SAMO( c) AS A Conglomerate OF DORMANT-GENIOUS[ sic ]” or” PAY FOR SOUP, BUILD A FORT, SET THAT ON FIRE “. The SAMO( c) tag was everywhere. Before anyone knew Jean-Michel Basquiat, they knew SAMO( c ).

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Jean-Michel Basquiat and Al Diaz’s SAMO( c) tag. Photo: Jean-Michel Basquiat /( c) Henry A. Flynt Jr

Basquiat left home permanently at 16 and slept on the sofas and floors of friends’ places, including UK artist Stan Peskett’s Canal Street loft. There he made friends with graffiti artists including Fred Brathwaite( better known as Fab 5 Freddy) and Lee Quinones of graffiti group the Fabulous 5, and made postcards and collages.( Once Basquiat spotted Andy Warhol in a eatery, popped in and sold him a couple of those postcards .) Brathwaite and Holman put on a party at the loft on 29 April 1979, as a style of bringing uptown hip-hop to the downtown art crowd. Before the party started, Holman remembers, this child turned up, and said he wanted to be in the present. Holman didn’t know him, but” people with that kind of energy, “youve never” stand in their way, you just say, Yes, run !” They set up a large piece of photo newspaper and Basquiat started spraying it with a can of red paint. He wrote:” Which of the following is omniprznt[ sic ]? a) Lee Harvey Oswald b) Coca Cola logo c) General Melonry or d) SAMO .”” And we all went, Oh my God, this really is SAMO !” says Holman. Later at the party, Basquiat asked Holman, who had been in the glam-rock band the Tubes, if he too wanted to be in a band. Gray was formed there and then.

The members of Gray, which settled into the line-up of Holman, Basquiat, Wayne Clifford and Nick Taylor, deliberately employed paint or sculpture as references, as opposed to music. Their highest expression of kudo was ” ignorant”, used in the same way as bad( entailing good ). Holman recalls playing a gig with a long loop of tape passing through a reel-to-reel machine and then around the whole band. Brathwaite was at Gray’s first gig, at the Mudd Club in New York, and said afterward:” David Byrne[ of Talking Heads] was there. Debbie Harry. It was a real who’s who. Everyone was there because of Jean…SAMO’s in a band! They came out and played for only 10 minutes. Somebody was playing in a box .”

Gray ended when Basquiat’s painting took off. He was always painting and drawing, initially in the style of Peter Max( believe Yellow Submarine ), but quickly received his own aesthetic, which employed writing, and had elements of Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg. Because he had no fund for canvases, he painted on the detritus he dragged in from the street- doors, briefcases, tyres- as well as the more permanent components in his flat: the refrigerator, the TV, the wall, the floor. About the same period that Gray began, Basquiat started dating Adler, then a budding embryologist( he stepped in to protect her when she innocently elicited a street oppose ). Adler discovered a flat- at 527 East 12 th Street- where she still lives today, and they both moved in. There, Basquiat painted on everything, including Adler’s clothes.( When, in 2013, Adler revealed that she had maintained a lot of his work, she sold an actual wall of her flat via a Christies auction: it had a Basquiat painting of Olive Oyl on it.” They were careful about taking it out ,” she tells me.” And now we have glass bricks there instead !”)

Although she and Basquiat were sleeping together, it wasn’t a straightforward boyfriend-girlfriend thing, says Adler.” It was before Aids, a wild period, you could have whatever relationship you wanted .” They had separate rooms, and had sexuality with other people. Adler bought a camera to take pictures of Basquiat’s art, and of him mucking about: he played with putty on his nose, was interested in cinema and Tv( his phrase” boom for real”, utilized when he was impressed, came from a TV programme ), and shaved the front half of his head, so he would” look as though he was coming and running at the same hour “.

They went out every night to the freshly opened Mudd Club, in the Tribeca district. Friends came over until all hours( hard for Adler, who worked in a laboratory by day ). PiL’s Metal Box was on rotation, along with Bowie’s Low and records by Ornette Colman, Miles Davis. Adler loved Metal Box and nailed the cover up on the wall. When Basquiat watched it, he was full of dislike. He took the album down and nailed up William Burroughs’s The Naked Lunch in its place.” He find it offensive that I would set it up ,” says Adler. It wasn’t good enough to be art in his eyes.

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Basquiat on the situated of Downtown 81, spray can in hand. Photo: Alamy

Basquiat lasted at Adler’s flat until the spring of 1980. During that year, his run featured in a couple of group displays and he played the lead role in the film New York Beat Movie ( eventually released in 2000 as Downtown 81 ; the Barbican depict will play it in full ). In the cinema, Basquiat is the star, but it’s fun to play spot-the-famous-person: there are cameos by Debbie Harry, Fab 5 Freddy, Lee Quinones; the band Dna and even Kid Creole and the Coconuts make an appearance. The plot is of the day-in-the-life kind: Basquiat plays an artist who wanders the street trying to sell a paint so he can get enough money to move back into his apartment. He sells it, but is paid by cheque, so he club-hops, trying to find a girl he can go home with. You can’t imagine the role was much of a stretch.

When he wasn’t clubbing, Basquiat worked hard- Brook Bartlett, an artist he mentored in the early 1980 s, recalls him painting ceaselessly- and his switching from being penniless to rich happened between 1981 and 1982. He was by then living with Suzanne Mallouk, who had moved from Canada to become an artist. They’d fulfilled when she was bartending at Night Bird. Basquiat would come in, stand at the back of the room and stare at her. Initially, she thought he was a hobo- “hes having” shaved hair at the front of his head, bleached baby dreadeds at the back, and wore a coat five sizes too big.” He wouldn’t come to the bar because he had no fund for drinks ,” she recalls.” But then, after two weeks, he came in, set a loading of change down and bought the most expensive drink in the place: Remy Martin.$ 7 !”. Mallouk was intrigued. They were the same age and had a lot in common. Basquiat moved into her tiny walk-up flat.

Within eight months, there was money everywhere. Mallouk:” I watched him sell his first paint to Deborah Harry for $200, and then a few months later he was selling paintings for $20,000 each, selling them faster than he could paint them. I watched him induce his first million. We went from stealing bread on the way home from the Mudd Club and eating pasta to buying groceries at Dean& DeLuca; the fridge was full of tarts and caviar, we were drinking Cristal champagne. We were 21 years old .” Basquiat would leave piles of money around the apartment, buy Armani suits by the dozen, throw parties with” mounds of cocaine “. His rise coincided with a shift in the city: financiers were looking to invest in art, and the latter are cruising around art depicts, snapping up new work.

The first public reveal of Basquiat’s paints was in 1981: New York/ New Wave, at PS1 in Long Island, brought together by Mudd Club co-founder and curator Diego Cortez. It was a group show that included pieces by William Burroughs, David Byrne, Keith Haring, Nan Goldin, Robert Mapplethorpeand Andy Warhol, but Basquiat was given a whole wall, which he filled with 20 paintings.( The Barbican show recreates this, with 16 of the original 20 on display .) His run caused a sensation.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, 1983. Photo: Jean-Michel Basquiat/ Barbican

Basquiat gained a merchant: Annina Nosei. She gave him the basement under her gallery to work in( Fred Brathwaite didn’t approve:” A black child, painting in the basement, it’s not good, man”, he said afterward ), which was where Herb and Lenore Schorr, benign and interested art collectors, satisfied him. The Schorrs expended some time in the gallery choosing a piece of work, without knowing that Basquiat was working beneath them. Once they’d decided, he came up, and, though other collectors observed Basquiat threatening or obtuse, they liked him immediately. He didn’t explain his work-” he always said:” If you can’t figure it out, it’s your problem ,” says Lenore; to Bartlett, he said:” I paint ghosts”- but he pointed out parts that he thought he’d done particularly well, such as a snake.

Things were on the up. In early 1982, Nosei arranged for Basquiat and Mallouk to move from their small flat to the much fancier 151 Crosby Street in Soho, and she hosted his first ever solo demonstrate at her gallery: a huge success. Through another trader, Bruno Bischofberger( his most consistent representative ), Basquiat was formally introduced to Andy Warhol; afterwards, Basquiat immediately made a paint of the two of them, and had it delivered to Warhol, still wet, two hours after they’d parted. They formed the beginning of a friendship. Basquiat was then asked to do a show in LA, at the Gagosian gallery.

Film-maker Tamra Davis, who induced the Basquiat documentary Radiant Child ( 2009 ), fulfilled him in Los Angeles. She was an assistant at another gallery and a friend brought Basquiat over.” Jean-Michel came and he didn’t have a car and he didn’t know where to go and we demonstrated him around ,” she says.” That was our assignment. It was the funnest thing ever. I was going to cinema school, and he really loved cinemas, so we would go to the movies together, talk about them. He was the new thing in township, everyone wanted to get to know him. He was so charming, but it was also like hanging out with the Tasmanian demon. Everywhere he went, chaos would pass. You didn’t know what was going to happen next. It was invigorating, but it was also genuinely tiring .”

Basquiat, though, was never tired. He had unending energy, partly drug-fuelled: he needed it in LA, as he brought no paints with him. He rarely did, for his indicates: instead he’d arrive early at whichever city the show was in and attain the paintings there.” He could stimulate 20 paintings in three weeks ,” says Davis. In 1986, she filmed him working: he would have source books open, the TV on, music playing and worked on several canvases at once. For this first LA show, he made works including Untitled( Yellow Tar and Feathers ) and Untitled( LA Painting ), the picture that only expensed Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa $ 110.5 m( in 1984, it ran for $19,000 ). Every single one sold.

Once back in New York, Basquiat left Nosei and joined another merchant, Mary Boone. His reputation was rocketing. The opening for his solo display at Patti Astor’s Fun Gallery was packed with celebrities, recall the Schorrs, who consider that particular show to be his finest, and all the work sold on the first night.

Reviews, however, were scarce. Basquiat’s push-me-pull-you relationship with the art establishment was becoming evident: the dealer he wanted, Leo Castelli, repudiated him as too troublesome; there was prejudice against him for his youth, for having first run as a graffiti artist, for being untrained, and for being black. His work was represented as instinctive, as opposed to intellectual, though he was well versed in art history; some held the patronising idea that he didn’t know what he was doing.

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Basquiat’s Hollywood Africans, 1983. Photograph: Jean-Michel Basquiat/ Barbican
Racism also had an everyday impact: he would leave successful opening parties and find it impossible to get a taxi. Herb Schorr would give him lifts to induce his life easier( they would gag that he should wear a peaked cap and be Basquiat’s driver ). George Condo, an artist on the rise at the same day, remembers going to a eatery with him in LA and not being allowed in.” I said:’ Do you know who this is? This is Jean-Michel Basquiat, the most important painter of our time .’ The guy said,’ He’s not coming in. We don’t allow his kind in here .'” Brook Bartlett remembers a journey to Europe in 1982 during which a rich Zurich socialite intimated that she, an 18 -year-old white woman, would be a civilising influence on Basquiat, who was four years older and already established. No wonder race became more prominent in his run: in his second LA Gagosian show, in 1983, Basquiat presented paints such as Untitled( Sugar Ray Robinson ), Hollywood Africans , Horn Players and Eyes and Eggs , featuring black musicians, performers and sportsmen.

Drugs, too, were around more and more.” Everyone in the East Village and in the arts world in the 80 s did drugs. Wall Street did drugs, everyone did medications ,” says Mallouk. But after Mallouk and Basquiat split up in 1983, Basquiat got increasingly into heroin.” He was sniffing it, smoking it and injecting it ,” says Mallouk.” There are just a few models that he was hanging out with that were doing it and that’s how he got into it .” He became unreliable, travelling to Japan on a whim, instead of going to Italy, where he had a show. But then, his focus was constantly diverted. Everyone wanted him. He was moving into a different world: his old friends still watched him, but intermittently.

During 1984 and 1985, Basquiat’s star shot higher and higher. There was a lot of travelling, a lot of attention. He was featured on the front cover-up of the New York Times Magazine in a suit with his feet bare. The Warhol estate rented him an all the more important place, a loft on Great Jones Street large enough for him to use as a studio as well as a flat, and in 1985 Basquiat and Warhol had a show of paints that they’d rendered jointly. Though the poster for the display has subsequently been constantly reworked and sampled( even Iggy Azalea used it on the coverof her 2011 mixtape Ignorant ), at the time, the indicate was not a success. One critic called Basquiat Warhol’s ” mascot “. Tamra Davis says this was hard for Basquiat.

” He really thought he was finally going to be appreciated ,” she says.” And instead they tore the depict apart and said these horrible things about him and Andy and their relationship. He get so sad, and from then on it was hard to see a comeback. Anybody that you talked to that find him around that time, he got more and more paranoid, his dreaded went deeper and deeper .”

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With Andy Warhol at their joint show in 1985, which was savaged by the critics. Photo: Richard Drew/ AP

And gradually, gradually his heroin use was catching up with him. Alhough he was greatly inspired by a trip to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and though he had displays all over the world- Tokyo, New York, Atlanta, Hanover, Paris- it became known among his friends that he was fighting. Mallouk would go over to his Great Jones loft.” I would beg him to get help and he only couldn’t do it ,” she says.” He threw the Tv at me. People would stop me on the street, saying Jean-Michel is in a really bad way, he has places all over his face, he is totally out of it, you need to go and help him … It was pretty common knowledge that he was not well .”

In February 1987, Andy Warhol died at the age of 58. Basquiat is more and more reclusive, though he still generated work for shows, and stimulated plans, in early 1988, to revisit Ivory Coast to go to a Senufo village. He began to talk about doing something other than art: write perhaps, or music, or setting up a tequila business in Hawaii. In 1988, he went to Hawaii to get clean: Davis insured him in LA afterwards.” He was sobers, he was gonna do better, “its like” LA had a bit of Shangri-La about it for him .” But his visit was strange: he brought random people to dinner, people he’d merely met at the airport, and he was unnaturally upbeat, too happy. It built her afraid.

In 2014, Anthony Haden-Guest wrote an article for Vanity Fair that describes in detail Basquiat’s last night: 12 August 1988. In New York, he did drugs during the day, and was dragged out to a Bryan Ferry aftershow party at bank-turned-club MK by his girlfriend, Kelly Inman, and another friend. He left speedily, with his pal Kevin Bray. They went back to the Great Jones loft, but Basquiat was nodding. Bray wrote him a note.” I DON’T WANT TO SIT HERE AND WATCH YOU DIE ,” it said. Bray read it out to Basquiat, and left.

The next day, Inman went to the apartment at 5.30 pm. Jean-Michel Basquiat was dead.

It was a sad objective to a rocket-flight life. And the subsequent battle between Basquiat’s estate and various dealers over pieces of his work was not pretty. Collectors sued for paints bought but never received. Merchants claimed they owned works; the estate said they’d stolen them. There were too many Basquiat pieces knocking around on the market( 500 -6 00 canvasses, according to one expert ): the estate would only corroborate the provenance of a few. Then the taxman came knocking: Basquiat hadn’t paid taxes for three years before his death.

But the years have softened or resolved the arguments, and the work has had a life of its own. Though the majority of members of his most important art is owned by collectors, who keep it hidden away, it maintains seeping out, as if drawn to its public. And we want his work, it seems. Not only are institutions ultimately coming around to his genius, but his work can be seen on T-shirts, on sneakers( Reebok did a Basquiat range ), on the arms of hip-hop artists. Just samples, short clips taken out of context, snippets and hints of the full, mind-whirling Basquiat experience.” He questions things and he references things he wants you to pay attention to ,” says Davis.” His paintings were meant to be seen by as many people as is practicable. They’re like movies or music , not just for person or persons alone .”

His art is irrevocably intertwined with his life: his charisma and drive, his race, his talent and sad demise. But it is bigger than that. Like the best art, it needs the world and the world needed most. And if you stand in front of a Basquiat and looking, it sings its own song, only to you.

Basquiat: Boom for Real is at the Barbican, London EC2, from 21 September until 28 January 2018

Basquiat, as remembered by his friends

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Basquiat with then girlfriend Suzanne Mallouk. Photograph: Duncan Fraser Buchanan

Michael Holman, musician and film-maker
Basquiat was born fully realised. And if anything, that is the kiss of death: you’re gonna burn brightly and burn fast. If you impressed him, if he complimented you, you simply felt you’d been blessed by a saint, it was a very emotionally and spiritually profound experience. That’s one of the ways to calibrate his otherworldliness. Because he would never compliment you if he didn’t believe it to his core.

We all went out[ almost] every night, till 4 in the morning. It was so important. Not merely did we go out and blow off steam, and satisfy people, have sex in the bathroom, get high, all that stuff that you do in clubs. But within the clubs the scene also creatively happened … all kinds of pass, performances, art shows … Club 57 and Mudd Club, they fed us and they directed us and guided us, brought us together with crucial people, in a way that going to openings or concerts just didn’t do. It generated a community that supported each other. It was a special time. With[ our band] Gray, I taped a microphone to the head of a snare drum, face down, and attached masking tape to the drum, then pulled the masking videotape off and allowed that to be a audio. Jean would loosen the strings on an electric guitar, then operate a metal file across the strings.

In 1982, two years after Jean left Gray, I’d become an avant garde film-maker. I had this cable TV prove, and I asked him to do an interview. He made it clear to me, without saying anything, that I wouldn’t be able to do this interview if I didn’t get high with him. He was doing base, like a high-end form of crack. I’d never done it before and, boy, I’ve never done it since. I could scarcely keep my focus. I could barely stop shake, but it scarcely affected him. He had such a high tolerance.

He was a sensationalist. He pushed the boundaries of any kind of sensation, anything that would set off his endorphins, his nerve ending, his brain cells. He was after the sensation of something special and brilliant and different and electrical and massive. Would he have been good at middle age? Well, part of middle age is the struggle of coming to this place in which you know you’ve plateaued in some ways. When we pass that hump and start going down the other route, we are living and succumbing at the same day. I don’t think he wanted to go there.

Lenore and Herb Schorr, major New York collectors, and the first to recognise and subsistence Basquiat
Lenore : We were very excited by the first paint we watched by him. This is not a common reaction, we’ve determined, even now! He’s a very difficult artist for many, many people. But we just felt he was a wonderful, brilliant artist, very, very early.

Herb : The artists understood him- some of them. They were there first, along with a few professionals. Basically, he had his collector base, but they weren’t knocking down the doors for them as they are today. There was not this hysteria. Really , nothing changes. We’re just finishing reading a book called The Portrait of Dr Gachet by Cynthia Saltzman, which is about a Van Gogh painting, and a lot of it is the same narrative as Basquiat. It takes 20 years after his death before a Van Gogh enters a museum. Anything which transgresses new ground takes a while for people to catch up to.

Lenore : Jean was very smart and he knew his art history. Modernism, Picasso, right up to the present and Jean knew it all. So we really had a nice rapport. I could see it in his work, Picasso, Rauschenberg, they were all important influences, he had absorbed the performance of their duties. It was beautifully rendered, remade in his speech, with his message, with New York at the time, his personal feelings.

Herb : We didn’t see him in a drugged state, well maybe once, he seemed a little angry, he wasn’t the same person. He would call and perhaps he needed more fund. Once, he called us up early in the morning and we lived in the suburb, you know, and he said,” I need fund, I have a painting for you .” But he didn’t turn out by the end of the working day …

Lenore : It’s so sad, he tried to get down it. Andy Warhol tried hard with him, they would exercising together.

Herb : We have good memories of him. One day he said he wanted to come up and have a white man’s barbecue.

Lenore : We expected him around three and he shows up at eight, with friends. It was quite a party, there was skinny-dipping- not me!- I had the children here and there was a little pot being smoked, I could reek it, and we were like, We’re gonna be busted! It was a great, fun evening.

Suzanne Mallouk, partner, 1981 -1 983, and lifelong friend
We immediately had this feeling of kindred spirits. We were the same age, I left home at 15, so did he. We were both first generation from immigrant families- my father was Palestinian, his father was Haitian. Both of us didn’t fit into any racial or ethnic group. Both of us suffered racism. We both had old-world fathers who employed corporal punishment. My mother is English, from Bolton. His stepmother was English. It was very interesting, the common histories we had. Authoritarian parents that ensure European women as a prize. And I think it genuinely shaped Jean-Michel’s experience. He was intelligent enough to resent that European girls were somehow valued more, he saw the racism in that, yet most of his girlfriends were white. He was conflicted about it; he discussed it with me.

I hated that I had a undertaking and he didn’t. I was an artist, too- how dare he make me work as a waitress and live off me! Often I would come home and he would take fund out of my handbag to buy drugs. We would have terrible battles. He would say,” I promise I’ll look after you when I’m famous, please just let me do my art, I’m going to be famous very soon .” But I didn’t maintain anything, so I didn’t get anything. He didn’t like me keeping things, he would virtually be jealous of his own artwork. He would say,” Why do you want to keep something of mine when you have me ?” Eventually, he gave me the message that really I could no longer be an artist. He was the only artist in the family and I had to look after him. It was kind of misogynist.

It wasn’t that he only watched Andy[ Warhol] as a father figure, he also truly had a flirtation with him. Often when I was with the two of them together, it didn’t feel like I was there with Jean; it felt like I was there with two homosexual lovers. He once joked with me that he had had sexuality with Andy, but I don’t know if it was a joke. Jean had a history of being bisexual, but Warhol was asexual, so I don’t know. People misunderstand the relationship if they just think Andy was helping Jean. Jean was already he was highly established, he was already famous or Andy would not have been interested in him. I believe Andy required new life breathed into his career; I suppose the two of them needed each other.

Two weeks before his death, I was living with a new boyfriend in my little East Village hut. Jean rang the buzzer in the middle of the night and we both get up, and said ” Who is it ?”” Jean-Michel, Jean-Michel, is Suzanne there ?” I buzzed him in but he never came up. I ran down the stairs to look for him, but he’d gone, and two weeks later he was dead. My heart was infringe when I operated down the stairs and he was gone. Because I never stopped loving him. I still feel love for him and he’s been dead for over 30 years.

You’re going to think I’m mad, but I have dreamings, and in the dreams Jean-Michel is ageing. It’s as though he’s living in a parallel world. And often he’s annoyed that I’m there, he’s like,” Don’t tell anyone I’m here Suzanne. Don’t tell anyone I faked my demise, and especially don’t tell the New York Times !” He’s just living a really simple life,

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Holy Hell and the truth about cults: ‘They’re not going to give it up easily’

A new movie follows the Buddhafield group of the 80 s and director Will Allen who was in the group talks about how easy it is to get caught up in cults

Perhaps the most disturbing part of Holy Hell the documentary which premiered at Sundance earlier this year and is about a West Hollywood cult is that life of the working group doesnt appear that bad at all. Beautiful young people dance around in pastoral scenes, while an aviator-wearing leader expands their minds by seemingly doing little more than having a very good time.

Holy Hell director Will Allen joined the Buddhafield in the 80 s. His cinema made up of videos he shot while of the working group raises the allegations that over two decades he, and other members of the group, were sexually abused by the cult leader, who now goes by the name of Andreas but was also known as Michel. Former group members claim he controlled intimate elements of their personal lives and there were petty autocracies as well; Andreas had trained for the ballet, and put his adherents through grueling practices to stage elaborate ballets that no one but the group would ever see.

But before the accusations of abuse and megalomaniacal demands, life with the Buddhafield wasnt a dystopian nightmare. Instead, the first half-hour of the cinema stimulates the cult looking welcome, appealing even holy.

The community turned out to be the thing that bonded us together and maintained us there for so long, Allen told me in a phone interview. He joined the Buddhafield at the urge of his sister, when he was 22, shortly after complete cinema school and coming out as homosexual. I felt very confused and unsure of everything, and I had no one to explain everything to me.

The community provided this immediate sense of unconditional love. Nobody judged one another; we were there with open arms loving everybody as individuals. That wasnt something I had found in college, and I hadnt found that in their own families either.

Holy Hell

That love wasnt a hallucination; the documentary depicts Allen is still close with many of the people from the community, and they obviously still care about each other. Similarly, Allen isnt ready to simply dismiss the spiritual experiences he and others had while with the Buddhafield. The documentary depicts Andreas leading many of the members to profound feelings of oneness with God, complete with psychedelic-like visions, and a blissful sense of well-being.

We werent doing medications, we werent escaping through alcohol, Allen told me, so we were escaping through this more metaphysical relationship with ourselves.

But eventually the community and friendship began to feel like a trap. Allen alleges that Andreas encouraged his adherents to Keep holy company, by which he meant that they should avoid interactions with those outside different groups.( This comes within the framework of isolating us from society, Allen said .) We only maintained among ourselves, and merely bonded with ourselves. This isolation was part of what maintained Allen and others with Buddhafield. Indeed, even after the accusations some original members remain with Andreas and a new group of adherents in Hawaii.

Peoples spiritual journeys are very personal, Allen said. They dont want to give them up for anything. Theyre getting something out of it, and theyre not going to give it up very easily.

Its easy perhaps to view the people who have stayed with Andreas as deluded but such delusions are too common to simply be attributed to cults alone. As the 2015 film Spotlight highlighted, widespread abuse in the Catholic church went on for decades. When someone claims to represent God, or the divine, they make this immense sum of confidence between you and them, Allen said. And that allows them, if they have no integrity or are unable to control themselves, it allows them more power to do what they want to do.

The opportunity to abuse authority goes beyond only religions, too. One interviewee in the film says that there are cults in every township in America. That doesnt mean that Buddhafields particular mix of New Age spirituality is metastasizing. But it is an argument that the impulses and dynamics which induced Buddhafield possible arent solely the province of hippie truth-seekers.

I look at this pattern that we all as a human race have created, Allen said, where we end up in this pyramid/ hierarchy, where theres someone at the top, and all the knowledge percolates down. This happens in firms, this happens in religions, this happens all over the world. Why cant we have a democracy where people all know whats going on? Do people need someone to tell them “what were doing”?

Allens documentary is intended most directly to call Andreas to account. The director is hopeful that, as the film gains more attention, more of Andreass followers will come to doubt him and eventually leave the group. Thats already happening, Allen said hopefully. People are already leaving, and only a few people who are devoted are still supporting him.

But the broader message of Holy Hell isnt specifically about Andreas, or Buddhafield, or even necessarily about cults. Instead, the cinema is a warns that natural and even admirable human passions for love, for belonging, and for meaning can be manipulated by unscrupulous people to benefit themselves. Despots, in cults or in any context, seek to construct themselves synonymous with community and with God. When such people try to gain power, Allen says, We need to learn to recognize them. And not honor them.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Madonna raises $7.5 m for Malawi and criticises Trump at Miami show

Singer says plight of Native Americans induces her ashamed to be an American at benefit performance and auction

Madonna has repeatedly criticised Donald Trump and said she is ashamed to be an American, in a performance and auction in Miami that raised more than $7.5 m( 5.9 m) for her Malawi foundation.

Images of the president-elect appeared behind her as she sang the line You know that youre toxic from her encompas of the Britney Spears hit.

The singer also disclosed she had once been in Trumps bed for a publication photoshoot when the tycoon was not at home. She took a shot at his cheap sheets, saying: They wont be Egyptian cotton since we all know how he feels about Muslims, dont we?

Madonna covers Toxic

Madonna also spoke about the plight of Native Americans and asked why their land was being destroyed. It just really constructs me feel ashamed ashamed to be an American, ashamed to be a human being, genuinely, she said before performing her 2003 hit American Life.

The benefit show, billed as an evening of music, art and mischief, assured Madonna resuscitate her cabaret present, Tears of a Clown, first performed in Australia earlier this year.

It was one of the many parties held during Art Basel Miami Beach, the biggest art carnival in North America, which attracts super-rich art collectors and celebrities from across the world. Guests, who paid at least $5,000 to attend, included Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, former boyfriend Alex Rodriguez, Courtney Love and James Corden.

Before her hour-long performance, Madonna auctioned pieces from her personal art collecting, including a Tracey Emin print that sold for $550,000 and three Herb Ritts photographs from her 1985 bridal to Sean Penn that fetched $230,000.

Other lots included a Damien Hirst painting, a private performance by the magician David Blaine, who also attended, and a week-long stay at DiCaprios home in Palm Springs that ran for $140,000.

Penn bid on several items when the auction stalled. At one point, Madonna walked into the audience, climbed on tables and gave one human a lap dance. She abruptly stood up at another point, grabbed the chair on which she had performed and said she also wanted to auction it , noting $600 could send a girl in Malawi to secondary school. The chair sold for $10,000.

Madonna adopted her 11 -year-old son, David, from an orphanage in Malawi more than a decade ago. At the time, she said she didnt know where Malawi was. David had pneumonia and malaria. His mom died in childbirth and his siblings were also dead.

He was at the event to introduces the vocalist, telling the audience: I realise Im one of the lucky ones.

Madonna proved videos of Malawi, asking for help to build a paediatric surgery and intensive care unit at a hospital there. Half the population are under the age of 15, according to her foundation, Raising Malawi.

As well as political statements and corny clown jokes, Madonna lamented the fact she was very single and had not had sex for some time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report .

Read more: www.theguardian.com

The George Michael we knew: celebrities remember him one year on

Its almost a year since George Michael died. Here, Elton John, Mariah Carey, James Cordon and Tatjana Patitz recall their friend

Elton John:’ On Christmas Day last year I lost a beloved friend’

George was always great fun to be with. He was never afraid to speak his intellect. Like me, he’d often get himself into trouble by saying what he truly thought. He was straightforward, which meant you always knew where you stood with him- rather than someone who will be nice in front of you and then horrible behind your back. So gratifying up with George was always an event because he had such a definite sentiment on everything and when sentiments clashed it would make for an interesting evening.

People genuinely adored George and it wasn’t just the music. They felt for him and they felt his fights; he was completely authentic. He wasn’t touring all the time or putting records out year after year. He was a true star. When you watched George perform you were going to see someone who really could sing beautifully and move you with his music. It was a treat. With all his trials, afflictions and the publicity, people could relate to the flaw. We’re all imperfect and we all have our flaws. He had his fair share of pain in life and this came out in his songs.

Throughout his problems he kept dignified and tried hard to stay private. George, like the rest of us, built mistakes and sometimes publicly, but people could see what I personally was lucky enough to know about George. That he was one of the kindest, most generous people that I ever met in my life.

‘He
‘ He was a true star ‘: George Michael with Elton John and Andrew Ridgeley in London in 1985. Photograph: Rex/ Shutterstock

What he will be remembered for most importantly is being a brilliant and talented artist. He wrote unbelievable tunes and had an amazing voice. I never heard him sing a bad note. You can hear every emotion in his voice- ache, regret and joy- and that’s the mark of a genuinely great singer. George could sing anybody’s lyric and make it sound like his and that’s an extraordinary talent to have, to be able to construe his own and other people’s songs in different ways every time he performed them. He was without doubt one of the greatest songwriters this country ever produced and certainly one of the best vocalists ever.

On Christmas Day last year I lost a beloved friend: a lifetime’s friendship that was founded on music to start with. One of my earliest memories with George is of he and I sitting in a car merely off Hyde Park listening to Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go on cassette and I said:” This is the nearest record I’ve heard to Motown .” It was( and still is) only such a brilliant record and we went on to have a brilliant relationship.

George was a very private man. He always had the mystique thing about him. He wanted to keep things private, had his own group of friends and he didn’t want people to know everything about him. Of course he lived under massive scrutiny and some artists would do anything for that level of advertising all the time. Not George though. He wasn’t in the paper everyday, he wasn’t posting his life on social media and I think it made a difference. What people might have forgotten about George is that when Listen Without Prejudice was originally released over 25 years ago now, he did no promotion for the album, which back then was revolutionary. This was 1990 and he was following up Faith , which was huge.

This was a massively foresaw album and a completely different voice and feel to Faith . Where as Faith was joyous, Listen Without Prejudice was his grown-up record. Like George, Listen Without Prejudice has a sense of mystery. It’s a very ethereal album that has an aura about it. It’s probably his masterpiece. It’s an album that has grown in stature. George got everything that he had inside, every emotion on to the record and thank God he did. At the time I thought he was bonkers for not doing any promotion, but seem how it all worked out. He let the art do the talking.

The video for Freedom’ 90 was genius. At the time, it was completely sensational. It was the height of the supermodels and having them in the video was brilliant. It said everything he needed to say.” Here’s my record and it’s fabulous; here’s my video and it’s even more fabulous !” The video is all people talked about, it was so huge. Once it was in your mind you wanted to buy the record.

I was unbelievably touched when George named me as one of his major three influences alongside such brilliant company- Freddie Mercury and Stevie Wonder. Lately, as part of the Listen Without Prejudice re-release promotion, I was asked if I could hear my influence in his music and I can hear little bits of me in him. When I write, I’m influenced by other people, too, so I know what it’s like, and I’m very flattered. There are songs like Praying For Time where I can hear little bits of myself, but I also hear a lot of John Lennon. There were so many different facets to George and you can hear his progression through early Wham ! on Faith and on his later albums. You can hear him grow as an artist and evolving from his original voice into more beautiful territory.

You can always tell a George Michael sung- from the intonation of his words and the way he breathes and the route he phrases. I will always recollect him for his wonderful music, his kindness and his beautiful voice. Voices like that don’t come along that are typically. He had a gift from God which he shared with the world- a genuinely beautiful instrument. His music continues to touch people all around the world. He was such a generous man who dedicated so much without wanting any advertising. He’ll be missed for his music, but above all his humanity. I was lucky to have him in my life.

Mariah Carey:’ It was so nice to sit down and have a proper conversation with him’

‘We
‘ We first met somewhere in London. We ran for a three-hour dinner, and we had a lot in common ‘: Mariah and George perform on stage for the finale at Live 8 London in Hyde Park on 2 July 2005. Photograph: Getty Images

He was in Wham! when I was in school, and I used to love Careless Whisper. My friend Rene and I would sing it in gym class. We used to sing that ballad all the time. That was before I truly knew about George, about Wham! It was Faith that became my favourite of his albums. It was a masterpiece, and it inspired and influenced me. I loved it so much.

I was a new artist on Sony when all the drama around Listen Without Prejudice happened, when there was the issue of him not wanting to appear in any of the music videos. I was behind the scenes[ Carey’s then- husband, Tommy Mottola, was head of Sony in the 1990 s, when Michael sued the label ]. I would hear the executives behind closed doors, and I didn’t like what I heard them saying because I was a huge fan of George.

We first met in England, somewhere in London. We ran for a three-hour dinner, and we had a lot in common: we both had these big issues such as Sony. I love Sony now, it’s a totally different place, but at the time we’d both gone through our own situations with the label, and we had quite the conversation about it. It was a little traumatic.

He was very kind. We both loved music. We both loved writing and making music. And I loved him. We had a long talk about a lot of things that I’m sure many people would be interested in knowing. It was a really nice experience for me. When you’ve grown up listening to somebody, and actually admiring them and their artistry, it’s nice to be able to sit down and have a proper conversation with them. Some of his songs are my favourite anthems ever. I was so happy we were given the opportunity to get to know each other.

When he passed away I was devastated. I was in Aspen for Christmas, and I didn’t really believe it at first. People make up so many rumour. It seemed surreal. I put on Faith again and simply sat and listened to it, and guessed again about what a masterpiece it is.

Way before he passed away, I decided to remake One More Try, one of my favourite of his songs. I had wanted to do a duet with him, and I was told that he would have loved to, but it was difficult at the time because he wasn’t doing too well. I wanted to do a live version, like when he and Elton did the duo[ of Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me ].

A lot of people loved his music. He was one of the top artists we had. I wasn’t surprised by the reaction to his death- I was going through it, too. It was tough, and it’s so sad that we’re not going to get any new music from him now. He made a great contribution to the world.

Tatjana Patitz:’ I recollect getting really drunk on tequila and giving him advice’

Model
Model performance: Tatjana in a scene from the video of Freedom’ 90. Photograph: Brad Branson

George’s music was the backdrop to my upbringing in Sweden; he was my first crush as a young teen. My modelling career started in the early 80 s, and in 1987 I flew to LA to work with Herb Ritts. At the time, he was working on an ongoing publication project where he’d shoot a model and musician or actor together: I’d done one with Johnny Depp, and I was to do one with George. It was the first time we met and I was starstruck.

He was so lovely to work with- sweet and softly spoken, the opposite of what you think such a huge superstar will be. At the time it wasn’t OK to come out. A plenty of artists had to hide their sexuality, to the purposes of fans and record marketings. Things were very different then, so it must have been difficult for him. After the shoot, I maintained bumping into him in LA at various nightspots. I recollect getting really drunk on tequila one night and devoting him some unwanted “advice”.

A couple of years passed and my agent called to say George wanted me to be in the music video for his new sung, Freedom’ 90. I was really surprised, as the last day I’d seen him I’d been quite …[ inebriated ]. A plenty of people were use models in videos then, but usually accompanying the musicians. George didn’t want to be in the video at all. He’d asked David Fincher to direct it. I flew in on Concorde for the working day and we filmed at Merton Park Studios. That was the last day our world’s collided.

His death was a shock and it’s sad to think that the individuals who soundtracked a whole generation’s teen years- Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Prince and George Michael- are run. George was so very influential, a true pop star.

James Corden:’ He had empathy for people and a great sense of mischief’

‘I
‘ I owe George for the success of Carpool Karaoke ‘: James Corden and George Michael in the 2011 Comic Relief sketch. Photo: Toby Merritt/ Comic Relief

We’d written this sketch for Comic Relief with George in intellect[ the first-ever Carpool Karaoke , in 2011 ]. I’d heard he liked Gavin& Stacey so I hoped he’d be interested in working with me on it. George was in Australia, but his manager was happy to set up a bellow. I was told he’d ring me at 3.45 am. It was the strangest impression, get into bed and thinking:” When I wake up it’s going to be because George Michael is on the phone .” I define my alarm for 3.30 am and then ran and sat in the spare room waiting for the call. After initial small talk, I told him the idea and he loved it. I recollect him saying:” This is great. I’ll be back in the UK in a few weeks’ period and we’ll can fix a date to do it .”

We’d exchanged jokey text in the weeks leading up to shooting- it was his idea to wear matching tracksuits and he’d had a lot of input- so when it came to the day, and we got a message saying George had cancelled, I was amazed. It’s only retrospectively that I realise that when he was in Australia, he was feeling great- it was sunny and blue skies and he was feeling confident about the way he looked and was in a positive place. He’d come back to north London and had suddenly retreated back into himself and felt a little bit scared about doing anything publicly.

At the time, I sent him a text saying:” Look, I can’t begin to imagine how you’re feeling, and I can’t begin to imagine what life is like for you in London, but I merely want you to know that if you change your mind, we’d still love to do this, but I get it if you don’t .” He reacted, joking about something else, and then ran quiet. Finally, at around 11 pm that night I sent him a text saying:” Your silence is deafening my ego ,” and he called me two minutes later. We talked for half an hour and he said he wanted to sleep on it. I woke up to a text saying:” OK, let’s shoot it on Friday .”

He turned up and did it and he was just wonderful. I feel I owe George for the success of Carpool Karaoke . It was the first one and Mariah Carey agreed to do the second, having assured the one with George in it. I don’t think we’d have been able to volume the level of talent we have without him having been the first.

It must have been difficult to be George Michael. To be that famous all the time. For most people who get to that level, it’s fleeting, but George was consistently world famous for so long. From what I know from those that have experienced it, “the worlds biggest” you get, the smaller your world becomes, until it’s just a handful of people around you and the four walls of your house.

The thing I loved most about him was that he had an unbelievable sense of empathy for people and an innate understanding of the fight that we all have as humans. And that was counterbalanced with a great sense of mischief. I feel very fortunate that I ever got to be in his orbit.

George Michael: Freedom ‘ will air on Channel 4 on 16 October at 9.15 pm. Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 is likely to be rereleased on 20 October

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther review- a promising, subversive start

With the long-awaited new edition of the Marvel star, Coates and his illustrator, Brian Stelfreeze, have delivered on their promise of a dramatic upheaval

Marvel Comic has often turned to writers, famous beyond the world of capes and comics, to reinvent their lesser-known and lesser-loved titles. The novelist Jonathan Lethem, who set Marvels 1970 s output front and center in both Fortress of Solitude and his autobiographical book of essays The Disappointment Artist, wrote a self-contained 10 -issue series for the virtually forgotten Omega The Unknown in 2007. While G Willow Wilson, a comic book and fantasy writer most well known for her novel Alif the Unseen, transformed Ms Marvel into the first major Muslim superhero.

Now, Ta-Nehisi Coates, who went from his influential blogs and features at the Atlantic to the MacArthur fellowship, and the National Book Award, is helming a new running of Black Panther. If youve never heard of Black Panther, thats about to change. Not merely will he soon be incorporated into the Marvel cinematic world in the new Captain America film, but Coatess first issue of the comic has already hit sales of more than 300,000 copies, more than twice the demand for the previous months bestselling comic, Dark Knight III.

Black Panther has been through this process once before, when mystery novelist David Liss had the character take over for Daredevil and move to Hells Kitchen. The results were a kind of poor mans Batman right down to the goofy gadgets and a conflicted relationship with a mustachioed police officer he met on rooftops. Somehow, it still worked. Never a prominent enough character to have the fixed myth and reader expectations of a Spider-Man or a Batman, Black Panthers exact backstory, powers, code of conduct and position have all shifted many times over the 40 years that hes been punching evildoers in the face.

There are certain constants, however. The Black Panther isnt a secret identity, its a ceremonial title that belongs to TChalla, the monarch of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. The Black Panther is Wakandas king, the high priest of its Panther cult, and its warrior champ all at once. In some versions of his narrative, the title is hereditary, in others it is won by combat every year, but either way, the Black Panther eats a heart-shaped herb as part of his initiation which brings him into touch with the Panther god and awards him some superpowers.

Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation in the world. It is just one of the wealthiest, thanks to the Great Mound, a meteor made out of vibranium that crashed in its own territory eons ago. Before TChallas reign, Wakanda was an isolationist country that many had never heard of, a secret African utopia that marriage tribal customs or white writers ideas of tribal customs to space-age science fiction.

TChalla has often left Wakanda for one reason or the other, and brought difficulty back with him. Over the years, TChalla has jump-kicked the Ku Klux Klan, hunted treasure, joined up with the Avengers, wedded an X-Man, survived multiple invasions from the neighboring state of Niganda, renounced his throne, filled in for Daredevil in Hells Kitchen, taught in a public school in Harlem, been divorced and staked the hearts of dozens of Confederate vampires in post-Katrina New Orleans. Throughout all this his essential decency has remained intact. In some writers hands, TChalla is arrogant wouldnt you be if you ruled a techno-futurist Utopia? but he is always, at heart, a good man. TChalla is , no matter what, a beloved, merciful, and just ruler, possessed of a personal sense of restraint and obligation.

The Black Panthers rule of Wakanda hasnt been seriously interrogated by the various writers who have told his narrative. It is this aspect that feels most fresh about Coatess take on the character. The comic begins with TChalla on his knees, unmasked, continues on to a civilian riot where he nearly kills his own citizens, through to a botched try at justice, and a mysterious psychic advising us that the people of Wakanda are ashamed of their king. This mysterious psychic is in some way responsible for the riot, but she did not make the emotions that caused it; the peoples own rage lay there, waiting to be exploited.

Coates may be a first-time comics writer whose entire published catalogue thus far is nonfiction, but he attacks the material with equanimity. The debut issue is the first in a yearlong, 12 -chapter arc. It is a bit overburdened with exposition. But it moves fluidly, lighting the fuses of several plots that will clearly intersect before explosion in the finale.

Emphasizing the broad scope of the series, Coatess script sets TChalla aside for long stretches of action, focusing instead on characters like Ayo and Aneka, two ex-Dora Milaje who are tired of living and succumbing on the blood-right of one human. While the dialogue is occasionally overcooked, with lines such as, Spare her, mom, spare her the motherfucker sanction of men whose honor is ostentation, whose justice is deceit, failing to grasp the epic grandeur for which they reach, this first issue appears to be the beginning of a very promising run.

The characters are clear, the ethical issues they face feel real and the world of Wakanda seems lived in. Credit for some of this must surely going to see artist Brian Stelfreeze, whose sense of style and visual storytelling are impressive, even in the heat of combat, and who builds great utilize of silhouette and emotive faces. These faces are neatly contrasted with TChallas own, which is often hidden by a mask or turned away from the reader. We read TChallas anguished narration, but he is separate from us in a manner that is reminiscent of how he feels divorced from his people and his nation.

Its a subversive way of looking at Black Panther and long overdue. Marvel Comic has often opened the doors for subversive takes on their titles. One of the best long-running comics series ever published, Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleevs take on Daredevil, was the result of a similarly realistic consideration of the world of the character that their predecessors had constructed. The Black Panther has faced down threats to his rule on multiple fronts before. In Coates and Stelfreezes hands, the comic suggests that this time, perhaps he deserves it.

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