OLA RAY RELIVES A THRILLER WITH LEMON
In the early '80s, MTV played music videos around the clock, trumpeting every debut as a “World Premiere Event.” Few could match the hype, as videos then were typically a mix of lip-sync, bad acting and low production values. Then came Thriller. The promotional foreplay ran for weeks, and when the anointed hour came, millions crowded around their TVs to watch.
Thriller set a bar that still stands. It was narrative, cinematic, had exceptional effects and insane choreography. And it had Michael Jackson. Michael's love interest in Thiller was the sublime young Ola Ray, and with her, he cemented yet another milestone in pop history.
Fast forward nearly thirty years. In the buildup to King of Pop, Lemon contacted Ola Ray with the offer to reprise the landmark role, and she agreed. Teaming with stylist Gregory Gale, photographer Baldomero Fernandez gathered his crew, a cast of zombies with a bespoke wardrobe and fanned out on the deserted streets of Brooklyn to recreate a thriller night.
PHOTOGRAPHER BALDOMERO FERNÁNDEZ
STYLIST GREGORY GALE
ASSISTANT STYLISTS COLLEEN KESTERSON, JULIA BROER
PRODUCER SHERI RADEL ROSENBERG
ART DIRECTOR GRETA ACKERMAN
Ola Ray denim studded corset and pant designed by Gregory Gale, custom made by Jennifer Love Costumes NYC
Ola Ray leather studded jacket and lace-up dress designed by Gregory Gale, custom made by bybarak.com
Ola Ray custom leather vest available at Trash and Vaudeville NYC
Zombies are wearing select styles by Rag & Bone, Trash and Vaudeville NYC, Osklen, Raf Simons, Christian Louboutin, and Stylists own vintage collection
Beyond his musical genius, Michael Jackson was a virtuoso of pop theater. The single white glove, the sequined military frock, the Thriller jacket – MJ was responsible for more icons of stage fashion than anyone in entertainment history. And while not designed for the masses, his wardrobe ultimately defined the style of an era. In the wake of his passing, it’s hard not to wonder what classics we've been deprived of as a result. We invited several designers to propose their version of a parting MJ look for Lemon 5.
The team of Edda Gudmundsdottir, Orlando Palacios, Benoit-Swan Pouffer, Erez Sabag took it a step further.This collaboration between stylist, milliner, dancer and photographer gave birth to “Evolution,” an homage to DNA, reinvention and the child within. Built around Palacios’ mask of collaged MJ fragments, Gudmundsdottir’s shimmering silver ensemble was designed as "a sculpture that moves." The brimmed felt hat was custom made for Jackson in 1989 by Palacios’ company, Worth & Worth. Endowed with Pouffer’s poetry in motion, the result was captured by Sabag for both film and print.
FROM WORLD OF LEMON, WITH LOVE TO ALL THE WORLD CUP NATIONS
We couldn't help ourselves when World Cup fever kicked-off this summer in South Africa - Poking a little fun at our home country - the only nation on earth that calls the wrong sport 'football'.
Best to you and yours in the World Cup.
THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH BY GUIDO VITTI
PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDO VITTI
ASSISTANT JEFF BARTLETT
MODEL AMBER GIPSON
HAIR AND MAKEUP BRENDA WELCH
STYLING ERIKA HAGMAN
SETS AND PROPS ANGELA FINNEY
STUDIO BOSTON STUDIO
LIGHTING EQUIPMENT CALUMET
FILM PROCESSING LTI
RETOUCHING NATE DEMANT, SQUARE ROOT
JACKETS COURTESY OF CLOTH LOGIC
SLINKY VAGABONDS: 'BOYS KEEP SWINGING'
As if designing a Bowie-inspired line of menswear for Target wasn’t ambitious enough, World of Lemon pal Keanan Duffty (second from left) and his band, Slinky Vagabond, bashed out a brand new recording of “Boys Keep Swinging” just for you. Tightly wound and exuberant, this version is an excellent reprise of the Bowie classic:
Listen to BoysKeepSwinging.mp3
LEELEE SOBIESKI: FUTURE QUEEN OF POLAND
Leelee Sobieski is one of our very favorite actresses. She’s gifted, brainy, charming, drop-dead gorgeous and best of all, she’s willing to speak to us. What’s not to love? After drawing a ton of critical praise, and multiple award nominations for her early film work, she has made a seamless transition to more adult roles. No mean feat for a former child star, but then her work has always been noted for a startling maturity beyond her years. We spoke with Leelee by phone and discussed her retaking the Polish throne, invading Slovakia and mud wrestling with Milla Jovovich. Oh, right – and her acting career.
World of Lemon: I understand you’re in L.A. now for the Oscars?LS: I went to the Vanity Fair party afterwards.
World of Lemon: Who were you rooting for most of all?LS: Well, I knew he would win, but I am so glad that Forrest won. He just gave such an amazing performance.
World of Lemon: I understand that your great, great, great, great uncle was Jan III Sobieski, King of Poland?LS: Yes, he was a very distant relation. It was a nice story to be told when you were a very young girl.
World of Lemon: Does your family have any plans for retaking the throne? I’d really appreciate the exclusive.LS: (Laughs) No.
World of Lemon: By “no,” you really mean “yes,” right?LS: No.
World of Lemon: I’ll just say that you said “yes,” okay?LS: No! (Laughs) Oh my God, you’re putting all these words in my mouth.
World of Lemon: It’ll be great, trust me.LS: He was actually a mercenary that was elected to the throne.
World of Lemon: Elected?LS: Elected. He didn’t take the throne by force.
World of Lemon: But he could’ve, right? As future Queen of Poland, what neighboring countries would you most enjoy attacking? Like, for example, the Czech Republic seems like it’d be easy, don’t you think?LS: I was in the Czech Republic for a few months.
World of Lemon: Casing the place? Laying the groundwork? Sizing it up?LS: Oh yeah. I’d actually start with Slovakia.
World of Lemon: Excellent, start with Slovakia, lull the Czechs into a false sense of security, and then really catch them napping, eh?LS: Exactly.
World of Lemon: Could we please stop talking about your plans for world domination for just a minute, and talk instead about your film career?LS: That would be good.
World of Lemon: What was your experience like working with Kubrick in Eyes Wide Shut?LS: It was wonderful.
World of Lemon: Tell us something about Mr. Kubrick that would surprise our readers.LS: Hmmm.
World of Lemon: It doesn’t have to be true just so long as it surprises them. Like for example, while filming Eyes Wide Shut he always kept a real human head in the minifridge of his trailer.LS: (Laughs)
World of Lemon: Do you feel uncomfortable confirming that publicly? I can just say that you don’t really want that getting out.LS: Something surprising… I think it would surprise a lot of people… one of the ways in which he was able to maintain such secrecy while working on his projects was that so many of the people involved with the production were members of his family.
World of Lemon: Really?LS: You would meet people on the set, or as part of the support for the production, and learn later that they were members of his extended family. It was really nice, but alsoit really helped to keep any details of the film from coming out before he wanted them to be revealed.
World of Lemon: You were nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for your role as Joan of Arc in the 1999 miniseries, but around that same time Luc Besson came out with a film version about Saint Joan starring Milla Jovovich. In both Joan, The Wicker Man, Hercules and in the pages of this magazine, you look pretty impressive with a weapon. Who do you think would win a battle of the Joans if you and Jovovich had it out?LS: Oh, no! No, no, no – she is just the nicest person ever! Besides, I could never hurt anyone.
World of Lemon: Okay, swords might be a bit too much, perhaps mud wrestling would be better? On Pay Per View? Not that I’ve given this a lot of thought.LS: Oh, she would totally kick my ass. Have you seen – what is it – she’s jumping out of windows and doing stunts... Ultraviolet?
World of Lemon: C’mon, you’ve got the blood of Polish mercenaries in you.LS: Well, I am strong... No, I’m only good at pretending to be good with weapons.
World of Lemon: So you’d try to psych her out ahead of time? Intimidate her into submission?LS: No! She is – I just love her. I met her once, and she is just so sweet and really beautiful and… sometimes when you meet another actress there can be – and it’s unfortunate, but there can be a sense of competition, a distance. But she is just so talented, and nice, and easy to know. I could never fight her.
World of Lemon: So the public will never see any slow motion mud wrestling of the two of you?LS: Uhh… no.
World of Lemon: This is just shattering news. Shattering.LS: You’ll get over it. I still have my sword from Joan.
World of Lemon: Yeah?LS: I designed it.
World of Lemon: Get out.LS: No, really.
World of Lemon: They let you keep it?LS: Yes, it’s hanging on my bedpost.
World of Lemon: That’s got to be pretty intimidating to potential paramours.LS: That’s what it’s there for.
World of Lemon: HA! I can picture you patrolling your apartment in your nightgown.LS: What nightgown?
World of Lemon: An even BETTER mental image!LS: I would terrify any burglars, running towards the door with my sword, yelling obscenities. (Laughter)
World of Lemon: As a burglar, I would definitely move on to the lower hanging fruit.LS: That’s the idea.
World of Lemon: There’s something I need to do here, I hope you’ll indulge me: (ahem) “Leelee, your work in the independent film Heaven’s Fall was terrific, and the film was masterfully directed by the talented writer/director Terry Green.” Okay, I said it. Now Terry, would you please return my copy of Adobe Illustrator?LS: Oh, so you know Terry? How long has he had your software?
World of Lemon: About ten years. Did you enjoy working with him?LS: He was great. Sincerely, it was one of the best experiences of my life. It was a labor of love for everyone involved and I really loved working with him. Sometimes you’ll meet someone and you can tell they’re just really concerned with fame, but he was genuinely passionate about the film.
World of Lemon: No, I agree, so long as you don’t loan him any software, he’s just fine. I remember him talking about the script ten years ago, and he was very passionate about the story. LS: It was really a terrific experience. For everyone involved.
World of Lemon: What new films can we look forward to?LS: 88 Minutes with Al Pacino is due out soon. I had worked with the director, Jon Avnet, once before on Uprising. I really enjoy working with Jon. And In the Name of the King comes out in August.
World of Lemon: And many, many more, I’m sure. Thanks so much for gracing us with your presence this issue, Leelee.LS: My pleasure!
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JILL GREENBERG
INTERVIEW BY ROBERT BUNDY
GAVIN FRIDAY’S 'SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN'
With one of the rainiest Irish summers on record, World of Lemon thought it fitting to ask legendary Dubliner Gavin Friday if he might record something appropriate for the weather. Despite a hectic recording schedule and performances in a British Shakespeare production, he obliged us with cheer. The former Virgin Prunes frontman and confidant of U2 created this haunting and emotional rendition of “Singin’ In the Rain”, made famous by Gene Kelly and later infamous by Malcolm McDowell in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Given Gavin’s penchant for surprise, we had no idea what we were in for. But when his MP3 came through, we were ecstatic…
Listen to SingingInTheRain.mp3
LUDWIG VAN HALEN
Rocking out to Beethoven is easy if you just Let It Be, says Gina Kaufmann
It’s a moment every teenager dreads. Just as the manic highs and lows that comprise the day are finally beginning to drown in the decibels flooding from the stereo – that is when you hear the inevitable knock on the door, followed by the plea to turn it down.
The protagonist of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, adapted for the screen by Stanley Kubrick, is a lucky guy. He has worn his parents down to the point where they no longer bother interrupting. “I was in such bliss, my brothers,” the character explains. “Pee and Em had learnt now not to knock on the wall with complaints of what they called noise. I had taught them. Now they would take sleep pills. Perhaps, knowing the joy I had in my night music, they already had.”
Alex’s music-listening habits should be the least of his parents’ worries. Alex is every censorship advocate’s nightmarish vision of youth poisoned by pop culture. Spurred on by his own brand of devil’s music, he does the kinds of things grown ups have long feared teenagers might do under the delinquent spell of Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osborne, Marilyn Manson and every other madman of rock who has inspired a paranoid urban myth involving the fanatical harming of animals (puppies, kittens and the like). In fact, he does worse. He and his friends dance elaborately choreographed ballets of ultraviolence in the street every night, raping women and bludgeoning old men whilst clad in matching white outfits and giant codpieces. It all starts with that music, that noise he’s always blaring in his room. But just as Alex’s illicit substance of choice is milk, something that most parents in reality wish their kids would drink more of, the music he blares is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, better known to some as the “Ode to Joy.” You may recognize the tune from such places as “piano lessons.”
Now, I don’t know how many of you might associate Beethoven with oversexed juvenile delinquents, but my guess is, not many. In fact, the average symphony-goer was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and it’s only a matter of time before his grown children take away his car, at which point one more folding velveteen seat will sit empty in the theater while he stares out a window tapping the rhythm of his favorite scherzo on his dentures, trying to remember what it’s called. Meanwhile, his children and grandchildren know the movements of his favorite symphonies not by name, but by the products they’re used to advertise. “La donna e mobile” is not a jaunty aria about gettin’ with the ladies; it’s the triumphant sound of a certain brand of frozen spaghetti sauce cascading over pasta by the plateful. Symphony orchestras and opera troupes cannot invent marketing strategies to target young audiences fast enough. Hip-looking fonts on brochures and singles groups attempting to lure sophisticated 20-somethings are growing more numerous by the day. Take, for example, the Austin Symphony Orchestra BATS, a group of professionals in their 20s to early 40s who enjoy classical music and, among other things, “fabulous fun” (amazing, isn’t it, how unfun fun sounds when you put the word “fabulous” in front of it?). Or Ovation, a group of young people who get together for cocktails before San Diego Symphony Orchestra concerts. The list goes on. It all seems so desperate, when really, the problem isn’t with classical music or its ability to appeal to the youths; the problem is with how most people are accustomed to hearing it (at a low volume, possibly while on hold to speak with someone very serious or in a bookstore containing an excess of Oriental rugs).
Flash back to Alex, our friendly cinematic delinquent. There are lots of things you could say about this guy to discredit him– he’s deranged, for example, and fictional. True. But his descriptions of Beethoven’s Ninth are stunning because they were written by someone who has listened to the music for pleasure, not edification. Alex has shut the door to his room, leaned his head back and shut his eyes, the volume knob turned as far to the right as it can go without blowing a speaker. Beethoven himself was totally and completely deaf by the time he wrote the Ninth Symphony. This is music written by a man desperate to hear. Listening to it in any other way misses the point.
In fact, Beethoven could be said to have been an early DIY punk, just with more musicians to work with, an incomparable level of genius and shoes with buckles. He posted the fliers for the 1824 premiere of the Ninth Symphony around Vienna himself. The musicians in his orchestra were hand picked, and those musicians and they did not rehearse in a fancy-shmancy conservatory or what-have-you; they rehearsed in Beethoven’s small apartment. The first performance of the now famous Ninth Symphony was not polished. It was the first time every musician in the orchestra had played the piece together; the rehearsals chez Ludwig had accommodated only portions of the orchestra at any given time. It was a difficult and complex piece, played with more passion than perfection, executed without the benefit of a century and a half of fine-tuning. Let me repeat that: a century and a half of fine-tuning. It is impossible to imagine hearing this symphony that pervades our soundscape for the first time ever, when it was new and exciting, if still rough. Another fun fact: Although the standard dress at the time still involved short pants, or knickers, Beethoven did wear the occasional pair of newfangled trousers. Settle down, Ludwig!
Alex’s song of choice was called the “Ode to Joy” because it is a musical interpretation of a well-known poem of the same name, a drinking song hailing equality, freedom, brotherhood, joy and, above all, drunkenness. The poem calls for all men who are in love to raise a cup, and for he who is mopey to go home and cry alone (harsh, no?). This is a rallying cry, a toast, and a call for paupers to rise up and stand alongside princes’ brothers. The song’s goal was unity.
Was the crowd united? Yes. Beethoven received five standing ovations at the premiere. He could not hear these ovations and had to be spun around to look at the audience to see that they were jumping up out of their seats, waving handkerchiefs in the air. Even by today’s standards, these are good results for a symphony, but one detail about the meaning of ovations in Nineteenth Century Austria: The presence of royalty was honored by three ovations. That Beethoven got five was not only unheard of, it was scandalous, nay, riotous. Police in attendance had to get things under control. The crowd had risen up as one, stirred to the point of disorderly conduct. Since then, the music has been appropriated for a startling array of political uses. Hitler was a far on the Ninth and had it played at many of his birthday celebrations. Then again, Leonard Bernstein conducted it at the falling of the Berlin Wall, and the tune has been an anthem of European unity ever since. It has also been widely interpreted by artists of every medium, from Milan Kundera, whose The Book of Laughter and Forgetting the author compares to a Beethoven symphony composed of variations on a theme, to Charles Schulz, whose cartoonishly drawn Schroeder character idolizes Beethoven in front of countless children, to Andy Warhol, whose famed portrait captures the composer’s wild wair, leaving him literally blue in the face.
But what about us? Does Beethoven’s Ninth still unite us? Sure it does. We can all hum segments of Beethoven’s Ninth, whether we know that’s what it’s called or not. Beethoven is beloved by world-class directors like Stanley Kubrick and makers of McDonalds commercials alike, by kids learning to play the piano for the first time and accomplished maestros who have dedicated a lifetime to the perfection of his compositions. That is a kind of unity, of paupers for a moment being in league with princes. Except that knowing how to hum a tune is one thing, liking it and getting into the spirit of it is another. The Ninth Symphony has appeal for lovers of the best of any genre. Beethoven started something that the kind of pop music that’s clever enough and interesting enough to keep modern listeners on their toes is still doing today. The most recognizable example of the phenomenon is “A Day in the Life,” by the Beatles. You know the part of the song where the pace changes, on a dime, from the lament that begins, “I saw the news today, Oh boy…” to “Woke up! Got out of bed! Dragged a comb across my head!” You know that song? You know that trick? Where the slow part precedes the fast part and becomes this sort of musical foreplay, lingering for a moment and then giving way, in an instant, to the rawk? If you prefer the Stones to the Beatles, you may prefer the example of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” (CONTINUED ON PAGE NINETY-FOUR)
Indy rockers may prefer a comparison to “Epitaph for My Heart” from The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs. Beethoven inverted the symphony, which tended to start big and certain, providing the template for the rest of the work. The Ninth builds slowly, rising up from a beginning that is uncertain and loose, struggling – sometimes furious, sometimes resigned – in the minor keys, climbing, gaining steam and finally, finally culminating with the perfect, triumphant, time-honored “Ode to Joy” chorus that lifts up listeners once and for all out of those minor keys, out of complications and tension and into a grand – not to mention catchy – chorus. It has been a musical recipe for triumph and breakthrough ever since.
No, you can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you’ll find… (now rock out) you get what you need!
If the cleverness of the Ninth can unify the Beatles and the Stones, maybe Beethoven deserves a fresh listen. If for some reason you can’t go to a live concert, please, please, turn up the volume, and don’t stop until the floor is shaking at least as much as it would have needed to for Ludwig to feel it in his bones.
CREWDSON: MOTION PICTURES WITHOUT THE MOTION
Standing before Gregory Crewdson’s large scale photographs, each one a hyper-real, über-staged tableau of the dark side of the United States of suburbia, feels like being trapped in a suspenseful movie during one of those pregnant pauses that renders viewers transfixed, helpless to avert the imminent danger: “Hey lady, there’s a woman behind you!” “Little boy, don’t go into that trailer!” The photographs, like movie stills, capture moments in limbo just before something terrible is about to happen, or even creepier, just afterwards.
Perhaps the experience of viewing Crewdson’s photographs feels similar to watching a film because the artist creates his pictures much like a film director. For the photographs in his Beneath the Roses series, six of which are featured here, Crewdson employed a team of experts and assistants, from electricians, set dressers and actors to cinematographers, lighting experts and pyrotechnic experts. (The crew list has inched up to as many as 80 members for one shot.) He spent three years working with town officials, building sets on soundstages, even going so far as to burn down a house. In past productions, he even brought Hollywood into his frames, shooting such stars as Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy and Gwyneth Paltrow. For this series, he photographed Jennifer Jason Leigh, seen here sitting in a car at dusk with the traffic light on yellow, the driver’s door open and a storefront sign that reads “Independent Living Center.” Cranes, props, rainmakers and fire trucks have all been called to duty to transform small-town main streets into big-time productions. And when it’s all done, he then goes on to perfect the shots in post-production with digital imaging and special effects. All for the sake of a split-second exposure.
Crewdson’s work-to-product ratio is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s: After endless takes, sometimes as much as 99 percent of his films were left on the cutting room floor. And like Kubrick, photographer Gregory Crewdson doesn’t even press the shutter release button. But by directing his crew to bring his vision to life, Crewdson remains the creator.
He dreams up the images while swimming, sometimes in pools but often in lakes and streams. The scenarios in the photographs seem to be somewhere between conscious and unconscious, real and surreal, waking and dreamlike states, just as Crewdson allows himself to float on the boundary of gravity and weightlessness, between this world and another. Still, we could all lollygag on the water’s surface without ever dreaming up an image of a man burying suitcases in the woods by the light of his car’s headlamps. So we have to dig a little deeper to find the taproot of Crewdson’s art. Freud would start with Crewdson’s mother, but it was actually his father, a psychoanalyst with an office in the basement of the family Brooklyn brownstone, who brings the Freudian twist to this story. At an early age, young Gregory became aware of the psychological forces that lurk within the people we see on a daily basis.
Film was an early and powerful inspiration on Crewdson, and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet had a particularly life-altering effect on him. References can also be drawn to Hitchcock and Kubrick for their shocking insights into the American psyche. In the art canon, Edward Hopper and Marcel Duchamp rank as big influences. A recent side-by-side comparison show of Hopper and Crewdson at the Williams College Museum of Art illustrates how the isolation of Hopper’s characters as commentary on the human condition has crept into Crewdson’s own artwork. Similarly, the voyeuristic eeriness of peeping into Duchamp’s secret, final masterpiece Étant Donnés, in which a naked woman lies spread-eagle in a three dimensional rural scene, is rather like peering into one of Crewdson’s domestic creations. Looking into Duchamp’s peephole in the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the first time, one is forced to become a voyeur. The experience is so fascinating, you may find yourself returning, becoming a voyeur of your own volition. This experience is echoed in Crewdson’s work: We are uncomfortably forced into voyeurism when faced with such intimate, psychologically revealing scenarios. Then we look again because we have become willing converts.
Added to the mix of probable influences is the disturbing morbidity of Joel-Peter Witkin’s staged and highly detailed photographs, and a dash of Eric Fischl’s dark humor displayed in pivotal domestic moments. The image of Crewdson’s naked woman standing in a trailer before a little boy practically says, “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.”
But when confronted with the exquisite beauty of Gregory Crewdson’s huge chromogenic prints and their shockingly private scenes, all else fades away. The viewer becomes another one of Crewdson’s disturbed characters looking on a domestic affair in all its unordinary raw nakedness. And even when you move on, you can’t look away.
WRITTEN BY LAURIE ASMUS
GOOEY, CREAMY LOVE BY ADAM LARSSON
The hills are alive with wide-eyed, pre-pubescent nymphets circling trees and prancing along hand-in-hand. Delightful, indeed. But something is amiss. These beloved candy-coated subjects are not at ease. Upon closer examination, we find one of our stale-expressioned nymphs beheaded, one toting a shotgun and another belly up in a pond. No, this is not a Humbert Humbert day-dream. This is the land of whimsical gore created by none other than L.A.-based Gary Baseman. A man who is fast on his way to becoming a household name in the spirit of Warhol and Dali for his influence and varied achievements. With just a wee bit of prodding, Gary tells Lemon a bit about gooey creamy love, the state of Pervasive Art and the top five things he’s more obsessed with than Dolores Haze.
World of Lemon: When we started compiling ideas for this issue, it became clear how widespread Kubrick’s influence really is. Has he ever influenced you?GB: I was a late teen growing up in Hollywood when I first saw A Clockwork Orange at the Beverly Cinema. It was at a time when I was ready for rebellion. There was many a Halloween where I dressed up as a droog. The Shining has inspired me too. I have this obsession with collecting photos of people in masks and costumes by non-professional photographers from the 1900s to 1960s. They are very surreal and beautiful. Many look like they came out of a film like The Shining. I also truly believe that all work and no play makes Gary a dull boy.
World of Lemon: So, you’re a fan? It’s funny, your images for this issue seem to have a Lolita vibe. Can you talk about the inspiration for this series?GB: Yes, I’m a big Stanley Kubrick fan. Lolita inspired me in an indirect way. This series is titled “I Melt In Your Presence.” I created my own utopian world full of innocent, or not so innocent, muses and nymphs with surreal imaginary friends of ghosts, magis and characters in bunny and bear costumes. I’ve introduced a new character named Chou Chou. He is the cute little character with liquid coming out of his bellybutton. He takes one’s anger and hate and turns it into gooey, creamy love.
World of Lemon: Gooey, creamy love. Yum! Your work is an interesting mix of childhood aesthetics and adult subject matter...GB: I’ve always been drawn to work by the Fleischer Brothers, Bob Clampett, Charles Addams, Dr. Suess, The Beatles, Marx Brothers, David Bowie, David Lynch, Mel Brooks, and Monty Python. Art that’s both playful yet smartly done. I enjoy walking the razor’s edge between childhood aesthetics and adult themes, blurring the lines between genius and stupidity. When I create my art for adults, I try not to censor myself in theme or subject matter. When I create for children, I don’t put in anything that’s inappropriate, but at the same time, I don’t talk down to them either.
World of Lemon: “Pervasive Art” has helped to blur the stubborn lines between fine art and commercial art. You’ve been at the forefront of this movement for 20 years now. What’s your take on the current state of things?GB: I am determined to tear down all of the walls and give artists the opportunity to create in any medium, as long as they stay true to their aesthetic and have a strong message. That’s the definition of “Pervasive Art.” I was very happy to be so successful in illustration, but it was still very limiting for me. Mark Ryden, who was also once an illustrator, introduced me to my first gallery. My friends, Rob and Christian Clayton also started to show in the L.A. gallery scene and I was thrilled when they got their installation in Art Basel. The Pervasive Art movement is truly subversive to the traditional fine art world since it sidesteps the normal power structure. I think an artist can put their art on anything: canvas, vinyl toys, skate boards, even fashion. People will argue that it’s “selling out.” But it’s only selling out if you’re compromising your integrity, otherwise it’s just selling.
World of Lemon: So, where do you turn for inspiration?GB: My motivation is to create important art. That’s number one on my list of five approaches to living my life. Number two is to have fun. I like interesting, talented people and cute girls. It is important to play. Number three is to inspire others and giving back to the art community. Number four is to always take risks and experiment and grow in all I do. And number five is to have great sex. I guess that could be put in category number two. Hmmmmm.
World of Lemon: What’s your future look like?GB: I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have big dreams, and I feel I haven’t even begun to accomplish what I want. As a kid, I was always inspired by Disneyland. I got to go once a year and always looked forward to it. I used to draw maps of Disneyland, knew the whole park by heart. To me, it was the happiest place on earth. Now it feels completely corporate and uninspired. If I could find the right partners, I would love to create a Basemanland someday, a sweet and dirty and playful amusement park. That would be a dream come true.
NEW WORK BY GARY BASEMAN
A LEMON EXCLUSIVE BY ADAM LARSSON
A CLOCKWORK LEMON: 3RD ISSUE
Ultraviolence! Angels’ trumpets and Devil’s trombones! A loving tip of the bowler cap to the creative genius and enduring legacy of Stanley Kubrick, Lemon 3 stars Malcolm McDowell, Billy Corgan, Leelee Sobieski, Jill Greenberg, Pop Levi, Ray Bradbury, Matthew Modine, Gary Baseman, Goldffrapp, Chip Kidd, Laura Albert, Gavin Friday and Damian Loeb. Includes a special pull-out poster by Stefan Bucher and an homage to the late, great Flexi-Disc 45RPM.
DER SAGMEISTER: AN INTERROGATION OF DESIGN'S GREAT ACTION HERO
For every generation, in every profession, there is a hero. An individual whose numerous achievements speak for themselves, whose reputation undoubtedly precedes them and whose talent and charisma are – to put it in less pretentious terms – as smooth as peanut butter and jelly, as memorable as a kick in the groin and as endearing as the contradictory love of those two cowboys in that movie with all the prairies that got out-Oscared by that car movie. A hero leads by example. A hero charms. A hero is responsive. And responsible. A hero, too, is usually vulnerable. A target. A hero turns into memories. And those who have lived in their time are grateful for them. Since 1999, Austrian-born, world-traveled, New York-based Stefan Sagmeister has been graphic design’s hero: He has carved typography on his body; he has gained and lost pounds for a single invitation; he has decapitated chickens (at least in Photoshop); he can make his ding-dong (and by that I mean his penis) appear much, much larger than it is; he can set type in a number of materials ranging from toilet paper to cacti to wieners to chairs; he has willingly taken a year off without clients and lived to tell about it. Stefan Sagmeister is our hero, whether all or any of us want to accept or deny it. During a span of years (1999--2001ish) dominated by venture capitalism, the dreaded dot-coms and the horrible aesthetic that ensued, Sagmeister showed that design could still mean and stand for something, doing it with wit and visual pleasure. Currently, in a playing field with few — or too many, depending on which half of your glass you prefer -- superstars, Sagmeister continues to stand tall. Literally and metaphorically. Designers may be due for a new hero but, in the meantime, we sure are in good, capable hands.
World of Lemon: Unlike thousands of designers across the country (and most parts of the globe), your name, work and reputation are very well known, respected and admired. What is your feeling toward your fame -- and fame in general -- in the design world?SS: My favorite fame-in-design quote comes from Chip Kidd (“famous designer is like famous electrician”). In my opinion, electricians and designers enjoy the most desirable kind of fame because they are, to a large extent, in charge of it. When famous electricians decide to visit electrician conferences, there will be pats on their backs and egos will be stroked, but outside of these conferences they will be able to go anywhere without intrusions. I have worked with numerous actual stars, famous clients whose fame -- up close -- did not look like much fun at all: If you walk into a Starbucks with Lou Reed, the whole place goes quiet. People turn around. They whisper.
World of Lemon: In the same realm, let’s talk about the infamous 1999 AIGA Detroit poster where Martin Woodtli, your intern at the time, carved a bunch of copy on your body. This is one of the most celebrated posters in the last decade, and it’s been over 7 years since you did it. What are your thoughts on it now? Was the pain – literally and metaphorically – worth it?SS: Within some design circles the poster became almost too well known, to the point where some people got the (wrong) impression that all of our work goes in that direction. My favorite concern of this poster now is not its blood and guts aspect but its ability to tell the story of its creation in a single picture. I have tried that in some other projects since but never quite as successfully.And the pain induced by designing a cover for Aerosmith was 10 times greater than being cut for 8 hours straight with an X-Acto knife. I have asked you this before, and I think your take on it is quite inspiring…
World of Lemon: A lot of people relate your work to you being naked and showing your private parts – which is all well, good and enjoyable. Yet, I think your work is “naked” in a more serious and vulnerable way. You put yourself and your emotions for all to see. Why has this become such an integral part of your work?SS: Answer A: The nakedness started with the opening of the studio 13 years ago when I sent out a card that showed longer and shorter versions of my parts. At that time this took a little bit of guts from me (my girlfriend recommended heavily against it; she thought I was going to lose the one client I had). The client not only stayed, but loved it too. Any follow-up nakedness was simply a case of repeating a technique that proved to work before. Also, coming from Austria (in Vienna the main student beach is all nude) nakedness simply was never a big deal, but proved to raise a hair in the U.S.
Answer B: The late Quentin Crisp, British queen extraordinaire and subject of Sting’s song “I’m an Englishman in New York,” came to visit our students at the graduate department of the School of Visual Arts in New York. Among the very many quotable things he mentioned was that he used to say to journalists: “Everybody is interesting.” They came back and said: “Mr. Crisp, this is just simply not true. There are lots of utterly boring people out there.”
So he had to revise it: “Everybody who is honest is interesting.” This has impressed me much and informed many of our projects.
World of Lemon: You are also an avid art fan. And some of your design work can sometimes take on an artistic bent. How does your appreciation of art manifest in your work – if you think it does, of course?SS: My favorite definition of the difference between art and design comes from Donald Judd, who was involved in both: “Design has to work. Art does not.” Obviously, I am designer, and so automatically all the work I do is design (and not art). And it cant just “be,” it has to work. Having said that, yes, our own work has been influenced by numerous artists: The obvious ones like Jenny Holzer or Barbara Kruger (who in turn have been influenced by design); the obscure ones like Adolf Woelfli; the Vienna Actionist ones like Brus, Muehl, Wiener and Schwarzkogler; the good ones like Janine Antoni and Maurizio Catalan; the ones we have worked with like Mariko Mori, Douglas Gordon or Richard Prince. But even though some of our graphics might look a little bit arty, they are still graphic design.
World of Lemon: Like the rest of us, there are probably things you can’t do as a graphic designer and you have long mentioned that you hire interns and designers who complement your skills and do things that you can’t. What do you wish you could do yourself, without help from another designer?SS: Really, really, really good Photoshop skills.
World of Lemon: One of the reasons we are doing this interview by e-mail is because you travel a lot. With so many potential clients and design work – as well as students, since you also do workshops and teach internationally – in New York City, what has led you to do so much work outside of the U.S.?SS: The joy of travel, the fight of boredom, the appeal of the new, the desire to work in different cultures, the possibility to compare, the realization that it is easier to come up with a new concept in a foreign hotel room than in the studio, the current administration, the amount of red states and utterly crappy American airports.
World of Lemon: A lot of designers involved in the music industry can’t seem to get enough of the inevitable doom of music packaging. This has long been a staple of your work and we have seen less of it recently. Has this change affected you? Is music packaging something you would have enjoyed doing longer than the Rolling Stones have been alive? (Pardon the exaggeration).SS: About 6 years ago, during our experimental client-free year, I decided to minimize design for music to about a quarter of our workload, not because I smartly foresaw the troubles of the music industry but because:
a) I got bored with it on a day-to-day level, stemming from the fact that we often dealt with three clients on a single project and my threshold for dealing with that dynamic became more shallow. About a year ago, we decided not to accept any music work anymore and redirect that time instead toward design for science.
b) As I get older, music plays a lesser role in my life.
c) There are lots of other interesting things out there.
and) What I do miss is the simple act of visualizing music. This never got old.
World of Lemon: Do you have any immediate ambitions for your career? SS: Sadly, no. I always found things to be more exciting when I had. But at the moment there is nothing very ambitious or outlandish. I would love to do work I am happy with for clients who are nice and have good services or products. I’d love to conduct another client free year in about 2-3 years -- every 7 years seems to be a good strategy to fight the 7-year itch (sabbaticals in academia follow the same cycle).
World of Lemon: An addendum to this last question: Baseball is to Michael Jordan as [fill in the blank] is to Stefan Sagmeister.SS: I would feel uncomfortable in any sentence comparing anything I do to anything Michael Jordan does. Rollerblading is to Arnold Schwarzenegger as Rock ’n’ Roll is to Stefan Sagmeister.
World of Lemon: I want to finish this interview by letting you talk a little about your “mission.” You teach a class at the School of Visual Arts graduate program that encourages students to create design that “touches the heart,” and this seems to be a driving force of your design work. Go.SS: The concern with design that has the ability to touch the viewer’s heart came out of the fact that I see so much professionally done and well-executed graphic design, beautifully illustrated and masterfully photographed. Nevertheless, almost all of it leaves me (and I suspect many other viewers) cold.
There is just so much fluff: Well-produced, tongue-in-cheek, pretty fluff. Little that moves you, nothing to think about, some is informing, but still all fluff.
I have conducted the class in various incarnations, from three-day workshops to full-semester courses in various places around the world, and the results have always proven that, yes, it is in fact possible to touch someone’s heart with design.
I have seen personalized Superman gloves touch the heart of Brooklyn garbage men, gigantic video installations touch the heart of Berlin night crawlers and tattooed typography touch the heart of a boyfriend.
World of Lemon: Actually, this is the last question. The theme of this issue is espionage and it looks like you have some international babes of mystery next to you and you are all dolled up to kick some ass. Who (or what) is your archenemy?SS: Hmmm. Maybe this is why I look a bit lost in these spy surroundings: I can’t think of any proper enemies at all. There might well be people out there who hate my ass, but as yet they have not come forward. Sorry.
World of Lemon: Which vegetable would make the best typography?SS: Artichokes, asparagus and aubergines.
World of Lemon: You are tall -- do you have trouble finding clothes that fit?SS: No. Between my brother’s men’s fashion store and my girlfriend’s fashion design studio I get outfitted nicely.
World of Lemon: And, do you have to fly first-class to fit those long legs of yours?SS: Even though I once conceived first-class advertising for Cathay Pacific many years ago, I have only been in a proper first-class cabin once. Sometimes I have wealthy clients who fly me business class but mostly I stand in line at the airport requesting bulkheads and emergency seat exits like the rest of us in coach. I am sitting in one of those right now.
World of Lemon: What’s your favorite dish at Brooklyn’s Austrian delight, Steinhof?SS: Paul (Steinhof’s owner and chef) was my roommate when I studied at Pratt and we have remained close friends ever since. I always go for the goulash.
World of Lemon: On your internet browser, what is your default homepage?SS: nytimes.com
World of Lemon: Do you Google yourself?SS: Yes, I have done in the past. And checked on the sale rating of our book on Amazon.
World of Lemon: How many times a month?SS: None, recently. But I just saw the founder of Wikipedia talk and so I just looked myself up on Wikipedia.com. Alas, no entry.
World of Lemon: What subway line do you ride the most in New York City?SS: The 4.
World of Lemon: Do you clean your own house or do you have a cleaning service?SS: I have a lady coming in for half a day every week to clean the office.
World of Lemon: What time do you usually go to bed?SS: 11:00.
World of Lemon: Do you watch any reality TV?SS: No.
World of Lemon: Would you be in a reality TV show?SS: Only if it’s about kerning.
World of Lemon: Do women find your accent sexy?SS: Only in New York. In Vienna they do not.
World of Lemon: Can you fake a British accent?SS: No. But sometimes somebody who does not know anything about accents mistakes mine for being British.
World of Lemon: Have you ever been in a fistfight?SS: In my dreams.
World of Lemon: When was the last time?SS: About a month ago.
World of Lemon: How fast can you run?SS: Two years ago I ran the NYC marathon in about 5 hours. It would take me double that now.
World of Lemon: So, you are tall, right? If you played basketball, do you think you could dunk?SS: No. Throughout my school years, various coaches tried me out for the basketball team. Much regret all around.
World of Lemon: Your past interns, Hjalti and Jan, work above a Dunkin’ Donuts, do you like their doughnuts?SS: They are OK. But we have a local doughnut store across the street on 14th Street that beats Dunkin’ every day.
World of Lemon: What is round and has a hole in the middle?SS: The Olympic winter medal.
World of Lemon: Thanks!SS: Thank you!
INTERVIEW BY ARMIN VIT
GENE HACKMAN: THE ART OF COMPROMISE
The man who’s lost sight of what he’s fighting for. The private investigator who’s literally and figuratively going in circles. The Sheriff who twists the law into sadism. The Priest who struggles with his faith. The self-isolated figure who, against the backdrop of hard lessons, looks back to behold the repercussions of his actions. The compromised man: Gene Hackman.
No one marries a fundamental likeability to deep complexity like Hackman. His characters don’t get the girl; they don’t usually win; and when they do succeed, the victory tends to ring hollow. The antiheroes he often portrays are all sharp edges and barely bottled rage, and they carry more baggage than an airplane full of debutantes. His villains are charming, seductive, witty, and most chilling because you realize, to your horror, that you’re empathizing with them, even the worst of them. Not because you condone their actions, but because through his genial, matter-of-fact performances you are made to understand how easily a human being can skew off course, and how difficult it can be to find your way back.
Marked for FailureHackman knows what it is to struggle. His dad walked out when he was a kid. At sixteen, he tried to win the love of a girl by lying about his age to get in to the Marines. The girl balked, but the Corps had his ass for years. After leaving the service, he studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he earned the dubious distinction of being one of two students deemed Least Likely to Succeed. The other total no-talent was Dustin Hoffman. (We can only hope that the Pasadena Playhouse has since revised its nominating process.) In defiance, he went to New York City to be an actor, rooming with fellow loser Hoffman and another nobody called Robert Duvall. One day during this lean period, Hackman found himself working as a doorman at a Howard Johnson’s on Times Square, where he saw the Sergeant who had recruited him walking in his direction. The older Marine didn’t even slow down, but he did take the time to say, “Hackman, you’re a sorry son of a bitch.” Imagine having to think about that exchange for the rest of your shift while you stand around in the cold and hope for a tip for hailing someone a cab. What would that do to you? One imagines Hackman simply smiling through it, eyes twinkling, just getting even more determined.
Semper FidelisDespite the naysayers, he kept at it. A string of off-Broadway shows finally led to Broadway, some television, and then to a small role in Lilith, a minor Warren Beatty vehicle. While the film was nothing special, Beatty was convinced of Hackman’s talent and brought Hackman along to play Buck Barrow in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie & Clyde. Offered the chance, Hackman cracked it wide open, giving audiences every ounce of his raw-throated bray and his intense energy, and capping it off with an unforgettable death scene. That role garnered him an Oscar nomination, and Hackman had fully arrived.
From 1970 to 1975 he reeled off a mind-blowing fifteen films, featuring some of the best performances of that decade. He showed off his range as the conflicted son in I Never Sang for my Father and was rewarded with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. One year later he wowed critics and audiences alike as the tough New York Cop Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle in The French Connection and deservedly took home the Oscar for Best Actor. In 1974 he created Harry Caul, a deeply paranoid surveillance expert in The Conversation, which was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. He was the best thing in The Poseidon Adventure, and the superb Night Moves. And then, as if to show that he really could do it all, he turned in a hilariously comic cameo in Young Frankenstein. Over forty years and nearly eighty films, his body of work has made him one of the most respected actors alive, and younger actors regard him with a reverence bordering on awe.
There’s no room here to talk about every great Hackman movie, but two later films cannot go unmentioned: The first is Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning, in which Hackman gives a blistering, tour-de-force performance that earned him yet another Best Actor nomination. The second is Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. As “Little Bill” Daggett, Hackman pulled together the essential halves of his personality in a film that shows how blurred the lines can be between good and evil men. Sheriff Bill Daggett is human, fallible, cruel, the hero of his own story, and there are moments when he almost convinces us that he’s on the side of right. His gentle, dry chuckle sounds alternately like an indulgent father and the final settling of ruins. It’s a performance for the ages in a film crowded with them, and it won him his second Oscar.
Of course, not all of his films have been Oscar winners. There was a period in the eighties when he accepted work that was beneath him as an actor. Watching Hackman in one of these flicks is like watching Lawrence Olivier play Zeus in “Clash of the Titans.” While his work is typically strong, he might as well be holding up a sign saying he needed the money. And, in fact, he did; he reportedly had to borrow some cash to buy a suit to attend the opening of Hoosiers because he didn’t own a sport coat. These were tough times. Heart trouble. A broken marriage. But he persevered. He has always seemed able to channel it, rather than be channeled by it.
“Take a Good Look, Pop!” The indelible images of Hackman are many, from “Popeye” Doyle baring his teeth and practically willing himself through rush hour traffic to catch an assassin, to Harry Caul brooding over tape recorders and haunted by voices, to Anderson roaring with righteous indignation as he punches out a racist redneck. Hackman is the ideal actor to play these great roles because, alone among his contemporaries, he radiates a sense that he has no permanent address at either the dark or light side of human nature. He holds us with his performances because deep down we know -- if we’re honest with ourselves -- that under the right (or wrong) circumstances, any one of us is capable of anything. Anyone who says different is either delusional or has a marketing degree. Watching Hackman, we empathize; we hurt for him; and we see ourselves, torn down the middle by impossible choices; lost, trapped -- compromised.
What Hackman brings to so many of his characters is a sense of profound struggle. They’re at war with their conscience like Harry Caul. They rail at God like Reverend Frank Scott. And they die like Buck Barrow, fighting gravity with everything they have before shuddering to the ground like a bull after the estoque. If you don’t recognize the names of these people, you should. In the great tradition of Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Bogart, Hackman has made an art of mapping the internal landscapes of deeply divided and fatally compromised men.
Hackman went on Larry King Live a couple years ago and declared that his acting days were surely over. I was angry and sad when I heard. Angry because audiences are selfish creatures and great actors aren’t suppose to walk out on you – they’re supposed to stop acting when they die on the stage or after the last great take or in the arms of a lover half their age. And sad because you just know he’s got a few more great movies left in him. He has said that he never feels more alive than when he’s performing. In the late seventies he retired from acting for a short while and found it to be a kind of death. But he told Larry he writes books now. Okay. Whatever he wants, he’s earned it.
Always FaithfulForty years ago, a man in his thirties stood in front of a Howard Johnson’s in a funny outfit, opening doors for customers. He was the Old Guy in acting class, the odd man out, the Least Likely to Succeed, a “sorry son of a bitch.” But when you’re chasing what you love, none of that matters. A powerful, sustaining love has given Gene Hackman the faith to persevere through it all. And nobody retires from love. Maybe he’ll come back for just one more great film. A victory lap for the crowd. If we’re lucky, and he does, it will be sublime.
A Decidedly Subjective Sampling of Films
“Do you know them? You should; they’re part of your heritage.” -- Night Moves
WRITTEN BY ROBERT BUNDY
THE OSLO FILE BY GUIDO VITTI
PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDO VITTI
TALENT RICK SPATES, MASON SAND, JASMIN TANG
HAIR AND MAKEUP TAMMY MCEVOY
STYLIST JENNA ADAMS
PHOTO ASSISTANTS JESSE CARROL, KATE KELLY
CASTING LEIGH HUBNEY CASTING
FILM PROCESSING SPECTRUM
LOCATIONS THE COMMANDER'S MANSION, THE OMNI PARKER HOUSE HOTEL
SPECIAL THANKS HOTEL LE ST-JAMES, MONTREAL
MIKE MILLS: WATCHING THE WATCHER
Graphic designer, music video director, documentarian and feature filmmaker Mike Mills is the invisible character in all of his works. The warm, articulate and slightly self-deprecating Cooper Union graduate started out making skate films and album covers for his friends before becoming one of the most sought-after talents in music video and commercial directing. He has become a generation-defining artist. Part of a world of skateboarders and multidisciplinary artists who’ve grown up but haven’t sold out, Mills, now 40, has made a career of doing the opposite of what people expect. From his intimate documentaries — including Deformer on Orange County skater and painter Ed Templeton — to his exquisite directorial and screenwriting feature debut, Thumbsucker, which he adapted from Walter Kirn’s novel, Mills uses his camera to connect with people. By listening to their stories and finding commonalities through accepting differences, he draws the inevitable conclusion that we’re all painfully and beautifully human.
After working for six years on Thumbsucker, which was well received, what’s keeping you busy lately?Well, Thumbsucker is a gift that keeps on giving. It’s coming out in Japan in the summer and in France. It’s insane how it just keeps going.
I’m in the middle of doing a documentary for the IFC Channel about the explosion of antidepressants in Japan. It’s really a new frontier of consciousness of depression, that’s what I’m documenting. In around 2000, they started these ad campaigns like, “Does your soul have a cold?” This not only introduced the pills but the whole concept of depression, and it caught on like wild fire. The use of antidepressants is more than doubling every year, and there’s a gazillion blogs and Internet chat rooms now. So I’m only interviewing people who are on antidepressants in Tokyo.
How open are people to talking about it?They’re wildly open to talking about it. Partly because in Japan it’s so shameful to have any mental illness. Often these people get kicked out of their jobs or their families or their relationships, so they’re kind of like punk rockers or they’re real outsiders. So here I come along, and I want to hear their story, and I think there’s nothing shameful about them, and I’m totally interested, and they’re just like, wow.
Who are the people you’re talking to? Are they of all ages?A lot of people in their 20s and 30s. Some people have been depressed for a very long time and have been in institutions, and then there’s people who are much more sort of like an American model, like it’s much more gray if they should be on these [drugs] or not.
Pharmaceuticals were a subject in Thumbsucker too…The real interest is, through my whole life, I’ve been around people who, in terms of their emotional life, can’t quite get with the program. I have a lot of experience with that, so I’m always interested in characters that are like that. The Ritalin that’s in Thumbsucker and the use of pharmacology in general interest me just because it’s a story that can only be told right now. It’s a totally un-nostalgic story. I’m here now in 2006, so I need to be talking about things that are happening now. And I’m really interested in people’s interior lives, and people who don’t feel like they have a place in the world and what they do.
What style of documentary is it?Like Deformer, it’s of the people and the physical environment they live in, Tokyo in general. I think one thing that came out of doing Thumbsucker, it politicized me more, where [now] I’m doing these [documentaries] for very cheap, and I feel much more like I’m not going to wait for money and I don’t care so much how it looks. It’s still going to be very beautiful but it’s the first feature-length thing I’m doing that’s not on film. And I’m totally psyched not to be on film and for me, myself, to be involved in shooting it.
My working title for this film is I Want to Be Happy, which is what a couple people have said to me. Seeing these people who’ve really been in a very scary place [but] they’ve found some way to get a grip on the world, it’s really inspiring. My new company that Callum Greene, who’s my producing partner, [and I] made to do these documentaries, it’s called the Mabel Longhetti Group. Mabel Longhetti is the name of Gena Rowlands’ character in A Woman Under the Influence. I really dig on embracing Cassavetes’ whole way of making things, which is by himself, at his house. It’s much more of a small-scale, “How much can you do it by yourself, how cheap can you do it?” notion.
When you do a documentary, does that feel like a break for you to not focus so much on yourself?I always feel mentally healthier after I’ve done [documentaries] because I’ve exposed myself; I’ve reached out to the world. I think they all mirror and reflect issues that are in me. So it’s kind of simultaneously something new, something I didn’t decide every piece of, and it’s me trying to make new friends, me trying to meet people that I feel like I can identify with. And I’ve definitely had my dose of feeling depressed, so part of me doing that film is exploring a side of myself.
The other thing I’m doing, I’m working on a script, which I’ve been doing for a while now. Writing is such an interior, alone, crazy, walking in the dark process. It’s the joys of being lost and trying to have a little faith that it will all make sense. I will say that doing Thumbsucker, making a film is so hard. Doing all those [press] interviews and putting yourself out in the world that much, it’s incredibly vulnerable-making, more than anything I’ve ever done before. So it really made me feel like every film I’m going to do in the future has to be totally myself, totally as authentic as I can make it, and totally as personal and as weird and that only I can do. It’s like getting your arm cut off. It’s like, “Sue, we’re going to go cut off your arm. What are you going to say about it? What are you going to exchange for having your arm cut off up to your elbow? You only have so many limbs, so we only get to do this so many times.”
You like asking the tough questions, don’t you? I guess I’m always using my art to try to figure out the world. I want it to be entertaining and I totally believe in being dumb as a great, wonderful, mind-expanding experience, but I’m also trying to figure some shit out here.
What do you mean by being dumb?The intention to try to figure stuff out kind of implies that you’re going to be able to come up with some kind of solution that will make you happier. So by being dumb, it means giving up control of ever really knowing, and celebrating that you’re never gonna fucking know anything, so stop trying to be smart. Celebrate that we’re all unknowing creatures running around, and just go for it. And to me life is so much more exciting and expansive when it’s like, wow, we’re all super-flawed, super-kooky, super-contradictory, super-untogether people, because then I can finally relax and be me.
It’s funny -- you talk about embracing flaws, and yet your execution is so flawless.Yeah, it’s a total contradiction.
And it is cool… I totally agree with you and it totally frustrates me.
Do you want to be less cool?Well, yeah. I don’t feel cool. [Mostly] I sit at my house and I write and I work and I throw the ball for my dog and worry about being cool, worry that I’m not cool. It’s a funny through-the-looking-glass thing. But I totally agree with you. My biggest complaint about Thumbsucker is that it’s too good-looking.
Do you think you’re a spy? I know exactly how I spy. It’s really different, in that, spying, the person doesn’t know you’re doing it. And whenever I film anybody, I’m super there. As deep as I want them to go, in Deformer or whatever, often I’ll stop an interview telling them something really personal about myself. So like, OK he went that far so I can go that far. And that’s kind of my style. I’m super involved and present and with them. But in life, I am constantly spying. That’s like the problem of my life. I really just don’t feel like I’m a viable part of the world, since I was a kid, it’s an issue. So I always feel like I’m outside the story spying in. And I feel like that’s a part of all the characters that I talk about. That kind of struggle that the work’s about is trying to find a place, and stop spying or stop feeling that you have to be outside.
If you could spy on anyone at any point in history, who would it be?Oh so many people. That’s my favorite game, like when I can’t sleep. Time travel, you know? To be able to hang out in Freud’s office when he’s interviewing people. I’d like to spy on Walt Disney back in the day when he was kook-ing up things. Or how great to spy on Fellini when he’s trying to write 8 1/2, because I’m trying to write… How the fuck did you do that, buddy?
Do you like spy films?I’m not intrigued by espionage in the classic sense of the word. To me, what’s way more interesting is in everyday life, with your lover or your family or at work or with your best friends -- people are constantly spying. People are constantly not saying what they’re thinking and trying to figure out more than they pretend they are. I think that’s actually a very beautiful thing. That’s us trying to figure out the world — us trying to find love, us trying to secure love — and I’m very sympathetic to that. If you take it out of the FBI/CIA context and put it in the human context, people spy because they’re afraid to say I want this or that. And I think that’s incredibly common. And sad and beautiful.
Are you a secretive person? If you really came up and asked me something, I would probably answer whatever you asked if you were a kind, decent person. I’m not really secretive but I’m also not gushy and leaking info all the time. I’m more of a watcher than I am anything else, so that’s kind of being secretive. [Pauses] Not really, to be honest with you. I’m down for the crazy, revealing, personal conversation anytime. The more embarrassing and funny, the better.
INTERVIEW BY SUE APFELBAUM
LEMON ESPIONAGE: 2ND ISSUE
A cryptic message issued from Distribution: “Authorize Lemon 2. Urgent."We pulled our lids low, dusted our trail, and rendezvoused at the safe house at midnight. We sent out a scrambled dispatch. All the usual agents were recruited for this one… plus a couple we weren't sure about. Backgrounds were checked. Coercion was used, and on a couple of occasions it got ugly. Funds were transmitted using obscure protocols to remote locations and secret accounts. Deadlines were set. The countdown began. We pulled the trigger right on cue, and now… the success of the mission lies in your hands. We hope you like it.
Surfacing from the ghostly domain of Lemon 1, we traded the supernatural for a more earthly underworld here: mining our fascination for the shadowy role of international espionage in popular culture, we discovered alter egos as well. All schtick aside, Lemon IS a high-stakes mission for a small group of artists. A sideline endeavor supported by a handful of truly visionary sponsors, the team you see listed on the following pages operates nights and weekends for the pure love of the project… agents on behalf of a purely creative ideology.
And so, between these covers, you'll find intelligence gathered from collaborators around the world, extracted using mostly sanctioned tactics, with mostly complicit subjects. We surveilled the society set through the lens of Jessica Craig-Martin. We raided the files on Andy Warhol. We interrogated Stefan Sagmeister, cajoled Sonic Youth and quizzed the former Director of Central Intelligence. Our methods worked, our quarry talked. All that was left was to transpose the tapes and render it in print, declassified. With a few typical embellishments, of course.
Many people have commented on our textured cover technique… but we must warn you: The special laminate and varnish combination we use is ideal for capturing fingerprints in exquisite detail. So the magazine you're holding now contains irrefutable evidence of your identity. You can try to hide this magazine--you know, in the place where you keep your other special magazines--but someday, someone will find it.
The best thing you can do is pass it on. This briefing is concluded.
KEVIN GRADY & COLIN METCALF
LEMON SUPERNATURAL: 1ST ISSUE
Introducing “Pop Culture With A Twist!” Lemon’s debut issue brought Grady & Metcalf’s trademark cocktail of obsessive craftsmanship to a wider audience in this tongue-in-cheek riff on all things spooky. “Supernatural” features superstar artist Jeff Koons, an homage to the brilliant Bill Murray, Bill Armstrong’s unsettling ‘apparitions’, Rostarr’s astonishing calligraphic art, a novel take on the Tarot, the writing of literary phenom JT Leroy, plus comic book interpretations of ghostly tales from music stars Fischerspooner, Aesop Rock and Annie.