Mark Lancaster Interview
by gary comenas (2004)/Repr. NY Arts Mag., May/June 2004
to JULY 1964: ANDY WARHOL FILMS BATMAN DRACULA
Suginoi Hotel, Beppu, Japan,1971
(Colored pencils on paper - by David Hockney)
In Popism, Andy Warhol describes how you helped him stretch the Flower paintings for his first show at Leo Castelli’s gallery. What other paintings did you help him with?
After about a week of hanging out at the Factory, one quiet day when there was no filming going on and nobody else around, I asked if I could help with anything. Andy asked me if I could stretch a canvas, which I could, and he brought out a stack of unstretched canvases of the Most Wanted Men, versions on canvas of the big panels he had made for the World’s Fair.
The stretchers were not exactly the same size as the image, so I had to make decisions about the borders, whether the blank section would be at the top or the bottom, for example. Andy asked that a couple of them be changed and redone because he thought I had made them “too arty”.
Those paintings were around for a long time. They were shown at the Sonnabend Gallery in Paris and even at the Rowan gallery in London, where I also showed my work, in 1968. It was the first ever Warhol show in London. It opened March 7th 1968. He didn’t come. There were ten or twelve Wanted Men, some paired as front and profile views, and in the same show a set of the recently made big silkscreen prints of Marilyn Monroe. I think they were about $500 for the set of 10, and I always wish I had bought one. They sell for about $250,000 now!
I helped design the announcement for the show, which was a folded card with two of the Wanted Men on it. When I was a student at Newcastle, Richard Hamilton had taught me how to design graphics and we worked on a lot of publications there, including the book describing his reconstruction of Duchamp’s Large Glass for the Tate gallery in 1966 - The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even, Again - for which I also took the photographs.
One of the Wanted Men canvases was still at the Union Square Factory in 1984 or 5. I had been there for lunch, and Andy had retreated afterwards into his “painting area” in the back, as he always did. I went in to say goodbye and one of those paintings was leaning against the wall. I said “Gee, Andy, we made that painting in 1964” and he gave me a sly look and a little smile, as if to say, without saying it, “Well I made it, you just stretched it”.
Was Andy Warhol very careful with the screens he used for making his paintings? Did he keep them locked up securely?
There was no sense of "security" for the silkscreens in the old Factory. They were just piled up someplace and I question whether he ever threw them out. After Gerry [Gerard Malanga] would clean the screen after we'd used it - with solvents (No Smoking!) - it was put somewhere in the back and brought out again if that image was to be done again.
For example in August 1964 we made about five 40"x 40" Marilyns, using the same screen. (I think two of them were kind of commissioned - he knew where they were going) and a triptych of Marilyn, Jackie and Liz Taylor, which as far as I can tell never actually stayed together as a triptych, though that's how they were at the time.
Andy used to ask people if they wanted to trade screens with him, to save the expense, and I think Jasper Johns once used a Glass Handle with Care screen of Andy's, but I'm not sure if this actually was Andy's screen. He said I could use them and I thought of making myself a Troy Donahue painting, as the screen was there, but when I brought it up later he was less enthusiastic and I realized he didn’t really want anybody to use them. I think it had something to do with his kind of freaking when Rauschenberg started using silkscreens after he did, and that Rauschenberg was much more successful at that time, but of course he used the screen in an entirely different way.
I think it was as a reaction to this that Andy made the painting of the Rauschenberg family called Let us Now Praise Famous Men. Some screens got so used that they fell apart, but he would always try to find an old one if there was one available. The Flowers screens were, of course, all brand new in August 1964. Most of the ones done while I was there were fairly small, and the really big ones were done after I left.
I assume, since everything got more and more organized, that later the screens were better protected. There is nothing particularly valuable about the screen itself. You could take any photograph or whatever and have a screen made, for $100 or less then. The stories of other people using the screens, other than when supervised or instructed by Andy, at least in the sixties, are exaggerated I think.
There was not at that time (1964) anything that you could call a "production line," even if that is what he said he wanted. It was slightly haphazard, depending on the day, the movies, the availability of helpers. Basically Andy painted in the background colors, the hair, the eye shadow, the lips, using an acetate, which is a transparent print from the screen, as a kind of tracing device, lifting it up to mark where the lips, for example, would hit, and the corners. Then, after the paint was dry, the screen was lowered on to it on the floor, put in position, and the ink is put along one edge, almost always black screen ink then, and while one or two people held the screen tight, Andy, or Andy and Gerard, would pull the squeegee through the ink and over the screen , usually twice, ending up with the squeegee where they started. Then the screen is lifted off and you can then see if it has "worked."
Andy would often not like the effect, perhaps the ink had missed part of the image or it could be smudged. Sometimes this was decided to be acceptable, interesting, beautiful, sometimes not. He kept at least some of the "bad" ones (he did not readily throw anything away, as is well known) which I see have come up for sale from time to time, not signed but officially authenticated. I believe virtually every "genuine" Warhol from that time was signed and dated by him on the back of the canvas.
More people were helping on the Flower paintings by the end of August, 1964, and Andy would ask what colors people liked. I remember saying one with green flowers would be cool. I left New York while they were still being made for the November exhibition, his first at Leo Castelli, and most of the ones I helped with or saw then were 48 inch square or smaller. Huge enlarged ones, with the flowers enlarged, as well as big multiple canvas paintings, were made after August/early September.
Why did you decide to go to New York in the first place? In Popism, Warhol says that it was the English pop artist Richard Hamilton that told you to look him (Warhol) up. What did you think of New York when you first arrived? Was it in Wales or Yorkshire that you were raised?
Although I am totally English I always felt I wanted to be American. I always say it’s because a nice looking GI gave me a piece of chewing gum when I was about 6. Did you ever see the great Schlesinger movie Yanks with the young Richard Gere and the great Rachel Roberts among others? That was a bit like my childhood. Of course now I am American I don't feel American at all.
I grew up in Yorkshire - the actual place where they film the Last of the Summer Wine TV show in England. I was at Newcastle when I went to New York in '64. I think it says that in Popism. I did make a reference to Wales in something I wrote about Andy in the March 1989 issue of the Burlington Magazine. When he asked me what to paint at some point in the 70s I told him "Whales" and he looked so blank that later I thought he may have thought I said "Wales" - he did include a whale in those endangered species I think.
I was crazy about anything American as a kid growing up during and after WWII and I was very excited about making the trip just for itself. Arriving in New York was even better than I had expected, and I found the city just mesmerizing and so beautiful, both exactly what I had expected and also, as is so obvious now as well as then, having a deeply old and shabby quality.
Richard Hamilton was not at all well known as an artist at that time, but had gone to Pasadena the previous year - his first trip to the US - to see the Duchamp exhibition which Walter Hopps had organized, the first big Duchamp exhibition anywhere I think. Marcel Duchamp and his wife were there, and Andy must have been having a show in LA - at any rate they met at a party.
Richard told me when he came back that if I went to New York I should call him [Warhol]. I only knew Warhol then from a couple of reproductions in magazines, and I think a photograph of him in Life or something, with some paintings in a Bonwit Teller window. He was still thought of as less "important" by the critics than say Lichtenstein. Warhol wasn't included in a big Painting 1954 to 64 show that was at the Tate in Summer of '64, even though Jim Dine, for example, was.
So I had little sense of Andy in any particular way. I was nervous about calling him, but I had at that point I think been in NY for three days without speaking to anybody. He was so friendly when he called me back, and invited me right away to come by the Factory, but it was walking into that incredible place that I immediately thought, something like, "Well, this is it; this is absolutely the most exciting place I have ever been and there is something extraordinary going on here."
I had seen and flipped over the gold Marilyn in the MoMA, probably two days before, and I knew from that that he was a great artist. I was very naive, and even though I was 25 years old I was like a kid. I had "wasted" six years working in a family business before getting the courage to break away and go to art school, where all my contemporaries were six years younger.
I was planning to get myself some sexual experience in NY and I quickly realized that this scene might help with that. Even though Jane Holzer was sitting there I sensed "gay" immediately. There was never any sexual pressure from Andy, who just wasn't like that in those days, though soon he would ask about my sex life. "Does he have a problem?" was almost his first question about anyone.
I think I sensed right away that Andy was a more interesting artist than the other "pop" artists, other than Jasper Johns, whose work I knew a bit about by then. At the MoMA I made the connection that his Target was a kind of precedent for the Marilyn.
The Factory was extremely "modern" and up to date for me - we didn’t say cutting edge yet. Andy was utterly "cool" in a way I had never experienced. Allen Ginsberg, the poet, who came to see Andy's movies and whose apartment Andy and Gerry took me to one night, just seemed from an earlier era to me - the Beat generation of course, and he was very "preachy," whereas Andy was by far the least judgmental person I had ever come across.
When did you actually arrive in New York the first time?
I arrived in NY on the 4th of July 1964. Everything I experienced in 1964 in the Factory was between July 7th and the middle of September.
I was in and out of New York once or twice a year between then and 1972 when I moved there from London and stayed there until 1985, and I would see Andy and Fred [Hughes] frequently at parties and luncheons at the Factory. I went with Andy's gang to Studio 54 quite a lot and was also friends with Jed and Jay Johnson, and with Catherine Guinness whom I had known before she went to New York. But I didn't 'hang out' much with Andy in those years. I had another life in the art world as well, with my own work, and my work with Jasper Johns and Merce Cunningham and John Cage.
What was the first Warhol film that you ever saw?
The first one I saw was Blow Job which is riveting in a way. Taylor Mead got up in the middle and was walking out. Somebody called out "Taylor, why are you leaving?" He said "I came already."
The showing we all went to was at a gallery in Washington Square, probably in my first week at the Factory. It was some sort of co-operative gallery in a building on Washington Square called the Washington Square Gallery, run by Ruth Sansegundo - Ruth Kligman, Pollock's girlfriend who survived the crash - who had married an Italian jewelry maker I think. I got to know her later.
I think Jonas Mekas must have organized these film showings, like every Friday or something, and new films by several people were shown, Stan Vanderbeek, Ron Rice I think, Gregory Markopoulos, Barbara Rubin, maybe. Three or four films would be shown in this quite large room. I think it was open to anybody but I always went with Andy and the gang. He sometimes showed just clips of something he had been filming, not always "completed" movies, and we would look at rushes at the Factory ahead of time. He might even have shown some of Empire there. A lot of them at that time were interesting to watch because we had never seen anything like them, and I guess because the idea of boredom as a positive thing - John Cage's idea - was new.
I also went either there or somewhere nearby to a reading by Taylor Mead which Gerry had organized. Taylor read from his autobiography, which is quite funny. He gave me a signed copy. Years later when I lived on Houston Street I would see him on the street and occasionally at parties, and he was always nice, if usually drunk, and increasingly decrepit. He was wonderful in Lonesome Cowboys, one of my favorite Warhol films.
You worked for Jasper Johns after Warhol. How did that come about?
Well, that's a long story. Same old summer of '64, I told Andy that one reason I was in New York , the official reason really, was that I was going to write my degree thesis on Alfred Stieglitz and the gallery he ran in New York called 291. I even had a grant from my local authority which helped pay for the trip (those were the days - you could live, more or less, on a $300 student grant if you worked in the summer).
Anyway when I told Andy this, and that I had been reading old copies of Steiglitz's magazine, Camera Work, in the library of MoMA, and the ancient Edward Steichen had looked over my shoulder at them but didn’t say anything, Andy's reply, almost verbatim - I still remember it - was: "Oh, you must meet my best friend Henry Geldzahler. He is at the Met where they have all those Stieglitz things, in the basement, and he will show you the paintings by Florine Stettheimer. She's my favorite artist she is soo great". So I did, and saw a lot of wonderful things at the Met. Demuth's Figure Five in Gold was on view, but most of the works of that period were in storage. The huge Stettheimer Cathedral paintings with their wonderful magical narrative and amazing frames - Cathedral of Wall Street and Cathedral of Broadway which can now be seen in the galleries - were then banished to storage, along with wonderful Arthur Doves, John Marins and Georgia O'Keeffes. I love those artists, and Stuart Davis too.
Henry took me under his wing, and took me with him when he visited artists. He was close to Frank Stella and his then wife Barbara Rose, who became friends, and he took me to Roy Lichtenstein's studio, where he was making beautiful simple sunset and sunrise paintings that summer, and to Jim Rosenquist's, who was making a picture I love, of a cut-off detail of an ad for a contest, with the letters cut off by the edge of the picture so it didn't make sense.
We visited Ellsworth Kelly in his studio in the Hotel des Artistes, where he was making a huge red, black and blue painting. Henry was going to visit Iran with Frank Stella in August that year, and lent me his apartment on West 81st street while he was away. He asked me if there was anybody else I wanted to meet and I immediately said 'Jasper Johns' because I loved his work - what I had seen. The first painting of his that I saw was "False Start" which was shown in the US Embassy gallery in Grosvenor Square, probably in 1961 or 2. (Those were the days, again, when the State Department sponsored art shows.) Henry said that it might be difficult, but he contrived a meeting, and later took me to a reading by John Ashberry in Jasper's apartment. He lived then in a penthouse on Riverside Drive at 106th Street with marvelous views to New Jersey and Palisades Park.
When Andy knew I had met Jasper he said "Ohhh, Jasper's sooo Famous", which was true compared with him. " We'll never see you any more". I told him that was silly. Jasper was very glamorous, always, to Andy, who had bought a drawing of his around 1960. Jasper was very good looking too, but quite private. We became close friends. When asked, I talk about his work, but not about him, because I still think of him as a close friend.
To get back to the question: After I moved to New York in 1972 and had two shows at the Betty Parsons Gallery, Jasper's half-sister was working for him as a secretary, and when she quit I took over, because I thought I could get his affairs in better order and because I also needed a job. It became a full time job very quickly and I think I did it well for many years. Somebody said I was his Fred Hughes, but I didn’t think that. I did manage his business affairs, and that helped him to get on with his work. He was living in the country and in the Caribbean by then and it got complicated in several ways. I was also working a great deal for Merce Cunningham's Dance Company and trying to keep going as an artist. I had a crisis after 12 years and quit and went back to England for a while.
What was your involvement with the Merce Cunningham dance company?
I loved Merce's work which I first saw in London in 1966 at the Saville Theater. A lot of people booed. A bunch of us came down from Newcastle (I was teaching there that year, after graduating) and as well as the dance performances, John Cage gave a "lecture" in which he was miked in such a way that most of what was audible was odd unconnected words and static. This was really booed but in its way it was wonderfully subversive. I had read his book Silence, which of course contains many very funny stories. I met John and Merce in New York, around 1967 I think, and saw some performances in Brooklyn in the late 60s, one of which, Rainforest, had the wonderful Warhol silver pillows as the decor, and the dancers in ripped flesh colored costumes. (Andy had wanted them naked).
Jasper Johns was the Artistic Advisor to the company, and since he did not much like designing for the theater himself, he got other artists to make designs and then ended up doing most of the work himself. There were designs by Robert Morris and Frank Stella among others. One set was based on Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass, and I brought copies of Richard Hamilton's reconstruction drawings to help Jasper make the set. So sometimes I would find myself, visiting New York, spending a couple of days helping Jasper to dye tights and leotards on his kitchen stove and sink, after he moved to the old bank building on East Houston Street. The lower East Side was pretty rough still, until the early 80s when the area east of the Bowery finally started being gentrified and the first East Village galleries opened. I lived in this building myself for about ten years, after Jasper moved out to the country and to Saint Martin.
In 1973, Merce Cunningham was commissioned to make a dance for the Paris Opera Ballet, for the Festival d'Automne, by Michel Guy, who was later Minister of Culture. Jasper agreed to design it and made some sketches for set and costumes, and asked me if I would go to Paris to supervise the work and then he would come for the performance. It was convenient for me to leave the States because I was still non-resident, so I was officially the Assistant to the Designer and went with Merce and then John Cage, who was making the music, to Paris for about two months. My French was terrible, the Opera Garnier was huge, magnificent and run like a government department, and the general feeling was of total hostility to this American modernist invasion of their classical home. However, Merce won over almost all the dancers, and in the end, and after Jasper arrived and we re-dyed the costumes for the third time, all night in the bowels of the Opera, it happened and was generally well received.
Choreography: Merce Cunningham. Music: David Tudor.
Design and lighting: Mark Lancaster
Back in New York, I started running the lights for the company's studio performances in New York. I had thought the lighting too elaborate and confusing, and, supported by John Cage, took it over. Then Merce asked me to design a new dance he was making, called Sounddance. It was scary and exciting and I went on tour with the company all across the States in early 1974, seeing the midwest and Arizona and California, kind of a marvelous and busy trip.
I had just started working for Jasper Johns before this tour, so there were already conflicts, which I later partly resolved by not going on tour again. I designed about 20 dances over the next ten years or so. I became the Artistic Advisor, myself, in the middle of this period. I loved the work, but the conflicting loyalties I had made me resign in 1984, and then, as I said before, I stopped working for Jasper Johns the following year.
A few years later Merce asked me to design a big new piece for the Berlin Festival, and then the Avignon festival, called Five Stone Wind, and I was very happy to work with him again. I continued to design several more pieces in New York at City Center and the American Dance Festival during the 90s. Merce's work continues to be remarkable and in his 80s he just continues to amaze. I think they are reviving Sounddance again in 2004, and I hope to see it again.
Did you ever take any photographs when you worked for Warhol?
In 1964, aside from the movie camera, I did not see anybody at the Factory with a camera. People did not habitually carry cameras then like they do now. I had my Leica with me and photographed all kinds of stuff around the city, particularly Times Square and the buildings I liked. My favorite building then was the old McGraw Hill building on West 42nd Street, west of the Port Authority, a wonderful 1930 green stepped- back art deco tower designed by Raymond Hood, who was also the principal architect for Rockefeller Center. The RCA building there (now GE) was also one I tried to photograph. But the Mc Graw Hill building was off the beaten track, and I went inside and photographed the doors and the elevators and some of the details.
After a few weeks around the Factory I shyly asked Andy if I could take photographs there, and he said "Oh, sure". I never asked him to pose, but one day when we were making the Robert Moses paintings, I took one of him standing there with his rubber gloves on and the panels all over the floor. Later I showed some slides to Robert Fraser in London, and I foolishly lent this one to him. He was going to make prints from it or something. Of course I never saw it again, in spite of asking for it many times. One learns from experience, I guess. I still have one which shows, I think, his shoes. (Note: To view Mark Lancaster's 1964 photographs referred to in his comments, please click here.)
I photographed, in the rather dim light there, the west wall of the Factory, where the stack of Marilyns we had made (which were later that year shot through by a bullet), and lots of plastic wrapped Brillo and Kelloggs corn flakes sculptures, and the Wanted Men, were stacked. I also took photographs from the fire escape looking down at the taxis passing below. In those days the taxis were many different colors. The Checkers were yellow with black and white checkerboard stripes, the regular taxis were often two color combos, red and yellow, green and yellow, and for 1964 the newest were in the Worlds Fair colors, blue and orange. So one day I shot about 20 passing cabs from the fire escape.
Back in Newcastle I put together a slide show for the school, with all the things I had photographed in New York, and music like that at the Factory, such as Lesley Gore singing It's My Party, and ending with the taxi sequence with Moon River playing, because it reminded me, like all of New York in 1964, of Breakfast at Tiffanys. Images from America were still pretty rare, and some of the students, including my friends Stephen Buckley and Bryan Ferry, were impressed and affected by this experience. I remember I was just trying to keep the projector and the record player going and trying not to cry.
In Popism, Andy Warhol also recalled an incident where you were punched by Norman Mailer. Why did Mailer punch you?
Norman Mailer did punch me! I went to Provincetown for a long weekend in August (1964) to visit Dick Smith, the English artist I knew and liked a lot, and his wife Betsy, who were on their honeymoon in the old Truro railroad station. It was wonderful to fly over the cape from Boston in a tiny plane where I sat next to the pilot. Henry Geldzahler decided to visit Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler at the same time. I think he was doing an interview with Helen Frankenthaler. She and Motherwell were married at that time and had an incredibly pretty house right in Provincetown, with a studio in a boat house across the street on the water. Provincetown is like one long street , Commercial Street, that goes on and on and then ends, rather like Key West, at what feels like the end of the world.
I think Henry and I were on our way to dinner at the Motherwells, and met Norman Mailer outside his house just down the street. Henry introduced us, and as soon as he heard my English accent he punched me quite hard in the chest. I think Henry asked him why he did that, and he said that he didn’t like my fancy English clothes, or some critical comment like that. I was surprised, because I was wearing a pink linen jacket and a button down shirt from Bloomingdales, and white Levis, which at that time you could only get at a couple of little shops in Greenwich Village. I guess in retrospect it was the pink that did it. I remember Mailer saying he was busy writing a piece on Goldwater for Esquire magazine. There was a lot of talk of the perceived threat of a Goldwater presidency, even though it seemed highly unlikely.
It was a fascinating weekend. Barbara Rose was there, and Barbara Kafka, the cookery writer and her husband, Doctor Ernie Kafka, the New York psychiatrist, and the guests at the Motherwells included David Smith, the great sculptor, his young daughters, Bob Motherwell's young daughters (who were among the many people I met who always wanted to know about the Beatles and the English music scene. One of the girls said "I hate Goldwater, the Dave Clark Five, and Jane Asher"), Hans Hoffman, the great painter, the Mailers, and, from England also, Bryan Robertson, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, and Paul Huxley the artist. After dinner some of us walked down to the east end and stopped at Al Hansen's HCE gallery ("Here Comes Everybody") where he was showing his Hershey bar wrapper collages, and making jokes, and the Rumpus Room and Atlantic House.
The first Warhol film you appeared in was Batman Dracula which featured Jack Smith in the lead role. What was he like?
Jack Smith was one of the six or seven people at the Factory the first day I went. After Andy asked me if I wanted to be in the movie, I think I joined the group at the other end of the space including him, a girl whom I later was told was a model, called Beverley Grant (whom I also ran into on the beach at Provincetown, [previous question]), a black actor called Rufus Collins who was in the Living Theater, Billy Linich (later Billy Name) and Gerard Malanga. I think John Palmer was there, possibly on his first day at the Factory.
Jack seemed older than the others and was kind of "in charge", speaking in a high pitched anxious voice, and moving the props, such as they were, around. There was a bowl of fruit, silver covered or painted, and several chairs. Andy had suggested I take off my clothes and cover my briefs with aluminum foil, as the other guys did, and as far as I remember maybe two or three takes were made, with Jack Smith kind of directing and Andy turning the camera on and off. I think I picked up a silver phone that was sitting there, but i can't remember whether he told me to do that. I think he told us not to look at the camera.
I did not know who any of these people were at that time, but Beverley Grant and Rufus Collins were friendly and filled me in a little. They told me Jack Smith had made this amazing film called Flaming Creatures and had worked with Kenneth Anger, which was a name I did know, though I had not then seen any of his movies. I think we filmed some more, probably the next day, because Jack was in a Dracula mode, with a cloak and so on. I almost never saw him again. We never really spoke. I was both very shy and also found in that atmosphere it seemed "cool" to be quiet rather than conventionally talkative.
I knew in later years that Jack Smith had made fetishistic costumes and art works, which are now thought of as very prophetic, but I saw very few. I used to see him in later years, the 80's, when he must have lived, as I did, on the Lower East Side, walking on the street, looking somewhat down at heel. I am not sure when he died, but I think he was an Aids victim.
Naomi Levine, who Warhol called his "first superstar" was also in Batman Dracula. What was she like?
One thing I notice in my notes that I wrote in 1964, is that later in the summer every time Naomi and her gang arrived I would leave. There were a lot of times at the Factory when I felt like "Why am I here?" and left to go see things or work on my Stieglitz stuff, usually at the MoMA library or tracking things down at the Gotham Book Mart or George Wittenborn's shop. If you asked Naomi about me she would probably say "Who?" We never had the slightest interest in each other and I always felt she arrived, usually with some hangers on, to try to bully Andy into doing something, and to monopolize him. So it was a good time to go do something else.
After Batman Dracula you appeared in a Kiss film with Gerard Malanga - one of the few which featured two men kissing. What was it like kissing Gerard on film? When was it actually filmed?
The Kiss film with Gerry was made in August 1964 at 231 East 47th Street. I think we were standing in front of the couch, and Andy suggested we do it and we did it. Nobody else was there.
In Popism there's a conversation about Gerard and "gossip" between Andy and me. Right after that he said he wanted us to do a Kiss movie. I think he knew that Gerry didn’t like me and that I was wary of him. So his wanting us to kiss could be interpreted in several ways.
I found Gerry attractive in his somewhat swaggering "macho" way, but I figured he was basically straight - but we did kiss, heavily, for the three minutes of the film, and i enjoyed it. Never discussed it with him, it was like "work." It was my first "close-up" and I enjoyed that, because the Dracula stuff was so cluelessly uninteresting, and I kinda did want to be a part of the scene. Of course I didn't think much of posterity then.
Was Gerard Malanga often referred to as "Gerry" in the sixties? Did you "french kiss" him in the Kiss film?
Gerard was always called Gerry, except when he was being a poet. Andy called him Gerry, so everybody did. He gave a reading I went to, when he was "Gerard Malanga". He used to make "ready-made" poems at that time, such as reading the instructions on a package of cookies, or something like that. He organized some of the readings, I think, and I remember one of Taylor Mead, reading from his autobiography.
One night he [Gerard Malanga] took Andy, John Palmer and me to visit with Allen Ginsberg on the Lower East Side. Ginsberg played his little Indian keyboard thing and chanted. Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky, with whom he lived, were there. Gerry had lived in the same building I believe at one time. When we left he told me to "Come again, and talk more." I was completely unimpressed and he seemed so dated to me. In later years I would see him and he was actually a very sweet guy.
Yes, Gerry and I did "French kiss". How else can you keep kissing somebody for three minutes, or was it six? I did see that movie right after it was processed, and I think I occupy most of the screen, it is all close-up head shots, probably because I was pushing against him harder than he was against me. He was sexy, in a way, but not my "type", though I spent a good deal of time that summer trying to figure that out and experiment with "types". I always assumed that Gerry was in fact bisexual, and most people seemed to think that. He had a crush on Gloria Wood, the friend from Newcastle whom I brought to the Factory a few times.
I think by 1966 and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable scene, he was pretty fed up with his role and of being taken for granted and he wanted his own life apart from Andy. He had the idea that everybody was stealing from him, like that Jim Morrison had seen him and stolen his image, and so on, all a bit fantastic. He eventually went to Italy in pursuit of that beautiful girl he was in love with, and there was the thing about the paintings he supposedly made there, and then later he worked on the original version of interVIEW or INTERview. I used to bump into him in the city and we always said "Hi".
What other Warhol stars did you know? Were you around when Edie Sedgwick was part of the Factory?
I remember seeing Edie only one time, in London. I guess, reading the stories, she was the "new star" by the beginning of 1965, and was invited to join the group going to Paris for Andy's exhibition of Flowers at Ileana Sonnabend's gallery. Gerry had mailed me a short letter, at Andy's behest, to ask what I was doing and to say they would be in London after Paris. It was in a vacation, at the end of April I think, and I was staying at Richard Hamilton's house in London, with Rita Donagh and Richard's children. We decided there should be a party for Andy. All the London art world people Richard knew were invited to his modernist house in Highgate, and there was food and drink and rock n'roll. I think we invited people at 7 or 8 pm. Andy and Gerry and Chuck Wein and Edie arrived at about 11pm, with Robert Fraser and a few others. A lot of people had left already, but it was fun and I was very excited to see Andy again. Edie had her beautiful vacant look and I think she was in a fur coat.
I don't think I ever saw Edie in New York because I was not there again until September 1966, and she was pretty much out of the picture by then. In 1964 I knew Ivy Nicholson; in 1966 I saw Nico a few times, with her little son Ari, whose father was said to be Alain Delon. Ivy was a kind of out there person, who said she was a Medium, but she had a sweet nature.
One of the funniest things that happened that summer  was that John Palmer, who had arrived at the Factory around the same time as I did, became infatuated with her. She was much older than him, but still very stunning. They disappeared for a week and when they came back they were married. John was a real Boston brahmin kind of kid, eager and talkative, and, as Andy would say "s-o-o-o y-o-u-n-g". Andy sometimes called the kids around the Factory "the squirrels", and sometimes at weekends I would go in to help him and nobody was there and he would say "Oh, it's So Great, all the squirrels have left town".
I think I met Freddy Herko one time, with Johnny Dodd. I remember Johnny because we got very stoned on a joint at the Taylor Mead reading. He was very good looking. I think Andy told me he had posed for porn magazines, and I found a photograph of him later in Demi Gods probably, wearing the posing pouch they had to wear in those days.
On later visits to the Union Square Factories I would meet various "stars" briefly, but only once or twice - Eric Emerson who was so beautiful, and Brigid, behind the reception desk, after Andy was shot in 1968 and there was quite a bit of "Security."
I saw Viva quite often because she was very social, and then Candy, and Holly, once or twice, and Jackie Curtis, much more in the 70s when I was living in New York. In the late 60s, when visiting New york, I would usually make one or two visits to see Andy, and by then Fred Hughes, who was a friend from the moment I met him.
You said you were back in New York in 1966. Weren’t you at the Factory when the infamous Pope Ondine scene was filmed for The Chelsea Girls?
Yes, I was. First let me tell you about the whole summer of 1966, when I first traveled in the States. I arrived in New York July 14th, and drove all the way down the East Coast to South Carolina, where Jasper Johns had a house by the ocean south of Charleston. Then I flew to Colorado, via Chicago and Denver, and had arranged to meet David Hockney at Aspen, and drove from there to Los Angeles, with Nick Wilder as well. We stopped at the sights, Wesleyan National Park in Utah, a bit of Arizona, and Nevada, where we stopped in Las Vegas, which was then just one long strip. I took some photographs of the neon and the depressing people at the slots. We left after about twenty minutes, back into the desert and on to Hollywood.
Nick Wilder had a beautiful gallery, and an apartment full of art and boys. A couple of them were actors and they would spend all day by the pool, in case their agent called for an audition. It was a time of hair issues. They had long hair, but most TV shows had short hair characters, so if they were offered a short hair audition they had to agonize over whether to have their hair cut. We all were refused entry to Disneyland because our hair was too long for their rules.
One boy who arrived from New York was called George Harris III. He was seventeen. He later took off for San Francisco and started The Cockettes (see www.cockettes.com) Then he broke away from them because he wanted their shows to stay free of charge. He was very radical and this was the height of Flower Power by that time.
George Harris III and Mark Lancaster
Beverly Hills, California 1966
(photo: David Hockney)
I once saw the Cockettes without him in New York in a pretty disastrous show. Years later I ran into him in New York. He was now Brian O’Hara, and he put on a sweet little musical review at a tiny Village theater, which ran for a week. Then he became Hibiscus, perhaps even The Great Hibiscus, and was a singer with his sisters as back-up. A glittering billboard for Hibiscus and the Screaming Violets was put up at Sheridan Square above the candy store on the corner, where it remained for months or more. Then he died of Aids in the 80s. His outlandish and amazing look was an inspiration for the 2003 John Galliano look at the fashion shows. I hope he would have approved.
I took photographs of the boys around the pool, including George, and one day David asked me if I would take one of Nick in the pool, for a painting he wanted to make. I took it standing in the pool at the opposite end.(The painting Portrait of Nick Wilder (1966), was sold in 2003 for over $2 million). David had met Peter Schlesinger that summer when he was teaching in LA and Peter was in his class. I took photographs of them and we drove around taking other shots that David might use, of Beverly Hills houses and lawns. David did not take photographs at that time, which now seems strange.
I loved LA and at that time it had such a sun-baked crumbling quality. We drove out to Santa Monica and met Christopher Isherwood on the beach, then went to his and Don Bachardy’s house and had dinner with George Cukor. Christopher was a hero of mine from his books.
Then I came back to New York.
I hung out at the Factory a few days, and one day arrived as they were setting up a scene. I think the filming of The Chelsea Girls was mostly completed. This was early September. A set had been built to look like a small room, and in it was a kind of throne/bed for Ondine. I don’t remember how many people were there, but Andy was at the camera and he asked me to hold the microphone, just out of camera range at the side of the "set." The film started rolling. Does he shoot himself up with speed on camera? I don’t remember. This girl, a kind of idiotic creature, I had already decided, starts this "confession" dialogue with "Pope" Ondine, and after a few minutes she calls him a “phoney”.I think the second time she says this, Ondine gets visibly angry, screams at her, throws a glass of Coke at her, then lunges towards her and starts hitting her.
By this time I felt sure that this was not "acting," as it were. I was quite scared, and saw that other people were backing away. I put the mike down on something and backed away myself, noticing then that Andy had also done so, leaving the camera running. I think the girl ended up running out screaming.
Oddly enough, a friend of mine from England, Roger Cook, was on his first trip to New York, and I had invited him to the Factory that day to meet Andy. He was on a bus coming uptown from the village and that girl was on the bus, and he had thought her odd, from her appearance if nothing else, and he had followed her into the Factory and arrived right as the filming started. He is now a Lecturer at Reading University and writing a doctorate (I think) on Warhol movies, and he wrote to me about this, reminding me he was there, and his original account was that after this scene I was totally nonchalant and introduced him to Andy. I told him I was actually terrified, and I was "acting cool."
I think it was a few days after the Ondine scene that Andy invited me to go to the first night of The Exploding Plastic Inevitable at the Dom on St. Mark’s Place. The Velvets and Nico had performed there earlier in the year, but I had been under the impression that this was the first performance. It was a kind of re-union, I guess. This was before any of their records were out, so it was a totally new experience. I remember approaching the place, I think it had been one of those Polish ballrooms they had on the Lower East Side, in the dark, and seeing Jonathan Miller on the street. I had met him once in London, and I told him about what we were going to see, but he said he was late for something and couldn’t go. I guess I had a ticket or invitation or something, but it was very crowded and I spotted Andy upstairs in the balcony and went up. That may have been the first time I met Paul Morrissey.
There were slide projectors and movie projectors and spot lights and as soon as the Velvets and Nico came out on the stage below, everything happened at once. The sound, the lights, the movie against the back wall, the slides of stars and cut out shapes, the strobe lights, the colored beams of light. The sound was overwhelming and stunningly raw, but Nico’s droning voice , on I’ll be Your Mirror was also clear and mesmerizing. My memory tells me that was the first song, but I really don’t know. There was a seemingly endless version of Heroin and there was All Tomorrow’s Parties and more and more.
Andy looked ecstatic, in the glow of lights in the balcony. It was like this was his new world. I think they showed whatever reels of film were around, and I’m pretty sure some of it was from the yet to be finished The Chelsea Girls. Gerry was in leather pants, dancing with Mary Woronov, and he had a whip and also two huge flashlights which he danced with, beaming them into the audience. The old mirror ball from the Factory was hanging in the middle, and the strobe lights flickered and it was a kind of excess I had never experienced before. And I loved it. It was kind of crummy at the same time, with things being improvised, feedback, I seem to remember somebody was projecting some slides Andy didn’t like, but overall it was amazing. This was before the big light shows went around with rock groups, but it was the almost non-musical sound of the early Velvets that was shockingly raw. It was so close to "noise" and yet it was hypnotic, and it was, of course, years before their influence turned out to be huge.
Did you do many drugs in the sixties?
I was very naïve about drugs. We had a little hash at Newcastle, like once a week after you had downed a few pints of Newcastle Brown Ale on Saturday night. At least that’s how I remember it before 1964.
In New York, at the Factory, and the associated social life, there was grass (which was gentler, more mellow than hash, I thought) and what were then called Diet Pills, which of course was Speed, or amphetamines. This was the era of fashionable doctors who would happily prescribe “mother’s little helpers” to almost anybody. Remember Dr. Feelgood, who was said to regularly inject JFK with vitamins and speed? I did speed pills a few times in 1964. I remember spending a whole night with Ondine and his boyfriend mostly on the roof of the building where they lived downtown somewhere. Getting stoned and lying around looking at the stars. And having Valium to cheer up afterwards. I suspect my “innocence” could have led to more serious problems had I stayed there.
Back in London in the sixties there was a scene that involved, for me, mild drug taking, just getting stoned, with Ossie Clark and David Hockney and a group of friends, and some of the people we called Hoorays, who were mostly children of the aristocracy, the Guinnesses and the Ormsby-Gores. And Robert Fraser, of course, who was the consummate drug consumer.
Robert bought a painting of mine from my first show in London in 1965, which of course made me think he was very cool. Which he was. He offered me a job working in his gallery the same year, which would probably have been fascinating, but was not at all what I wanted to do at the time. His openings in the late 60s were incredibly glamorous, with the Stones and Marianne Faithfull and Pete Townshend and all the young aristocrats and debutantes there. Robert was really strange, but on another level which in retrospect I realize was the drugs, and he never gave the slightest public clue that he was gay; there was always a pretty, vacant girl on his arm.
Ossie Clark, whose name always comes up if you talk about drugs, was an absolute original. He and Celia Birtwell, his wife, with whom he had two sons, and whom David Hockney immortalized in his wonderful painting Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy in the Tate (Percy was the cat), made the most beautiful clothes - Celia’s fabrics and Ossie’s astonishing cutting. He put on shows of his clothes in unusual places like a barge on the Regents Canal in Little Venice, and at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square. With music (unheard of then). Ossie had a terribly hopeless sense of business and eventually fell into the horrors of hard drugs. He had, I think, a difficult time about sex; he was very effeminate but very butch as well. I was so sad to learn of his death at the hand of his last so-called lover.
David Hockney showed at the Kasmin gallery, on Bond Street. John Kasmin, always known as Kasmin, had the most radical gallery in London, showing almost exclusively American abstract artists like Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland, as well as Anthony Caro and David Hockney. Kasmin’s partner was Sheridan Dufferin, the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava - a Guinness, a sweet man, who married his cousin, the still adorable and talented artist Lindy Guinness. The parties at their house in Holland Park were legendary in the late 60s. You would find yourself talking to Princess Margaret or Duncan Grant and Angelica Garnett, or Francis Bacon or Stephen Spender or the Queen Mother.
I remember one time I got invited to a cocktail party at Cecil Beaton’s house in South Kensington. I was teaching at an art school in Bath at the time. As I drove back to London in my Mini I skidded and turned over, ending upside down, unharmed, with three years issues of Art Forum (which I had taken to inspire the students) scattered all over the road. I picked up the magazines, walked to a village, arranged for a tow truck, rented a car, and arrived at Cecil’s party fifteen minutes late, just after Mick Jagger. (Cecil talked about Mick’s tight trousers all evening.)
A wonderful book was just published here as Checkered Past and will be in the UK soon as Chequered Past, by Peter Schlesinger. It is a totally charming and evocative book of photographs with comment and anecdote, and is a first hand account of those years in the late sixties when Peter first came from California to live in London, and then into the seventies, by which time I had moved to New York, and by then cocaine had become the drug of choice - The Studio 54 nights etc.
I always liked alcohol better than any other drug, but was always willing to try something. When I was at Cambridge (1968 to 70) somebody spiked the punch at a garden party with LSD and I just loathed the effects of that and particularly the long aftermath of fear and paranoia, but some of the kids there did it all the time and adored it. Nick Drake, the beautiful singer who died so young, brought out his Five Leaves Left album while still at Cambridge. He used to wander into my rooms with his guitar and sing. Is that "Five leaves left” slip still in the package of rolling papers, I wonder?
What was your inspiration for your own painting, James Gibbs which is in the permanent collection of the Tate Museum in England?
I’ll have to give you a bit of background. After I came back to Newcastle from New York in 1964, my work changed, and I started to work on a larger scale, in an "abstract" way that used given imagery. I had found the logo and place mats of the then ubiquitous Howard Johnson restaurants very appealing, and actually had made two little paintings in New York at 25th Street of the Ho-Jo roof and tower logo, rendered abstractly. I then continued this theme back in Newcastle.
Mark Lancaster with one panel of Place
(based on Howard Johnson napkin)
(photo: Richard Morphet)
The most interesting painting was probably what was in fact a 10 foot square painting based on a Howard Johnson napkin, almost all white and off-white, with an undulating ribbon-like border punctuated by the little roof and tower image, in those two great colors they used, turquoise and orange. It was shown at the 1965 ‘Young Contemporaries’ in London, an annual show for students from around the country, where the people who ran the Rowan gallery saw it and eventually offered me a show in November 1965.
I was a teaching assistant at Newcastle, helping Richard Hamilton, from 1965-6, after graduating, and then, because nobody in those days supported themselves from their work, got a job as Lecturer in Painting at the Bath Academy of Art. I moved to London and commuted for four days a week.
The school was housed in a stunningly beautiful house called Corsham Court. Michael Craig-Martin and his wife Jan Hashey and their young daughter Jessica had just arrived there from America, to teach, so they became my closest friends. I longed to go to live in New York, but was hesitant to abandon what was a promising start as an artist in London. Eventually, in 1968, I was invited to be the first Artist in Residence at King’s College, Cambridge, and it was such a beautiful place and I had a strong interest in a lot of connected things, the Bloomsbury Group, E.M. Forster, who was still living in King’s, and it was such an attractive offer, no teaching, just being in touch with the college and simply "being an artist" there, that I jumped at the opportunity.
My paintings by then had become generally grid-based. I had made several versions of an image of green rectangles, based on the Zapruder photographs printed in Life magazine in 1967 of the assassination of JFK. It presented itself to me as a way to make an abstract painting that was also packed with other emotional and hidden meaning. I made a lot of paintings based on the geometry of picture postcards and other printed matter. Then at King’s, surrounded by these well known and beautiful and erratic buildings, I decided to make paintings that I saw as a response to the architecture and the light and the materials of the different buildings in the college, but which were still essentially grids of rectangles. I named them for the various architects who worked on the different stages of the college history.
Henry VI and Mark Lancaster (1969)
King's College campus (Gibbs Building)
(coat by Ossie Clark)
(photo: Andrew Duncan)
The chapel had no known architect, so that painting is called Henry VI for the King who founded it. James Gibbs is named for the architect of the great gritty classical building next to the chapel facing Kings Parade one way and the Backs the other way, with a huge archway in the center, above which I lived and worked. Most of these pictures were made using squeegees and, in James Gibbs, a silkscreen as well.
Others were named for William Wilkins, who designed the Gothic revival entrance on Kings Parade, and George Frederick Bodley, a very fine early 20th century architect who designed Bodley Court, where the college meets the river. Even writing this makes me moved to think of Cambridge and that distant time. I remember watching the first Moon Landing in a little Gothic room where the Fellows’ TV set was, just me and E.M. Forster, aged 90, who thought it an unnecessary adventure.
I noticed on the web that you gave a lecture at the Rhode Island School of Design awhile ago.
It’s interesting that you should find that on the web. It was actually an informal talk at the RISD museum. I live in Rhode Island now, by the way. They had an exhibition of things from Andy Warhol’s collection, borrowed back from the people who had bought them at the Sothebys auction. The Warhol Museum organized the show. Lots of cookie jars, of course, and some interesting art deco stuff. I knew he had a lot of French art deco things and we used to talk about it when we met in Paris in the 70’s, when he and Fred had a very grand apartment there on the Rue du Cherche Midi I think.
So a curator I know at RISD, Judith Tannenbaum, asked me if I would give a gallery talk and I just went and spouted off about 1964 and so on, much as I have here. It was fun in fact, because it reminded me of when I used to do my 1964 slide show with music and so on, Lesley Gore singing You Don’t Own Me, at art schools in England. Almost nobody had been to the USA at that time.
It was at the RISD museum where Andy did the Raid the Icebox show in 1969, so there was a nice link. That exhibition was the result of a visit to Providence R.I. by Jean and Dominique de Menil, the great collectors from Houston who commissioned the Rothko Chapel and founded the Menil museum there. Fred Hughes was their young protégée when he first came to New York in 1967.
Anyway, the de Menils were wonderful, and they were captivated by the holdings in storage at RISD, an incredibly varied collection relating to art and design and the Industrial Revolution, which had created the textile and jewelry and wallpaper industries there, as well as great New England furniture. They suggested the idea of asking an artist to make an exhibition from the holdings, and probably suggested Andy, who was then recuperating from his near-fatal shooting of June 1968.
The show was exhibited in Houston, New Orleans and finally at RISD in April – June 1969. He had picked not only certain things, paintings, objects and so on that he liked, but also the way they were kept in storage was kept exactly as they were exhibited, so that there were hundreds of pairs of shoes, and a whole closet of parasols, all individually catalogued but shown in piles or stacks, and there was a lot of Folk Art too, which he himself collected so assiduously.
Did you know Ray Johnson?
Yes. Andy heard he was in Bellevue Hospital with hepatitis, and asked me if I would go visit him as a “get-well present” from him. This would have been the end of July 1964. It seemed an amusing idea and off I went, with flowers. It was not until later that I realized Andy would not go near a hospital or anybody sick if he could help it.
Bellevue was Dickensian, endless gloomy brick and tiled corridors and so vast. I found Ray, in his bed in a large ward, by the window with a little view of the East River. I went twice. The second time there was another visitor, an amazing old lady with frizzy white hair. This was Sari Dienes, an artist and collage-maker, who had, she told me, studied with Ozenfant, come from Hungary to New York in 1939, and she lived in a commune of artists at Stony Point, where John Cage also lived.
Ray started mailing me things, even addressed to the East 47th Street Factory. I gave him a photograph of me, wearing a t shirt with MARK across the chest. I guess two or three years later he used it in a collage for a show he had at the Feigen Gallery. This had to have been 1966 at the earliest, as the London address he added was not mine until summer 1966. He made me a beautiful drawing of a Brick Snake as well. He lived near me on the Lower East Side in the 70s, and we would see each other on the street and at openings. He was sweet and odd and distant really. He got mugged in the neighborhood and moved out to Locust Valley on Long Island. His work is exquisitely beautiful, crazy and very entertaining. He established various “Fan Clubs” to meetings of which one would be invited. One was for Shelley Duvall, another was the Dead Pan Club, as well as the New York Correspondance School, his main outlet for mail art.
The strangest piece of mail I have from him I had forgotten about until you asked me about him. In an envelope mailed to me in New York dated August 12, 1972, is a postcard written to me September 15, 1964, and not mailed for eight years. This is what it says, typed:
“When I left Bellevue in the rain under John Daley’s umbrella, I had stolen a pair of blue pajamas you admired that I intended to get to you as soon as I was sprung but the weather got cold and I have had to wear them to keep warm. I do not usually wear pajamas. I have for you my identidication (sic) plastic left wrist band also your England address courtesy Billy Linich. Ray Johnson”
I had not seen or heard from Ray for years when news of his strange death, presumed a suicide, was published.
to part 2