Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Everybody loved them. Everyone loved them NOW I mean. But they were around for a long time before anyone saw them. My boss made them, the three original Cleavage Pets, in 1933. 1933 was a year that was ready for a lot of things — I was there — we were ready for the end of prohibition, we were ready for a NEW DEAL, we were even ready for the first sighting of the Loch Ness Monster.
“Timing is everything,” Holly Van Voast said, "and we aren’t going to see the right time for these little bastards till TwoThousandThen, we just aren't.”
TwoThousandThen, TwoThousandThen, TwoThousandThen… I heard a lot of that. And I probably would have dismissed her as just another loopy tomato… but she said things and did things
that sometimes gave me the manshivers. I really got the manshivers one day in 1933 when she showed me a drawing she’d done one night to entertain her girlfriends with.
“I know it says BILL, but it really is more about my appreciation for Charles Bukowski.”
What can you possibly say to that? I was working late in my office in the LENSJOCKEY Building in New York City (at the time her quiet newspaper HQ) and she just dropped this notebook down in front of me. Of course, at a glance I could tell instantly generally what I was looking at, but further inspection revealed a rather revolutionary document. How many tomatoes could diagram the sensitivity zones of manland? How many guys ever diagrammed it? I was just reading the most recent COSMOPOLITAN magazine, and there was a Dr. a real doctor woman… a “certified sex educator and relationship expert,” who just this month wrote, “In fact, it is true that nothing you do with your hand is going to be “better” than what your guy can do with his (in general, a steady, rhythmic pressure feels amazing, with your hand rotating down his shaft in a corkscrew motion.)”
“Well, you’re never gonna give a guy a better handjob than he gives himself if you don’t know THIS," HVV said, lazily drawing her finger up and down the length of the shaft in the drawing. For me.
She had actually gotten to about 9 times better than what a guy could do for himself with her knowledge. I won’t say any more about that.
“Damn, you know I was gonna wait a few more years to drop this on people, like everything else… but the world is in such shit Then… really, I hadn’t anticipated so much bullshit in the culture — if no one cares, no one cares. Christ noone’s done this? I couldn’t even find something like this on Gooble.”
“That’s Google,” I told her. Holly was a genius, but the internet was sortof a lot for someone in 1933, even someone like her. Somehow it worked out good that I was the one who went forward to TwoThousandThen. I more instinctively acquired a grasp of the wild new technologies, anyway, she trusted me, and my pictures.
The internet blew my mind. The porn alone “online” would have melted guys minds in 1933. Melted their minds! The world I was in now — decades after the world I as born into and should have rightfully stayed in, seemed to have turned a corner when you started to be able to buy things with these little plastic cards.
I don’t know what the Cleavage Pets would have done to peoples’ minds in 1933, but the people and the clothes were not ready. HVV knew that… in fact this kindof “before your time” situation with her ideas happened so often. The Cleavage Pets were inspired by something her dad made for HVV’s mother one day.
"He was so ahead of his time sometimes… I could tell, but most others were too close to see that… he was totally into the idea of “drive-in” theaters in 1918… but that wasn’t gonna fly till 33."
She INHERITED that particular quality from her father. I am convinced that is something you can inherit.
She made three of the Cleavage Pets. I remember the first time I saw them. As cute as they were, I’ll never forget the first sight I had of Lydia’s creamy real estate like a valley in a picture, in the background of a picture Holly pulled out of her files one day.
“The Three Graces, Stooges, Musketeers… the Holy Trinity… The Police — all you need to start something is three.” She said. Two of them had gold teeth, one of them looked quite sour, but when tucked in a nice pair, suddenly the expressions took on a certain... life. I thought it was interesting that anyone who saw them immediately recognized how funny and great they were, but even Then, even THEN — decades in the future, we still had to wonder if it wasn't too early to make the idea actually sell. And, we were not alone in our high hopes for The Cleavage Pets. We were happy we still had them.
There were the “Dylan before Dylan” albums. HVV saw Dylan coming, but she didn’t have the technology to record either “John Singer Sargent” or “FRONT COVER” till, well, after Dylan. Nobody was gonna go for that — especially from a woman, before Dylan. It’s too bad — I bet quite a few people would have liked the song “Painting” (on the B-side of the album) — it was a super instrumental that captured the chess game that is painting. Stroke by stroke, the guitar would lay the song out, totally painting the picture you’d see finally at the end of the song. Way ahead of it’s time. The wild thing is that most people would see the same picture, from listening to the instrumental. That was a pretty good trick.
“Even Dylan himself had to tell you what you were supposed to see,” she told me.
And “Drawing Conclusions” — has to be heard to believe.
“FRONT COVER” — also known as the “Blue Cup Album” — signaled the beginning of the ideas Holly was having about news and fiction and an artform that was gonna be big, it was big, and it was called “videos.” “A Killer’s Killer” was the first full music video to be shot with absolutely no acting — in fact the subjects of the video had no idea they were being shot. The actual people and places that told the song’s story were completely shot candidly in the hidden infrared format over 8 years. By me.
“The actual reverse engineering of the story out of the years of candid photography was the hardest. I never really knew when I was finished, except to have an instinctual relationship with my subjects to begin with. My gut was the storyteller.
...like a card game, with characters just like a real deck. Like… there were Queens and Jokers and Aces, but the Queens were neoburlesque dancers, the Jokers were jockeys, the Aces were architecture, the King was The Freak. Oh sorry, that's a different story — but the point is — I try to play the footage (I shot) like a poker hand. Making a story out of the evidence of events... Right in front of people. The music, that was easy. In the video, I tried to turn photography on it’s side, use it like noone else before.”
“We had Phil Spector too. He did an awesome job bringing out the tobacco stained brilliance of the guitarwork. In the language of TwoThousandThen, it really did “kill.” It killed photography like Dylan would kill with his own switch to electric instruments. This was an album where the photography was the point — unlike most albums where the music really did dominate the dynamic of the expression.
I'm trying to make this as simple as possible, but it IS a new idea for you as an audience, readers. This is the colorful reality.
“Phil really did me a favor to with this album. Not only was he between two murder trials, he was also producing a whole record for his wife at the same time... well, supposedly... I mean, that's what she said.”
Luckily HVV didn’t need as much help as Rachelle.
“When Phil eventually got convicted and went to jail, well, that didn’t make either of us too happy.”
I really wish I had been around to shoot the recording of THAT album. The riffing she did with those early early infrared pictures was spectacular. You can really see what she was doing now with me even then, but in a smaller more easily digested way. So simple… the idea of shooting first (for as long as it takes to build up such a deck of characters)… and then shuffling them and creating a whole new world out of them —
it really was a whole other card game with the cards everyone else just called pictures. When Dylan DID eventually see and hear these albums, even he had to say he’d never thought of the reverse engineering of a story from the actual pictures taken to "document" events and people in real life.
“Fuck,” said Dylan, “I never thought of anything like that…,” then he went on to talk about some other stuff, shaking his head. It’s a long story.
Holly was so glad she’d gotten to meet the man (Phil) who inspired her so much before he was even around to see what she did. Who wouldn’t like that? Phil felt the same way. Phil totally dug the photorevisionist ideas Holly would spend hours telling him about. It was orchestration, arrangement, and within a supertight frame, of mass data. HVV thought that Phil had done something musically speaking, akin to developing the atomic bomb.
"His songs reached a critical mass like stage..." she'd start up, hahah.
“Fuck!” said Phil one day, “you know, she’s kindof crazy, that reverse engineering… those ideas… John Lennon — when John told Yoko to pack her bags… at first I wasn’t quite sure why he’d dropped the Y-O-K-O… but now… Christ… — what’s it like to work with her everyday Don?”
My name’s Don Spiro. I hope I don’t LOOK like a guy who’d swallow a lot of insane chick talk.
This is just an account. It wasn’t my idea to reshuffle reality for a neojournalistic edge, but I thought it was an interesting way to approach my boss’s biggest problem, when she told me about it.
She’d begun by simply reporting the future as I shot it to the past, hoping to entertain 1933 with a look into TwoThousandThen. She didn’t really want to melt people’s minds with the porn of the future, noone would want to do that, but what was really happening was not really impressing the past that much. People still looked the same, dressed the same, they had freaks back then too — trust me, 1933 was FULL OF FREAKS.
The collective “whatever,” from the past drove my boss to “think outside the box” as they liked to say so much now.
“A box?” she’d say to me… (HVV felt that that phrase sounded like “the McDonald’s advertisement of philosophy.”)
“How primitive, and you can’t move, with a sphere you can roll — I want to think outside the SPHERE.”
...and since people had super short attention spans and even shorter memories, it was quite easy to just start over…
and people at least thought it was original.
Oh sure, there were things people didn’t want to hear. Or couldn’t understand right away. But she’d nicked them all like a vampire in the beginning with The Cleavage Pets™. I mean, after that, wouldn't you follow that person anywhere?
In TwoThousandThen, people were mistaking Inception for the Immaculate Perception…
“the people of the future start to appear like the architecture of the future… transparent slick superficially shiny in personality. Fragile, with skins and personalities of glass. Personalities that take less time to create, personalities with the same face… hella just like the architecture. Blowing the mind of the past showing them a vision of the future was on HVV's end an attempt to
"scare the bejeezus out of the past so they might shape up a small bit or two.”
Holly wanted to get a message like that across… as with others.
“So many people really cannot tell the difference between Bloomberg and Dahmer — even in the far far future!” “They have no nose for the truth anyway, just like now.” “Lie about the future to change the past — NOW!“ that was what she wanted to do.
“I think MTV did that,” she said “in a way.” I thought that is was cool that she could talk so well about that kindof thing in 1933… I’m not sure if many women — or men, could have. But she had the machine, and they didn’t, so we’ll never know.
“Now and the past know the future from nothing.”
Lydia I met like I said when I saw her breasts in the picture of the Cleavage Pet that HVV had shown me.
She became my assistant when I’d just been shooting at the racetracks in NYC early in the “operation.” After we had spent some time together, I realized she’d meet less guys if she became a neoburlesque dancer, so I encouraged her to start dancing. That was also after my wife Diane died. I swear I was good till then.
But Lydia wasn’t. I am just trying to let you know about Lydia.
Oh Jesus… it wasn’t enough that the songs on her second album (songs she sang while she did her performances — songs which WERE her performances) were songs like, “Oh You Silly Indians” and “The Buffalo are Damn Gone Y’all (Let’s Get Over It, Let’s Get Over It”). The songs meant a lot to her, bless her badass little bad ass, and there was an awful “Wholelotta Wholelotta” truth in them… but people were JUST maybe ALMOST ready to take that when HVV went and produced the Lydia’s routines. And I mean she wrote the songs, played them, and designed and made the costumes, under the name NEOFRONTIER, and she also designed the posters/album covers under the name Cool Anonymous.
I know this is alot.
Blackface Indian Bling, we had to hold that show in The Swooning Dewd,” the speakeasy under my place, Spiro’s. The character she used for the BIB performances was La Roja Noche — the name she used as her regular burlesque persona was Medianoche. Let’s put it this way, she was not a bad photographer, and she was a great assistant, but her shake was wasted on it. And those jokers, I mean jockeys, I just didn’t want her around them, no, no, no, no, no.
In her performances, she was assistant to no one. You’d be surprised by how the past got her. Or at least, she got them, She got them good.
“Smart shit is the broccoli of entertainment,” Holly said, and in the future, it just gets worse anyway. Let’s just replace the Kardasians with these chin dogs? I think the people here (in 1933) will think that’s funny, and we don’t have shots of the Kardasians anyway.” “Lets have the chins stand for the Kardasians in the new stories.”
I told Holly to stop. Haha. Since we knew who the Kardasian sisters were, we thought this was so much funnier than anyone in the past could possibly know, but they’d still like this in 1933. Dogs.
Sometimes we got carried away — “Kim Kardasian DWI!”
“Wait —,” said Holly, “that’s too close to the truth for this project.” While Holly and I were trying to tighten up the details for the operation, we had to amuse ourselves every once in awhile. “… hahaha… … Kardasian… sisters.”
TO BE CONTINUED.
NOTE! THIS IS A COMPLETELY FICTIONAL ACCOUNT USING THE REAL PEOPLE I HAVE PHOTOGRAPHED IN AND AROUND NEW YORK CITY FOR YEARS. IT IN NO WAY REFLECTS REALITY!
here are the other episodes sofar:
episode 2) — http://lensjockey.blogspot.com/2010/09/cleavage-pets-nyc-reality-noir.html
episode 3) — http://lensjockey.blogspot.com/2010/09/cleavage-pets-nyc-reality-noir-episode.html
episode 4) — http://lensjockey.blogspot.com/2010/10/cleavage-pets-nyc-reality-noir-episode.html