Purple Magazine
— F/W 2007 issue 8

Gary Indiana

letter from GARY INDIANA

These things either need to be said or, let’s put it this way, anyone who isn’t saying something like them here these days is either too rich to see anything but Tiffany’s windows or too depressed to look outside.


Dear Olivier,

Are you not coming to New York, or have you been and gone? I decided against sending you anything for Purple Fashion because I didn’t get down to business with that transvestite travesty I wanted to commence…I’m right now editing the last batch of essays for the collection Basic Books is publishing AFTER the Warhol book, I want to get that wrapped up and “in the can” before summer’s end…

My dear I miss Paris and I miss everything. New York is a hellhole during the summer although, for the first time in years, it’s also a ghost town in mid-July, as it used to be, which makes it rather eerily like an earlier time, before every street really WAS a boulevard, lined with hideous highrise Shit Dungeons for the Very Rich.

The other day I had the horrible thought, as I was walking on Bowery, vis-a-vis my friend Bill Rice, who died over a year ago, and was my best friend in the world for 30 years: “Maybe Bill died at just the right time.” He was so attached to this neighborhood that whenever I was with him and we had to spend some hours somewhere else, performing or whatever, he’d reach the point of becoming uncomfortable…you know, he’d lived the same habits for decades, and his life was rich, all the same; but he wouldn’t even recognize his own block now.

I’m rather less attached.

I was trapped the other night on a hideous “cruise” in one of those glass-shelled mammoth boats that go down the Hudson and around the Bight up the East River, some dilettante photographer, richer than god, who looked like a turd in a three-piece suit, the kind with family money from some kind of toxic toilet bowl cleanser, had an opening that this con artist/art dealer friend was somehow involved in putting up…the show was just nothing, a lot of money spent on big, big digital prints, faces, you could see every hair in the subjects’s noses but they all looked artificially angst-ridden or, I dunno: stupid. Like he’d told them to “look natural,” and except for a couple of youngish people they all looked like something out of Breughel. Natural, maybe, but the rich are different from us…

And the photographer, with whom I’d apparently had a row in some Chinese restaurant a couple years ago, had hired this GIANT BOAT for an after-opening party of about two hundred guests, dinner and drinks and a sundown tour up the East River as far as, I guess, Sutton Place or thereabouts, then the boat turned around, and skirled around the Statue of Liberty, and even though it didn’t do the whole island it still took 3 hours. And my dear, I was fucking trapped on this Ship of Fools with mainly the WORST people you can possibly imagine, almost every one of them a bona fide world class bore: friends of the artist, no doubt. The two or three people I actually liked, people I already knew, weren’t at their best on the water, frankly. Conversation was a strain. Dinner was a strain. The Statue of Liberty was a banality wrapped in a cliché. It just looked like a tired old dyke. So I had the melancholic pleasure of looking at Dead Island and Brooklyn slosh by like a laundry tub of painful memories and the added fun of listening to a bunch of jumped-up hyenas go on about real estate.

My con artist friend actually had plans to ensorcel me into yet another convoluted, unpleasant involvement in some Project to promote one of his marks…this only worked once before, now I’m on to it. I’ve only really kept a lasting friendship with one gigolo, and he’s rather better than a gigolo–; the con artist, on the other hand, lives off the earnings of women and anyone else with a bank account, and with him, everything’s murky, a big mystery, he’s one of those people who mumbles whenever he’s about to trip over an ugly fact. I used to know him in a passing way, years ago, when he was part of an avant-garde theater group, then he dropped from view when they bifurcated into warring factions. About three years ago he resurfaced at a small dinner party Glenn had for his birthday. I assumed, for some reason, that since there were only about six at dinner, he was a close friend of Glenn’s, and ergo all right (though this is a dangerous assumption in itself), and let him talk me into a Project that occupied me off and on for over a year. It was a steady drip drip drip of emergency income, but not something I really wanted to do. Okay, it was “legit,” I wasn’t horrified by what I had to write, but…it got me entangled with one of those vampires who’s been around forever, on the fringes of everything, someone I associated and still associate with the eternally fifth-rate with delusions of grandeur.

And then the con compromised me, professionally speaking….not seriously, not immorally, I wouldn’t say, but let’s say he violated my own ethical boundaries and obliged me to do the same, and I’ve felt strange about him ever since. I had to act in bad faith with an old friend who’s never done anything but good for me, and I’m still nauseated by it after two years.
Anyway, the clincher is, he’s dying. Mr. Smoothie. So as I tend to think that trumps other things, I’ve stayed on good terms with him. Or resumed them after basically avoiding him for a year. But he’s dying, and I may have a low opinion of him but certainly don’t wish him dead.

And it seems I have a depressing number of friends either dying or dead from liver cancer, I assume these are all people who used to shoot up drugs, I never did, myself, so I imagine I’ll die from something else. Another lifelong friend of mine died two weeks ago in Los Angeles, liver cancer again, not from shooting up but from AIDS-related something–well, actually, AIDS-medicine-related liver cancer. That’s what they don’t tell people about that chemical cocktail that controls AIDS, it gives you liver cancer. So does Hepatitis C, sooner or later. That “cure” shit with interferon is a scam. It knocks you out for six months, you feel better for six months if you can get your strength back afterwards, so you think it worked.

Sorry to be so nonstop hilarious. Anyway I miss you, miss Paris, miss having a life instead of just inhabiting one like a hermit crab…I shall be very glad to polish off this essay collection, it fulfills my obligations to Basic Books and takes care of the next couple years as far as bringing out books goes. I don’t have any rules about that but I usually feel forgotten and there’s nothing like another failed book to make you remember how forgotten you are. Actually, I have some hopes vis-a-vis Warhol, since anything with Andy’s name attached to it tends to sell, I think the book is quite unlike anything ever written about him, but of course that’s irrelevant in this country, where the proper name is the only thing that really counts. Perhaps I should now write something on Paris Hilton.

Olivier, let me hear from you. I hate to seeem plangent but I am terribly lonely and depressed these days, New York is so thin and bare on the ground, Barbet is in Japan for the next six months, most of my friends are scattered to the four winds, and there is no center here, nothing to hold on to. Except work and very intermittent contact with friends. These days they can live two blocks away and might as well be on the moon for all I see anyone.

This morning’s Times has a front page article on some multizillionaire who thinks the Gilded Age was the cat’s pajamas. You know, I can’t think of a more depressing thing to have splashed on the cover of the Sunday New York Times: Gilded Age Was Wonderful. The Adams brothers wrote the book on that, “Chapters of Erie,” the best book on American politics ever written. And the Adamses were among the people who fucking OWNED the country, they knew where the bodies were buried and knew what they were talking about. I’ll tell you something: except for Renata Adler, I don’t know a single person who’s ever read that book. American memory doesn’t go back further than yesterday, as you know. But there was a reason why Teddy Roosevelt and later FDR put the lid on these self-aggrandizing bastards, and it wasn’t out of love of the working man, they knew that if people had to eat too much shit they’d strangle the rich in their beds.

I don’t know if that’s true any more or not. We have such an efficient brainwashing mechanism here. You can get people to militate against their own interests, if you threw them in a stewpot they’d stand up and salt themselves. Yet there must be some sort of limit threshhold to what people will put up with; or maybe not. I really don’t have any idea.

I’ve been reading a fascinating study of Small World Networks. We must talk about it. Maybe I could write something for you about it. Or Elein. I dunno. It seems the same pattern, the same mathematical constants apply in ALL SYSTEMS. This includes human neurological systems, food distribution networks, capital organization, the Internet, everything. At the same time that I started reading about this, I re-read Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould’s “Wonderful Life,” about the fossil hoarde found in the Burgess Shale in British Colombia. It’s the only place they ever found substantial fossils, intacto, of invertebrate phyla, and they were apparently preserved by a mudslide during the last great die-off, the so-called Cambrian Explosion. What they found were over 100 phlya. All life on earth as we know it evolved from 4. Which means only 4 made it through the die-off, and those 4 have evolved exactly according to Darwin. Including us. So, 2% of contingency accounts for the existence of consciousness. The existence of human persons and mammals. We could’ve had, instead, creatures without consciousness that had ten eyes and four vertebral spines or what have you.

These two phenomena relate. 2% contingency is more or less all you need to maintain a network of 40 billion connections. You can remove connections down to about 2% and the network will continue running. I’m not stating this as elegantly as I could if I had more time.
Olivier, if ANYTHING should occur to you that would enable me to spend a considerable period in Europe–not even Paris necessarily, but anywhere within reasonable proximity thereto–please let me know. I am so desperately in need of a long break from this place….

Anyway, much love to you,


[Table of contents]

F/W 2007 issue 8

Subscribe to our newsletter