Purple Magazine
— Purple #39 The New York issue

Bob Colacello

THE CELEBRATED EDITOR, WRITER, AND JOURNALIST BOB COLACELLO TALKS ABOUTT NEW YORK AS
THE WORLD’S CAPITAL OF ART, MEDIA, AND NIGHTLIFE.

INTERVIEW BY OLIVIER ZAHM AND ALEPH MOLINARI

PORTRAIT BY JACK PIERSON

ALL ARTWORK COPYRIGHT BOB COLACELLO, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND VITO SCHNABEL GALLERY

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, Bob, how would you describe a New Yorker?

BOB COLACELLO — I think New Yorkers are open to new things. Open to new people. We’re resilient. Whether it was 9/11 or blackouts over the years or hurricanes, people keep going. New Yorkers are also very loyal to their friends, and I know of many cases personally where friends were involved in some kind of scandal or lost a lot of money, or were ill or dying, where people did not drop them because of that. Do you know a photographer named David Seidner? These are his photographs. That’s Eric Fischl, Ross Bleckner, and Francesco Clemente. They’re part of a series of 56 artists he did. He was from Los Angeles, and when he finished high school, I think, he went to Paris, and he fell in with Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. And they hired him to do Saint Laurent as we started publishing him in Interview. They were like collages, his early works. He had AIDS. I guess it was in the ’90s when the cocktails started; he was already very weak, so all the drugs really had bad reactions. I mean, he suffered a lot, and Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera, Patty and Gustavo Cisneros, Marie-Chantal, Pia Getty — they all took turns sending their drivers every morn- ing with food for lunch and dinner. It was typical of what New Yorkers do, even though everyone I’ve named is Venezuelan or Greek or… But everyone in New York is from somewhere else because it has always been an open city, in a way that Boston and Philadelphia are not.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s the door to America.

BOB COLACELLO — But the elites in New York always accepted the next wave. In Philadelphia or Boston, if you’re not from an old family, it’s much harder. Whereas in New York, the Vanderbilts accepted the Astors, the Astors accepted the Rockefellers, the Rockefellers accepted the Lauders. They brought them into the clubs, into the museums. They always took the new energy. I think that’s still very much what New York is about.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And this sense of community extends to the art and fashion scene. People exchange, meet on the street, at dinners, in cafés. There’s something very organic about it.

BOB COLACELLO — Well, even starting in the 1950s, with the Abstract Expressionists… After World War II, or even probably during the war, the center of art shifted from Paris to New York, and the Abstract Expressionists were very much a community. They all went to Cedar Tavern. That’s before my time, but then the next generation, with the Pop artists — the artists lived downtown.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And how did the art scene change during your time?

BOB COLACELLO — When I started working with Andy Warhol in 1970, the contemporary art world was a village in New York. You had 10 well-known artists, like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella. The only woman who was on that level was Louise Nevelson; Helen Frankenthaler, a bit less. Then you had a handful of collectors, S.I. Newhouse, Peter Brant… And Saul Steinberg, Keith Barish. This is before Gagosian. Gagosian didn’t come till the ’80s — he was in Los Angeles. Then SoHo became the center for a long time. The galleries in SoHo were Paula Cooper, Holly Solomon, Leo Castelli, Ileana Sonnabend, and Charles Cowles. That was it. We all went to Ballato’s because there wasn’t even a good restaurant in SoHo itself. Ballato’s was on Houston, going toward the Bowery. And it was a village. Now, it’s a metropolis.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And a shopping mall.

BOB COLACELLO — The contemporary art world goes from Hong Kong to Berlin to New York. And the artists are in Williamsburg, Bushwick… There must be a thousand contemporary art galleries. There are so many artists. There’s no way you could keep up with it. But these artists do form groups. Like Vito Schnabel’s gallery, Spencer Lewis and Robert Nava… They’re all friends, and, well, Spencer’s wife, Caitlin Lonegan, also shows with Vito. The thing about New York is it’s never been a city with just one main industry, like Detroit with cars, LA with movies, Washington DC with politics. It’s always had six or seven big industries, starting with finance. But then, you have the garment district, fashion. You have the art business and the book-publishing industry.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And the power of the media!

BOB COLACELLO — New York is a city where your work life and social life don’t have to be a duplicate of each other. Finance people want to have friends who are in art, or theater is another big one. It’s very easy to mix here, to not be stuck in one industry or one box. In a few words, New York is open, resilient, loyal, and diverse.

OLIVIER ZAHM — There’s also this love of the new — it’s in the name.

BOB COLACELLO — Love of novelty and the new, yes.

OLIVIER ZAHM — As a young writer working at Interview magazine, it must have been incredible, with the power of the press. The power of The Village Voice, The New York Times, Artforum…

BOB COLACELLO — Yes. I actually started out writing for The Village Voice. That’s how Andy discovered me.

ALEPH MOLINARI — You wrote a review of Trash, no?

BOB COLACELLO — Well, that was not the first one I wrote. I went to school in Washington, Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and I thought I was going to be a diplomat or follow my father in the coffee trade. He worked for Swiss commodities traders, and he ran their coffee operation from New York. I always liked everything international, and they were kind of grooming me to work in that company.

ALEPH MOLINARI — So, everything shifted because of your interest in films?

BOB COLACELLO — I was brought up in a very sheltered, strict, Italian-Catholic way. I was always the good boy. I was the teacher’s pet, and I never did anything wrong. I didn’t smoke cigarettes. I got straight As. Suddenly I’m away from my parents for the first time in 18 years, and I kind of explored everything. I decided that when I graduated from Georgetown, I didn’t want to be a diplomat. I didn’t want to work in the coffee trade. I wanted to be a filmmaker. In 1969, a lot of young Americans of my generation wanted to be filmmakers because it was the golden age of Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Alain Resnais, Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Luchino Visconti. And then, we had the underground movies here. I saw Chelsea Girls, like, four times in an art theater in Washington with my friends from Georgetown. My parents said: “Okay, you can go to Columbia. We’ll pay your tuition, but we can’t get you an apartment in Manhattan. You have to live with us in the suburbs until you figure out a way to make money and get an apartment.” So, I’m going home every night to the suburbs.

ALEPH MOLINARI — And when did you start writing about film?

BOB COLACELLO — At Columbia, the professor of art history and film criticism was Andrew Sarris. He was the film critic for The Village Voice, which as you said was very powerful then, both culturally and politically. And we had to review a film a week for his class, like homework. And he would publish the two or three he liked best in The Village Voice, which was great because, first of all, it was like $75 a review. I was able to get an apartment for $100 dollars a month up at Columbia, a fifth-floor walkup. My first review was of Antonio das Mortes, this Brazilian avant-garde film. I would always pick films that I knew he wouldn’t review, that were too avant-garde for him, so I had a better chance of him publishing it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — How did you end up meeting Andy Warhol?

BOB COLACELLO — After I wrote five or six reviews, I’m having dinner with my parents in suburbia, the phone rings, my mother answers and says, “Oh, it’s for you.” And this guy named Søren Agenoux, which was a completely made-up name — Søren was from Søren Kierkegaard, and Agenoux, apparently in France, means on your knees, à genoux. I thought it meant “ingenue,” like young starlet. Anyway, he didn’t look like a young starlet. He was very strange. But he said: “I’m the editor of a new magazine that Andy Warhol started, Interview. Andy and Paul Morrissey [who directed Warhol’s films] have been reading your reviews in The Village Voice, and they want to meet you because they thought maybe you can write for Interview.” So, I’m like, “I can’t believe this.” My idols were Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, William Burroughs. I liked all the rebels of that age. Jean Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers — I think I memorized it. I said to my parents: “Oh, my god, Andy Warhol wants to meet me. And he started a magazine.” My father said, “I forbid you to meet with this creep who, makes movies about boys who want to be girls.” They didn’t see his movies, but they read about it in the yellow press. And so, of course, I couldn’t wait to finish school the next day and get down to Union Square. And they asked me to start writing for them. After a few months, I reviewed Trash. I said it was a great Roman Catholic masterpiece à la Our Lady of the Flowers, and I described Joe Dallesandro’s “Greco-Roman” ass, and they loved it. So, I go to hand in something at Interview, and they were like: “Oh, wow, we love that review. And we had to fire Søren Agenoux” — because he was apparently stealing some money. And Andy said, “Oh, we have to talk to Paul.” So, Paul says: “We want you to be the new editor. Forty dollars a week.” I said, “Forty dollars a week!” Even for that time, it was very little. And he said: “It’s a part-time job. You’re going to Columbia, and they’ll give you credits if you work for us.” So, I said, “Let me come back tomorrow.” And I had this friend, Glenn O’Brien, at Columbia, who also had been at Georgetown, and I had dinner with him and his wife. We would see each other all the time. And I told him: “You won’t believe this. They want to make me editor of Andy Warhol’s magazine.” And he said, “I want to be a part of it.” So, I went back the next day, and I told Paul: “Look, I’ll work for $50. My friend Glenn will be my deputy for $40 a week, and his wife will be an intern.” I mean, they printed 5,000 copies. Half of them had so much ink on them because the printer in Chinatown couldn’t understand “less ink.” So, we had to throw out 2,500, and the rest we used to give away at MoMA and Anthology Film Archives, Jonas Mekas’s film center.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It must have been so exciting. How was it at the Factory back then?

BOB COLACELLO — We didn’t really know what we were doing, but it was exciting. Andy had been shot two years before, so it wasn’t the same wild scenes of the ’60s and filming all the time. And the speed freaks had been weeded out. The so-called “superstars.” Andy had this idea that crazy people were creative people. And his films, the early ones, were more like reality TV. He took people who talked a lot and were willing exhibitionists, so they would talk about their sex lives, they would talk about anything, and he would put a camera on a tripod and let them talk. But all those people went after the shooting, except for Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn, and Jackie Curtis, who were the three drag queens who were much more stable, let’s say. Candy was absolutely beautiful — everyone thought she was a woman. They were making a movie called Women in Revolt, which was a parody of feminism. And they were making a movie called L’Amour in Paris with Jane Forth and Donna Jordan. Karl Lagerfeld had a part in that movie. It was about two American models who go to Paris to try to marry French aristocrats. They were all comedies. After Trash, there was Heat. Trash came out in ’70 — I started there in ’70. And Andy said, “Oh, if you can get The Village Voice to let you write something about our Trash tour of Germany, we’ll take you along.” And that was the first trip I went on with the whole group.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You were at the center of New York, working with Warhol.

BOB COLACELLO — Yes, it was very New York, the way he operated. And Andy wasn’t like Jasper Johns — you could just walk into his studio. And that he even had a magazine and was interested in young people… Andy, already in the ’60s, had The Velvet Underground, had a discothèque on St. Mark’s Place. Andy was always interested in creating a scene.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And in this scene, there were also all the trans and queer people he would welcome.

BOB COLACELLO — Well, “queer” was an insult then. And the word “gay” was just emerging, in a funny way.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What would you call them?

BOB COLACELLO — “Queens.” I don’t know. It was also that there were a lot of hunky, masculine guys like Joe Dallesandro, like in Lonesome Cowboys. It was everything. I guess that today, you would say it was pansexual.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Yes.

BOB COLACELLO — But by the ’70s, it became more corporate. It became Andy Warhol Enterprises. Again, because of the shooting, Andy pulled away from the more extreme people. So, Joe Dallesandro was very much around. Paul loved Joe Dallesandro. But Joe, during the day, when he wasn’t making a movie, he was like the bodyguard at the Factory.

OLIVIER ZAHM — The sexy bodyguard.

BOB COLACELLO — It still was… For example, Bertolucci came to New York with The Conformist. I interviewed him up at the Algonquin Film Festival, and I said, “You should come to lunch at the Factory and meet Andy.” Mick Jagger would show up because Andy was doing the Sticky Fingers album cover. But there were also lots and lots of young people. Andy was starting a video diary and video projects with Vincent Fremont, who was also doing the financial side. And I had a friend, Michael Netter at Georgetown — he had a videocam, and I brought him to meet Andy. So, Andy hired him. We were all in our 20s. Andy had the instinct to make young people do things in a different way. They actually don’t know what they’re doing, so it’s more creative. They’re not following the formula. It was very open. And Max’s Kansas City — there still were a lot of the older superstars there. But New York itself was just very fluid. This was before Forbes magazine with the billionaires list. It was before the Reagan administration with the glorification of capitalism. It was cheap to live in New York.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And New York was not a money city.

BOB COLACELLO — It wasn’t a money city. Even the rich people on Park Avenue — like the Eberstadts, Ahmet Ertegun — were involved with the museums. Ahmet Ertegun was producing the Rolling Stones. You didn’t say, “Oh, they’re worth 500 million, or he’s one billion.” You just said: “Oh, they’re rich people. They have big apartments, and they have parties because they have big apartments.” As you said, it was much more free and about mixing. In Interview, Andy really pushed that idea. It was not an art magazine; it was not even a fashion magazine. It was a little bit of everything. We saw each issue like a dinner party. You’d have one fashion designer, one politician, a beautiful girl model, a beautiful boy model, the ambassador from China to the United Nations, and Vitas Gerulaitis, the tennis star.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What you did with Interview at the time is still very influential for Purple.

BOB COLACELLO — Whatever Andy did, the whole magazine business was watching. All the people at the advertising agencies, at Time magazine, Time Life, Women’s WearDaily. Because Andy had a reputation for doing new things and because it was very small, they could copy us.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Did Andy Warhol have any editorial rules for the magazine?

BOB COLACELLO — Andy only gave me two rules. For the Elvis issue, Glenn and I wrote poems to Elvis. Andy said: “No more poetry, only the tape recorder. That’s modern.” For the layout, he said that every photograph should be full-page — make every photo as big as possible, even party pictures because they become more interesting when you blow them up. The other thing he said was no type on the photos. He really believed in photography. His work was photography. It was criticized for that, the silk screens. But he also collected photography, starting in the ’50s: Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier Bresson, Edward Curtis… That gave us a look. Andy said everything should be fast, easy, cheap, and modern. The layouts were very simple to do — they weren’t comp­licated. Andy felt that if it took too long to do something, if it was too hard to do it, it was the wrong project for you. We paid $25 an interview, $25 a photograph. So, we couldn’t afford Richard Avedon, let’s say, which was better. We could afford Robert Mapplethorpe, whom nobody had heard of yet, or Chris Makos, or Bruce Weber. And same thing with the writers. Fran Lebowitz was driving a taxi, and she had the “I Cover the Water-front” column on the back page, which became a book after she wrote two years’ worth.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Did you enjoy working at Interview?

BOB COLACELLO — What was fun about being the editor of Interview was that it was about discovery. We had the Inter Man page and the ViewGirl page, of young people who maybe had a small part in a movie, but they were pretty girls, so maybe we’d do a full page photograph. A lot of careers were launched from that because even people in Hollywood would use Interview as an idea place.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Why did you decide to leave Interview? You went to Vanity Fair.

BOB COLACELLO — Yeah, well, by that point, Interview by ’82 was making money, like $2 million a year. We had a hundred thousand readers.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, Interview had become something?

BOB COLACELLO — Yeah, it was successful. And one of the problems is that this jealousy developed between Andy and me. I was starting to get my own press as editor of Interview, and I became friendly with Nancy Reagan, and it would be like, “The White House is calling for Bob Colacello.” They weren’t calling for Andy Warhol. In addition, Andy had this new boyfriend, Jon Gould, who I was sure wanted to take over the magazine. So, there were some problems.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It was time to go?

BOB COLACELLO — I was 35, I’d been there for 13 years, I’d half-written two of Andy’s books. I’d sold lots of art, and I didn’t want to be an art dealer. When you work with a genius, everything you do becomes the genius’s thing. That’s why they’re a genius. So, you can’t stay there forever — there would be nothing left. So, I quit. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had an agent, and I sort of thought Condé Nast would… They knew me. I was already, for years, giving Leo Lerman ideas for Vogue for the features section. So, they started Vanity Fair, and they hired me to be a writer there. I had a good, long run at Condé Nast, like 35 years at Vanity Fair.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you think Interview influenced Vanity Fair’s editorial concept in a way?

BOB COLACELLO — The editor-in-chief, Tina Brown — I was the first person who had breakfast with her — said to me, “I was so influenced by Interview. Every issue is a dinner party.” And Tina Brown always talked about the surprising mix of people featured in the magazine. Well, that came right from Interview and from Andy, really, because that’s how life was at the Factory. It was very new.

OLIVIER ZAHM — This is very much the spirit of New York, too.

BOB COLACELLO — Yes, You could not have started Interview magazine in Los Angeles or in Houston. It could only happen in New York because New York was like a half-European city, and in the ’70s, with the Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhof Gang, all the rich young heirs of Europe were sent to school in America, sent to college. So, they gave the city a whole new aspect. Europeans liked to go to clubs after dinner. Americans didn’t do that so much. You just had such variety, and always new people arriving, that existed only in New York. And Interview was a reflection of that. It was very organic.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And a reflection of the power of the press in New York, too.

BOB COLACELLO — Yes, well, New York was and still is the capital of the media. And Interview was part of that. Andy’s work was about media. Andy’s work was about images taking over from reality. Fame is what Andy wanted more than anything else, and he understood it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And the medium is the message.

BOB COLACELLO — Yes, Andy was the one who said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”And it’s true: today, everyone’s famous on Instagram, all these influ­encers. Andy probably would’ve loved it. I’m not so enamored of what I call the great-grandchildren of Andy, like the Kardashians and Donald Trump.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Was Warhol more important in American media than in art?

BOB COLACELLO — Andy’s influence as an artist is huge. You could not have Cindy Sherman or Richard Prince or any of the photo- based artists without Andy. Painting was declared dead in the ’70s by the critical establishment and the curators at MoMA. It was like: “Painting’s dead. Minimalism’s okay. Figurative painting, forget about it.” Andy’s doing not only painting, figurative painting, but society portraits, and in interviews saying that his favorite artists were Giovanni Boldini and John Singer Sargent. He did that to provoke. So, suddenly in 1980, a whole new group of artists comes out of art school, and they say: “We want to paint again. We don’t care what the establishment’s telling us.” It was Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Julian Schnabel, Eric Fischl, David Salle, George Condo. And they all gravitated to the Factory. Andy was quite isolated — I mean, he was not hanging out with Jas- per Johns and Frank Stella, a little with Larry Rivers, let’s say — but suddenly Basquiat, Clemente, Haring… They all wanted to be around Andy and become like him, rich and famous. Which you were not supposed to be as an artist. You were supposed to be in your ivory tower.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And he was right because 50 years later, painting is still massive. It may be the most important art form.

BOB COLACELLO — His painting, his art is so influential. So is Interview magazine. Magazines like your own, like System, like Fantastic Man, and Acne Paper in Sweden — they all, to an extent, are based on the Interview idea, stories about people and tape-recorded Q&As. And I’ve been in all these magazines be- cause they all loved Interview. You were probably a kid in the ’70s.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Yes, I was 10. Would you say that you miss Andy?

BOB COLACELLO — It was a privilege to work with Andy. You could say Andy was New York, and New York was Andy. It was a mirror. When Andy went to a club, it became the “it” club. Andy was a familiar presence in New York. He lived on Park and 66th, and he liked to walk down to the Seaman Schepps jewelry store on 59th and Park. He loved jewelry. And on that walk, people would see him. He carried a bunch of Interviews under his arm, and he would hand them out. He didn’t really like to touch people. Some people think he had Asperger’s, but this was a good way… People couldn’t hug him or shake his hand. He would say: “Oh, you want the new copy of Interview? I’ll sign it for you.” Sometimes he would even do a drawing of a Campbell’s Soup can. So, people felt like, “Oh, I know Andy.” And he was at all the restaurants. If people came up to him at the table — if they were crazy-looking, he might be a little nervous — but mostly people would come over and say: “Oh, I just wanted to say hello. I admire your work.” And he’d say, “Oh, I’ll do a drawing for you.” And he’d do a drawing on a napkin.

OLIVIER ZAHM — I had no idea that Warhol was so open and available.

BOB COLACELLO — He was a guy around New York, more than any other celebrity, whether in film or art or fashion. He was accessible. Young people would stop Andy in the street and say: “I’m a photographer, I’d love to show you my work sometime.” And he’d say: “Oh, yeah, this is Bob. He’s the editor. You should call him. Bob, get his number.” And every Wednesday, we had an open house for photographers, where they brought their portfolios to the art director, Marc Balet, and Robert Hayes, who was my deputy editor. And they would go through them, and with the ones they thought were good, they would say, “Can we keep them for a week?” And during that week, they would show it first to me, then to Fred Hughes and Andy, and a lot of kids got started that way. It was really wonderful that Andy was like that. But again, it was very New York to be like that.

ALEPH MOLINARI — What changed this sense of freedom in New York?

BOB COLACELLO — The age of security really started with 9/11, but it had already started in clubs with cameras in phones. If Diana Ross wanted to dance with a hunky young guy at Studio 54 and kiss him, nobody had a camera. So, celebrities felt free. That’s why a club like 54 was so exciting — because you’d look, and there’s Ryan O’Nealand Farrah Fawcett, there’s John McEnroe, there’s Moshe Dayan from Israel with his eye patch. And there were all these beautiful young people and creative young people.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And then came the VIP rooms.

BOB COLACELLO — VIP rooms didn’t exist in the ’70s and even into the ’80s. It started with Madonna, Eddie Murphy — movie stars com- ing everywhere with a big entourage. And they get to the club and asked for a corner to be with their entourage, and the bodyguard stops anyone from getting near them. And you think, “Why are you in a club, if you don’t want to meet anybody?”

OLIVIER ZAHM — Did you enjoy the nightlife in New York?

BOB COLACELLO — After 54, my favorite big club was Area, created by Eric Goode. It was in Tribeca, which barely existed then, Area had a different theme every month. One month it would be suburbia, another month it would be sex, another month it would be art, another month it would be food. And they would have Andy, Haring, different artists — George Condo, Kenny Scharf — do pieces for that month. It was really the first art club. And then, Steve Rubell, when they opened the Palladium, copied that and had Basquiat do a huge mural.

OLIVIER ZAHM — New York never stops. It was a huge nightlife scene.

BOB COLACELLO — Yes, they say New York never sleeps. And legally the clubs had to close at four o’clock. But then, there were all these after-bars that were illegal, but nobody bothered them. All the bartenders and the waitresses from the clubs would go to the after-hours clubs. Crisco Disco was my favorite. And you had to be frisked for guns to get in because there were a lot of cocaine dealers, Jamaicans… It was a little dangerous. Crisco Disco was, like, West 22nd Street and 6th Avenue, a completely deserted street at night. And then there was the whole S&M scene in the village, the Anvil, the Toilet, and people would go. There was another bar we liked, called the Gilded Grape on 46th Street and 8th Avenue, which was where truck drivers from New Jersey would stop to pick up Puerto Rican and Black transvestites. All the waiters were Puerto Rican boys, very cute, wearing sailor suits with no shirt. And they had to put on these shows. It was very campy. The white drag queens would do Diana Ross, and the Black drag queens would do Marilyn. These rich Europeans would think, “Oh, Andy and Bob and Fred, they’ll take us to some of these way-out places.” I remember bringing São Schlumberger to the Gilded Grape one night, and when we pulled up, our driver said, “Mrs. Schlumberger, please leave all your jewelry in the car.” There were always new clubs, the whole big gay dance clubs downtown like Paradise Garage. There was the roller-skating club. There was a huge nightlife scene, which doesn’t really exist now, not to that extent, but I think things are bubbling.

OLIVIER ZAHM — The night-life is much more commercial today.

BOB COLACELLO — It’s also more segregated — by age, by income, by race, by sex. So, you have Black lesbian bars and white lesbian bars. It’s part of this identity politics that has seeped into a lot of aspects of New York.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is New York still the center of the world, as New Yorkers like to believe?

BOB COLACELLO — New York has a special place in America. Geographically, it is halfway to Europe, compared with the West Coast. But also, we’ve got 50 to 60 million American tourists in New York every year. You have people from all over the country, including from small towns and conservative states, coming to New York and realizing: “Oh, this isn’t so bad. There aren’t homosexuals seducing my children when we walk down the street.” It’s different from any place else in the country, I think, for the better. But it’s also not an easy city to live in. The traffic and the crime have gotten bad again, but also just the noise, the ambulances with their sirens.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And people speak so loudly. It’s crazy.

BOB COLACELLO — Yes. I mean, I have a voice that carries. New Yorkers can be on the loud side. [Laughs] There’s a very high energy here. And like anything that is very high energy, it can become exhausting.

END

[Table of contents]

Purple #39 The New York issue

Subscribe to our newsletter