Purple Magazine
— S/S 2007 issue 7

The Real Richard

interview by GLENN O’BRIEN


RICHARD PRINCE is the best artist. I can’t prove it, but trust me. He’s also a great man, and that’s rare, complicated and underrated. I think it’s partly because he really knows how to be himself. And being yourself now is almost illegal. Richard, by being so absolutely, stubbornly, irrevocably himself, is positively radiant. Although sometimes he’s radiant like ultraviolet or infra-red is radiant. Humans might not necessarily see it, but it still burns. You can set the world on fire casually. Art has its own radioactivity. I thought a questionnaire by e-mail would make a good interview, because that’s how we talk day to day. It’s fast and accurate and kind of intimately universal.

GLENN O’BRIEN  Were you born north or south of the Canal Zone? 
RICHARD PRINCE  I was born in the Canal Zone. People who were “in” were called Zonians.

GLENN O’BRIEN  What sign do you wish you were?
RICHARD PRINCE  I’m happy with my Leo.

GLENN O’BRIEN  What’s your earliest memory?

RICHARD PRINCE Being rescued from my house as it was burning down.

GLENN O’BRIEN  What’s the first lie you ever told? The most recent?
RICHARD PRINCE When I was six, I told my father I didn’t steal a knife from the hardware store. Last night, I told my wife I didn’t use any coke on our vacation.

GLENN O’BRIEN  Do you get along better with women or with men?
RICHARD PRINCE — It used to be women, now it’s men. I can’t be around women anymore. They want to tear you apart.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you remember your dreams?
RICHARD PRINCE — Sometimes, but even if I do they’re not important. Dreams are for people who see things in clouds.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What makes a good joke?
RICHARD PRINCE — If it gets someone arrested.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
RICHARD PRINCE — When I saw the size of Paul Allen’s boat in St. Barts.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Who are your favorite comedians?
RICHARD PRINCE — Sam Kinison. Richard Pryor.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Who are the funniest people you know?
RICHARD PRINCE — My mother and father were hysterical. They kept me in a closet. For years I thought I was a suit.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Is Adam Sandler funny?
RICHARD PRINCE — When he makes fun of the Arabs he’s funny.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Dino or Jerry?
RICHARD PRINCE — I like when a comedian goes against type and takes on a serious acting role. Like Jerry in the King of Comedy. So, it’s Jerry.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Have you ever been in a trance?
RICHARD PRINCE — I was in a coma most of the eighties. That’s probably why I came out as the most popular artist of that time.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you know any magic tricks?
RICHARD PRINCE — I can draw people and make them look exactly like they look. They call it “freehand”.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you like jazz?
RICHARD PRINCE — Bill Evans is my favorite. I love Keith Jarrett. I like John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. I’m not sure if he’s considered jazz, but I love Louie Prima.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s your favorite disco song? Favorite girl group?
RICHARD PRINCE — The beginning of You Should Be Dancin’ by the Bee Gees is pretty cool. Girl group? Tits covered in mud… I think they were called the Slits.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Have you ever been in a band? What band would you have liked to be in?
RICHARD PRINCE — I once had a recording contract with Warner Bros. in the late 70’s. I had a partner, and our job was to try to write a hit song. We called ourselves The Girlscouts. We would have been better off selling cookies door to door. I would have liked to be in Procol Harum.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What guitars do you own?
RICHARD PRINCE — Right now I own a ukulele. I’m learning to sing Groucho Marx songs.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s your favorite chord?

GLENN O’BRIEN — Did you ever think about getting a tattoo?
RICHARD PRINCE — I have a boring body. There’s nothing spectacular about it. There’s nothing that would make it more interesting.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Did you ever meet Courtney Love?
RICHARD PRINCE — Yes. In London. She’s a big girl. Very tough. Attractive. A force. She seemed like she could have me for breakfast.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Hugh Hefner? Johnny Rotten?
RICHARD PRINCE — I’d like to meet Hefner. His idea of spending a lot of time in his bedroom, drinking Pepsi and watching Captain Kangaroo is very appealing. Johnny Rotten? No, I’ve never met him. The adolescent idiocy of the Sex Pistols was always a feather in my cap.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you think Patti Smith is a phony?
RICHARD PRINCE — I don’t think artists are very good when they try to be political. I don’t trust them. I mean, I eat politics, and I sleep politics, but I don’t drink politics. I saw her recently reading a poem by Allan Ginsberg. Ginsburg was one of the few artists who could drink politics. Did you like the Doors? I walked into the Whiskey on Sunset Strip in 1967 and saw the Doors doing Roadhouse Blues. I think that’s when I decided to be an artist.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s your favorite easy listening?
RICHARD PRINCE — Den of Thieves. The sound of Eighteenth Street lounge music.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Did you ever see Sinatra’s paintings?
RICHARD PRINCE — Yes. It’s interesting that there’s a bunch of celebrities who paint. Jonathan Winters. Phyllis Diller. Red Skelton. Anthony Quinn. I always liked Zero Mostel’s work. He received the best reviews. He was blacklisted.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s your favorite Yiddish word?
RICHARD PRINCE I once heard Shecky Green called Richard Nixon a “schmuck”.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What are the last four CDs you listened to?
RICHARD PRINCE — The Kings of Lyon. The Magic Numbers. TV On The Radio. Rather Ripped by Sonic Youth.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you have any 8-tracks?
RICHARD PRINCE — I think I have Rocky Mountain High by John Denver. He’s right up there with Kenny Loggins.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s the last novel you read?
RICHARD PRINCE — Richard Brautigan’s Confederate From Big Sur.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you have any painting routine? Time of day? With or without music? Alone or with others?
RICHARD PRINCE — Sometimes I paint for two weeks, twenty-four hours a day, playing the same CD over and over, with nobody around. Sometimes I stay in bed for two weeks and watch the Antiques Roadshow with the TV on mute, and my kids screaming and pillow fighting and asking what’s for dinner.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you know where it’s going before it goes there?
RICHARD PRINCE — No, I’m never sure where, but I like to get there as fast as I can.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Does work have a life of it’s own?
RICHARD PRINCE — When it’s good it does. It’s just like Tom Thumbs Blues.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you paint in character?
RICHARD PRINCE — Mr. Radical. Back Door Man. Good Revolution.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you fix mistakes, or abort and start over?
RICHARD PRINCE — Everything is on purpose.

GLENN O’BRIEN — How do you know when it’s done?
RICHARD PRINCE — When it looks as if I know what I’m doing.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What photograph do you wish you had taken?
RICHARD PRINCE — The album cover for Bring It All Back Home.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What photograph do you wish you were in?
RICHARD PRINCE — One of Warhol’s screen tests.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What did you get rid of that you wish you’d kept?
RICHARD PRINCE — I lived with Jeff Koons’s Equilibrium tanks for a couple of months. In the old 303 Gallery. It was right next to my bedroom. It wasn’t that I got rid of them exactly… it was just that I didn’t hang on to one of them.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What are your favorite years?
RICHARD PRINCE — 1949, 1984.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What film is the biggest influence on you?
RICHARD PRINCE — I’m not sure how you spell the guy’s name, but the Zapruder film, the one where the guy got lucky and filmed the Kennedy assassination.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What film have you seen the most times?

GLENN O’BRIEN — Who are your favorite heroes?
RICHARD PRINCE — Rod Serling, Pumpsie Green, Y.A. Tittle, Roland Penrose, Jimmy Piersall (baseball player, Tony Perkins played him in a movie), Dian Hanson, Jerry Mathers (as The Beaver).

GLENN O’BRIEN — Did you ever think of being a film director?
RICHARD PRINCE — I don’t like being around actors and actresses.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What directors do you like?
RICHARD PRINCE — Larry Clark. Claude Lelouch.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Who are your favorite novelists?
RICHARD PRINCE — Joan Didion. Ed Sanders. Truman Capote. Ken Kesey.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s your favorite first line in a book?
RICHARD PRINCE — “Rattle Rattle. Chink Chink. Gurggle Gurggle…” I’m not sure. I think that’s how it goes in Andy Warhol’s novel A.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What is it about Nabokov?
RICHARD PRINCE — Light of my life. Everything about Lolita is American written by someone who’s not American. Who else could write about “loins” but an outsider.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you have any brown shoes?
RICHARD PRINCE — I once bought a pair of brown shoes in Barney’s. Around seven years ago. They cost two thousand dollars. I’ve worn them four times. They’re still beautiful.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Have you got a gun?
RICHARD PRINCE — I’ve got a couple of shotguns.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Are you a good shot?
RICHARD PRINCE — I had to shoot some racoons that were hanging around the house during the day.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Can you dance?
RICHARD PRINCE — I can dance to Citizen Cope and Easy Star All-Stars covering Radio Head’s Karma Police.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Can you surf?
RICHARD PRINCE — I’m like Charlie in Apocalypse Now.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you think ventriloquists will ever come back?
RICHARD PRINCE — I’m not sure the Howdy Doody show ever went off the air. I think it’s still in re-runs, or on in TV Land.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What makes a good martini?
RICHARD PRINCE — I’ll leave that up to Luis Bunuel. He was an expert. All I know is it’s got to be gin.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Did you ever paint drunk?
RICHARD PRINCE — I painted a horse drunk. It came out looking like a long face.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Tell me something about the Chateau Marmont.
RICHARD PRINCE — I use to rent bungalow number three. One of the houses out back. When I saw Boogie Nights I thought they stole my story.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you think a lot of great writers and aritsts are unbearable in person?
RICHARD PRINCE — It’s hard not to be unbearable. Your conscious is higher. You have more information. You’re more paranoid. You want to be treated like a child. You have no friends. You want to be paid. You’re treated like a genius, (I’m speaking for myself of course)… you’re always trying to get it right.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you think Kerouac needed the booze?
RICHARD PRINCE — I’m not sure need is the way I’d put it. More like had to. Like Kippenberger.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Did you ever take ecstasy?
RICHARD PRINCE — No. I’m already scared.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you like pornography?
RICHARD PRINCE — Most pornography is boring. If there was more laughing and innocence in it, then I’d like it.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s the best porno magazine?
RICHARD PRINCE — I like looking at naked people. I don’t think it’s porno, but I like naturist magazines.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you belong to any clubs or secret societies? Public?
RICHARD PRINCE — I belong to EZ-Pass. Private? I have my own library.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Was Pollock at the end, or just getting warmed up?
RICHARD PRINCE — To me Pollock was always hot.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Was DeKooning’s work as good when he was being led around?
RICHARD PRINCE — To me, DeKooning was always independent.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you think Rothko knew any jokes?
RICHARD PRINCE — To me, Rothko was always the Jewish guy who said, “If I live I’ll see you Wednesday, if I don’t live I’ll see you Thursday”.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s your favorite Warhol?
RICHARD PRINCE — The cow wallpaper.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What art looks good to you now?
RICHARD PRINCE — Romaine Brooks. Walt Kuhn. Late Picasso. Lee Miller. Larry Poons. Carlo Molino.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What art always looked good?
RICHARD PRINCE — Robert Frank’s The Americans.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Who’s the best art critic?
RICHARD PRINCE — The one who loves my work the most. And the one who hates my work the most.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What artists are under-rated?
RICHARD PRINCE — Dike Blair and John Stezaka.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Is Jeff Koons sincere?
RICHARD PRINCE — I’ve know Jeff for a long time. Absolutley sincere.

GLENN O’BRIEN— Will there be a Third House?
RICHARD PRINCE — I’m supposed to show at the Serpentine. I’m going to treat it like the Third House.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s you favorite Christopher Wool?
RICHARD PRINCE — Christopher Wool is my favorite.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Who’s up and coming?
RICHARD PRINCE — Liz Larner. Charline Von Heyl. They’re more up than coming.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Were you ever a surrealist?
RICHARD PRINCE — I wouldn’t mind exchanging places with Man Ray for a day.

GLENN O’BRIEN — How often do people confuse you with Richard Price?
RICHARD PRINCE — Dominick Dune called me Richard Price in one of his Vanity Fair articles. I was relieved.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What misunderstanding do you not discourage?
RICHARD PRINCE — That I’m John Dogg.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What wild animals do you have a problem with?

GLENN O’BRIEN — How do you deal with groupies?
RICHARD PRINCE — I put socks in my pants.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Who calls you Dick?

GLENN O’BRIEN — Who would you cast in the Richard Prince story?
RICHARD PRINCE — John Cameron Mitchell.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s your favorite car?
RICHARD PRINCE — 1970 Dodge Challenger.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven?
RICHARD PRINCE — I drove my NSX around 140mph on the Northway, upstate, once on New Year’s eve. The same place Frank Stella got busted in his Ferrari doing the same thing.

GLENN O’BRIEN— Is burning rubber a new rural art form? Are they influenced by Brice Marden?
RICHARD PRINCE — Ruralism? I’m not sure. Marden does live in the country. Sometimes.

GLENN O’BRIEN — The Beatles or the Stones?
RICHARD PRINCE — First it was the Stones. Then it was the Beatles. Now it’s the Stones again. Gimme Shelter.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Who’s your favorite Beatle?
RICHARD PRINCE — I just met Paul McCartney. I really like him a lot.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you think Stupid Girl by the Rolling Stones is sexist?
RICHARD PRINCE — Extended adolescence is sexist.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Did Anita leave Brian for Keith because he was beating her?
RICHARD PRINCE — I think Keith is a great performer. Wasn’t Anita in the film Performance?

GLENN O’BRIEN — Jeff Beck or Jimi Page?
RICHARD PRINCE — Jeff Beck has a great car collection. I’d have to say Beck.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What do you remember about Woodstock? Did you buy a ticket? Did you take the brown acid?
RICHARD PRINCE — I remember feeling like I didn’t fit in. I bought a ticket… I still have it. I took a photograph.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Do you think speed was a good influence on our culture?
RICHARD PRINCE — Drugs are personal. Culture doesn’t care about drugs. Drugs don’t make any sense. Speed was good to me. I like to think I’m part of the culture. Making sense is how I like to think.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Did you ever see Jimi Hendrix play?
RICHARD PRINCE — The reason I went to Woodstock was to see Hendrix. I had to leave before he played. I did see him in Boston when he was with The Band of Gypsies.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s your favorite Dylan song? Dylan fashion look?
RICHARD PRINCE — The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carol. The polka-dot shirt.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s your favorite James Brown song?
RICHARD PRINCE — When he did a cover of Archie Bell and the Drells’ Tighten Up.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Is Kate Moss too skinny?
RICHARD PRINCE — She once came to look at a room that I was renting. It was like a go-see. When I photographed her she couldn’t have been nicer.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What’s the best poker hand you ever had?
RICHARD PRINCE — I’ve had a straight flush. I don’t have the stomach to play for a lot of money. I like a “friendly” game.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Have you ever had a hole in one?
RICHARD PRINCE — No. Close, around six inches. Golf is great because it’s handicapped. It means you can bet and play for money. It’s also one of the only “artifical” games that doesn’t have an umpire or a judge or a critic, or a committee or a referee or instant replay. You either put the ball in the hole, or you don’t.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Did you ever invent a joke?
RICHARD PRINCE — Yes… Why Did The Nazi Cross The Road?

GLENN O’BRIEN — Did you ever think about how you would have told “the aristocrats?”
RICHARD PRINCE — I wish I had thought about the whole idea about the aristocrats. I’m still thinking about ripping it off.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Did funny replace beauty in art?
RICHARD PRINCE — For me art is still beautiful. I wonder if more guys in the middle east looked like art, would there be as many problems. It’s not about their looks, it’s more about their presence. In all the newspaper photos, it’s always all these men. Never any women. That just seems oppressive. The opposite of art. I don’t know. Maybe not. In my lifetime we’ve had one good looking president. John Kennedy. And he was assassinated.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Is poetry dead?
RICHARD PRINCE — No, Jim Carroll, Richard Hell, Glenn O’Brien, Max Blagg, Thurston Moore… are all on the A-train.

GLENN O’BRIEN — What about these new contemporary Chinese artists?
RICHARD PRINCE — Are they the new chicks? One of my favorite movies of all time is Mr. Saturday Nite. When Billy Crystal’s character says, “Don’t get me started”… that’s how I feel about Chinese contemporary artists.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Who runs the world?
RICHARD PRINCE — General Electric. Private enterprise.

GLENN O’BRIEN — Are there any hidden messages in your work?
RICHARD PRINCE — Picture books with riddles. The I Spy books. I play with those with my kids. I know the Tree Of Life painting is one of the most popular works at the Museum of Modern Art. Falsification, innuendo, slight of hand, conspiracy… that’s all fancy pants. You don’t have to play my work backwards to get it. I’m not the walrus.

Richard Prince’s retrospective is announced for september 2007, at the Guggenheim, New York.

[Table of contents]

S/S 2007 issue 7

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