Remembering John Calley’s Golden Years in Hollywood

The Hollywood film producer John Calley died September 13, at his home in Los Angeles, after a long illness.

Calley was responsible for The Loved One, The Americanization of Emily, Catch-22, and more recently The Remains of the Day, and the popcorn fodder Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code.

But it will be for his work at Warner Brothers that Calley will be best remembered, as the Los Angeles Times reports:

In 1969, [Calley] became executive vice president in charge of production at Warner Bros.; he became president in 1975.

“Under Calley, Warners became the class act in town,” Peter Biskind wrote in his 1998 book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And-Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood.

“Urbane and witty, he gave the impression that he was somehow above it all, slumming in the Hollywood cesspool,” Biskind wrote. “As one wag put it, he was the blue in the toilet bowl.”

At Warner Bros., Calley created what Biskind called “an atmosphere congenial to ‘60s-going-on ‘70s filmmakers” and was known for relying heavily on his own taste in picking films.

Among Warner’s Calley-era bill of fare: Woodstock, A Clockwork Orange, Mean Streets, The Towering Inferno, “McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Exorcist, Dog Day Afternoon, Deliverance, Dirty Harry, All the President’s Men, Blazing Saddles, Superman and Chariots of Fire.

As a salute, here’s a brief video resume of that golden era of film-making.

Read John Calley’s obituary here.

Mean Streets (1973)

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Clips of other classic films, including ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Mean Streets’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Richard Hamilton: ‘Father of Pop Art’ has Died

Richard Hamilton the first Pop Artist and arguably one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century has died at the age of eighty-nine.

Born in London in 1922, Hamilton was determined to become an artist an early age, he quit school at 15, and studied art at night before entering the Royal Academy at 16. His studies were cut short by the outbreak of the Second World War, during which he worked as a draughtsman with engineers and scientists at EMI. After the war returned to the Royal Academy, but was expelled for “not profiting from the instruction”. He then attended the Slade College of Art for 2 years, from which he started working at the ICA, where he produced posters, leaflets and exhibit work.

In 1951, Hamilton curated his first exhibition, Growth and Form. This was followed in 1955 with the seminal Man, Machine and Motion, which examined human interaction with machine and environment, and how “the need to cope with technology provokes great art.”

It was at this time Hamilton met with Eduardo Paolozzi, who was already working on the collages which are now best associated with Pop Art. Hamilton joined Paolozzi in the loose grouping of artists known as the Independent Group, who gathered around the ICA.

In 1956, the Independent Group mounted This Is Tomorrow, an exhibition that is now seen as one of the most influential of the past sixty years - its resonance is still with us today. This was the show that announced Pop Art to the world - long before Warhol, who was then window dressing. As described by the Daily Telegraph:

This Is Tomorrow, a quasi-anthropological, partly ironic exhibition embracing the imagery of the embryonic mass media. In Hamilton’s words, the idea was to examine “our new visual environment — cinema, the jukebox, Marilyn Monroe, and comics — all these games with sound, optical illusion and imagery”.


His own small, dense, prophetic work Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? not only introduced the word “pop” into art (emblazoned on the muscleman’s phallic lollipop) but also anticipated many of the key images of the genre: the television; the Warner Bros billboard; the comic poster (Lichtenstein); the packaged ham (Rosenquist); the Motel bed (Oldenburg); and the Ford logo — Hamilton’s obsession with car design and engineering culminated in Hommage à Chrysler (1957). This was Pop Art, but not populist art. Hamilton called it “a new landscape of secondary, filtered material” – sophisticated art to be devoured by a mass audience.

The exhibition’s success gained him a teaching post at the Royal College of Art, where he influenced David Hockney and Peter Blake. He produced works such as Hers Is A Lush Situation (1958), in which automotive and female design are commingled; Pin-up (1961), with its mixed idioms, classical, modern, vulgar; and the sketchy, painterly collage-like rapture of $he (1962) – it was, he suggested, “a sieved reflection of the adman’s paraphrase of the consumer’s dream”.

In 1962, Hamilton’s wife, Terry, was tragically killed in a automobile accident. Hamilton quit Britain for the USA, where he became close friends with Marcel Duchamp. The friendship led to Hamilton curating a retrospective of Duchamp’s work at the Tate Gallery, London.
The association with Pop Art, led Hamilton to be hailed the “Father of Pop Art” a title he loathed. The association continued in the mid-sixties after he returned to England, and produced two of his most famous works Swingeing London 67, a portrait of Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser under arrest, which became one of the defining images of the 1960s. The following year Hamilton designed the cover for the Beatles White Album, which became his best known work.

The sixties also saw Hamilton influence another, younger generation of artists and musicians, most famously one of his pupils, Bryan Ferry and his band Roxy Music.

In the the 1970s, Hamilton had retrospectives at the Tate (1970) and the Guggenheim in New York (1973), both exhibitions subsequently toured Europe.

I saw one retrospective of his work during this decade at the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, which mixed his famous line drawings for James Joyce’s Ulysses, with his Pop Art, and silk screens. It was highly impressive, but more because of the intelligence on display, rather than any shared emotion inspired by the work. This may explain why Hamilton never really made the cross-over from critical acclaim to populist success.

The seventies saw Hamilton produce some of his most political work:

Hamilton had always been politically engaged, vociferously supporting the CND. In the 1980s he began a “Northern Ireland” trilogy: The Citizen (1981-83) depicted a “dirty protest” prisoner in the Maze; The Subject (1988-89), a self-righteous Orangeman; and The State (1993), a British soldier on patrol. Inevitably such politicised subject matter attracted criticism, though many considered the works merely naive oversimplifications.

Despite his advancing years, Hamilton continued to reinvent himself. In the 1980s he began working with computers: “I initially ventured into working with computers because I didn’t want to get left behind. I was approaching old age and aware of it, and I thought ‘I’m going to keep up with this’ and found out that I was ahead of everybody.” He designed two computers, the OHIO and the Diab DS-101, and increasingly used digital devices to manipulate images and create a dialogue between technique, technology and aesthetics.

The attraction of computers, he claimed, was that “you have the possibility of perfection. I’m after beauty — of composition, colour and tone.” It did not seem ironic that a man in his eighth decade was exploring technology with greater vivacity than almost any other artist: throughout his long career, Hamilton’s work anticipated almost every interpretative cultural theory, from Marshall McLuhan to the “Young British Artists”, and provided the most thorough engagement with mass media and technology this side of the Atlantic. Damien Hirst referred to Hamilton as “the greatest”.

Hamilton was appointed Companion of Honour in 2000; in 2006 he received the Max Beckmann Prize for Painting. A major retrospective of his work is due to travel to tour America and Europe from 2013.

Richard Hamilton married Terry O’Reilly in 1947; they had a son and a daughter. Rita Donagh, whom he married in 1991, survives him with the son of his first marriage.


Bonus clip, Richard Hamilton on Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
GOP Tea party sadists cheer: Society should let uninsured patients die

Last night on the GOP Tea party debate on CNN, the assembled crowd of mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals fucking assholes dumb old white people cheered like braying assholes asses at the notion that someone uninsured should be left to die.

Alan Grayson was right about Republican’s ideas for healthcare reform…

Here’s just one idiotic comment left on YouTube by a moron using the handle “nicpag9”:

Whoever posted this video needs to off themselves. People like you are what is wrong with this country and the reason it’s in the shape it is in now. No doubt you’ll be voting for Obama again. Too bad we can’t divide the country up into the idiot section run by Communists such as your self and the rest that just want to be left the hell alone for everyone with a damn brain. I’m sure the founding fathers would have no problem with that whatsoever.

No, my fren’ this country is in the state it is because of people like you… too damned dumb to understand the world around them.



Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
The Boss: Nick Ashford tribute mix by Kirk Degiorio

Soul and pop music lost one of its greatest songwriters on Monday, with the passing of Nicholas Ashford, one half of the duo Ashford and Simpson. Have a quick flick through Ashford and Simpson’s songwriting resumé  and you’ll be pretty gobsmacked at some of the tunes they’ve had a hand in - they’re without a doubt one of the best songwriting duos of the modern age, writing huge hits for Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terell, Sylvester, Ray Charles, Marlena Shaw/The 5th Dimension and lots more.

London-based producer and dj Kirk Degiorgio has put together a special Nick Ashford tribute mix, featuring some of the man, and the couple’s greatest work. This is a fitting tribute indeed, and if you were in any doubt as to how good these guys were, wrap your ears around the following. Damn you cancer, but at least we know the man’s legacy will live on for a long time. 

Full tracklist after the jump…

Thanks to Kelvin Brown.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
From pop to provocation: Eugene McDaniels has died
12:49 am


Eugene McDaniels

America became aware of Gene McDaniels when he a had a huge hit with “A Hundred Pounds Of Clay” in 1961. I was 10 at the time and it was one of the first 45s I ever bought. The hook was a mile deep and McDaniel’s voice was a force of nature. commanding, soulful and undeniable. It was an r&b tune solidly rooted in gospel music.

McDaniel’s wasn’t content to be a top 40 pop star, he had a bigger vision for his art.  In 1969, he wrote “Compared To What,” a socially and politically charged slice of funk that became a hit for jazz musicians Les McCann and Eddie Harris paving the way, along with The Last Poets, for Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin On’ , Gil Scott-Heron and ultimately hip hop.

This is the breakout performance by McCann and Harris of “Compared To What” at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969.

“Compared To What”

I love the lie and lie the love
A-Hangin’ on, with push and shove
Possession is the motivation
that is hangin’ up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut (everybody now!)
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what? C’mon baby!

Slaughterhouse is killin’ hogs
Twisted children killin’ frogs
Poor dumb rednecks rollin’ logs
Tired old lady kissin’ dogs
I hate the human love of that stinking mutt (I can’t use it!)
Try to make it real — compared to what? C’mon baby now!

The President, he’s got his war
Folks don’t know just what it’s for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Have one doubt, they call it treason
We’re chicken-feathers, all without one nut. God damn it!
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what? (Sock it to me)

Church on Sunday, sleep and nod
Tryin’ to duck the wrath of God
Preacher’s fillin’ us with fright
They all tryin’ to teach us what they think is right
They really got to be some kind of nut (I can’t use it!)
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what?

Where’s that bee and where’s that honey?
Where’s my God and where’s my money?
Unreal values, crass distortion
Unwed mothers need abortion
Kind of brings to mind ol’ young King Tut (He did it now)
Tried to make it real — compared to what?!

“Compared To What” was just the beginning of McDaniel’s assault on inequality, hypocrisy and racism. In 1971, he unleashed a powerful diatribe against a nation virulent with injustice.

Reclaiming his given name of Eugene McDaniels he set his angry, humanitarian ideals to music and recorded the groovalistic Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse.

Stirring up a Molotov cocktail of blues, rock and free jazz Heroes set the sonic and lyrical blueprint for conscious rap decades before it existed. The luscious gravy-thick groove of “Jagger The Dagger” was wholly sampled by A Tribe Called Quest at the beginning of their first album, and mirrors Tribe’s approach to positivity and questioning of the music industry.

Armed with a musical posse of Roberta Flack’s sidemen, including both acoustic and electric bassists, McDaniels tunes snap like dry twigs in a bonfire. Their prickly grooves are a match for his cactus-sharp insights. The slow genocide of the American Indians in “The Parasite” is smoothly supported by a blanket of downtempo melody that slowly devolves into a smallpox of chaos.

It’s hard to conceive of it now, in a post-hip-hop universe, but in 1971 there were no angry, government-criticizing Black artists on a major label. In fact, Heroes enraged sitting Vice-President Spiro Agnew so much that he personally called up Atlantic Records and demanded to know why they had released such a disturbing and seditious record. From that point on Atlantic stopped all promotion and the album died. Although Heroes lived a secondary life in hip-hop, baked into songs by The Beastie Boys, Organized Konfusion and Pete Rock, McDaniels didn’t release another record under his own name for thirty-three years”

A track from Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
Lucian Freud has died

Lucian Freud, one of Britain’s most distinguished and acclaimed artists, has died at the age of 88. Described as a “great realist painter,” Freud first came to prominence when he was just twenty-one, with his first highly successful one-man-show in 1944.

Freud’s early work was illustrative - doe-eyed portraits of his wife Caroline Blackwood, or his friend, Francis Bacon, which are reminiscent of the work of Stanley Spencer, and seem almost polite representations compared to his later giant nudes. Freud was greatly impressed by Bacon, and the older artist influenced Freud’s development as a painter. Freud and Bacon exhibited alongside Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, a loose grouping of London artists,  whose work established the foundations for figurative painting for decades to come.

The critic David Sylvester named Bacon as the head, while Freud

“produced easily the best portraits painted in this country during the last decade.”

During the 1950s and early 1960s, Freud’s technique changed as he began to use impasto to create intense, almost physical assaults on his sitters. Freud said of his portraits:

“I paint people not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be.”

The New York Times writes:

Mr. Freud, a grandson of Sigmund Freud and a brother of the British television personality Clement Freud, was already an important figure in the small London art world when, in the immediate postwar years, he embarked on a series of portraits that established him as a potent new voice in figurative art.

In paintings like “Girl With Roses” (1947-48) and “Girl With a White Dog” (1951-52), he put the pictorial language of traditional European painting in the service of an anti-romantic, confrontational style of portraiture that stripped bare the sitter’s social facade. Ordinary people — many of them his friends and intimates — stared wide-eyed from the canvas, vulnerable to the artist’s ruthless inspection.

From the late 1950s, when he began using a stiffer brush and moving paint in great swaths around the canvas, Mr. Freud’s nudes took on a new fleshiness and mass. His subjects, pushed to the limit in exhausting extended sessions, day after day, dropped their defenses and opened up. The faces showed fatigue, distress, torpor.

The flesh was mottled, lumpy and, in the case of his 1990s portraits of the performance artist Leigh Bowery and the phenomenally obese civil servant Sue Tilley, shockingly abundant.

The relationship between sitter and painter, in his work, overturned traditional portraiture. It was “nearer to the classic relationship of the 20th century: that between interrogator and interrogated,” the art critic John Russell wrote in “Private View,” his survey of the London art scene in the 1960s.

William Feaver, a British critic who organized a Freud retrospective at Tate Britain in 2002, said: “Freud has generated a life’s worth of genuinely new painting that sits obstinately across the path of those lesser painters who get by on less. He always pressed to extremes, carrying on further than one would think necessary and rarely letting anything go before it became disconcerting.”

Amongst Freud’s great late paintings were his enormous portraits of the performance artist, Leigh Bowery. Theirs was a special relationship, as Freud’s portraits of Bowery revealed the shy humanity hidden behind the make-up and costumes of a performer who invested all in concealing himself.

As Bowery discovered, sitting for Freud was a challenge, as the sitter allowed Freud “maximum observation”, as the BBC reports:

Lucian Freud’s portraits were not concerned with flattery or modesty - disturbing was one adjective applied to them - and some were said to have compelling nastiness.

His early work was the product of “maximum observation”, Freud said
Though sometimes startling, his portraits could also be beautiful and intimate. Freud had been an admirer of the artist Francis Bacon and painted a striking portrait of him.

Freud, who lived and worked in London, said his work was purely autobiographical - he painted “the people that interest me and that I care about and think about in rooms I live in and know”.

A close relationship with sitters was important to him. He painted several affectionate portraits of his mother and his daughters Bella and Esther were also models.

Sittings could last for a year and sitters were often profoundly affected by the process. One of them once said: “You are the centre of his world while he paints you. But then he moves on to someone else.”

Freud seldom accepted commissions. His work is in a number of galleries in Britain and overseas, but much of it is privately owned.

He was one of few artists to have had two retrospective exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery in London.

The following short documentary looks at Lucian Freud’s portraits through the people who have posed for him, from David Hockney to Duke of Devonshire.

Rest of documentary plus Lucian freud speaks, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Tuli Kupferberg, Slum God Of The Lower East Side
01:15 pm


Tuli Kupferberg
The Fugs

Tuli Kupferberg - born September 28, 1923, died July 12, 2010
“You can have the men who make the laws/ Give me the music makers.” The Fugs.

I once bought a pair of sunglasses from Tuli Kupferberg, not because I needed them, but because I wanted to own something that belonged to a man who had changed my life.

When I was 15 (1966) I purchased The Fugs debut album at a People’s Drug Store in Fairfax, Virgina. I took it home, listened to it, and soon thereafter made my first pilgrimage to New York City’s Lower East Side. I wanted to be a part of the grime, squalor and divine decadence that the Fugs so poetically, mystically and hysterically evoked in their music. I wanted to walk among slum goddesses, dirty old men, Johnny Piss Off and the Belle of Avenue A. I wanted to join in on the ultimate group grope, to fill my brain with light and find my corner of bliss in a city that only a Fug could love. All because of a record album, all because of a band, all because of Tuli.

Tuli embodied the tattered and beautiful soul of NYC. He was the patron saint of the dark alleys and garbage strewn streets that lead to coldwater flats of wisdom and pleasure. In a town of cracked minds and bruised souls, Tuli was the wandering minstrel, the sage of the sewers, the calm presence in the maelstrom of sirens and sobs. He sang away the demons at the door and let his prose settle around us like a sweet cloak of tongue nectar.

In 1967, I marched with The Fugs and 70,000 people in Washington D.C to protest the Vietnam War. Tuli and Ginsberg led us in a mantric chant (Om Mani Padme Hum) in an effort to levitate The Pentagon, a building that my father, a military man, was inside of. What gave me this courage, if not the music and poetry of my heroes? Ginsberg, Leary, Kerouac, The Fugs, The Beatles.

Tuli was a peace activist, a holy warrior, who believed that when pamphlets and protests stop working, it’s time to invoke the Gods and Goddesses of loving kindness. If you can’t beat the death merchants with bullhorns and speeches, bring out the heavy artillery, call upon the armies of the astral plane to lay some Blakean magic on the motherfuckers.

Regarding Tuli’s contribution to the music scene over the past 5 decades, his influence on rock provocateurs, from Country Joe’s Fish Cheer to punks like the Meatmen, The Frogs and The Circle Jerks, I’ll leave that to those among us who care more about the specifics than I do. Yes, The Fugs inspired me to start a band called The Pits Of Passion and to write songs about getting my first blow job. I’m sure that without Tuli and The Fugs, I’d probably have never written my best known tune, “88 Lines About 44 Women.” There is no question The Fugs opened the field for all of us to spew our darkest deepest and filthiest thoughts, knowing that we weren’t alone in the flesh frenzy and fuck fest of absolute reality. The Fugs were arguably the first punk band. All good.

But, what I most want to remember about Tuli Kupferberg is the sweetness of the man, his humility and kindness and that, yes, it is possible to change the world with a guitar, a good hook, a few dozen dirty words and a whole lot of soul.

Ted Berrigan writing about Tuli:

I asked Tuli Kupferberg once, “Did you really jump off of The Manhattan Bridge?” 

“Yeah,” he said, “I really did.”  “How come?” I said.

“I thought that I had lost the ability to love,” Tuli said. “So, I figured I might as well be dead. So, I went one night to the top of The Manhattan Bridge, & after a few minutes, I jumped off.”

“That’s amazing,” I said.

“Yeah,” Tuli said, “but nothing happened. I landed in the water & I wasn’t dead. So I swam ashore, & went home, & took a bath, & went to bed. Nobody even noticed.”

Originally posted on 07/12/10.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
‘Long live the authentic revolution!’ Peter Falk shined in Jean Genet’s ‘The Balcony’

Peter Falk’s death today will bring back memories to Boomers and Gen X-ers of his title role as the good-natured and shambling L.A. detective in the ‘70s TV show Columbo. But by the time he donned that character’s famous trenchcoat, he had about 15 years of acting under his belt, most famously in gangster roles in films like Murder Inc. and Frank Capra’s last, Pocketful of Miracles. (Of course, he augmented the Columbo years with amazing performances like his role as Nick in John Cassavettes’s masterful A Woman Under The Influence.)

He also appeared as the Chief of Police in Joseph Strick’s 1963 adaptation of Jean Genet’s surreal play The Balcony. The film stayed faithful generally to Genet’s meditation on revolution, counter-revolution, and nationalism, which is set in a brothel/movie set/fantasy factory designed for its authoritarian allegorical characters while unrest boils over in the fictional country outside.

Here’s Falk’s big segment after his character breaks up the party. May he rest in peace.


Posted by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
The Fischer King: RIP Larry “Wild Man” Fischer

Sad to hear that Larry “Wild Man” Fischer died of a heart attack in Los Angeles on Wednesday at the age of 66. Fischer, a mentally ill street musician who was at one time a familiar face on the Sunset Strip selling his songs for 10 cents apiece, recorded several albums (one produced by Frank Zappa), appeared on the Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In television series, and had a documentary made about him, dErailRoaDed in 2005.

He performed with Linda Ronstadt, Tom Waits, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Rosemary Clooney, Barnes & Barnes and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo. In 2004 Fischer performed “Donkey vs. Monkeys” on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Thomas Pynchon mentions Fischer in his 2009 novel Inherent Vice on page 155.

From The New York Times obituary:

Lawrence Wayne Fischer was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 6, 1944. From his youth on, whenever he was in a manic upswing — a state of intense creative energy he would call the “pep” — songs cascaded out of him.

At 16, after he threatened his mother with a knife, she had him committed to a mental institution. He was committed again a few years later.

After being released for the second time in his late teens, he lived mainly on the streets. Dreaming of becoming a famous singer, he performed in local talent shows.

He gained a small following and by the mid-1960s was opening for the soul singer Solomon Burke. He later opened for Alice Cooper, the Byrds and others.

Most of the time, though, Mr. Fischer stood on the Sunset Strip, where for a dime, or even a nickel, he would sing for passers-by. Mr. Zappa discovered him there and in 1968 released “An Evening With Wild Man Fischer” on his label Bizarre Records.

Mr. Fischer eventually fell out with Mr. Zappa, as he did with nearly everyone in his orbit. He languished until the mid-1970s, when he was almost single-handedly responsible for the birth of Rhino Records.

Rhino had been a record store in Los Angeles; Mr. Fischer, a habitué, recorded a promotional single, “Go to Rhino Records,” in 1975. Demand for it proved so great that it catapulted the store’s owners into the record-producing business.

I ran into “Wild Man” Fischer quite a few times over the years. The first time I saw him was on the third day I spent in Los Angeles in 1991. I didn’t have a car and so I took a bus to Tower Records. When I was going back to the hotel, I was sitting at the bus stop and a homeless vagrant started to get menacing towards me. It took me about a split second to realize who was confronting me and I thought it was probably a good idea to get away from him FAST, so I walked to the next bus stop. Sometimes you’d see him outside of rock clubs on Sunset or in the parking lot of the liquor store near the Chateau Marmont.

The last time I saw him was in 2004. My cell phone had run out of juice and I was making a call from a pay phone outside of a 7-Eleven store on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood. As the line was ringing, I saw a stream of urine roll past me. I followed it to its place of origin and there I saw an unconscious Larry “Wild Man” Fischer pissing himself. When I saw the dErailRoaDed movie a few years ago, I realized that when I saw him, that this was at a time (shown in the film) when none of his family even knew where he was for several months. May he rest in peace.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Leon Botha of Die Antwoord dead at 26
11:51 am


Die Antwoord
Xeni Jardin
Leon Botha

Our friend Xeni Jardin writes on Boing Boing of the passing of Leon Botha, South African artist and DJ best known for being the “hype man” for Die Antwoord. Leon died on Sunday from complications related to progeria. He was 26. As Xeni mentions, he was likely the longest-living person with the condition, but that’s not how he wishes to be remembered:

We ended up becoming internet pen-pals of a sort. Through this, and through some of his friends (who all expressed great affection and protectiveness toward Leon) I learned more about his visual and performance art work. In that work, in his written word, and in some of the incredible monologues you can find from on YouTube, his presence radiates. All who knew him, and all who were touched by his spirit through those videos, will know what I mean when I say that he emanated deep sincerity, gentleness, a serenity and quiet wisdom. Leon was aware of his own mortality in ways most people are not. He transformed that awareness into a sort of mindfulness of how vast and awesome life is.

One day over email, Leon shared with me that the passing mentions of him that existed on Wikipedia were upsetting to him. He was mentioned only on the page for Die Antwoord, and under the page for his disease, progeria.

“I was a bit paranoid that my art wouldn’t be in there, in case something happened to me,” he said.

Leon was very mindful of the value of the internet as a reflection of human life, and an archive of the living after they die. He wanted to be understood as a complex, self-determined, thoughtful creator and connector and thinker. Not as a disease, and not as a footnote in someone else’s better-known story. He wanted to be known for who he really was while he was alive. He wanted us to respect him, and his work, after he was gone.

Recently, our email exchanges seemed to include more and more news of challenging physical hardships from Leon. He never complained, but when I asked after longer silences, he shared. I can’t imagine the physical suffering he endured.

“I always thought when I was little, like, all of this is okay,” he wrote in one email. “Just please don’t let it reach the levels where it is now.”

Read more of In memoriam: Leon Botha, South African artist, DJ, and wonderful human being (Boing Boing)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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