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Debbie Harry in 1980 TV ads for Gloria Vanderbilt jeans

Until the mid-70s, the only kinds of blue jeans anyone really wore were Levis, Lee or Wrangler. Then came designer jeans like Calvin Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt.

To take on the big three jeans companies, these upscale upstarts needed cutting-edge celebrities to flog their togs: Calvin Klein famously used Brooke Shields and Natasha Kinski in his memorable advertising campaigns. Gloria Vanderbilt’s teen line, “GV Jr.” by Murjani had style icon Debbie Harry of Blondie for the spokesmodel.

In the first one, you’ll notice Lounge Lizard John Lurie on sax and Harry saunters past some SAMO wall tagging (SAMO was the graffiti name used by a young Jean-Michel Basquiat). Eagle-eyed No Wave trainspotters will also notice Mudd Club co-founder Anya Phillips and James Chance as they watch this over and over again…

Another Gloria Vanderbilt jeans commercial with Debbie Harry after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Art of John Lurie: a short Q&A with the coolest man on Earth
11:08 am


John Lurie

John Lurie is well known for a number of things; from fusing avant garde jazz and No Wave music with the Lounge LIzards in late 70s New York to his acting work in the films of Jim Jarmusch (not to mention his many scoring credits.) Though dogged by his fair share of bad luck—including being struck with chronic Lyme disease, and his travails with alleged stalker John Perry (which we have covered previously on Dangerous Minds)—Lurie has always managed to retain his impeccable sense of cool, making him a hero for many.

One area of Lurie’s life that I personally didn’t know much about till now was his artwork. Since being affected by Lyme disease in 2000, Lurie has been focussed intently on his work with the canvas and brush, work which contains equal measures of absurd humor and genuine insight, even if it’s refracted through an almost child-like naiveté.

Last week my friends at the blog Generation Bass managed to get a short, exclusive interview with Lurie about his artwork. Having not covered this aspect of his prolific output here on Dangerous Minds before, I am glad to be able to republish some of that article here. Many thanks to the good folks at Generation Bass, in particular DJ Umb, for this brief but intriguing interview with a modern legend.

John Lurie “Buffalo”
Generation Bass: Many of us would like to think that we relate to you because we’re outsiders. For many you epitomize that “outsider” characteristic. Would that be a fair assessment of you or is it wide off the mark?

John Lurie: I am not sure what you mean by “outsider” here.  I try to stay as close as I can to what I feel is real, ignoring whatever the popular trends are.  I am not sure what I am outside of.  I think that anyone following the trail of babble and unaware of what’s really real is actually the outsider, even if there are a lot of them.

GB: You said that your painting “The Spirits Are Trying To Tell Me Something But It’s Really Fucking Vague” is somewhat autobiographical. Can you expand upon that? I mean can you tell us what the spirits were/are trying to tell you, even if it’s really fucking vague.

JL: Well that is kind of private but mostly very difficult to explain. It does seem that for a long while there, things had gone so perfectly, inexplicably wrong that it had to mean something. But was kind of a joke because you can’t really blame the spirits, has to be the receptor that isn’t working so well.

John Lurie “Bear Surprise”
GB: How did you feel when your painting “Bear Surprise” went viral in Russia in 2006 as an Internet meme

John Lurie: I don’t know. Some of the silly paintings are bad on purpose. That being one of them. So that it went viral was a little odd. I mostly just thought – What the fuck…?  And then I thought – There are no copyright laws in Russia?

GB: Which of your own work is your most favourite painting or holds most significance for you and why?

JL: Oh I don’t know, I probably have 20 favorites.  “Wednesday,”  I guess has the most significance

GB: Do you have any upcoming public exhibitions? If so, where?

JL: No, nothing. Isn’t that kind of amazing?  The art world and I don’t seem to be on speaking terms.

John Lurie “Wednesday”
GB: John, you’re notorious as a bad boy but you’re still here. Even though you can’t do films and music anymore since the onset of chronic Lyme disease, you’re still being an artist, you’re painting. You’re still in the public eye, being funny and at times, bad. Don’t you think that’s ironic? In some strange but beautiful and twisted way, you’ve become a kind of “positive” role model to people. You’re dealing with huge health issues but that hasn’t deterred your artistry. Everyday you’re battling on, still being honest and still creating beauty! You’re still an inspiration to many the world over no matter how beat up and broken you might be or feel you are.
What would you say to this?

JL: I don’t know, what’s a bad boy?

I am in a situation that is very isolated and not so easy for that reason. Then we get an email from Romania or Argentina saying how much the paintings mean to them and how they helped them through a really hard time.  In turn that helps me back through a really hard time.  Is pretty cool that.

I wonder if Tilda Swinton got letters like that after sleeping at MOMA.

GB: If you could live your life all over again, is there anything you would change?

JL: I don’t think like that. At all.

GB: If Marvin Pontiac were still alive today, what do you think is the most important lesson he would have learned in his life and what particular advice do you think he’d be kind enough to impart to the people of the world?

JL: Watch out for buses.

John Lurie “The Spirits Are Trying To Tell Me Something But It’s Really Fucking Vague”
Thanks again to DJ Umb. You can read the full unabridged piece on the Generation Bass website. You can find (and buy) more of John Lurie’s art on the website John Lurie

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
John Perry vs. John Lurie: Starving for recognition

Manhattan artist John Perry has gone on a hunger strike to protest an article in the New Yorker magazine that depicted him as stalking musician/actor/painter John Lurie. Perry claims that the article was filled with innuendo, lies and half-truths resulting in his artistic career being ruined.

I’ve written about the Perry/Lurie dispute previously on Dangerous Minds and don’t want to stir up the hornets nest again. But I hate to see two people I like (or at least think I like) pushing themselves in directions that can only be seen as self-destructive. The two Johns are decent human beings who’ve veered way off course by letting this negative energy fester and poison their lives. In my talks with Lurie and Perry, both seemed pained by what has happened between them. I’m baffled that it hasn’t been resolved by now. As the drama continues to unfold, fed by both men, it has become increasingly more difficult to feel sympathy for either one. The whole mess is reaching levels of the absurd that suggests some form of performance art. If only it were.

My name is John Perry.

In August 2010, Tad Friend of the New Yorker magazine, after many months of interviews and investigation, published an article which contained what he had assured me would be a factually accurate account of a conflict that transpired between John Lurie and myself.

He did not.

Because Tad Friend did not present the evidence which would have made clear that Lurie lied about the incident which nullifies Lurie’s claims of stalking (that my outrage and attempts to frighten him were unprovoked), he has- willfully or not- enabled and assisted Lurie in his effort to destroy me through his campaign of slander and libel.

Since my efforts, by conventional means, to persuade Tad Friend and the New Yorker magazine to acknowledge the omission of critical information have failed, and since I do not believe a person’s name, their word, and their reputation are separate from a person’s physical self and lives beyond the death of their body, I resolve to take only water until the New Yorker agrees to publish an acknowledgment of their omission of facts.

John Lurie, with the help of Tad Friend and the New Yorker magazine, have taken my name, the name of my family, have destroyed the person I was, and left me with the life, reputation, and future of a person I no longer have the slightest interest in nourishing.

Hunger strike in protest of the lies of Tad Friend, John Lurie and the New Yorker magazine. Begins at Petrosino Square at Spring Street & Lafayette Street, New York City Monday, May 9th, 2011.

Knowing John Lurie, he’ll be very vocal in response to Perry’s protestations.
L’amour fou.

My advice to the two Johns is get over your bad selves and let your art do the talking. In the meantime, whatever viability you have as artists is being overshadowed by theatrics that belong on reality TV. You both are fine artists but shitty self-promoters. This ain’t the kind of press any serious artist wants or needs.
On the other hand, this all started with an article in the New Yorker by a writer, Tad Friend, who may have painted a somewhat warped picture. If so, he needs to set the record straight. And so far, Friend’s silence is almost as deafening as the roar of Lurie and Perry’s collective egos.

You can follow John Perry’s strike here.

Update May 11: John Perry’s video response to “John Perry vs. John Lurie” after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Is John Perry a phantom in John Lurie’s head?

Nude No. 2 by John Perry

For friends and fans of John Lurie, there’s a disturbing article in the current issue of The New Yorker. The title of the piece is ‘Sleeping With Weapons’ and it’s a strange and sad tale. John has been in hiding for the past 18 months to avoid a former friend who is supposedly stalking him. The alleged stalker, John Perry, was Lurie’s closest friend. The two had a serious falling out and Lurie feared that Perry intended to kill him.

The above quote is from a piece I posted on Dangerous Minds August 11. Last night I spoke with John Perry, Lurie’s alleged stalker, and in conversation, Perry came across as an even-tempered and thoughtful guy who allowed a falling out with a friend to escalate into an epic battle of wills and a public airing of dirty laundry.

To hear him tell it, Perry, an artist who specializes in cityscapes and portraits, had invited his friend Lurie to participate in an instructional documentary on drawing called The Drawing Show, with Lurie serving as the subject of one of Perry’s portraits. Lurie enthusiastically agreed to do it. He liked Perry’s work.  The finished film was then going to be pitched to PBS as a concept for an ongoing television series. As Perry described it, it would be a program instructing non-artists on how to draw, just like the numerous cooking shows teach people how to cook.  In discussing the concept, Perry was at his most upbeat and energized during our talk. Clearly, it means a lot to him. At this point, the project is still up in the air and that’s where the problems with Lurie begin.

Citing illness, Lurie left the project before its conclusion. Whether he intended to complete the shoot or not is unclear, the fact is he left. What is clear is that Perry is stuck with 27 minutes of professionally shot video that was not finished as planned. The end of the piece was to have Lurie looking at the portrait that Perry had sketched of him and commenting on it. This was the agreed upon ending. But, Lurie left and never returned. No one knows why. What is known is that Lurie’s leaving the project has left Perry $6000 poorer, frustrated and initially quite angry. Perry, bewildered as to why Lurie would sabotage his project, did everything he could to communicate to Lurie the importance of finishing the video shoot. Lurie’s lack of response and evasiveness fueled Perry’s frustration and some trash talk ensued.  But, Perry’s anger never went beyond tough guy posturing and some heated e-mail exchanges between Lurie and himself. I’ve read some of the e-mails and in them both men are equally guilty of being hostile. But no threats of bodily harm were made by Lurie or Perry. At no point in my conversation with Perry did I feel he was the type of guy who would stalk someone with the intention of hurting them. It just doesn’t seem to be his style. But, I’m speaking from the gut, I don’t know all of the facts, only Perry and Lurie do. No amount of ink on the page or words on a computer screen will tie this emotionally charged mess up in an aesthetically pleasing bow. Anyone who has gone through a toxic breakup knows that tidy resolutions to deep heartbreak is rarely achievable.

When all is said and done, two friends, two artists, have had an extended personal dust-up publicly exposed in what will eventually become a major embarrassment for both of them. In John Perry’s case, it already has. 

Through it all, Perry has tried to stay focused on the things that mean the most to him, his art and a deep desire to teach people how to draw. The ultimate test of Perry’s success will not be in whether or not he proves to the world that he’s not the person Lurie has painted him to be, but whether or not the world gets to know him through his art and a film as yet unfinished. My advice to John last night was to move on and let his work speak for him. The people who really give a shit about Perry know who he is. The readers of The New Yorker and this blog will have forgotten about a fight between two New York artists (even one named Lurie) in a matter of months if not weeks. It really doesn’t matter. “Ars longa, vita brevis”

The drama is in watching a semi-celebrity like John Lurie going through hell. There hasn’t been much interest in John Perry, a man who’s life has been derailed, for the moment, by unproven allegations of being a stalker. I personally think he never intended or threatened to harm Lurie. I may be naive, I may be wrong about Perry, perhaps there’s someone out there, other than Lurie, who can back up these allegations, so far they haven’t spoken up. And until they do, Perry, to me,  is just a guy who’s been through a shitstorm magnified by an article in a magazine: the phantom stalker, perhaps just a demon in John Lurie’s head?

Here’s a short video on John Perry and his art:

The Strange Tale Of A Lounge Lizard.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
John Lurie’s disappearing act: the strange tale of a Loung Lizard and his stalker

For friends and fans of John Lurie, there’s a disturbing article in the current issue of The New Yorker . The title of the piece is ‘Sleeping With Weapons’’ and it’s a strange and sad tale. John has been in hiding for the past 18 months to avoid a former friend who is supposedly stalking him. In addition, he has a mysterious illness that has kept him a virtual prisoner in his apartment for the past six years, until now.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lurie’s history, he’s been a significant and prolific member of New York’s downtown art scene since the 1970s. His band The Lounge Lizard’s were at the forefront of the late 70s New York ‘no-wave’  music scene. He starred in Jim Jarmusch’s pioneering indie film Stranger Than Paradise, along with more than a dozen other films. He hosted TV’s Fishing With John, has done film soundtracks and is a highly regarded painter. Now his own life has taken on a melodramatic turn that seems like a performance from hell.

The alleged stalker, John Perry, was Lurie’s closest friend. The two had a serious falling out and Lurie feared that Perry intended to kill him. John fled New York and for awhile moved into the Big Sur home belonging to Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bass player. In October of 2009, he moved to Palm Springs, California. He’s been incognito ever since. His relationship with Perry sounds like a romance turned extremely toxic, but Lurie has made it clear that this was no love affair. The dynamic is weird, to say the least. What the hell happened? It remains unclear.

I’ve crossed paths many times with John since the during late-70s and John’s no shrinking violet. This is not the kind of man who is easily intimidated. So, there must be something seriously wrong to compel him to leave his home and hide out. I noticed in the past year that his Facebook messages were often angry rants that sounded like he was in the throes of either drink, exhaustion or deep frustration…perhaps all three. I knew there was a problem. He has since deleted his original Facebook page and replaced it with another. Strange behavior for a man who has always managed to handle being in the public eye.

Proving that you’re the target of a stalker is difficult, particularly if you’re male. According to friends who have spoken to him in the past year, Lurie wants his nightmare to go public because it’s the only way the cops will take the whole thing seriously. On the other hand, is John Perry actually stalking Lurie? And why hasn’t he been heard from? How much of this is in Lurie’s head?

You can read the article at The New Yorker’s website but you have to subscribe. Pick up the print addition or wait until it pops up on the internet for free. I’ll publish a link to the full article on Dangerous Minds once it becomes available on the net.

Here’ a scene from Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law featuring Lurie and Tom Waits, followed by a Lurie interview on French TV and The Lounge Lizards performing live in Germany in 1989.

Lounge Lizards and Lurie interview after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment