Like three of the four members of Talking Heads, Bobby Grossman had been studying at the Rhode Island School of Design before vamoosing down to the Big Apple to take part in the punk/no-wave creative revolution occurring in the mid-1970s. Grossman quickly became a familiar face at CBGBs and the Mudd Club. Grossman would make his mark in the realm of photography; he took lots of photos of famous people that are a useful resource to this day.
Early on Grossman became friendly with André Leon Talley, who later become a big muckety-muck at Vogue (you might remember him from The September Issue), as well as Richard Bernstein, who over the years would execute almost a dozen covers for various Grace Jones releases and also did the familiar purple and yellow cover of New Order’s “Fine Time.”
Self-portrait by Bobby Grossman
According to Richard Boch’s The Mudd Club, Grossman was “the official TV Party photographer,” referencing Glenn O’Brien’s au courant anything-goes cable access TV show of the era. O’Brien also had Warhol connections; Warhol had included O’Brien, a graduate of Georgetown, as a part of his circle because he was looking to replace the speed addicts in his orbit with “clean-cut college kids.” In any case, Grossman was a familiar part of the vibrant NYC hijinks of the late 70s and beyond.
Warhol, whose most famous works had involved boxes of Brillo and cans of Campbell’s Soup, was certainly not unconscious of the iconic status of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes as well. While not as well-known as the Brillo boxes, each of these still fetches a pretty penny on the auction circuit:
Before arriving in New York and meeting Warhol himself, Grossman cribbed a page from the master and concocted a special punk rock version of an all-American box of Corn Flakes. As Grossman told Noah Becker about the project in 2009:
I photographed a number of friends eating Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. The idea originated at RISD when I took a Mick Rock photo of Lou Reed and put it on a box of German Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Later on when I moved to NYC I did a series of Corn Flake photo sessions.
Grossman has said that the idea “originated in 1974 while listening to Sally Can’t Dance.”
I think the impact of putting a noted New York drug addict and chronicler of the city’s “underground” types on the cover of Wheaties, then and now reserved for only the most wholesomely successful of athletes (obviously the best-known such sportsman would much later become Caitlyn Jenner), is somewhat lost on us today. There’s a picture of Warhol himself holding one of Grossman’s Lou Reed Kellogg’s boxes, which you can see at the top of this post. Here’s a closer look:
The Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box in the 1970s featured the words “die originalen” in cursive script just underneath the name of the product, obviously signifying that this was not some ersatz imitation but the real McCoy just like Americans consumed with their morning orange juice.
Then Grossman hit upon a related but different idea, which was to take pictures of prominent New York bohemians and rock stars doing a hokey pose while holding a bowl of Wheaties…
Keep reading after the jump…