Talking CBGB, Punk, and Warhol with Photographer Bobby Grossman [INTERVIEW]

Posted on: May 29th, 2015 at 5:00 am by

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Andy Warhol

BB: What are some of your favorite pictures that you took throughout the years?  Any favorite moments?

BG: I had a lot of fun being the unofficial house photographer for Glenn O’ Brien’s TV Party, a public-access cable TV show that was televised at E.T.C. studios from 1978 to 1982. We would meet at a Blarney Stone bar downstairs from the cable studio, across from School of Visual Arts on 23rd Street. We would tip back a few drinks and were briefed on the topic of that evenings show.  TV Party often had a theme. A few favorites were the Heavy Metal show, Beatnik Night, Mid-Eastern show and the Cowboy show. The Cowboy show featured David Byrne singing “Tumbling Tumbleweed.” TV Party was loosely inspired by Playboy After Dark or a talk show like Johnny Carson.

Early on in David Letterman’s monologue, Dave referred to TV Party as “the best TV show ever!” Glenn was the host and Chris Stein of Blondie was co-host. Warhol assistant and musician/artist Walter Steding led the TV Party Orchestra and sometimes the audience was more exciting than what the show was about, depending on the night. We filmed a few location shows at Hurrah and the Mudd Club. Glenn and I have talked about a book for many years but for now you can view the Best of TV Party documentary. And this summer a catalogue from my Sarasota exhibit, “Low Fidelity,” will be available with a section devoted to TV Party.

Some of my favorite photographs are from TV Party. One photo documents the first night when Fab 5 Fred invited his friend Jean-Michel Basquiat, who later became a regular on the show. This photo at the time was kind of a throw away, nothing special. Glenn actually cut Jean out of the photo and used the part of himself for a High Times magazine article, and now its maybe one of my most historic photos, often included in many gallery and museum catalogues. Another favorite is a photo of Warhol Superstar Jackie Curtis and David Bowie at the Mudd Club (below). Jackie was performing a cabaret show that night and asked me to search the club for David and we chose the cage created by Ronnie Cutrone to pose in.

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Jackie Curtis and David Bowie

One that really stands out to me was one I took in Chinatown. On a very cold February morning in 1980, Fred Brathwaite, Lee Quinones, Chris Stein and Debbie Harry and I met at Pike and Cherry Streets. Deb, Fred and Lee posed at a handball court displaying Fred and Lee’s graffiti art. Debbie questioned why we were up so early in the bitter cold. Freddy insisted since the angle of the morning light would be just right. This photo was published in Artforum to advertise the legendary P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center exhibit – New York/New Wave curated by Diego Cortez.

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Fred Brathwaite, Debbie Harry & Lee Quinones

Everyone seems to enjoy my Corn Flakes series of photographs. I first got the idea back at RISD in 1975 when a friend in Germany wrote me a letter on the back of a German Corn Flakes Box. I then appropriated a photo taken by my friend Mick Rock of Lou Reed and created my first Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box –  “Lou Reed Das Original.”  About a year later it appeared in Illustrators Annual magazine and then New York Rocker. Later on I cleverly thought it would be fun to pose my friends with a spoon and bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.  They would choose their favorite fruit and I would arrive to the shoot with milk, bowl, spoon and the box of Corn Flakes. Tina Weymouth carefully arranged guitar picks in her bowl. I visited the Talking Heads at their loft on Long Island City for their photo session, and when The Screamers were in town I photographed Tomata du Plenty. He chose cherry tomatoes.  Other subjects included Andy Warhol at The Factory, David Johansen, Debbie Harry, Richard Hell, Robert Fripp, and Hunt and Tony Sales.

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Bobby Grossman’s Cornflakes

In 2005, I collaborated with Shepard Fairey on a portrait of Debbie Harry. This was part of his MAY DAY exhibit at Jeffrey Deitch Projects. And last year I worked with Japanese artist Choco Moo. We collaborated on three pieces together: Joey Ramone, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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David Johansen

BB: Your pictures have been hosted in a variety of popular publications – Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Village Voice, etc . Where can we find your work now?

I already mentioned the catalogue from my LOW FIDELITY exhibition – it will be available through www.blurb.com and Amazon. Many friends contributed text, and artist/writer Richard Boch assisted with writing is the editor. My photos also appear in a few DVDs as well –  they are featured in TV Party: The Documentary, which can be streamed online, and Jean Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (the definitive documentary about Jean) features many of my photos. Some of my photos are also features in William S. Burroughs: The Man Within. Back in 2005, Roberta Bayley curated the exhibition “Bande a part – NYC Underground 60s, 70s, 80s”, which includes a chapter with my photographs. The show toured around the world, and a really nice catalogue published by Gingko Press came out of that. You can also find a lot of my photos on www.bobbygrossman.com and  www.tvparty.org.

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Bobby Grossman and John Waters

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Bobby Grossman at the Mudd Club

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