Thursday, September 11, 2008


Final Installment of Interview with Billy Stark from the Blessed. Please visit his myspace page for more information on the Blessed.

CLOSING THOUGHTS FROM BILLY: Finally, I did want to mention my Father (RIP) who intentional or not had some major influences on me (both good and bad I think) and also set a certain sensibility in my personal approach and outlook to all this. A little about Him, He was a Commercial/High Fashion Photographer who also was involved with his Photos in the ‘Serious Art World” galleries and museums etc. In the 1930’s he apparently traveled w/ the Ballet Russe De Monte Carlo and was Photographer for Life Mag. in the 40’s and staff Photographer for Esquire in the 50’s. He photographed a wide variety of people including Suzy Parker-Don Loper -Marge and Gower Champion-Betty Grable-Humphrey Bogart-Pres. Truman. -Jimmy Stewart -Cary Grant-Lauren Bacall-Orson Wells-Raymond Massey- Yul Brynner - Gertrude Lawrence-Jack Lord-Glen Ford Etc. He is supposedly the only American Photographer to have Photographed Edith Piaf in a formal sitting and piloted a plane himself to Cuba to photograph Ernest Hemingway for an ad.

He also traveled w/ Ringling Bros Circus becoming friends w/ a lot of the performers (this fits in soon I promise), In 1929 in Ohio he won some kind of award in a race or something piloting a plane he flew himself -Who the hell was even flying IN a plane in 1929 never mind flying one yourself??!! He would have been about 16 years old or something (sounding familiar). I know he flew Glider planes during WW 2 and always wanted to take me flying in one. No way- uh-uh- was I ever getting in a plane that had no engine and I never did!

He had a studio in the Village –West 3rd St I believe in the 40’s and 50’s so he really was the epitome of the bohemian artist living/working in a loft in Greenwich Village @ that time. He never treated me like a child or his Son (well of course he did but not in any repressive way) but really as his ‘Adult Best Friend’ so I was exposed to and taken around to wide array of all that NY had to offer-going to see Warhol and Man Ray exhibits while listening to him extolling their genius. I also really loved that Goat w/ the spray painted tire around it-Rauschenberg I think? We used to go to the movies. One time he insisted I see this AMAZING film everyone is talking about- It was ‘El Topo’ and we went to the old Elgin Cinema @ Midnight in ’69 or 70 ? (I think that movie started the whole midnight movie thing) & I was about 9 years It was also the first time I smelled people smoking pot. We went to a lot of great festivals there -Buster Keaton, great double bills like a Marx bros. film and ‘Freaks’.

Pink Flamingos debuted here as well-they didn’t have a poster for it- just a big piece of white card board with the name written in magic marker or something. He tried to take me to see Warhols ‘ Trash’ (Truly Brilliant he’d enthuse about) but they wouldn’t let me in ‘ I’M HIS FATHER AND I SAY ITS ALRIGHT’ he argued with the person @ the Box office but it was to no avail. While I was still living in Connecticut the circus would be in town that weekend so of course we made plans to go. Now, this would be the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros circus which really was (is) the last of the old time circuses-Tents set up on a big lawn space etc, a midway-sideshow etc., as opposed to the Vegas like Ringling Bros. so the weekend comes and one night (or morning) about 4 a.m. he wakes me up ‘Come on get dressed-lets get going’ and I replied ‘Where are we going? And he said ‘To the Circus!!!” and seeing it was still kind of dark outside and it was 4 in the morning ‘Now??! we’re going now’!!? and he said ‘Sure this is the best part’- so we get there and his ‘BEST PART’ was watching them set-up(and he was right) The Bulls (elephants). Pulling up the poles for the main tent and the crew w/ mallets securing it all and the trailers arriving and it all being set up-its exactly like a Rock show. Pull in set up w/ roadies/Bulls setting up the trailers. The here today gone tomm’w atmosphere-had a big impact on me.

I spent a lot of time in the Village obviously-I remember it in the late 60’s when all the Hippie stuff was happening-heh! I even got my hair-trimmed (NOT CUT) @ Paul McGregors on St.Marks-he apparently invented the ‘SHAG’ haircut in’65 or so. Interestingly enough Howie’s Coney Island High Club –I later found out occupied the very same space and building it was in. I recall music blaring out of the Electric circus(always wondered now who might have been playing?) and all the Poster and head shops etc-still the same- just different groups on the T-shirts and stuff Lots of Fur coat shops and rug shops(don’t know why?)

Other places would be bars and clubs of all sorts in fact the first time I was ever @ Max’s was in ’69-I must have been about 7 or 8 years?! My parents and some of his friends and I went to see ‘Paint Your Wagon’ @ the old Loews State Theatre in Times Square (The Virgin mega store is there now). Then we went Max’s. All I remember about Max’s was that everything was RED (hence the infamous Red Room) and WAY TOO SMOKY in fact I made everyone leave because it was really bothering me. My father was also the Photographer who photographed Madonna during her early NY days and were published in Penthouse Mag, which caused a bit of a stir back in the 80’s. That’s how she ‘PAID’ for those recording sessions I mentioned earlier although I reiterate –indirectly!

Now this would have been about ’78 when he took the photos and The Blessed were up and running playing Max’s and CB’s etc.,So things came full circle and I was off doing my ‘THING’-…Remember there is no such thing as coincidences ! So, the Village was just ‘another’ part of the city to me. I am probably the only Blessed Member to not have ‘RUN AWAY’ at some point. I had no need to. My parents were cool and I could just be ‘me’ so as much as I enjoy all the village has to offer. Also I want add that one might get the impression that he made a lot of $$ but he was a LOUSY businessman and we were always just getting by or what not. We were not starving of course but he really never was savvy enough to really take full advantage of his talent financially.

This has been a lot of fun and I hope that it doesn’t come off pompous or w/ a lot of gratuitous Name dropping-which I usually find rather vulgar and off putting but its hard to tell the Story of The Blessed and a little about me without-well dropping in some names. In addition I also think it provides one more perspective and another snap shot if you will of NYC during those times from my corner of the world.

Lastly, I remember once reading about how Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin were having a conversation while outside the Premiere of one of Chaplins 'City Lights' and observing the huge crowd and pondering Chaplins fame. Einstein asked him “Charles, what does this all mean?” to which Chaplin responded ‘Nothing. It means nothing at all! I agree and feel the same way. Its fun and amusing and more exciting and interesting than most other things but ultimately its not important. Rock’n’Roll –The Punk Scene-the 70’s scene, Elvis, The Beatles etc, etc., and so on…..... Nothing. Its means Nothing at all Stay Tuned!The first 30 years was just a dress rehearsal............. ............NOW IT SHOWTIME!!!!!!!


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