A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to sit down with the legendary Hudson Marquez to chat about the paintings in his new show "High Humidity" at La Luz De Jesus Gallery. The interview was published last week by Cartwheel Art. If you haven't done so yet, I urge you to read it now. Go ahead, I'll wait...
(tapping foot while you read Ike Turner Killed JFK: A Conversation With Hudson Marquez)
-Great stuff, right? Well, as these things usually go, the conversation had to be pared down for time, space, and other mundane considerations, leaving quite a bit of stellar Hudson-isms, and bits not part of the interview proper, just lingering on my laptop unread. I asked the kind folks at Cartwheel if I might be able to publish the missing pieces here, and lucky you, they said yes. So what we have here is a glorious impromptu story about Ray Johnson, a chat about Hudson's collection of Mammy dolls, a more in depth look into the plot against JFK, and a wonderfully lurid tale about the 500 Club. So let's get started!
Upon my arrival for our second session, Hudson went to the kitchen to brew us some coffee. While I waited, I snooped around the place, admiring his impressive collection of art, photographs, and various collectibles. Hudson returned to find me reading a framed letter he'd received from Ray Johnson, which prompted this:
"Do you know Ray Johnson? There's a movie called How To Draw A Bunny. Ray drew these bunnies and he sent these through the mail to people, and he sent mysterious little collages, and he painted on little things and stuck little things...very fey, very gay stuff. Every once in a while his gayness would be like- you know, he did a lot of little Michael Jackson drawings. But anybody who got one of these things was like 'Holy shit! I got a letter from Ray!'Well, I corresponded with Ray, starting in the late sixties -um, because there's a book called - oh god, I have the book, it's around. It's a real rare art book. It's called something and the snake. It's collage, and some big time critic published this book with Ray's little prints in it, and I thought 'This is really weird shit!' but his address was in there. So we started corresponding. He'd send letters to you, to add something to, and send it to somebody else...and these letters would go around, you know? -to a lot of critics, and a lot of artists and a lot of people. Anyway, it's really hard to explain Ray. But he had a little thing he called the New York CorresponDANCE club. He was a real tastemaker, way ahead of his time, and he had this little circle of friends. Lucy Lippard, a big art critic, was one of them, and Warhol -Andy was another one - a few other people.One of the biggest honors I ever had in my life was, I was in New York '74 or '75, I don't know, '76, I don't know -I had written Ray that I was going to be in New York. Nobody talked to Ray on the phone, he had no phone. Anyway Ray had a New York Correspondence meeting for me, was totally mysterious, he called it the Meeting Of The Correspondence Club, very strange -because I hadn't met Ray, it's all through the mail. People never met Ray, and um -except he was a known character -his shit's in the Museum of Modern Art, it's in the Whitney, it's in every fucking museum. He's had shows in small rooms at all the big museums -most people don't know who he is - and he didn't go to his own openings. Well Ray -I almost cry thinking about him -he told me to meet him, he called me and told me on Saturday to meet him on this corner -which is before Soho became UGH! - there were a few galleries there. I met him on this one corner -I wasn't quite sure what Ray looked like, and this kind of slight bald guy, blue jeans and a sweatshirt, came up to me and said 'Hudson, I'm Ray. Let's walk around.' We walked around -there's only galleries and a few restaurants -we walked around, people on the street stopped and said 'Hello Ray. How are you?' Every fucking person knew Ray, and they all stopped to say hello. Some people were too embarrassed to stop, they just stared at Ray, it was really weird. So, we walk around for awhile, and look at people. You know, act snarky and shit. Then we go to the OK Harris Gallery, which was a good gallery, and we go in the gallery and we look at the art, and I'm like -how long am I supposed to be with Ray? This is all a little strange, you know? What the fuck? So we go in the backroom of the gallery, where the gallery girl came out and said 'Oh Ray!' -and Ray says 'This is my friend Hudson Marquez, he's from Ant Farm and TVTV. He's a very important artist, you should know him. She says 'Oh hi Hudson, how are you?' She goes, 'We're about ready.' Went in the backroom, it's a huge backroom, and there was champagne and paper cups -good champagne -and a bunch of like, heavy New York people, with weird glasses and shit -very much New York, dykes, big bull-dykes -all expensively dressed, I mean shoes worth more than my car and shit, you know what I mean? -and Ray introduces me to everybody, and everybody has a joint, and it's like a little cocktail party. People are all interested in who Ray brought and blah-blah-blah. So, we talk -and I kind of know who some of these people are -like deep sea fish, they come up once in a while. This was big deep sea fish! -and I'm going 'This is really fucking great!' Ray has manipulated all these fucking people into doing something. Then Ray pulled out envelopes, and the whole room changed. It was like, silent -because not everybody was going to get one. Ray kind of walked around with the envelopes -and he gave one to me, and I put it in my pocket. Some of the people were horrified, they didn't get an envelope -and I realize, this is Ray's art. It's all these different fucking people, who want his favor for some reason -and because his art is so amorphic -you know, this is his art. This is a fucking performance piece he's doing -and this is the New York Correspondence School. I get the whole fucking deal now! This guy's deep. This is fucking great! None of this is documented. Only people can tell the story. It's not documented. It's wild. This guy is so fucking great! -and we drank the bottles of champagne -got pretty shitfaced, and gallery girl kept pouring, and people who didn't get envelopes kind of wandered off, they're out -but they're polite, 'Nice to meet you. I'm sure we'll blah-blah-blah. Here's my card.' They were very nice. They left and we all went to a restaurant, where Ray had a meal. One of the rich women paid for it. Then Ray and I walked around -we're drunk, and now espresso-ed up -and walked around for a while -that was it -only time I ever saw Ray. Yeah -then Ray dies -and there's a gallery in West Hollywood, the guy who represented Ray -and it's a good, first-class gallery. It was down a really weird, narrow side street, above Melrose near Doheny, around in there -a real narrow kind of opening between two buildings, went into a courtyard where this big gallery was. This guy -fucking, he had this show of Ray's, I couldn't fucking believe. I have a poster for it somewhere in there. Anyway, man -Ray, they found all these objects in Ray's studio. He'd taken old hammers, used tools, rocks, sticks and painted them -with acrylic paint or oil paint -I couldn't tell what it was, but the surface was flat, like an acrylic -he'd painted them gray, with a black stripe, or a white stripe -and it was like -they're fucking brilliant! I mean they look great. They're like -if you put this gray painted hammer on a coffee table, people would know this was high art. It just had that -this guy who owned the gallery, and he had lots and lots of Ray's collages and stuff -and I asked him 'You know, I was a friend of Ray's for a long time and this is really intensely private stuff on the walls.' I said, 'I hope that people get it.' He said to me, 'Who are you?' I said my name and he said 'I know who you are. I used to get mail from Ray that had your name on it.' -and we talked about Ray for a while, and I kind of got a strange, greedy vibe off of this guy -and the shit he had priced it at, you know? -and I'm wondering 'Who the fuck gets this money?' I've never heard of Ray having any kind of foundation set up. He doesn't have any heirs. -Wheatsman? I can't think of his name. I just got a bad vibe, that this guy owns all this shit. I got weirdness off of him."
At this point the coffee was ready. We both got up and discussed who would have the larger cup (Hudson), when I noticed just outside of the kitchen this Redd Foxx doll:
'Is that a Redd Foxx doll?!', I practically shouted.
"Yeah! I'll show you my Mammy doll collection. The Redd Foxx one -I'll show you. There's a mammy style doll called topsy turvy. I'll show you one. There's a white woman in a big long like Annie Belle dress, and if you turn it upside down (or inside out), it's a mammy. -and that Redd Foxx, in a weird way is a topsy turvy too. If you turn Redd around, he's on vacation (in a hawaiian shirt and shorts), and the other one, he's on stage (in a suit) with a microphone. These mammy's though, a lot of 'em are real old. Some of 'em are kind of new, but most of 'em are very old -with the original dresses."
"Then I've got a bunch on top of the fridge too."
"I started collecting all that black stuff in the sixties, salt and pepper shakers -and I've gone through a lot of 'em. A lot of them have been broken. Some were stolen from me in San Francisco. I don't know why. When I started buying it, it was not expensive. You know Warhol collected Mammy cookie jars? He had like hundreds of those things. -they weren't expensive. But then Whoopi Goldberg comes along, -a couple other people, Diana Ross, they decide this stuff is great -you know, they see the unintended artistic value of this as historical document, and they start buying it, and the prices went through the roof, overnight. I haven't really bought anything since."
At this point, fearing my time might run out (as it had in our first session), I steer the conversation back to discussing the new paintings in his La Luz show, starting with The Plot Against JFK, which suggests Ike Turner's involvement.
"You know, you talk about the Ike Turner one -um, I’m just a huge Ike Turner fan. I just love Ike. Ike was the real deal. He had some bad habits, you know. Isaac Hayes beat the shit out of his wife constantly too. I got nothing good to say about Ike being a good guy or anything, but as a musician…well, he’s great because he became a great symbol of black evil. He became the black devil, you know. Barry White was this kind of big black , cuddly teddy bear that people made fun of, but -you don’t fuck with Ike Turner! Now Tina became a big pop star and, I swear to God, she swore that she never wore the outfits that she actually wore as Tina Turner, even though there’s hours of film of her, shaking her ass. She says she never did that, She claims it never happened. Her name was Anna Mae Bullock from Nutbush, Tennessee. She claims that person never really existed, but that this man…this evil man did all this stuff. She didn’t say that he wrote the songs for her. She didn’t say that he arranged all the music, and choreographed the dances. Ike choreographed that shit. The Ikettes? Ike choreographed them. Ike rehearsed them, in his living room, day after day after day, and Ike was a mean boss. But anyway…I was thinking that Ike could have been involved in great conspiracies. Like, you know what? That fuckin' Ike, he probably planned the Kennedy assassination (laughs). So I’ve got Ike…and the other people in the picture, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Carlos Marcello, who was the mafia boss of the southeast. He probably did have Kennedy killed. So, there's a picture of Carlos there. It's another favorite character from New Orleans. He ran every whore, and gambling joint, and extortion racket from Atlanta to Dallas, he owned it, and he was so feared that -if you were Sam Giancana henchmen from Chicago, and you wanted to go to New Orleans with your wife -you had to get permission from Carlos to come, and he was -nobody really knew about him, and he wasn't at -the Apalachin meetings? There was a big thing in the fifties where the FBI -there was a huge meeting of all the mob bosses, in Apalachin, some big place. Every mob, every mafia head in the country was there, and the FBI raided the place. They arrested fifty people! Most of 'em were guys carrying guns, hanging around outside. But they got a bunch of New York and east coast mob bosses, and a west coast guy, and a Chicago guy. But Carlos wasn't there. One of Carlos' guys was there, because Carlos didn't like to travel -and Carlos didn't want his name around because it attracted attention. Also, Carlos wasn't a U.S. citizen. He was under a deportation order from the FBI, that they couldn't enforce. He lived ten miles from where I grew up, and he was in the country illegally, and the FBI helped him. They never enforced it. When Bobby Kennedy got in, he made the mafia top priority, you know? Carlos -the mob owned the French Quarter, all the strip clubs, all the antique stores, everything. Carlos went almost everyday to this oyster bar called Acme, where his bookies were and so on. He usually paid a visit to Acme when he came into New Orleans, from the little suburb where he lived. -and he's walking down the street, by himself, with fourteen cents in his pocket, and Bobby Kennedy had him snatched off the street, thrown into a car, driven to the Lakefront airport, put in a plane. and flown to Costa Rica or Guatemala and put out on the tarmac. This didn't go over real well. You know, it was a matter of respecting, you don't do that to anybody, you had no warrant. It's a completely fuck you gesture from the Kennedys. All these mobsters and his family went down to wherever he was, and they come back -then he flies back. They have so much fucking cash that he buys off the -he has no passport! He flies back! He gets to the New Orleans airport and the FBI guy is there, and photographers. Carlos gets off this chartered plane, and he's walking across the thing to the airport, and FBI guy comes up to arrest him? Carlos punched the guy, knocked him out, and continued to walk, and there he lived, in New Orleans forever! Nobody touched him. I mean, the FBI was on him 24 hours a day, wherever he went. But nobody touched him. He was not born in the United States. He was born on a boat coming from Sicily, so he never had a birth certificate, he wasn't a citizen. Carlos told lots of people that he was going to kill Bobby Kennedy. Now Bobby Kennedy never went anywhere near any of these people, and anyway the theory is, and I think it’s true, is that Carlos had him killed. There's an incredible book called "Mafia Kingfish" that's really great, and it's all about Marcello having him killed, and it's not some wild-eyed crazy motherfucker talking about how, you know, Dan Rather was part of the conspiracy or something -this wild shit that people come up with. -and I don't really care who killed Kenndy. I don't give a shit. I really don't care, but the characters involved, around the whole thing? -were fucking amazing.
I did a show at Zero One, called "Single Bullet Theory". It sold out. They were big drawings. They were all about -I had gone and read the Warren Commision Report, at the Beverly Hills library. I went every day and read this thing. It's fucking amazing! I mean, the evidence -the shit that they got from where Lee Harvey had lived, plus Lee lived in the French Quarter, and I knew two of the people who were involved in this thing. One was a gay -there was a movie made and Joe Pesci played the character, it was a guy who had alopecia, he haid no hair, no eyebrows, no nothing. He wore a bad rug, his name was David Ferrie. He was gay, he lived in the French Quarter, and he did cancer research at home. I swear to god, I'm not making this up, cancer research at home, and had a listing as a research scientist in the phonebook. He had no degrees! He was a very smart guy, but very gay, predator -and he had the Boy Scout troop in the French Quarter. Guess who was in the Boy Scout troop? Yeah, Lee Harvey Oswald, when he was fifteen, fourteen years old -and David Ferrie gave private plane lessons, flying lessons out of the Lakefront Airport. He used to get kids up over Lake Pontchartrain, put it on auto-pilot, then turn to the young boy who was taking flying lessons, and ask him he wanted to play with his puppy. That happened to my friend Bruce Thompson. They would stop taking lessons, but that was one of the ways he made a living. Then there was the cancer research he did, at his apartment in the French Quarter -which, I have no idea what that was about, but he did do that -and he flew to Dallas the day of the assassination, he was at the airport, waiting for somebody, and came back to New Orleans the same day, AND he worked for Carlos. Six months before the assassination he worked for Carlos, as a quote 'researcher'. Nobody knows what the fuck! These are the people who were involved in this circus that went on, you know? -and the Jack Ruby thing! I did all this research on Jack Ruby. Oh man, I have no idea what he had to do with any of this, but this guy was really strange. You know what was in his car, after they found his car, after he shot Oswald? His dog was in his car, a little daschund he took everywhere, and on the dashboard was a now ravaged deli-wrapped fresh liver -for the dog! He thought he was going to shoot him and come back to the car. So, he left his beloved dog there, and also this whole bag of amphetamine tablets in the glove compartment, and a gun permit for somebody that nobody knew. All this weird shit was in his car. They inventoried his car. When you read this stuff, you go 'Jeez! This is art man.' So, I just drew all of that stuff. Also the hookers who worked for him -I don't know if it's coincidence or what, but the girls who were stripping for Ruby, they came around the New Orleans clubs too, they ran a circuit that Carlos Marcello ran. These women all died within like a year of the assassination, and they weren't old. One hung herself with her toreador pants in a jail cell. Just the underworld of people who -there was a whole bunch of weird shit going on, and that guy Jim Garrison, the D.A. who arrested this poor man who had nothing to do with anything, but he was gay, and he was high profile, and he was a 'pervert'. He had a great job, he was head of public relations for the port of New Orleans. That meant that you just took people out to dinner. He had an unlimited expense account. His name just escapes me (Clay Shaw), but Garrison arrested him for killing Kennedy. Well, Garrison had something. It wasn't this guy that he arrested, but the crowd that this guy had around him (Clay), this guy Ferrie and a bunch of other strange motherfuckers, lowlifes -but you know, rough trade. Well, Garrison was a loudmouth moron, and he talked to reporters all the time. So the reporters kept writing about Clay, and kind of forced Garrison to go arrest this guy, and that was the end. Everybody shut up about everything. But Garrison -the fact that this loudmouth asshole, who ruined the music business in New Orleans, sent everybody fleeing -he was a reformist, closed all the bars, closed all these places, people stopped coming to record in New Orleans -Garrison was an asshole, and he had something, but nobody ever knew what it was. But (laughs) I'm sure Ike had something to do with it -that Ike was the mastermind behind it!"
|The Plot Against JFK|
Lastly we move from the JFK assassination to the infamous 500 Club:
"The 500 Club was a club in the French Quarter. It was called Luis Prima's 500 Club. But nobody ever paid attention to the Louis Prima thing because it was a mob operation that they put Louis' name on, because they owned him too -and Louis Prima didn't play at the 500 Club (laughs). But it was one of the two big feature dancer/stripper places -huge burlesque stars and strippers were there. When we were kids in the French Quarter, when we were thirteen and fourteen, they'd let us in. They thought we was cute. So, I got to see all those strippers -and after a while I was more interested, even as a fourteen year old with a permanent boner, more than watching these incredible women do a striptease act, but watching the crowd. The crowd was weird. People around it were just weird. I mean, I just -so weird. With tourists, they were drunk with their wives, who were horrified, screaming 'Take it off!', you know? There were French Quarter characters who came in, had a few drinks, say hello to a couple of the hookers , you know? Now, there were no hookers on the street in New Orleans, and even today, there's no hookers on the street. At the time, you found a hooker by going into one of these clubs, and they were called b-drinkers, bar drinkers. They sold little Joe Schlitz' for $10 a bottle -and when the guy got rowdy, the woman had got him a boner, started giving him a handjob and shit. Then she'd disappear, alright? The guy would go 'Hey! What happened?' , and he would complain that this woman -he'd just spent a hundred and fifty dollars and this woman just walked off. 'Wait a minute! There's something going on here!' -and these guys would come from the door and go, 'Oh yeah?' and they would take him to the front of the club, just inside the front doors, whip the shit out of him and take his wallet, throw him out in the street. You know, this is a guy from Sandusky, Ohio, a shoe salesman -he's standing drunk on a street in New Orleans with no wallet, when he realizes his wife is gonna find out about this. He's NOT going to go to the cops, and if he goes to the cops, the cops are all on the take in the French Quarter. He goes to the cops and the cops are all 'Really?! You must have done something', and nothing would ever happen, and that's how these places operated. They robbed everybody who came through the fucking door. One of the things we used to see on the French Quarter was, at about 4am, when things were tapering off between 4 and 5, you'd see drunk guys in suits on all four corners, an intersection on Bourbon Street -because the same dancer had come off stage, then come got drinks out of you, and put her hand on your dick, promised the guys she would meet them at 4am on this corner. She had four guys on four different corners waiting for her -and that's what was going on. So, I just love that side of the French Quarter, you know? -and I lived with a stripper in the French Quarter for a while. But seeing that stuff from behind the stage is pretty fucking great. the barkers were great too on the street, the guys who would get people to come in the clubs. They would open the door, and you would see somebody naked on stage, and they would close the door, you know? But the best line I ever heard from a barker was 'Come on in kids! Get the wrinkles out of your pants!'
And that folks is about as much of the interview as I can share without legal counsel present.
I would like to issue a great big display of gratitude to Cartwheel Art for allowing me to publish these little nuggets that did not appear in the formal interview, and of course to the incomparable Hudson Marquez!
Hudson's show "High Humidity" opens tomorrow (January 4th) at La Luz De Jesus. If you visit the site, don't get thrown by the year listed (you're probably still writing 2012 on shit too). The show runs through January 27, 2013
La Luz De Jesus Gallery
4633 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90027
Open Monday-Wednesday 11am-7pm; Thursday-Saturday 11am-9pm; Sunday, noon-6pm