Rosewood: Gender Terrorist

The first time I saw Rosewood perform I felt like I was watching a long lost cousin perform. As Lou Reed sang, “Take a walk on the wild side”, Rosewood dazzled the crowd with the countless ways one can stuff drugs in orifices and managed to turn a pair of high heels into a crack pipe. Rosewood bends gender and uses the body unlike any other I’ve ever seen. And it brings me great pleasure to announce, a few months ago, my friend Jordan Schimmetti and I sat down with Rosewood for an interview.

We met up with Rosewood at the studio wherein s/he produces woodworking and stores the numerous persona’s neatly stashed away in boxes with the name of the outfit written on the front of them. As Rosewood showed us around s/he explained that often s/he will be busy refurbishing a vintage antique when the time comes to whisk off to a performance so it’s best to have everything always ready to go. And all over the walls of the studio are pictures of Shamans Rosewood finds inspirational. One of her favorites lived in India and was famous for turning shit into food or other precious items for the poor and downtrodden.

Lately Rosewood has been causing a scene in both London and NYC, performing her decadent show at The Box and other venues. For those familiar and unfamiliar with Rosewood I suggest you take a walk on the wild side and read on:

SB: You’ve told me that you went to school with Keith Haring in the late seventies. Were you performing then? What was your relationship like?

RW: We intersected at a funny time because I was hitting the curb at that point. Sex, drugs and rock n roll. I had hit the wall. By 1980 I was wrecked. Bleeding from every hole. Drug burnt and sex burnt. And I couldn’t keep going so I had to abandon all that stuff and focus on repair. I did a lot of artwork but it changed from being sociable and relational to private. I went to the woods, the country.

SB: So you completely left the city at that point?

RW: I was in and out of the city. I spent 3 months living in Morocco. Then I moved to New Jersey for a while, then here (NYC), then Connecticut for a while. I really needed to be outside and to keep it simple. I wasn’t sociable at all. I stayed away from people for quite a number of years.

JS: So by 1980, how long had you been in New York for?

RW: Five years.

JS: You are originally from New Jersey, right? So what was that first transition like? Had you always planned on moving to New York?

RW: Well, you know, I got into a lot of different schools, but I was such a freak, I just couldn’t wait to get out of my hometown and New York sounded perfect! Once I got here, I felt liberated. However, with that kind of liberation came all the pitfalls. And I fell into every one of them.

JS: Did you have a decent relationship with your parents as a young person? Were you running from something or trying to expand? Was there an antagonism back in Jersey you were running from?

RW: I had identity issues. Even then and now I fit more into the gay world of my town, which was small. I wasn’t as easy to categorize because everyone else was hiding and I wasn’t hiding in any way and I received a lot of antagonism for that.

JS: So you were never closeted in anyway?

RW: Never. I’ve never spent one moment in a closet.

SB: Were you doing drag then?

RW: Not full drag, then. I wasn’t doing female impersonation. It was the time of hair bands and glam rock, so I had big hair and wore makeup and it was always hard to say because there was Queen and a few of their members were reasonably known as gay but it wasn’t talked about quite the same way is it now. So, I just looked like I had stepped off a stage.

JS: So you’ve been performing your entire life?

RW: I went in and out of it. Everything started at the age of ten, at my local Jewish Community Center. I took woodworking and theater (lifts hands in the air, as we’re in Rosewood’s workshop which consists of drag and woodworking tools, showing that to this day that is Rosewood’s reality). Theater for us was Vaudeville. My teacher was a New Yorker – she was a hardcore, jaded lady who was interested in doing Vaudeville shows in the middle of New Jersey. So I was doing Vaudeville, mostly magic and comedy. And then, when I came to New York, everything shifted, I studied to be a spotter in gambling casinos. I had learned all sorts of card cheating. My Grandfather had been a kind of hustler. He taught me card stuff and referred me to people and I wound up spotting card games to make sure things were legal.

SB: So gambling was legal in New York City then?

RW: There was so much gambling.

SB: And it was legal?

RW: Oh no. They were shady, backroom, gambling games. They had me there in case someone was cheating; I was supposed to point them out. But what I came to realize, very quickly, was, “now what?” If I say something, someone is going to get shot and there’s a good chance that someone would’ve been me. Finally I asked myself, if I wanted to be around the gambling world and after all that study and training I realized I had made the wrong turn. Continue reading

St. Marks Church Celebrates 40 Years of Patti Smith

My night of mysterious geometry began in line waiting for my friends to show up, the people in line in front and behind me also awaited friends and I eves dropped as everyone greeted loved ones while recounting the influence Patti Smith had over their lives. We waited for an hour before the doors finally opened and we all filed into the main hall, everyone a bit frost bitten after having frozen for poetry. People kept filing in until the main hall was packed and I’m pretty sure it was a full house – young and old fans side by side celebrating the first night Patti Smith took the stage as a poet and songstress 40 years ago on Bertolt Brecht‘s birthday, February 10th, 1971 at St. Marks Church. To think there was a time when the magic of Patti Smith wasn’t readily available is mind boggling considering by the time I was born she had already gone from awkward poet/songstress to famed rock n roll legendary, and by the time I was acutely aware of her presence she was being inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Amazingly, her magick seems more alive and real than ever, sure she often goofed between songs and poems about what a terrible musician she remains but her voice seemed stronger and resonated with more passion, power, and wavering fragility than ever before. Even though she maintained a persona of kindness and humility it seems impossible for her to mask her radiance, it oozes out her skin.

Janet Hamill opened the night, offering the audience a funny story about where she was 40 years ago, far from NYC, in San Francisco experimenting with MDMA. Her every line seemed to come from a place of reverence and appreciation for what the community surrounding the Poetry Project has stood for the past 40 years. She talked about giving readings in the other rooms of the church many years ago, and I just kept thinking how nice it is to know that in such a cruel city resides a group of people with a sense of reverence for poetry. I don’t have to go see a 3D movie in order to take a voyage, I simply have to go downtown and remember a person can have nothing but a book of poetry and somehow those poems can unravel the nothing into just about everything.

40 years ago Patti Smith opened her performance at St. Mark’s with “Oathe’ then her and Lenny played “Mack the Knife” and in celebration of those first steps the two took the stage and retook them. It was like watching long lovers renew their vows. Both of them looking so much older than the posters of them from the 70’s but still they both radiated with a youthful energy that seemed to come from the profound love both of them have for the work they’ve created over the years together. Whenever I see artists that have become legendary I always hope that they’ll still seem to enjoy what they do since their work often means so much to so many. Seeing Patti and Lenny on stage did not disappoint. I had tingles running throughout all my nervous system. The world felt extremely beautiful. Throughout the show both of them offered silly antidotes about all thats happened along the way to where they are today. Amazingly, with all the fame that comes with being a national treasure, Patti never wavered from the truly American values her work celebrates: humility, humor, empathy, and creativity. She gave homage and praise to many of the important, influential people that have helped her along the way. Most notably: William Burroughs, Robert Mapplethorpe, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Maria Schneider, Paul Getty, and many many more. Appropriately, the night ended on a classical note, everyone in attendance clapping and singing along to the song “GLORIA” and as everyone joined forces and chimed in G.L.O.R.I.A., again Patti raised her hands into the air and broke free from the verse into a long freewheelin’ babblin’ rant, quintessentially Patti Smith, celebrating the beauty and power of poetry.

The Last New York Romantic: A Second Look at Patti Smith’s Just Kids

 

Ecco first published “Just Kids”, Patti Smith’s painfully beautiful memoir about her and Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe‘s time in New York together back in January of this year.  In the short time that has followed its release, it has already become a classic.  No other book in my recent memory has made as lasting an impression or has inspired such a collective, unanimous love and following as “Just Kids” has.  I also do not remember reading anything in my life I’ve felt I had to share immediately with as many different people as this book.  Although the New York City on display within the pages of “Just Kids” has long since past, its intense romantic, ideology is at the core of everyone that has ever been truly in love with any person or place.  The resilient dedication to that love and to the creation of art in general is what makes Patti’s book so important and inspiring to all of the romantics and artists of our time, two rolls that seem harder and harder to fill in the age of the instant and the manufactured.

I read “Just Kids” for the first time while I was traveling around Europe this past summer.  My last serious relationship had just deteriorated and I spent nearly a month passing through foreign countries reflecting on myself with Patti as my compass and touchstone.  The time I spent with “Just Kids” proved incredibly insightful, intimate and moving and when I returned to the states to find almost everyone else I knew in a state of some kind of artistic, romantic or spiritual crisis, I guided all of them to Patti’s book, which served as a source of solace and as a reality check to the world and it’s scope.

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CLARA ENGEL WANTS TO COME WEST! PLUS INTERVIEW

clara-engel

I first caught wind of Clara Engel about a year ago, I blogged about her before at Fantastic Weapon, now she’s trying to come to the West Coast for her first ever West Coast Tour. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of her work and I’m trying to help her make the jump to California. Her music is beautiful/captivating/smart/eccentric/androgynous and her voice the driving factor pulling the wondrous work together. Continue reading

HAPPY VETERANS DAY MIX

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Lets move forward into a better, more peaceful world. Hope everyone is well!!

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