Don Herron’s Tub Shots, Part II

What a difference a week makes! It has only been 10 days since my original blog piece about Don Herron’s Tub Shots was posted to coincide with the opening of the Daniel Cooney Fine Art  exhibit. The article was then re-posted on Queerclick, while Out magazine posted their own piece about the gallery exhibit, as did numerous art photography websites and blogs. Each time I do a Google search, I find more information about Don Herron and his series of photos, which had very little internet presence up to this point.

Village Voice 1980 trio

The digital skeleton of the Village Voice even resurrected their feature from April, 1980. This is curious, considering a) The paper had been declared officially dead two weeks ago, and b) One of the subjects in their 23 photo spread sued for invasion of privacy when it was published the first time, claiming that the model release form was forged.

Paula SequeiraFred Brown tub 1978Phoebe Legere tub 1988

Some alternate pics have surfaced of the two most ubiquitous Tub Shots featuring Keith Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe:

Keith Haring alt shotRobert Mapplethorpe alt3Robert Mapplethorpe alt tub shot

Daniel Cooney Fine Art posted several Instagram photos from the September 13th exhibit opening with original subjects standing next to their photos.

Left to right: Charles Busch, Agosto Machado and Michael Musto:

A Charles Buschagosto-machado-tub-2017.jpgA Musto tub 2017

Here’s a little more info about some of the other luminaries featured in Tub Shots :Bob Opel Tub 1978

 

Robert Opel (1939-1979) was a conceptual artist, Advocate photographer and gay rights activist who achieved notoriety when he streaked through the 1974 Oscar Ceremony. He launched the first openly gay art gallery in San Francisco, where he was murdered in 1979. He is the subject of Uncle Bob, a 2011 documentary directed by his nephew Robert Oppel.

 

 

 

Mink Sole tub 1978

 

 

Actress Mink Stole is one of John Waters’ Dreamlanders and has appeared in all his films, most notably as Connie Marble in Polyester, Taffy in Female Trouble and Dottie Hinkle in Serial Mom. She also played Aunt Helen in all of the Eating Out films.

 

 

 

Cookie Mueller bathtub 1978

 

 

Cookie Mueller (1949-1989) was another John Waters Dreamlander who appeared many of his films, including Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living – her Tub Shot includes the poster for the latter. She also penned a column for The East Village Eye  and half a dozen books.

 

Victor Hugo (1942-1993) was a Venezuelan artist, window dresser and nightlife personality. Hugo designed window displays for his partner Halston‘s Madison Avenue store. He later became one of Andy Warhol’s assistants at The Factory where he worked on the oxidation paintings. As a model, he also appeared in Warhol’s Torso and Sex Parts series.

02-victor-hugo-2Victor-Hugo-artist-vfront_GAYLETTER

As the different subjects recount how they got involved in the project, a thread emerges: Robert Mapplethorpe brought in Felice Picano, who in turn suggested Victor Hugo and George Stavrinos, who then connected Mel Odom. (Read part 1 of this post for more on them)

PPeter Berlin Tub2eter Berlin‘s statement about Don Herron and his Tub Shots is exactly what you would expect from the legendary narcissist:

“He may have approached me for sex and then asked to take my photo. I have no recollection of him or the photo shoot.
At the time, I never cared for photos taken by other photographers, not even Mapplethorpe’s photos of me. I realized how critical I was looking at my image, so I probably would have seen this photo and not liked it. Looking at the photo now, I don’t mind it. It’s not a typical Peter Berlin photo that I would have taken of myself. I like everything but the dick and my expression in the face. But I have no recollection at all of him or this shoot.”

The Daniel Cooney Fine Art exhibit with 65 of these photos at their gallery in New York City runs from September 13 until November 3, 2018. Contact the gallery for reservations via phone at 212-255-8158, via email dan@danielcooneyfineart.com or give them a visit at 508-526 West 26th St., #9C, NY NY.

Ethyl Eichelberger Tub2 1982Elke Rastede Tub 1982Matthias Mohr tub 1982

Belle deJour tub 1979Tom Nichols tub 1980Ellen Stewart 1993

Don Herron

 

Congratulations to the late Mr. Herron on this recent rediscovery of his work. As artist Adam Donaldson Powell posted in the comments of Part 1: “…he deserves due credit now. His other paintings and silk screen art were even more impressive than Tub Shots. I would love to see that work praised online as well.” We shall see…

 

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Don Herron’s Tub Shots

Felice Picano bathtub 1980A recent Out Magazine article about Felice Picano featured a 1980 photograph of the author lounging in his bathtub with a cigarette and a glass of wine. I immediately recognized the photo as one of Don Herron’s Tub Shots, a series that the photographer snapped over a 20 year period, spanning from San Francisco to New York and covering a wide swath of his legendary friends, lovers and fellow artists.

Don Herron (1941-2012) was living in San Francisco in the early 1970’s when he began shooting the bathtub photos, having been inspired by medieval sculptures set in niches. Herron told the Village Voice in 1980, “I decided to do a series of photographs of people in containers. The bathtub was the logical container to use. I started with my friends and it grew from there.”

Peter Berlin 1978aHolly Woodlawn bathtub 1981aSur Rodney Sur 1980

He continued the series after moving to New York City in 1978, where he was a part of the vibrant East Village art scene. Among the many who posed on the porcelain for Herron: Keith Haring, Peter Hujar, Robert Mapplethorpe, Annie Sprinkle, Peter Berlin, Ethyl Eichelberger, Michael Musto, Phoebe Legere, John Waters’ leading ladies Mink Stole and Cookie Mueller as well as Warhol factory superstars Jackie Curtis, Taylor Mead and Holly Woodlawn. The Tub Shots were featured in the Village Voice, New York Magazine, Christopher Street and Art Forum.

Agosto Machado tub 1992Victor-Hugo-artist-vfront_GAYLETTERAnnie Sprinkle tub 1992

My first encounter with the photos were a couple of postcards I picked up in an East Village shop back in the late 1980’s. I had just finished reading David Kopay’s autobiography and was quite happy to see (almost) all of the gay footballer on display. Another card I purchased was of a director named Robert Schifflett, about whom I know nothing other than the charms on exhibit in the photo and his ability to hold his breath.

David Kopay bathtub 1980a   Robert Shifflett bathtub 1980

Charles Busch bathtub 1987

 

 

Recalling his bathtub session with Herron and the noir photo it produced, performer Charles Busch recently said “My crummy 12th Street tenement tub amazingly looks kinda glam. If memory serves, after we called it a wrap I believe the charming photographer ended up in the tub with me. I think so.”

 

 

 

Another subject was artist Mel Odom, whom I recently asked about the experience.

George Stavrinos dared me to do it;” he said “But I’ve never seen one of him!”

mel-odom-bathtub-1978.jpg

“Don did two shoots with me – the first one was without the mask. He wasn’t satisfied with that and we did a second shoot. He was probably right.”

“My parents didn’t know that I had posed nude and it was published in the Village Voice just as I went home to visit them in Ahoskie, North Carolina… and there was the issue sitting on their friend’s coffee table!” Odom managed to pilfer the newspaper and, as far as he knows, his parents never found out about the photo.

Odom’s Tub Shot was also reprinted as a full page when the series was profiled in Christopher Street around the same time. When I mentioned the postcard series that was my introduction to the photos, he recalled “Mine wasn’t used for the postcards because I received weird phone calls after it was printed in the magazines. ‘Hey! Are you naked like you were in the Village Voice?’ I got letters from prisoners, too.”

Here’s the Village Voice feature from April, 1980:

1980_0414_60-61_Don-Herron_OP-1366x2043

I still have the Kopay and Shifflett postcards I bought 30 years ago. Every once in a while, I Google around looking for other Tub Shots online. With the exception of the Mapplethorpe and Haring photos below, they are fairly obscure in the digital age.

Robert Mapplethorpe Tub 1978Keith Haring tub 1982

Ethyl Eichelberger Tub 1982

 

Random pics pop up on Pinterest – this one  of Ethyl Eichelberger, for example –  but I have not found any online collections.

Adam Powell bathtub 1978

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Herron passed away a few years ago, his ex-lover, artist Adam Donaldson Powell paid tribute to him here. Herron’s estate has created a Tub Shots website but there is currently no content.

That might be about to change. Daniel Cooney Fine Art will be exhibiting 65 of these photos at their gallery in New York City from September 13 until November 3, 2018. Interested viewers may contact the gallery for reservations via phone at 212-255-8158, via email dan@danielcooneyfineart.com or give them a visit at 508-526 West 26th St., #9C, NY NY.

Michael Musto Tub 1987John Kelly bathtub 1993ataylor-mead-bathtub.jpgJackie Curtis bathtub 1980

 

 

You Know The B-52’s Song Roam Is About Butt Sex, Right?

A couple of months ago, the internet burst into flames when Bunny Wailer, songwriter of The Electric Slide, confirmed rumors that the song is indeed about a vibrator. (It’s electric!).

An article on the Aazios site quoted him as saying that he wrote the song after a girlfriend told him she didn’t need him because she had a toy she nicknamed the “electric slide”. The story went viral.

Singer Marcia Griffiths was not happy about it. “I don’t sing about vibrators,” she said. “I sing to teach, educate and uplift.”

“Why not both?” I say.

ALT whynot both

Huffpost, which initially reposted the Aazios story, then printed an update that it was not true… noting, apropos of nothing, that Aazios is “an online source of LGBTQ news and entertainment” – as if that had anything to do with Bunny Wailer, the vibrator, or the validity of the story.

Snopehas labeled the story FALSE with a quote from Bunny Wailer that reads like a statement issued by a lawyer protecting a client from litigation: “At no time have I ever lent credence to a rumor that the song was inspired by anything other than Eddie Grant’s Electric Avenue. To state otherwise is a falsehood and offends my legacy, the legacy of singer Marcia Griffiths, and tarnishes the reputation of a song beloved by millions of fans the world over.”

The problem is… he wrote the song in the 1970’s, years before Eddie Grant’s 1982 hit. The song was dusted off and reworked to ride the “Electric” coattails of that hit record. And thirty-five years later, it is still a dance floor staple at a certain calibre of venue. It makes sense that anybody who still makes money off this record does not want to suddenly admit that their cash cow is about a dildo.

electric slide

 

Bottom line: It is or it isn’t. But forevermore you will have a topic of conversation to yell over your 9th cocktail while your mom and Karen from finance are knocking into each other on the dance floor. 

 

So… now can we talk about The B-52’s 1989 hit song Roam? You know that it’s about butt sex, right?

b52s wildplanet

Of course, nobody is going to step up and confirm this now. The B-52’s still make a nice living touring the world performing Roam along with party classics like Rock Lobster and Love ShackOne song they haven’t performed in years is Dirty Back Road, a track from their 1980 Wild Planet LP. Co-written by a guy named Robert Waldrop with band member Ricky Wilson, it’s not that much of a stretch to figure out what this little ditty is about:

 

Wreckless driving / Like a sports car / God I want you / Like a fuel engine / Energized line / Like a road / You ride me / Like a road / You ride me / Foot on the peddle / Feet in the air / Sand in my hair / Don’t look back / Don’t look behind you / Reckless drivin’ on / Dirty back road

Pretty obvious, right? Well… of course not, according to YouTube comments. People will argue about anything. I know, I know. Never read the comments.

b52s dirty back roadb52s-dirty-back-road-1980

So lets move on to Roam: Co-written again by Robert Waldrop, this time with the surviving members of the band. Ricky Wilson had passed away from AIDS complications in 1985 during the recording of the Bouncing Off The Satellites LP. After taking a few years off, the band came back in 1989 with the LP Cosmic Thing, which would be their biggest commercial success. The singles Love Shack and Roam topped the charts around the world and still get regular airplay today.

b52s cosmic thingb52s roam

When did I realize that Roam was about butt sex? I couldn’t say. I just always knew. I saw Robert Waldrop’s name in the cassette booklet, read the lyrics to Roam and thought “Oh… he cleaned up the Dirty Back Road.” Well, not completely – the second line has them “dancing down those dirty and dusty trails.” It may not be as blatant, but it’s there.

The phrase “Take it hip to hip rock it through the wilderness” is repeated about a dozen times throughout the song.

The chorus: Roam if you want to / Roam around the world / Without wings without wheels / Roam around the world / Without anything but the love we feel… 

And then there’s this verse:

Hit the air-strip to the sunset Ride the arrow to the target / Take it hip to hip rock it through the wilderness / Around the world the trip begins with a kiss 

(at this point in the video, a banana goes through a hole in a bagel)Roam

I would like to make it clear that I do not make these pronouncements as some sort of slander. Believe me, I am a big fan of butt sex and partake as often as possible.

In posting this piece, I realize that there are people who will get annoyed or upset that their favorite B-52’s hit is all about taking a ride on the Hershey highway, but really… if you think this is shocking or not possibly true then you never really understood the band and/or their sense of humor in the first place. People who only know them from Top 40 radio might not remember that they were/are a predominantly gay party bandThey were messysubversive and more than just a little punk. Fun punk. 

If a clueless fan does not know that, it’s akin to saying that you love John Waters because of Hairspray and Cry Baby, but have never seen Pink Flamingos or Female Trouble.

Polyester

Like many other bands before or since, the B-52’s started out edgy and moved towards mainstream pop as their career progressed. While their current tour does pull heavily from their first two LPs, their bread and butter is still playing the hit songs. They are a business  not so much a band as a corporation like their contemporaries The Go-Go’s and Blondie.

Even if the B-52’s issued a statement today that Roam never was or is about getting popped in the pooper, the motivation would not be to tell the truth, but rather to protect their own livelihoodCase in point: The Village People, Inc. When faced with anti-gay protests for a gig in Jamaica back in 1998their representative had the balls to issue a statement that there was nothing gay about them. The fucking Village People, people. I would like to think that the B-52’s are still way too cool to ever do such a thing.

So… I just thought you ought to know. Roam is about takin’ it up the ass. And now you have a topic of conversation when you hear it wafting over the airwaves at the supermarket or when you are in line at the bankI am not going to debate the evidence. It is what it is. I think it’s a hoot – it makes me chuckle whenever I hear it. But if you feel a strong opposition to the theory… may I invite you to hit the airstrip… and teach yourself the Electric Slide. Boogie woogie woogie.

B52s loveshack.gif