The Universe of Keith Haring (2008) Movie Script

- I was sort of in New York
at exactly the right time
and exactly the right place.
Wherever you are is the center.
But I can be in more than
one place at the same time.
Things seemed to really be happening fast.
- He was born face up
instead of face down,
which the doctor called sunny side up.
I guess I should have known right then
that something was gonna be up, huh?
- I grew up in a really
small town in Pennsylvania
called Kutztown, which is
northeast of Philadelphia.
I grew up learning to draw from my father
from about the time when
I was four years old,
and my father used to entertain me
by making small drawings for me.
And I think the biggest
impression that it had
was that instead of teaching me to copy
other cartoon characters or comics,
he wanted me to invent my own characters.
- We had a game where we'd
see how good we could do
drawing with your eyes closed.
Which is a good practice
for getting the rhythm
of your hand and knowing
where your hand is
and what it's doing
without watching, without seeing it.
The hand is very strong, very unique,
and it's like a musician
who has a particular musical signature
that even with a few bars you
know it's somebody's voice,
you see just a few lines of Keith,
you know it's his hand.
Different kids I guess get together
to do different things.
When you think about it, I
had friends that got together
with their peers to play basketball.
I had friends that got
together to play cards.
We got together to draw.
- I was really obsessed
with Walt Disney a lot.
I loved Walt Disney.
I watched cartoons all the time.
- I think we had a
fascination with all kinds
of genre, if you will.
And we were taking it pretty seriously.
I mean, at that time, we were fully aware
of who Picasso and all these guys were.
We were aware of the work that they did.
We were aware of how many pieces Picasso
had created in his lifetime.
And I don't think we were 10 years old.
He was always drawing,
so it was kind of a continuous evolution.
So I always knew he was good at it.
I always knew he could draw
and do artwork as well as my dad,
and was always a little
jealous of that fact,
because I couldn't.
- At about 12, I
started delivering newspapers,
and I started a newspaper route
which I delivered everyday,
including Sundays.
Everyday after school,
and on a bicycle usually.
And this was also actually
probably interesting
because it meant that from 12 until 16,
which is 1970 to 1974,
everyday I was reading the front page
of the newspaper.
And this was during the
end of the Vietnam War,
and into Watergate.
And Sundays it was also
then maybe one of the
first times when I became
or had another thing that
made me close to my father
was because on Sundays the
newspapers are very thick
because the comics and
all these other sections.
So Sunday mornings I would deliver them
with my father every Sunday morning,
we were waking up at six
or seven in the morning,
or how early we'd get up so that we could
- deliver the papers--
- Together.
- And get done
in time to go to church
and come home and have
breakfast and go to church.
- We grew up in a family that
went to church every week,
and because we were quite
active, Keith and I,
and my younger sister
Karen, in the youth group,
that gave us an opportunity
to really figure out where religion
maybe had a meaning to us in our lives.
I went to church camp for many years,
and we'd encouraged Keith to go,
and then the girls all went too.
There was one of the first times
that he met people from the city.
Black people.
Mostly blacks, which we
didn't have in Kutztown
at that time.
And he got to know
people from Philadelphia,
which was this big city far away.
- There was a couple years
towards the end of high school
that I just thought he was really sort of
running around with the wrong kids.
That was a tough time.
It wasn't until he was in about 11th grade
when he started hanging out with some,
hanging out, so to speak,
with some guy in his class
that we really didn't like.
- I had three sisters
that were younger than me,
and one of them was much younger,
and she was born when I was about 10.
So I would really spend
a lot of time with her
when I was growing up,
and spent a lot of time drawing with her.
I had no judgment of him.
I was an infant.
There was no way that I was going to be
trying to categorize him as being
a good boy, or misbehaving in school.
So I had no opinions formed of him,
and he could make a connection with me
that was direct.
- I think at that time, he
probably was smoking pot.
Kutztown was a really small town,
so because I was not,
I didn't really fit in
to what the rest of the
normal kids were like,
but as I got a little bit older,
I always used to leave
and hitchhike, and by the time I was 18,
and was allowed to leave
school and leave my parents,
the first thing I wanted to do was get out
of that little town.
And a time it could have been worse.
I think this one's a write-off,
and that one is not good.
What about this one?
That one's okay.
- I didn't mind those little--
- Oh, that one's
not the right color.
Oh it was?
Oh, I thought he'd done that as well.
No that was
from dripping it while
the orange was still wet.
That one's all right.
Oh, don't throw that away though.
I really like it.
- In senior high school
he had an art teacher
who was really good, and he
devoted more time to art.
He got an honorable mention,
and he got $100.
And he was so proud of this.
It was his first money that he got
from anything, for any of his drawings.
And he said okay, I won $100,
and I'm gonna use that
$100, and he paid his first
down payment to go to
school in Pittsburgh.
- After high school, I went
to a commercial art school
in Pittsburgh for six months,
because at that point,
my parents were still
convincing me that I would never
make any money being an artist,
and if I really wanted to make a living,
I'd have to do commercial art.
So I went to this commercial art school,
on my own savings, really,
from being a paper boy, whatever,
and after six months realized that
no matter what, I didn't want to do that.
I was going to school in Kutztown,
and I was good friend with Kermit Oswald,
and Kermit and Keith
were childhood friends.
Kermit bought a studio down by his house,
and we used to hang out there,
that was like the hang out.
And Keith would come and visit
from wherever he was,
traipsing around, following
the Grateful Dead.
And Keith would stop in,
and that's when I first met him,
and he could always draw
like a son of a gun.
When I started making film in school,
in like '78, '79, the Sony
camcorder that I worked with
weighed 95 pounds, and it
took 24 hours to charge it
to shoot 30 minutes of tape.
Reel to reel.
No cassettes.
This goddam thing was like a backpack.
You'd put it on your back,
you're like oh my god, where are we going?
Not far, I hope.
The thing weighs a ton.
- When I was 20, I had my first
one man show in Pittsburgh.
While I was there, there
had also been an exhibition
of Pierre Alechinsky in the museum,
which at that time had a
really big influence on me
because it was the first
time that I had seen
an older artist who had
done an entire body of work
that in some ways was very similar
to the things that I was starting to do,
even though I was 20 years old,
there was something very common that I had
with his work, and it
gave me the confidence
to think that maybe I
was on the right track,
and I was doing something that
was worth taking seriously.
This is very vivid in my memory,
that he stood in the kitchen
and explained to my parents
that he could not be
in Pittsburgh anymore,
that he had to be in New York.
It was a big decision.
Our son was going off to the big city.
I mean, Pittsburgh was a big decision.
I remember I cried and cried when he left.
But New York City, wow.
I first met Keith in 1978.
It was probably my first week at school,
at the School of Visual Arts.
I heard this Devo music,
and there was Keith in his room,
and he was painting to the beat
all these black lines,
and he was kind of painting
himself into the corner.
The first class was drawing
and the teacher said okay,
everybody choose a partner
and draw each other.
And Keith just sort of
came and sat and drew me.
We actually had some classes together
that we were taking at SVA.
One of the classes with Bill Beckley
was in semiotics.
And that I think was kind of interesting
for both of us.
I've learned from semiotics
in choosing to repeat certain things
in their repetition they gain importance
and significance and
turn into something else,
turn into a different kind of sign.
- I first met Keith at School
of Visual Arts in 1978.
And I remember looking at his sneakers,
and his legs, and I thought he was a funny
really funny guy.
He was in my class,
and then we became really good friends.
And I used to cook spaghetti,
and he used to come to
eat spaghetti all the time
to my house.
One, two, three, four, five.
It's great to be alive.
Alex, you'd better erase that.
That's how I met Keith,
while he was a student
at School of Visual Arts,
he came to help me as an assistant.
He and his friend Kermit
Oswald came to help,
to prepare exhibitions, paint walls,
and install things, and
take things down, of course,
and wrap and pack.
You know, as you get ready for a show,
you need some preparation, of course.
But also along with that came
a number of their friends
who helped in the opening, for example.
Either the bar, and
various things like that.
So I met his whole circle of friends,
which was very interesting.
And that's how I met Jean-Michel
Basquiat, for example,
and Kenny Scharf, and so on.
So there was already a group of friends
who were very close together,
and Keith was at the center of it,
you might say.
We needed a place to live,
so we just decided we'd
get a place together.
And he found one.
It was just a total rat trap.
I mean, I never saw rats,
but everything else.
They called it a two bedroom.
It was like, I had a bedroom,
and Keith lived in the closet.
And it was like, literally the size
of a sleeping bag.
And he had a stereo, and he
just played the B-52's nonstop
24 hours a day for the
entire time we lived there.
One of the things that started
becoming really interesting in a way
that I was combining what
was going on at night
and what was going on in school
was that the subject matter
of many of the drawings
that I was doing,
because I was still doing
these abstract shapes, but I started being
completely obsessed with
doing phallic little,
I mean, the calligraphy
became completely phallic.
Partly really consciously
as a way of asserting
my sexuality, and forcing
people to deal with it,
and so I consciously flaunted the fact
that I was interested in
dicks, because I could.
- And we found each
other at the club Baths
across the street, which was
the notorious bath house.
We ran into each other there,
and that's when we both
figured out we were gay,
since we were both at the bath house.
And he was there all the time,
and I was there all the time.
- No.
- No.
- Boys.
- Art.
- Sin.
- Art.
- I remember going to
the New St. Mark's Baths
on a Saturday night,
and just thinking like,
god, this must be like
what Rome was like, you know?
All these beautiful, healthy men,
gay men, doing whatever
they wanted with each other.
It was like gay paradise.
- Almost immediately
upon my arrival in New York
I had begun to be interested in
and intrigued by, and
fascinated by the graffiti
that I was seeing on the streets.
And so it became sort of an event for me
to take the subways.
We were just walking around together.
He would see a graffiti
painting with a cartoon,
and I remember Keith would just go man,
look at that, look at that.
That should be in the Whitney.
That should be in the
Museum of Modern Art.
And Keith was just like,
just totally happy,
we were absorbing it all.
It was like, look, look!
Look at that.
Oh that tag, I've seen that kid.
I was like oh yeah, that's so and so.
He became really good
friends with that crew
of graffiti writers.
He would later meet LA too,
who then he would collaborate with.
They had a very special relationship.
And LA was very successful.
There was almost like a gift from heaven
the way Keith found him,
and really was very equitable
in terms of giving him
his share of the money,
because some of Keith's
first major exhibits
at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery and whatever,
there would be many pieces
that he would collaborate on
with LA too.
The city became a canvas,
and in many ways, a lot
of the younger artists
were living off the fumes of graffiti art.
The artists themselves
within the art world
took a lot of those strategies,
a lot of those expressions,
a lot of the semiotic abbreviations,
the ways of signing, the ways of creating
different identities,
the forms of trespass
and intervention and public art,
and worked it into their own language.
And Keith would probably
be one of the best examples
of somebody who really understood
the spirit of graffiti.
- I guess the most noted
painting that I made
in terms of subway graffiti
was whole subway car painted
with Campbell's soup cans.
It was a homage to Andy Warhol.
It was also a message that I was sending
to people throughout New York City.
The message was that I
am aware of modern art,
of pop art, of the culture,
and the art of making art
in the art world, and
it was also a message
that we as graffiti artists
were not just the animals,
the wild dogs, the savage beasts,
the way we were depicted
in the press at that time.
- Most artists waited to see
what was their opportunity.
Where could they show their work?
Where could they sell the work?
Who was there to see the work
and considered to be interesting?
So there was a lot of waiting
around, unfortunately.
Keith was never like that.
Immediately he set to work.
Wherever he had his own programs
of things he'd be doing.
In fact, rather than the
artists, or Keith Haring,
or anybody else bugging Wanda over this,
wanted to show his work to me.
I had to ask him time and time again
curiously, what was it that he was doing?
Keith had a lot of different jobs.
Oh yeah, he was busboy down at Seteria,
he worked for Mr.
Shafrazi, cleaning glasses.
We worked in nightclubs as well.
We all got jobs in the nightclub,
the Mud Club, and Club 57,
doorman, bartending, go-go dancing.
Keith was very connected
and was a big part of a little club
called Club 57 on 57 St. Mark's Place,
and Keith would put
together little group shows
and stuff for all the friends.
When I was in the East Village,
I was friends with lots
and lots of artists
because I used to organize shows.
At this club called Club 57
for 100 artists at a time.
- Actually, I had the
first art show at Club 57.
It was called Celebration
of the Space Age.
And I got this job as the style editor
of the Soho News.
It was kind of a radical downtown weekly.
So I was kind of always
looking for stories
and what was new and happening.
But I used to go to the
Mud Club every night,
but someone told me about Club 57,
so I checked it out
and it blew my mind.
Mud Club was more serious.
Actually, it was different drugs,
because Mud Club was very more heroin,
so everybody was all more depressed,
and more down, like that.
And Club 57 everyone was drunk
and doing whatever.
It was more like a ridiculous crowd.
It was like our clubhouse.
I was one of the, I was
the big mouth funny guy.
- Three quarters of you
have slept with him.
Again, this is John Sex.
This group of art students,
it was this very unusually
brilliant crowd of kids.
Ann Magnuson, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf,
Tseng Kwong Chi, John Sex,
and they had this huge
creative wild thing going on.
Every night was a different theme.
There was art shows, there was music,
there was poetry, performance, movies.
And it was basically, it
really was a youth club
in a way I guess for avant garde
bohemian East Village kids.
I think we should do something
about the goldfish in India.
Sex was constant, everywhere.
With everybody.
It was a rolling orgy, practically.
I mean, some people were gay.
Some people were bi.
Was there anyone straight?
There was like two straight people.
Drugs, sex, rock and roll.
We were young.
We were like 19, 20 years old,
and we were loose in the city,
and we were just really
having a good time.
And the city was our playground.
And everything was for us to taste
whatever we wanted to taste.
We were free.
This was Manhattan.
You know, it was before AIDS.
What is this preoccupation with the war?
Who really cares?
- It was the Reagan
era, so we just gave up.
- When Reagan started,
of course we all went
on a campaign against Reagan.
- We were so shocked that
this could ever even happen,
that a right wing Republican actor
could become president,
it was just shocking to us.
It was a subculture.
We were like apolitical.
I mean, Keith was pissed off,
because Keith is, he had a
conscience, or something.
I just wanted to have fun.
He was pissed off.
So he did all the word
pieces about Reagan,
and the Pope.
- He used to cut up the
New York Post things,
playing with words, and
paste it all over the city.
And also in a more direct neighborhood,
politics was, all the East Village,
they all used to wear, the queens,
the gay guys and stuff,
they used to wear the beard.
And he made a whole movement,
it was gay men against facial hair.
And he had the stencil, and he stenciled
all over the city.
Well, that's politics.
So a sick society invented psychiatry
to defend itself against
the investigations
of certain visionaries
whose faculties of
divination disturbed it.
Infinite belongs to us.
- Keith was living at
the time in a little room
on 12th Street, and I was like, Keith,
you need to have some more space,
so come up and share this loft with me.
That was the start of us being roommates.
The loft was two stories, two floors,
and Keith had one area upstairs,
and Kenny had another area.
And Keith's area was
absolutely immaculate.
I mean, it was just genius.
It was completely tidy.
There was a little bed
rolled up in the corner.
There was a little rack for magazines.
And then there were two
perfectly positioned chairs,
just exactly where you
would like them to be
so that when you went in
you felt like sitting
down and talking to him.
Samantha was just a beautiful girl.
Sam and I were kind of a couple,
and we love Keith, and so the three of us
we would have breakfast together,
we'd lie in bed together.
Kenny's area was completely different.
Kenny's area was complete chaos.
Paint everywhere,
fluorescent paint everywhere,
toys everywhere, things
glued to the walls,
cigarette packets glued to the walls.
Everything was significant.
But the division in
thinking was hysterical.
Anyway, it was really fantastic,
them living together, actually.
One of my early performance pieces
when I was at the School of Visual Arts
was this videotape I did
which I also performed live a few times,
was called, it was a piece
dedicated to my father,
and the whole thing was just me talking
in Morse Code, interspersed
with me stopping
and explaining that my father used to like
the Morse Code, like da-da-da-da.
My father, my father's into ham radio.
My father, my father, always
used to, always used to tell me
tell me, this, this is Morse Code.
This, this is Morse Code he said.
He said this, this is Morse Code.
- We would call him
almost on a weekly basis,
on a Sunday, just to see
how things were going.
He would tell us that he some work
that he put in a show at Mud Club,
and I guess he was
actually running the shows
at Mud Club.
Didn't make sense to us.
Didn't understand what Mud Club was.
Didn't understand what
these other clubs were.
I liked seeing myself from the back.
That was one of the first
things that amazed me.
Because you never,
- you have no idea--
- You never get
to see your back.
You never get to see it.
That is weird.
- Okay, let's
get ready for supper!
- When Keith was a student
at the School of Visual Arts,
he had a couple of assignments
that ended up being brought home.
He somehow managed to get the school
to lend him a video camera
for what must have been a weekend
when he came home.
The thing I remember
about the video taping
was that he wanted me to sit in this chair
in our living room and
read a book backwards.
And I was supposed to be
very serious about it.
End the jump
one in earth
to went he so.
Either there sun any have not did but ...
I really don't even remember
how the subway drawings first started.
I remember when I started,
but I don't really remember why,
except that I had noticed
one of the empty black panels,
and it just seemed to be the perfect place
to have a drawing.
So I went above ground,
bought a piece of chalk,
and went back down and did it.
Go on, get out of here!
I'm calling the cops!
Give me a break.
Drawing in the subway
always had a kind of element
of fear of the unknown,
because you always had to be
prepared to get arrested, to get caught,
and getting locked up for a few hours.
You can see him, but I'll hold on
and I'll get back to you.
- You're under arrest
for graffitiing the subway.
Get this on film.
You actually locking him up?
It didn't happen that often.
Most times cops would
just give you a ticket
and let you go.
But there was always that edge to it,
because you never know which kind of cop
is gonna catch you.
The reason to keep doing it was
that you were immediately
seeing the effect
of what you were doing,
and you were immediately
seeing the power of this thing
to communicate and to
actually touch people
and stop them in their tracks, et cetera.
The main thing with him was that
his animated motion took
him straight from bed
shower in the morning into the street
and the street became a place to work,
and the street led to the subways,
to the place of transportation.
So the world of active
population of people moving
was a ready-made audience,
ready-made museum for him,
and for him it was very important
because he realized he knew that 80, 90%
of these people never went to a museum.
So he wanted to bring the museum to them.
Who are you doing it for?
For everybody, I guess.
I don't get paid to do it,
but I do it down here so
lots of people can see it.
Here, you want a button?
This is my signature.
Thank you.
- I've got letters
and stories from people
of specific times when
they came upon a drawing
and it filled this gap that
was waiting to be filled.
It made something make sense
it made it a moment for them
which will stay in their memory forever.
That's what all art is supposed to do.
- He was so sophisticated that
he could actually be simple
and appeal to children
and people who were not
in the art world, as
well as intellectuals.
- There were so many
other things happening
in the art world and in the streets,
everything happening
exactly at this one point
that I was becoming so active
in all these other things
that the Fine Arts
chairman eventually just,
when I came back to
enroll for the third year
to pick classes she told me that
maybe there was nothing else
that they could do for me
because they couldn't give me credit
for all these other projects I was doing,
and she said maybe you should just,
maybe you should try to be an artist
instead of a student.
So at that I was like oh
yeah, what a great idea.
- I introduced Keith to Jean-Michel.
I guess we became kind of known
as the three, I wouldn't say Musketeers,
but we were, each one had our own identity
of different from each other,
but very street-oriented,
and with a strong, kind of a competition.
A healthy competition.
Keith and Jean-Michel took
off earlier than I did.
In the beginning, when I started,
when I first started selling work,
I was determined to not be with a gallery
and to learn everything myself.
And I started selling things
myself out of my studio.
And after about two months,
I decided I never, ever
wanted to see the person
who was my graffiti again
because it drove me crazy.
It was taking off.
People were coming over
our shared space everyday.
And basically I remember oh my god
this is great, Keith is
bringing all these people in.
They're gonna see my art, too.
So I had all my things all over the wall.
And I just, I'll never forget,
they would walk past my
art like it wasn't there.
And I was just like, but wait a second!
What about me?
And it was really hard.
And I remember Keith
felt a little bit bad.
He called me up and he's like
I got this show at Shafrazi.
I'm like, you did?
We stood out.
People could always tell.
Oh, you must be Keith's family.
You're the only people here
who aren't dressed completely in black,
or who don't have pink hair.
And we went up, and we were very proud,
and then he still didn't
sell anything at first.
And then he started making some things
that were more, that people
could put in their homes.
There were people who were gonna pay
what to us were unbelievable sums of money
for his work, even in those early days.
To go from being a bicycle messenger
to be selling a painting for $10,000
seemed like this extraordinary
amount of success.
One time I went to his studio
and he said do you want some money?
And I said why?
And he's like here!
He had like hundreds of dollars in cash.
And we were like what, did you rob a bank?
And he said no, this lady came here
and she wanted to buy everything,
and I didn't have anything to buy,
and she saw all those
things in the garbage,
and so I sold it,
and say I want this, but this
I'm throwing in the garbage.
I don't care, I'll buy it.
- As soon as money was
introduced into the picture,
it changed everything.
All of a sudden, everybody was like
oh, we have to make money.
We have to compete.
It changed the whole thing,
that before that, it was
art was only for art,
and it was all for each other,
we were performing and doing everything
for each other, and
working off each other.
And then all of a sudden
the outside world came in
with all the money.
What happened was a lot of people
including me, was like oh shit,
I need to, I'm gonna be left behind.
I needed to find somebody to move in,
so Keith moved in.
We shared a flat for a couple of years.
- During this time,
again I continued having
searching for something and someone
and becoming very
frustrated that I don't have
a lover by this point, and
I really at this point,
I'm really tired of only doing the baths.
And so I finally meet Juan Dubose.
I run into him, and have great sex,
and just decide that this is probably
the right person to me.
He's black, he's really thin.
He's the same height as me.
His dick is the same size as me.
He's almost the same age as me.
He'd been out,
and he had met Juan at
a club or something,
and he was waiting for Juan to call,
and there he was, he was
sitting on one of the chairs,
and the room was absolutely immaculate,
and in front of the chair on the floor
was the telephone.
And I came in, and I was very, very quiet,
and I thought what's going on,
because normally it was music and stuff.
I went in and I said what are you doing?
And he said I'm just
waiting for a phone call.
And then, he waited and
he waited and he waited.
And I think it took Juan two days to ring,
and then finally the phone rang.
And it was Juan.
And he was a great love.
- Keith became an instant
star within the first year.
By '82, we went to Japan,
they were lining up to come to see him.
It was like the Beatles had arrived.
- What are
some of the other countries
that you have done some work in?
All over the world, really.
Germany, France, London.
South America.
And around the United States.
- I'm Brazilian, so first
Kenny came to Brazil,
and that's how he met his wife.
We were on the plane together
going to Carnival.
I get back from my trip to Brazil
and I announce hey everybody
I'm having a baby!
And they were like, you crazy?
And I mean, I was crazy a little bit.
I thought, hey I'm 24 years old.
I'm a grown man.
I was a kid.
I think there's a lot of things
about art that have a
lot to do with healing
that a lot of people haven't really
scientifically explored,
but I think it's definitely
helpful for children to be around art,
especially when they're
around a hospital situation
so they feel more comfortable
about being there,
but also just thinking positive,
about everything, it's a part of healing
and feeling better.
He always wanted children,
and he loved children.
And I remember him saying please,
please have a baby with me.
And I was just sort of
like you must be joking.
I felt, in a way, that my having Zenna
was a little bit of a gift to Keith
because I don't know
if I thought it so much
consciously, but maybe unconscious,
subconsciously, I thought
this is gonna help
our family, and Keith became a godfather.
And Keith was really wonderful to her.
When I was drawing in the subway
sometimes you'd do 30 drawings
in a manner of three hours or something.
So I didn't want to keep doing
the same thing over and over,
so you'd invent something on the spot.
I mean, that's one
reason why I really like
working with children
more than anything else,
because they still
really have that freedom
and that imagination to just do it.
- I suppose even just from
the time I was a little kid
I had this tremendous guilt
from learning all the things
that white people had done.
The more I learned, the more
I learned about everything,
from whether it was what
they did during World War Two
to Japanese people in California,
putting them in camps, to
what they did to Indians,
to the whole civil rights movement.
I felt a much closer affinity
to culture and people of color
than I did to white culture.
Who I was in the 80s
was Donald Mattern, which
was my original name.
And I had changed it
when I started deejaying.
It came about, I just wanted
to give up my identity
from coming from Lancaster Pennsylvania.
So I changed it to Junior Vasquez.
Keith told me that he never
really felt white inside.
I never felt I was anything
else on the inside.
I did an evening at the Kitchen
which was an evening of collaborations.
And the idea was to
collaborate with people,
with dancers, musicians, and artists.
And Keith was that artist.
Keith and I did a piece which was called
I believe Long Distance.
No music.
Just the sound of his brush,
He understood when I said
I think it should just be my body,
its rhythms, and your brush strokes.
And I think he liked the idea.
It was something virtuosic and beautiful
and musical in the way
in which he did paint,
and that was something
that we'd both exploited
in that moment.
Long Distance.
- At the time that I
started working for him,
he was really interested and involved
with the hiphop scene,
and he was at that time seeing quite a bit
of his friend Madonna.
He hung around with Grace Jones.
He also stayed close to his friends
from his earlier days
in New York from SVA,
Tseng Kwong Chi, Kenny
Scharf, Tony Shafrazi
through the gallery was around a lot.
Keith was traveling a lot of the time
but he would make sure to take the plane
and arrive on Friday night
to be at the weekend
for the Paradise Garage.
Music was phenomenal.
The music, Larry Levan, was the person
that was deejaying there
and was a kind of god.
I've never been the same
since entering that
club for the first time.
You see the Paradise Garage
originally opened as a gay club.
I had some friends that I
grew up with in Brooklyn
that were not gay that had
started to go to this club,
and I was like man, isn't that a gay club?
And they said well no,
Friday night is really mixed.
There's gay people, but
there's straight people,
and there's really hot girls.
And if the girls see that
you're not homophobic,
then that's cool.
- Keith was much more
interested in my boyfriend,
Javier, this very
beautiful Puerto Rican boy,
than he was in me.
And he made it really clear that he wanted
to get to know Javier,
and really was kind of rude to me.
Putting his back right in my face,
and just talking to Javier,
and I was fine.
- The sound system, you
would hear from when you got
on the block, you would
hear this deep base,
like it was amazing, because
nothing, nothing, nothing
sounded anything like
the Garage sound system,
then or now.
- I had started going
to the Paradise Garage.
And that's where I had met Adolpho
which was Keith's assistant at the time.
Paradise Garage, Larry Levan,
and Keith Haring, it was a threesome.
Because the place reeked of Keith Haring.
His art was all over the place
for almost the whole time it was open.
It was just that whole blend of the music,
and Keith, what he did,
and what that had created,
and that Keith was the forefront
of our culture at that time.
And I was at many parties
and things with Keith,
and I was friends with friends of his,
Martin Burgoyne, who had
been Madonna's roommate,
who had died of AIDS.
I was best friends with Martin,
Martin was best friends with Keith.
So again, it was a very small group,
a very small scene.
I was on the outskirts,
because I was younger than them
and just coming up as a photographer.
His own birthday, which is May 4th,
was the occasion for him to throw
an enormous party at whatever at the time
was his most favorite nightclub.
He decided that he would name this party,
he would actually call
it the Party of Life.
- One night we went to
the Paradise Garage,
and it was the first night that
Madonna appeared in public.
Who was this girl?
And I turned to Arnie, and I said
what's the big deal?
And Keith said Andy said she's gonna be
the biggest thing ever.
You see.
And I said oh right, right, right.
I mean, I make lots of things
that are permanent, or
semipermanent materials,
usually paper, or metal
and plastic, wood, vinyl.
But I like the idea of things
lasting longer than you last.
Being somewhere where lots of people
can see it for a long time.
I encouraged him to address the idea
of how could he make
something more permanent
with paintings, and
thereafter that followed
so he came up with the solution
of painting on tarps.
And he purposely chose tarps,
which are industrial things,
which are used in the back of trucks,
with the holes and the grommets,
so that they hold down
so that all the goods
they were carrying across borders
and traveling again, very
much it would travel.
It's something very important,
even Jack Kerouac talks about it.
Very important, that idea
of nomadic life of travel.
- Keith had an interest
in celebrities, certainly,
and I guess in some ways
even in his own fame
or the hope that he would eventually be
a well-known person, the
phone calls that we would get
from New York would be slowly peppered
with more and more references
to people he had met.
He started throwing some names around
about meeting certain people.
And in fact, I think when he first said
that he met Andy Warhol,
I had to ask my wife, who's Andy Warhol?
Well, Andy was our hero.
He was the whole reason
why we moved to New York.
He was just everything.
He was like god, king, you know?
I mean, the first time I had seen Andy,
the very first time I saw him,
probably was sitting in a coffee shop
near the museum out on 53rd Street,
and I was, I wanted to
go in and say something,
but I had no idea what to do,
and sort of just walked back and forth
in front of the coffee shop several times
and decided that was ridiculous, and left.
- Hi.
- Oh hi.
How are you?
He really was our inspiration.
And he opened up so many doors
as far as ways of thinking about art,
and ways of how art can be different
than just something on
a wall in a gallery.
The first time I met Keith
was when Andy Warhol brought Keith Haring
to my apartment, because we were having
Sean's birthday, Sean, my son's birthday.
And Keith was carrying this big painting,
it was still wet, you know?
And it was for Sean.
And it had a face,
and a number, nine, to it.
Andy Warhol came to the exhibition
of Keith Haring that we had in 1982,
at Mercy Street.
Warhol would rarely be seen in the gallery
in an opening, but in this case,
not only did he come, but he was riveted.
And he became very close
friends with Keith.
They were very good friends.
I think it was very important relationship
that Keith had with him.
They gossiped, they talked almost daily.
So what did you do last night?
- They'd get on the phone
at the end of the night
and they'd talk like
a bunch of old ladies.
It was just like the way they did it.
And in a way they were
these two little art world old ladies.
- Andy envied this enthusiasm
that these kids had.
He envied the energy that they had.
In a way, he saw it as an extension
of what he was after,
and one aspect of what he was doing.
In fact, when Madonna
got married, for example,
to Sean Penn, it was Keith
Haring who was invited,
and Keith took as his date Andy Warhol.
So Andy wasn't invited.
And Andy liked that idea a lot.
We used to call him Papa Pop.
He was definitely a father figure.
Andy Warhol's work
was creating something
in a meaningful tradition,
but it was meaningless in a way.
And he liked the meaninglessness.
And Keith was creating something
that was looking like meaningless,
but actually was meaningful.
Andy Warhol took normal things
and made them into art.
But he wanted to do the opposite.
He wanted to make art normal,
to integrate it, to take it out
of this special kind of label.
In '85 I painted Grace
for two live performances at the Garage,
which is the second and third time
which I painted her.
And now ladies and gentlemen,
here's Grace!
- The strain on the
relationship with Juan Dubose
reached a maximum in '85.
In the beginning of 1986
I meet Juan Rivera at
Paradise Garage one night,
and I see this incredibly beautiful boy
who I think is the man of my dreams,
and I'm convinced that if he looks at me
and he talks to me that
that is gonna be it,
and I meet him, and within a week
he's staying at the studio all the time,
and within two weeks, I'm inviting him
to come with me to Brazil
where I'm going for a month.
Juan was the new love.
And then there was another
beautiful Puerto Rican man
whose name was Juan Dubose.
Keith separated, and the
other one is now the prince.
He's everywhere.
I think my parents have been pretty open
with the whole, you know,
they may not have liked it,
but I think they accepted it well.
We didn't either know or want to accept
that they were boyfriends.
We called them bodyguards,
or just friends.
- My family knew Keith's longer
term companions very well.
They were implicitly accepted.
There was not a lot of
discussion about this.
Some of them just by personality
didn't really integrate into our family
quite as closely,
but others really became
close with my family
to the point where my mother
was making Keith's boyfriend
scarves at Christmas.
At the very beginning he described him
as his bodyguard, which I thought
was really kind of cute in a way.
Of course this is at a time when,
the early 80s was, it's
not like the present,
this isn't on the cover of
magazines like it is today.
Hollywood wasn't dealing with it.
There wasn't television
about this subject.
This was something that was still
very much in the closet.
My parents are pretty conservative
politically and socially.
But for them, that has always extended
to people have the right
to do what they want
as long as they're not
hurting other people.
- I would try to, like around
relationships and so on,
I would try to pull him
into adult conversation
about things.
This was hard with him.
Because his impulse, that was not impulse.
His impulse was to do the work
and to live the life.
- I've been approached
by a man from a museum
in Berlin at the museum called
the House at Checkpoint Charlie
which is a museum that's dedicated
to human rights issues.
And he's asked me if I'm interested
in painting the Berlin Wall,
which of course I'm
interested in painting.
I'm painting this continuous
interlocking chain
of human figures which are connected
at the hands and the feet,
and they're alternating
between red and black,
and yellow browns was the German colors,
and really about this, obviously, somehow,
about this unity of people,
and against the idea of the wall
which is separating the people.
I started buying work from Tony
and collecting Keith's work.
And I bought 30 pieces of Keith's,
and I just love it, because
it really reminds me
of a time of living in New York
and growing up.
It's a very optimistic time,
and everybody thought art
could change the world.
Hell no!
Hell no!
Hello no!
There was a sense once Keith Haring
got established in the art world
that he should change his methodology
and his approach to not just art making
but to the institutions
and the market of art.
It's true that maybe the art community
especially the establishment,
art establishment,
may not be that into Keith's work,
the reason being because he has done
so many works, probably.
Keith wasn't stupid.
He knew exactly what he was doing,
and on top of that, he had a
lot of really smart people,
career-savvy people, advising him.
And they were telling Keith,
okay, now you stop making so much work.
There is a supply and demand going here.
You make bigger work.
You make a set number of
work for a show in New York
every year, if you're
really that prolific,
and you can do a show in Europe.
You can do your commissions.
But for goodness' sake,
stop drawing on every kid's black book.
Stop drawing on people's clothes.
Stop giving your work away for free.
He was extremely sensitive.
He had a way of being very giving.
When we were both invited to lunch
at a certain household,
and these people at the
house was all children
and adults, all sort of thing,
would you please sign this,
would you please sign this?
Keith was very, very accommodating,
but also instead of just signing his name,
which I would do,
usually all of us just sign our names,
because what else can you do?
There's so many people asking.
But he would do a drawing
for each one of them.
And I thought that was
very generous of him,
because it's not like
a normal celebrity doing a drawing.
He's a very highly acclaimed
and demanded artist.
His images started really penetrating
people's consciousness,
and so he began to notice,
and friends from all over the world
began to tell him, oh you know
they're selling Keith
Haring T-shirts in Thailand.
You know, I saw Keith
Haring sneakers in Berlin.
And I saw Keith Haring pants in Brazil.
- When Keith Haring opened
the Pop Shop in 1985
on Lafayette Street, it
signaled a significant shift
in the way that youth culture
was going to express itself.
- Keith really advanced
what an artist could do.
Taking Andy Warhol's
factory one step further
into an actual factory store.
When you look at what's come since then,
particularly Takashi Murakami,
taking Keith's approach
perhaps even further,
maybe not so much conceptually further,
but pushing it more with a connection
with major merchandising companies.
- They misunderstood a lot
of things that Keith did.
I mean, The Pop Shop they thought
was a commercial endeavor.
He wasn't gonna get rich
off of selling T-shirts
and blow-up pillows, and buttons.
This wasn't about money.
It was about accessibility.
And it was about him reaching people,
and it was about spreading
the creative energy
that he had.
Partly at the prodding of Tony,
I've become interested in trying to do,
to translate some of my things
into large outdoor sculptures,
and into public sculptures.
And Tony has arranged through to
do an exhibition at Castelli Gallery.
He just insisted.
Okay, now this year I
have a show in Paris,
and I have a show in Milano,
and I have a show in wherever,
and that's great, and I've
got to produce all this work.
But I insist that when I go
to be present at my exhibition
in whatever country or city
I also want to do something lasting
and meaningful that will remain.
Something that will help people,
and something that brings joy.
And so that is why, even today,
in any number of cities around the world
there remain Keith Haring murals
because fortunately people value them
not for their art market value,
but for their spirit.
I do all kinds of things.
Sometimes they're temporary,
and sometimes they last forever.
There's a new museum that's
just been built in Antwerp
and they asked me to do a permanent mural
inside the museum in the
cafeteria, which I do.
And it's very beautiful
staying in Belgium.
I spent three weeks in Knokke painting,
and I'm living while I'm there
inside of this house that has been made
by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely
on the property of the Nellens,
and in this enchanted house.
I'm living with his family
and having an incredible time.
The idea of the circle.
I bind myself to exorcize myself
only in one way.
Beauty in a circle.
But beauty is not suddenly in a circle.
It comes with rapture.
A great deal of beauty is rapture.
- Things have seriously
changed already in New York,
and in my life, but in
New York in general,
because we've introduced
this new horror of AIDS
which totally changed everyone's life,
and was affecting everyone's
life by this point.
The first introduction of it was probably
as early as '82, starting to hear rumors
of these mysterious deaths of gay men.
Do you know the brother?
Poor brother, he is dead.
People have this idea about the 80's
as being so fantastic.
I was telling people no,
the 80's were terrible.
AIDS arrived, and it wasn't called AIDS.
It was called gay cancer.
We didn't know what it was.
But that pretty much ended the fun.
It was horrible.
I mean, can you imagine being in your 20s,
and all your friends,
and they're all dying?
Act up was the AIDS coalition,
Unleash Power was a political group
fighting to get the
government to take notice
of the AIDS epidemic that was happening,
to get testing through the
National Institute of Health,
NIH, get tests made faster.
There's so much bureaucracy
in medical research
at that time.
And through the efforts of Act Up,
they changed the way the US government
was dealing with AIDS.
And it was a very creative way to protest.
When Keith was diagnosed with AIDS,
he became a big part of Act Up.
Now I fit exactly the classifications
of actually having AIDS.
So for the first time, it was a reality
that now it was gonna
begin to happen to me,
and now I had to deal with it.
It's like I knew that it was gonna happen,
but somehow, it doesn't
prepare you anymore
for that moment when you
know that it's really,
it's hitting, I mean at first it was just,
you break down, whatever.
I went and sat by the river,
and just cried, and cried, and cried.
But then it's like, well you can't just,
well you have to go on.
You get yourself together, and you realize
that this is not the end right there,
and that there's other things,
and you gotta continue,
and you've gotta figure out
how you're gonna deal with it,
and confront it, and face it.
- Yeah, I was probably one
of the first people to know
that he was HIV.
It was a hard thing to swallow,
but again, it wasn't a,
it wasn't a surprise.
Like I just said, I mean these
people were pretty crazy.
They were known to be pretty wild.
So when he came to me with that,
it didn't shock me.
Did we ever talk about it?
He did say to me I have so much to do.
I have so much to do.
And I remember once going into his studio,
and he was working feverishly,
and I was saying to him what's going on?
And he said I just have so much to do.
- When Keith did his
article in Rolling Stone,
it was amazing how brave he was
to come out publicly.
Because no one else was doing that.
And I think he was shocked a little bit
by the parties invitations stopped.
I did see Keith, and he told me,
you know I'm sick.
It was overwhelming, but what made it
not as bad as you would think
was the way he just was dealing with it.
The way he said, you know, I'm just gonna
get the right treatment, and eat right,
and boom, boom, boom,
and he really managed it in a very heroic,
and a courageous way.
- He looked at me, and
he said there's something
I want you to do for me.
And it was like, how many
times he had said that
to me, by this point in
our lives, like thousands.
Something I need you to do.
I'd be like, okay what?
Well, I need you to tell my parents
that I have AIDS.
And I was floored.
I mean, I was absolutely,
And I think it took me a second or two
to say okay, I'll do it.
It's not a problem.
We talked about whether or not
art came from within,
or came through from some other place.
And you were just a vehicle, in a sense,
of this energy coming,
and you were just designated
to get these things out,
and create these works for
people to enjoy, or hate.
He exemplified what an artist should be.
- I started
having more and more need
to be with intellectual companionship
to deal with the situation,
because it really required
a lot of mental activity,
and talking about, and
trying to figure out
exactly what was going on and what to do
with the situation,
and I met this kid Gil,
who I fall madly in love with.
I never knew Gil so much.
And I found it peculiar,
that you would fall in
love with a straight man.
Now, you can have friends,
but that cannot,
Keith was a very sexual person.
What did that mean, that you were in love
with a man who couldn't
love you in that way?
No judgment.
- I was fortunate enough
to travel with Keith
to many countries,
France, England, Belgium, Italy.
We would go to museums together.
If he could get away with it,
he would like to touch texture,
not only visual, but actual touching.
- I also have a
problem going to museums,
knowing, trying to decide between looking
at the paintings or cruising,
because museums are some
of the cruisiest places
in the world, I think.
I'm supposed to be really
interested in this painting,
but the power of a hot body
can still overpower that, so in some ways,
it might be the, I mean
it's probably one of
the strongest forces.
- Keith met Piergiorgio
and Roberto Castellani
on the streets of New York.
And from that meeting,
developed an invitation
to come to the city of Pisa
which also has quite a
well-known landmark already.
And he was asked, this
contemporary artist,
this gay artist, this very young artist,
this artist who had HIV,
was invited to paint a mural
on the outside of a church!
He wanted to set up a foundation
to carry out and to continue
the kind of charitable work
that he had done all his life.
He started to really focus
on what he wanted to leave as a legacy.
Let's just pretend you get hit by a cab.
Let's just go that route, Keith.
I know you don't want to talk about this,
but you're throwing this
whole foundation thing
on all of us, and there's a
certain amount of stuff here
that I feel like I needed to know.
It was a little bit like pulling teeth
at the same time.
Not a conversation that
you really want to have.
- He was in Germany at
the end of January 1990.
He died on February 16th 1990.
He didn't stop.
He did not stop.
There was no one, I can't imagine anyone
being able to do as much work as he did
in that short period of time.
It was incredible.
He was like a superman or something.
Now he's cremated,
and we had to fight for the,
we had to struggle or fight for the ashes.
Found out in an offhanded way
that you get cremated, and guess what?
It's actually disposed of
with industrial garbage.
We created these two services,
two funeral services, that
we had in the Kutztown area.
One was in a church that
his family participates in,
and the second service, we ended up having
on the hillside where he
used to go and hang out,
and meditate after school,
or maybe sometimes during
school, I'm not sure.
I have a psychic side, you know.
So ghosts and spirits whisper to me.
- It was a sad day when
we brought his ashes.
It was a rough day period.
But then Julia carried them up
in a plastic container.
And then she opened them
and handed them to me first.
At the hill, they were giving out
parts of the bones to people.
And I received it too.
The neat thing was in all the family
we all took some and
let the wind take them,
and a flock of geese went over.
It was almost like a sign.
And I put it in my pocket.
And I thought what am I gonna do with it?
And suddenly Keith just whispered to me
saying keep it.
Hold it.
I'll tell you what to do.
So then okay.
It was a beautiful day though.
And when I think back on
it, I can still look up
and see these clouds, and
it was this incredible
Hollywood sky, and it was just,
it was a beautiful moment,
when I think about it.
Kermit I think sprinkled them
in the shape of a crawling baby.
He took the ashes and sprinkled them out.
- And I ended up officiating
this funeral service
for some of his closest friends,
and certainly Tony.
And I think the Scharfs,
Kenny and his wife.
And Yoko Ono.
Yeah, that was a big doings.
When Yoko Ono was in Bowers.
I went home.
And Keith said that he would like me
to take it to Paris.
And put it
in the obelisk in front of the Ritz,
the Place Vendome.
I went to Paris,
and then Keith just came again
and said do it today!
The car was going to a
gallery that we know.
And it sort of passed in front of Ritz,
and I said stop, stop!
I jumped out of the car.
And I just put it exactly where Keith said
I should put it.
To this day, I have,
it's somebody who is still,
to me, he's still present in my life.
Not only I have his artwork
all over my house,
not only my children still talk about him.
I tell stories of his to my children,
and not only talk to my friends about him,
still he's somebody very present.
- He would always tease
me that I'd forget him.
That I would forget him
soon after he passed,
and I can honestly say
that I have thought about Keith
every day since he passed.
Keith's alive everyday in my life.
Like I said, I see his
stuff on people's chat,
the weirdest times, it's
like it never stops.
It's like they say, is
it art or is it God?
It's like Keith is still around.
I was sitting with him, and I held him,
and I said that I knew
he could understand me,
that he could hear me.
And that he, everything was gonna be okay.
And his legacy
was gonna live on,
and it was just gonna grow.
And that he should just relax,
because he's just done amazing things,
and it was gonna continue.
And he calmed down.
His agitation stopped.
And I said I know you can,
you know what I'm saying.
And then he died.
Like a couple hours later.