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…

 

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

 

 

Pride Parade, 2011

I don’t focus much on poetry these days, but I did have a few pieces published in Vice Magazine back in the mid-90’s. That wasn’t the Vice Magazine of today, but a NYC free gay bar rag that tried to aspire to something more cultural than Next or HX by featuring poetry and art photography.

Tasteful nudes, of course.

There was even a centerfold.

I still have some of them stored somewhere.

But I digress: they published a few of my poems. One day I’ll post them.

This piece was originally written for a class at The Writer’s Studio in the Fall of 2011. I was frustrated with the assignment and with what I had come up with. I thought it was crap and made some disparaging remarks about it before choosing a classmate to read it aloud. And as the words hit the air, I started to realize that it was really moving. And important. And it was really effecting the others in the room. People got a little verklempt. And there was silence when it was over. And then a classmate spoke up and said, “I hate you. If that’s what you come up with when you’re not feeling the assignment. I really hate you.”

The lesson I learned: just as you should never apologize before an audition (regardless of any ailments or trauma in your life), do not discredit your own work before presenting it.

So here it is, posted without further comment…

(I did not take these pics, btw)

Gay Pride

Pride Parade, 2011

The parade of pride and fabulousity follows the purple stripe downtown –

guiding the way to gay ground zero: Christopher Street,

where it reaches its zenith, then dissipates into the side streets and alleys.

 

The air is electric – more than any celebration in recent memory.

The mood victorious as the decision was passed down late last night:

We can get married in New York today.

thank you cuomo

Mylar streamers and cardboard cutouts adorn the floats – trailers and pickup trucks

glittered up like drag queens for a day – back to work tomorrow, like the rest of us.

An explosion of g-strings and dykes on bikes and topless transgenders

and she was a he and that one I’m not sure – all making their way down 5th Avenue

to the anthemic disco beat of  I Was Born This Way.

 

On toes, I am balanced on a square inch of stoop at Barrow Street –

holding on to the railing, vying for a better view.

Next to me babies in rainbow bibs and bandanas

clap and giggle in the arms of their two mommies.

pride police

Police line the barricades with bemused smiles of “tolerance” –

steps away from Stonewall, and the confrontation that started it all-

their opinions now suppressed and stored for a private audience at a later time.

 

A weary drag queen sits on the curb, shoes in hand, wilting in the summer heat.

From windows and rooftops, cheering crowds toast

with their brunch Bellinis and Bloody Marys.

On a 5th floor perch at the corner of Bleecker, a man with confetti blesses the crowd below.

NYCPride-104

We walk this parade route, sharing sidewalks with ghosts, both living and dead:

There are no monuments to that lost generation of artists.

The survivors, no longer emaciated – saved by their cocktails.

These muscled torsos on spindly legs walk with the gait of wounded birds.

Their weary eyes and sunken cheeks tell the history more freely than their mouths.

 

We forget what it was like to be so scared.

 

Making our way down Christopher, herded like cattle to the street fair on Hudson.

Promotional tents for film and TV; samples of snacks and fruity drinks –

with acceptance comes the term “marketable demographic” as the former pariahs have

deep pockets and money to burn.

streetfair

Booths for dating services, pet care and enterprising wedding planners – a first!

A Wheel of Fortune carnival game: step right up and win some porn!

Stickers and posters advertise the Real Housewives of No Place Real.

Underwear-clad go-go boys flirt as they pass out condoms and lube.

 

Young lovers embrace – that overwhelming first love. Out in the open for all to see.

Too young to have known the fear, the loss, the magnitude of the shame.

Celebrating side by side with those old enough to remember

when the bullied and beaten didn’t ask why, and didn’t tell.

They took what was given – they were told they deserved it.

With words and in silence in one hundred different ways.

after

 

Now we know better.

And the world is not perfect on this day,

but we are closer now than we have ever been before.

img_1150