In 1990 at the Chelsea Hotel, Linda Twigg gave a party to celebrate the release of Herbert Huncke’s autobiography, “Guilty of Everything.” Huncke roomed in the walk-in closet of Linda’s second-floor gaming den. The party was a solid cross-section of the well-known radicals, activists, literary types, club divas and other well-recognized night people. One of the most riveting and memorable people I met at this soiree was Jeremiah Newton.
Jeremiah has introduced me to many different people in the creative world as a privileged, inner-circle, entry person — such as when I was a guest in Jeremiah’s “Directors Series” class at N.Y.U. Tisch School of Arts. I was often inspired by the visiting artists Jeremiah brought to his class: Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Heath Ledger, Adam Sandler, George Lucas. An important point Lucas made was that he’s still with the same film team he graduated from N.Y.U. with.
Jeremiah also educated me on the Off Off Broadway creative types and their history, like author, playwright, Warhol screenplay collaborator Bob Heide and author John Gilman.
Jeremiah had much to do with keeping the memory of Candy Darling — a.k.a. James Lawrence Slattery, a male-to-female transsexual — and her artistic contribution to the world memorialized. My guess is that without Jeremiah, Candy Darling would be a little-known, past-tense Warhol superstar.
At the request of Francesco Clemente, one of the publishers of Hanuman books, Jeremiah edited the little Candy Darling book that they published. I already knew Don Ed Hardy in the tattoo world, but with Jeremiah, I met Ed’s other half, his wife, Francesca Passalacqua, who with Ed makes up the publisher Hardy Marks. In 1997, Hardy Marks published “My Face for the World to See: Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar.”
The first edition of “My Face” was bound in a puffy pink vinyl cover with a gold, stamped title to look like a teenage girl’s diary, with a gold lock and key. This edition is now a rare book and can cost much more than the retail price a person bought it for. Candy is now an American icon with thousands of fans worldwide. And Don Ed Hardy morphed into the multimillion-dollar clothing and product brand Ed Hardy.
Jeremiah shopped around the idea of doing a film on Candy Darling. There were many bites, including by pop star Madonna, but then indecision got in the way. Jeremiah decided to raise the money himself and he did. Pulling in director James Rasin, together they made “Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar.” The film has been invited to what seems like an endless number of screenings and festivals worldwide. “Beautiful Darling” is already a classic.
One particular story around Jeremiah that really bothers me is his forced exit from N.Y.U. Tisch School of Art. It was around 3 o’clock on a Friday afternoon when two guards came up to Jeremiah while he was sitting in his 10th-floor office and told him he had just a few minutes to pick up his cartable belongings and leave. “No!” they told him, he couldn’t touch his computer or private e-mail — the computer’s contents belonged to N.Y.U. since it was their computer. “My medical records?” Too bad: “No!” As Jeremiah asked me: “Why would I, a man of principle, loyalty, a hard worker, an honest person, a person who does a good job, why do I need two guards to walk me out? Like I am a common criminal!” No one could imagine Jeremiah being in a situation where two guards are needed to walk him out. Apparently, the upper echelon who attacked Jeremiah and used him as a sacrificial lamb are now on the chopping block.
Hanging out with Jeremiah has been like hanging out with a top-level, master teacher. I’ve been one of his privileged students. And he has been the perfect master.