Skinema

By Chris Nieratko

“Do you want to do some poppers?” Andy mumbled from behind his ransacked desk at the old VICE UK office.

“What did you call me?” I snapped back. I like to pretend that I cannot understand a word Andy is saying. It’s been a running joke for over a decade. I’m American and I am always urging the handsome old Brit to, “Speak English, for fuck’s sake.” Typically I’ll raise the level of my voice for comedic effect because that’s what Americans do when there’s a communication barrier.

He asked again, “Do you want to do some poppers?”

“WHAT ARE POPPERS, ANDY?” I yelled back.

Ten years ago I was addicted to pharmaceuticals. Twenty-five years ago it was LSD. In between the two, somewhere about the 15-year mark, I had a serious and lustful relationship with cocaine. Throughout this entire stretch of less-than-Olympic handling of my body, my true love, alcohol, has stood by my side for every ménage à trois of illegality that I dabbled in. I’m not hoping for nor do I deserve any sort of recognition or award for my drug use. I was merely as good at it as the next guy, but I would like it to be noted that I thought I knew my craft.

So when VICE’s global editor, Andy Capper, who at the time was at the helm of VICE UK’s editorial department, asked me if I wanted poppers, I was saddened that I had no idea what the hell he was talking about; I thought it was an English term for pills. When he said the term dated back to the 70s I was somewhat embarrassed by my ignorance. He explained “poppers” was just a cute word for amyl nitrite. I laughed. I knew poppers, I just didn’t know it had a name. When I was younger we used to put a thick towel over aerosol air freshener cans and take hits. I was a brash and stupid young man, and I remember my first time I didn’t want to use the towel and got a mouthful of the most aromatic, disgusting tasting potpourri ever.

“Sure, I’ll do poppers.” Combined, neither of us had enough fingers or toes to count how many times we did poppers that night. It was a marathon and, in hindsight, we were winning/losing. I was on so many goofballs that I insisted that the poppers weren’t working despite the constant bursts of colourful light that kept exploding in my retina over Andy’s face. Andy assured me they were. I didn’t understand what he said so I ignored him and continued.

The beauty of pharmaceuticals is that they allow for time travel. Angel dust has that same superpower. One minute you’re boarding a plane in Los Angeles bound for Copenhagen and five minutes later you’re waking up with a joint in your mouth in your hotel room in Denmark. This particular night in London I remember looking at our attire (squalid, at best) and one moment saying, “We’re all dressed up, we should really go out tonight,” and in the next breath being upstairs at the Old Blue Last being interviewed by a naked reporter while a porno was being filmed. Andy told me he was looking into buying the pub for VICE. I told him I didn’t understand one word he just said but I was also making enquiries about how much it would cost to buy the Statue of Liberty.


IMAGE ABOVE LEFT: Chris on the set of Skinema: Belladonna, coming next year through VICE. Photo by Andy Capper.

The main difference between us is that you can always understand what I’m saying, and it is generally loud, insulting and off-colour. I tend to turn it up a notch when Andy is around because I know he gets a real kick out of it. I recall him visiting me in New Jersey right after my first son was born. I had to go pick up Andy at the apartment of that shitty heavy metal band from Baghdad that VICE wouldn’t shut the fuck up about for a bunch of years. Andy came out to meet me with the band in tow, to introduce us and see what I’d say. The band told me of their CRAZY day full of drinking whiskey and fucking off, as if I hadn’t heard that band story before. When they were done speaking I told them, “You might want to spend a bit less time drinking and a bit more time in the rehearsal studio because you guys are fucking awful.” After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Andy and I were in my car driving to my home.

Andy and I were always destined/doomed to work together at VICE. So much of what I have is owed to him. He used to work at a UK fetish magazine prior to VICE. He saw my pointless porn column, Skinema, and asked me to do a similar column for Bizarre, which I gladly did for many years. That porn column, full of buttholes and blowjobs, paid for my wife’s engagement ring, the humour of which is not lost on me. He got the ball rolling on my Skinema book and most recently championed my VICE web porn-docu series of the same name when no one else could give two fucks about it. Depending on which side of the love/hate fence you sit, if you’re sick of hearing my name, Andy Capper is to blame.

All of my recollections of VICE UK are of Andy. I remember the time he “supposedly” didn’t fuck the midget from the Crobar, and how she returned the next night looking for blood, screaming, “Bring me the head of Andrew Capper!” I remember being extremely late for my book reading at the Old Blue Last because I had to stop at Stonehenge (only to learn Stonehenge closes early on Sundays). I finally showed up to the bar with my wife, and both Andy and I were fixated on a busty blonde. “One of us has a chance with her,” I told him. Then we saw her strapping black boyfriend and our hopes were shot. I doodled in her book two large vertical black cocks with an aeroplane flying into them like the Twin Towers with the words “NEVER FORGET” above them. Below it read: “Everyone loves black cock (even me).” Shortly after, a young lady told me of how she lost £100 in a bad drug deal. I felt awful for her and gave her the £100 I had just made off selling books and told her to get out there and find some good drugs.

Recently I spent a week with Andy in LA filming ex-porn star Belladonna. I was worried about our friendship. We had never travelled together and I didn’t know if that much exposure to each other would burn us out. Luckily, we weathered the storm, and our shared disdain for a common Parisian and my one-sided conversation with the Frenchman with my hand around his throat only brought us closer. I love you, Andy. And VICE UK. Here’s to ten more years of adventure.

More stupid can be found at ChrisNieratko.com and twitter.com/Nieratko. Also, check out the Skinema show on VICE.com.

More from our 10th Anniversary Issue:

Lies People Will Believe About VICE

Discussing the State of the British Media with Ian Hislop

A History of Grime and VICE

Comments