RIP Taylor Mead
On Wednesday, the Lower East Side lost yet another piece of its diminishing history when Taylor Mead, an actor, poet, Andy Warhol friend and collaborator, and a staple of the LES, passed away. It was not very long ago that I found myself in his apartment on Ludlow Street, discussing the drastic changes that have taken place in the LES with Taylor and the photographer Clayton Patterson. Soon after, Taylor was bought out of his apartment, which he had lived in for over three decades. He was taking a break from the city to visit his niece in Colorado, when he suffered a fatal stroke.
While spending time with Taylor I shot a video, along with Clayton and Jade Katzenellenbogen, about how he came to New York, as well as his recent battle with his landlord, noted LES prick Ben Shaoul. We hope to release the video sometime within the next few weeks. In the meantime, here are some of Clayton Patterson's memories and thoughts on Taylor.
- Taji Ameen
Photo by Clayton Patterson
Taylor was a neighbor and a good friend of mine. I live at 161 Essex; he was one block over, at 163 Ludlow. For decades our slice of the Lower East Side was a no man’s land. Above Houston was the cool East Village; below Delancey was the safe and clean, police-protected Grand Street co-op area. Our block, like so many of the surrounding blocks, had 24/7 drug dealing going on. You had to be a serious junkie to tread around our neck of the woods.
But we were also a somewhat close-knit community. A real neighborhood, filled with characters, families, outlaws, and a sprinkling of artists. On the street level, the drug dealers in and around Taylor’s building looked out for him. That was one of the reasons he could come home drunk at 4 AM, or go out in the early morning hours to feed stray cats. We would often meet at our local bodega, and one thing he always purchased was cat food. He put out meals for the street cats at a number of locations.
In 1986, Ari Roussimoff and I started the Tattoo Society of New York (TSNY). Ari is an artist and filmmaker. Ari was working on a black-and-white feature film called Shadows In the City, and I was serving as the art director. A partial list of the cast of characters are TSNY members Pulsating Paula, Tattoo Al, J. C. Fly, David Hayes, Elsa Rensaa; then sword-swallower Diane Falk; filmmakers Jack Smith, Emile deAntonio, Nick Zedd; writer Ratso Sloman; performance artists Annie Sprinkle, Kembra Pfahler; strongman the Mighty Stephan; artist Joe Coleman; actress Valerie Caris; Mystic Warriors MC members; and, of course, Taylor Mead. The film was finished in late 1991.
By the early 1990s all kinds of artists were exploring the use of the handheld video camera. MNN, the local cable channel, became one of the main venues for creative people to get their work out to the public. Taylor was no exception, and he appeared on numerous cable shows as an actor, performer, poet, and artist, as well as an interview subject. To bring a little attention to the work these artists were doing, I created the Nelson Awards along with Jeremiah Newton and Screaming Rachel. Named after Nelson Sullivan, the artist who turned me onto the merits and simplicity of the handheld video camera, the event was held on the main stage of the Limelight nightclub. Taylor Mead was one of the Nelson Award recipients.
I have included Taylor's paintings in a number of art shows at the Clayton Gallery. One show in particular drew much attention. Curated by Jamie Rasin, Anne Loretto, and myself, The 80s 326 Years Of Hip, featured four octogenarian artists: Taylor Mead, Mary Beach, Boris Lurie, and Herbert Huncke.
He will be greatly missed.
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