I arrived at the Mudd Club right on time and went upstairs to view the opening of the new Mudd Club Art Gallery. The owner, Steve Maas, had recently taken over the downtown scene by creating the coolest club in town, one that helped focus the merger of CBGB’s crowd with the Soho art scene. My article on Futura 2000 had appeared that morning, my first cover story for the Manhattan edition of the hip new afternoon New York Daily News.
Futura had designed the headline himself and been paid around $100. While Futura was in the art room sketching the piece, a senior dude looked me in the eye and said: “We shouldn’t be promoting this.” It was my first inkling my reporting might be rubbing some of the old guard the wrong way.
I assumed we’d all be celebrating up a storm at the Mudd Club. Fred Braithwaite greeted me. When I asked if he’d seen the Daily News article, he pulled out a copy of High Times and showed me Glenn O’Brien’s much more in-depth article that ran for pages with lots of amazing color photos. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Fred were the major characters in his piece.
Somewhat deflated, I speed-read the article while thinking, “Shit, this guy beat me to the punch. I need to start reading High Times.”
Meanwhile, I notice a bunch of girls are looking at me funny. “That’s him,” one says. I can tell they are super pissed-off about something, so I ask them what’s up.
“You called our father an alcoholic! Do you know what if was like for him to read that!” snarled one, which cranked up the angry vibes on the rest of them.
I sought refuge behind the desk with Fred and whispered, “Holy shit. I assumed his dad was dead or he wouldn’t have told me.”
“Well,” said Fred, “he told you so he must have wanted it to come out, even subconsciously.”
It was the first time I realized the power of the media to cause intense emotional problems and how the unvarnished truth is not always the best option. The whole incident put a real damper on the celebration for me, and I went home early, although not before Fred gave me Bambaataa’s phone number, so I could interview him the next day. It was the beginning of a long trail I’d scout for the next four years, a trail I’d been put on by viewing a subway car called “Break” that I’d seen at New York/New Wave at P.S. 1, a train painted by Futura 2000. You can read the original Daily News article in my book Hip Hop: The Complete Archives.