Fun Gallery…the true story by Patti Astor

I was hoping to run into some old friends I haven’t seen in a while, like Fred, Futura and Zephyr, but none of them made it to Patti Astor’s book signing. The four of us belong to a very special group, you see, one that also includes Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. We all had shows at the Fun Gallery, although mine was the only photographic exhibit ever held at that gallery. (Only one photograph sold, btw, an Andre Grossmann blow-up of an early breakdance competition, which was purchased by Gary Pini for around $150. Last time I saw it, it was hanging over a fireplace in his townhouse in Brooklyn, although I haven’t been there in over a decade.)

Patti was a true Queen of the East Village during its glory days. The scene back then was divided between the older, more sophisticated Mudd Club crowd and the retro Club 57 crew, both of which were pursuing much different esthetics, although both worlds got suddenly pulled together when hip hop arrived. Patti and Jean-Michel were part of the core of Mudd Club, while Keith, Kenny, John Sex and Ann Magnuson were the emerging Club 57 stars. The Mudd Club was mostly on heroin at the time, while Club 57 much preferred mushrooms. Later cocaine took over everywhere.

Patti’s drug of preference, however, was probably Veuve Clicqout. At least that’s what usually emerged when a major ceremony of her’s was about to go down. Patti was the greatest master of ceremonies in New York at the time, which is why all these artists wanted desperately to show in her gallery.

Her book is a masterpiece of counterculture literature, and a way better guide to the era than what has been published so far (with the possible exception of my book Art After Midnight). I read it in one sitting and it really took me back to the period. Despite the emergence of AIDS right in our midst, the infusion of hip hop into the downtown scene was monumental. Fred Brathwaite was really the first person to catch onto the potentials of merging downtown with the South Bronx. He met Patti at a cocktail party and the rest is history. In the book, she refers to him as the “chairman of the board.” I had to read the book to discover they were also lovers for a brief time. One of my favorite scenes in the book happens after Patti breaks up with her husband Steven Kramer and moves quickly from Fred to Futura to Jean-Michel. Walking home late at night, Fred looks over at Keily Jenkins and snarls “You’ll probably be next.” “Really?!” says Keily. Not only was Keily next, but he was the one who actually stuck. Of course, Patti wasn’t there to see that conversation. She heard about it later from Keily, one of the many luminaries from that time period who died too young to comb his grey hair.

10 Replies to “Fun Gallery…the true story by Patti Astor”

  1. Thank you Steven, I am so happy you liked it. I must admit you were the person I was most nervous about reading the book as both “Art After Midnight” and “Hip Hop” are the Bibles of that era and consulted by me frequently during the years of writing the book. I do mention them on the back cover!! It was great to have so many FUN artists there and I plan to come back for a bigger bash!! XX Patti “A”

    1. I concur fully with Steven’s review of Patti’s new book, bravo Patti! Steven, killer review, you really nailed the scene as well…bravo, bravo, bravo. Oh, i didn’t know that iconic pix was yours! Another kudos!
      Michael Holman

      1. Just to be clear, I’m not the photographer on that poster, just the writer of the book the photographer appeared in. It was my idea to do a gallery exhibit in conjunction with the publication of the book, Hip Hop, although the Fun Gallery was the only gallery I even considered. Flick worked a lot of iconic tags into that amazing poster, as well as the great shot of Crazy Legs, zulu beads flyin’, by Jodi Buren. Can you believe it was in the show and didn’t sell? Why no angel ever appeared to buy up all the Fun artwork will forever remain a mystery. You could have had a Jean Michel, Keith Haring or Kenny Scharf for under $2,000.

  2. It was terrific to see Patti, Mary-Ann Monforton and Maripol at the book party. I too read the book in one go, it was too juicy, funny, and good to put down, bravo Patti! Especially moved to read Kwong Chi’s name on the first page of dedication to lost friends (KC is my beloved late brother). I participated on the fringe only at a few dance parties and openings, but know how incredibly much Kwong Chi loved loved loved his friends and the scene with you all, it was the teenage years come alive in the best ways and made up for the years when we were geeky immigrant Chinese teenagers who didn’t have any fun in Vancouver.
    I’m taking care of Kwong Chi’s photo archive, over 20,000 of Keith alone, plus Kenny, Ann, Jean-Michel and many more of you. or to be in touch. Thank you Patti.

    1. thanks for stopping by, Muna, by the way, I hope you have a copy of the portrait of your brother taken in front of Club 57 with his Elvis face on. The photo was taken by Harvey Wang and it’s really a great shot

  3. Steven – I’m looking forward to adding Patti’s book to the bookshelf – I’ll be sure to put it next to your Art After Midnight! PS – can’t believe I’m posting next to Patti and Michael Holman. I’m not worthy!

  4. Hey Steven. Not sure you’re remember me but I was a bit of a known DJ back then & worked with Pini & Profile. He’s not on Facebook but I see him all the time & just forwarded your review to him ; )
    Book sounds really great. I’d love to read it as its about the era right before I came to the city.

  5. RE: Andre Grossman breakdance photo

    I took it into my office at Profile years ago and some f***ing a**hole stole it! It was taken at a breakdance competition at the Ritz (now Webster Hall). XL Records’ Richard Russell got one directly from Andre, too, and hopefully he’s still got his. Still have great shot of Cro-Mags at CB’s that Andre did.

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