Sunday, August 7, 2016

 High Times  December 1985

 This is the only piece of commercial/media illustration I ever had published. One blazing hot Friday in  early September 1985 I made my way to High Times magazine on West 60th St right off Columbus Circle. The place was, for lack of any other word, a trip. High tech with shiny steel walls and floors( patterned like manhole covers) alternating with  mirrored walls facing each other and the company mast head in brilliant red neon reflecting into infinity. There was no receptionist. There was a camera. And a buzzer, which I pressed before taking a seat on a black leather and chrome chair in the corner.  I spoke to a disembodied voice stating my business through a super secure intercom system. I was buzzed in. The office was literally a maze of inter connecting hallways that seemed pretty much deserted except every now and then a photo strobe popped  in my peripheral vision. There was a strong odor of potent, raw marijuana. Strange. Somehow I landed in a sparsely furnished studio where two guys sat at a drawing table with a bottle of tequila, a shaker of salt and a couple lemon wedges. The two gentlemen introduced themselves as Mark Michaelson (Art Director) and Santiago Cohen (Associate Art Director). They were both, quite obviously, feeling....good, very good. I whipped out my portfolio which at that consisted of nothing but cibachrome prints of art I did in my final year at School of Visual Arts and a few pieces I'd worked on since graduating in June of 1984. I was nervous but became less so as these two guys were genuinely cool. They were accessible, relaxed and lacking in pretension or self inflated importance. We talked causally as they leafed through my portfolio, about what I can't tell you but it wasn't really business related. They asked me how I had executed certain works, what my medium was and the story behind some of the works. It flowed. ( In NYC in 1985 you seldom got to meet an art director, there were days of the week you could drop off your portfolio and pick it up either later in the day or the next day. Kind of inconvenient for a guy who didn't live in the city and, as a result, I had a lot of down time to walk around the city, go to galleries and book stores. It was an education in itself come to think of it. It was, however, a truly demoralizing experience. I accumulated many rejection slips, little notes  that said, in not so many words,  "Don't call us, we'll call You!" No one ever did and by September 1985 I was packing it in). But this was different. It was fun. Easy. Enjoyable. They liked my work, they "got" it.  They offered me a job. An Illustration to go with Cookie Mueller's High Adviser Column. sort of an Underground Dear Abby affair. A story on twins who had been separated at birth. OK. I could do that. Shoot, I would do anything at that point just to get my name out there. They handed me a blue penciled, non-edited Xerox of the article and I got to work. 
  For reference I shot a photo of my friend, the poet, Phil Good sitting in front of a window in an apartment at 21 East 2nd St. We had just sanded and urethaned the floors of the place for Helena Hughes. The apartment's most intriguing attribute was the bathroom. It was a cramped, narrow space that had a window looking directly into CBGB's. You could literally see all the way through the place, clean in out onto the Bowery. The apartment had, in fact, been Hilly Kristal's at some point in the early days of CBGB. Fitting and, for the time, not at all unusual.

 I came in with my assignment early thinking it good policy and something to build a reputation on. The Art Directors were both happy. Santiago Cohen likened the window to a guillotine and laughed a somewhat sinister laugh. It took forever to get my $75.00 check for the job but I did. The magazine came out four or so months later and it gave me a great sense of pride to go into OM ( a long time notorious head shop and boutique in Nanuet, NY) and purchase a copy, showing off my artwork to anyone within eye or ear shot. ( High Times never had any more work for me. They moved locations more than a few times. Owners changed. Editors changed. Art Directors changed. I never got the artwork back and can only surmise it is long gone, swept away with all the other detritus of the paper publishing realm from back in the late 20th century.