R. Hell Site Forum Message

my problem with the TIMES story, pt. 1

Posted by:Richard Hell (‘in forum heading’)
Posted on: 10 Jan 2004
[First, I'm referring to the 1/1/04 article that's now up here at www.richardhell.com/TimesHome/HellHome.html ...]...

I want to give my side of the TIMES story about the sale of my archives to the NYU Fales library even though I’ve known for a long time that it’s kind of futile and self defeating to respond to what journalists say. For one thing nobody much cares what they say anyway so you just look like a self-involved whiner to argue with them. And anyway it’s impossible to catch up. If what they say is going to be perpetuated it will be no matter what you say, and meanwhile other people are writing other things and it usually all evens out, so better to ignore them and stick to your own business. But in this case that TIMES reporter’s slant is still irritating me whenever it comes up, so I want to get this off my chest.

I found the article mildly insulting for a couple of reasons. I don’t think John Leland (the reporter) meant me any harm but his slant ended up misrepresenting me and the library and the purchase. It’s partly my fault because I didn’t realize where Leland was coming from and I could have headed him off by being more careful about how I talked to him if I’d known. Leland, apparently, coming from a conventional music background (he used to write for SPIN), could only see me as a (’70s) musician, and not knowing much about me (or not caring), apparently saw me primarily for my role in the band Television because that was my first band and the band that started things at CBGB’s. The fact is I left that band before they even made a record, so I sure don’t regard that period as what identifies or defines me, and neither does anybody else who knows anything about that era, and certainly neither does the library that paid fifty thousand dollars for my papers. But more on that later.

The main thing was that Leland talked about my papers as if they were some kind of stash of “punk” scrap, as if I was some kind of pack-rat of “punk” memorabilia, and that the NYU Fales library bought them to get “punk” artifacts, as if NYU was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or something (except of course that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t buy anything--they expect you to give it to them). It’s not like that. I do have kind of a collecting urge, which Leland got me to talk about. What I like to collect is books, though I’ve started a few other funny collections that I never really followed up on. I once started a collection of fake body parts: I had a pin (jewelry) that was a clay nipple, a few prosthetics, novelty noses, etc. But that was half-assed (ha ha) and short lived. And, as I told him, I saved nightclub invitations for a year or two in the ’80s but eventually threw them away. I was buying Mopar muscle cars for a while but that was really crazy.

But that’s not what my papers that Fales bought is about at all. My papers are strictly files and boxes of material either by me or about me from my whole life: childhood to the present. I did NOT collect punk memorabilia--everything in my papers is my own work or else interviews with me or stories about me. This is what an artist’s (if I may be so bold) papers are. There’s nothing bizarre or eccentric about, at age fifty-four, my having thirty (actually thirty-three) boxes of accumulated manuscripts, notebooks, graphics, tapes, letters, business receipts, editorial archives (I’ve had a couple of small presses as publisher and editor, like the CUZ Editions books on site), audio tapes (lots of rehearsal tapes), video tapes and film, newspapers and magazines of interviews or articles or reviews, as well as all the pamphlets and books of my own writings that have appeared, plus all the vinyl and CDs of my recordings, etc., etc.

There are two other main large sets of artist’s papers in the relatively new “Downtown” Collection at the NYU Fales. One is of the novelist and poet and art writer Dennis Cooper and the other of the painter and writer (and sometime musician) David Wojnarowicz. Cooper’s archive is the same size as mine and he was a little younger than me when he delivered it; Wojnarowicz’s is more than double the size of mine and he was at least ten years younger than me when he died (AIDS).

[cont. at www.richardhell.com/cgi-bin/forum/showmessage.asp?messageID=5908...]

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Message thread:

         my problem with the TIMES story, pt. 1 by Richard Hell, 10 Jan 2004 (6)
                 my problem with the TIMES story, pt. 2 by Richard Hell, 10 Jan 2004
                         Good footage gone to Hell........ by jetboy, 11 Jan 2004
                         right to moan by Hannah, 12 Feb 2004
                 Times Article by Therese, 23 Jan 2004
                 Mr.Dick Hell by Johnny Hasbeen, 8 May 2006
                 Mopars by Hemibill, 8 Feb 2008

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