A conversation between Tony and John AT KAFFEE BURGER the other day…Picture: John Dine…
We’ve been at Cafe Burger – Cafe Burger? –
Uh, no… is this the one the one at that white trash place
No no no no it’s on the corner of White Trash, an old location that still looks like 30’s
Oh with the bar
Yeah yeah! with this bar, it’s –
Oh, that’s really nice well I had a, um a meeting with Magnus Reed, he’s a photographer ok a British photographer who lives here what’s his – Magnus Reed, he’s kind of a big deal, he’s a really good guy, and we’ve kind of been talking about getting something going with branding (music) …getting a small collection
Are you – I’m not a designer ok (laughter) you have a collection. I have these, about 120 pieces, t-shirts and and they’re all hand-made. I did all this stuff, it’s all hand-made, it’s leather and different things (cat meows) silk and other stuff, I was – fur – and I was getting into destroying clothes right when destroying clothes was kind of over. So, yeah. I sent it all over to Japan, to Junya Watanabe. He’s the designer – or was. Then I got a part in a film and I took off for a while. It took months to shoot it. I shot for two months with the crew, and then I had to wait to shoot my death scene.
So it was trying to figure out– 8 months? 8 months, just for the, just for the shooting, so, yeah. And I went back afterwards – so, actually everything that I have, is like, a sample – and when I got back, – when I decided to start these drawings, jackets from the 1800s, very tailored suits, it was, a complete change. What are you, uh, what are you going to call– My company’s called Six In The Face yuh, but but I haven’t decided. That seems like the most exciting part. The – ? – finding the, I mean maybe it’s the M R – M.R.W. Things that you want to wear Only. Only. And only one collection – one time out and try to get it photographed. Already – I was obsessing for a year and a half and it fucking made me nuts cause L.A. was not the place to do it. At all. So does it have to be Europe? Well I would imagine, yeah. Do you have anyone in mind? That’s what I mean. At the time – and that’s where Magnus comes in – I’ll come up with my top 20 feelings about who I’d like to do it with. I get the feeling that what I’ll do is like Rick Owens – ish – in that world He’s the designer’s designer, someone said to me recently. Really. That’s funny. The cuts are really great. I did a fitting once and the guy in charge just came in, and lay on the sofa with his shoes off while everyone pinned things, and he would say, ”I just want it a bit longer” Rick Owens? No, this other guy. I thought, what a way Yeah, you sit there and watch people drape these things, and you say, maybe ”oh, perfect” It’s the dream of consulting Well, I’d never drawn a suit but I had a lot of books, from the early 1800s to the 40s, like Clark Gable and Bing Crosby. I love – I’d wear a suit every day if it was something that I liked – not like – I mean I drew these crazy technical drawings You did that. Yeah. With a pencil and a ruler (laughter) Are you interested in trading under your name? I have to – I have to buy land. I have to build my stone castle. I’m aware I’m a commodity, but I know that I can put out. It’s just an extension of my art. It’s just a medium. Whatever the fuck it is. So I’m just going to make some clothes that I would wear. I love the stuf by Tom Ford he just made a film I went to the premiere in Paris. He’s so – have you seen it? No. It’s the best film of the year by far, and he’s a very articulate, intelligent person, and it’s a fucking beautiful story. And Colin Firth just fucking murdered it. And that British kid from About a Boy Is that who that kid is? No shit. The young, the Pure White Boy. He did a really good job. And Julianne Moore’s in it as well. I like watching her work but you can fucking tell she’s a mad woman. Her aura is like Glenn Close, and I really wouldn’t want to turn my back on Glenn Close. So when you go to these premieres… I hide. I saw Tom Ford, but uh None of them are really comfortable there. They put on their red carpet face. I saw really early on that I was not about that scene. I’ve had periods where I was alright, and then others, like when I went out with Madonna it was a fucking nightmare – I hated it, I hated being anywhere in public with her. But at the same time I fucking was in love with her, and we would, we would was it an art game? Were you John and Yoko? It’s a game. But she’s not the sort of person that you could ever have a relationship with. But that’s alright… that’s what she created. This identity that she has a hard time divorcing herself, like – 8 o’clock at night – depending on bedtime, was the only time she would turn it off, and so she wrote in her diary, like writing in her diary every night before bed, the plan for the next day for her assistants. A list. How old were you 27. It’s almost 20 years ago. She’s older than you then She’s an amazing woman. Our relationship was hours and hours and hours of talking, but the thing is she wanted to be like a mother. You realised recently that you’re a control freak… Yeah. She seems like a control freak. I think I was very inspired by that, in life How does that dictate things now? Everyone has to find out for themselves, if you’re ready to hear it – first you’re not ready to hear it, then it doesn’t mean you’re going to act on it – it took me years to finally get sober, and cleansing and all this shit that I’m into, the death of three men in my life, that changed my life, in one year, my father, my grandfather, my older brother – (noise) – it was all in a row, it just threw me into an acid trip. Literally – but it definitely cleared my mind. I had never really invested myself. I took all my clothes out my closet and started chopping them into pieces, and my wife said, Oh, you’re a fucking weirdo, and I went out and bought a sewing machine. Whatever I’m doing, I’m fucking doing it – I wanted to paint this little fucking aborted foetus, and I spent months on it making it as exact as I could. You wanted to make the perfect abortion? But it’s a very humourous painting, in a way. And then I see this cat in a mask – because my partner paints a mask in the middle of the fucking thing, he’s always painting dead centre in the fucking middle. I said, what am I supposed to do with that? I’ll make it a cat. But it’s an impossible cat to paint, the way the fur is… what, you paint the same paintings? Yes. I have to respond to it. Is anyone in charge? I have – if I had to say – it would be me: I’m more opinionated, he’s more soft – not when he’s painting but, he did this painting which was supposedly his ex-girlfriend, she left him, like one day she didn’t answer the phone and didn’t for the next six years. So he draws, he does all these paintings commemorating this relationship with this chick and with one of them, he’s like, ”That’s my girlfriend”. I said, You fuck. So in the painting I – I cut her head off. He kept talking and talking about this chick, and I’m like, Get over it Sometimes he’ll write something like, ”Oh God, help us,” and I’ll scratch it out, or write something over his words. The funny thing is, most of the time I’m going over his things – if he does anything to mine I say, You know I’m going to have to go back over that. I’m more anal.
When I started shooting, my second photo shoot that I did, Steven Klein inspired me, a lot… I had all these set builders… My second photo shoot cost me 10,000 dollars, and it was an editorial. I had 70+ people on my set. It was like a fucking circus. It was ridiculous. And I was drunk and stoned off my ass but I was focused, I was lighting it, doing the whole shit. It was based on Fellini’s Satyricon and I drew storyboards and it was epic, it wuld have been – I would have needed a week to shoot the fucking thing – (noise) – and after that… no, no – I mean I liked having those people, like Sharon Gault, you know Mama Makeup, she came down with about seven students who she teaches in this makeup class Does everything go under the name Tony Ward? No. Mr. Ward. And first I was Pope. Pope and Madonna… Then Mr. Ward. But is there an- another, an alter-ego – Not really. I change my identity from day to day but it’s always under this umbrella Yeah, if I were to learn how to perform a song I might be someone else, like Prince, ha ha But when you’re modeling… Oh, constantly, they would freak out all the time, I would fucking show up with fucking, some fucking latino beard or I’m on a job and come the next day with bleached blonde hair… but there were definitely periods, I had periods. At first, I mean at first they would want me to be this pretty perfect body and I played that part for a while. To me that was being an artist. I was very serious about how my fingers were in a picture – I was very aware – I’ve always been body-aware. So I knew what my toes were doing. When I did those first pictures with Herb Ritts, when you see them, that was my shit – he was just going, Oh my God, Oh my God and your body is the one medium, or the one colour you use in everything Well, I was a gymnast in high school and uh, I studied martial arts, I studied karate, tae-kwon-do. I studied ballet. So it was my first tool. It still is though… uh, – how do you feel about decay That’s why I’m smoking, right now. We’re going to be fucking dirt. I held my dad’s ashes in my hands. I put him down under a tree, put it all over my face, fucking bathed in his ashes – but it was uh, the experience was – this is fucking tribal. This is what we’re supposed to do. We’re not supposed to be afraid of death. We’re supposed to realise that I’m going to be dusty bones, in the soil. But it sometimes… it seems like work is way of dealing with, you’re not, I mean we’re not tribal, maybe we’re animal… That’s good. We are. And I think we’re new baby animals. How old is the earth? It’s unbelieveable. When I die I’ll become another animal. I’m going to become a squirrel. And after that gets eaten by a bear I’m going to become a barbed plant. The stone is the highest being – it doesn’t have to, it’s, it just sits there and is perfect. Maybe your parents weren’t hippies though No my mom wasn’t a hippy, she was real like, she, my mom went to school in the fifties, and uh, real like, Americana… my grandparents were Portuguese and so they all worked in fields, they’re all fieldworkers, my grandfather – my grandmother – he grew up in Hawaii, but his family moved from Portugal to Hawaii, so it’s only a couple of generations. And my mom was just, uh, she went to catholic school and she was a ballet dancer for nine years, then she got pregnant at 18 and that was it People wait a long time to get pregnant now. Yeah – we’re free, and and we get the jail sentence when we’re born –
Is dying freedom? It’s fine. It’s fine. I’m, if it happens today fucking whatever… really, I’ve done everything needed to do, but I wanna do a lot more – there’s a lot more I wanna do –… I mean I think of being an artist, and I think what does it mean, am I going to be Da Vinci, am I going to be a fucking genius? You’re the Da Vinci of muscles. You know, everyone identifies me as the iconic, these images… Ok, not muscles – flesh. O.K. Well, that’s my whole thing.
At school I drew a picture of my hand, you know my hand, and cut out a picture of a woman from Playboy, this woman, a nude on a chair, reaching up, so, she’s hanging from my hand, and I’m holding her over a frying pan. The head said to my mom I think Tony’s got some issues with women he said it to your mother, you know… what’s she going to do about it? Well, she was cool. She smoked pot. She was one of the first line women, she was for 10 years, she was hanging telephone lines, she was one of the first women in C – in California to be a line woman. So she really is – she was a god. She was my first god. Do you see yourself as an American image Not really. That’s what the term Antimodel – we can’t share the same thought, didn’t we talk about that? – No two people can, I mean we can look at this cup, but… it’s Sartre saying we’re little pools of nothing, or something like that See, I love that stuff. I was talking to this girl the other night, a Chinese girl, a very, mmm – good friend of theirs, and uh, she lost her eye – very young, right after her first album came out… She was in a bar and someone stabbed her in the eye. She was very intense, she said, Oh, I’m an alcoholic, I’ve got problems… but I don’t know why I’m…
I have tended, my whole life, to be everyone’s therapist and it wasn’t like I know fucking everything, but, you know, but I was always this ear – and they were, ”Oh, there’s a guy I can unload my shit on” Over the years I had to say: Done. I’m not anyone’s therapist. I try to change how I am. I used to badger people, but now, people say, like people say – I cleanse myself, I’m sober. I excercise a bit. The cleansing thing is quite important to me. I just say, Here’s some books, you find it. It took me a while to find it. When your body goes, will you still be interested… It’s already started – I may as well record it until the end. Of course I would like to feel… we went to this spa, the Liquidrome the other day, you know what Liquidrome, do you know it? It’s really great – you can lay down in the water, it’s like, a salt pool, floating with the music under the water Oh, I know it with your head in the water and the music… what kind of music is it? oh, different, it’s different days, you know, jazz, techno music Jazz! they had a live dj (laughter) anyway, I mentioned feeling like your body’s alive, feeling it Does health equal feeling alive? I don’t know – when I’m 90 years old and I’m too old to skateboard (noise)
You’re producing movies O.K. We got a script, my partner Danny and me got these scripts: he co-wrote one of them, and I was, sigh, I hate them, these are really horrible… but Danny’s Aunt is a director, and he’s like, I told Betty and she’s so excited. So it’s right at the beginning and we have this one movie – there was some, I, they’re all about drugs, so we read them and they’re all drug stories, and no one cares about that any more, no one’s gonna buy that any more. It’s done. So anyway the director did a total re-write of the script, she uh, so all of a sudden it became this machine, so, I started coming up with money, we were finding money from all these people, I got someone to invest, and all these people invested and it started going really quick. We had the DP and art directors and costume designers and all the shit connected with them – we had money – we had money placed and everything, like executive producers and it was being made within a year, and uh, the economic thing happened and all the money just vanished. But getting that close was kind of lucky anyway… and you get into this kind of mindset, and then they wrote out the contract without our names on there, so that’s what you start facing, fucking power tripping, but we had all these, we had Jennifer Tilly and all these low-level name actors coming in, and also in the end the producers were kind of like, We want to replace you guys, because it was supposed to be me and Danny starring in it. Even more bullshit. But I just wanted the producer credit, in the end we were all willing – Danny wasn’t too willing, his sister already said, Fuck it, I’ll step out, and I said, Find someone else, but then Danny becomes like, But I fucking found money for this.
In the restaurant the other night, you know, remember I said that you’re giving yourself a voice, and you’re not supposed to have a voice because you’re a model Well, it’s a mental creation. It’s mind control. We’re not supposed – we’re not meant to, it was a general assumption that you’re a pretty little thing and secondary to the clothes and I never accepted – so, that’s, I used to say, I’m just as important as these fucking clothes – and that’s when I started going to jobs sometimes I was fucked out of my mind on drugs, and and staying up for days on end, and I had a friend, one of my photographer – he’s really close – would fucking buy me a bottle of whiskey every photo shoot and book me with fucking hot girls, I mean I practically fucked girls while he’s photographing me, he was just fucking – into it, so it was fun but that’s uh, that’s fine if, as long as you don’t stand up and, start talking (laughter) Well it’s evolved. All of these models have voices now. People – the statue of David doesn’t speak People would like him a lot less Yeah. It seems like the ultimate nightmare for someone who’s wanking Well, now my mouth fucking caught up – what are you going to ask me? What’s your favourite fucking film? Fucking food columns – can you say what’s your favourite food and what time of the day you wake up and do your push-ups
(sound of camera clicking)
Do you enjoy this I like doing it, but again, if I could not have my picture taken ever again, I’m not like my father, he tried to do the right thing, he was in the marines, not the marines the navy you know, and an A student, really nerdy maybe… how does that square with seeing pictures of yourself I like it. I could show you pictures where I’m really fucked up but at the time… drugs is just a passageway where you can be euphoric or very dark, but my thing – what made it self-destructive, you’re just so involved in the identity of it, until you say, I don’t want to indentify myself as a junkie any more Isn’t being a model a way of kicking your identity? What do you see when you look in the mirror? For the first time in years, I photograph myself constantly. It’s not, I mean, of course I try to take pictures that I like… but what I like in myself, not everyone, I mean I see this darkness that’s never going away, but I don’t even look in the mirror and see someone I don’t like any more. I don’t look at myself and say, You’re a fucking scumbag. I fucking hate your guts.
I think, going back to commercialism, when you see your face in some campaign, something has been broken – when you want to feel private, the mirror is not going to help Yes, now, I ignore the mirror. You look at your image the way you look at this cup. Yeah. I didn’t realise for a really long time that it was like a cup, just like a cup, people see something timeless and disposable, and nothing more than that, so, my identity – but at the same time, you know, when I met these guys who archived all my work, when I – I knew it but when I actually saw it, this tribute, it took me years to realise… That was my job. A very long fucking parade. But you’re looking at your flesh… and it will continue. I don’t know how long people will want to take photographs of my body. My body is very different now – where was my peak? I don’t think it’s over, and it never will be, and certainly when I was very young, because I was obsessed with Bruce Lee, in my mind I chose not to live past 22. That’s where I’m staying forever, that’s what I am – at that age you’re willing to see. The pictures of you when you’re 22 – they’re amazing, like a little cat or something, to gay men I was just like… and I was really young. I was standing around with a boner, and I was alright, I was comfortable but I wasn’t, I was tittilated, I was excited and horny – I went to photograph with Jim French, he flew me to Los Angeles to his home – he was an amazing hose, didn’t come on to me, nothing weird or anything like at and we shot for uh, like three days, and I stayed at his house. And it was always, ok – here, get naked, here’s some baby oil, he gave me baby oil, and for so many years, my whole life just the scent of baby oil gave me a hard-on… he was just taking pictures and I was just lounging around the whole time. He would say, Play with yourself, they gave me Playboy magazines to look at – I’m getting at one point like I couldn’t get my dick hard – this is like, the most impor- the last shot of the day…
No one ever tried to take advantage, nobody, never, and especially back then I was much more of a macho dude – I mean for me, in my experience – at a fitting in Paris this stylist reaches in and fucking adjusts my dick (laughter) some funny stuff like that would happen is sex still interesting? In your work it seems past-tense… It evolves. It’s fucking – eroticism is ever-present, always. My sexuality changes all the time you’re still an object of desire, but not the young and vulnerable, uh, wasn’t that a big part of your erotic life… When I did the In Touch famous shot, of my Big Round Butt shot which was the cover, that was it – that was on all the guys’ refrigerators and all that stuff, and uh, so I was known in town, people saw Colt… Did things change sexually once your image was out there? I was very private and, in my sex life, it was like in a sex club, like in Berghain – very specific and it had to be… I don’t know if it changed but do you regret not being a 22 year old sex object No. People idealised me. I was exactly what they wanted me to be
So, you know I had a stylist who was, really early on, really early 90s – he was like, Oh, I know you – you were a hustler and a porno star, you did all these videos… he just had this mouth. So somehow this reputation grew out of an identity, someone told Madonna I was a hustler on the Boulevard and she was bummed out, she came home and asked me about it – I said, We just spent days unloading all our guts on each other. I would have told you if I was a hustler. She should know better… but in essence, when you roll back and look at it, I was a hustler – I was scouted by my professor at college who was finding people for Jim French what were you doing at college Nothing – general ed. failing miserably, couldn’t handle it, but I worked with all these photographers and they were really great people in the Bay Area, they shot my modelling pictures for me and I would trade off doing nudes for them. That’s how it started. They would pay me – I would come in for a photo session they would pay me like 50 bucks, 70 bucks, and once in a while I got a little blowjob out of the deal with it, this little guy, so that was my first experience with homosexuality, but I never identified it as that, I just thought, Oh I got a boner, why? laying there and being massaged by some old dude he’s totally into it, and I’m like Oh my God, what the hell just happened… when people have this idealised idea of me it puts up a wall, until it gets broken down… do you think you’ve got better as a model, than when you started pfff… I know what I’m giving. Recently I’ve had people say, No, just sit there. So I sometimes I like, I get into a groove and I’m doing the same thing, I guess. So I have to forget – I mean, personally, I would choose the in-between pictures but you’re still posing I pose – I pose my whole life. When I’m driving – down the street, it feels like such a pose