“When you work with other directors you give them your performance and they film it. Not with me, Peter. You see I have chosen you for how you look. I have chosen all your clothes. If I move my camera six inches, I would ask you to do that line in a different way.”
Upon this, he put his arms around me and held me close to him and said, “Peter, believe in me. Trust me. I am not God, but I am Michelangelo Antonioni.”
It was 1998 and I had wrangled tickets to Lou Reed’s taping of Sessions at West 54th, this concert programme that was on PBS for a few years in those days. If you’re on Tumblr, you’re probably too young to know much about it.
I had a plus one and took my dearest friend of course, and when we arrived, the line to get in was all the way down the block— tapings like this give away an overage of tickets to ensure the seats are filled, and we were nearly the last admitted in (we were late for everything in those days because of the evils of marijuana), so when we finally entered the space we were sure we’d be stuck in the nosebleed seats and separated, but as it happens, everyone was desperate to fill the seats BEHIND the band, hoping to get on television, I guess. The two front-row seats directly in front of Lou’s mic were empty and with this angelic halo glow surrounding them (this part I’m sure I hallucinated), and we sprung into them, climbing over seats and people to get there, and the concert itself, I thought, was magic, us barely out of adolescence and covered in sweat from so much seat-dancing, and Lou, admittedly phoning in half the songs and seriously belting the others, and similarly surly and charming in between songs, totally one hundred percent bipolar, from asshole to hero and back in minutes. And then, during the bridge of I Wanna Boogie With You, in an arrangement that I recall as my least favourite Lou Reed song ever (and my god there are some really awful ones), he flung his guitar across his back and grabbed my hand and pulled me up with him, and for an unparalleled couple of seconds, there I was DANCING WITH LOU FUCKING REED, and needless to say that changed my mind about that specific arrangement of that specific song. And then, when it was time, he planted one RIGHT ON MY SMACKER before dropping me back down to pick the song back up. Just a quick one. An innocent one. One a rock star does to a cute young nubile thing. I’m no pro at being kissed by rockstars in this particular fashion, but I guess that’s what it was. It was a long time ago and the memory should not be trusted.
And I dashed home after to tell my boyfriend, who called his close friends because this was when you had to CALL, one by one, and let your people know something as fabulous as going to bed with lips that Lou Reed had that day touched.
Three months or so later, we sat around the television with our popcorn ready for the show to air at last, and we got closer and closer to the set as the song started, when finally, at the moment of my big jig and my big smooch, THE CAMERA CUT FROM LOU AND PANNED THE FUCKING BAND. There was no evidence of it whatsoever.
In the entire programme, of course, we were barely in any shots at all, given that the main camera had been right over my shoulder, and even when we were, you really had to squint and use a modicum of imagination to admit that it was us.
Since then, a lot of that performance made it to Youtube. Since then also, my dearest friend, the one who was with me, and my sole witness to the kiss with Lou, died. Somehow, it wouldn’t be a Lou Reed story without that element of despair.
One of the ways I coped with the unexpected loss of my friend was to watch and rewatch those Youtube videos of the Sessions taping, over and over in search of a glimpse of we two, but the lighting was all moody and the over-the-shoulder audience shot wasn’t used often, so any real sightings were wishful thinking at best. But wishful thinking was enough, until a couple of days ago.
Friends dying is one thing. But heroes dying is more than the human mind could bear.
And that’s way more vein than I’m comfortable opening for you at the moment.
I reviewed Guy Davenport for the Chicago Tribune. Now, if you haven’t read Guy Davenport, you are living wrong. You should begin with the essays in The Geography of the Imagination and Every Force Evolves a Form. Then you should read his 7 Greeks. Look, this is not a trivial matter. This is a question of spiritual health.
Nearly sprained a finger liking this.