Brad Gooch's life in New York City during the "roaring '70s" (as he calls them) and the time-to-pay-the-piper '80s is a template of the era. His life was not that different than many upper-middle-class white boys who landed in NYC during those years with enough education and some good cheekbones to give them social facility. In fact, it is the similarity that makes Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the '70s & the '80s (Harper) so compelling. It happened on varying levels to many men like us of that age.
Like a blue-eyed JFK Jr. (only, impossibly enough, better-looking) he immersed himself in the cultural world below 14th Street while letting his good looks take him uptown and beyond to a decadent modeling sprint in Europe. What makes his life different and at the same time great reading is that he kept his blue eyes wide open, kept notes, and is now informed by the wisdom of being in his 60s.
He has devoted most of the ink here to his lover, Howard Brookner, an equally good-looking Jewish boy with a commanding intensity. The drugs, discos, and sexual escapades were inescapable for most young men then and certainly informed the ups and downs of their time together. Gooch notes that they were essentially part of "the 'first wave' of 'out gays.'" Gooch and Brookner were also blessed with artistic talent and a social lubricity that allowed for interaction with stellar figures of the mid-century (William Burroughs, Joe LeSueur, Virgil Thomson) as well as inventors of '70s and '80s culture (Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Madonna.)
But for those of us who lived parallel but perhaps less glamorous lives on the same streets and subways as Gooch and Brookner, the breathtaking details are often in the landmarks: the 9th Circle, Gem Spa, the Saint. Ultimately, in an elegy to Brookner, we end up at St. Vincent's Hospital, where so many of us lost our lives, lost our loves, and shed tears.
Below, enjoy a wistful collection of people and places of a belle epoque.
Above left: A layout featuring Gooch in L'Uomo Vogue, and above right his modeling card.
The 9th Circle bar served as a gate to the West Village from the East Village, and was where Brookner and Gooch first met.
The Chelsea Hotel, where Brookner and Gooch lived for a time and dined with upstairs neighbor, composer Virgil Thomson.
Left: Composer Virgil Thomson; right: Beat literary figure Joe LeSueur.
Above left: Mineshaft poster by the artist Rex: above right: police closing the Mineshaft in the 1980s for health reasons. Below: the Mineshaft conduct and dress codes.
Friend and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe shot Gooch for some of his first test shots to launch his modeling career.
Having sex in the back of the trucks on the west side, with the inexplicably rolled-up doors, was not uncommon.
Anyone who ever smoked dope below 14th Street went to Gem Spa to cure the munchies.
Basic accessory for all models on the go, initially brought back to the States by models with an affinity for gadgets on the "tech Silk Road."
There are no free dinners: Overpriced European restaurants with Warhol and claque came along with Warhol's somewhat intrusive interest in the sex lives of his entourage.
Times Square in the '80s: The allures of the Gaiety (above right), the Adonis (below), and that Calvin Klein billboard.
Gooch and Brookner avoided the posh crowd at the Pines and found a place to squat in Skunk Hollow on Fire Island.
Above: Howard Brookner and William Burroughs. "Getting to know Howard meant getting to know Willam Burroughs," Gooch writes of the time spent together while Brookner was making the 1983 documentary Burroughs: The Movie.
Posters for the Saint, the gay superclub that inhabited the site that previously housed the Fillmore East.
A poster for the St Marks Baths and Jeff Aquilon on the May 1982 cover of GQ.
Madonna and Jennifer Grey in Howard Brookner's Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989). Bookner died shortly before its release.
Saint Vincent's Catholic Medical Center in New York, now closed.
Brad Gooch publicity still.
A few Gooch books, clockwise from top left: His acclaimed 1993 bio of mid-century poet Frank O'Hara; Dating the Greek Gods (2003) on the spiritual aspects of dating; In 1996 The Golden Age of Promiscuity (Brookner's suggested title), a roman a clef about drugs, disco, and avant-garde filmmaking; Jailbait and Other Stories (1984), with Robert Mapplethorpe's younger brother as a cover model. Find out more about Brad Gooch here.