Above: David LaChapelle and Javier Francisco, Emerald City, 1988
John Simone was a Proustian photographer of New York and Toronto nightlife during a period of extreme self-expression and surprising gender fluidity. This is a triptych exhibit with three themes: Queens of Manhattan, Subterranean Society, and a Fashion Cares Retro.
Simone shot A-list downtown denizens who populated New York City’s night world and then published them in Details and Michael Alig's Project X magazine. This included queens of the night shift RuPaul and Lady Bunny, scene chronicler James St. James, patron saint Leigh Bowery, and club superstars like Divine. All were fabulous creatures you could only see at night.
Hurry before these images disappear into the mists of time, as this exhibit has been extended until July 7 at Akasha Art Projects in Toronto.
Below, his fantastic video crammed with night celebrities for Fashion Cares.
Leigh Bowery, Club Savage, 1988
John Simone tells us, "The year 1988 holds a great sway on me. In just a few months in the city I ran straight into the zeitgeist. Or at least Leigh Bowery, lightbulbs ablaze, strutting, posing, preening, giving his all to any and all photographers, but since I was always the only photographer around — for me."
Isabel Toledo, Miriam Bendahan, and Ruben Toldeo, Club Bolido, 1988
"The subjects were people I had already read about in Details before moving to Manhattan, like Alexis del Lago and Dean Johnson, the Toledos and Miriam “Apparition” Bendahan. They were what was considered downtown royalty. Alexis was and still is a cabaret star doing lots of Dietrich schtick, Dean was the beloved leader of the Wienies, founder of the Rock and Roll Fag Bar, 6 foot 5, bald, flat-chested, rapping drag queen who dripped downtown fuck-you attitude. Isabel still designs the most exquisite fashions, and her illustrator husband's fanciful work populated Details pages and covers for years."
Dean Johnson and the Weenies, The World, 1988
Alexis del Lago, The World, 1988
Julie Jewels, The World, 1988
"Then there is the new guard of 1988, Julie Jewels, who was the original VIP rope girl for the original club kid clubhouse known as the Tunnel Basement and who more famously edited both Court and Project X magazines; Larry Tee. who went from his gig hosting the Celebrity Club in the Tunnel’s Basement [shown next slide] to sending his backup singer, RuPaul, into drag stardom by penning "Supermodel" for Ru. Also, taking center stage in most venues was Angie, in stripes, and her House of Xtravaganza, seen in this collection at ihe World club, warming up for a voguing throw-down — far back is Abraham Levy Xtravaganza — noted designer currently, who designed the line of evening gowns for Julie Jewels’s own label in 1988."
Larry Tee, Tunnel Basement, 1988
House of Xtravaganza, The World, 1988
Nanci Zipkin, Club Savage, 1988
"Nanci Zipkin was the only contender for 'It Girl of 1988' after I published a photo of her exposing her ampleness in the pages of Stephen Saban’s legendary nightlife column in Details. Then, Page Six used a shot of mine of her to debunk her very notoriety, which made her even more fabulous, and she kept taking off her clothes.
"At this point Jewels and Michael Alig had foisted on me the title of chief photographer for their club kid fanzine Project X, which at one point I was shooting and supplying photos for covers, fashion spreads, my Celebrity Sheet column, and Alig’s Club Rub column, with the odd Looks to Look For feature. It's these people and so much more that populate my historical nightlife archive of published work. Alig was still publishing my shots ages after I had left NYC in late 1990.
"If you went out in New York in 1988, these were the people you schmoozed and connected with. Who you admired and emulated.
"Many of my exhibition shots are also included in the 95 photos featured in the award-winning documentary Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig by L.A. actor-director Ramon Fernandez (2015)."
The current exhibit
The exhibits include monumental canvas prints (as seen above), vintage editions, a 140-image slide show, and a Fashion Cares Retro photo-video with music by Melleefresh.