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The True Story of the KOFF Calendar PDF E-mail
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Inaugurating the Corpse History Column:
The True Story of the KOFF Calendar

Elinor:


    Rachel, Maggie and I were in the Grassroots bar after a reading. Paul Violi stood across the sawdust floor, gleaming like Apollo.
    “How the hell do you get that man out of his clothes?” Rachel said.
    “Let’s do a magazine,” I answered.
    “No one buys poetry magazines,” Maggie said. “They’re boring.”
    “They would buy it if Paul Violi was in it, naked,” Rachel said.
    “Violi’s too classy,” I said. “He’d never do anything like that. Let’s ask Brodey. He’ll do anything.”
    We staggered over to St. Mark’s books, where Brodey was stealing books, I mean working.
    “Sure, girls,” he agreed.
    “All right!” we said.
    “For $40,” he added.
    “Jesus, Jim, why buy a cow when the milk’s so cheap?” Maggie muttered. We skedaddled out of there.
    Who else would do it? we asked ourselves.
    “Ted’ll do it!” I said.
    “Yeah,” Maggie said, “You just have to rub up against him a couple more times.”
    But no matter how many times I rubbed up against him, we couldn’t get that man out of his clothes.
    “Let’s ask Frank O’Hara,” said Maggie
    “He’s dead!” Rachel said.
    “He can’t be,” Maggie said. “Wait a minute. Is he really? Then who was that I slept with last night?”
    We staggered back to the Grassroots and had a few more drinks. “Oh what the hey,” I said. “Let’s ask Violi.”
    “Hey Violi, buy us a beer?”
    We got busy writing down his measurements. “Paul Violi’s measurements are 15 1⁄2-40-32-35-10,” was how it read in the magazine. “His KOFF debut marks the first time he’s posed au naturel. ‘It was a little scary at first,’ he says, ‘but when I coughed it was wonderfully exciting. I felt like some watcher of the skies who coughs when a new planet swims into view.’ Paul is a nuclear physicist.”

Maggie:

    It was amazing--we sold every single copy of KOFF Number 1! We were in the window of the 8th St. bookstore! We got written up in the Village Voice! We got readings! Our band got booked at the Mudd Club! It seemed there was no end to the amount of glory a naked poet could reflect onto us!
    Of course, there was a down side. The men wouldn’t leave us alone. Rachel and I would be sitting in our apartment, doing some sort of artistic thing at two in the morning and brrring brrring brrring. Jeff Wright again, wondering who he had to fuck to get into KOFF 2. Then the doorbell would ring and in would breeze Simon Pettet with the new Sex Pistols single that he just happened to have an advance copy of, and it certainly had always been his dream to be a counterculture centerfold, not that he was trying to pressure anyone, mind you, but if he was deported it would be nice to have that to remember everything by, and somewhere around dawn, poor Elinor would show up, big rings around her eyes, totally exhausted from stepping over George Schneeman and Larry Rivers and various assorted male poets who littered her doorstep. Even Jim Brodey sent a conciliatory bottle of dexedrine, but we would never compromise our integrity in that way. We had bigger fish to fry. We split up the pills and tried to figure out how to bag Ted Berrigan. He had a heroic kind of joie de vivre that would be perfect for our elusive purposes. “My wife won’t let me,” was all he would say. It only made us want him more.
    We knew there must be a family man we could corrupt.
    “Didn’t you take Lewis Warsh’s workshop?” Elinor said. “He’s a snappy piece of cheese!”
    Lewis was all too eager to oblige. Unfortunately, the picture he sent had a baby covering his most interesting aspect.
    “Aw,” said Elinor.
    “That’s so sweet,” I said.
    Rachel nearly fell off her chair. “He sent this through the mail?! This is perverted! What’s he doing with that baby?”
    The caption ended up as: Lewis Warsh, Mr KOFF Volume II Number 1, and young “friend.” We protected that baby with a great big black bar over her eyes.
    Our glory was even greater. We got a grant from CCLM! Libraries asked for copies of our literary journal! I knew a MacArthur wasn’t far behind.
    But it would probably be lost in our avalanche of mail--the pictures literally popped out of the envelopes. Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg, Jimmy Schuyler, Rod McKuen, Galway Kinnell, Ed Dorn, Jack Collom, Harris Schiff, Michael Brownstein, Ed Friedman, Yuki Hartman, Tony Towle. George Schneeman sent photos, paintings, collages, even a fresco. That’s when the post office gave us our own zip code.
    “Nope,” said Rachel, cracking open a can of Coors.
    “Nope,” I said, chugging suds as I tossed a man’s dream aside.
    “Nope,” said Elinor, and burped. “On second thought, I’ll keep this one.”
    Jim Brodey totally capitulated. He sent pictures two, three times a day. Jim Brodey on a horse. Jim Brodey in a hardhat. Jim Brodey dressed up like a lambchop, sitting in Janis Joplin’s lap, swinging a pickaxe buck naked in a coalmine, onstage at Max’s fondling a guitar.
    “We need to maximize our assets,” Elinor announced.
    Rachel nodded. “Why buy a cow when milk’s so cheap?”
    The beer was making us philosophical.
    “More is better,” I noted, “who can argue with that?”
    And we stared at the pile of photos.
    We’ll do a calendar! On shiny paper! It will be . . . our finest moment!
    “Dear Mr. Bukowski, you are our favorite poet in the whole world. We would be honored if you would please send us a naked picture of yourself.”
    “Dear Mr. Oppenheimer, you are our favorite poet in the whole world. We would be honored if you would please send us a naked picture of yourself.”
    “Dear Mr. Berkson, you are our favorite poet in the whole world. We would be honored if you would please send us a naked picture of yourself.”

Elinor:

    Joel Oppenheimer said he’d do it, but he wanted all three of us to come over and take the picture. We trudged up to Westbeth. He turned out to be rather a lech. He wanted us to take our clothes off too. I gave him a little lecture about how demeaning that would be, but not before Maggie had snapped off a few shots.
    Then one night we were in the Grassroots bar bragging about the upcoming calendar. Rene Ricard, pretending to lounge elegantly at the next table, was actually eavesdropping. Yoohoo, girls!, he called, I have an absolutely gorgeous photo of myself taken by Robert Mapplethorpe.
    We flocked right on over.
    “We’ll make you KOFF’s Mr. July,” Maggie wheedled.
    “Tactical error,” I said. But no one was listening. They were suckers for a pretty face.
    “We’ll make you any month that seems astrologically advantageous!” Rachel added.
    That did it. “On second thought, I can’t give you that picture,” Rene said. “It’s very beautiful but . . . I’m afraid you’ll get jam on it.”
    Undaunted, we asked John Ashbery outside Zu, a loft on 22nd street where Brodey was doing a reading series. He turned red. “I’m sorry, girls,” he said, “I’m a little fuzzy around the edges.”
    “No problem,” I assured him, “Maggie can do wonders in the darkroom.”
    We tried Ted Berrigan again. We showed up with our camera and some pills. He took the pills but they didn’t relax him any. That man was so uptight! Maybe if there hadn’t been 17 people in his bedroom at the time. Oh well, live and learn.
    We asked Johnny Stanton. “Alice won’t let me,” he said with a wink.
    We devoted an entire month to snapping our selected studs.
    Then a thick packet arrived. Wow, Michael Lally was surely well endowed. Wait, what’s he doing in THIS one? Look you guys, I said, he sent us a picture of himself jerking off.
    We called him. “That’s insulting to women,” I announced indignantly.
    Michael said, “What kind of porno mavens are you girls anyway? Don’t you know about fluffing?”
    “Fluffing?”
    “If you don’t fluff your subjects,” he explained, “they’ll look like they’re sitting on a couple of eggs.”
    The light dawned. Unfortunately, we’d already taken most of the pictures and by this time we were so sick of naked men that we didn’t want to start over.
    But we still had Bill Kushner left to shoot. You explain it to him. No, you tell him. We drew straws. I lost.
    “Hey Bill, you wanna look really good in your picture?” I began. “It would be demeaning for me to do this, but, here’s what you do.”
    I gestured.
    Bill Kushner turned as red as a tomato in an elevator.

Maggie:

    We were shooting at his apartment in Chelsea. He was posed in front of his first floor window, wearing nothing but a necktie and a panama hat.
    “Turn your backs, girls,” he said.
    We turned our backs.
    “I’ll tell you when I’m ready. . . I’m ready!”
    We turned around.
    “Wow, it’s amazing how little it was and how big it got,” Rachel said.
    Bill Kushner wilted. “Shit, I have to start over,” he said severely.
    Elinor pulled a book off the shelf. Rachel poured herself a cup of coffee. I stared out the window. It seemed like an eternity. But then . . .
    “I’m ready!” he trilled.
    He was magnificent. The light fell onto him like cream onto porridge. This would be the best photo ever. I snapped away.
    Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!
    “I’m not expecting anyone,” Bill said. “Who is it?”
    “Police department--open up!”
    I knew what to do.  “You got a warrant?” I shouted.
    “Of course not,” the voice called back.
    “Well, go get one or you’re not getting in.”
    Bill pushed me aside and opened the door, still clad only in his panama hat and necktie.
    The cop turned bright red. “I don’t know how you got so lucky, pal,” he stammered, “but putting on a show like that is against the law in this city.”
    “No, no--this is art!” Bill insisted. “These young ladies are putting out a--”
    “Putting out--you said it.” The cop was a fucking comedian.
    “Putting out a magazine!” Bill continued. “A poetry magazine! I’m simply the model.”
    We nodded.
    The cop looked unimpressed. He herded us into the living room as his buddy flipped through a little book.
    “Here’s one,” he said. “This could be a good collar--pornography for the purposes of distribution.” He looked me up and down. I sneered at him, fingering the camera around my neck.
    “OK pal,” he said to Bill, “get dressed; you’re off the hook. You three --you’re coming with me.”
    “Wait a minute.” I began to think this wasn’t such a great idea. “Perhaps you’ve heard of us, we got written up in the Voice.” But it was no use.
    Bill waved goodbye. He seemed to think this was some kind of poetic adventure. “Want me to call your mothers?” he said merrily.
    It was horrible. We were dragged through the streets like cattle, chained to the sinister wrists of the cops. I wailed, Elinor moaned.
    “This is barbaric!” Rachel cried, “I have asthma, I might die.”
    They didn’t care. They continued to taunt us.
    “It’s only two blocks, stop dragging your feet. Dry up, you big babies, you want to end up on the front page of the Post?”

Elinor:

    “I just figured it out,” Maggie hissed. “This is the best thing that ever happened to us! We’ll be martyrs to the First Amendment.”
    “Yeah!” I was getting into it. “Remember the Chicago 7? Who ever heard of them before they got arrested?”
    Down at the station, she insisted that she needed her one phonecall to call Steve Dunleavy at the New York Post.
    “We’ll be famous!” she gloated, as the desk sergeant rooted through our bags.
    “Look at all these naked men,” he said disgustedly. “Bunch of ugly geeks, too.”
    “They’re POETS,” Rachel said.
    “Hey look at this one--it’s Bill motherfucking Kunstler!”
    “Who?” Rachel said.
    “Shut up!” I said.
    The other cops crowded around. The desk sergeant held up our picture of Joel Oppenheimer. “If we can get something on that motherfucking cop-hating lawyer,” he growled, “we’ll never be bothered by him again.”
    “Are you sure that’s Bill Kunstler?” one of the cops asked. “He’s not a poet, is he?”
    “Of course, he is!” Maggie said. “He’s always writing those civil rights sonnets!”
    Rachel looked bewildered. I poked her hard just as she opened her mouth.
    The cop nodded. Clearly, he’d made up his mind. “Did you get these girls into the system yet?”
    “Nope,” said the sergeant.
    “OK, girls, get outta here,” he said. “And from now on, leave the naked men to the professionals!”
 
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