Archives for posts with tag: Bruce Weber

Mario Testino was a friend of ours.  He had a studio in an abandoned hospital on Soho Square.  Scott Crolla, Georgina Godley and others were frequent guests.  My boyfriend in 1981 was Mario’s long time friend and collaborator Patrick Kinmonth.

Patrick lived in a tiny apartment in Holland Park, deliberately disheveled, dusty yet filled with beautiful object.  The place was brutally cold in the winter and a furnace in the summer.  Patrick, according to the artist Craigie Aitchison dobbed me in to the police when they were looking for me to ask questions about my credit card and why I hadn’t paid the bill.  It was Patrick who lent me money to buy my Peter Doig and it was Patrick who encouraged me to make art.  He was a vicious snob, exquisitely beautiful and at that time worked for Vogue magazine.  He amused us all by mimicking Mario’s Peruvian lilt.   Patrick is a deft impersonator.  The problem with Patrick?  Nothing ever came of his own talent.  He lives with the painfully shy food photographer Tessa Traeger in the West Country.  He designs opera sets for out-of-the-way operas but never became the great anything everyone thought he might become.

The last time I saw Mario and Patrick we were in LA at The Chateau Marmont.  I was having dinner in the garden they were having a party in the lounge with a bunch of gorgeous boy/men models.  I sat beside Patrick for a moment but I didn’t stay long.  He enjoys scolding me.  I made amends for some indiscretion and left.  Mario looked at me disdainfully.  Patrick enjoys being on Mario’s winning team.  He wrote the forward to Mario’s book and he styles the most interesting shoots.  Neither of them wanted me hanging around.  You’ve seen pictures of young girls on a yacht wearing bikinis, oggled by old men?  This was Mario’s gay equivalent.  I’d already ruined things by talking to him and Patrick, bathed in Mario’s reflected glory, wanted me gone.  He looked down his aquiline nose and told me I could have made so much more of myself.  Yeah, I thought… if you hadn’t worked with the establishment to destroy me.   I probably could.

You know why old men put young girls on yachts?  You’d think… so the girls can’t escape.  No, it’s so their old men friends can’t join the party.  I returned to my dinner in the garden.  Soon I saw Mario, Peter Pan like… screaming and laughing down the stairs with his crew.  Patrick lagging behind like a heavy train on an old dress.

I’ve never written about Mario.  Now, within the context of the salacious revelations and accusations leading to his spectacular firing from the Conde Nast creative family I revisit my association with him.  Let me say immediately,  I didn’t know anything untoward was happening.  I had never heard anything.  The towel series he shot with models were obviously designed to get the model naked and to legitimize Mario’s pervy intentions but I never heard from models who worked with him they felt uncomfortable.

Many of those same models who worked with Mario were not so discreet about their working relationship with Bruce Weber.  For a decade or more I heard story after story from young men who had worked with Bruce and the discomfort they felt being ‘relaxed’ with his hands on their bodies, the ‘breathing exercise’ or asked to take off their shorts when they were alone with Bruce.  I heard again and again about the notorious ‘private archive’ for which Bruce said he wanted their naked picture.  I heard how he tantalized young men with lucrative campaigns and the promise of a life beyond their wildest dreams.  I heard how he set models against each other, how within minutes of the private naked shots… would change his mind about the campaign promise he’d made, playing with them, manipulating them.

Yet, it seems, many models were perfectly happy to have their bodies used by Bruce.  Yesterday I spoke to a male super model I know in NYC.  Last year, after a few drinks, he described in detail how Bruce molested him, removed his underwear and taken pictures of him naked.  I asked if he was willing to come forward, speak publicly.  He told me I should be ashamed of myself for suggesting he told tales on Bruce.  Thus we understand how Bruce, inspiring loyalty in others, groomed them for sexual molestation.

I’ve had my run ins with Bruce over the years.  I asked him to take the Dorian Gray portrait.  He curtly suggested that I wasn’t the sort of person he could do business with.  Oh… how the tables have turned.

Sunday.  I had a late lunch in Hackney with a young gay artist.  We talked about Mario and Bruce.  He asked the difference between flirtation and harassment.  Worried his flirtation might be misconstrued.  How would he know?  Of course, one asks ones self: why doesn’t he know?  He’s a bright lad but his white male privilege is so ingrained he cannot differentiate between the two.  He asked if the men now making complaints were somehow complicit.  Many gay men make excuses for Bruce and Mario habitually devaluing our lives by suggesting the men who agree to work or consort with us are suspect or complicit.  We remain baffled by the notion of consent.  They knew what they were getting themselves into.

“Consent, that’s for straight people?  Women?  Isn’t it?”  He looks confused.

We talk about the abuse of power between men (beyond top and bottom although that too) and how our anti social behaviour and lack of morality has been largely ignored by heterosexual society firstly before equality, because straight people found it distasteful and didn’t really care. Then, after equality straight people were too embarrassed or confused to question how we lived in case they were accused of homophobia or insensitivity.  Recent gay celebrity scandals have shocked many of our straight allies, realizing they don’t know anything much about their gay friends at all.  Like rats we live discreet and cautious lives just a few feet from theirs, scurrying from one assignation to another.

We’ve done a great job passing. For many years the only evidence we existed?  When the police arrested, tried and sent us to jail for being gay. Cottaging. Tricking. Dressing up. Without these occasional mentions in the newspapers our gay lives would remain completely invisible.  I broke the law simply by being born, alive and sexually active. Straight acting wasn’t a fetish, it was a survival strategy… saving a young man from a beating or death. Ironically, this parallel life served many of us very well.  As a young British gay man I enjoyed social mobility, sexual freedom and access to extraordinary financial opportunities my straight peers could only dream of.  Yet, I paid the price for all of those benefits by surrendering my moral imperative.

Paris Hilton is maligned in the press for saying gay men on gay hook up apps are ‘disgusting’.  Which, after being sent 50 or so asshole pics this week… one might be inclined to agree.

With equality comes responsibility.  Some fought hard to enjoy marriage equality.  We fought hard in the UK to have homophobic laws like section 28 overturned.  In the UK these laws were ratified in Parliament and are hard to revoke.  We are tentatively exploring a new moral landscape.  Morals defined by heterosexuals, most gay men are unprepared for these changes and how this shift toward ‘normalcy’ may affect our lives.  Simply, our lifestyle compared with that of the average heterosexual may not bear scrutiny post Weinstein and Mario, Bryan, Bruce and Kevin may just be the very tip of the iceberg.

Entitled, affluent gay white men are especially morally impoverished.  Many still live secret, compartmentalized and shameful lives blighted by addiction, alcoholism and mental illness.  To many straight people we may seem carefree, highly entertaining, a cause to celebrate ‘gay pride’ and drink rainbow cocktails… but, on our own with our second screens we indulge less salubrious, secret lives using hook up apps as the portal, through which many enter a dark and disgusting world of chem sex, lies, cheating and despair.

They say,  everyone lies on-line.  We live in lying times.  Acceptable lies are now morally ring fenced.  The lies most gay men tell before they come out are perfectly… acceptable.  A habit we are loathed to break.  Most gay men are addicted to lying.  Only yesterday I met a closeted 25-year-old gay man.  I asked him why he was in the closet?  He described the same feelings of shame and despair I felt nearly 40 years ago.  Some things never seem to change… however much I am told, ‘it doesn’t matter, nobody cares’.  I explained to him why he needs to come out of the closet.  He needs to stop lying.  The more he lies the less respect he will have for the truth.  As I mentioned in my previous blog gay men get into nasty habits around the truth and the sooner we embrace the truth the less damage is done to our morality and our integrity.

The last time I saw  Mario he was skipping like a teenager down the stairs at The Chateau Marmont surrounded by beautiful teens.  Like Peter Pan, a 60-year-old man unable to face the truth about his failing body and his failing ability to make good decisions.  He could not stop himself grabbing them by the pussy.  He is the same as Trump.  Made of the same stuff.  Gripped by power, fame and entitlement he understood himself to be unassailable.  Nothing would ever bring him down… his legacy would glitter in perpetuity.  The dream maker, the fantasist, the story-teller… the liar.  Conjuring a universe of beauty, Mario forsook a life of loving relationships for an abuse of power.

Anna Wintour, who I confronted publicly about her reticence to stand up to Weber, made this statement last week.

Today, allegations have been made against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, stories that have been hard to hear and heartbreaking to confront. Both are personal friends of mine who have made extraordinary contributions to Vogue and many other titles at Condé Nast over the years, and both have issued objections or denials to what has emerged. I believe strongly in the value of remorse and forgiveness, but I take the allegations very seriously, and we at Condé Nast have decided to put our working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future.

Of course Anna Wintour is torn, it is hard to align what she hears and what she knows of her friends Mario and Bruce.  She is rightfully appalled, but thankfully she doesn’t know the half of it… she merely glimpsed, very briefly into the dark heart of every gay man I know.

Bruce Weber, Fern Mallis, Ralph Lauren

Last Wednesday I found myself at the 92nd Street Y supporting my great new friend Fern Mallis in the most recent of her Fashion Icon interviews, Bruce Weber.

Even though these charming conversations have become legendary within the fashion industry… receiving great reviews from all who attend, there’s very little on-line that proves that they happen at all other than tiny, badly edited clips.

Fern deserves her own YouTube channel and somebody needs to organize this for her tout de suite.

Indomitable Fern is known most notably for her creation of New York Fashion Week but more importantly she is the consummate glass ceiling smasher.   A brusk Russian jew prone to surliness, an inability to suffer fools, she also has a huge charisma and charm that softens her incisive questioning.

One feels that if anybody can, Fern can.

Interviews with Donna Karan, Polly Mellen, Tom Ford, Andre Leon Talley, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang charting the genesis of their personal style, describing the homes where they were brought up, relationships with their parents and their personal adventures within the fashion industry have moved and delighted her audiences.

I arrived at her Bruce Weber interview expecting a great deal.   In the theatre sat fashion luminaries Grace Coddington and Ralph Lauren.

The lecture series was announced, Fern introduces a short film by Bruce Weber with notable scenes including his own days as a model, numerous famous names and an elephant Bruce likes to take pictures of draped with naked boys.

The problem with Bruce Weber?  He’s not that interesting.  When all is said and done Bruce is a married man obsessed with the homoerotic.  With his wife Nan, sitting in the audience it would have been difficult for any great interviewer to ask pertinent question about the other elephant in the room.  The humongous pink elephant in the room.  The question I wanted answered… like all the others who sat with bated breath wondering if Fern would go there.  The question we wanted answering but was never answered, “Bruce Weber, are you gay?

In 2013 post DOMA this would not be an unusual or impertinent question.  He has, after all is said and done, devoted himself to photographing naked, young, super-fit, white boys.  He is brilliant at photographing naked white boys because he loves them.  He worships them.  Everything else he photographs dulls by comparison.

Bruce says that taking a picture of a beautiful boy is like a ‘handshake or a hug’ I would go further… every time he takes a photograph of a beautiful, naked, white boy he is fucking that boy, caressing his ass, sucking on his cock.  The photographs and the films of beautiful, naked, white boys ooze sensuality, eroticism and the merest suggestion that we are only one shot away from seeing them hard and proud… shooting jizz all over their perfect white bodies.

Bruce Weber, are you gay?

Bruce Weber, why do you only shoot white boys?  Why is there never a black or asian or pacific islander in any of your pictures?  Why do people like Grace Coddington or Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren let you get away with this appalling racism?

Bruce Weber, have you (like Terry Richardson) ever used your power and prestige to encourage those boys you photograph to do other more extreme things for your camera?

I had lunch with a friend on Saturday who was also at the interview and (once we had discussed Terry Richardson sexual unmanageability problems) both lamented Weber’s lack of openness.  We concluded that if we are truly looking for clues about this maybe closeted, married sixty-five year old man we may look no further than a dull, almost forgettable story he told about a beautiful man carrying an air conditioning unit.

Walking in the street Bruce stops and, risking a ‘punch on the nose’ asks a half-naked man carrying an air-conditioning unit if he can take his picture.  If it is his true intention to simply take a picture why would the man want to punch him on the nose?  If Bruce’s intention is to seduce the man… then a punch on the nose seems more likely.

I can shamelessly ask to take anyones picture if I only desire to take pictures.  But if I am shamed by my desire for you, I want you to open yourself up to me, let me take you to a quiet place and take pictures of you as a means to watch you do things you keep private… then the implicit threat of violence seems more likely.

Beneath the chubby, bandana wearing kindly old grandfather facade lurks a self loathing homosexual, terrified of clearly and truthfully expressing his desires.

The interview was not as great as it could have been because we all colluded with Bruce Weber’s charade.  If we could have gotten past the crust of self-hatred then a perfectly brilliant interview might have happened.  No such luck.

Finally, Bruce expressed his frustration… hatred even for the democratization of photography, for Instagram, for Facebook postings.  In Bruce’s perfect, elite white world manned by an army of assistants, he advised us that we should take our most treasured digital images and have them printed on expensive paper and make books as perfect keepsakes.  Bruce lives in a world of perfect keepsakes, of platinum blonde golden retrievers bred by east coast breeders.  Bruce lives by the sea, in the mountains, in the city keeping his eyes peeled for perfect boys who may or may not become stars in a world where naked Russian dancers come on seven month adventures around the world.

“Sergei, come travel with us.”

A faux commune of beautiful, young, white men, strumming guitars in the moon light. Warmed by flickering log fires, sitting on Navajo blankets and always naked, their abs and lats and still wet hair glistening from skinny dipping in crystal clear water and always ready for another perfect photograph.

Hush now, the girls have gone to sleep.  Let me lay beside you and enjoy you for a little while.

The narrative is always the same in the cult of Bruce.  The gently spoken, self loathing homosexual who needs his wife’s permission to buy another dog….