Lost and Found
Finding their place this week: Joe Hagan, Samantha Hunt, Valerie Ricordi, Nick Flynn, Mark Rozzo, Danny Hakim, Molly Jong-Fast, Joel Smith, Will Lawrence, Jessica Winter, Kiki, Noah Hurowitz and many more…
Either we were moving too slowly this past week or the time was rushing by too quickly, but here we are on Saturday, a day later than normal, with your regular chronicle of lives lived in the city and tales of things forgotten, recovered, and smashed to bits.
OUT AND ABOUT
On Thursday night, Vanity Fair special correspondent Joe Hagan threw a release party at the Chase Contemporary gallery in SoHo for the first record he’s produced. Earl’s Closet: The Lost Archive of Earl McGrath, a double album, was drawn from tapes Hagan found in the apartment of the late Atlantic Records executive Earl McGrath while researching Sticky Fingers, his biography of Jann Wenner, the co-founder of Rolling Stone. McGrath “was connected and knew everybody and knew the art world and knew how to comport yourself, even though he was actually a high school dropout from nowhere,” Hagan said. One of the somebodies McGrath crossed paths with was Wenner. As quoted in Sticky Fingers, the painter Brice Marden told Hagan, “Earl taught the Wenners how to be rich.” That line seemed to migrate and mutate in Wenner’s recently published memoir Like a Rolling Stone: “Toward the end of his life, Earl was asked what he had done for the Wenners: ‘I taught them how to be rich.’” Hagan can see how that transfer might have happened. “He, obviously, was reading my book and using it as a blueprint for whatever he was doing — ‘Oh, yeah, I should write about that’ — and then not citing me,” Hagan said. “I don’t begrudge him doing it, but mine’s better.”
Hagan never expected to produce a record, but there may be recordings, buried in some old timer’s archive, of music he played in his younger days. “I was like every ’90s Gen Xer, a slacker who had a band and wrote poetry and lived with a bunch of other slackers and tried not to work,” he said. “It was good living, man.” His band opened for Merge Records acts like Archers of Loaf and Polvo when they passed through Asheville, North Carolina. What would he do if somebody dug up recordings and wanted to release them? “I would be surprised that they thought it was good, and then I would be like, ‘Well, okay, ears change over time.’” That’s true of some of the material on Earl’s Closet, too. “I mean, some of the stuff on this tape — I know David Johansen of the New York Dolls was like, ‘Okay, if he wants to put that out. It doesn’t sound great to me.’ It’s a rehearsal tape of his, but to me, I thought, well, I’ve heard his produced albums, they’re good, but in this raw form, they had a certain magic to them,” he said. “Maybe somebody would say that about mine, but I doubt it. We did the best we could with what we had at the time. And by the way, the aesthetic of that period was to not sound like you’re trying, so we certainly achieved that.” What about his poetry? “You’d have to fight me for that,” he said. “Hand-to-hand combat if you want to get anywhere near that.” He gave up the slacker lifestyle to move to New York and intern at Rolling Stone.
Gathered at the gallery for the record release were old friends of McGrath’s like his estate’s manager Valerie Ricordi (“I met Earl in 1985, so I knew him as an art dealer, and he didn’t really speak a lot about his life in the music world. I tried to cajole stories out of him. He didn’t want to go there. He didn’t want to talk about it. So this is fun. I’ve learned a lot.”). Also present was Hagan’s wife, novelist Samantha Hunt, and friends, including writer and playwright Nick Flynn, Vanity Fair contributing editor Mark Rozzo, New York Times investigative reporter Danny Hakim, podcaster Molly Jong-Fast, and Morgan Library photography curator Joel Smith, who had never heard of McGrath until Hagan got obsessed with his archive, “but I heard a lot about him over firepits over the past year and a half from Joe.”
For the night’s musical portion, Hagan introduced the crowd to singer-songwriter Will Lawrence. “One of the things that I’ve learned about Earl, from talking to all of his friends, is that yes, there were famous people involved and big bold-faced names that you know, but he’d also pull a guy that he met at the bar and bring him up to the apartment, and he’d be at the party, too. He liked mixing the high brow and the low brow. He had an openness to him, and I relate to that openness, I relate to that sense of I’ll meet anybody if they’re interesting,” Hagan told the crowd. “A couple of weeks ago, I saw a young man who was a singer-songwriter musician, and I thought this guy is amazing, and I think he’s really special.” Lawrence told The Fine Print he’d met Hagan at a show he played at a dairy farm in Pine Plains, New York. When Hagan asked him to play at the party, he started listening to the record on repeat, trying to find songs he could do well. “I’m going to try to do justice to the songs,” he said. “I’m going to play ‘Two More Bottles of Wine’ by Delbert & Glen, ‘How Do You Do (Children of the Most High)’, long title, by Ultra Violet, and the last song is ‘Waiting for Me’ — I always mix it up — ‘Waiting for You, Waiting for Me’ — by Little Whisper and the Rumors.”
A couple of weeks ago, an unexpected tragedy befell New Yorker editor and writer Jessica Winter’s family. “We were attending a five-year-old’s birthday party on the lawn behind the Prospect Park Carousel. Somehow, Kiki, the stuffed cat my son has had for all his own five years, made her way into the bag of the birthday party musician/entertainer — who I haven’t actually met directly, and I don’t know his last name,” Winter told The Fine Print. At the time, Winter took to Twitter to see if the situation could be rectified. “Pure desperation,” she wrote, “I’ll pay ransom to get her back.”
But salvation came through a more old-fashioned chain. “A few days later,” Winter said, “the musician went through the bag and found Kiki inside, at which point he asked the birthday-party mom about Kiki’s provenance, and she eventually made her way back to us.”
While Winter’s plaintive tweet did not directly play a role in Kiki’s return, it wasn’t for naught. “Social media did not speed Kiki back home,” Winter said, “but it did work some connective magic in the outpouring of love and solidarity we received from people who saw my first post and know the pain of a lost stuffie.”
Attempts to learn how Kiki spent her days in the wider world of children’s entertainment have been stymied. “I tried to get in touch with the musician to find out more about Kiki’s missing hours, but he is not speaking to the media at this time. Kiki has been similarly tight-lipped about her week away,” Winter said. “A Fight Club kind of situation.”
On Monday, NASA flew a spacecraft the size of a vending machine into an asteroid moonlet called Dimorphos to test its ability to deflect the path of an asteroid. It was the first time the Webb and Hubble space telescopes were aimed at the same thing, but they weren’t the only observers. “DID Y’ALL JUST SEE THAT,” tweeted Rolling Stone contributor and El Chapo biographer Noah Hurowitz. “If u didn’t just watch a rocket shoot through the night sky on its way to kamikaze an asteroid, im sorry.”
➾ 10 a.m. Publishers of books and little magazines will be tabling and hosting events as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival at Borough Hall, Columbus Park, and nearby.
➾ 7 p.m. Stranger’s Guide magazine and NPR’s Rough Translation podcast will host a panel on the politics of translation and the war in Ukraine at the Fotografiska Museum in Gramercy Park.
➾ 7 p.m. We will be celebrating The Fine Print’s first birthday party at Union Pool in Williamsburg. It’s free to get in, and last-minute revelers are welcome, but we’d appreciate it if you could RVSP here.
➾ 7 p.m. n+1, New York Review Books, and Dalkey Archive will host a party for this reporter’s/everybody’s favorite living Russian novelist Vladimir Sorokin in Brooklyn. “We’ll have cheap beer and vodka,” wrote n+1 co-editor Mark Krotov in the invite.
➾ 7 p.m. Dissent will throw a launch party for their Fall issue, Socialism for Our Time, in SoHo, featuring readings by Jaz Brisack, Siddhartha Deb, William Kornblum, Katha Pollitt, Nick Serpe, and Namwali Serpell. There will be empanadas.
➾ 7 p.m. New York Times, New Yorker, and Paris Review contributor Jeremiah Moss will discuss his new book Feral City with New York Review of Books contributor (and legend) Lucy Sante in the Strand’s Rare Books Room.
Have a moment? Let us know!