Lately, it has come to our attention that the link to the original “Good Night, Mr. Lewis” story on Abbe Diaz is permanently defunct, possibly due to Steve Lewis’s defection last year from Joonbug to BlackBook magazine. Due to popular demand, we hereby re-create the entire article but, for the sake of clarity, verity and comprehension, have taken the liberty of editing those portions in which the original was remiss (a copy of Part 2 of the article in its original un-edited state is currently hosted here).
Abbe Diaz: Talk Loudly And Carry A Big Stick…Too (Part Two)
Yesterday I posted the first part of my three day conversation with Abbe Diaz. If you missed it, click here to read it. Otherwise, continue after the jump for part two. I talk to Abbe about her art, her website pxthis.com, and much more. And don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the third and final part of my conversation with Abbe.
Steve Lewis: We’re going to talk about a couple things that you raised. Number one, your writing style. It has been pointed out to me that you get criticized sometimes for your writing, or the way you post on your blog.
Abbe Diaz: I take a lot of shit.
SL: And you don’t care, do you?
AD: In a way I care, of course. Cuz who the hell wants to be poked at when you’re minding your own damned business? And I mean literally— minding OUR business. … It’s not meant for everyone to appreciate. If it were for everyone to appreciate, well, that would make it— mediocre. Right?
SL: I think I just write the way that I am talking. I stutter a little bit in my blog.
AD: I started to notice that kind of style is kinda popping out a bit here and there. People are kinda playing with their syntax a little more, lately. It’s not so rigid.
SL: Whose rules are they? They’re not our rules…
So you wrote a book, and you’re writing another book. And we’ll get to that. I know you as a fashion designer. Did you design this, what you’re wearing?
AD: My dress, yes.
SL: I really like it. I always liked your work. And I know you as an artist, a fine artist.
AD: Yes, you do.
SL: Can we say that? As part of my routine when I walk my dogs, we stop by and say hi to Abbe on the warm days. She’s only out [selling her art] when it’s above 80 degrees. She’s up by the Apple store, or she used to be.
AD: You brought me gifts once, you brought me a thermos, you brought me those little ice cube gizmos filled with water and you freeze them and then they never melt in your drink…
SL: That’s right.
AD: …so then I could be out there with my thermos and my ice cubes. Isn’t that sweet?
SL: You’re out there in the street and we visit you, and I figure you’re gonna put up with me ‘cause you can’t go anywhere. I have to at least pay you for putting up with me.
AD: No, it’s fun.
SL: She’s on the street and many people, and I’m looking at a painting of Rothko on the wall here in the office and a Matisse, but the art that we grew up with in clubs was street art. If you say the phrase "street artist" and you think of it in negative terms, that doesn’t really relate to us in the club world. We remember, well some of us remember, watching Keith Haring paint on the subways, and he did my bathroom stalls at The World. He took drink tickets as payment at the Mudd Club. Kenny Scharff did stuff. But, everybody was doing street stuff. Futura 2000 and all those graffiti artists.
AD: Basquiat. A friend of mine has a painting he traded for a suit in a store.
SL: It’s funny when I go to museums and there’s a Basquiat exhibit. There are thousands of fabulous people and they’re looking at Basquiat paintings and I remember him on the streets selling that stuff for thirty bucks. I remember being outside a club once and he couldn’t get in, ‘cause he looked a mess and I said to the door man, "Trust me, that one’s OK." Street art is the art that we recognized growing up in the clubs.
AD: I don’t see it as derogatory.
SL: Certainly not.
AD: It’s fun. Granted, if I had to do it in the dead of winter or else I’d starve to death, it might not be so much fun. But, it’s summer and it’s nice out— I like to be outside.
SL: What’s the temperature that you come out?
AD: I’ll do seventy-two and up.
SL: I went to look for her one time and she’s not at her spot and I call her and I was like "Abbe, where are you?" And she goes, "Oh no, it’s only seventy-two degrees."
AD: The problem is when the sun goes down, it drops to sixty-five.
SL: Are you still doing fashion?
AD: I am. But, now all my clients are unemployed apparently.
SL: There’s a lot of that going around. You’re still doing your art, still sketching. And sometimes your art and fashion becomes the same thing. You’re writing, you’re doing the blog, you are doing a million things that are creative to survive. You stand on corners and do it. Art is what you’re about, but you’ll bartend, you’ll maitre’d.
AD: That’s the best thing about the industry: if you really had to, you can jump right back into it and leave that night with two or three hundred bucks in your pocket. No interview, no nothing barely…
SL: … so the blog, I went on the blog, I joined [the forum] under a phony name so you couldn’t find me.
AD: You did?
SL: You sent me back, or your automated server sent me back confirming that I’m a member.
AD: That’s actually automatic, but what I do is I go through it and I do look at all the names. There are actually two grades of membership, some people get the whole bit, and then some people have to go to an intermediate step first…
SL: When you go home tonight try to figure out who I am. But, it was really nice to be confirmed by you…
Now the blog, the blog is a very interesting thing. It’s very different than mine because it’s far more interactive. We get a lot of comments. Unfortunately they don’t all get posted, but I do want to change that. But, you’re all about talking to people.
AD: Yeah… it’s not the original way it was done. It’s more like a forum now, which is good. It does its own thing so I don’t have to. It’s much harder to sit and write something everyday.
SL: Tell me about it.
AD: It’s much easier to answer somebody’s question.
SL: Is that Richard Johnson, RICHARD JOHNSON?
AD: That’s somebody just playing around, thank god. He’s not using it to be obnoxious. I mean, I have people who sign up as that person and then talk as though they are trying to be that person, and obviously say silly things. I think that’s just for fun, though.
SL: Where is the blog? It’s PX….
AD: pxthis.com, which is the name of the book. And then once you get to the website, it’s separated into three parts, the book part first, the middle part is "the sequel" and that essentially directs your eye downward [to the blog], and then the third section is the forum. So you see book, blog, forum. All you need to do is click them or scroll.
JoonBug: Let’s explain the forum to someone who has no clue what goes on in there. There are two levels of membership, there’s an open public forum and then, a closed door forum.
JoonBug: So what’s the difference between what’s going on in those places?
AD: Basically all I wanted to do was essentially moderate the traffic. I didn’t want it to be like other blogs… God bless them they do their thing and I do my thing, but why do what everyone else is doing? … Shameless Restaurants they have their thing going, for example. You read everyone’s complaints, and that is so not what I want. Basically I wanted to create this thing where I stipulate that in order to become a member where you could really discuss anything— because I really would like for people to discuss anything— you should feel comfortable knowing that you’re around your peers. So part of the forum is password protected, and once you are made a "full member" you are essentially given a "key" and you can join that section of the forum— which doesn’t actually move as speedily as the open part of the forum. I don’t know if that’s because people are shy or whatever… but to me that’s fine.
Then there’s the "open" part where anybody can read and write, but of course you have to register. None of this anonymous guest stuff— I mean everyone is anonymous, but it requires something of a commitment. Registering and putting in your e-mail address will hopefully hamper you from being mean just for the sake of being mean. Which people do— they’re awful.
People are so nasty. People are like "fuck Abbe Diaz" all day long.
SL: You’ve got a thick skin. We’ve been through wars!
AD: Not that thick. Let me see that person on the street, I’ll punch that mutherfukker in the face.
SL: You can’t punch anybody anymore.
AD: I know.
SL: We’re not allowed. We’re older and wiser supposedly.
AD: Whatever. I’ll punch somebody if it gets me in "Page Six." I’m kidding.
SL: … I want to discuss your art style. Tell me about it. When you’re painting or drawing, where is it coming from? It’s a very strange art, it’s beautiful, but there’s a certain, I don’t want to say Gothic, but there is certainly sexuality to it. It seems almost sad or angry.
AD: That’s pretty perceptive of you, Mr. Lewis.
SL: Unlike you, I can’t get by on my good looks.
AD: Most people would just be all "Oooh naked women. Boobies!"
SL: That’s the medium, that’s what you’re doing. But, that’s what I read— anger or loneliness. They are always in a position as if something had just happened and they’re pondering it, or they’re thinking about something that may have been. Thinking about something that is not quite there, it’s out of reach.
AD: Oh, that’s very nice, Mister Art History professor. Wow, go me.
SL: Am I really off base?
AD: No, you’re not at all off base. Besides the fact that I think nudes are fun and they’re kind of cool and I like them— they’re particularly beautiful, there’s not much more in the world that’s more beautiful. But, obviously the medium with the newspaper and the shopping bag— there’s a little message in there.
SL: Tell me.
AD: There’s a little bit of a commentary on the commercialism of art, and vice versa. And mainly that’s it. If there’s a sadness there then that’s maybe subconscious, but that’s cool, I like that.
SL: You spend a lot of time alone. I’ve seen you with friends, but I’ve seen you on street corners. Bartending is a lonely job.
AD: Maybe, yeah, I guess. The hours are not that fun and you don’t get to spend that much time talking to people. But am I lonely…?
SL: I didn’t say you were lonely, I said you spend time alone.
AD: Yeah, I guess I am more of a loner.
SL: I personally identify with Clint Eastwood.
AD: No, get out…
SL: The cowboy, the guy who stands alone against all odds, that’s my romantic image of myself, and I think you are similar to me in that respect…
Tell me about clubs, you worked in clubs, do people hire you now as a maitre’d knowing that you outed or wrote a fictional novel that was interpreted as outing a major operator.
AD: I haven’t had an offer as a maitre’d yet, but I did have a couple offers for a managing partnership where I would also play maitre’d— but with a lot more responsibility.
SL: Do you want that?
AD: It depends, on the person, on the project. What, when, and where.
SL: Let’s say there’s a clear path. I’m putting my hand on the table, and my hand is you right now, the palm, and I have five fingers. Am I going in five directions with Abbe Diaz, or is there one finger that you would rather go down? Would you rather be a blogger? A writer? A fashion designer? Work in the restaurant industry? Or is it necessary to pick?
AD: In one way it is five different directions, but in the same way it’s one direction, because it’s all creative and it’s all glamorous, and it’s all beautiful, so it’s one direction really. If you ask me, "Do you want to open a CVS or a McDonalds tomorrow?" No, because that’s totally different.
SL: You have at least five ways to express yourself. I started writing this blog because hey, I used to write a little bit, I used to write for the Voice, and for a while I enjoyed it. So, a few months ago I thought, I should do that again.
AD: Do you remember I ran into you in the street like two years ago and we were chit-chatting? I think that’s when I told you I wrote a book. And you were all like, "OK that’s nice, what time is it?" I’m teasing, but I said then "you’ve probably got a book or two in you Steve Lewis." And you responded, "Yeah, but I’d get shot."
SL: If I didn’t talk then— about certain things— that could have saved me a lot of grief and money, and now I’m going to write a book… it doesn’t make any sense. A blog is a way to express what I want to express and if people do ask about things about my past then I will answer as best I can. I can’t write a book.
AD: It’s a shame.
Interview conducted and written by Steve Lewis.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
Check back tomorrow for the third and final part of my conversation with Abbe Diaz.
See Part 3 of Steve Lewis’s interview with Abbe Diaz…