Musicians You Should Know at Academy Records

“Musicians You Should Know,” featuring portraits of fictional musicians by Mike Reddy and biographies by Jay Ruttenberg, was introduced in Lowbrow Reader #8 and returned for an encore in issue #9. The series was later featured in the long-running online music magazine Perfect Sound Forever, the new humor magazine American Bystander, and a weekly Tumblr page. Now, it hits the streets! West 18th Street, to be exact. Beginning this October, Musicians You Should Know appears in monthly installments in the storefront window of New York’s greatest record store, Academy Records, alongside the recorded wares of nonfictional musicians. Those lingering around Union Square are encouraged to drift west, just off Fifth Avenue, and admire the Musicians at Academy. The inaugural entry: The New York Symphony Orchestra Under the Directorship of Curtis Colsen, the “hipster conductor” first seen in Lowbrow #9, whose baton allows him to post Twitter updates from the stage. Watch your back, Simon Doonan!


Selections from the Trump Oeuvre

History has judged Donald Trump a weaker leader than George W. Bush. Yet Trump is, of course, remembered as the far superior oil painter, his vast oeuvre generated exclusively during his fruitful post-presidency. This series of works, presented together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time since the museum’s 2091 blockbuster retrospective, reflects on the early days of Trump’s first term in office. Here is a sampling:

In its angry blur of pink, “Persecution” depicts the Women’s March on Washington, in which scores of protestors took to the streets against the future master. Notably, Trump portrays many of the protestors nude from the waist up, their ample bosoms glistening with meticulously rendered droplets of dew. Through the artist’s clearly beleaguered perspective, the marchers appear aggressive and Amazonian—a sexually charged mob. Note the image of a muscled Christ, generally regarded as a stand-in for the painter, in the canvas’s bottom left.

When the casual museumgoer thinks of Trump, she naturally turns to “Battle of Chicago,” the artist’s heart-rending wartime masterpiece that many consider an American “Guernica.” That piece and similar works grapple with the painter’s second presidential term: Indeed, it is said that the audacious beauty of these paintings is the only good to come of The Bloody War of the Hemispheres. Yet Trump’s first term was a time of relative peace, bipartisan amity, and robust double-digit approval ratings. This untitled still life reflects on that period. In sensual tones, Trump depicts a half-eaten Big Mac resting on his Oval Office desk—a sleepy autumnal reverie with shades of Renoir.

“The Rape of Schwarzenegger” is portraiture at its most lurid. It is darker and more active than what we typically associate with Trump. Though deemed a minor work, it is the rare painting in which the artist chooses to depict himself, here acting in the role of aggressor. (The painter’s adversary is Arnold Schwarzenegger, a California governor and movie actor best remembered for his role in the Sinbad holiday classic Jingle All the Way.) The numbers feverishly scrawled along the work’s edges are thought to be television ratings from a game show that was hosted by both men and clandestinely produced by the Russian propaganda ministry.

In gravitating to painting, Trump was undoubtedly influenced by George W. Bush, whose post-presidential work remains a fixture of outsider art collections around the world. It was through art that Bush sought—and quickly found—his redemption, with frequent portraits of those who went to battle in his name. Although Trump’s work concentrates less on such individuals, at times he did explore similar terrain. In “Woman,” Trump paints a servicewoman newly returned from fighting a covert operation in Australia during the first month of his presidency. Portrayed nude in the Lincoln Bedroom, the Rubenesque soldier seductively stares down the viewer, defiant in seeking earthly pleasure in the face of turmoil. The servicewoman’s stark black lower-back tattoo represents the dark currents pulsing through a troubled nation.

Trump spent his final years largely confined to his dacha, painting. He died at 102, a bottle of hair growth pills upturned near his easel in what was ruled an accidental overdose. “Massive” was among his final works. It deviates from what we have come to expect from late-period Trump, which largely draws on the homegrown: still lifes, figure drawings, landscapes of the artist’s beloved Black Sea. By contrast, “Massive” revisits Trump’s presidency for one final memory—as it so happens, the inauguration that initiated it. Though historical reports regarding the size of the inaugural audience vary, “Massive” is unequivocal, portraying a horde of well-wishers that somehow seems to multiply with every viewing, extending beyond the painting’s boundaries as if to scrape the heavens. Yet despite the throng, Trump gives the work a distinct air of claustrophobia and loneliness. The dichotomy pays testament to the painter’s talents, of course, but also lends credence to the view of Trump, like Bush before him, as an artist marooned in leadership, his soul itching to be set free on canvas.


Easy Money at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

A highlight of Lowbrow Reader #9 was Taylor Negron’s “My Name Is Julio: I’m So Bad, I Should Be in Detention,” an impressionistic essay about the author’s experience costarring in the Rodney Dangerfield film Easy Money. The article was published in 2014, a year before Negron’s death. Easy Money remains among our favorite performances by this Lowbrow friend and contributor. So it gives us great pleasure to host a screening of the movie at Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on Wednesday, August 30. The movie, which screens in ravishing 35mm, will be introduced by Lowbrow editor Jay Ruttenberg, reading from Negron’s piece.

Easy Money comes second in the holy trinity of Rodney Dangerfield films, sandwiched between Caddyshack and Back to School and, thus, forever in the shadow of those movies. Yet Easy Money is a work of no small charms. Released in 1983—everything about the movie, in fact, screams 1983—it features Dangerfield wheeling around Staten Island in a stoned daze alongside Joe Pesci, struggling to curb his gluttonous ways in order to collect from the will of his dreaded mother-in-law. It’s a rip-roaring turn from Dangerfield that cuts closer to the comic’s reputation than his subsequent, PG-friendly work. Fashionistas will want to keep an eye out for Rodney’s big men’s wear collection scene—a true show stopper. But our favorite part of Easy Money, of course, remains the pitch-perfect performance of Taylor, portraying Dangerfield’s Puerto Rican son-in-law.

Tickets are $10—a steal!—and available at

Hollywood’s Summer Reboots

Illustration by RJ Michaels


The beloved arachnid swings again, with a fresh young cast and a retelling of the superhero’s origin story. Watch for the point midway through the film when all of the principals are quietly replaced with a group of even younger and buzzier actors. For the benefit of those viewers who were not paying attention during the movie’s first half, Spidey’s origin story is repeated, too.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
As in the original film, a gang of ruthless criminals hijacks a crowded New York City subway car and holds its passengers for ransom. In this telling, the plan backfires once it is determined that the hijackers are running the train with an efficiency that far outpaces that of the MTA. The city offers to pay the ransom, provided that the hijackers stay on as consultants for the beleaguered subway system—a plan with devastating consequences for the hardened criminals, who are quickly driven to madness through their dealings with Albany.

Jill Soloway, of Transparent and I Love Dick fame, helms a remake of the classic sexploitation film. Remarkably, the reboot features even more lecherous and gratuitous nudity than the original, but, for some reason, here such scenes are considered perfectly acceptable by polite society. Other elements, such as the southern town’s Derrida-quoting sheriff and surprisingly ample community of trans-people, will be less recognizable to older Porky’s enthusiasts.

Police Academy
The new film takes place entirely inside the fabled Blue Oyster Bar; Kirk Cameron stars.

Your Childhood

At last, Sony is rebooting the ’80s franchise you have been most ravenously craving. In a bid for a broader audience, your character will receive a significant update, becoming more brooding and tortured, yet at the same time far more likeable. Similarly, many of the characters around yours have been given new roles, most dramatically Debbie Swindon. As in the original, the reboot casts her as your school’s beloved, curvaceous prom queen. But whereas the Debbie role was formerly limited to one memorably-delivered line—“Can you give this sheet to Mrs. Berkowitz?”—the new work grants her co-billing as your character’s fiery love interest. Note that the numerous fantasy sequences involving Debbie will be excised from the new version, which is aiming for a family audience.

Happy Lee Hazlewood Birthday Day

If while strolling town this weekend you happen to spot men, women, and children sporting moustaches of substance and charm, have no fear: Sunday, July 9, is Lee Hazlewood’s birthday, hence the carnival atmosphere sure to arise in cities globally. Hazlewood, who died a decade ago at 78, is an undervalued mountain of American song, his records striking the perfect balance between artfulness and informality. He remains best known for “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”, the immortal Nancy Sinatra hit he wrote and produced in 1966, as well as for the subsequent album, Nancy & Lee. The string of off-centered LPs Hazlewood issued throughout the ’70s are filled with treasures; we are partial to Cowboy in Sweden, recorded in conjunction with a Swedish television program that starred the musician.

In 2002, Hazlewood self-published The Pope’s Daughter, a surreal and funny memoir about his years with the Sinatras. Like much of Hazlewood’s work, the book deserves a wider audience. In fact, we were so impressed by his prose that we asked Hazlewood if he would be interested in contributing a humor piece to The Lowbrow Reader. For some reason, he agreed to do so. Hazlewood’s piece, “Interview in Berlin,” appeared on the back page of Lowbrow #3 and is also included in our book anthology, The Lowbrow Reader Reader. “We’re about to discover,” Hazlewood writes, “if scribes and reindeer really know how to fly.” Read Mr. Hazlewood’s piece in issue #3 (a very small handful remains for sale) or in The Lowbrow Reader Reader book! And remember to mark your Lee Hazlewood Day by spinning a hundred (or so) of Hazlewood’s songs.

Missed Missed Connections

F Train, man-for-woman
On the F Train headed uptown. You were a vision in a “Do I Look Like a Fucking People Person?” shirt; I was manspread across seats meant for three. “Stop clipping your nails,” you snapped at me. “I’m trying to eat.” But the gleam in your eye hinted at something deeper, and when the man said, “It’s showtime!” it seemed like our first date had commenced. You exited at West 23rd Street. Now, all I have to remember you by is the mostly empty spaghetti carton you left on the seat.

Bialystoker Synagogue, man-for-man
You: a black-clad Hasidic gentleman, somewhere between the age of 23 and 67, with the most ravishing black beard the Lower East Side has ever known. Me: the cute blonde boy, 29ish, walking by the Bialystoker Synagogue last Friday evening. You caught my eye and cut to the chase, asking me if I were Jewish. I answered in the negative and was invited inside to turn on the temple’s lights. I’m sorry to inform you that you violated Sabbath, because there was some serious electricity going off between us. Think I make a good Shabbos goy? Get to know me as a Shabbos boy-toy.

Union Square, woman-for-man
Last Monday—or maybe Thursday?—afternoon, on 14th Street in Union Square. I was on the sidewalk approaching Broadway from the west, trapped in a horde of pedestrians 20 people thick. You, with your brownish hair and glasses (?), were in the backseat of a taxi headed downtown. I could be wrong, but it seemed like you were frustrated in your efforts to turn off the little screen in the back of the cab. You should just see me in a taxi, because that’s totally me, too! “There goes the love of my life,” I thought. “Knowing my luck, driving straight to his death.”

Patsy’s Pizzeria, man-for-woman
You were dining Wednesday night at an adjoining table. We only had a brief moment to speak: As you may recall, my wife and daughter had gone to the bathroom, leaving me with just a few minutes to lecture you about how radiant you looked. Further hindering our flirtation was the presence of your husband—who, if you remember, reacted to my praise with a somewhat shocking level of hostility—plus your own kids, who began to cry (rather histrionically, if I may say so) as the confrontation escalated. Through it all, I felt our bond grow deeper; I know you feel the same way. Apologies for loudly declaiming that you and your family were deranged mental lunatics, recently escaped from the asylum and pestering me, once my wife and daughter returned from the restroom. I owe you our first bouquet of apology flowers.


Vinyl Tigers: Being There or Nothing

The supremely talented Doreen Kirchner is a longtime Lowbrow Reader illustrator—her most recent contribution being a ravishing Goebbels-as-teenie-bopper, which accompanied Amy Heckerling’s piece in our new issue. But do Kirchner’s artistic gifts end there? Why no, they certainly do not! For years, Kirchner has been singing in rock & roll acts, including Great Britain’s mighty Go! Team (for which she voiced a pair of songs on the 2015 album The Scene Between). Kirchner’s main vehicle of the moment is Vinyl Tigers, where she is joined by TV Wayne and Jeff Preischel. Being There or Nothing, the gently raucous New Jersey trio’s second album, is the band’s highest achievement to date, with varied textures, styles, and assorted guests. Ever the visual artist, Kirchner compares the record to going from a pencil sketch to oils. Hear for yourself—check out Being There or Nothing on Vinyl Tigers’s Bandcamp site today! Need even more convincing? Dig the video, below, for “Heart for None.”


I Shouldn’t Have to Do This

1. Perform slapstick to get a laugh.

2. Write a love letter to her.

3. Play the titular role in, “Guy Falls Down a Lot and It’s Not a Stunt Double, It Will Hurt, This is the Legally Binding Title of the Movie and the Guy Will Fall Down, A Lot, and it Does Really, Really Hurt, and it’s Not a Stunt Double, and This is the Legally Binding Title of The Movie, The Guy Falls Down and It’s Not a Stunt Double, This is The Legally Binding Title of the Movie, The Guy Falls Down and It’s Not a Stunt Double, You Won’t Believe the Number of Times This Guy Falls Down, The Guy Falls Down Plenty, There’s a Lot of Scenes Where the Guy Falls Down, The Guy Falls Down, Watch the Guy Who’s Not a Stunt Double Fall Down, Falling Down Still Hurts, and It’s Not Part of Some Doubling-Over Scheme—What?—The Guy Falls Down and it’s Not a Stunt Double, The Guy Falls Down a Thousand Times and It’s Not a Stunt Double, You Do Not Want to Be This Guy When He Falls Down, Guys You Gotta See This, This is Not a Joke, The Guy Falls Down a Lot and It’s Not a Stunt Double, The Guy Just Can’t Stand Up Straight, Come See a Guy Fall Down and It’s Not a Stunt Double, Guy Falls Down and It’s Not a Stunt Double, A Lot, Guy Falls Down and It’s Not a Stunt Double, Guy Falls Down a Ton, Come Watch a Guy Fall Down a Ton, Guy Falls Down a Cringe-Worthy Number of Times, Guy Falls Down and You Know It’s Gotta Hurt, Guy Did This without a Stunt Double, Guy Falls Down and It’s Not a Stunt Double, The Main Guy of the Movie Falls Down, One Thousand Times Is Plenty, You Will Not Believe the Number of Times This Guy Falls Down, Spoiler Alert: The Guy Falls Down One Thousand Times, Guy Falls Down and It’s Not a Stunt Double, ‘Shoot, I Keep Falling Down,’ the Guy Says, Because He Keeps Falling Down, The Guy Falls Down and It’s Not a Stunt Double, This Is the Legally Binding Title of the Movie, Guy Falls Down and It’s Not a Stunt Double, Guy Falls Down a Record Number of Times, I’ll Be a Crazy Person If This Guy’s Not Really Falling Down, Guy Falls Down Too Much, Guy Falls Down an Uncanny Number of Times, Guy Falls Down Differently, Guy Falls Down Differently and Differently Each Time, Guy Falls Down and it’s Not a Stunt Double, Guy Falls Down Utterly and Completely, Every Fall is a Painful Fall, Different Kind of Pain, Get Tired of a Guy Falling Down, Guy Falls Down and it’s Not a Stunt Double, It’s a Hard Fall, Guy Falls Down, Falling Down Will Happen, Different Kinds of Falls By The Same Guy, No Stunt Double, ‘Ow! I Keep Falling Down,’ the Guy Says, Guy Can’t Stand Up Straight, Guy Just Can’t Stand Up Without Falling, Guy Stands Up—and Then Just Falls Down Again, Guy Falls Down, This is the Legally Binding Title of the Movie, All the Guy Wants to Do Is to Stand Up Straight without Falling, Guy Just Can’t Catch a Break, OK It’s a Stunt Double. We Use State-of-the-Art Stunt Craft and Special Effects. The Stunt Double Will Be in the Audience after the Title to Answer Questions about the Movie.”

Experimental Fashion

It is March, 2017! So naturally, the entire world is asking, “What is the book of the year? And of the decade?” Look no further for your answer! It is obviously Francesca Granata’s Experimental Fashion: Performance Art, Carnival and the Grotesque Body, freshly published by I.B. Tauris and available in stores and mom-and-pop websites everywhere.

Are we biased? Perhaps! Granata, a Fashion Studies professor at Parsons and editor of the great periodical Fashion Projects, contributed to the very first Lowbrow Reader, back in 2001, and filed a lovely missive from an Italian silent film festival that appeared in issue #3 and the Lowbrow book. Also, she is married to the Lowbrow Reader’s editor. But no matter—who are you to cite any alleged “conflict of interest” in our reporting? With a professorial grace, Experimental Fashion follows designers and performance artists working in the vanguard from the 1980s through the 2000s. The book explores such figures as the mighty performance artist Leigh Bowery, designers Rei Kawakubo and Martin Margiela, plus Lady Gaga, who—cough, cough—“borrowed” concepts and looks from her predecessors, introducing them to a mass audience of teeny boppers and Tony Bennett fanatics.

Buy the book today, in hard or soft cover! And for those in New York, check out Professor Granata’s event on Thursday, March 16th at 6:30pm at the New School’s Wollman Hall. The author will be in conversation with one of her book’s subjects, German fashion designer Bernhard Willhelm, as well as Parsons postdoctoral fellow Charlene K. Lau.

Announcing…Lowbrow Reader #10!

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of our new issue, Lowbrow Reader #10. And what an issue! Featured inside are illustrations by David Berman, Drew Friedman, Gilbert Gottfried, and Jeffrey Lewis. Lowbrow hero Amy Heckerling spills the beans on Joseph Goebbels’s secret diary. (Her article is pretty timely—sad!) The Velvet Underground’s connection to the diabolic Steve Urkel is explored. Mel Brooks is discussed. What’s not to love? Order the issue today via our handy ordering page.

Lowbrow #10 will set you back $4, shipping included. Still in doubt? Check out the Table of Contents: