For Taylor: The last great Downtown bohemian artist

Photo by Toni Dalton Taylor Mead at an art show at the Westbeth Gallery about three years ago.

Photo by Toni Dalton
Taylor Mead at an art show at the Westbeth Gallery about three years ago.

Photo by Clayton Patterson Taylor Mead in front of his Ludlow St. building on the Lower East Side in 2010.

Photo by Clayton Patterson
Taylor Mead in front of his Ludlow St. building on the Lower East Side in 2010.

BY BOB HOLMAN | Stephen Paul Miller got up, told the story of how Taylor got his apartment — Taylor came to visit Stephen and stayed, so Stephen just found another apartment.

Leticia Viloria, former bartender at the Bowery Poetry Club, discussed having Taylor’s Dewar’s (three ice cubes) waiting as he sat down at the corner of the bar to unprepare for his weekly show. Then she lit into an a cappella “Love Song” filled with graphic language that would have made a sailor blush, but a Taylor was rejoicing in uncensored sexual rush.

Duv, the Club doorman, and Shawn “Symphonics” Randall freestyled a hip-hop eulogy to the man they often walked to his place on stage.

And so it went at Monday night’s Spontaneous Gathering, a loving act of remembrance for the last great Downtown New York bohemian artist, the poet/actor/painter Taylor Mead, held at what was described as “Bowery Poetry 2.0,” where Taylor performed a weekly show for more than nine years. He had died of a stroke, at age 88, on May 8.

You say
You do
Gets you through

— Bob Holman

taylor, westbeth.psd
Photo by Toni Dalton
Taylor Mead at an art show at the Westbeth Gallery about three years ago.

Robert Galinsky, who produced Taylor’s Web cast series on Josh Fried’s (in attendance) wild Pseudo Network, holding his iPhone up to the microphone, played clips of “Taylor Mead’s Last Fifteen Minutes.” (The astonishingly refurbished shared space of Duane Park/Bowery Poetry Club has many many attributes, but a dongle to connect projector to MAC it has not.) Taylor’s rap begins: “If you’re watching this I’m long gone. I’m dead, and I don’t care. It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to.”

And so went the night. Poems and confessions, uninhibited audience participation, some drinks, wit all around. Taylor’s bar bills were discussed. Zack Bahaj, son of Lucien of Lucien’s, the main key to Taylor’s survival during lean years, read a poem for the first time, Taylor’s “I Don’t Remember,” that goes, in its entirety, “F— it.”

Clayton Patterson, Cary Abrams, Irving, Zero Boy, Fly, Robert the filmmaker, Dorothy Friedman August, Tom Savage, Terese Coe, Steve Dalchinsky, Mari Claire Sherba (who played opposite Taylor in the Obie-winning 1963 production of Frank O’Hara’s “The General Returns From One Place to Another”), Richie Rich (Theater for the New City), David Huberman, Puma Perl, Robert Heide and many others. Nikhil Melnuchuk and Adam Horowitz, the new co-Executive Directors of Bowery Poetry, were very much present, smoothly watching over Bowery’s transition as we all grappled with Taylor’s. Taylor, whose whole life was spontaneous improvised transition, on screen and off, now gets that Infinity he’d predicated would be his death date.

The night truly orbited around the member of the family, the divine Priscilla Mead, who had come to New York a couple months ago to negotiate a deal with Taylor’s landlord and his escape from New York. For years, word was that Taylor couldn’t survive in the infested hellhole that was his apartment. Clayton Patterson’s articles in The Villager fired up the population, goaded the landlord. And then Taylor’s angel, Priscilla, his niece, appeared, manifesting all that seemed Heaven for Taylor: a house with a bed, a dog and cat he adored, radio that had opera and classical.

He was planning a trip to New Orleans soon — gallerist Brad Boyd had offered him a loft, studio space and a show. He had a dentist appointment with our mutual dentist, Caroline Stern, on May 21, so we knew he’d be returning. From one place to another.

The irony of course that he couldn’t survive heaven. Priscilla spun out the story with grace, twinkles and “whatever”s, channeling Taylor himself. I’ve never seen family be so lucid, generous, in this kind of public setting, putting grief on the backburner so the community could have all of Taylor, as much as he’d let us, in the room. The room, so different than in Taylor’s tenure, so new to most people in the house (and the place was packed throughout, from 6 to 9 p.m., SRO), was energized and in love with our Taylor, the great artist who had “an anonymous celebrity,” as Cary Abrams declared.

A last poem. From Taylor’s “A Simple Country Girl,” published by Otto Barz and Bowery Books:

I Burned My Candle At Both Ends

I shall not last the night

But what a f——- life

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4 Responses to For Taylor: The last great Downtown bohemian artist

  1. aww poor guy was like a uprooted plant…transplant shock….cept he was so old he didnt recover…they should have waited till he died to hassle anyone about the apartment…

    • I understand what you mean, however, I’m happy to know that Taylor was surrounded by his loving family during his final breath. I find comfort in knowing this.

  2. Taylor was coming to New Orleans with Blake Boyd to prepare for a solo art show, August 3, at boyd|satellite gallery. The August art shows on Julia street are the event of the summer, "White Linen Night" draws people from across the south and Taylor was to be the 'Suoer Star' that he was. The show will go on in his honour.

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