Volume 77 / Number 39 - Feb. 27 - March 04, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Obituaries

Baird Jones, 53, man on the nightlife and art scene

By Lincoln Anderson

Baird Jones, a denizen of New York’s nightlife, about which he wrote for The New York Post’s Page Six column, was found dead in his E. Eighth St. apartment last Thursday night. He was 53.

Investigators are still trying to figure out what killed Jones, though some reports have said it was a heart attack of natural causes. The Post reported that a spokesperson for the city’s medical examiner said an autopsy to determine the cause of death was inconclusive, and that further toxicology and tissue tests will be done. Jones’s death is said not to be considered suspicious.

Jones curated artwork at Webster Hall dance club on E. 11th St., as well as art shows at the Patterson Museum in Patterson, N.J. Before becoming a sometime Page Six contributor, Jones was a staffer at Rush & Molloy, the Daily News gossip column.

He was a fixture on the city’s nightlife scene since the early 1980s, when he was known for his Studio 54 passes allowing entrée into the fabled disco.

George Rush of Rush & Molloy said Jones worked for him for about a year and that it was probably Jones’s first job besides being a nightlife promoter. However, Rush said, Jones’s eccentricities, though amusing, made him better suited for in-the-field reporting.

“He would wear his pajamas under his slacks and blue blazer — he wanted to keep warm,” Rush recalled. It also took some convincing to get Jones to doff his omnipresent baseball cap in the office, which he wore because he was sensitive about his thinning hair, Rush said.

“He became more comfortable about it,” Rush said.

Jones’s penchant for sipping light beer was another issue — which may have contributed to his bad breath, which celebrities complained about, Rush said. They also complained about Jones’s tenacity when interviewing them, he said. A problem with accuracy in his notes was corrected by making him use a tape recorder, while Tic Tacs tackled the halitosis.

“He was relentless in the pursuit of trivia,” Rush recalled. “I don’t think anyone knew anything more about more celebrities than Baird. A classic would be that Grace Slick had a pet rat that cleaned her teeth — that’s what she told him. … One of his last items was good. We ran it and Page Six ran it. He got this story where Moby was in Latvia or Estonia. In the middle of the night — it was sweltering — he asked for a fan. The guy at the front desk came back and said, ‘I’m sorry Mr. Moby. There are no girls in the lobby.’”

Jones also invented midget bowling, in which people pushed midgets on skateboards at bowling pins. Rush said former Governor Mario Cuomo tried to pass legislation to ban the “sport,” and Jones hired a lawyer and sued. Rush doesn’t remember the final outcome.

Rush said Jones was “a classic product of the Upper East Side WASP community,” attending Groton boarding school, before Columbia University for undergraduate studies. “He idolized Andy Warhol, who straddled the society world and the Downtown decadent art world,” the columnist said.

Rush said Jones also claimed to have a law degree.

Jones was a valuable source for The Villager on local nightclub and art world news, from getting a Villager reporter into Peter Gatien’s “inner sanctum” deep within the former Limelight to interview the club kingpin to giving the newspaper the lowdown about the internecine feuding surrounding the “East Village USA” art show three years ago.

Jones was a friend of artist Mark Kostabi, about whom he wrote a book, “Mark Kostabi and the East Village Art Scene: 1983-1987.”

A glowing review on Amazon.com says: “This book is a striking contribution to the resurgence of interest in a brief but little documented and even less understood period of recent art history. There are over a hundred photographs... all taken by Jones, who worked as a paparazzi for the East Village Eye during that wild era, with a breezy art-critical text which makes for highly addictive reading.”

During the ’80s Jones also wrote art criticism for other Downtown newspapers.

John Penley, a rival of Jones in pitching items to Page Six, said, “His parties — when he had the wine and free passes — were really popular. It was a great place to meet single people. It was known for having this guy Danny the Wonder Pony. He was this guy who was pretty short but pretty strong. He’d put the saddle on and crawl around on all fours and let women ride him. He became a minor celebrity.”

Rush said friends and family members are planning a memorial the week of March 10 at Webster Hall, but a date has not been set.

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