Saturday, January 21, 2012

Warhol interview by Gary Comenas 2012

Interview with Mark Sink
by Gary Comenas 2012

Mark Sink is a photographer who was also the subject of a number of photographs by Andy Warhol and is mentioned in Warhol’s diaries. One of Warhol’s photographs of Mark can be found at:

Some of Mark’s images of Warhol can be found on his website at:
Andy Warhol and Liza Minnelli by Mark Sink
Liza Minnelli and Andy Warhol
(Photo: Mark Sink)
1. When did you meet Andy Warhol?

We met on in September 1981 in Fort Collins, Colorado. I was an art student and bicycle racer. Andy was my hero. He was in Fort Collins for an exhibition called “Warhol at Colorado State University” and he took some pictures of me.

As you might know the Warhol museum and Foundation gave out tens of thousands of Andy photographs to university gallery collections across the country. Three of our universities received hundreds of silver print and Polaroid images. Somebody knew me in the selection process as many images of me taken by Andy in Colorado were in the donations. The humorous part is that many of the photos are of me with my pants down. I find it even funnier to see how the academic university curators and writers dealt with this, for instance in The Chronicle. ( 28196)

But there is even an earlier connection than that. My great-aunt was Frances Breese Miller. She lived on the beach in Bridgehampton in a 1920s modernist home called The Sand Box.
The Sand Box
The Sand Box
At Frances’ funeral I was looking through her guest book and in the summer 1967 Andy and Edie Sedgwick and the whole crew signed the book thanking her for a wonderful weekend.
The Sand Box guest book
Pages from the guest book of The Sand Box
What was wild for me was just below the crew was my note and signature! We had visited Great Aunt Frances that summer while on a family road trip to Expo 67 in Canada. I was very, very excited by this news but when I told Andy about it he said, “No, we were never there." When pressed he said “Please stop, we weren’t there, you have it wrong."

That stuck with me. Why would he deny it and forcefully so? For awhile I thought it was because of the Danny Williams story but the dates don’t match up right. So now I would love just to find out what movie they shot there. Recently I even found a South Hampton newspaper article with pictures documenting the film they shot there.
South Hampton newspaper article
Andy Warhol in The Hamptons Voice, July 14, 1967
(click to enlarge)
2. Can you tell me more about me about meeting Warhol in 1981? Who actually introduced you to him?

In 1981 Andy was summoned to Colorado State University by John and Kimiko Powers. A friend of mine, Craig Scott, had met Andy previously that summer in New York through Christopher Makos when he [Craig] was out there on his racing bike and in lycra shorts for the National bike races. Chris picked Craig up at Uncle Charlie’s in the [Greenwich] Village and later that afternoon introduced him to Andy. They went to lunch at the River CafĂ© under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Craig and I were working at the Spoke bicycle shop in Denver. I had followed him there after a job in a restaurant kitchen. Craig encouraged me to quit smoking and to start racing bicycles. I was going to college in downtown Denver and had recently taken art history classes learning about the Factory, viewing several of Warhol’s films. I was enamored with Interview magazine and dreamt of making portraits like those in the pages. When Craig returned from NYC I was very jealous when he told me of his adventures with Andy. I didn’t know Craig was gay then. I didn’t know Andy was gay then. I didn’t know much then.

When Andy came to Fort Collins Craig declined to come. He said he had to work. Later I realized that he didn’t come because he was still in the closet. But he told me to go right up to Andy and tell him I sent him to say hello and to get a poster. I did just that. I went early and found Andy before anything was happening. He was sitting in a classroom and was getting ready to sign posters of the show. I sat down next to him and told him Craig had sent me and says hello. Andy then said something like how wonderful that Craig had sent me. He told me to stay if I could. So, there I was – Andy’s date. He paraded me all over the campus.

3. Whatever happened to Craig?

He died of AIDS.

4. Did you take many images of Warhol?

I took a lot of images. Andy had to have pictures taken with a Cow and his Soup Can. I met Bob Colacello and Fred Hughes at that point. We all smoked a joint right out on the lawn on the campus – all but Andy. We talked a lot. They invited me back to the hotel. I raced back and was stopped by the police and in a panic explained I needed to get to Andy Warhol immediately!! And I was let go.

5. So you arrived at Warhol’s hotel…

Yeah, at the cheap Motel 6 they were staying at Andy was preparing for a nap before the opening. We talked a little and then I showed him my recent bicycle scrape. It was a big one. I had fallen hard during the finals of a state championship – in fact on the final sprint. I was pushed off a turn with ten others and popped a tire and slid on the pavement on my side.

6. Did he think it strange that you showed him your bicycle wound?

No, he loved it. He was working a book called America. I guess the photos were going to go in but were edited out at the last second. Christopher was getting jealous of Andy’s attention to me.
I was star struck. I would have done anything for Andy. Jokingly when Andy went up to his room to nap I jumped on the bed with him, thanking him and bouncing around like a puppy dog. He was a little shocked but pleasantly told me he was very tired. I realized he didn’t have the same adrenaline running that I had going. I mean, like, Bob, Fred and Chris were in the next room licking their chops like hungry wolves. I was a prime fresh find. 

7. How did you come to work for Interview magazine?

That night at the opening Andy was in a crush of fans. I got a paperback book of his portraits and took cuts in the long line and handed it to him. He went through every page in the book and signed his favorite portraits to the dismay of the waiting crowd. He also drew penises and money symbols on the inside of the cover and on pages of the Philosophy of Andy Warhol book. Then he wrote down his phone number on a piece of brown paper bag he tore off sitting next to him. Then he told me I should work for Interview magazine “representing Colorado.” Stunned, I was on the masthead the next month.

I have several black and white Campbell Soup Can t-shirts from the exhibition. Andy told me secretly that those were made from the original Soup Can screens made in 1967-8. He said he did it because it was shockingly expensive to have a commercial company do it for the CSU show so he had his assistants do it at the Factory for much less and they threw out the screen after.

8. What was it like working for Interview magazine?

It was a very exciting time. I opened accounts with some businesses to carry the magazine and I also, at that point, sold advertising and found leads for portrait commissions. A great experience was when I got to shoot and submit images with Christopher Makos for a page in Interview – “New Faces in the Rockies.” They sent me a small budget for “Interview parties” which Andy attended on one of his then annual visits to Aspen.

9. You also spent some time at Warhol’s office at 860 Broadway in New York…

I took lots of portraits of him there and he liked me hanging around. Vincent [Fremont] seemed to like me too. Fred [Hughes] had a crush on me. But the Factory boys despised me. They would play mean tricks on me. Like telling me never to accept any gifts from Andy because that was how he tested you to see if you were a gold digger or a trustworthy friend. So I turned down many random gift offers while out walking, shopping with Andy. On my birthday I turned down an offer of a small painting from “the gift closet” which I later found out was a tradition and a regular event. Andy would give out presents from “the gift closet” for his friends.

The other day I found the recordings of my phone conversations with Andy. They are sort of meaningless because Andy taped everything with his mother – but they are mine – the phone ringing at the factory, Brigid answering and Andy taking the call, long talks of our projects. He was always very, very excited with lines like "oh that is soooo greeeat."
Jean Michel Basquiat by Mark Sink
Jean-Michel Basquiat
(Photo: Mark Sink)
Once Andy was painting with Jean-Michel [Basquiat] and I interviewed him. Dumb questions like what was Edie really like. He changed the subject and in jest started telling me a wild tale of fantasy of our relationship. We were flirting. He said to tell the story of dinner with Mick Jagger and how we crossed swords in the urinal at the Odeon and how Mick gave me his number to go bicycle riding. It reminded me of the party where the host could care less that Warhol and Mick were there and, in fact, felt that it displaced the energy of the event. At the party Mick gave me a big piece of hash in exchange for a joint that Peter and Chris had given me earlier. Someday I’ll print pictures of that evening.
10. You were also in Aspen with Warhol weren’t you? Your photograph of him during a snowmobile accident is well known.
Andy Warhol in snowmobile accident
Andy Warhol during the snowmobile accident in Aspen
(Photo: Mark Sink)
Yeah, it was in December 1983 below the Maroon Bells in Aspen. Andy said in the diaries that Jon [Gould] tried to kill him on the snow mobile. My account of the accident is much different. I had zoomed past Andy and Jon, dragging my hand in the snow. This caused snow to cover Jon’s goggles. He lost control, crashing off a cliff with Andy falling off the back with his wig out in the air. Stunned, thinking I had just killed the “Prince of Pop Art,” I ran to the edge and down in the power snow to help but ended up instead taking pictures of Andy laughing in glee. We all went back to Jane Holzer’s pad for a meal of Mexican TV dinners and ice cream on heated glazed donuts. I have all this on film.

We took Andy to the over-crowded Aspen Airport early. I then went back to Jane’s pad and had it all to myself for three days. I filled my car with hundreds of pounds of food they had left and lived off it for months back at my studio in Denver. I was crushed later in the week when Andy called me and asked if I had “borrowed” an Indian blanket while there. Andy believed me, but I could hear Rupert [Jasen Smith] saying in the background, "I know it’s him, I know it’s him." That saddened me greatly, being a suspect.

11. Were you with Andy on any trips outside of New York and Colorado?

Yeah, in L.A. in 1981. I missed my first plane but then caught a second one. Christopher, Peter Wise and Craig Scott met me at the airport. Somewhere at the point is when I found out that Craig was gay. Chris said “Oh yes, Craig is a real tiger.” I was shocked that Craig, one of my best friends was keeping such a big secret.

We stayed at the Tropicana Hotel. We had a luncheon with Andy, Fred, Bob and Chris at Christopher Isherwood’s home. We were all sitting at a long dining room table. Andy was taking lots of pictures and making notes. Then Fred and I went to find Craig where he was working. Then we went out and met Andy and we went to a cheap Mexican restaurant for dinner. Craig was talking about the Spaghetti Factory [restaurant] and the good clean food and Andy was saying, “How greeeeattt. Let’s go.” We were driving stuffed into a little yellow Toyota econo rental with an Olivia Newton John song on the radio and we were singing, screaming, and laughing and bouncing the little car back and forth in traffic. I was very happy and it was very surreal.

12. What was Andy in Los Angeles for?

Andy was in L.A. for a show and among other things taking pictures for a European magazine of the cool L.A. nightspots. So we went to Danny’s Dogs and I took pictures of Andy and the street kids there who didn’t know who he was.

We went to the China Club and I met Tommy Lasorda’s son, Tommy Jr. Fred was there and he joined us and we went to a few small clubs. By this time I was pretty liquored up and we were driving at that point in Hugh Heffner’s limo and the driver was driving around like a mad man. We asked why he was driving that way and he said it was because his kid was hurt or sick or something. Somewhere in the spin, Tommy Lasorda drove Fred and I back to where Andy and Fred were staying in the Hollywood Hills. That was a intimate night with Fred. He soon passed out very drunk. I woke up next to him and Tommy – sort of shocked I was there. Everyone was rushing to catch a plane.
They left and Fred left a beautiful scarf for me. So I slept in until the maids kicked me out and I had a horrible hangover. Back at the Tropicana Peter and Chris were worried as to where I was and were mad, but relieved, when I told them I was with Fred.

13. Tell me more about your friendship with Fred Hughes.

Fred Hughes was enamored by my 12th generation NY family line. It’s a heady crew that starts with Reverend Breese buried at Trinity Church in 1710. Notables are Samuel Finley Breese Morse. the father of American Photography and inventor of the telegraph and Morse code and NY General Potter, a civil war hero. Fred was super crazy for all this so I hung out with him and did things around town more then with Andy. Fred was my hero and mentor. He always wanted to do a movie about my great-grandfather. My great-grandfather was a notorious photographer James Lawrence Breese. Fred paid me and book binders handsomely to replicate my great-grandfather’s 1880s leather bound albums of his photography. My relatives were early NY bohemian art society that Fred was nutty for.

Once Fred picked up the phone and dialed up Diana Vreeland. "I have a young man here that has pictures of your mother dancing." She was thrilled and used them for a invitation for the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute that she was a consultant and patron for. Though I will say she directly told me on the phone what I have been learning in research - that Breese had a bad falling out with NY society when his buddy Stanford White was murdered and all the stories of their late night parties and womanizing came to light. And he was pretty much considered the one that led White down the path of "lascivious intrigue." With that and the market crash, JLB was living in his servant house on the South Hampton Breese estate the last days of his life.

14. Did Fred Hughes drink much?

Yes, I took Fred home many times drunk. There were many events and outbursts that were alcohol related. Many close to him were concerned about his drinking. When he boozed he was always pretty cantankerous even from the start. Once I remember well was at a Betsy Johnson fashion show in an old men’s club that had clay pipes hanging on the ceiling. Everyone was shushing us. 1982, I think? Another time was at the reopening of Studio 54 when we got there late. Andy, me and Chris and Peter went to a porn film before. Fred had a fit when we arrived. There were also a couple of times at the Factory at 860 Broadway. It always seemed to happen after a long vodka filled lunch. I remember one was with Bob [Colacello] about an Interview cover. Another might have been about an advertiser they lost.

A memorable outburst by Fred happened late one night at a tiny club on West 14th Street. I forget the name – maybe it was Anita Sarko’s? She was there. Nell’s. That was it. Anyway, Fred was happy to see me then weirdly turned kind of violent, grabbing and hitting me, wrestling me, screaming something nonsensical. He threw his drink on me – something about my appearing set him off. We were asked to leave. I took him home. A famous princess royal was staying at his place. I forget her name. I have images. She was really worried about him. We talked about how the MS was starting to kick in and affected him with great rage and anger. This was the later 1980s. I have seen him treat his staff horribly when he was getting really sick.

15. When was the last time you saw him?

I crashed the opening of The Warhol museum and the dinner. I was playing photographer shooting tables. I heard this screech – “MARK SINK!” It was Fred waving – shaking both fists in the air from his wheelchair looking pretty bad. We hugged. He pushed plates apart and insisted I sit at his table next to him. That was the last time I saw him. Nobody contacted me about his death or funeral arrangements.

16. Are you still friends with any of the Warhol crowd?

Yes, I am still very close with Chris Makos and Peter Wise. We talk regularly and spend time together – projects and things time to time. We were lovers in the early ‘80s. Chris is an energizer bunny fire cracker – full of fun. And nightmarish on the other side also.

I showed Gerard Malanga’s work at my gallery and we stayed loosely in touch. I did several projects with Gerard through the years. In my studio/ home on 85 Broadway he recreated a Factory scene and silk screen event for an early documentary on Andy by Chuck Workman. It’s the opening segment.
Andy Warhol by Chuck Workman on You Tube
Opening segment from Chuck Workman’s documentary,
Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol
(click to play or go to

My studio is the scene where they are pulling ink through the screen (not the camera work or burning and cleaning). The cat Rosland is there. Gerard Malanga and an unknown friend with long hair are pulling the ink, making the image. Aritst Robert Hawkins and I lived there. I have that image they screened on mylar hanging in my bedroom now.

I also stayed in touch with and was pretty close to Taylor Mead in the ‘80s and ‘90s, less in the 2000’s. I took a lot of photographs of him. I love Taylor. I spent many evenings walking, talking and feeding wild cats with him around the lower east side in New York. He deeply hates Andy. Recently we’ve lost touch. I hear he has been very ill.

I did several projects with Richard Bernstein up till his demise. I photographed him often at his crazy apartment (the old ballroom at the Hotel Chelsea). Once he took full credit for all the dozens of images I shot with Grace Jones in my studio for NY Magazine. I was so pissed off afterwards when I excitedly opened the magazine and saw that the only photo credit was for him - "photography by Richard Bernstein." He could care less. I don't think I ever talked to him after that.

17. Thanks for answering my questions Mark. Before you go, I’m curious – do you remember taking that picture of Warhol in front of the Calvin Klein poster? The one with his hand on the crotch.
Andy Warhol with hand on crotch of model on Calvin Klein poster
Andy Warhol with Calvin Klein poster
(Photo: Mark Sink)
Yes, I remember stopping at the Calvin Klein poster so he could put his hand on the crouch of the underwear model. I often photographed his hands. I remember his hands holding money, his hands touching rare Navajo blankets or jewelry before purchase. I remember his hands holding his beloved Minox camera or his Big Shot Polaroid camera. Andy loved to hold hands. Holding his hand while walking or in a car are some of the most cherished moments I have of Andy.

[end of interview]