I just about got tossed out of Newhouse for this one.
It was late at Ryan's (Syracuse's gay disco from 1978 - 1982),
and I spotted this character. He never moved. All. Night. Long.
He just stood there, conveniently parked under a spotlight,
with a cat o' nine tails (whip) in his hand.
Musta been the moment, or the fact that I recently started taking PHOTO 301,
the introductory photography course at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
at Syracuse University.
Either way, now I had a camera in my hands, a force-field all around me which would protect
me from all the denizens of "BIZARRO" world, and I could talk to anyone.
And that I did.
I remember this guy's name was Frank. He was wearing a leather vest (not in this photograph)
and he had one of those black name tags with white engraving, with a pin, meaning he wore it.
A lot. Also on the name tag was the title PRESIDENT, and below that the white-letter engraving:
Now I wasn't exactly raised on a farm in Connecticut, but we did have countryside, and my parents were big on taking Sunday drives, with the four of us piled in the deep blue Plymouth Valiant.
So yeah, I saw barns, and silos, and pigs and cows and all that, and, since I was the eager-beaver
good boy in Catholic school, I knew that F.F.A. (or FFA) meant FUTURE FARMERS OF AMERICA.
Well have I got NEEEWWS for you.
I quickly learned about the FIST FUCKERS of AMERICA, but it would be decades before I could
do that math. And another couple of years before I actually saw, well, nevermind.
Frank stunk to high-heaven ("man-funk") and I had him come up to the photo labs deep in
the bowels (ha-ha!) of Newhouse II.
There was all kinds of scandal afterwards, and you just know that anyone who saw this hard-core
leatherman said I was either fucked by him, or he sucked my cock or something equally absurd,
and TOTALLY out of the question.
I remember this much about "Frank the president of the FFA" (oh, and I forgot the little pink pig which dangled from his leather vest.)
He was so proud of the fact that he had just been in a movie. A real movie? I asked? Yeah,
a real movie, he answered. Not even thinking it might have been a porn movie, I asked him
what the title of the movie was, thinking maybe, just maybe, I'd heard of it.
"What was the name of the movie, Frank?"
"Cruising" he answered. I hadn't heard of it.
"Is it new? I haven't heard of it."
"Yeah, it's new. It's either just come out, or it's coming out shortly. It's by that guy who directed
THE EXORCIST" he said to me.
I'd heard of The EXORCIST. I hadn't seen it yet, because it was supposed to be really bad,
and I knew kids who used to read the paperback book in 8th grade, wrapped in brown kraft
grocery bags, so no one would know what they were reading. A couple of kids got caught
reading it, and I didn't know what was so bad, but I do know they were punished, made to
stay after school, had to speak with the parish priest (don't forget, I went to Catholic grammar
AND high school). Then their parents were called. I never got to ask any of the kids who read
the book what the big deal was about because we were all spoken to by the big-time parish
priest. And all I knew was that this was a book which could send you straight to hell.
Shit. I always got in trouble anyways, so I didn't want to get the shit kicked out of me
for some book which needed to be wrapped in grocery store bag paper.
"Really? THE EXORCIST? Wow. He must be famous."
"Yeah, he is. Wait 'til the movie comes out."
"Why? Is it scary like THE EXORCIST?"
"No. It's worse."
Frank stunk so much, other people using the other three of the four "hot light" studios
complained, and I had to hurry up and finish, and have him leave the building.
I remember he used a pink hair brush which I dutifully brought with me, but his hair was
so disgusting and he smelled so badly, I threw the brush out.
I remember getting yelled at by Tony Golden, then a professor, now the head of the photography program.
"Never bring in people you meet in bars to this school's photo studio again. Do you understand?"
I was scared shitless. Worse than THE EXORCIST? And I was in a lot of trouble just for taking the photograph.
Peter Wilkinson, editor-in-chief of REPORT ("REPORT is an independent magazine published monthly by and for Syracuse University students.") saw the photo and said it was perfect for the cover of the upcoming October-slash-Halloween issue,
and would I let him put the photo on the cover.
Sure! I said.
I had never been published before, in my life.
So this slice of THE VAULT is my very first published piece of college work.
The cover of REPORT magazine.
The credit line in the masthead reads COVER PHOTOGRAPH|Bernard M Lynch.
It took me years (not too many) to realize I was running parallel to Robert Mapplethorpe and
the as-of-yet unheard of Diane Arbus.
Fuck that school.
And fuck Tony Golden.
I'm still laughing.
And I'm surprised I still have only one copy...some 30 years later.
Faded, yellowed, and water-stained.
But nothing Photoshop couldn't fix.
And in the great words of the late Joan Crawford:
DON'T FUCK WITH ME, FELLAS!
And every single syllable of this story is TRUE TRUE TRUE!