’Tragic Glamour’ hits NYC, for one-day only
Who is Richie Rich? For many, the name evokes the Harvey Comics character - "the poor little rich boy" that was that franchise’s most popular during the 1960s. But for many gay New Yorkers he’s the fashion designer and performance artist who became iconic of the city’s club scene in the 1990s. He was something of the poster boy for the club kids - the anarchic, freethinking, often drug-taking, outrageously dressed personalities whose fame went national with appearances on talk shows, such as the "Sally Jessy Raphael Show."
Derek Warburton, the celebrity stylist, was a gay teenager growing up in rural New Hampshire whose contact with the outside world came from coming home from school and watching these afternoon talk fests. One day came an epiphany-of-sorts: the "club kids" were on Sally’s show. "Having no idea what clubs kids were," he wrote recently in the Huffington Post. "I thought they were another group from the gay voguing film ’PARIS IS BURNING’ -- I watched with my mouth hanging open. They were pierced, platform-wearing, glittery freaks! At that moment, I knew I had to move to New York City."
He moved to New York to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. Within days he spent all his money on clothes, leaving no money to go out. "In those days," he continued, "the crazier you dressed, the more doors you got into and the free drinks would flow. There was no need for money to go out. Within a week I remember being at the top of the slide at the world famous Club USA where I spotted the ringleader of all club queendom: Richie Rich!"
They became friends, but went their separate ways over the years in the world of fashion. They kept in touch, but the era of the club kid had passed; as did the New York Warburton first came to: coffee shops became Starbucks, he remembered, and little boutiques disappeared, replaced by chain stores.
Their paths crossed again more recently when Warburton and celebrity photographer Christopher Logan were asked by the official magazine of Fashion Week - the Daily Front Row - to do a spread centering on Rich and his boyfriend Ross. Warburton and Logan had recently gained some notoriety by photographing NBA player (and Kardashian boy-toy) Kris Humphries in his underwear that captured a sexy allure not seen in his boy-next-door media image. Their concept for Rich and Ross was to make them over as businessmen, that was until they showed up for the shoot "in magic marker makeup, dirty hair and a hodgepodge of looks from their new collection, POP Luxe, that I affectionately called dumpster couture."
This led Warburton and Logan to create an exhibit called "Tragic Glamour" which will be seen for one day only - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - at the Pop International Gallery, 473 West Broadway, NYC. Fifteen percent of any purchase from the show will be donated to NYC’s Bailey House, the nation’s first organization to address homelessness and poverty among people living with HIV/AIDS. To find out more about Bailey House and how you can help, go to baileyhouse.org. For additional information on Tragic Glamour, visit Christopher Logan’s website.
The focus of the exhibit is to recreate Rich’s iconic club kid persona. "The title of our exhibition is TRAGIC GLAMOUR," explained in the Huffington Post, "an ode to modern society, examining how America creates celebrities at a McDonald’s pace only to throw them away just as quickly. With the onset of reality TV, Starbucks and iPhones, our culture does not seem to appreciate purity in its rarest forms."
EDGE contacted Warburton to answer some questions about their exhibit.
Outside their comfort zone
EDGE: Your goal with the exhibit is to focus on the concealed lives of notables. How do you do that?
Derek Warburton: It is all about personal relationships. I am very friendly with the people that I have worked with. Being a celebrity stylist I am constantly in contact with notable people and we develop a bond. You gain trust. Then I pitch ideas that would take them outside of their comfort zone.
EDGE: You’ve said you were inspired by Richie Rich? How?
Derek Warburton: I think Richie is inspiring because he is the perfect example that has started highly celebrated and then become a society castoff when that ’society’ doesn’t want to buy what you are selling. Lost are the days when a person is an art form. What I love about Richie is that he is a true avant garde. Richie has not changed who he is. He is a true Peter Pan.
EDGE: What was it like working with him?
Derek Warburton: Working with Richie was an experience that I will never forget. He’s a true artist, the moment he saw the clothes, the concepts and the locations he ran with each scene and truly made it his own.
No other subject that I have worked with have thrown themselves into like Richie.
Why ’Tragic Glamour’?
EDGE: Why ’Tragic Glamour’?
Derek Warburton: ’Tragic Glamour’ is the case study of a time that no longer exists. A time when individualism was celebrated and the art of being FABULOUS could open every door. It is tragic that those days are lost.
EDGE: Do you think the Warholian dictum of ’15 minutes of fame’ is passe?
Derek Warburton: Actually I think the term 15 minutes could be renamed hot second.
EDGE: In that case, how much time does a celebrity have these days?
Derek Warburton: I think being a celebrity is a throw away term now. Relevancy is the only thing that makes the timing last. If you are on a hit show and a smart business person you can make it last. Placement, hard work and good advisors can make it last forever... you have to want it.
About Kris Humphries
EDGE: You got some media attention with your pictures of Kris Humphries. How did they come about?
Derek Warburton: Kris’ management team and I have mutual friends and I was approached about shooting him. I don’t own a TV, nor have I seen an episode of any Kardashian show, so drawing from inspiration based on his behavior on the series was nonexistent. I knew there was was a preconceived notion of a love/hate relationship people had for him. I knew where I wanted to take him visually and it created a firestorm.
EDGE: Are you a fan of the Kardashians?
Derek Warburton: I think it is interesting how Kris Kardashian turned her family into a brand. I’m more of an admirer than a fan. Also I respect how calculating and hard working they are.
EDGE: How would you define today’s club kid?
Derek Warburton: Obsolete.
EDGE: Are there plans to take the exhibit elsewhere?
Derek Warburton: Indeed there was been quite a bit of attention already with the show, people have expressed interest in showcasing it elsewhere.
"Tragic Glamour" can be viewed at the Pop International Gallery (473 West Broadway, NYC) on Wednesday, July 11. 15% of any purchase from the show will be donated to NYC’s Bailey House, the nation’s first organization to address homelessness and poverty among people living with HIV/AIDS. To find out more about Bailey House and how you can help, go to baileyhouse.org. For additional information on "Tragic Glamour," visit www.christopherloganstudios.com