We revisit the oddball ’70s journal, which counted Debbie Harry and Mick Jagger amongst its cowl stars, for Doc Fall/Winter 2019
Leonard Koren put out the primary subject of Moist: The Journal of Gourmand Bathing in Venice, California, in 1976. Simply 600 copies, and skimpy. “I used to be ecstatic nonetheless,” he writes in Making WET, his e book concerning the five-year expertise. “I rode my bicycle round Venice and shoved copies into the mail slots of everybody I knew. The response was typically appreciative, however there have been additionally situations of acute mystification. ‘Why would anybody probably wish to make a magazine about g-o-u-r-m-e-t bathing?’”
Good query. Koren was an structure grad at UCLA however had dropped any notion of pursuing it as a profession, and was making what he referred to as Bathtub Artwork. That meant persuading people, principally fellow artists, to get bare and bathe in water, in mud, in steam, or simply in scorching air, whereas he photographed them. He would flip these into artifacts by means of numerous printing strategies and promote them in galleries or by phrase of mouth.
The fashions had labored without spending a dime, so Koren determined they deserved payback—particularly, a celebration as artfully put collectively as his prints. It was held at a Russian Jewish bathhouse and made such a splash that the Los Angeles Instances gave it a column and ran a photograph of Koren greeting a visitor, the designer Rudi Gernreich. This was celeb-consequential. Gernreich’s profession firsts had included the thong bathing swimsuit, the washing swimsuit with no built-in bra, and the monokini (a bikini minus the highest). Koren had made the charts.
From Sep/Oct 1978, “Eli Stress-free.” Images by Rabyn Blake.
“How, I puzzled, might I exploit this surprising flip of occasions?” he muses in his e book. “My mind was on overdrive. As a way to sluggish issues down I might draw a scorching, steamy bathtub round two or three o’clock each afternoon. As soon as immersed I lay completely nonetheless. My muscle groups unclenched and my eyes softly centered on a patch of mysteriously glowing water six inches in entrance of my nostril. Throughout one in every of these quiet moments an almost-audible voice whispered into my ear, ‘Why not begin a magazine about connoisseur bathing?’”
These almost-audible voices can actually screw up generally, however this one had it nailed. The second subject, dated Aug/Sept 1976, was a 16-pager, and the journal swiftly developed into a reasonably fats bimonthly, recognized each for its po-mo eye and a voice that earned it a crazy cool cred—much less cosmic than hippiedom, much less ornery than punk, so let’s name it New Wave. Moist was off to the races.
In his e book, Koren cites Vogue, Gourmand, and Andy Warhol’s Interview as function fashions of types, however you wouldn’t have recognized it. Full-length Q&As had been uncommon and the visuals had been quirkier, some the work of younger hires like Thomas Ingalls and April Greiman, others from recognized offbeat abilities just like the photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue, who despatched in a shot of a mustachioed man afloat on the water sporting a swimsuit, tie, shades, and a UFO-shaped hat.
“It wasn’t attempting to be Playboy or a pores and skin journal, however it treads into that space nearly unintentionally.”
Gary Panter, who would go on to do the units for Pee- wee’s Playhouse, contributed a portray, Gators. Matt Groening got here up with Forbidden Soaps, a set of drawings, earlier than Life in Hell, and manner earlier than The Simpsons. Larry Williams did a canopy shot of Debbie Harry, right here formally referred to as Deborah, aiming a six-gun on the reader. There was a double-page of 60 women and men sporting bathing caps, some accessorized by sun shades and photographs from Marcia Resnick’s Re-visions, the realized imaginings of an instantly post-pubertal lady. One picture of a freckled puppet was accompanied by the phrases “She secretly lusted for her tv idols.” One other picture, this one in every of a gaggle of dolls, was captioned, “She derived pleasure from dressing her boy dolls within the undergarments of lady dolls.” So, Moist was pictorially unpredictable, besides that you could possibly rely on some humor, similar to a bearded Ringo Starr sitting in a shower, booted and absolutely clothed, and Jack Nicholson, snorting, “Gourmand bathing? Do I appear to be the kinda’ man who takes a shower? Shit—I don’t even drink water.”
Extra bathing. I ought to make a degree right here. The lavatory is a core idea in Moist, however Koren’s use of the phrase was centered. If you hear any individual ask for the whereabouts of the toilet, it’s not as a result of they plan to take a shower. The Duchamp urinal is known and Maurizio Cattelan’s absolutely functioning 18-karat gold toilet bowl made an influence when it was put in in a Guggenheim rest room, however I do know of few main artistic endeavors wherein an precise bathtub performs such a central function. In 1498 Albrecht Dürer made a woodcut wherein Saint John the Evangelist is proven within the bathtub, however it’s because an executioner is drenching him in boiling oil, a picture which made it into Moist. Probably the most well-known bathtub portray is definitely The Dying of Marat, a 1793 canvas by Jacques-Louis David, which depicts the firebrand of the French Revolution after Charlotte Corday stabbed him within the tub. A somber, forbidding tub it’s, too. Fashionable plumbing awaited the eye of Moist.
From Nov/Dec 1977, “17 Lovely Males Taking a Bathtub.” Images by Dranoel Nerok.
There have been two iconic shoots, Koren says. “One is 23 Lovely Ladies Taking a Bathtub. It’s totally different girls taking a shower in the identical bathtub individually. It’s put collectively in form of a wonky manner. All of them use the atmosphere of the small tub in a barely totally different manner. And that was what I used to be searching for. The counterpoint is 17 Lovely Males Taking a Bathe. Every particular person showers in a particular manner. And I turned that right into a fold-up e book that extends into an extended panorama.”
One other level. “The Pubic Hair Papers,” a chunk of mine, which ran in Rolling Stone nicely earlier than the launch of Moist, checked out how Penthouse and a slew of mags had been attempting to outdo Playboy. Anyone listening to of a magazine that includes youthful nudity would doubtless assume that Moist was of their quantity. Flawed. “We skirted the road. When you may have bare our bodies, there’s an simple erotic power,” Koren says. “However it was by no means soft-core. There was a little bit little bit of spiciness, a little bit little bit of cost. It wasn’t attempting to be Playboy or a pores and skin journal, however it treads into that space nearly unintentionally.”
Moist’s our bodies tended to be shot avant-garde grainy moderately than centerfold glimmery, and the ladies weren’t all centerfold cutie-pies, however there was extra to the magazine than bare our bodies. Like clothed our bodies. As one leafs by means of the problems, names and faces bob up, with recollections hooked up: the Jim Carroll Band, with Carroll’s druggy hit, “Individuals Who Died”; Eve Babitz, the creator of fictive memoirs who’s now experiencing a renaissance; the Kipper Children; and, inevitably, Timothy Leary. I went to a celebration at Leary’s in L.A. again then, over-celebrated, misplaced a favourite shirt to a grabby lady, napped, grabbed a handful of biscuits within the morning and wolfed them down on the best way to my New York flight which took a detour by means of the Milky Means. These biscuits! Was the Moist interviewer at that very same social gathering?
Right here’s Kenneth Anger, a maker of darkish quick movies, homosexual when that was nonetheless unlawful, deeply concerned with the occult. Anger had fled California for London as a result of one of many actors in his film Lucifer Rising, Bobby Beausoleil, was livid with him and had joined the Manson group. Right here is Anger with reference to LSD. “All this mystical bullshit about it, that it was harmful,” he says. “What isn’t? I imply, even hair dryers are harmful.”
From Nov/Dec 1979, “WET Journal.” Collage by Roy Gyongy.
Moist was good for such quotes. Nico of the Velvet Underground, requested if she had ever made a file with industrial marketability in thoughts, snapped again, “I made a single as soon as with Jimmy Web page, however it was a failure each artistically and commercially. Web page’s music was like cement.” Jimi Hendrix surprises with the revelation that “I patterned my model after Dick Dale.” That might be Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar. “I don’t hearken to nuthin’,” Captain Beefheart says. “Bob Dylan impresses me as a lot as… nicely, I used to be gonna say a slug, however I like slugs. However Johnny Rotten. He’s a giant fan of mine. I used to see him out within the viewers in England and he’d arise and holler. He’s humorous. Sensible too, and a pleasant man.”
From December 1980, “Getting Into Sizzling Water Slowly!” Images by Dranoel Nerok.
Right here’s Elio Fiorucci, who had launched in Milan in 1967 after which opened a New York outlet in 1976 with a celebration at Studio 54. The shop was hotter than scorching when he spoke with Moist two years later. “What do you suppose will occur in trend?” he was requested. “My concept is that trend will finish,” Fiorucci mentioned. “There is not going to be any extra of what we now name developments. Traits are very reassuring. They exist as a result of they’re reassuring. One thinks: I gown so-and-so as a result of everyone attire so-and-so. Possibly sometime individuals might simply put on what they like.” Possibly sometime. Fiorucci went into receivership in 1989.
One other remark. Studio 54 had opened the yr earlier than the interview with Fiorucci, and disco was international, ubiquitous. I’ve not learn each subject of Moist, however I’ve learn many, and I didn’t see a lot about disco. The magazine does reference punk, however casually, as when a photograph of David Johansen, taken earlier than he carried out on the Whisky in West Hollywood, famous that he was “previously of the New York Dolls.” The July/Aug 1978 subject, the theme of which was “obsession,” ran a cheerfully nasty drawing, a Punk profile by the road artist, Natali, captioned STUBBLE on chin, DOWNRIGHT DISGUSTING hair, SLY APPEARANCE. This was completely Moist. Print media, from The New York Instances to the tabs, wish to convey again data from frontiers of intense public curiosity. Not Moist. Its frontiers had been oddball, peculiar.
5 years is a brief span to trace cultural modifications, however they are often noticed in Moist, if generally by means of their absence—like AIDS, nonetheless a couple of years away from darkening that enjoyable within the solar. Superstar tradition was not but an trade. Moist coated it as freaky enjoyable. “Divine descended from the scarlet Caddy convertible with the panache of a hefty Bardot,” ran one merchandise. “He was resplendent in a black Lurex miniskirt, his platinum hair reflecting the neon signatures of Fiorucci’s. Paradoxically, although, the androgynous star of John Waters’ movies Feminine Hassle and Pink Flamingos (the longest-running movie in L.A.) had problem out-dressing the group of adoring followers.” This was shortly adopted by: “Think about Cheryl Tiegs vs. Jesus Christ. Combating it out in a boxing match.”
From July/Aug 1978, “XTRA.” “Randy Inexperienced at O.Ok. Harris Gallery, New York Metropolis, October 14-November four”.
One change was in everyone’s face. Or out of it. Smoking had solely not too long ago been acknowledged as doubtlessly deadly. However, like all harmful sport, that made it a usable metaphor. Right here’s Leonard Cohen speaking a few new amour. “Individuals within the liquor retailer really pop-eyed and double-took as she glided by,” he exulted. “I’m going to start out smoking once more. I wish to die in her arms and go away her. You want to smoke a pack a day to be that form of man.”
Over to David Hockney, to whom Moist spoke quickly after his arrival on the Left Coast. “Do you jog and all that?” the journal enquired.
“No, I simply smoke,” Hockney mentioned. “I solely began smoking final Christmas and I really feel one hundred percent higher. Even my work is best since I’ve taken up smoking.”
I’ve by no means smoked cigarettes and have a tendency to stroll round people who smoke as if they had been swinging plague bells, however once I interviewed Hockney a couple of years again, he was nonetheless aggressively puffing away and looking out as stuffed with beans as ever.
From Nov/Dec 1977, “Aquarium, Micro organism, Evolution, Geisha.” “Picture by Mark Schleshinger… and Claude… and Lisa. Aquarium by Kim’s Aquaworld, Hollywood”.
The as soon as potent topic of mankind’s journey into house was coated, wholly characteristically, by The Technique of Elimination, a chunk on how bodily capabilities had been managed in a gravity-challenged scenario. This brings me to an extra remark, which is that science, seldom a presence in Andy Warhol’s Interview, not to mention in Vogue, was usually featured in Moist. Typically, as with a section about therapeutic waters and hydro-jet remedy, as a result of it was bathing-connected, however actually because the tales had been as darkly off-the-wall as the next:
It was reported from Cape City that Christiaan Barnard, the guts transplant pioneer, had rejected a proposal of $250,000 from the Nationwide Enquirer to assist with the transplantation of a human head from one physique to a different: “I didn’t even think about it,” mentioned Barnard. “The concept is immoral, unethical, impractical, and of uncertain legality.”
He additionally doubted that the pinnacle would be capable to speak, even with vocal cords, as a result of breath is important for speech, which was unattainable with no spinal wire.
Typically the science edged near sci-fi. A chunk about longevity argued that the human life span had been simply 18 through the Bronze Age however has repeatedly lengthened, so “loss of life must be an possibility, not a necessity.” However the theme of the March/April 1979 subject was “the long run,” and people items tended to be moderately much less optimistic. “Can a brand new electronically transmitted ‘character virus’ be altering our brain-wave patterns… endlessly?” inquired one author. They went on to foretell that the US could be swept by “a complete new wave of mass delusion,” inflicting individuals to expertise a zombiesque “new actuality.”
From Jan/Feb 1980, “Gourmand Bathing.” Images by Dana Levy.
The “Thriller of the Mutes” within the Might/June 1980 subject plunges additional into our new world dysfunction, inspecting the phenomenon of mutilations of animals, principally cattle, in 40 states, however with “concentrations of mutilations within the neighborhood of American nuclear amenities.” The author provides one vivid instance, an Appaloosa gelding, referred to as Snippy within the authentic studies, later proven to be referred to as Woman. This was on the San Luis Valley, Southern Colorado, ranch of Mrs. Nellie Lewis, who found her cow beheaded, with no residing tissue left within the “boney-eyed cranium.” Additionally, the ranch was “stricken by bizarre lights” at evening for years thereafter. Certainly, “Proper up till she dedicated suicide in 1977, Mrs. Lewis maintained that UFOs had killed and mutilated her animal.”
The story turned large. Ranchers reported discovering their cattle with the eyes eliminated, tongue and ears reduce off, intercourse organs gone.
Among the many probers of the mutilations, in accordance with Moist, had been Ed Sanders, a former member of the Fugs, who wrote The Household, a gripping e book concerning the Manson killings, and Invoice McIntyre, who produced the Firesign Theater’s radio program. It was claimed “that there had been two thousand ‘confirmed’ and eight,000 ‘possible’ cattle mutilations.” Additionally, that “mutilations have occurred in nearly each species of untamed animal in North America. Even a pair of Buffalo had been grotesquely disemboweled of their cage of the Denver Zoo.”
Many blamed the mutilations on operations of the federal government, who had been maybe checking that mad cow illness, a mind illness that stricken cattle and which was significantly prevalent within the UK many years in the past, was not creeping into the US. However most agreed with Mrs. Lewis that aliens had been pranking us. A e book printed a couple of years again uncovered a “UFO freeway” throughout the nation. The ’70s mutilations had been by no means actually defined and have by no means returned in energy, however UFOs, like crop circles, are nonetheless with us. Leonard Koren’s bathing journal stored its finger just about on the heart beat, so we are actually, I ought to guess, about due for that different prediction to return true: “A complete new wave of mass delusion” and a “new actuality.” I can’t wait. And perhaps received’t should.
Archival problems with WET journal and e book courtesy of Arthur Fournier Positive & Uncommon, LLC.