“As many as you want!”
“And some of those.” She pointed to the Heinz Tomato Ketchup boxes.
The Sculls were lucky. They were in the right place at the right time, and even though they weren’t particularly sophisticated, they were smart enough to seize the opportunity. They weren’t enormously wealthy but had just enough money to indulge their passion.
Ethel and Bob had come from their Saturday rounds visiting the art galleries. “We bought this at Knoedler’s,” said Bob, pulling a small bronze statue of a male god from ancient Greece from Ethel’s handbag. “I just liked it!”
“Oh, it’s so beautiful,” said Andy. Everyone was astonished and laughed. We all looked at it.
I whispered to Andy, “Only a gay man buys a statue of a Greek god.”
“I know,” said Andy. Bob Scull was a hunky, refined truck-driver type. “I can see him cruising the baths.”
When the Brillo boxes opened at the Stable Gallery in April, they were a great success. The Sculls offered to pay for a party at the Factory. I went, made several walks through the crowd, chatting, but the loud noise made it difficult to hear anything. Everybody was trying to get his or her picture taken, trying to be famous. Many were high on speed, and the level of adrenaline aggression was overwhelming. It was a nightmare and I left abruptly.
Bob Scull complained that nobody was taking Ethel’s picture. And the next day in the newspapers, there was a photograph of the southern-belle scenester Marguerite Lamkin at the party, but no Ethel. The Sculls were furious and refused to pay for the party after all, and it was wonderful gossip. Weeks later, Andy whined, “They still haven’t paid for the party. I think that’s terrible.”
I encouraged him to delight in their outsized crassness, but he wouldn’t.
A few years later, when the really rich collectors bought Pop Art, the Sculls were completely eclipsed and forgotten, and their world collapsed.
Excerpted from Great Demon Kings: A Memoir of Poetry, Sex, Art, Death, and Enlightenment by John Giorno published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.