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Herb Sundays 26: Leo Fitzpatrick
The curator and actor lays down 100 "Sunday Morning Church Music" classics
Herb Sundays 26: Leo Fitzpatrick
Leo Fitzpatrick is an actor, artist, gallerist and curator. He’s currently the proprietor of LES gallery Public Access, which has a perfectly rough and ready program. It’s an ideal a white box to let the kids congregate at. I see Leo as sort of a through-line of NYC youth culture, but instead of just lording over his past, he’s trying to stir up new stuff for the next phase of youth.
His @lousyleo and Public Access IGs are whirlwinds through galleries, NYC memories, and photos of his vast record collection which bear the tag “Sunday Morning Church Music,” the latter of which which made this Herb Sundays an inevitability.
The mix is 100 songs that, at the risk of being corny (I am), is the soundtrack of a galaxy brain skate video or a Max Fish jukebox, it's an ultimate NYC mixtape, an atlas of taste: Sonic Youth, Vybz Carel, CAN, Ayler, Townes, etc. The sample for Jeru’s “Come Clean” goes into “Come Clean.” The only thing herb-y about it is Leo's steadfastness in putting it together, down to each transition.
Leo became a celebrity thanks to 1995’s Larry Clark-directed, Harmony Korine-written, indie film Kids (and other celebrated roles in shows like The Wire). For the few of my subscribers who don’t know, Kids is a documentary-like snapshot of 90’s NYC youth, and the skating, drugs, and sex that swirl around them. It’s one of those movies that you remember where you were when you saw it. For me it was while hanging out at cool older girl’s house with a bunch of other teenagers in Birmingham, Michigan. The film played back on 13” TV/VCR unit and I still remember the embarrassment, excitement, and fear it instilled. Every vignette is an exercise in pain of some sort, with brief moments of unexpected beauty.
I watched a little of Kids yesterday to reacquaint myself, and while most controversial films seem to feel quaint with distance, Kids only becomes more harrowing. However, the poetry of some of the scenes (and knowing that Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson are thriving in real life), did emerge. For all its discomfort, the scene that contrasts the boys and girls talking about sex and love is a profound piece of cinema. With softer language and some swirling tunes, it could be a scene from a beloved piece of 1950’s musical theater.
What happens with actors is that they become real to people, perhaps unfairly. Leo had to wear this for a long time, especially since the world of his character was the same of his real life. In one of his interviews I read, he recalls meeting Roger Ebert (RIP) at an independent film award show and Roger telling him “when I saw you just now, I wanted to punch you in the face. And then I had to remember you’re an actor. So, congratulations!”
Leo’s Kids character, Telly, reminded me of a friend I had met at summer camp who lived uptown named Matt (who luckily lacked Telly’s sinister streak). When I’d go to NYC with my family in my teens, I loved to hang with Matt. It was the mid-late 90s so for a suburban hip-hop fan like me, it was heaven. It also gave a teen a feeling of extreme freedom to mill about NYC. We’d walk around Broadway and Lafayette and check out shops (Supreme, X-Large, Liquid Sky) for sneakers and mixtapes, and I recall everything smelled like incense. I don't know why he hung out with me, maybe he just humored me or liked that I looked up to him. I felt like an acne-ridden Nick Carraway (or a, um, herb) in an oversized tee watching him move through the city, synthesizing plans in the pre-cell phone era was hugely exciting. You'd buzz someone's apartment and never know what would be upstairs, or coming downstairs.
Recently, I had a Sunday documentary double header of Moments Like This Never Last (on the late artist Dash Snow) and All The Streets Are Silent (on the convergence of skate and hip-hop culture). I had already asked Leo to do the playlist, but soon realized that he was the connecting tissue between the two films. NYC creative movements historically elevate its most enigmatic characters, but some form of fame, drugs, or the unknown takes them too soon (both of Leo’s male Kids co-stars, Harold Hunter and Justin Pierce are both deceased, as well as his Snow and designer Benjamin Cho). White haired and wizened, you realize that Leo is a survivor of decades of creation and destruction, and likely lives with ghosts on every block.
My personal relationship with Leo is next to none, but it has been fun to watch him put together this mix. I was only recently intro'd to him recently by a mutual friend Dart Parker. Over the past few years, I’ve seen Fitzpatrick milling about galleries, including Marlborough Chelsea where he was a curator. It was always exciting to see him in person, a living avatar of downtown culture. Downtown people are the symbols we all want to be, or be near. Folks like Fab 5 Freddy, Ricky Powell (RIP), Glenn O’Brien (RIP), Debbie Harry, etc. The people who make things, but are hardly knowable.