Interview with Andy Mann
by Davidson Gigliotti
A: I'm always giving out little interviews to people who don't
write down the brilliant things I say.
D: I know, that's a problem. What I would like to talk
about is your life before you got involved with video. Where
are you from?
A: Uh...I'm a New Yorker. I was born in Manhattan, grew up
in Westchester, in Yonkers, went to public school in suburbs
and then in '65 I was a senior, but I joined the Navy instead
of graduating, so I went into the Navy in '65.
D: You joined the Navy instead of graduating from high
A: Yeah, I knew that there was one requirement to graduate
- writing a term paper. Somehow I always knew that I would never
write that term paper.
D: What was it on?
A: Uh...well, we had to choose an author and find sources.
And the main thing was to write footnotes and all that kind of
stuff. Well, I chose Ayn Rand.
D: Oh, my goodness!
A: And there was absolutely no source material whatsoever.
There was one article in Look Magazine which was just
a picture with a caption. I had already done the reading, but
more than that I also knew it was my destiny to be a high school
dropout and to join the service. That was what we did in Scarsdale
- well, put it this way, that's what the outsiders did in Scarsdale.
D: Why did you choose Ayn Rand?
A: I had read "Atlas Shrugged," which is a pretty
good novel. Some of the....
D: Dagney Taggert!
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah...I won't pause long enough to remember
the rest of the - Dominique Franken!.
D: Howard Rourke!
A: Dominique Franken!
D: No, no...
A: "The Fountainhead."
D: Ah...Dominique Franken...right, right, right...Howard
Rourke was The Fountainhead." Go ahead. I'm sorry.
A: Cary Grant and Patricia Neal.
[ Editor's Note: Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was known for two
popular novels, The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas
Shrugged (1957). Both novels romanticized a form of extreme
individualism and the latter novel, Atlas Shrugged, espoused
an extreme form of capitalism, the gold standard, a rejection
of all activities that could be called collectivist and featured
heroic characters full of noble selfishness. Rand was born and
educated in Russia, and experienced the Revolution first hand,
emigrating to the U.S. in 1926, where she worked in Hollywood
for a time. After the success of Atlas Shrugged, she became
something of a cult figure, greatly admired by some and heartily
disliked by others. She founded a school of philosophy called
Objectivism which has adherents and a presence on the web.]
A: Anyway, I decided to keep reading her because I liked the
idea of being selfish.
A: I never connected it with any political points of view...I
D: You just thought it was a good idea.
A: I thought it was the way everybody was anyway...
A: So I thought. I thought she was merely revealing status
quo, not really pointing a direction. But in any case, I didn't
write the term paper and, with no hard feelings, I just went
into the Navy instead.
D: How did you like the Navy?
A: Ah, well, I hated it. When I got to boot camp - you know
- I was out of my element to say the least. But I stuck with
it and I stuck it out.
D: Well, where did you go to boot camp?
A: Uh, Great Lakes, Illinois. Great Lakes Naval Training Station.
I was there for about ten weeks and they sent me to a destroyer
in Norfolk, VA.
D: You served on a ship!
A: Oh, yeah, a couple of them! Yeah, I went out to sea on
the Storms - USS Storms - we did lots of cruises
to the Caribbean. We'd go shoot off that island near Puerto Rico
A: Then we'd go on liberty call in Jamaica or St. Thomas,
something like that. So, there was a lot of fun to be had.
D: What was your job in the Navy?
A: Well, that was the ironic thing. I hated being in the Navy,
but I credited the Navy with my whole subsequent life because
they taught me enough about electronics to be a sonar technician.
So my job in the Navy was essentially watching a very abstract
kind of television. What you were really looking at was visual
representations of echoes received by a tremendous transducer
pinging away at the bottom of my ship - it kept everybody awake.
D: Oh, oh...
A: All the time. Well, you know, the returning echoes could
come back 20,000 yards under the right conditions, so you know
it was pretty loud. But, in any case, I spent many, many hours
reading books while on watch because nothing happened that quickly,
you know. And I found a couple of submarines, but my job was
basically - I was a sonar operator. That's what I did best. And
I was the guy on the ship who ran the sonar stack during the
entire submarine warfare.
A: So, I was good at keeping a little cursor dot right over
the PIP shape and I could pretty much hear Doppler effects even
on slow-moving targets. So, that was my job. When we were in
port, I was the...like I cleaned the compartment and, you know,
did laundry and swabbed the deck and listened to Janis Joplin
records basically down in the compartment.
D: What's the compartment?
A: Down in the sleeping compartment. That's where everybody
slept and my job was to clean it up. So, I was a sonar technician,
but I had this plum. I had my own little area where I could goof
off all day long.
A: It was pretty good. Keep in mind, this was all during the
height of the most vicious battles in Viet Nam. So guys exactly
like me were just being totally wasted. I guess the most dangerous
thing I would do would be to walk on the fantail of the ship
at night to drop a bathythermograph over the side. That was something
that would record temperature versus depth on a glass slide.
We'd lower that down and, you know, the waves would be pretty
big sometimes. They'd slow down the ship, at least. It can only
go about two knots ahead when we dropped this thing. It would
go down about 900 feet and we'd winch it back up and, actually,
that process of dropping a bathythermograph was a hell of a lot
like camera work.
D: What is that? What do you call it?
A: Yeah, bathy meaning ocean-going; thermo and graph.
A: This records depth at temperatures so that you can predict
the speed of sound in water so that you can...
D: Right - so you can do your sonar and make accurate readings.
A: Yeah, but it was also part of a sinister secret project
which I knew nothing about except that I would...except that
I knew that it was a general program the Navy had of mapping
the entire ocean.
A: Yeah, they just kept records, you know. Wherever they had
ships, they had people dropping these...making these BT drops
and taking like a snapshot of the of the ocean floor.
Uh, by the way, Viet-Nam going on while all this is happening
is one irony, but the other irony was that by 1965, there wasn't
a frontline submarine anywhere in the world that couldn't hide
from, outrun, and outshoot my destroyer; so the idea of us hunting
them was ludicrous.
They could hear us a hundred miles away because they had passive
sonar that would just listen to the screw beeps.
A: All this stuff is done automatically now. They have computers
that can recognize any ship. They can tell which ship it is by
listening to its screw beeps.
A: Yeah. So, all this kind of stuff prepared me to be a cameraman,
you know? Making the same kinds of decisions - you know - which
way to slew the cursor or which way to zoom the zoom ring. Yeah,
and actually the two parts of my life overlapped out in Yellow
Springs, Ohio, at Antioch College when I went out there and met
Ira Schneider and Frank Gillette.
D: When did you do that? What were the circumstances of
your going there? What year are we talking about?
A: Well, I was a short-timer in the Navy...
D: What does short-timer mean?
A: I had about 140 days left, and because I went to college
I got out even sooner. So, really, I only had about another three
months, maybe, left in the Navy.
D: So, how long did you totally serve in the Navy?
A: I was in the Navy 1,386 days, so that's just under four
D: I see. You once described it to me as the million-dollar
experience that you wouldn't pay a dime for.
A: Yeah, well, I guess I'd pretty much say that again in terms
of educating me to be an artist. Being a sailor was a real important
D: Really? What, what ports did you visit when you were
in the Navy?
A. Africa. I went to Djibouti. I went to...
A: Djibouti, it's French Somaliland. I went to Mombasa, Kenya...
D: Oh, in the Arabian Sea...
A: Ah, yeah, on that side anyway. A little bit further south...went
to Lourenco Marques, which is Portuguese and to Mozambique.
D: Did you go to Reunion?
A: No, but we passed it. You meanAscension Island is it?
D: No, Reunion.
A: The island in the middle of the Atlantic?
D: No, no, no...that's
A: Oh, Reunion...over by Mauritius on the other side...
D: Yeah, yeah, right...
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, see what happened was we were supposed
to go to India on this cruise... we went through the Suez Canal.
So, we're on the Red Sea, it's 1967, the war breaks out in the
Middle East and, you know, I'm right there, but nothing. We never
saw any combat or action or patrols or heard anything.
D: You mean the Israeli war?
A: '67 yeah. And - ah - as a matter of fact, the Israelis
shot up an American ship on the other end of the...
D: Yes, I know they did. They sank it, I believe.
A: They didn't sink it. They killed 31 sailors like me.
A: That's for sure. And I'm sure that it was part of their
plan to deal with the United States putting the brakes on their
blips. But, you know, it's difficult to complain about it. Anyway,
that's the...what happened was at the end of my Navy thing, I
had a couple of extra days' leave.
D: But did you enjoy your trips in foreign parts and stuff?
A: Yeah, we were going to whorehouses and getting laid...
D: Oh, really...
A: Of course I enjoyed it.
D: So, you had a good whorehouse tour?
A: Oh, yeah...I got laid in Genoa and Mombassa...I went to
Blueberry Hill...I went to...
D: What's Blueberry Hill?
A: I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill...
D: Yeah, yeah...where was that?
A: Kingston, Jamaica. Let's see...where else? Hah...Let's
see...where else...I don't know...a few other...
D: Was it a good experience? The whorehouses, I mean?
A: The whorehouses, sure. In fact, there's...let's see, ah...Ethiopia...I
went...they would take you back to their apartment in Ethiopia...and
it took place on the French Riviera on Gulf ______ ...boy, that
was something else...ha-ha! I can't go into the long details
of why I'm laughing, but believe me my photograph-like memory
really comes in handy and I remember what these girls looked
like and it's quite a comfort to me now.
D: Yeah, I can imagine.
A: Oh, yeah. On the other hand, when I got out of the Navy,
I decided I didn't like that kind of arrangement and I never
went to another prostitute except as part of a business thing.
As a part of a video shoot in Las Vegas, I went to a whorehouse
out there, but...anyway...
D: So anyway...so at a certain point though what ship...what
ships did you serve on?
A: I was on the USS Storms, the USS Fisk, which
were destroyers; and I was on...for about six weeks, I was on
a ship called the Newport News, which was a cruiser. And
of those ships...of those ships...the first one, the Storms,
went to Viet-Nam, but I went to sonar school. In other words,
I left for sonar school the day they left. The Fisk, my
second ship, had just come back from Viet-Nam when I was transferred
to it after sonar school, so that pretty much accounts for why
I never went to...had to go to Viet-Nam, which, believe me, by
1968, I didn't want to go.
D: Yeah, I see...
A: Because - you know, in terms of whether you're going to
get killed or not - I never really thought about it, because
I always assumed that since I was lousy in gym class, I wouldn't
be - you know - much of a soldier. So I knew I wouldn't last
very long in combat. My point of view was just being glad that
I don't have to think back on having killed anybody, even if
they were out of sight and out of range.
A: I don't think that helps you any...
A: Anyway, the real reason I went out to Yellow Springs was
not to meet these guys who did video, but because my cousin's
girlfriend needed a ride out there. She was a very hot and hippy
chick who walked around her apartment half naked - the half that
counted, you know - all the time. I had to kind of keep a lid
on my lust, but I thought, "Well, I gotta stay close to
this one." So, what happened I was in New York and I knew
where she'd be. She was going to see Swami Satchidananda at the
church on 72nd Street - the Universalist Church, I think it's
called - so, I went to this Swami Satchidananda's service...
[Editor's note: Sri Swami Satchidananda was, and
is, an important spiritual leader for many devotees of raja yoga
in America. Born in 1914 in India, he came to the United States
in 1968, was present at the Woodstock festival, and was known
to many of the movers and shakers of the late sixties and seventies.
He remains highly regarded to this day. Swami "Satch",
as he is sometimes known, is alive, well, and living at an ashram
in Pennsylvania where he answers spiritual questions by email.]
A: And she's there...and I asked if she was interested in
going to my cousin in Ohio and she said, "Yeah" and
I said, "Well, let's go together." And I figured well,
you know, we'll stop off at a motel and I'll get to fuck her.
Well, we ended up driving straight out!
A: I drove for ten hours straight, and my dreams of glory
did not come true. But it got me out there.
A: That was always the pattern, you know. I was pretty much
content with whatever I had, but any advancement I made was always
because I was chasing a woman or women, one or the other.
A: You know what I mean? I mean I even wanted to become a
video guy just to attract girls. That was the reason - it sure
wasn't because I had grown up wanting to reform the media.
D: Well, let's get into that. We'll get into that later,
D: ...at this point now, you're getting out of the Navy.
You said you went to college.
A: Yeah, yeah. I found out that you could get out of the Navy
up to 90 days early if you went to college, and Scarsdale High
had been very nice to me and had allowed me to take a few tests
and a few courses in English. And they gave me a diploma...
A: So I had graduated in '68. NYU accepted me, and I found
an apartment through a friend of a friend of a friend of my cousin's
D: Where was that?
A: 108 Thompson Street between Prince and Spring.
D: That's the one you kept. I remember that one.
A: Yeah, I was there for a long time. It turned out that I
had never heard of SoHo when I moved in there.
D: I don't think it was SoHo yet. Nobody called it that.
A: It was another two years, I think. I don't think it was
really called SoHo until SoHo Weekly News came out, you
know - pretty much the beginning of that, but anyway maybe not.
Here's what really counts, Davidson; I was six blocks from Global
D: That's right...what were you majoring in at NYU?
D: That's what I majored in at NYU.
A: Longer than I did, I hope.
D: Probably, yeah.
A: Because when I found out about videotape, it was like finding
out about women all over again.
D: I see...
A: It was like finding out about sex all over again is what
I really should say.
A: Because I realized that this was...this was an angle...you
know, this was something like...this is like what, you know,
a musician would have a guitar or he could sing.
D: Okay...so you went out to Antioch...you were going to
NYU at the time?
A: No, no, I was still in the Navy...
D: Oh, you were still in the Navy...right...
A: Yeah, I was on leave - I was on my last leave.
A: And, so we went out there and we experimented with video.
D: What was the experience like to you? Tell me about that
whole thing. You went out there with this girl and delivered
her safely, I presume, to your cousin...
D: ...and your cousin was a director or a...
A: He was a director and he is still. Still working on it
out in Hollywood. It's very limited success kind of a thing,
but he's always trying out there.
D: Okay...so anyway...you arrived at Antioch, Yellow Springs,
and what happened?
A: Well, there was a pretty dynamic cast of characters. There
was Dominic who was the bouncer at Max's Kansas City...
[This refers to Dom Izzp. Izzo started as a painter working
to support himself as a waiter in Village restaurants such as
at the Ninth Circle in Greenwich Village. He was also the manager
of the Waverly Gallery for a time. Gradually, the restaurant
and night club business claimed him totally. He worked as a bouncer
at Max's Kansas City, a Union Square restaurant popular with
artists in the late sixties and early seventies. In time he had
his own club in the Colonnades near Astor Place. Izzo developed
into a Runyonesque character, savoring the low-life of New York
City to the full. He carried a pistol sometimes. Drugs and the
fast life took its toll, however, and Dom Izzo died prematurely
of natural cause in the late 80s.]
D: I got to tell you a story about Dominic...he was the
first guy I met in New York City...
A: He was one of the first that I met!
D: Yeah...he lived right downstairs...I lived at 24 Minetta
Lane...I lived on the top floor when I first came to New York...that
was in 1959...
A: That's a Greenwich Village address now...
D: Yeah...and he lived just on the...he lived on the third
floor. He lived on the third floor of that building.
A: Gee, he must have died of an overdose at some point.
D: I don't know...I don't know if he's still around.
A: He died...I'm pretty sure I heard he died. He was a pretty
D: Yeah, I know...
A: He had these gorgeous chicks with him...I mean...and there
was one girl named Candy, I mean she was just this dynamite intelligent
chick, you know...
D: I used to visit him. He moved out of there (Minetta
Lane) and then he moved over to the West Village somewhere and
he had a son, Mark.
A: Mmm...I didn't know that, but I'll tell you, Dominic was
very important to me, too.
A: Because I'll tell you what...it comes a little bit later
in the story, but you'd be interested in this actually...
D: Well, we'll get there, we'll get there...
A: Ha-ha, okay...
D: So anyway, there was Dom Izzo and....
A: Dominic and these girls, my cousin, Ira, and Frank Gillette,
plus the local film instructor, David...I forget his last name.
He got killed in a car wreck a few years later....
A: I just can't remember his last name. But he was the film
instructor out in Antioch.
A: And Ira...ah...well, what was going on was they were shooting
video tape...they were shooting video tapes like this: they had
Dominic playing a larger-than-life kind of character and Candy,
his girlfriend, dancing around - just kind of weird video tape.
They shot a videotape in which I played the part of a returned
Viet-Nam veteran talking to two college students.
A: ...and these two guys, ah, asked me what it was like to
kill someone. I knew a guy in Scarsdale who had been a Marine
in the Dominican Republic and I had asked him the same question,
so I gave these guys his answer, which was, "Well, it's
like shooting a tree." That was kind of a tribute to Marine
Corp training because this was not a crazy guy. But he said,
"Well, Andy, it's like shooting a tree." And he had
absolutely no second thoughts about it.
A: But that...that is not the attitude I would have had or
you probably, so...
D: No, surely not...
A: So, that's what I said and these guys are.... they were
freaking out, but after the tape was off, I guess, I confessed
to 'em that I had made it up or something like that. And there
was another. It was a really funny video tape...an interview
of Frank Gillette playing a character called Musthava Fix...okay...Musthava
A: Like "must have a fix."
D: Yeah, must have a fix...right...yeah...
A: And...ah...you oughta ask Frank about that, but he was
like an incredible wise guy wearing a kind of a fez...
A: And anyway what happened with that video tape?
D: How long did that process go on?
A: I was there probably a couple of days...something like.
D: And what was the dynamic of the thing...can you explain
the whole scene a little more in detail?
A: From my point of view, what seemed to be going on was Ira
had this video equipment and they were trying to find ways to
A: And I don't know exactly how Ira and Frank Gillette met
up, but Ira pretty much organized this trip...
A: And my cousin was into it because, you know, his theater
thing - he just had lots of contacts, he knew lots of people.
D: Uh-huh. What did your cousin do...in this...in this
A: I remember a little bit of video of him playing a part
of some kind, but, you know, it's kind of fuzzy. The video...some
of the video wound up as part of Wipe Cycle at Howard
D: Oh, yeah.
A: Some of the video actually made it to Global Village with
Ira and I actually saw the video tape of myself, but according
to Ira, John Reilly erased all of those video tapes at some point.
D: He did?
A: That's a pretty common story. A lot of the video from the
early days is gone, like the video tape I shot of Jimmy Hendrix...or
Fennie Shakur, you know Tupak Shakur's mother.
A: That's all gone...
D: Okay, so when you were doing the thing at Antioch, and
when it was over, was this the first time you'd seen video or
been exposed to it?
A: The first...ah...the first thing...the first video camera
thing I ever did, aside from being in the Peanut Gallery on a
Howdy Doody show...
D: Oh, were you in the Peanut Gallery?
A: Yeah, once or twice. My grandfather knew how to get things
D: Holy shit...that's interesting.
A: I was there. I was definitely a Howdy Doody devotee.
D: Oh, man, I used to watch Howdy Doody.
A: Yeah, well, I felt I looked enough like him...
A: AnywayNo, the very first thing was Ripley's "Believe
It or Not" in Times Square. They had a video camera. I remember
seeing people looking at themselves and finally - you know -
not wanting to do it myself. Not wanting to cooperate with anything,
not even something like this. But finally I had to. "Well,
I better take a look," and I walked past it and made eye
contact - you know - looked down the center of the lens which
was right above the video monitor. I guess I saw myself on television.
I must have been about fourteen when that happened, but...but
certainly in terms of taping, there's only one incident that
precedes the Antioch thing and that was a peculiar thing that
happened on my ship. There was a bit of a shortage of sonar technicians,
so we got assigned a gunner's mate to stand sonar watches. Well,
it was all bullshit anyway, so it didn't make much difference.
So we had this guy named Frenchy Fontaneau.
A: Frenchy Fontaneau...he was a tall skinny guy from Louisiana,
good-natured, sweet, okay? Compared to me, he wasn't...he did
not operate as quickly as I did, okay?
So this is what happened, Davidson. I was on a ship that had
been updated with the latest obsolete sonar equipment; you know?
Nothing we had would help us in a fight with a submarine, but
this is the latest stuff and one of the things we had was an
86-channel audio recorder. This 86-channel audio recorder would
record audio from all the incoming audio from sonar contacts,
and when you played these two-inch tapes back - this is an 86-tract
two-inch tape - you would get a flawless-looking sonar picture.
You know - it would look just like sonar picture. It was video
tape in it's own weird way.
A: And what I did was, I put one of these tapes on and called
Frenchy in and I said, "Frenchy, look don't say anything
to anybody because we'll be up all night chasing it, but this
is a submarine." And the sonar's going "whoowhip,"
"whoowhip," "whoowhip" and - you know - there's
this big orange thing there so that was my first videotape playback
experience and I did it to play a trick on somebody.
A: And I would say that almost every videotape I've ever shot
has ended up somehow giving me some little insider advantage
that made me feel more secure...just about every videotape has
made me feel a little more powerful about my own surroundings,
you know? For instance, if I shoot a videotape of a...ah...well,
okay, well, let me not give you a for-instance....ask me another
question....ask me another question.
D: Okay, so you had done this thing at Yellow Springs at
Antioch. It must have made some impression on you. What were
you thinking about it? Did you understand at that point that
this was going to be important to you or...?
A: Ah...it was kind of like having - you know - a pretty good
poker hand, waiting for the draw. Like having, having, jacks
and queens, really having a good feeling about getting a full
boat. This was something that I knew that if I pursued this,
it would be a direction to go. In the meantime, I'm sitting in
a French class at NYU looking at this girl named Jennifer. I'm
thinking, "Geeze...she's gorgeous and how...how can you
be this good looking?" And I don't have anything to offer
her except I'm like this feckless college student.
A: So, I went home and I called Ira Schneider. I think he
had given me his phone number; I think I'd had it all these months.
I remember I bumped into Frank Gillette after Yellow Springs.
I was down on St. Mark's Place in my uniform with one of my Navy
buddies and I ran into Frank Gillette on the street. I think
he was a waiter at the Dom, which was this crummy club.
[Editor's Note: Actually the Dom was not so crummy when
it opened around 1965. In fact it was an unpretentious bar with
a good jukebox, a good dance floor, and a well-integrated clientele
It was slightly below street level and it was located in a large
building owned by a Polish community organization at 23 St. Marks
Place between 3rd and 2nd on the north side of the street. It
soon became a popular in the mid-sixties with jet setters and
other café society types. A few years later, that same
building, then painted blue, housed the Electric Circus. The
Dom was owned by Stanley, who also operated Stanley's Bar at
12th and Avenue B, a favorite haunt of filmmakers, photographers
and other East Village denizens in the early to mid-sixties]
D: Frank was a waiter at the Dom?
[Editor's note: Yes, Frank was a waiter at the Dom, and
lasted for about a week..]
A: Yeah, well check your facts, but I'm pretty sure that's
why he was on St. Mark's Place at this time. And he said to look
him up and so between the two of them - somehow or other - I
got in contact with Ira and I called Ira about six days before
Global Village was due to open. When I hung up the phone, I walked
over to Global Village, whipped out my penknife and started cleaning
coax cable because we were making up coax cable. We were using
the wrong impedance. Instead of a nice rubber - you know - it
was this plastic impregnated stuff where you had to tease the
little wires out.
D: Now, had you done this in the Navy?
A: I'd seen it done. I'd done a little tiny bit of soldering
or something - I knew how. But, there were people there who knew
how to do things. There was a guy named Joe who lived on the
top floor in that building who put a lot of stuff together, including
D: Joe who?
A: Segal...I don't know...I think it was Segal...
D: Joe Segal...yeah...
A: But I don't know...I will guarantee you this, that he's
not in contact with any...anybody...you know...He had really
D: Oh, bad breath, yeah....
A: Ha-ha... the reason I remember it is that he showed me
that he had a piece of coax stuck between his two front teeth
because his method for cleaning coax cable was to bite through
D: Oh, yeah...
A: So that...you know...so I'm looking at this guy, he has
this big shard of plastic stuck in his teeth and this orange
vapor coming out of his mouth....
D: So you just walked into Global Village one day and...
A: Walked in and met Ira...
D: Ira was there? What year are we looking at now?
A: This was November - the last week of November of '69.
D: The last week in November of '69.
A: That's when Global Village opened; I'm almost sure of it...
D: Yeah, I guess that's about right.
A: Sure of the year and the month...it may have been a few
D: Right, right. Okay, go ahead.
A: Yeah, so what I did was, I helped make up these cables...
D: You just introduced yourself. There was Ira, right?
D: He said that's okay, Andy's cool, right and...
A: Well, he did coach me to come over and get involved and,
you know, that's pretty good volunteering in those days...so,
I volunteered. And I wound up reaping a tremendous benefit from
it. I became the VJ. I was probably the first video disc jockey.
I wasn't picking my own records. John Reilly was setting the
play list and we were playing back videotapes, such as John
and Samantha, which is a friend of his named John, and his
A: There was a big difference of opinion though that happened
pretty quickly and Ira got squeezed out of Global Village very
near the beginning of the run.
D: What was that about?
A: Ahha lack of money is always part of everything. But in
this particular case, I think Ira had a vision of an open-ended
interactive kind of thing. But John was very insistent on coming
up with one program that would play back at the same time every
time. That's what he wanted. And that's, that's the way it ended
up. What happened with Global Village was that we showed videotape.
We took out an ad in the Village Voice and when I say
we, believe me, it wasn't me, I mean I was just there, okay?
D: Yeah, yeah...
A: These older guys were more experienced; they the ones who
were really doing all these things. But I remember now that they
- we - had an ad in the Voice showing maybe a shot of
The Who from Woodstock on television and we had very dismal
attendance for about two weeks. Then John took a shot from this
porno flick - not really a porno flick, a skin flick - skin video
that he had shot, and put that picture in the newspaper and the
place was packed.
D: Right, sex sells, of course...
A: Yeah, well, that's what I found out. And, you know, I don't
think it had any real part of my decision not to show my sexual
videotapes, you know - not to lead with that anyway. I'm happier
with videotapes of subways and bums because I really am a sex
guy...I really do like sex...
D: Right...when...where did you start...did you start making
videotapes at Global Village?
A: Yeah, yeah...the first tape I shot was an interview with
one of the New York Black Panther 21 who was Afeeni Shakur who
was Tupak Shakur's mother.
A: This was some years before he was born.
A: And I was interested in interviewing her because I considered
myself to be a radical politics guy...
A: ...and, you know, I was anti-war and the name of my imaginary
company was Off-the-Pig Media...
A: And, so, I went around looking for things that a guy like
that would videotape and I went up to the headquarters of the
Panther 21. I talked to Afeeni Shakur.
D: Where was that?
A: It was about 120th. It was, like, west of Lenox Avenue,
about 118th Street roughly.
A: You know, I don't exactly remember...but it was...I was
much more familiar with the eastern part of Harlem because I
had a job there working for my uncle.
D: Oh, what were you doing?
A: I was working as a plumber's assistant in his hotel.
D: Oh, this is when you were going to NYU?
A: Well, I was going to college. When I first started, I used
to work for him on weekends, even when I was over at Global Village.
In fact, he gave me $400 and said invest it in Global Village,
so I went and like gave these guys the money...
A: $400, right and I got two stock certificates...
D: Oh, beautiful...
A: ...at Global Village for my trouble. I don't know where
they are. I just threw them out because I went through a phase.
D: But it was a 501(c)30(?) wasn't it? That would have
meant that you couldn't buy stock in Global Village.
A: No, it started off as a corporation, a New Jersey-based
corporation...definitely interested in making this the thing...setting
something up that would be his...his thing.
D: Do you remember Rudy Stern?
A: Very well, yeah, I do. In fact, I went, after some months
shooting videotape at Global Village, and showing some of it
at the show I went with Rudy Stern's girlfriend, Joie Davidow,
to the first women's lib march in 1970, you know, with Bella
Abzug up front.
A: And I held VTR for her and she walked down the street shooting
D: Davidow? What was her name?
A: Joie. J-O-I-E. Davidow. She was an opera singer.
D: J-O-I-E. Davidow.
A: She was a soprano.
D: Does she sing now?
A: I haven't heard of her in twenty years, so I don't know.
A: Rudy might still. In any case - ah-h, right - I shot some
street video for Global Village, but then came a night - okay,
now, you know - there was trouble with Ira Schneider. In fact,
it ended up with the police coming and.....
D: Trouble with Ira? What do you mean?
A: Well, when they split up, they had tremendous differences
about the direction for Global Village. I mean, here's these
three guys set this thing up and discover they have nothing in
common. Ha-ha! Or at least Ira had nothing in common with John
A: And so Ira got forced out one way or another and when he
came to pick up some of his video equipment, John called the
cops who made Ira leave without it, you know, he was humiliated.
It was a very ugly scene. So, I knew early on that the world
can get ugly.
D: You know, I helped Ira remove that stuff...
A: Oh, yeah...
A: It was later...
D: It was after...it was after Christmas or something.
Around Christmas and...or maybe a little before Christmas, I'm
not sure, but I remember it was one night and Ira and myself
and I think David Cort and I'm trying to remember who else it
might have been, but anyway we went up there and we pulled all
that stuff out of there.
[Editor's note: The equipment in question was a number
of "jeeped" TV sets, TV set which had been converted
to monitors. Actually, the personnel involved in the adventure
were myself, David Cort, Parry Teasdale, Ira himself, and perhaps
Chuck Kennedy. We hauled them down the stairs and into Parry's
green VW minvan, "Greenie." We took them to Ira's 5th
A: Well, another guy that they had trouble with was the guy
who made the switching system. They had trouble with everybody.
D: What trouble did they have with the guy who made the
D: Who was that, by the way?
A: This guy Joe with the...
D: Oh, Joe, with the bad breath....
A: Yeah, with the insulation in his teeth - big fat guy, but
nice. I mean, he was a nice guy. He was just difficult to be
around. But, what he was doing was...he would go by Global Village
and, since he'd installed the burglar alarm, he also knew how
to take a magnet and set off the burglar alarm and go upstairs
and go to sleep.
A: And he had done this like once or twice this week...well...one
night I got a call from Rudy who lived virtually across the street
from Global Village at the time, saying that the alarm is going
off, would you go check on it. And there had been a couple of
times I'd gotten phone calls like that in my life where I said,
D: Wait a minute...why did he call you to go check on it?
A: That's what I said, "Why don't you go check on it?"
He said, "Oh, okay, Andy, well I will." So, the next
time I saw him, he wanted to talk about some changes and so I
got kicked out of Global Village. Ha-ha!
D: You got kicked out of Global Village?
A: Yeah, yeah, even though I was a stockholder.
D: Oh, I see.
A: So, let me tell you, I had something much better to do,
though. Global Village - I don't know exactly what happened to
it - they stopped showing videotape. They stopped the theater
aspect of it and got into...
D: Wait. When did they kick you out?
A: This must have been probably in '71 or something.
D: Oh, you were there a long time...
A: Well, I couldn't have been there that long.
D: Well, you were there from '69.
A: Yeah, I was there, I was there. I stayed on after Ira had
gone. After Ira split, I said to him, "Well, look, you know,
this is an opportunity for me, so I'm going to stick with this
for a while."
D: Did you ever get any money out of it or any...
D: They never paid you anything?
A: Well, that wasn't what motivated me then.
D: No, I understand, I'm just trying to understand the
rational for kicking you out.
A: The rational for kicking me out was that I was a troublemaker
at that point...
D: What kind of trouble were you making?
A: I didn't want to go check on the burglar alarm.
D: Really, that simple, huh?
A: I guess it was that simple, in any case, I'm sure that
there was disenchantment all around, and on my part, as well.
D: What was your experience of John and Rudy?
A: My experience of 'em was...
D: Without getting too personal...you know what I mean.
A: I thought that they both, first of all, were independent
guys who had to make a living on their own. They didn't have
the luxury of the G.I. Bill like I did, or like Ira's family
A: So I knew that they had more pressure on them than I did.
And I thought that, considering that they had that pressure and
were trying, you know, I thought that...well, you know. I left
not really liking them very much and I left a little bit angry.
But you know, in retrospect, I realized that I learned quite
a bit, and the labor that I expended there, far from deserving
to be paid for, it was fun...you know, it was fun to do this
stuff. It was fun to be the video disc jockey. It was fun bringing
my girlfriends over there in the middle of the week, putting
on the show for 'em and making out all over the cushions.
D: Oh, cool...
A: So, you know, I had...I had a very good time there and,
you know, at the end, it got sour, but look, you know, down here
in Houston I was shooting videotape for a guy who said, "Andy,
here's what's happening. We've met...we'll cooperate for a couple
of months, and then it will all be over 'cause I've been through
That's the way it works and that...that is the way it works.
You know, the Videofreex stayed together a very long time...
D: Yeah, that's true...
A: But most associations between artistic people, you know;
a couple of months is about all you can stand before one feels
A: So, anyway, I had a much better place to go, though, because
NYU was six blocks in the other direction. I was going to college
there. There was a guy named Bobby Mariano who was absolutely
an important figure in early video as far as I'm concerned in
that he got Videoteque started at NYU. That was the video
club where anybody could come in and shoot videotape. All they
had to do was get past me, 'cause I was in charge of the video
D: Bobby Mariano?
A: Yeah, he went into the straight world from NYU. He actually
ended up running the first public access station at, remember,
Sterling Manhattan Cable or Teleprompter?
A: It was Sterling Manhattan Cable & Teleprompter when
they started. I'm pretty sure what he did was he presided over
public access at the time that it became unified. So, he was
the first director of public access in New York.
Oh...there was a guy named John Sanfrantello before him or something
like that, but, in any case, Bobby Mariano was a terrific guy.
He lives out in Hollywood. I haven't seen him in about five years.
Yeah...he visited here about five years ago and got me a thousand
bucks to shoot this easy videotape. I was so grateful to him
- it helped.
A: Anyway, so Bob Mariano and Red Burns, who later founded
the Alternative Media Center - which is still a big deal,
I think - they were at NYU. There was a professor named Jackie
Parks there who was good - these were good energy people. They
didn't know videotape from anything. They knew nothing about
video. They learned more video from me than I learned from them,
but they had a spirit of adventure about it.
D: I guess they had equipment, too...
A: We were able to get equipment. We had a couple of portapaks,
some spare batteries and all the usual portapak trouble, you
D: We're talking about '71 now..
A: Yeah, yeah...definitely by '71 I was doing this. Eh-h-h,
I think probably '70. I don't think I could have made it all
the way to '71 at Global Village. I think I was probably out
of there by April of '70. I think I was there about six months.
A: Ahh, anyway, so I had this job at NYU passing out video
equipment, both in the School of the Arts and then later at Videoteque,
as well. So, I was in charge of like eight portapaks or something
A: Yeah, it was spelled V-I-D-E-O-T-E-Q-U-E. Like discoteque,
I guess it was.
D: Videoteque. Who ran it?
A: Well, it was the Alternative Media Center people: Red Burns,
Jackie Parks, Bobbie Mariano, a girl named Eileen O'Connell.
Oh, geez, George Stoney - please, don't let me forget George
Stoney. He was the soul of public access.
He was a fellow from Canada, a teacher.
D: He's still there...
A: Dull and stodgy to many, and he and I eventually - well,
I became kind of an outrageous hippy at NYU and he kind of lost
his interest in me when he realized I was more flash than anything
else, but he did give me a lot of confidence in my camera work.
Ahh...and so he was a terrific guy. Actually the first public
access shows that were ever on were things that he worked on,
and I shot some of them.
A: I think public access pretty much started in Manhattan.
There may have been some places like in Pennsylvania that had
it first...I'm not really sure, but the first significant public
access stuff was at Manhattan Cable...
A: And,so, Stoney was involved in that and certainly the Alternative
Media Center and he was the department head at NYU.
[Editor's note: At this point there was a tape change during
which Andy discusses his experience with pancreatic cancer.]
A: Yeah, it's been a miserable kind of thing, but the weird
thing is that my father died about a year and half ago from the
same thing. And so, when I found out about it, I wasn't very
surprised and I knew I'd been in trouble for months.
A: But, finally, you know it just got...you know, I turned
D: You turned yellow?
A: Oh, yeah, yeah. My bile duct was obscured by this cancer
- a real mess - they had to take out my gall bladder and duodenum
and reroute my stomach. It's called the Whipple procedure and,
fortunately for me, I've been uncomfortable and miserable enough
of my life so that I was able to handle this. You know, I mean
if I'd been like a clean living athlete all my life then this
would be too much for anybody who hadn't felt lousy before.
A: This was unbelievable. But a couple of good things happened
though after - one was that Elaine came here...
[Editor's note: This refers to Elaine Summers, filmmaker,
choreographer, intermedia artist, and an important body therapist.
Andy had been her student for some years in New York.]
D: Oh, yeah, that was...she...she enjoyed that trip very
much. She was glad to see you.
A: I was having a real hard time...
D: She said you seemed real perky....
A: Well, that's because she was around. When I'm around her,
I don't have to - there's no struggle for rank, you know. I know
who's boss when I'm with her.
D: Yeah, ahh, right...
A: So, I listened to her and sure enough. I've been thinking
about her probably daily for 25 years since she helped me get
over a back problem.
A: And so, I just needed to refresh that. I can't tell you
how helpful it is to just, you know, mentally conjure up a picture
of Elaine, you know.
D: Oh, no, she's truly a wonderful person.
A: Twenty years ago or six months ago when she was here. She's
a real star and she really is able to influence me for my own
benefit, so that's...that's why I was so happy when she said
she would come.
D: Well, that's great...well, listen, let's get back to
where we were here now - so you were taking - you were in charge
of eight portapaks here and you were taking them out and you
were making tapes - the subway tape was one. What other tapes
did you make?
A: Ahh, I shot videotape up in Harlem. Kids playing around
in a vacant lot...I'd shoot things off the screen sometimes...I
would shoot videotape of musicians. I shot lots of videotape
that I didn't end up with and, you know, you'd have to remind
me of what it was...ahh...I'm pretty sure I went out to Pennsylvania
and shot some videotape with a friend of mine, shooting....shooting
A: That was really the beginning of something else for me.
You know, the biggest thing I did at NYU - the most important
thing and the thing that I hope still exists - are the videotapes
I shot of Buckminister Fuller. Bobby Mariano set up situations
so that when Bucky Fuller gave his lectures at Town Hall in about
D: Was that the World Game?
A: I don't think it was. I think World Game was something
that had actually happened before that. I don't associate that
contest with this. He was talking about his domes and tensegrity,
and...I'm pretty sure he talked about Kenneth Snelson a little
bit...I don't really know that much.
D: Kenneth Snelson, my God, yes...
A: Well, that's who Fuller credits with invention of tensegrity.
D: Oh, really...
A: Oh, yeah, he...he considered Snelson to be his source.
D: Amazing. Snelson's still around. He does sculpture.
A: I never met him or...
D: Oh, I met him. He's a friend of Russell Conner.
A: Oh, yeah, great, oh Russell, yeah. It hurts to hear the
names of some people who are good to you...people who are just
fuckin' good to you.
D: Yeah, Russell is a good guy.
A: Ahh, man, he was good to me. He gave me five thousand bucks
for my first portapak, and he gave me five thousand for my second
A: Yeah, that was all part of New York State Council on the
Arts and perception...
D: Sure...of course. Well, let me ask you now...so meantime,
you were doing this, you had friends, I presume, people you knew.
A: Oh, yeah, fabulous. Because I had confidence, you know,
I wasn't an ex-sailor anymore - I was this video guy. I knew
that I had something going. I hadn't had a haircut in a year
and when I walked into a room, you definitely knew my head was
D: Hah, right...
A: It was gigantic. it was like yours.
D: Yeah, right...I know I had a lot of hair, too.
A: Yeah, well, believe me, I don't now. I combed most of it
out doing chemotherapy. So...
D: Oh, really...
A: Yeah, boy I really got to be a mess. I don't want to be
talking about that...what I want to talk about is that I had
a lot of confidence...and Dominic turned up...
D: Dominic Izzo...
A: Was that his last name...
D: His last name was Izzo...I-Z-Z-O....
D: Dom Izzo...he was a painter originally...
A: His life was much larger than my life was, that I knew.
But, what he said to me was this, "I went over to the Tarot
Club." He'd quit Max's Kansas City and he either opened
his own club or he was the doorman at this club called the Tarot
Club which was on the other side of Union Square.
D: What year are we talking?
A: Two or three...'73 probably.
D: Yeah, okay...
A: The reason I say that is that I've been going to things
like the Moratorium, you know, the demonstration in Washington.
This was on the water...it was a big thing down in Nixon's back
yard. It was a demonstration where lots of people including myself,
I think, gone into a fountain like out in front of the Lincoln
D: It might have been May Day...
A: No, this was a Moratorium. Anyway, whichever demonstration
it was, I went to Dominic and I told him well, you know, I'm
still trying to shoot videotape and I'm still interested in politics
and he said to me..."Let the kids do it." And I said,
"Geez," he's telling me let the kids do it. Gee, I'm
not really that much of a kid anymore, you know, because I've
been in the Navy already and I was probably 27, 28. What he meant
by that was, "Take care of your own life, there'll always
be people who protest the war. And there are plenty, you know.
It's not up to you. Go do something for yourself, or do something
big, do something real, let the kids spend their time telling
other people not to do something." Well, it made a big impression
on me. I realized, hey - you know - what he's telling me is spend
less time on absolute futility, because that was my opinion of
the war and the anti-war movement. It seemed to be having an
influence, but I didn't really think it was because I don't think
that you can tell powerful people to do things or to not to do
things. You know, you have to become a powerful person and do
them yourself, otherwise your politics is doomed.
A: And I felt that my politics was doomed. I'd had a chance
to get busted a couple of times like when they had the student
strike at NYU.
A: ...and I chose not to - you know - so I knew I wasn't going
to go all the way with this.
A: I decided not to...not to go with it at all, you know,
and to get to shooting videotape. Eventually, I got into shooting
videotape of dancers. I shot a real nice videotape called "Roof
Dance"- two dancers while I was at NYU. And basically I
got more media oriented than politics oriented - the new politics
was to be involved in media, involved in the information economy.
That's what everybody was talking about thirty years ago. Now
they're talking about it on television, but back then, you would
talk about it with your girlfriend, you know.
D: Right...talk a little more about that.
A: Well, there was a tremendous amount of idealism surrounding
video. Guys like Howie Gutstadt and Ken Marsh over at People's
Video Theater were true believers, you know. I mean they really
felt that if they led their lives a certain way, conduct themselves
a certain way, they'd have an effect. David Cort to me always
seems to be at the other end of that spectrum.
[Ed. Note: David Cort was one of the founders of the Videofreex.]
D: How do you mean?
A: Well, I didn't think that he was motivated by idealism
as much as by more adult things. Not, you know, getting rich
quick or anything like that, but similar to John and Rudy, just
staking out a kind of a territory and trying to make it real.
This was kind of based on the...what I thought was kind of an
infamous meeting where the entire New York video collective is
over there at your loft seeing your new editing set-up and this
particular editing set-up was half inch played back into a three-quarter
D: ...one inch...
A: It was one inch, okay...and the way you made the edit was
you'd backspace...you'd estimate backspacing both tapes, and
then when you got to the edit point, you'd throw a switch.
D: Yeah, insert editing on IVC.
D: We bought a one-inch IVC.
A: Instant video confidence.
A: Instant video confidence. They had a little meter that
could tell you if you were actually recording or not.
D: Yeah, it did actually...yeah....
[Editors's note: Actually, IVC stood for International
Video Corporation. It was, at that time, a breakthrough machine,
or so it seemed to us. It was also quite a handsome video deck.
Insert editing was certainly the professional way to edit videotape
in those days and for some years after.
The method was to lay down a control track, usually just a black
signal, on the entire length of the tape that you were editing
on. Then all edits were made in the insert mode. The distinctive
features of insert editing were these: insert edits did not record
control track, using instead the control track already laid down;
video insert edits gave you a vertical interval edit both going
into the edit and coming out; and video and audio could be edited
separately as desired. Usually, there were two audio tracks,
so music, voiceovers, etc, could be laid down right next to the
existing audio. Having a continuous control track was an advantage,
resulting in a more stable edit]
A: That's what IVC stood for...well, it stood for something
else, too, I don't know what. But anyway, I thought - well, see
I have to say it now because I told you - it seems kind of naïve
to think this, but I thought, "This is a very commercial
kind of a thing to be involved in, you know, twenty-five bucks
an hour...who the hell can afford twenty-five bucks an hour to
D: Is that what we were charging?
D: We were going to charge that much? Amazing.
A: Well, that's what I thought...I don't think anybody ever
took you up on it...but I...
D: I used to charge twenty-five bucks an hour when I had
my editing room.
D: But that was back in 1979, 1980. That was one of the
cheapest editing rooms in town.
A: Yeah, well, I'm sure that my editing was always cheaper
because it seemed like I never edited videotape except for possible
chicks. My only clients were possible girl friends - and not
many of them. It didn't work out that well. In any case, Davidson,
I was at NYU for four years and it was a very exciting time.
D: Did you graduate?
A: Yes, yes...
D: Oh, congratulations...
A: I'll tell you why though. It wasn't because I did all my
classes. It was because they really liked me at NYU. They knew
that I had put in a tremendous amount of effort and had pretty
much been, you know, paid minimal wage. I got paid for all the
things I did, but, you know, they liked me, so they came up with
the university without walls. It was one of those open-ended
concepts where you get credit for things you'd done in life.
A: Between the credit I got for hanging around with Frank
Gillette and the credit I got for being in the Navy and the credit
I got when we had the student strike because of Cambodia, plus
I got passing grades in all the courses I took that semester,
which were courses I didn't even crack a book for. You know,
like I never would have passed these things except that the incursion
into Cambodia happened to come along and saved me or else I could
never have graduated. But I got all my required courses out of
the way because of the student strike.
D: Oh, great...
A: I'm a little cynical about my own credential as a college
D: Oh, well..
A: ...when you get the broad picture, I deserved it.
D: It's not such a big deal. Well, let me see now...Raindance...
you worked with Raindance for a bit - and you were hanging out
there. Tell me about your involvement with...
A: When I was involved with Raindance...
D: When was that?
A: Frank Gillette was already out of that picture.
A: Okay. Who was there was Michael Shamberg and Megan Williams,
some other characters who were in and out?
A: Jody was the name of a woman.
D: Jody, yeah...
A: ...and she had a boyfriend who'd had a thing called the
"Fobile Muck Truck."
D: Oh, you're talking about Dean and Dudley - the "Fobile
Muck Truck" was Dean and Dudley Evenson.
[Ed note: The Jody in question was Jody Silbert, who now
lives in southern California. Jody was involved in a number
of Raindance acitivities in the early 70s, including TVTV.]
A: Okay, well, then I'm probably wrong because I don't think
they were at Raindance. But I do remember Dean and Dudley.
A: Dudley was the girl...
D: Yeah, that's right. Dudley was the girl...
A: Ahh, well, anyway, I guess I'm a little confused about
who was who, but...
D: But, let's get back to Raindance...
A: Yeah...so...well Raindance had a loft on about 23rd Street...22nd...
D: 22nd Street I think it was.
A: And I was up there a lot...I went there to show videotape
when they had video showings, which were pretty well attended.
In fact, I think I was the technician there except for the night
when I left early because my roommate had picked up these two
girls and I followed them uptown. But anyway....
D: Who was your roommate?
A: My roommate was a guy from Scarsdale, New York, who was
a big, tall blonde, handsome guy who was real popular in Scarsdale.
Ahh...he just had the knack, you know. He was one of these guys
who'd fucked a 1,000 women by the time he was 25.
D: Oh, I see...
A: Basically, he'd had a job in the Caribbean at a spa or
something like that. That accounted for a lot of his numbers.
D: Oh, I see...
A: He really just turned out to be a terrific guy, you know.
I thought he would be a stuck-up snob, but he was a great guy
named Jerry Lynch, and he and my brother and I formed a specious
video group called the Acme Video Rangers.
A: In that group, my brother probably shot an hour of videotape
or two. Jerry never shot any, so I was the only Acme Video Ranger
D: Okay, so Raindance...
A: What Raindance was at the time was a kind of a clearinghouse
to apply for grants. What it really was was a platform for Michael
Shamberg. It turned into his vehicle, you know. It gave birth
to TVTV - TVTV was right out of Raindance.
D: Right, it was right out of his version of Raindance.
A: Yeah...the latter day Raindance. Now the other person who
was at Raindance was Marco Vassi...
D: I remember Marco well.
A: Well, I remember meeting up with him at Raindance and talking
to him. A few years later he and I shot these really funny videotapes
with his girlfriend, Evelyn Honig...
D: Oh, yes, I remember Evelyn well.
A: I remember her well, also. And I got some great memories
of our acid trip to 2001 [ the film]. Davidson, I'm telling
you it was...there was no screen...it's happening in the...it
was 3-D...It was beyond 3-D...it was 3-D all around me...
A: That was great...anyway...that's the kind of thing that
these...that's why I wanted to get into video...to have afternoons
D: Yeah, right...
A: ...'cause I knew that you couldn't be a beatnik anymore...just
moving to Minetta Lane and going downstairs on weekends and going
over to...to the Black Cat Club or whatever, you know....
D: ... the Fat Black Pussy Cat...
A: Yeah, I mean, that...you couldn't...that wasn't enough
to be a beatnik anymore...
D: You remember all that though...
A: Well, I don't remember it from having done it...I remember
it from wanting to do it but being too young...
D: Oh, I see...
A: See, I used to go down to Greenwich Village - get drunk
and stuff like that - when I was living in the suburbs....
A: And, you know, I remember barfing my brains out on Bleecker
Street when I was about fifteen...
D: Oh, yeah, sure...
A: And, so, you know, I'd always wanted to be a beatnik. Then
when I was in the Navy, I heard about the hippies, so that's
pretty much what... to me...to me a beatnik; it was restricted
mobility. I mean, you couldn't get much further than your bongo
drums or your poetry, you know, except inside your mind....
A: ...but video looked to me, like, to engage the world, and
so I became a video hippy or a video freak...
D: Yeah, for sure...ummm...okay...so....ahhh...so we have
you now at Rain Dance...
D: Ummm...tell me, what did you notice about that group?
What were your observations of it?
A: Well...keep in mind now...we're really talking about Michael
D: What about Ira?
A: Ira was not around.
D: He's not around?
A: No, Ira was not involved with Raindance any more at all.
He was involved at the time in a phony video group that never
existed. It was the same group I was involved in. It was called
Perception and it was a program run by the Howard Wise Gallery.
It was a means for accepting grants from the New York State Council
in the Arts, all people who were kind of blue chip people to
give grants to because we had all gotten grants before.
A: So, that's the video group that Ira was part of during
that time - Perception - and that eventually fell apart for the
old reason...I started getting less money than the other ones
and I said to myself, "Well, next year it'll be no money
so I might as well just give up on it now, you know."
D: That was before Electronic Arts Intermix, I guess...
A: No, that was a program that Howard Wise ran there. It was
kind of concomitant with the growth in the early days of Electronic
Arts Intermix. For instance, I shot a video interview with Jean
Dupy, conducted by Howard Wise that, you know...I don't know
if they still have it....ha-ha...I hope they do...
A: Probably pretty rare footage...
D: Right, I imagine it would be...
A: Jean Dupuy, would you like...ahh...I don't have it...ha-ha...I
don't have a copy of any of this stuff...
A: Anyway, it probably exists there somehow...
D: Okay, so anyway back to Raindance...
A: Yeah...Raindance had a nice loft...I don't know everything
that was going on, but I know I was around...I hung around when
Michael and Megan were there and they were kind of tooling up
to Top Value Television. Shamberg went to Viet-Nam...
D: Yeah, I remember that...
A: ...to shoot videotape...
D: I remember he did, yeah...I saw the video or some of
A: Yeah...it's like guys complaining nobody even knows...this
is like 1974, you know, these guys are saying...or '73...these
guys are saying, you know...two of our buddies got killed last
night...nobody even knows the war's still on. It was pretty creepy.
But anyway, I got involved with Top Value Television...Shamberg
had me come in after they shot their Louisiana Zydeco tape to
help liven up the editing...
[My sense of this is that it was actually more like 1972
or so. Ed note.]
A: ...so I did some...
D: You didn't do any of this stuff..."Four More Years"
or any of the....
A: I worked on. I didn't work on "Four More Years."
I worked on....
D: ...the Democratic Convention...
A: ...the Republic Convention in Miami in '72.
D: That was "Four More Years."
A: Oh, that was? Okay! Well, believe me, my contributions
were utterly minimal. I...what I remember most about that was
taking a shit load of nitrous oxide and seeing a jet plane land
in the backyard.
D: Oh, I see...
A: But, I shot some videotape...I shot some videotape for
a friend of Ira Schneider's named some name...I can't remember
his name right now. It was a big nasty guy who made a lot of
money in software at one time....
D: Stanton Kay?
A: Yeah, that's it...ahhh...I was wrong and he was right about
something...he and I went into the convention floor to shoot
videotape and the videotape I knew was going to look lousy 'cause
it was so dark, but aside...but I also refused to like get up
and put this right in the delegate's face, you know, I was...I
was still playing cute. I got over that when I was in the news
business, but I didn't...you know, I mean at the time I didn't
have that feeling like I'm aggressively I'm going to push this
camera in your face until you scream at me to go away. You know,
I kind of conducted myself the way I would want to be treated
and it was the wrong, it was the wrong attitude. I mean, that's
not the way to be a cameraman.
A: But that was my attitude. So, you know, I have to hear
Stan Kay say, "Andy, you're a talented guy, you've got a
lot going for you, but I never want to work with you again."
And certainly we never did work again. Ha-ha! I don't think I
worked with TVTV again either. I only did these two things...I
helped them edit some videotape and then I went on this other
D: You must have met the Ant Farm guys - people like Hudson
A: Yeah, at some point I met 'em. Well, I met 'em during TVTV.
I met Hudson - we shot some videotape, but...
D: I'm still in touch with Hudson...
A: He's going to be here in Houston. He's probably here right
now. He has a show opening next week here.
D: Oh, really...where?
A: Same place I had my show last week - Diverse Works. Listen
to this: they bought me thirty-six 27"-video monitors -
it was like $20,000 worth of video monitors - so I get off my
fucking deathbed with two other guys and built fifty plywood
boxes - 3/4" plywood boxes - out of this beautiful plywood,
and remount all the picture tubes...
D: You ripped all the picture tubes out?
A: Yeah, remounted them in these wooden boxes that we made.
D: Holy shit!
A: It practically killed me, but it made me stronger once
I recovered. So, yeah, of course, the last ten monitors didn't
get there until three days before the show closed. But I did
set up 36-monitors...which was pretty cool.
D: Uh-huh...Say "Hello" to Hudson for me...
A: I sure will...if I see him...I'll go to the opening...he'll
be there...yeah. So, anyway, the main Top Value Television thing
that I did - come to think of it - was the Hollywood thing out
A: And that was one flop after another. I don't think anything
really came out of that trip.
D: You were doing a lot of karate around that time, as
A: Well, I had a crippling bad back thing. I mean I had the
worst bad back situation you could have - you know - like really
bad pain up and down my leg, and I'd been in the hospital for
three weeks. But at the same time, I was taking a cinematography
course from Beadatka at NYU, Beadatka being contemporary of Milos
A: People who brag about having been students of Scorcese
at NYU would also be well served to brag about being students
of Beadatka. He was a big Czechoslovakian guy and he saw my camera
work and he said, "Why do you do this video...you could
D: Probably true...
[Editor's note: Beadatka was recognizing the fact
that Andy Mann was an outstanding cameraman, which he certainly
was. His hand-held camera was extremely smooth, always in focus,
coming to rest on frames of real elegance.]
A: Well, I shot some nice looking black and white film of
a waterfall for him, but you know, when I shot it on video, it
looked better to me.
A: It's more alive...it looks...'cause video is like water,
you know, electrons and water, I mean...
D: Yeah, video is more like it...yeah...
A: Video is the most lifelike of all art forms. Video is the
most dynamic generator of color of any art form, I mean how many
tubes of oil paint would you have to buy before you could get
a red as intense as the red you get on television? You can't
do it. There is no other art medium that is a source of light.
It's all reflected light.
A: There's only one that shines. That's ours, Davidson...
A: That's our media...
A: So, I'm very proud of television
A: Yeah, so out in Hollywood when they had TVTV out in Hollywood,
not much came of that. We shot a videotape of a boxer, but the
boxer's father got mad at us when one of our groupies called
up and tried to date him, so our two month's work...
D: Called up and tried to date the boxer?
A: Yeah, this girl named Jan.
D: ...or his father?
A: Tried to date the seventeen-year-old boxer.
D: Oh, seventeen-year-old boxer, yeah.
A: Yeah, so like this wild blonde calls up and she's trying
to date him, so that was the end of us...
D: Ahh, that's too bad.
A: Yeah...and I don't...the only thing that came of it was
that they shot a video tape...I think I was in it for a few seconds...which
was the early history of video which they...it was kind of a
fictionalized account of video. It's about the only acting I've
D: Who was this now? Michael Shamberg?
A: This was out in Los Angeles...a girl named Eleanor Bingham
D: Eleanor Bingham, I remember her. She visited Maple Tree
Farm. Was she part of TVTV?
A: Yeah, for this particular exercise, she was like...she
was there...ahhh...there was a guy with a beard...a young guy
named Steve was part of it or I kind of remember him...he's a
good guy...ahhh...Elon Soltes....
D: Elon Soltes?
A:.Yeah. Well, this particular series was kind of recreated
video and it recreated CTL Electronics, but it was fictionalized.
It was a fictionalized account of early video.
D: Do you remember the title?
A: No, but well, something....it was TVTV or something...Top
Value Television? Geez, I don't remember, but you know...but
they had it...they would show it on I think like after Masterpiece
Theatre, probably not Masterpiece Theatre, but they'd, you know....
D: They'd show it after...you mean the reaction...
A: They'd show, I don't know, they'd show you know like...something
like the video and television review, probably, and then have
that at the end....
D: All right, well, I'm going to interview Michael Shamberg...
A: Shamberg's story is bigger than most of the stories it
turns out that we all have to tell. He's a mover, a shaker. He's
leadin' a very large life.
D: Yes, he is, yeah...
A: I knew him before, you know, well he always had...he always
had a connection. You know, he started off as a Time Magazine
A: That's how he found out about Raindance. He was...he was
writing a story for Time...
A: That's one thing that impressed me about him was that he
was a vegetarian...the first one I ever met...
D: A vegetarian...yeah?
A: I mean his idea of breakfast was to me was absolutely outlandish...he'd
go and buy a pint of blackberries and eat the whole thing and
I thought, geez, I mean how can you...ha-ha!...how extravagant...you
know, eat all these berries...but that was all he'd eat, you
know....so, he's probably still a vegetarian...I'd be curious
if he still is...
D: Yeah, that's interesting and I'll ask him.
[Editor's note: I did and he isn't.]
A: He...he gave me a couple of votes of confidence, you know.
He had me come in when they had all this tape from Louisiana,
but they just didn't have anybody to jazz it up through editing.
So I did the thing where you hit the edit button on a 3650 halfway,
I mean you hold down the edit button and you can.push the record
button down about halfway and it will go into record and record
over video, so it's like crash, insert, edit. And then when you
let go of the edit button, you go back out of the edit mode.
It was a way of editing on the fly with that old equipment....
A: You had to have a good touch, though. But he hired me to
come and do that and he hired me to go out to California, even
though they didn't have anything for me to do. That was the problem.
There was a real shortage of inspiration and the few things that
we came up with just...they just didn't go anywhere. Harold Ramos
worked on that thing, as well. Remember, he was a comedy guy
A: Harold Ramos....he's one of the Ghostbusters...
D: Oh, really?
A: Yeah, I have some video of auditions they held for this
D: Okay. You also used to hang out with Frank Gillette
a lot, I remember. So, tell me. You had a friendship with Frank
for a long time.
A: Yeah, well, you know he was like an older guy who knew
some ropes, you know. He knew about grants...ahh...it's...he
was pretty good. I knew him when he was living with a girl named
D: Joan Hennessey...of course, I remember her.
A: Yeah, and I'd go over there and play chess with them every
D: Ah-hah...he liked to play chess? Was he a good chess
A: Ahhm, well, yeah, when we started he used to cream me in
every game, but I was also playing with a roommate of mine and
I got into this. The roommate was an even stronger chess player,
so I got into suicidal attacks...as I lost dozens of chess games.
But I came out of it a much better player because I, you know,
had some idea of how to put a combination together at that point.
D: Do you play now?
A: Yeah, I play with Jim Harithas.
A: I play with him whenever he's in town. I try and get over
there two or three mornings a week. I'm the video curator of
the Art Car Museum, which is...he's director of the Art Car Museum
D: Yes, yes, I understand that.
[Editor's note: James Harithas earned a prominent place
in the history of video art as Director of the Everson Museum
of Art in Syracuse, New York, and later as Director of the Contemporary
Art Museum in Houston. It was he who appointed David Ross Video
Curator at the Everson, the first such appointment in the country.
Harithas was always of a subversive cast of mind, introducing
elements into the art museum world that had never had a place
there before. His Directorship of the Art Car Museum in Houston,
bears this out.]
A: And, so, I even have an excuse for hanging around with
him, but he's...he's lifetime - Harithas is my best friend. But
Gillette is real important guy. First of all, you know, Frank
Gillette is somebody you can talk to. He's interesting to talk
to. He just always had this arcane information, you know. I guess
probably he would go to Wieser's and read the first paragraph
on a lot of books because - generally speaking, you know - if
I ever came across a concept that he mentioned in a book, it
would be in the first chapter. Ha-ha.
That's a little nasty dig there, but...
D: I understand...
A: But the fact is that he had tremendous amount of information
and he had a terrific gift for being able to find quotes that
supported points that he was trying to make.
A: He also had a terrific gift for finding things on the beach
that he would use in collage photographs...
A: Well, he's a good guy. We got into about twenty years of
not really talking to each other very much, but not.. you know.
D: Do you have any contact with him now?
A: It always...it never goes anywhere.
D: Well, you know that thing that I sent you that thing
that I sent you has an awful lot of e-mail addresses on it.
A: Including his...yeah.
D: Including his, so, you know, there are people you could
contact on there that you might remember or that you know.
A: Oh, yeah, there were a few others that are very, very interesting.
D: That you might want to say "Hello" to...
A: One thing I hesitate to do is to get...get involved with
things much beyond my grasp because right now, I don'tI mean
I'm talking to you, but I don't...I don't really have a lot to
say about most stuff. I feel a lot better now than I did an hour
ago, when you called.
D: Well, I find you...I want to tell you that I've enjoyed
our conversation very, very much.
A: Well, I think we got about to the end of the good old days
because as you know...
A: ...the good old days became...evolved into a struggle for
recognition and funding...I think those were your terms, yes?
D: Yes, that's true...let me ask you this. What videotapes
do you have from those old, old days?
A: Well, I have practically nothing on VHS, but I do...what
I do have is a lot of the original tapes.
A: I definitely have the subway tape and you're definitely
welcome to use...
D: Oh, yes, we need to show that, of course.
A: ...a copy of that...but there are a few others that...
D: How does it look, the subway tape?
A: Ummm...I have a VHS dub which doesn't look good and the
original got beat up real bad in my cleaning thing and ended
up with lots of sections...
D: What might happen is that we might take it down to Louie's
and run it up to Digital and put it in some kind of frame store...
A: Well, does he have a method for cleaning his old half inch
D: Ahmm...I think he might very well...it was on CV or
D: Well, oh boy. AV, ugh. It's possible, yeah, but the
thing would be to try to restore, you know, so that it wasn't
just, you know, ghosts in a snowstorm.
A: Well, tell you what...I'm bad at following up on things,
but I have the tape and there's...
D: It's in your possession?
A: It's something I very much want to do.
D: Yeah, I understand.
A: You understand that I don't get things done a lot.
D: Well, anyway.
A: I'll come up with something for you. I'm.certainly gonna
to try to restore the subway tape. I have all the equipment that
D: Oh, you have? You never threw anything away?
A: No, well, I did throw some things away. A few years ago
my parents were moving to Florida and I've had stuff exiled to
their basement for years and it just came time to throw it out,
so I threw out a lot of tapes.
D: Where in Florida did your parents move?
A: Ahh, Delray Beach, which is near the port of Miami.
D: Do you ever see them?
A: Well, my father died about a year and a half ago, so I
hear him. I don't see him. Whenever I cry, it sounds a little
bit like him.
D: Oh, I see.
A: But my mother's doing fine, she's recovering herself. And
she's happy and rich...and living in Florida on the golf course.
D: Okay, well that's all right, there you go.
A: So, in fact, let me tell you, Davidson, the only reason
I exist is that my father left all of his money to my mother.
But she looked at the tax implications of that and realized that
she could pass quite a bit of the money down to my brothers,
sister, and I. So about four months after I got out of the hospital,
I got hold of a chunk of change, so - you know - so I don't have
to worry for a year or two.
D: Oh, that's good.
A: I mean I'm ahead of my money - that's the first time ever.
You know, I mean, I always had...
D: The first time ever in your life.
A: Yeah, I always had one bank account and whether it was
family money or money I picked up as a cameraman - no matter
what it was - it was this choice between the rent and buying
A: And, you know, the rent would always win, but just barely.
D: What did your father do?
A: He was a dentist.
A: He also did some speculating with the stock market which...
D: How did it work out?
A: Well, it was supposed to have worked out a lot better.
A: He had a bad last year. While everybody else was getting
rich, he had some real turkeys. But, yeah, I think it really
bummed him out, too.
A: And to me, it kind of contributed to his death, you know.
Yeah, he was very disappointed, I know, but I...talk about it.
D: Well, he seems to have done very well though, I mean,
A: He did very well and also he had inherited some money from
his father who came over in 1912 and set up a restaurant and
D: Where were they from?
A: They were from the suburban, rural ghettos called shtetls.
D: Oh, they were from the shtetls?
A: They were from a town called Gunions.
A: Yeah, an ugly name isn't?
A: Anyway...ahhh...that's where they came from. So, in a mere
generation and a half we have gone from immigrants, workers,
to indolent cancer victim. I wouldn't say I'm indolent though
- you just can't believe how much work I did putting these -
and I have four of these 27-inch video monitors right next to
me here by the way.
D: Oh, yeah. What did you do with the carcasses?
A: We put 'em all back in boxes. We were told that they were
interested in getting 'em back so we re-wrapped everything back
very carefully and put 'em all in boxes and then never heard
anything else. God, we thought we were going to send them back
A: But, what you do with the carcasses is you say to yourself,
"Well, here I'm about to throw away all this plastic, what
a shame." Now, what would they put a picture tube in that
would use less plastic and still get it here in one piece? And
the answer is: there isn't any way. I mean, you can't get the
picture tube from one place to another without putting it in
D: So, we're going to be stopping using picture tubes soon.
A: Not me...
D: I mean, they'll be into another kind of display.
A: It will be a very long time before the cathode ray tube
stops being produced. First of all, it is a more magnificent
source of light than any of the things that are coming along.
D: Oh, I agree.
A: Yeah. Secondly, it's always going to be less expensive
to make. It's always going to be adequate to the task of normal
television viewing and to me, the fact that...well, there are
any number of reasons why I'm absolutely dependent on a tube-type
television. You know, I also make video kaleidoscopes, which...
D: Yes, that's what Elaine told me...
A: Yeah, well, she saw it...saw one.
A: What it is is usually five trapezoidal mirrors held in
some kind of mirror containment. At the small opening is a television
A: ...and it's reflected in a very unpredictable way. It forms
a very large sphere.
A: And it's something that I invented in probably 1991, I
think. Now, Rudy Stern, actually had a version of it years ago,
but I never saw it. I saw some video of it, but didn't know what
it was, so that's why I don't, you know, consider myself to have
ripped off Rudy Stern. I invented this thing by looking at a
piece of broken mirror in front of a TV set and proceeding from
there, but anyway....
A: Well, if you speak to Rudy Stern, tell him I send my regards
D: Okay...well, he knows I talk to you...
A: I even miss his Czar.
D: Czar, yes....
A: That was a real German Shepherd.
A: You don't see very many German Shepherds that are real
D: What was real about him?
A: What was real about him was his legs were thick and his
coat was thick and his tail was thick and his teeth were gigantic
and his head was magnificent and most of these German Shepherds
are really inbred versions of the real thing...
D: I know, they're not like that anymore...
A: But he was the real thing...
D: No, Czar was a real big dog.
A: Rudy got bitten up real bad by....they were going through
a revolving door and Czar's tail got caught in the door...
D: Oh, no.
A: So he bit Rudy, ha-ha...
D: Huh, Jesus...
A: But, anyway, that was one little Global Village fact nobody
A: Davidson, thanks for....
D: Listen, it's been wonderful talking to you. I've enjoyed
it very much and thank you for giving me all that you did.
A: Well, I started off in video a very idealistic guy who
was willing to work and wanted to work for other people and wanted
to help other people out. As I got older, I lost some of that
flexibility, but I still believe in video although I don't believe
in people and video. I believe in video itself more than anything
else. I don't think that most people will grow up to do anything
significant with their own portapaks even if they all have them
But I do believe that cathode ray tube and videotape are the
highest minded inventions that we have and the fact that they
get used for low-minded things has not discouraged me.
D: Thank you, Andy...
A: Any time.
D: Right, bye.
A: Bye, bye.
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