THE HATED GUEST
I have known writer Anthony Haden-Guest for 25 long years. He is a lot of fun in a rancid way and probably the most selfish journalist I have ever known. Why? Because not a month has passed in those 25 years when he hasn't called me up to ask a favor. "Charlie, do you have so-and-so's number?" "Charlie, remember that friend of yours who wrote such-and-such, could you call her for me? I would like to take her out."
Now I have often described art critics as "not the piano players in the whorehouse, but the piano tuners in the whorehouse" (this is right up there with Finch axiom #2, "a dealer is a dealer, car dealer, coke dealer, art dealer" and Finch axiom #3, "never give your work away, because it cheapens its value; if you wish to contribute to charity, write a check") and, thus, we are dependent, more than even most journalists, on the kindness of other critics. I am still awaiting my first favor from Haden-Guest.
Which brings me to the night of Feb. 15, 2012, when Haden-Guest is holding a benefit at Hiro in the Standard Hotel to raise a 10 percent surety against a $350,000 bond to prevent some poor soul, who purchased Haden-Guest's possessions from a storage company for, according to Anthony's own party invitation, nonpayment of $1,350, from selling the stuff. Anthony is charging $30 at the door and has bungeed up John Cale, Nile Rodgers, Penny Arcade, Reno and a cast of thousands to entertain.
In the invitation, Haden-Guest attacks the storage company for being in "Fortune's top 1,000 corporations," and claims some future trial "will be closely watched."
Now, a few years back, I warned Haden-Guest not to abandon his rent-stabilized ground-floor apartment, where he was famously stabbed by current convict Horace Harris in 1995 and where the late Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione allowed him to road test Penthouse Pets and where an IRA sharpshooter used to bunk for months, while Haden-Guest took a journalistic fancy to him.
Did he listen to me? No. Did Haden-Guest, one of whose girlfriends and I spent an evening wandering around town paying off his bar tabs, read the generic fine print on a storage bill, which tells all of us that payment arrears result in forfeiture? Apparently not. So now, as has been all too typical of Haden-Guest's publicly inebriated, grotesquely self-absorbed and marginally talented three-quarters of a century here on earth, he is expecting us to pick up the tab to recover an Upper East Side apartment's full of bric-a-brac, which if memory serves includes an early Christo wrapped chair (Christo is on the benefit committee), a beautiful David Salle watercolor of shoes, the galleys of a novel about CIA drug-running in Lebanon which Haden-Guest wrote and then purportedly allowed his publisher to suppress for certain considerations, and the shillelagh with which Anthony fended off a knife-wielding Horace Harris.
Is Haden-Guest selfless and witty enough to provide $30 ticket holders with a raffle ducat promising parts of his treasure should he recover it as an added incentive and a bit of performance art? Nope, per usual, Anthony wants everything for himself but is too careless, from the view of this corner, to do what it takes to hold onto it.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).