Michael Musto is a longtime entertainment and nightlife writer for the Village Voice. Musto has written four books, appeared on countless TV channels and streaming services, and has been named one of the Out 100 of the most influential LGBTQs in the country.
In late 1979 I was a Production Manager for the “alternative” newspaper New Times Weekly in Phoenix. I’d just done a stint at the Santa Barbara News and Review as a production artist, so this was a step up for me plus my gang was running wild in Phoenix and I didn’t want to miss out on that.
While the Art Director took a vacation I got to step into the role for a special issue on Disco. I remember that it was a real big deal for me at 22. While putting the editorial together, I worked with a creative gang of freelance photographers, stylists, models, and other creative types. They were a few years older than me and took me under their wings.
There was symbiosis from the start.
The most gregarious was Jimi, a photographer that was making a name for himself in the dusty old cow town. He persisted and ended up in New York managing photo studios and expanding his portfolio.
There was Carole who traveled the world modeling and joining in the theatrical antics of “art band” The Tubes. Her brother was the synthesizer player and did some very cool airbrushed pieces for the performances.
Then there was Ed who I knew informally from his vintage shop “Sunset Boulevard.” He had a keen eye as an art director and stylist. He also dressed me since I was mostly wearing wrinkled army fatigues in those days. I was nearly stripped of my gay badge, but Ed quickly remedied that.
Ed’s business partner was Lee who had east coast sensibilities and also weighed in on my disheveled look. To this day he’s one of the smoothest dressers I’ve ever met.
For a minute I am reminded that I have known these … more
Spring 2021: We’re in Arizona looking in on my mom’s condition for a while. It has been an opportunity to revisit my coming-of-age life from the late 1970s to 1980. Things really accelerated after this.
After a swift escape from the confines of high school life, I couldn’t imagine committing to four years of study when there was a wild world out there that I wanted to be part of. After a few months in a converted garage apartment on the west side of sleepy Phoenix, I landed in the middle of the city, where, if anything was happening, it would be happening there.
My new apartment was walkable to the two jobs I had, making it easy to get to work without driving since my old Dodge station wagon was overheating regularly, and I eventually just left it somewhere and moved on.
The Sombrero Playhouse was a half block away and was a very cool scene. Patrons would gather and parade their looks in a front desert courtyard before heading in to see the avant-garde films of the day. Of course, there was Harold and Maude, Eraserhead, and Andy Warhol reels, but there was The Rocky Horror Picture Show for my growing awareness and toe-tipping into gay culture. I remember the surprise at seeing so-and-so there with a gaggle of their eccentric friends. The crowd I was running with blossomed in this environment.
Two Jobs and Liberace
At job one, Aaron Brothers Art Mart, I quickly tuned into the skills I needed for the constant visual adjustments, x-acto knifing, and final fussy touches of framing. I loved it. The staff was packed with artists doing their own thing led by an inspiring manager guy (another artist). I remember him telling me not … more