’89 domande a Bob Colacello – Writer
Name? Bob Colacello (@bobcolacello).
How old are you? 75.
What’s your job? Author and social commentator; Editor-at-Large, Air Mail; Senior Advisor, Vito Schnabel Gallery; Associate Director, Peter Marino Art Foundation, Southampton, NY.
What did you study? International Relations, Georgetown School of Foreign Service; Film History, Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts.
If you could choose which historical era to live in, which would you choose? Hollywood in the 1930s.
If you could spend a day with an historical figure who would you choose? Cary Grant.
Who are the people that inspired you the most? Andy Warhol and Ronald Reagan.
If you could choose a famous person for a night, who would it be? Ashton Kutcher.
And for a relationship? Hugh Grant.
If you were a character of a movie which one would you be? Costello of Abbott and Costello, the popular American comedy duo of the 1940s. Andy was Abbott.
Your favorite classic movie? George Cukor’sThe Women (1939)
What is the meaning of life for you as a human being? Hard to say.
Your grandmother is Italian, did the culture of our country influence you in any way? A lot. All four of my grandparents were Southern Italian.
What’s the thing you like the most of Italy? Everything.
And what you don’t like? Nothing.
Have you ever been in Venice? Yes, love it. Hard to believe it still exists.
If so, what’s your favorite places here? Hotel Cipriani and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Can you tell us the first word that comes to your mind in Italian? La dolce vita.
Your favorite style icons? Luchino Visconti and Silvana Mangano.
Do you think exist an objective aesthetic value or you think aesthetic value is just subjective? Every culture has its own aesthetic standard. I do believe in standards.
If you could have a super power what would you choose? Perfect vision.
If you could commission the theft of an artwork what would you choose? I wouldn’t.
What’s your favorite historical character? Zorro.
Can you define yourself with an adjective? Warm (on the surface).
If you had the chance to live an historical event, which one would it be? The Fall of the Roman Empire.
A famous book that you would have liked to write yourself? Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, or 1984 by George Orwell.
An iconic one that you don’t like? The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (it’s kind of corny).
Who do you think is the best writer now? Erik Larson.
What about the best writer in history? Dante.
And the most overrated? Joyce.
The most underestimated? Gide.
What is the best sentence you wrote in your opinion? I’ll leave that to others. I think they’re all the best.
One by someone else that you wish you had written? “There, all is order and beauty, luxury, calm and voluptuousness.” – Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal
What is Andy’s most valuable work that you own? I sold everything too early.
Who is the person you saw do the most drugs at the factory? Victor Hugo.
The craziest person? Victor Hugo.
Someone you didn’t like? Victor Hugo.
The most talented artist who attended it? Salvador Dalí, Larry Rivers, Cy Twombly, Roy Lichtenstein, Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente, Robert Wilson, etc.
Do you have friends in the jet set? If yes who is the one with whom you are closest? Yes. Georgina Brandolini.
Do you think fame has changed you? If yes in what specifically? I’m not famous. I’m well known in certain circles.
When is a person definable as an artist in your opinion? Balthus told me only history can decide who is an artist; he called himself a craftsman.
What are your thoughts on the outcome of Banksy’s experiment in which he sold his works on the street for a few dollars? Do you think that generally in the eyes of an observer the value of a work is given by the context in which it is seen? Yes and no.
The most beautiful girl you’ve ever met? Bianca Jagger.
And the man? Alain Delon.
An advice you can give to someone that want to do your job? Work hard and be nice to your boss.
What you cannot stand on people? Pushiness.
What’s the thing that make lose your patience the most? Loud drunks.
Do you think Hegel was right to put music as art at an higher level, or do you think the figurative arts, especially at an emotional level, are on the same level? I believe in Kierkegaard’s view that the aesthetic, the erotic, and the spiritual co-exist at the highest level.
Can you give us a definition of art? Concept plus form.
Do you think that the relationship between art and drugs is just a cliché? Well, it worked for William Burroughs.
Do you have any political orientation? Republican, but not Trumpian.
Do you think that believing in God and not believing in God start from the same presumption about something that in itself we have no possibility of knowing, thus reducing even atheism to an act of faith toward the unknown? I believe in God, because it’s easier.
For how much money would you shoot porn? Too old for porn.
In your opinion is there such a thing as unnatural? In the case in point, if you consider man as part of nature, is everything that emanates from it to be considered natural? If not, why do you not consider man as part of nature? So, is murder natural?
If you could do a crime, or an action in general, without anyone ever knowing about it, what would you do? Hopefully I’d never get myself in that situation.
If you were not in your profession what work would you have wanted to do? I would have tried painting.
The craziest thing you witnessed at the Factory? Holly Woodlawn violently demanding to be paid more than $25 per day for starring in Andy’s movies.
Can you name one good and one bad thing about Andy? Good: His dry sense of humor. Bad: he knew how to push our buttons.
If he were alive, who would be his favorite character in show business today? Kim Kardashian.
What do you think about the fact that man is not able to give an explanation exclusively to what he does not know and does not understand, while conversely he is (hypothetically and relatively) able to understand everything about which he is knowledgeable and can understand? Do you think this could open the door to the fact that for everything there can be an explanation and a logic, and that what man calls chance (or in any other way that refers to a similar concept) could only be the consequence of his ignorance? Well-educated elites tend to forget that so much in life is irrational: love, sex, faith, art, and more.
Based on your experience, what were the best years in New York? 1970 – 2000. Things have never been the same since 9/11.
If you could go back in time and kill a few who would it be? Hitler and Stalin.
Can you tell us the most interesting anecdote with respect to your eventual experience with drugs? Getting caught with cocaine at the airport in Barranquilla, Colombia, and being dragged off to an army barracks, where the sargeant in charge threatened to keep me for the weekend. I was saved by a lawyer friend with some cash.
The time you did drugs the most what did you take and in what doses? Endless cocaine.
What do you think people say about you? I hope they say I’m a good guy.
Have you ever been in a fight? Yes, with a bully in junior high school. And much to my surprise, I wrestled him to the ground.
What do you think about NFTs? Nothing.
Blur or Oasis? Who?
Can you tell us when you think a person is cool and when is not? Cool can’t be defined.
What is the night you spent the most money to have fun? X-rated, can’t say.
What’s your favorite artist? Lucio Fontana, Cy Twombly, Robert Ryman, Ron Gorchov, Brice Marden, Francesco Clemente, Tom Sachs, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, Cecily Brown, Sanford Biggers, Robert Nava, Donald Baechler, and Rene Ricard.
What’s your favorite show business character? Lucille Ball.
Where have you been on vacation when you were young? Miami Beach.
Where are you going on vacation now? Venice in September.
Do you think it would be correct to create a place where man can live in the state of nature, making him free from a choice of social belonging that is instead taken for granted? Why not?
Favorite movies? Bertolucci’s The Conformist, and Catch Me If You Can, my favorite Steven Spielberg movie. Leonardo DiCaprio was fantasic. More recently, I loved At Eternity’s Gate, Julian Schnabel’s portrait of Van Gogh, and La La Land.
Favorite directors? George Cukor, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean-Luc Godard, Louis Malle, and all the Italians.
What’s the topic you are most expert in? Dinner parties.
Have you ever been in love? Yes. Many times, but increasingly platonic.
Where do you live? Between Manhattan and Southampton, New York.
Which neighbourhood? Upper East Side.
Where are you from? Born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island.
Other cities where you’ve been living and how long? Washington D.C. during college; Madrid, junior year abroad, 1967-68; Paris, 1991-92, on Vanity Fair assignment.
Which languages do you speak? Spanish, badly. English.
Which are your favorite places in your city? In Southampton, the Peter Marino Art Foundation. In New York, Neue Galerie.
Favorite songs? All Elvis Presley, all Rolling Stones, Unchained Melody by Righteous Brothers, Heaven Must Have Sent You, by The Pointer Sisters, Enough is Enough by Barbara Streisand and Donna Summers, Give Me Everything by Pitbull, Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke.
Forite bands? The Rolling Stones.
A famous band you don’t like? Any band that does long, screechy guitar solos.
Favorite books? Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet, and Naked Lunch by William Burroughs.
Favorite authors? Joan Didion, Gregor von Rezzori, Bret Easton Ellis, Fran Lebowitz.
Favorite artworks? Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, Burial of the County Orgaz by El Greco, Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, The Joy of Life by Matisse, Mao by Warhol.
If you can choose 5 celebrities to have party with who they would be? Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron, Deeda Blair, and Ashton Kutcher.
And from the past? Rimbaud, Cocteau, Coco Chanel, Doris Duke, King Farouk of Egypt.
Do you feel envy for anyone? If so, for whom? I don’t believe in envy.
The material good you most desire and envy? I have enough.
The quality you would like to have and don’t have? Athleticism.
There are more and more models who do not respond to the “classic” aesthetic canons, do you think that brands really try to change the social dynamics or do you think they are choices dictated by marketing reasons to exploit the politically correct? I think it’s too much. It’s putting people in boxes again.
Have you ever been offered something in exchange for sex? No, but I was offered sex in exchange for Interview magazine covers.
If you had the possibility to remove social networks from the world, would you delete them? Probably.
And what about globalization? Too abstract, as Andy would say.
The craziest experience you’ve ever had? There have been so many. Maybe nearly being blown off a cliff into the Adriatic Sea in the former Yugoslavia during my junior year abroad.
What do you think about influencers? I don’t.
You favorite actors? Leonardo DiCaprio, Hugh Grant, Ashton Kutcher, Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper. And Sienna Miller.
Favorite TV series? None. I only watch the news.
If you were an animal which one would you like to be? A Somali leopard.
Have you ever had sex with more than one person? Yes.
Approximately how many partners have you had in your life? Oh god.
Your favorite position for sex? Not telling.
What time do you usually go to sleep? 10pm in Southampton, midnight in the city.
What time do you usually wake up? 6am.
What’s your favorite city in the world? Rome.
Do you believe in some religions? I’m not spiritual but I’m religious.
The richest person you know? Not cool to say.
Your favorite dish? Fettuccine with white truffles.
Do you have some phobias? Yes, heights.
Favorite fashion brand? Loro Piana and Ralph Lauren.
How important is it for you to be rich from 1 to 10? 8.
And fame? 3.
How important are fame and money to impress a partner? They do work.
And what about beauty? That’s number one for me.
And intelligence? Tied with beauty.
The smartest person you know? Nicholas Niarchos.
Do you consider yourself smart? I was always told in school that I was not performing up to my potential.
Has anyone ever offered you sexual favors to work with you? If yes, can you tell us how it went? I’ve had office romances, back when they were allowed.
The most precious material thing you own? I love my Sandro Chia pastel on brown paper from 1980, signed to me.
What do you usually drink at the bar? Schweppes tonic water.
Best party you’ve been to? Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis’ 60th Birthday Party at his castle in Regensburg, Bavaria.
Do you know someone being a real racist? No.
Do you think that if people couldn’t post on Instagram about it, they would take part as well to social movements? Posting is a big part of it.
What do you think about of royal rulers for birthright? I love royals.
What drugs have you done? Pot, LSD, mushrooms, coke.
If so which one is your favorite? Coke.
And which one you use more often? I retired from that scene 28 years ago.
Are you in favour of the liberalization of soft drugs? No, not with the THC counts pot has today.
And hard drugs? Definitely not.
What’s your best talent? Disco dancing.And the ability to talk to anyone.
What are the clothes you can’t stand to see on a man and on a woman? Do tattoos count? I’m really anti-beards.
What’s the item of clothing you spent the most money on? A Gore-tex rain jacket from Prada Sport in SoHo, for $800. Still wear it.
Can you tell us a number from 1 to 89? 77.
Favorite restaurant and bar in the city where you live? Carbone.
And club? Casa Cipriani.
Your ideal holiday? Lots of beach time.
What would you have done if you had not done your job? I would have tried painting.
If you could compose the best band in history, who would be in it? The Everly Brothers, the Kinks, the Animals, and the Velvet Underground combined.
Does the current concept of democracy make sense to you? I think democracy combined with free enterprise has provided a better life for more people than any other system.
What is your position on a hypothetical enlightened dictatorship that could direct the good of people? The problem is the enlightened one soon enough becomes a kleptomaniac monster.
What do you think about the psychological profile of politicians? Generalizing and keeping in mind the existence of due exceptions, do you think that politicians get to do their job for personal interests, such as ego satisfaction or economic profit, or for an ethical and civic help vocation? Andy used to say politicians always have their hand out.
Do you think that prison, intended as deprivation of freedom of a subject, is a correct solution for an individual who violates the laws of society, or do you think it presupposes an acceptance of participation in the social contract that some individuals may not want? I think we need a better prison system.
What might be an alternative solution to prison for you? Prisons that are more focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment, that provide basic education and mental health services.
There are those who argue that the death penalty is a non-penalty, in the sense that at the moment in which the penalty is executed, the subject who should undergo it does not exist anymore because of the penalty itself, consequently involving however an interference in the life of the subjects close to the condemned, who would become at that point the real passive subjects of the case, what do you think about it? I have very mixed feelings about capital punishment.
If we consider the death as the end of everything, hypothetically the homicide of a subject that for absurdity doesn’t have, and has never had, social relationships of any kind with anybody, neither economic, neither personal, neither juridical, and if he would be killed without inflicting any suffering and without that he could realize it, such homicide should be punished? Leaving aside the motivations of the agent, as well as the need to protect other subjects of a hypothetical society, in case he would be punished, the murderer would suffer the punishment for an action of which no one suffers any consequence, is it correct for you then to assert that death is something that concerns only the living? Too abstract.
Do you think that as animals, races also exist for human beings? Too abstract.
Do you think that racism is a manifestation of some kind of deficiency, an aid to fill gaps in existence for those who approach it? Could this explain the fact that often the profile of the average racist corresponds to individuals with difficult lives who have to struggle with a variety of issues and who use it as an outlet? Yes.
Do you think that a cultural growth is always good for an individual or do you think that in certain situations it is identified with a loss of intellectual purity? Too abstract.
Do you think that culture in the hands of a stupid person can sometimes represent a problem? Too abstract.
What do you think about the cancel culture? I hate it.
What would you answer to the dilemma of the Mandarin of Chateaubriand then taken up by Balzac and countless other philosophers? In this case, if in order to fulfill any of your desires, you had to end the life of a person who is extremely distant from you and about whom you know nothing, without them suffering and without anyone ever knowing, would you do it? No.
A question you wish we had asked you but didn’t? You asked enough.
If you could choose a person you know to read this interview, who would it be? Ashton Kutcher.