There was a memorial held for Lou Reed last night in New York City at the Apollo, which Lou would have loved. In its heyday, the Apollo was THE showcase for artists of color. All of the greats passed through there at one time or another; James Brown, Little Richard, Etta James, and all of the great doo-wop groups. Growing up, Lou loved Dion. Later in life, the two men became good friends through Doc Pomus. Last night, according to Penn Jillette’s and Salman Rushdie’s posts ; some of those old lights were relit.
It may seem hard to understand at first that Lou started his career writing doo-wop songs, but if you think about it, this glorious street corner music echoes though out Lou’s work, particularly in Walk on the Wild Side, where this idiomatic American sound becomes an earthy, gritty rock and roll aria.
In the “Doo-do-do-do-do” chorus there are precisely 64 “doo’s.”
It is like a driving lullaby; an incantation, an urgent come-hither invitation to the other side.
About two years ago, I hosted a dinner at Les Halles in New York, the night before my show was to open in Brooklyn at Pierogi. I usually invited about 30 of my friends and crew because opening night is too much of a madhouse to figure anything like this out.
I brought my assistant Jesse Sioux Achramowicz. She is a big Lou Reed fan, particularly the Velvet Underground. She was born in 1988 and having gone through a total identity transformation entering high school, she discovered punk rock, like all young artists seem to do. The writings of Lou and Patti Smith became beacons of light to her, poetry of rebellion which spoke to her in loud, bold strokes. It gave her a floor to dance upon. Lou, in particular, resonated with a young artist searching for her own voice.
Jesse Sioux is a unique human being. She’s the best assistant I’ve ever had and the most unusual. She dresses in a very different outfit every day. One day she will have bangs and a florescent orange matching bag and shoes, the next she will have a pile of blue, green, and lavender dreadlocks with Malcom X glasses and jewels in her teeth. She is only like herself; and one of the kindest human beings I know.
She was sat directly across from Lou and she was freaked, with her hero sitting eyeball to eyeball across from her. They talked all night; Lou, the kindly punk-rock uncle telling stories and discussing dogs, iPhones, technology (Lou loved gadgets and so does Jesse) and you’d have thought they’d known each other their whole lives. It was the Lou I knew–kind, intelligent and generous of spirit.
Jesse was over the moon to have had a conversation with Lou. I chose to make a portrait of her for this chorus of the song because I suspect Lou knew that Jesse, and young people like her, were exactly who he wrote that song to set free.