Cover StoryThis started as a sketch on a piece of paper. I wanted to take all my stuffed animals and have them spit-roasting a Rosie O’Donnell doll. At the time I was not a fan of hers because I could tell she was gay but she pretended to have a crush on Tom Cruise and I thought it was so fake that it was sickening. I get it now but at the time, seeing her on TV telling people to live honestly and authentically seemed just fucking absurd. I did buy the doll, which, again, who the fuck has the nerve to make a doll of themself as a kid and try to sell it? Even for charity, the hubris of it sickened me.
While I was thinking about doing this, I ran into an old friend from college named Jeffery Price. We were pretty good friends and I had been to his house in Bainbridge, NY to shoot a student film that I starred in. I was terrible and so was the movie so it's not a brag, it' s a digression. He heard my idea and loved it. He was a photographer and said he had a home studio where we could shoot the whole thing.
I went to his apartment downtown and brought a whole bag of my various dolls that I call monkeys. We went for a walk through his neighborhood to see what stuff we could gather to design the set. We found a big branch, some tall willows and a bunch of rocks so we could spread the monkeys out and try to get as many into the shot as possible.
After checking out what it would look like through the viewfinder of Jeff's camera, I thought it looked cool but Rosie didn't look scared, she looked happy. I had the idea to duct tape her mouth shut and Jeff had the idea to draw lines of fear on her forehead and to draw circles around her eyes. It was very important to me that Lurky (furthest on the right with the round eyes) be looking right at Rosie. I brought Angerboy (the guy with the purple smiley face) and I wanted him to look excited about the whole thing.
We shot multiple variations while moving the set around. Jeff wanted to save his fancy film for when we were really happy with the set but along the way we used a Polaroid to make sure everything was lit well and framed the way I wanted.
To set the scene, Jeff had modified a honey bear dispenser to make it into a bong and while I worked, he would smoke and then while I smoked, he would work on the scene. We worked really well together and I was very happy with one of the Polaroids but we needed to make a large picture so the file would be big enough for me to use and crop while keeping everything I wanted in the frame. In the background he put on an album I'd never heard before, Fantasma by Cornelius. I was completely blown away by how unique and original the album was and I give credit to Jeff for introducing me and by extension, readers of this zine, to Cornelius.
When we were ready, Jeff set up his large format camera, loaded up some very expensive film and then we took about twenty different shots. When we were happy with it, Jeff finished the roll and we dismantled the set. Jeff gave me the film and I packed the dolls back into the bag and headed to the film processing place. I dropped off the roll and they said it would be ready in a few days. On my way home I stopped at the record store and got my own copy of Cornelius.
A few days later I went to pick up the pictures and I was horrified. They were all super dark, tinted red and were absolutely unusable. I went though all the pictures hoping that at least one was decent but they were all trash and I was so pissed that I had asked anyone for help with anything. In my life, most of the time when I get a friend to help me with something creative, we fail, the friendship is destroyed and I am left thinking that I need to do everything myself. Even though I have never had success working with others, I keep trying.
I contacted Jeff and I was furious. The whole day, aside from getting high and discovering Cornelius, was a complete waste of time. Jeff was very contrite and couldn't figure out what he had done wrong and wanted a chance to make it up to me by trying again. At that point I wanted to do it myself with my own camera, I would get it printed as an 8X10 and then do a high resolution scan of that. Just as I was about to hang up on Jeff, he told me that he still had a few Polaroids that we loved. I told him they were far too small for me to use as the cover of a printed zine and he told me there was a place in Manhattan that could do a drum scan at some ungodly resolution and that would be enough pixels for me to use it as the cover.
I went to Jeff's house and he gave me all the Polaroids. At the time I was also working on a CD of spoken word stuff, which was basically me reading some of the pieces from this issue with added music, dialogue and sound effects. I had an idea for the cover art for that project and Jeff said he wanted to help. I gave him my sketch and a few dolls that I had gotten from CVS that were based on characters from the Rankin-Bass Christmas special Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. I wanted a picture of Yukon Cornelius butt-fucking Herbie the elf and Jeff said he could do it.
I took the Polaroids to a place called Duggal and had them do a 2400dpi drum scan which would give me enough to work with. It cost me more than $50 for just one scan but it was easier than trying to recreate what I had done. Once the image was scanned, I took it into Photoshop for some enhancements. I darkened the lines around Rosie's face, added the fire, added some smoke and then I used the burn tool to burn the edges of the marshmallows. It wasn't exactly what I wanted but it was close enough to make me happy.
A few weeks later I contacted Jeff to ask about the cover of the CD, which I was calling Misfit Toys. He ghosted me. He kept my dolls and never returned my calls. Those dolls were important to me because I had been a lifelong fan of Herbie, the elf that wants to be a dentist and CVS made a limited edition run of the characters from the special and when they sold out, they were gone forever. I went to a few different stores before I found a new Herbie and Yukon Cornelius. I bought another set of the dolls and shot the whole thing in my apartment with my friend Peter helping me. There is nothing Peter could do to make me not like him and we worked very well together and got the exact shot that I wanted.
A few years later, a mutual friend said that Jeff wanted to return the dolls to me and felt bad about ghosting me. Jeff gave them back to me in a garbage bag and they were filthy and damaged and I was so annoyed that I just immediately put Jeff to death (in my head). Since then he has contacted me a few times but I am now ghosting him. Fool me once, you know the rest.
If you want to see some behind the scenes pictures from the shoot, click here and you can check them out.