I knew it was a big deal to meet Walter Hopps then and I was glad to be wearing a California Angels baseball cap that night because idiot McCall was capless and not representing his loser Dodgers all shaggy then with his outdated mullet haircut in 1994 or 95, it was at the second DADA festival, and when I say DADA it don’t mean the important art movement I mean the Downtown Artists & Developers Association, which put on these huge “Downtown Lives” exhibits back then. The first one was in a giant industrial building on Alameda just south of Seventh by where the old Christmas tree lot was. This one was in that round subterranean outdoor mall on Figueroa and Seventh where the Target is now. In fact, if I walked over there I could show you the store – a spacious store – where this Dada show took place.
So in walks Michael McMullet with this stiff kind of guy, looked like a cross between Hunter S. Thompson and a wax figure of Dan Rather. There is all sorts of activity, it is one of those openings where everyone is saying hello to each other and talking about themselves and ignoring the art on the wall. You know, the group show hell that Hopps is kind of to blame for inventing, really. So all I can ask Hopps about is his health. The dude is only discussed in two terms – vibrant and reverent. But to me he seems to be a somnambulist on autopilot. After asking him a third or fourth time he says “I’m as good as I’m ever gonna get again.” He reminded me of every acid casualty I’d ever met. His drug had been speed, he’d disappear for days. McMullet had that “walked thru the fire” air about him so they were a perfect team – seen it all, done it all, screenprinted teeshirts summing it all up in a slogan.
Years later, actually a surprising number of years later, when I read that he died, front page of the LA Times, that’s a benchmark few get, I saw Llyn Foulkes, he sat down at my table in a restaurant and I asked him if he had heard the news... his expressive face turned into a vulnerable frown and he took off his glasses preparing to cry. When I said it was Walter he gave me a look like who the fuck cares. “Oh fuck Walter, he was the first starfucker, he started the whole celebrity thing in the art world, that the artist has to be a rock star, he wanted that so that he would be looked at like a god...” he went on and on, if you have ever heard Llyn rant, you know how it went from there.
All of this made me want to sponsor McCall’s tribute to Hopps, wearing his suit, passing out his money, acquiring a conceptual collection that was actually tangible. It was funny to see purported art world bigshots stare blankly when Walter’s name was mentioned – ah but the smart ones and the amazing artists, they knew. You can’t teach people shit these days, they have to find out for themselves. There are just too many ordinary people in the art world now and its people like Michael McCall standing as the apocalypse now in their way.
So I wasn’t there and that is my story and Llyn was there and that is his story, or at least my reporting of his story. But the motherfucker got a page one obituary in the LA Times and that means something. There is a legacy there and it is nice that Michael McCall has a proper haircut now and is making sure that people understand that Walter Hopps was there for the birth of the art world as we know it and that he held the baby and cooed at the baby and took the baby in the car while he went to score speed and that the little toddler picked up some of Walter’s admirable traits and a few of his bad habits as well. And that baby grew up to be an adult and we all want to be friends with the art world and acting like uncle Walter often makes the art world befriend us more quickly. And that is what you call a legacy and none of us are going to get an obituary on page one of the LA Times because the LA Times isn’t going to have page ones any more when we die, and life goes on and the art world that Walter tied to raise, that adult will get old and die too, one day. And Walter’s imprint will live on in some other weird way, he changed us all while he spent his days more interested in fixing that craving than in raising that child, that art world, us, we are the art world, in a way, he raised us, left us with a 57-inch-centerline and a love of flashbulbs standing next to Ed Ruscha and all those other swinging dicks of Venice he stroked up and down. All petering out now, but Walter will be the last pecker they all recall, he’ll have a legacy for inventing curating no matter how fickle history gets, he and Stiegletz are the white-walled wonders of history, memorable in perpetuity, thru thick or thin, peter out or peter in.