Exclusive Interview: Anthony Haden-Guest On The Party Scene Past & Present, Art, & The Internet

by Jasmine Frazier · April 4, 2011

We recently sat down with 74-year old Lifetime Party-Goer and journalist Anthony Haden Guest at a Clic Gallery event for his new book The Last Party, which tracks this Parisian-born nightlife connoisseur's account of his 30 years around the NY scene. He gives us his thoughts on clubs, the Internet, street art, social climbing, and more.

What is your inspiration for your new book and what in particular do you think readers will enjoy?

I've written verse all my life, but this began because I was particularly engrossed by the carnage I've seen created by the Internet in so many businesses including my own. I thought that this was a better way of expressing my emotions on the subject than prose or reporting. The world has absolutely transformed for so many people.

New media changing nightlife

It's weird. Twitter seems intimate, but it is actually kind of abstract. People look back on on places like Mud Club and Studio [54], they [have] got the wrong idea. Photographers only took pictures that would sell. You get the impression that everyone was either naked or dressed very strangely. In fact, it was really ordinary, great,and politically open. America had been through Vietnam and Watergate and all of that. Kids didn't party in clubs like they do now, suddenly there was such an explosion, and everything started happening. Also all the generations mixed together back then. You would see an 80 year old guy and a 14 year old. Then it became business. Now it's 20s 30s 40s, and you bring in social media and all that. Life constantly changes.  That particular confluence of energy will never happen again. Certain circumstances can never be repeated.

Can nightlife be improved?

[No] There was a political heaviness of a generation after a very political 10 years. I don't think I am being an old fogey. I think our young people look back on all of that, and there are cool clubs now but its is not the same thing at all.

The party lifestyle is fascinating because?

I wouldn't say it's the only way I live, I do a lot. But basically I'm a very social animal, by which I don't mean cocktail parties, I mean I just get a lot of energy out of seeing other people. It's in my nature, so my world is part of that. So as a writer I tend to write about what I do. But I do a lot of other things, I write about them [as well], that's why I keep on. I still enjoy it, that's why. I still find it an interesting source of energy and information, and ideas.

Thought on breaking into scenes and art world. Do you think it is possible for social climbers to succeed?

Oh yes I see it all the time, I think most people get bored with ordinary activities. I think its rather healthy really that people want to go somewhere they haven't been invited. They are young anyway, I have no problem with that. Staying at home and being a shut in that's the real problem. That's where the Columbine killers come from. If the Columbine killers had been social climbers there wouldn't have been any killings.

The impact of technology and the future of print media?

We were just talking here that there are all these incredible, lavishly produced fashion

magazines that seem to do well, I don't know how or why. The mainstream magazines so far find it incredibly hard to compete with online. Advertising has not migrated much to the Internet. I think the future genre is on the web whether people manage to make a profitable publication out of it remains to be seen. There have been suggestions of some sort of federal relief program for journalism as a kind of worthwhile activity.

Do you have one message for you audience and art and media consumers?

It's more and more clear to me that the art world is a wonderful place to be. Its energetic, one of the few places an indevidual can flourish, and its also no longer true that you have to be 23 or 24.- It's become a very cultural melt, you see people [who] have energetic careers in other fields suddenly turn their attention in that direction, it doesnt need encouraging, its happening. Stick at it is my advice.

Opinion on street art

Street art has been around since...always. It kind of became a serious medium in the 70s. Mostly there were "real" artists working in the street. And then, coincidentally, we had the explosion in the South Bronx. Suddenly that began getting a lot of media attention. So between the two, street art took off . What's different now is that people are going into street art as a kind of career, the next thing you know they've got galleries and publicists and all that. There is nothing empirically horrible about that, it's just a sign of the art worlds become so enormous. With street art you have the same thing happening with neo-pop and low brow ,a lot of things that are being swept up in the general marketplace frenzy.

Be sure to check out: [Daily Style Phile: Anthony Haden-Guest]