IN THE WORDS OF FRIENDS



ELLEN BURSTYN

TONY AND ACADEMY AWARD WINNING ACTRESS “Creator of these Baroque Tableaux is an artist who exercises his birthright, which is the expression of his own particularity of vision. A vision thrust forward by the agitation deep beneath the recesses of his chthonic cave. The cave ceiling lined with broken bits of reflecting devices in which we see new angles of men, of women, of glamor, angels, beauty, sex, fabrication, androgyny and exultation.” – Ellen Burstyn Of favorite model and friend Ellen Burstyn, Steven had said “She saved me repeatedly with her encouragement and support; she showed me Rome, we wept together at the Vatican.” – Reliquaries, Twelve Trees Press, 1983


JAMES LEO HERLIHY

WRITER OF “MIDNIGHT COWBOY” The images in Steven’s work cover the broadest possible range, from the commonplace to the most arcane. There are drag queens and gods, fishes and angels, nudes and fools; trivia mingles with idealism esoterica with Kitsch. He wants you to have a good time, he wants you to be transformed forever, he wants to trouble you and amuse you, poke fun at you and put you in a sweat,, he wants you to feel wonderful and we are all invited to the party he’s giving in heaven. Black tie optional: you might prefer yourself in polka dots and globs of golden goo.” – Epiphanies, Twelve Trees Press, 1987


PANDORA

STEVEN’S LIFELONG FRIEND, MUSE, AND COLLABORATOR “The first time I really connected with Steven was in high school…He was very delicate in nature and had a sense about him that was a quiet explosion… We were creating all the time through our blessed art teacher Violet Chew…We made a pact that we would collect enough wigs, make-up, jewelry and high heels, and go to this club (on the Embarcadero where we saw all these fabulous women)…which reminds me, he stole my first tight skirt! Steven , Kaisik Wong and I went to New York to show Salvador Dali Luminous Procuress (1969 full length color feature) . Dali had arranged to premier Luminous Procuress in the basement of Rizzoli¹s Bookstore but their projector broke. So he arranged to show it at the Louis XIV room in the St. Regis Hotel. It was quite a spectacular event. He had ice sculpture, all kinds of wines and hors d¹oeuvres , – The crème de la crème of New York society, Vogue Magazine and Andy Warhol were there. Dali fell in love with Luminoushe played it upside down, backwards and sideways. He thought it was a work of genius, which it was.I believe Dali understood a place where Steven was coming from and wanted to enhance that space… It was a wonderful time for Steven working on Dali’s Museum. We dressed differently every night for Dali.”


HOLLY WOODLAWN

ANDY WARHOL “SUPERSTAR” “When I came to Hollywood Steven took me under his wing. He immediately invited me to one of his salons. There would be his patrons, a countess, a baroness, sex changes talking to lawyers, lots of beautiful boys, half of them running around naked like angels… and tons of food, and it was free and we were all starving to death. Everyone was so free. All these artists going into this fortress like Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. It was covered with thorns and suddenly you’re in an artist’s heaven. And there was this Emperor – Steven was very soft spoken and just made everyone as comfortable as possible for hours and hours – you never wanted to leave. And one day there was no more salons and no more Steven. It was very sad. Comparing Warhol’s evenings to Steven’s salons: Being from New York and going to lots of Andy’s parties at the Factory was fun because you got to meet a lot of famous New York people. It was very electric because obviously everyone was on speed and drugs, it was rock and roll – The pace was so fast it was non-stop like New York is and no one took the time out… They met you, went to bed with you, you know whatever they did. But Steven’s Salons were sort of like Versailles, but without the guillotine… Versailles versus Andy Warhol… Alcatraz where you could go in and out or Sing Sing or Bellevue with a little museum of modern art.”


ruth weiss

BEAT POET, ACTRESS IN STEVEN’S FILMS “Steven and I had a deep friendship. We were two artists on the same beam. He was the first person ever to make me feel comfortable in front of the camera. He always did my makeup for his films and I was in all of his films. He knew how to make me feel beautiful – that was his magic. Steven told me about this fabulous group called the Cockettes. They had called him and asked if they could appear at the Palace Theater where he had been hosting midnight movie shows he called the Nocturnal Dream Shows. The showings first began at the 17th St. studio and moved to the Palace Theater in North Beach when he and Michael Wiese decided to show their film “Messages, Messages “to a larger audience. This film would later win Steven Best New Director at Cannes in 1970. When I arrived at the theater the marquee was lit with “ruth weiss and The Joseph” aka Joseph Zaccarella, the featured actors.”


JUAN FERNANDEZ

JUAN REACLLS THE STORY BEHIND THE COVER OF STEVEN’S BOOK, RELIQUARIES “Luna (the first black model to appear in Vogue), passed away. Lee and Alex, friends of Steven’s had created these amazing wings for Luna to wear in a Playboy Shoot. One of the things I inherited from Luna were the wings. Steven and I worked for an hour on the set. We decided to have the candles symbolized the passage of light and time. The gauze was to create that sphere between what is human – what is real and what is angelic. Sarah Richardson, associate of Diana Vreeland’s, did the make- up and dressing. Luna had tied the wings so tight that Sarah had to help and I had to go through this ceremony of the untying of the wings. I did what the energy guided me to do. Steven cried through the entire shoot. He could not stop crying. It was the most magical photo shoot that I ever had with Steven. And that’s how every photo shoot I had with Steven was a process where you prepare what the image is going to be like after you do all the preparation for cooking a meal and then you sit down. If you put in your heart , which Steven always put in his heart and soul into everything he did, which is what I always do – That’s why we collaborated so well.”


STEPHANIE FARAGO

ARTIST, AUTHOR, AND ACTIVIST “Every one of the 25 people I interviewed about their relationship with Steven Arnold, all used the word magic or magical. I have always felt that my friendship with Steven was, and is, a religious experience.”


One response

  1. robert musselman

    My name is Robert Musselman and I had the pleasure and honor of being one of Steven’s models . I was introduced to Steven through a make-up artist I met serving tables at The Rose Tattoo Bar in West Hollywood in 1984 , I was 24 years old at the time. I had a brush of fame in 1979 when my dance partner and I won the title championship on the hit television show Dance Fever in 1979, it was the 2nd season of the tv show. Gower Champion, Eva Gabor, Danny Thomas were just a few of our judges on the show. For two teenagers from Simi Valley California and winning two cars and $25,000 was a sparking highlight!! I knew then and there that I wanted to be an entertainer! A star!! lol
    I went to meet Steven at his studio called Zanzibar in Hollywood. When he opened the front door and there he stood, smiling ear to ear at me, he was so delighted to meet me and he said “your divine” !! I have to add that I was an awkward , very shy country pumkin and insecure about not having the traditional male model “look”. That all changed like “magic” after stepping into Zanzibar . . . . into Stevens surreal world of art . I had never seen anything like it before, I was in a daze trying to take it all in. It was so colorful and opulent. Almost like a fancy opium den in Hong Kong during the 1930’s. He was floating around the large studio , pasting together bits and pieces of white paper against a black wall creating a set as I stand hypnotized and amazed by what I was seeing. He was playing Nina Hagen on the stereo, it was very operatic sounding. He took me into his make-up area that hid behind elaborate velvet drapes and started putting make-up on my face, instructing me as he applied the almost white face paint and heavy smudged black eye liner around my eyes in an Asian kabuki design. He shaded my cheek bones , underneath my mouth. He painted my lips charcoal black and started wrapping my head in black fabric creating a turban. He painted my nipples black with a gold tip. When he was finished he stepped back looked in the mirror and said, “you’ve arrived my dear” . . . “you’re heavenly” !! I was transfixed looking at myself in the mirror and not in a “I’m beautiful” way but i felt like i looked like I was suppose to look, I looked familiar to myself for the first time in my life! I felt like a rustic diva from a distant time . . .another age. I felt like royalty. I ate it all up like pudding!! I HAD arrived!
    Then he had me lay down on a white cloth scattered with white dots, laying next to me in the opposite direction was a skeleton in mourning laying on a black cloth. I was nude and he started arranging gold rope on and around my body and then he draped my body and head in translucent gold fabric. He put a mask head with wings above my head, he was so busy!! lol . . it was heavenly . . . I was in another zone all together.
    Then he turned on his very bright tungsten lights that were used at the MGM movie studios in the silent movie days. He used three lights, One on each side and one facing me. It felt like the summer sun blasting down on top of me, caressing me with the very intense heat they radiated. It was blindingly bright. I came to love those lights for the next 8 years posing for Steven countless times. He always sketched out the shoot and the set in his sketch book beforehand.
    I just stumbled upon this “untitled” piece, my very first photo session with Steven yesterday evening, I found it on Pinterest. I was so overwhelmed and it all came rushing back to me in an instant! I hadn’t seen this photo in over 30 years!! This piece is a revolution for me, its absolutely sublime and hauntingly beautiful. I’m so humbled and very thankful to the angels , the god’s , the goddess’s of the universe for making this happen in my life . . . my destiny. I love you Steven , with my heart and soul . . . eternally

    March 18, 2016 at 9:53 pm

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