Hudson Marquez is one of the most gifted raconteurs I’ve ever met. He has the kind of gift for gab that only comes from living a nomadic life peppered with thorny characters. His voice is loud but oddly soothing, with just the gentlest Louisiana lilt. Hudson has a salty tongue, and appears to have no internal filter. He’s not concerned with political correctness. He is possessed of a raw honesty that is tempered by an immense capacity for compassion. He’s hilarious and poignant, often at the same time. On top of all that, he’s a bloody brilliant artist. I’ve only ever met one other person like that, my grandfather. I pretty much fell in love with Hudson right away.
The glorious “series of tubes” that is the internet has been woefully negligent in chronicling the life of Hudson Marquez. Oh sure, if you Google his name, a plethora of things come up, but you only get snapshots of the man. You’ll see that he was one of the key figures in the Ant Farm art collective who designed and erected Cadillac Ranch. You may find a link to some archived footage from the groundbreaking work he did with TVTV. You’ll stumble upon various exhibitions of his paintings over the years. You may be able to dig up a screenwriting credit or an audio interview in which Hudson recounts his yearlong effort to pluck Professor Longhair out of obscurity. But there’s no Wikipedia page, there’s no website, no one place where you can go to get a comprehensive understanding of the man’s life and accomplishments. Maybe that’s just because it would be too daunting a task. You might neglect to mention that he designed shoes for Bette Midler, was the tour manager for Canned Heat, or that he produced a Gene Taylor record with Dave Alvin (of The Blasters). The man has done a lot, and without being too obnoxious about saying so.
Hudson’s paintings are brimming with acerbic wit, and have vintage comic roots, echoing the work of Chester Gould, Al Capp and maybe a bit of Reverend Howard Finster. They are filled with deceptively simple, genius little touches; sweat popping off one figure, the swaying hips indicated by simple black lines in another, or the snaky white pattern on a shirt. Hudson’s latest exhibit, “High Humidity“, an ode to New Orleans, opens January 4th, 2013 at La Luz De Jesus, so it seemed like a good time to sit down with the man and try to scan the expanse of his oeuvre, and chat about the new work. It ended up taking two sessions, and I still didn’t get to ask him everything I wanted. Fine by me, it gives me an excuse to hang out with him again.
Fair warning for the more hyper-sensitive among you. I’ve left his “colorful” language in tact here. I feel that if you want to know Hudson, then you should really know Hudson. So, if seeing letters grouped together that form expletives offends you, maybe you shouldn’t read any further. This probably isn’t the interview for you.
Since no one has done it yet, I thought we might start writing your Wikipedia page. Where are you from?
Can I do it myself? I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana.
Did you have any formal art training?
Yeah, I did. I went to college at Tulane, and the sister college of Tulane was Newcomb College. It was an all-women’s school. That’s where the art department was, where the girls were, you know? So, I wanted to go to art school, and my father told me that he wouldn’t be pay for that. So, I said okay, and I quit school, started hanging around the art school. I went and got a scholarship to the art school, from a gay dean that was really nice to young boys. You didn’t have to do anything. He just liked young boys. (laughs) Maybe he thought something down the line would pay off. I don’t know, but everybody told me, ‘Here’s the secret. Go see dean so-and-so.’ It worked, so I went to art school for a semester, and I was in painting class, and it was fun, because I was the only male student at Newcomb, and I was in a class with gorgeous rich girls from Dallas and Houston, Vicksburg, New York, Chicago, Atlanta…and it was just me and all this pussy. It was fantastic! But I wasn’t learning anything. It was silly. I knew how to draw. So my experience was a teacher telling me at the end of the semester, ‘You know what? Just drop out of school. Just go paint someplace. You don’t need this shit. Just go paint. If you do that, I’ll come and take a look at your paintings.’ He was a good guy, and I think he went to teach at this school, excuse me, because he could get a lot of pussy. He was a wonderful Irishman named Al Carney from Boston. Al was a fantastic painter, portrait painter. Not your usual portraits, incredible portrait painter. I had a lot of respect for him, and he’d come over and look at my stuff. We’d drink beer and hang out and shit, and that was my art training. Then I started traveling and got out of New Orleans, because you don’t want to be stuck there for any amount of time. You have to get out.
How did you meet Chip & Doug (Ant Farm)?
Chip Lord was an architecture student at Tulane, and Doug Michels, and a guy named Bob Fields had just graduated from Yale art graduate school. They cooked up a lecture tour. They went around to colleges and showed slides. Chip and I both met Doug that way, from those lectures. Then I went and dicked around with rock and roll bands as a tour manager for hire, for a while, traveled a whole lot. I always kept an apartment in New Orleans.
What were some of the bands you worked with?
I was tour manager for Canned Heat. I did Led Zeppelin’s first tour, not as their tour manager, but I was hired by Peter Grant to be the American who could talk to the stage hands. Because Peter Grant had bands over here before and he had kind of these cockney thugs that pushed people around, and he got some real grief from the American mob guys who ran the circuits then, gave him grief, ‘Don’t fuck with our guys!’, so he was in a conversation with somebody who said ‘this guy (Hudson) can talk a blue streak with them, don’t worry.’ So, he hired me to do that. I was kind of a front man in a weird way. I’d go in there, we’d load an amp, talk to the guys.
I worked for a bunch of bands, you know, but I kept an apartment in New Orleans, and I kept going back and forth. I lived in San Francisco for a while. I was living in L.A. and Doug and Chip had gone to Texas to teach at the architecture school at the University of Houston. I went there to visit a bunch of times. We’d hang out, and smoke weed. I went to a course they had one day, about making art, shit like that. I took a lot of LSD.
One day I was living here, in the Palisades with friends, with a guy named Henry Vestine, who was the guitar player in Canned Heat. Henry was my friend, he quit Canned Heat. He was starting a band. I was going to be the road manager. So, we’re living in the Palisades, and L.A. got really dark around that time. Manson, I had met Charlie, and seen his act up at Dennis Wilson’s house, you know, and Henry was shooting a lot of speed, and getting his drugs from Hell’s Angels who were hanging around. There’s nothing romantic about real Hell’s Angels. These guys are robbers, murderers, and rapists. They are totally psychotic, and they were hanging around, a lot of guns, a lot of shooting speed. I’m living in this back house, and I was like, you know what? This isn’t for me. I’m just a little white kid from New Orleans. I don’t want to go on a tear with these motherfuckers. Then somebody got killed. Some pop star got killed, and I thought, you know, this is really ugly, real ugly. By that time Chip had moved to San Francisco, and so I went up there, and Doug came out and we started Ant Farm up there.
What was the first project you guys did as Ant Farm?
Well, I think Doug and Chip as Ant Farm in Houston; they came up with the name there. They did some performance stuff, but here, it was a real ant farm, with a bunch of people. The first thing we did? Gosh, I think we did an Earth Day thing in 1970 at Berkeley, where we wore gas masks and dusters. We did this piece called F310. That was an additive they put in gas. F310! Exxon! Shell! F310!! You know, we heard it all of our lives. You still hear it, ‘Techroline! Put it in your gas! It’ll save your car!’ It’s such horseshit. So, here was F310, and we were asked as an art group, we had these kind of tenuous connections with the architecture school, and designers at Berkeley, who were liberal pigs. They were Volvo driving… [mocking tone] ‘Hi, how are you? We love you kids’, but would never do anything. So they said, ‘Let’s have those Ant Farmers come over and do something.’ Well, we did! We had so many fucking railroad flares and smoke bombs that we bought at surplus stores in Oakland. We had gas masks and stickers on the back of our lab coats that said F310, Ant Farm F310. It completely smoked out the front of the Berkeley campus, and they went berserk. The students got the joke. The cops went nuts. They could never figure out what it was about, ‘oh, they set off some smoke bombs. I guess they tried to blow the place up.’ No asshole, it was about, never mind. So we started doing this kind of stuff, and we were hustling architecture and design jobs. We did lots of these things, but Cadillac Ranch came about because of this guy Stanley Marsh–
Yeah, I wanted to ask you about Stanley. He’s certainly going through some tribulations and harsh accusations right now.
(heavy sigh) …yeah, well you know what? He’s weird but he’s not stupid, and the things that they’re saying that he did are the acts of a really stupid man. Stanley’s not stupid.
So, let’s get back to Cadillac Ranch, and how you met Stanley.
Well, Stanley, I had read that Stanley had hired a photographer named Stephen Shore, who was a big time art photographer guy. He was kind of a Bill Eggleston guy, around the same time but before Eggleston. Stephen Shore took pictures of just the most boring shit you’d ever seen. I mean, just completely boring. He did great stuff in small towns. Stanley got him to do ten views of Amarillo, and they’re like, intersection 4th and Main, nothing in the picture. Amarillo’s just a, the best description of it is, it’s a dusty, lo-rise warehouse kind of town. Stephen Shore, Ten Views of Amarillo…brilliant! Stanley had the postcards printed and put them in one of those view packs, you know? Then he went around the panhandle, and surreptitiously put them in postcard racks along route 66. I figured this was good art. So, we had been trying to do a TV documentary, and we were trying to figure out where to get money, and a guy in San Francisco gave us this list of eccentric millionaires who fund weird stuff. He says, ‘There’s thirty people on this list, write to every one of them. Maybe something will happen.’ Stanley was on the list. So, we wrote to him for money and Stanley said, ‘y’all sound like nice boys and I’d like to do something with you. You sound like a clean-cut bunch, but I don’t do anything outside of the state of Texas.’ Then I wrote him and proposed doing (and drew him) some seed packets, but instead of flowers on it, they had cars, were supposed to grow cars. So, my drawing was this ’49 Ford, and a Cadillac and something else on a seed packet. We could have those printed and put those on seed racks around the panhandle. So people would see zinnia, zinnia, marigold, what? ’49 Ford? Stanley thought this was fucking wonderful, this is great. He told us to come visit him, anytime. That’s how we met, and I expanded that to drawing this Cadillac Ranch. Stanley said, ‘Fantastic, I’ll do this. I’ve got land. We’ll do it. Make me a more formal proposal, but I want to do it.’ So Doug Michels, who was an alpha male asshole, now dead, he stayed up overnight and drew this thing. You know, I don’t dig holes.
I was going to ask, how difficult was it to get the Cadillacs all at the same angle as the Giza pyramids?
Well, you know what? I don’t know about that kind of shit. I found out, since then, doing projects like that, you call in an engineer. You don’t worry about that shit. You just assume it can be done. Doug and Chip, they knew how to dig holes and shit like that, and I couldn’t do it without them. It wouldn’t have been fair. It would have been stupid. So, we did it as Ant Farm. There were people in Ant Farm at the time that I made sure had nothing to do with it, and I made sure it was credited alphabetically. Chip and I started putting ads in the paper and going out and getting the old cars. That was the best time of the whole project, was driving around the panhandle in a ’60 that we bought, air conditioning in it, smoking weed, drinking Dr. Pepper.
Were all the cars running?
Oh yeah, all except one were running. Every one of ‘em were runners. We drove them into the holes, and it didn’t take that long to do. Only the one didn’t run. We were missing the ’57. It’s kind of an odd car; it has a fin that goes backwards. We needed that car, and there was one that was junk, in a yard someplace, nobody knew who it belonged to. It served our purposes but it didn’t run, and nobody knew whose it was. We wind up just stealing it. We had to leave a hole for that one. You know, what we had to do is dig a hole, put one in, dig a hole, put one in. Well, we had to dig a hole and leave a space for that one. Then we had to hire one of those giant cranes to put it in. We had a good time doing it, it was great.
Do you know about…um, Duchamp gave a lecture in the sixties in Houston about the art coefficient? I wasn’t at this lecture but I know people who were, and it’s been published. Art coefficient says, and you’ll recognize this as an artist, it says, you know, you have something in your head, you’ve got this idea that you start from…and the idea starts up here [raising his hand up over his head], well that’s one hundred percent, and zero is, you don’t do anything. So, you’re trying for that [one hundred percent], but you never, you never get there. Things change for the better or the worse, but things change, they go off in another direction, but you never get that thing. It’s brilliant I think, it really makes sense, if you know anything about creating art, you know that you never get there. The impetus is to get there, but you never get there. Well, the morning after Cadillac Ranch was finished I drove out at dawn, and watched the sun come up. I’m sitting there and I thought, ‘Fuck! It’s really close to one hundred percent’. Frightening, I mean really frightening, maybe ninety-five percent. It was just, it was good. I knew it was really good, and normally I’m like, ‘Well, this is, okay’ but this was good. So I said, ‘Boy, we gotta take some pictures.’ So, we hung around for a while. We had a big party and whatnot, and people started coming. You know there was no publicity? No nothing, except in Amarillo, and all the press on Stanley is always the same, ‘crazy rich man does something weird’. So, anyway, it’s still there. But I’m thinking now, with the whole Stanley thing, I have a fear, and I’ve talked to Chip about this, maybe I’m just being paranoid, but it’s not going to take too much for a couple of drunk peckerwoods to decide that, because Stanley’s a ‘fruitcake’ and a ‘pervert,’ to go out there and level the fucking thing. There have already been things in the Amarillo paper, letters to the editor, saying ‘We ought to get rid of those junk cars out there. It’s a slap in the face.’ But it’s still there. People have fucked it. I mean, really fucked it. There’s so much paint on it that the paint just sloughs off. I’ve got some of it, I’ll show you. It’s so damn thick that I thought it was rust. It’s funny, you couldn’t stop it. We always said ‘Oh, that’s okay. That’s part of the process.’ Well, you ought to see these pigs that come out there, pretty fucking piggy. But it’s kind of funny to be there and hear them explain to each other what it is, and then they go and spray on the thing, and leave all their garbage. It’s very strange. But there is an unending stream of people.
So, you’re still in touch with Chip?
Yeah, yeah, we are mostly in touch doing Cadillac Ranch business. There’s always some lawsuit. People use it without permission and, I always say ‘I only ever had two good ideas. One was Cadillac Ranch, and the other was to copyright it.’ So, it’s an annuity. Once a year, somebody fucks up big time. Or somebody wants to use it. Disney just used it. They used it in a movie called Cars. They used it in the ride. Boy, I wish we’d gotten more money for that, but I did not want tangle with Disney.
Did you get any money out of Springsteen?
Oh, that’s not a bad story. Um, yeah, what I wanted to do was teach him and this fucking art director a lesson, more than anything else. I got a call from a guy named Jimmy Wachtel. He’s a nice guy, but he was the art director (for The River). He called me up and he said, ‘Hey Hudson, you’re gonna love this. We use the Cadillac Ranch (in a poster insert) on the new Springsteen record.’ Now, I’m not a Springsteen fan. I couldn’t give a less shit. It’s good for them to like it, that’s fine, just not in my universe! It’s just not for me. I said, (mocking) ‘You mean The Boss?’ He says, ‘Yeah, we use Cadillac Ranch and it’s really great, but we found out that we have to get your permission.’ And I said, ‘Really?! When is this record coming out?’ He says, ‘Pretty soon.’ I said, ‘Oh, well you don’t have my permission, and you’re not going to have Doug or Chip’s permission either. Let me tell you that right now. So, don’t do it. Call me back after I’ve talked to them, give me a call.’ So, I call Doug and Chip and they go, ‘Fuck this guy Bruce Springsteen!’ , and I figured this out because I know the music business, but this is already printed, you know? This has got to be printed. They have fucked up, big time. So, we said let’s see what they say. So Wachtel says, ‘Well, we can shoot a little money your way.’ He was expecting me to say fifty grand or something, right? I said, ‘How about six hundred dollars?’ , to really fuck ‘em up, because we weren’t asking for a lot. You know what he had the balls to tell me? He said, ‘Oh man. That was my whole budget for the package!’ So I call my lawyer friend and say ‘What do I do?’, and he says ‘CBS Records? The head of legal was my roommate at law school. Let me call him up.’ So, he calls me back and says ‘Hudson, the guy went nuts. He says that Wachtel can’t leave his hotel room in New York until this is settled, and they stopped pressing the record.’ So, we knew we had him by the balls and we decided we wanted forty records each, and $600.00, which fucked them up so bad, because they were like, ‘and?’ We said, ‘No, that’s it! You think we’re hippies or something? Fuck you! We’re not hippies, see? We’re not into taking your fucking money. Just don’t fuck with people like that! Don’t do it.’ The story got around. It would have been a different story if we had gotten fifty grand, that we held up The Boss for fifty grand, but instead it got around that The Boss made a mistake. So yeah, I got $600. I got forty records. I took the inserts out of them and took the albums to Aron’s and got real records instead.
That’s hilarious. I gotta ask, do you drive a Cadillac?
No, could never! I couldn’t do it! I did for a while. I bought one that I really loved. It turned out to be a major piece of shit. I bought a ’79 Seville, black on black, murdered out! It’s nothing, it’s a Chevy. It’s not the one that looks like a greyhound taking a shit. This one has kind of sharp edges to it. It was a perfectly designed car. It was a wonderful car to drive when it ran, but it fucking fell apart, everything on it. If you put your arm on the armrest it fell apart. Leather seats, it was all leather, it was a great fucking car, for about six months. But no, I just couldn’t do it. No, I drive an ’82 Mercedes Benz diesel, the world’s slowest car, 240D, the slowest, most dangerous car.
I wanted to talk about TVTV because it kind of prophesied the future of television.
It sure did!
It was reality television, but way before and done in a much more “real” way than what’s being spewed out now. How did that get started?
Yeah, TVTV started when this guy Michael Shamberg was writing, he was in New York, had a group called Raindance. He and his wife came to San Francisco and got Ant Farm to illustrate Michael’s book called Guerrilla Television, really big book. It was the bible of that kind of television. We did that, and we traded video equipment for it, because, somebody from New York gave us a video camera in ’71, way before Cadillac Ranch, and I put my eye in there, and that was it. Fuck this architecture and shit. This is the future. So I kind of had to leave Ant Farm, because I wanted to do television. So Michael and his wife Megan, a guy named Allen Rucker and I founded TVTV. The first thing we did is we went down and filmed the Democratic National Convention in ’72 in Miami Beach. That was the beginning of TVTV. They all relocated from New York to San Francisco, and we got a deal doing documentaries for WNET, which is PBS’ flagship station in New York. We could do anything we wanted. We made proposals and they would just go yes, or no. They never told us (what to do). We weren’t for hire. We had ideas coming out of our ass, but yeah, we were the first ones to do any kind of narrative documentary without voiceover, and whatever they call verite, which doesn’t really exist. We didn’t really like most documentarians. The Maysles were, okay, but there was a lot of shit. They would say, ‘Once the cameras are in the room, the subjects forget about it. Bullshit! There’s always the camera in the room, and what we did was recognize that the camera was there, and we’d talk from behind the camera to people. We fucking took part in what was going on, and I see it all the time now. In fact, my wife and I were watching, during this wretched election cycle, a news show that someone did on the Republican convention, and the introduction to their piece was cut by cut what we did in 1972. They got the same old ladies, they got the ‘Youth for Nixon’ (but it was Youth for Romney), they got the buses coming in, they got, I mean shot for shot. It was shocking, absolutely shocking. Because somebody said ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever seen on Republicans. Let’s do it shot for shot.’ So yeah, somebody would have invented reality television, but TVTV was, it was splendid while it lasted. It was really great.
What TVTV segment are you most fond of?
Yeah, we did a show about Cajun music called “The Good Times Are Killing Me”. It was the only show we did that we just had fun doing it. We weren’t going after anybody. We usually had an axe to grind, but this wasn’t. It was just country Mardi Gras in Cajun country. It had Nathan Abshire playing “Pine Grove Blues”.
How did you first meet Billy Shire?
Billy?! Oh God! I guess I went to the Soap Plant one time to get some kind of soap for a chick, and this guy Billy was there. He wasn’t wearing any shoes either. At the Melrose store, that’s where I met Billy.
In the La Luz 25th Anniversary book, you say Billy saved your life a couple of times. How so?
Well, I used to drink. I don’t drink anymore, but I was drunk and driving and I stopped the car because I realized I was blind. I couldn’t see. I got out of the car, I was in South Central, got lost. I was by myself, and I got out of the car and I found a phone booth. I phoned my wife Susan and I said, ‘I don’t know where I am. I’m too fucked up to read the street signs.’ But I did find one sign that I could read, so she said, ‘Don’t go anywhere!’ So Susan called Billy, because I’d been at Billy’s, and Billy happened to recognize the street name. He knew where it was, off of La Brea somewhere. He knew this weird street name and he figured out how I got lost. He drove there. He drove me home. He found me, or else I would’ve been sitting in South Central, you know, in an old Mercedes, white boy, drunk. So he saved my life that time. The other time was around dope and I don’t want to talk about it. But I was a drunk. I liked to drink and snort coke. I did it for thirty years, constantly (laughs), constantly! I don’t know why I’m alive.
I owe you a big debt of gratitude by the way, because I understand that you were instrumental in introducing Billy to Matjames Metson, who has become not only one of my favorite artists, but a personal hero of mine.
Yeah, he’s a good guy isn’t he? He worked at this antique dealer over here on La Brea, and he knew more about the trade then the owner, Ray Ferra, who’s also a real character. My friend, Lou Beach went in there and Lou talks to this guy. Then he tells me, ‘Yeah, there’s this guy over there from New Orleans. He makes art and shit over at Ray’s.’ I said, ‘Oh yeah, what’s his name?’ He says, ‘His name is Matjames. He has a rabbit tattooed on his chest.’ I thought, um, I don’t know about some guy with a rabbit tattooed on his chest, but I said ‘Okay, I’ll check him out.’ So I went in. That’s how I met him. I really liked him a whole lot. He’d gone through a lot of shit in New Orleans, and he survived, and he’s clean, pretty amazing. As soon as he told me about the people he knew in New Orleans, I knew what his story was. So I went over and saw his stuff, and said ‘This is fucking amazing!’ So I called the gallery, and said ‘You have to come see this, Billy!’, and Annie came over, Billy came over too, and said ‘Yeah, this is the right shit, yeah.’ So he put him in a show.
Let’s talk about the new paintings in “High Humidity,” your latest show at La Luz. You have Ike Turner plotting out the JFK assassination.
I’m just a huge Ike Turner fan. I just love Ike. Ike was the real deal. He had some bad habits, you know. Isaac Hayes beat the crap out of his wife constantly too. I got nothing good to say about Ike being a good guy or anything, but as a musician, well, he’s great because he became a great symbol of black evil. He became the black devil, you know. You don’t fuck with Ike Turner. Now Tina, I swear to God, she swore that she never wore the outfits that she actually wore as Tina Turner, even though there’s hours of film of her. She claims it never happened. Her name was Anna Mae Bullock from Nutbush, Tennessee. She claims that person never really existed, but this man, this evil man did all this stuff. She didn’t say that he wrote the songs for her. She didn’t say that he arranged all the music, and choreographed the dances. Ike choreographed that shit. The Ikettes? Ike choreographed them. Ike rehearsed them, in his living room, day after day after day, and Ike was a mean boss. But anyway, I was thinking that Ike could have been involved in great conspiracies. Like, you know what? That Ike, he probably planned the Kennedy assassination (laughs). So I’ve got Ike, and the other people in the picture, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Carlos Marcello, who was the mafia boss of the southeast. He probably did have Kennedy killed. He ran every extortion racket from Atlanta to Dallas, he owned it…anyway the theory is, and I think it’s true, is that Carlos had him killed. Anyway, I’m sure Ike had something to do with it, (laughs) that Ike was the Mastermind.
And you have Andy Warhol in there?
And Andy because he’d be fascinated with this stuff! Then the woman in the middle is Judith Exner. She was Sam Giancana’s girlfriend and she was fucking Kennedy at the same time.
I saw on the La Luz site that one of the paintings (Dangerous Shoes) already sold.
Yeah, the shoes, Ian McShane, he’s a good friend of mine. He bought that one. I just like old shoes. I collect that shit. I don’t know if it’s a fetish or not. You know a lot of these shoes you can only wear in bed. You can’t walk in them! Mostly I just love high heels. I did design some shoes that Bette Midler wore for a while.
Then you have one where Popeye is at the 500 Club. What’s the story behind that?
The 500 Club was a club in the French Quarter. It’s called Luis Prima’s 500 Club. His name was on it, but he didn’t play there. It was one of the big stripper places, burlesque stars were there. When we were kids in the French Quarter, thirteen or fourteen, they’d let us in. They thought it was cute. So I got to see all those strippers. The crowd was weird, you know. But that’s what that painting is about, my time in the French Quarter.
Well, in New Orleans there’s a huge black obsession with Popeye. All my life, black people have Popeye stuff, always. There’s Popeye’s chicken, you know, which was designed to be the opposite of Colonel Sanders. There’s a Popeye dance. It’s a whole thing. There were all these songs, “Popeye Joe”. I’ve never known what the connection is. I have no idea! None of them were sailors. It’s a mystery. I don’t know, but I put Popeye in there, and Bobby Bland eating a Lucky Dog, because I love Bobby Bland and those are two characters you wouldn’t see together at the 500 Club, or anyplace!
Then you have a Jayne Mansfield piece.
The Jayne Mansfield thing, I was always interested in Jayne Mansfield herself because she died right outside of New Orleans, and there was always some kind of mystery about that, about what happened to her and so on. I’d seen her, in her latter days she had a nightclub act, she did dinner theater. Basically, she came out in fewer and fewer clothes and did dance numbers with a couple of acts. Anyway, I saw her when I was a kid on the Gulf Coast, then a couple years later she got killed, leaving that same club, she got killed. About two months after she died, I was getting my hair cut on St. Charles Avenue when two state troopers came in. ‘Hey, how you doing?’, they were chatting up the barber, you know? They were the ones who handled the Mansfield accident out in Slidell. They had pictures of the wreck, and they showed them, passed them around. One of the photos was these two cops holding what looked like Jayne Mansfield’s head. I looked at it and my jaw dropped, like ‘Wow!’ People say she wasn’t decapitated but I saw this fucking picture. So anyway, at the bottom of this painting I wrote “I saw a head’.
Then I did another one where Jayne and Professor Longhair are playing chess with my cats, Tipitina and Lucille, yeah.
Then you have a painting of Ernie K. Doe pleading with Sophia Loren.
Sophia Loren is my higher power! I think all women should just be Sophia Loren. She’s the bomb. So, I got Ernie there, he’s taken her to the Flying Fox Club, a big time nightclub. He wants to beg her to be his Mother-in-law. They’re eating red beans and rice. She’s having a garlic martini, because she’s Italian and she’s giving him the shit-eye (laughs).
Then the Visitors to Cadillac Ranch?
That one is not like the other paintings, in a way. If you go to the Cadillac Ranch, there are people there 24 hours a day, and you can meet some pretty strange people. Then you meet people who have been there, and you find all these other people like Loretta Lynn, all kinds of people. I made up the Candy Barr thing, that the stripper was there but, Muddy did have a ’49 Cadillac, so I put him in there.
That was the first painting I did for this show. This is about Ahmet Ertegun and Ray Charles and the black music business. The joke here, of course is that Ahmet gives Ray a car. Ray’s blind so Ahmet tells him it’s a Cadillac, but it’s not, it’s a Mercury. I threw Bobby Marchan in there too, by the pool. It’s a tribute to him too.
Do you get out to many gallery shows anymore?
No, I never go to openings. I never go. I used to go. I can’t stand up for a long time. It hurts my leg. I pay for it the next day, and I can’t walk. I’ve been going out every night since I was fifteen, and it’s just taken a toll. I go to my friends shows and I’ll go to this La Luz thing, but I can’t do it otherwise. Let me give you some advice Keith, don’t get old!
I wish you could have told me that thirty years ago, Hudson!“High Humidity” runs Jan. 4 -27, 2013
La Luz de Jesus
4633 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, 90027
Open Monday-Wednesday 11am-7pm; Thursday-Saturday 11am-9pm; Sunday, noon-6pm
The photos below are of items in Hudson’s impressive personal collection .
Top photo (of Hudson) by Coop
All other photos by Keith Dugas