February 8, 2011

A Video Trip Back to NYC In The 1980s

Nelson Sullivan was a videographer who immersed himself in the New York's downtown demimonde in the 1980s.  He filmed people like artist Haring, rocker Dean Johnson, VOICE gossip Michael Musto and a very young Ru Paul, just off the bus from Atlanta.

My friend Andrew recently showed me some of Nelson's videos which are now up on YouTube.  They provide a fascinating look at NYC in the 80s, not just for who is on camera but for what is in the background too.  A trip to Times Square with some drag queens (including Ru) is most interesting for how relatively empty the sidewalks are during a weekday.  And then, if you look closely, you can see vanished gems like the old Howard Johnson's on Broadway, which frequented back in the day for its Whiskey Sours and French Dips and rude waitresses.

Below is one of Nelson's video compilations but there are many more up on YouTube if you search his name.  He shot more than 1,900 hours of footage using one of the early 8mm video cameras before dying suddenly in 1989 of a heart attack at age 41.  There is also some more information about Nelson and his archive on his website as well.   His work is a great nostalgia trip to the rougher, crazier and dirtier city of the recent past....one that I sometimes miss like an old friend.

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