You Don’t Know Jack

     By Sandra Hale Schulman

 

In 1982  I was an intern at Metro Pictures Gallery on Mercer Street. I was 21 and living at 250

Mercer, just up the block, in an airy apartment with a loft bed. I had escaped the dull suburbs of Westchester to get an education in the arts. The “arts” in the 1980s meant going out every night to

openings at Schafrazi, Mary Boone, Holly Solomon, and then clubbing at Danceteria,

Mudd Club, Max’s.

 


                       Jack Goldstein show invite in my journal

 

My internship consisted of answering phones (“Hello, Metro Pictures.” “Yes, hello, what time is

the movie?”) and the all-consuming slide sheet collating. I was sitting at a back table jamming

Mike Kelley’s slides of his Monkey Island show into the clear plastic sheets when Jack Goldstein

poked his head around the corner, saw me working alone and backed away saying “Oh sorry.”


 

Whoa. Who’s that shy wolf, with his dark eyes, shaggy hair cut, and mirrored aviators perched

on his head. He had on tight jeans, brown boots and a cracked white leather jacket. White leather?

  Well, I thought, must be from California  - no one in New York City wears white leather.


 

He said to gallery co-owner Janelle Reiring “Who’s that?” and she said “Oh it’s Sandra, our

new intern.” She didn’t introduce us. And I knew nothing about the history between Jack and

the other owner, Helene Weiner, how they had been together for a decade and came from

California, bringing a new school of artists to New York. The Pictures Generation – Cindy

Sherman, Richard Prince, Robert Longo, Louise Lawler and more.

He didn’t come to the gallery often, when he did I got flustered, though he never did more than

smile at me. When I saw his show of paintings, movies and records at White Columns in

March 1983 I was in love and signed the guest book.
 A few days later Jack called and asked

me out to dinner. I had been living on college student budget Korean deli salads and was

excited to go on a real dinner date.



 

He picked me up in his beat up car. He brought along his Weimaraner Jack, a lanky, shedding,

demanding beast that Jack said was one of his friend William Wegman’s brood. 
We went to a

Japanese place in mid-town. Sushi had not taken over every storefront in lower Manhattan

that didn’t have an art gallery in it and was pretty exotic to me. 

 

We talked about relationships, parents, living in the city, the new scary disease going around.

But not about art, he wanted to talk about anything but that. I tried to be a grown up good girl

who ate everything on her plate including the ginormous mound of wasabi which I had never

seen before. I ate it all in one gulp and started choking as my eyes teared up. Jack was amused

as I coughed and burned and ended up with black eye makeup streaming down my face.

 

I was embarrassed and nervous but said yes when he asked if I wanted to go back to his studio

in Williamsburg. Driving over the bridge into this ominous industrial area I felt both frightened

and exhilarated.

 

We parked on the street outside a big warehouse. The door was cracked open, Jack ordered

Jack the Dog to go ahead of us up the four flights of stairs to make sure there were no junkies

or muggers hiding in the stairwell.
 Charming. 

 

The studio was half the top floor of the building with a wall of windows facing the NYC skyline.

His huge paintings of lightning and bombs exploding lined two walls. There was a cluttered

kitchen, a cold white tiled bath, a battered couch under the windows and a bed in the corner.


I was mesmerized by the view, living in the city you never see it like this. You’re down in a

canyon, stomping through the streets, avoiding strangers eyes.


 

Jack came up behind me. Shaking in my kitten heels, he kissed me until I couldn’t stand up

anymore. He was a sweet quiet lover, and over the next two  years that we would be together,

I realized he was not a loner but lonely. The sex was never as important as just talking at dinner.

 

Then he reached over and took some pills from a big bottle. I went to the bathroom and when

I came back, shivering in a thin sheet, he had passed out. Jack the Dog was now in the bed and

let out a low mean growl as I approached. I slunk over to the couch, pulled my jacket over me

and laid there staring at the sickly orange glow the street lights cast on the paintings. Beautiful.

 


In the morning Jack woke up and asked why I was on the couch as Jack the Dog sat there

wagging his tail on the dirty wood floor.

 

As soon as the assistants showed up his whole mood changed as he put on the Patsy Cline and

I was out the door. He drove me back to the city, always an awkward ride in the cold light of day.

   

We started going out a few times a week. He told me hadn’t had sex in six months. I wasn’t

sure I believed him because he later said he was teaching and had “tons of affairs” with his

students. He said he wanted to be more successful in NY but he didn’t like dealing with the

art crowd. We never went to an art opening, a club or anywhere but restaurants. We never met

up with anyone else, which was fine by me, he was my secret. Dinner at 7, then to Brooklyn or

Mercer Street. Always the pills at night. I didn’t ask, he didn’t offer.

 

The phone would ring at 3 a.m. It was Jack.

 

You’re really beautiful and nice,” he said, slurring his words. “Why do you want to be with

such a creep?”

 


“I…I don’t think you’re a creep,” I stammered. “Where are you? Are you okay?”

 

Yeah. I'm a creep.”

 

I’d hear noises in the background – street sounds, talking.

 

Jack? You there?”

 

The phone went dead.

 

The next time he’d call and never mention it. At dinner he told me hysterical stories about

how he had dated Mary Boone – whose gallery had the big name emerging painters  – and

they had a fight while he was driving so he pulled over in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge

and kicked her out of the car.


 

We went on food tours – lobster and margaritas at El Quixote next to The Chelsea; French,

more Japanese. The Cupping Room on Broome Street was a late stop for coffee. He admitted

going to tanning salons because the NY winters made him too pale. He smoked a lot. One

time he got angry with me when I said there were so many new groups of artists that it

almost seemed subjective.

 

“Subjective!” he yelled. “How the hell can you think that?”

 

When he stayed at my place on Mercer Street Jack the dog couldn’t navigate the steep ladder

up to the loft bed so he sat at the foot of the stairs whining. Jack would tell him to quiet down,

I laid there under the sheets grinning ear to ear.

 

One night we went to a place in Soho and Helene Weiner was sitting right at the first table inside

the door. Jack backpedaled and grabbed my arm to pull me away.

 

What’s going on?” I said. “Did you see Helene?”

 

He just mumbled something like “Oh I don’t want to deal with her.”

 

The next week at the gallery I got lots of cold fish stares and someone told me she had said

“Jack shouldn’t be seeing teenagers.”

 

I graduated Sarah Lawrence College in June 1983.  Metro gave me a Cindy Sherman print as

a graduation gift. Over the next two years I helped start Spiritual America Gallery with

Richard Prince, who I knew from Metro Pictures; and 303 Gallery with my high school

pal Lisa Spellman.


   This art activity started to distance Jack and I saw him less. He didn’t socialize and wanted

   no part of the shows. I heard he was having trouble with Metro, feeling that they – like I had

   been doing – were giving more attention to other artists - and left them for another gallery.

  I thought he would be impressed by what I was doing, but instead he was threatened. The

  last time I saw him at his opening of hyper color film stills in 1985 he was uncomfortable, edgy.

   He stopped calling.

 

I never saw Jack again. I heard about his suicide in 2004, a year after it happened. I didn’t know how serious Jack’s addiction was. I cannot fathom the depths he hit after a decade in a trailer with no

electricity in Riverside.  I never said goodbye. I don’t know Jack.

 


A collage I made from Art Forum ads and photos, 1986.

 

Sandra Hale Schulman is an arts writer and film producer. Her documentary films were recently featured in a show at the Smithsonian Museum in NYC. Her work has appeared in Billboard, Variety, Rolling Stone, Ocean Drive, The New York Daily News, and Entertainment Weekly. She was an arts columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for 8 years.  She lives and works in Southampton, NY.