Produced by Marc Santo & Scott Newman
Camera by Rainer Evans
Edited by Eben Bull
Assistant Editor: Kevin Gillooly
Interview by Marc Santo
Emerging from the New York art scene in the 1960’s, Susan Blond quickly found herself absorbed in Andy Warhol’s inner circle. “I like your name. I like your voice. You’ll be in all our movies,” promised Warhol upon their first meeting. Warhol was a man of his word—Susan picked up a couple of collaborative Warhol/Morrissey movie credits, including the gritty punk tale “Madame Wang’s” and the black comedy, “Bad,” in which Susan played the small but infamous role of throwing a screaming baby out of an apartment building window.
For decades since, Susan has been embedded in the fabric of New York City’s cultural and entertainment landscape. She performed on the television show “Anton Perich Presents,” directed by downtown nightlife photographer and artist Anton Perich and co-starring fellow Warhol figures Taylor Meade and Tinkerbelle. The show featured uncensored and controversial skits along with candid appearances by icons like The Clash, Grace Jones and The Who. The now-legendary program pioneered the rich legacy of over-the-top New York City cable shows that followed.
After holding posts at Interview magazine and United Artists, Susan became the first female VP of Epic Records and played an instrumental role in the success of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. She later formed her own company, Susan Blond Inc., a top public relations company that’s represented the likes of Prince, The Grateful Dead, Iggy Pop, Puff Daddy, Julian Schnabel and just about every other superstar on the planet.
MARC SANTO: How did you become involved with the New York art world?
SUSAN BLOND: I met Andy Warhol while I was still in art school in Boston. I knew Ed Hood, who was in Chelsea Girls and he held court at a little bar in Cambridge. All the most interesting people in the world were there—people like Peter Wolfe, who was in a band called The Hallucinations, Danny Fields, who was really important in the punk scene and Rick Hertzberg from The New Yorker. We’d all hang out at night. When Paul Morrissey came to Boston, he would stay with Ed. I became friends with Paul, who later introduced me to Andy when I moved back to New York.
MARC: And Andy let you into his circle right away?
SUSAN: I wasn’t a great beauty like the rest of the girls, but he liked girls that talked a lot and I talk a lot. The first thing he said to me was, “I like your name. I like your voice. You’ll be in all our movies.” He probably said that to a lot of people, but I actually got to be in a few. He was really nice and really supportive, which was the opposite of what that Edie movie was about.
MARC: What was the vibe around The Factory at this point?
SUSAN: When I met Andy, he had already been attacked and shot, so things weren’t as wild as they used to be. David Hockney was always around, Jack Nicholson, President Ford’s son and Reagan’s daughter—tons of interesting people. It wasn’t that crazy but it was still exciting. Andy was into collecting chairs, so we’d sit around and watch whatever films they were showing. It was a sexy time to be in New York. Nobody left the city, not even in the summer. We didn’t even know about the Hamptons. It was dirty, but it had real spirit.
MARC: Were you creating work at this point?
SUSAN: I was. I idolized Andy and all the modern artists, so what happened was all my art school training was thrown out the window. I had a museum give me a studio and I went to the Whitney’s program with Julian Schnabel. It didn’t work for me but it obviously worked for him. Right before I came back to New York, I had a one-woman show at Harvard. William Randolph Hearst III was the first person who started collecting my work.
MARC: Why did you jump from artist to publicist?
SUSAN: Being around Andy was a good way to learn to become a publicist. He did a magazine, art, films, TV shows; he had a basic understanding of publicity and I just picked it up from him. I’ve always been a natural promoter. Even when I moved to Epic and worked with Michael Jackson, I always had a knack for it. Before I was a publicist, I was kind of like a star, so I think that didn’t hurt me either. I’m still an artist, so it helps me because they’re trying to get something out to the world and I can identify with that.
MARC: You were instrumental in breaking Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Did you have a relationship with Michael or was it strictly business?
SUSAN: When I first met Michael, we’d always go to Studio 54 and I’d always say, “Come on. Let’s dance!” Michael wouldn’t, because to him, dancing was work. Before I knew him he was big, but after Thriller, he became the biggest artist in the world. I remember I brought Andy and Keith Haring to see Michael and Michael kept asking Andy why he didn’t have any children. He was really naïve in that sense. It was a magical time and we did have a good relationship, but then all that stuff started happening with him. Things were much easier back then.
MARC: How do you think Andy would have reacted to the changing New York landscape?
SUSAN: I think Andy would love the idea that everybody has a blog and everybody has camera phones. The idea that everyone thinks whatever they have to say is so important and needs to be documented would really amuse him. See, Andy always carried a camera and obsessively documented everything, so he would really get a kick out of that.