PRINT January 1994


I COULDN’T FIGURE OUT how to edit Mark’s work down to just a few pages. Even at this point it seems so vast & ongoing. So in order to tell this story I decided to show you some of the pictures he took of me while we were boyfriends in. Boston, “Brilliant move, darling.” I can hear him snarl. “A story about me, featuring only pictures of you, taken ten years ago.” Not that I think. I look so great. We were both strung out, skinny little fags hoping to make it big between getting drunk, shoplifting at Goodwill and listening to Connie Francis records. Actually the money was always Mark. Even in, my mind. I started reading Prick Up Your Ears at one point and had to put it down in panic because I was identifying so strongly w/ the boyfriend’s story. The muse, the fuse, standing in the shadows of Love. I was a wreck and Mark seemed like he’d be the next Warhol if we could just get to New York.

We met at a cafe called C’est si Bon where he was a dishwasher and I was a dilettante. It was my first year of art school and his last. After he died I read one of his notebooks: he describes me as a corn fed redhead fresh off the farm, whose only ambition was to be considered cool. Sort of true. I thought it was enough to worship PATTI SMITH and have spiky hair. I wanted to be a filmmaker or design theatre posters, or direct Pinter, I wanted color Xerox to be my only medium one day and to only do “performance art” the next. I was all over the place and no place and ripe for picking. It made me angry to think he knew it though. I always thought of him & me as Ratso Rizzo & Joe Buck and I guess that pissed him off some too. Did I tell you he’s a gimp? Yeah. Real bad too. After five years though I learned to stagger along w/ him so I could keep the pace and maybe catch him by the scruff of his neck when he started to fall. He got shot in the back when he was still a kid.

I’d turn tricks on the street for dope— ’till no one would pay me anymore . . .
—Eartha Kitt in Synanon.

He told me the guy just didn’t want to pay that’s why the guy shot him. He told WILLIE ALEXANDER he was turning the trick in drag and when the guy realized Mark wasn’t a chick he shot him. Anyone who ever saw ‘Raspberry’ in drag knows this had to be a lie. Mark lied chronically and w/ such abandon, lying doesn't even begin to name the activity. I guess he was trying to write a new life for himself. The weird thing is that his life was already pretty “interesting” and the stories didn’t move him up or down the social ladder they just intensified where he was already to the nth degree.

He’s just the bastard spawn of a gypsy.
—someone talking about Anthony Quinn in La Strada

Did you ever have one of those things in your life where it goes like a close-up in a movie? It happens to me all the time. One time it happened when I went w/ him down to City Hall to get his birth certificate so he could get a passport. The clerk was asking him like “Name?” “Date of birth?” “Social Security number?” Then he says “Father’s name?” Mark goes: I don’t have one. Clerk thinks he’s being a smart aleck & says again the same way “father’s name?” Mark takes a breath and says: “I don’t know.”

“C’mon pal let’s go” the clerk guy says “I gotta put something.” Mark looks the guy in the eye and spits out “Illegitimate. Just put illegitimate.” It gets weird and quiet and the clerk goes off to find the birth certificate. Mark mutters IDIOT! and we’re standing there in the Big old hallway. Thank christ there’s no one behind us in line, but it feels like there is.

My daughter, my sister, my, daughter,
my sister my daughter, my SISTER.
Get it? Or is it too tough for ya?
—Faye Dunaway in Chinatown

And that’s not even the close-up part. We wait forever till the guy comes back w/ the birth certificate and slides it across the marble counter w/ his fat fingers and BAM close-up now: in the blank space next to “father” (QUIET, QUIET, BOOM . . . BASTARD typed on the line (no reaction shots). “Thanks,” Mark gnarls, gives the guy $3.50 for the copy and we split.

ALBERT DE SALVO aka the BOSTON STRANGLER was a running theme between me and Mark from the day I met him. We spent a day walking all over Boston. visiting the sites where the nurses were murdered. Supposedly de Salvo lived next door to Mark and his mother in Malden when Mark was little. The story I heard was that Mark used to fool around w/ de Salvo’s son under the stairs and that Albert de Salvo caught them once and screamed at them. Later this evolved into Mark had been molested by de Salvo himself. But if you knew Mark toward the end of his life, he told you shyly and perhaps with hesitation as though not to harm you: Albert de Salvo was my father.

Mark’s work is like CASPAR DAVID FRIEDRICH in a donut shop. These few pictures of me, well a couple are great, a couple are just of me. I don’t know what I hope to convey by presenting them to you here, something about him of course, something about me. But you who can—you would be wise to see more.

—Jack Pierson
Provincetown Nov. 93

Jack Pierson is an artist who divides his time between Provincetown, Mass., and New York.