Artistry and Celebrity: An Interview with Harry Goaz by Kofi Forson

Harry Goaz

Harry Goaz, “Self Portrait” (2015), photographs, mounted on Dibond, 63.75 in. x 63.75 in. (All images courtesy of the artist)

By KOFI FORSON, JUL. 2016

Harry Goaz was first cast as Deputy Andy Brennan in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, a role he has reprised for a continuation of the series to be broadcast on Showtime. Mister Goaz gleams from a jet set Hollywood allure, legendary in what he has become, an avuncular hero to millennials with works of fiction and photographs.

Kofi Forson: What a pleasure, Harry. I suppose everything goes back to and falls on your initial meeting with David Lynch.

Harry Goaz: Well, it’s a very famous and also a well-loved story by Mr. Lynch himself of our meeting. At the time I was a young whippersnapper scuffing around Los Angeles with some worn out Tony Lamas, working two jobs and studying. One of my jobs was as a driver for a private car service that specialized in getting high profile types in and out of places with little fanfare. One night I received a call to pick up Mr. Lynch in the Hollywood Hills to take him down into Hollywood for a memorial ceremony for the late, great Roy Orbison. At the time Mr. Lynch was already known to me as THE director of Blue Velvet, which happened to be an indelible game-changer of a film for me as a young and hungry artisan. He was very open, affable and completely without guile. After I dropped him off I impulsively decided to pull up and just sit in the car and see if I could see him coming out. He seemed surprised that I was still waiting. At the end of a very long evening as I was pulling up into his driveway he asked me what I did besides driving. I told him that I was an actor. His demeanor seemed to shift to a solemn and serious shade. He nodded his head and said, “It is the hardest life.” I said yes sir, but you have to love it. He nodded and said, “That’s it, you have to love it. You have to love it!” He told me he was working on something very special and asked me to send in my picture. Voila! Thank you Universe…and Mr. Lynch!

Harry Goaz untitled photograph

Harry Goaz, Untitled (2013), photographs, 31 in. x 48 in.

KF: You were cast as Deputy Andy Brennan in Twin Peaks. How did this character originate?

HG: Andy Brennan was a character created quick-on-the-draw as I was delivered to the set fresh and green in about two to three weeks after meeting Mr. Lynch.

KF: When did David Lynch contact you about reprising your role as Andy Brennan? Had you been in communication with him over the years?

HG: I started communicating with Mr. Lynch again two summers ago, prior to that I had no communication with him. That summer I had a very old-school cellular phone that was an expectantly low performer in the Black Hills of New Mexico, and with Mr. Lynch calling from Paris, our conversations consisted of us yelling at each other. I liked that. The conversations comprised of him asking many good questions. Many! Good times . . .

Harry Goaz "Kimmy on back lot"

Harry Goaz, “Kimmy on back lot” (2016), photographs, 18 in. 25 in.

KF: Did you sense early on David Lynch was making history? What was the mood on the set?

HG: I did not think in those terms, and in retrospect I guess that may have been because I was so young and excited to be on set. I think everyone was very cognizant of how special it was that Mr. Lynch was going to venture into television. There certainly was a palpable amount of wide-eyed exuberance on the set and on location. Months later, after all of the post production and editing, I remember being by myself on the night of the premiere on ABC Television. I was in bed in a glass room in the hills overlooking the entire Los Angeles basin. When the opening credits began to roll I remember looking out and the entire basin had turned a beautiful, forest green as thousands and thousands of televisions glowed with the opening credits. But, for the sake of our conversation let’s say MILLIONS, Kofi. In THAT very moment I realized that history was being made…

KF: Has it been an easy transition getting to play the same character after all these years?

HG: My apprehension was that I had lived in character as Andy for some very long periods. I had a hard time letting him go. I think that Mr. Lynch knew that a lot of us veterans were just going to need to know our marks and allow him not to direct us, but to paint his sets with us.

Harry Goaz Untitled 2016

Harry Goaz, Untitled (2016), photographs, Edition of 5, 64 in. x 60 in.

KF: You studied with William Traylor at The Loft Studio.

HG: The Loft Studio was a brutal and life changing experience for me. There were eight of us in our class. I remember regurgitating on the afternoons before some of my scenes because I was so nervous. Not one day passed during those times though when I had definitive flashes of just how lucky and privileged I was to study there. At nights I would get on the bus in those scruffy Tony Lamas to go home and be incredibly grateful. I remember all those rides home at night. All of them!

KF: Was it William Traylor who inspired your love for acting?

HG: NO!!!! Hahaha. He was one of the best things that happened to me in my education, however. He really drove me deeper into characters and vastly increased my concentration for timing. I’m sure he is in Hell somewhere right now kicking Andy Warhol’s feet off of a coffee table. Hahahaha. Can I say that? When I look back at my early exposure to film and television, Michael Caine comes to my mind. There was something about how much larger he resonates on a full screen as opposed to his physical stature as a mere mortal. I of course didn’t know that in my youth, but was able to fathom what was happening later as an actor.

Harry Goaz "Dakota's Death Bed"

Harry Goaz, “Dakota’s Death Bed” (2015), photographs, 36 in. x 71 in.

KF: What are your impressions of art? Do you value the role of the artist as an enfant terrible or do you enjoy works of art on the basis of talent and craftsmanship?

HG: BOTH!! Might I also say that there is an incredible amount of ravishing and impressionistic art coming from some very, very young kids in Istanbul? I’m not privy to what the protonic combustion happening there is, but I’m there two trips from now. Won’t that be a great phone call?

KF: Like the Tom Waits composition… Telephone Call from Istanbul!

Who are some of your favorite artists? What period in art do you like the most?

HG: Very young I was a devotee of Rauschenberg. Even though some viewers considered the strokes and texts as being impulsive, I found them to be frightfully complicated and in some ways crippling because of how much inference could be placed on the piece as a whole. There were also images of Ruscha floating around in my head and I did not identify them as such until later. I was very moved that art was being facilitated in such a clean and minimalistic way when Ruscha was delivered upon me. The messages seemed vast to me and I had never thought of art in that way. There seemed to be such honesty in it for me. I could go back to them over and over again.

KF: The movie Figurehead centers on the making and selling of art.

What interests you about the making of art? Do you still paint?

HG: I don’t paint anymore and have returned to photography. There was a rebirthing for me to return to the old Screbneski black and whites and the colors of Bourdin. Something just fired up in me again. It’s been simmering a couple of years and I have dived right into the deep end of it again. And you must understand I left photography in the late 70s!! I have curated a number of private collections and even that seems to be careening back to photographic images. Life — ‘Tis a tale of revisions and rewrites!

Harry Goaz "Skippy's Ghost on Bel Air Road"

Harry Goaz, “Skippy’s Ghost on Bel Air Road” (2016), photographs and Tempura, 8 in. x 12 in.

KF: You recently published a series of short stories which were translated into Russian, French and Portuguese.  

HG: I have a tidy little army of lovers for my stories. They run anywhere from one to three lines and are usually accompanied by my older images. It’s like when Keith Richards said “yeah” off-mic at the end of “Brown Sugar.” The kids are eating and I am feeding.

KF: Would you say your love for art is primal? Who are some of your favorite writers?

HG: Oh, excellent question! As for me I would say yes. Well let me amend that; I think art is primal for everyone until they get all layered and shellacked up and become encumbered with all of the “business” of becoming a human being and trying to live in a world with others.

Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams, John Berger’s “The Shape of a Pocket,” John Cheever and Richard Bausch will all send me to a happy grave.

KF: In the book Image/Music/Text the French philosopher, Roland Barthes speculates on the theory behind the image, text and music. You have experienced the practice of art as performer, visual artist and writer.

What has been your involvement with music?

HG: Interesting that you would mention Roland, you psychic devil. I always go back to how his MANY hardships were the catalyst for his greatest academic concepts and victories. At this point in my life, as a more mature viewer, I rarely am able to ‘view’ ANY images without music. I compose all images with music whether it be conceptualizing or editing.

Harry Goaz "Door Open at 3:00AM"

Harry Goaz, “Door Open at 3:00AM” (1995), photographs, chromogenic print, 12 in. x 14 in.

KF: We now live in an internet and celebrity culture. Are you fascinated by the spontaneity in what has become a quick path to fame? Is the role of the artist as genius still relevant?

HG: I was, but so many people are famous now. I think artist as genius is relevant, but not to say that all great art has come from genius. I would like to think that there is more than an army of us out there who spend inordinate amounts of time consuming art and trying to find our place as mere mortals… WM

Kofi Forson
Kofi Forson is a writer, POET and PLAYWRIGHT living in NYC. His current blog is BLACK COCTEAU, a mixture of philosophy and art on modern culture.

*Originally printed in Whitehot Magazine in August 2016 issue here. View all articles by Kofi Forson here.

The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave

Book Review
Title: The Death of Bunny Munro
Author: Nick Cave
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: 2009
Pages: 288
ISBN-10: 0865479100
ISBN-13: 978-0865479104
Stars: 3.5

Australian rock star Nick Cave (of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) is an interesting, eclectic artist who writes fantastic lyrics so it is for this reason that I let HarperCollins know that I wanted to read and review his book, The Death of Bunny Munro. I have not read his previous book so had nothing to compare, but this was every bit as remarkable and unusual a black comedy as I expected it would be and once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.

Set in modern day England, this soft-porn tale of the seriously disturbed anti-hero, Bunny Munro, is a tragic one that unfolds with the fascinating curiosity of a train wreck. If this book was ever made into a movie it should be directed by David Lynch and star Vincent Gallo as Bunny.

Bunny Munro is a vagina-obsessed, social misfit who suffers from a major personality disorder but just happens to make his living as a door-to-door salesman of beauty products for the shadowy, enigmatic Eternity Enterprises. Bunny also happens to be a perverted man-whore who never ceases to look for a way to seduce the women he sells his beauty lotions to, much to the utter despair of his poor, long-suffering wife Libby, who is the mother of his 9-year-old prodigious son, Bunny Jr.

When Libby commits suicide, an inept Bunny finds himself having to figure out a way to look after his son. After a haunting by his dead wife in their apartment, he decides that he can’t live there anymore and packs up a few belongings, instructing Jr. to do the same (all he takes is a few clothes and his beloved encyclopedia that his mum gave him), and they head out on the road where Bunny embarks on a father/son bonding experience unlike any you have witnessed. He teaches him the tricks of his trade, like Bunny’s father did before him, all the while ignoring the fact that he is slowing sliding into Hell – where he rightfully belongs – face first.

Bunny Munro is not a character that you will have much empathy for and you know from the title of the book as well as its first sentence, how it will end. He’s a narcissistic, alcoholic, depraved mess of a human being who somehow manages to use his tiny bit of charm and twisted sense of humor to prey on lonely women with self-esteem issues. This explicit story, while challenging at times because you despise him so much, is also one in which you find yourself rooting for Munro’s precocious, innocent son, and wondering what kind of desperate women he’ll meet next, so you just have to read it until the end.

In one scene, Bunny sneaks out of the church where his wife is being eulogized, to enter a public toilet so he can masturbate (something which he does often throughout the book, constantly referring to the exquisite private parts of Kylie Minogue and Avril Lavigne who are the objects of his fantasies) and try to get his head around what is happening in his life.

“With eyes downcast, he stands before the reflective square of stainless steel screwed to the wall above the sink. After a while Bunny finds the courage to raise his head and look at himself. He half expects some drooling, slack-jawed ogre to greet him there in the smeared mirror and is pleasantly surprised to see that he recognizes the face that stares back at him – warm, loveable, and dimpled. He pats at his pomaded forelock and smiles at himself. He leans in closer. Yeah, there it is – that irresistible and unnameable allure – a little bashed and battered, to be sure, but who wouldn’t be?

Then, on closer inspection, he sees something else there, looking back at him. He leans in nearer still. Something grievous has resided in his face that he is amazed to see adds to his general magnetism. There is an intensity to his eyes that was not there before – a tragic light – that he feels has untold potential and he shoots the mirror a sad, emotive smile and is aghast at his new-found pulling power.”

Written in third person narrative, The Death of Bunny Munro is shockingly different and definitely not the kind of novel that would normally scream bestseller. It’s peculiar and peppered with grim details of each character’s surroundings, with an ending that is anti-climactic and somewhat predictable, but I enjoyed the ride nevertheless. Nick Cave’s writing is dramatic and unforgettable and the moral scope that he explores within the characters of this book makes for a courageous author who should be celebrated with Dionysian fervor.

If you don’t want to read about a sex-addicted, self-obsessed misogynist, skip this book. If you can’t help but be curious, and you like dark, surreal stories like The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus for instance, you will probably enjoy this at least as much as I did.