Center portrait by Gilles Larrain; lower right: Photo of Mead in his apartment by Clayton Patterson; lower left: a still from Win Chamberlain's 'Brand X'.
The news that Taylor Mead died this week at the age of 88 shouldn't have come as such a shock, but for some reason it seemed like the artist, poet, and performer would live forever. He was often described as elfin and fey. Even in his later years, he somehow maintained a youthful vitality. As has been noted in obituaries, Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman called Mead "the first underground movie star" and it's said that Andy Warhol invented the term superstar to describe Mead. He appeared in more than 100 films (although some are locked away in the Warhol Archives and difficult to get ahold of) and and remained a prolific painter and writer, regularly performing at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City's East Village.
In 2005 he was the subject of a documentary, Excavating Taylor Mead, and he published a book of poetry that same year, titled A Simple Country Girl, which contains a poem with the lines: "I am a national treasure/If there were such a thing." As Lower East Side documentarian, writer and activist Clayton Patterson noted, Mead continued to be an "active, vital, contributing, creative artist" until very recently.
Although there are many ways of remembering the creative man, here are five clips to give you a sense of his broad interests and talents, including a conversation between Mead and Quentin Crisp, in which Mead says how most of his contemporaries died before they were 50 and then says, "Like me and Quentin, we live forever."
The final vignette from Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes, featuring Taylor Mead and Bill Rice.
Taylor Mead (and Penny Arcade) at the All Dead Poetry Project Marathon in 2010:
A clip of "Taylor Mead's Ass" below:
Taylor Mead with Candy Darling in "Candy & Daddy"
A trailer for the documentary Excavating Taylor Mead below:
A conversation between Taylor Mead & Quentin Crisp