A Life that was cut short. A visionary through the lens of a video camera. Nelson Sullivan leaves a legacy of videos that no one else was able to capture. If you were in the Downtown scene, you knew Nelson. Always documenting the scene stars of the era like: Ru Paul, Lady Bunny, Holly Woodlawn, Leigh Bowery, Michael Musto, James Saint James, Ernie Glam, and one of our favorite personalities Christina (RIP). Nelson was definitely one of a kind.
Today we pay a tribute to his work with an interview with Queer Historian and Archivist Robert Coddington and Dick Richards, the owner of The Nelson Sullivan Video Collection.
Below is the interview, a video and a few special links to more videos by no one other than Nelson.
Hello Dick & Robert
⒈ What made you take on the legacy of Nelson Sullivan?
Dick: Nelson and I were best friends since kindergarten and remained very close always. We were partners in the world of underground video all during the 1980s, and Nelson was preparing to venture full time into that craft before that heart attack took him away from us. I realized during our partnership that both what Nelson was recording with his camera and the artistry he manifest in its presentation were important. I continue to hope that Nelson’s remarkable art will be preserved so that the people of the future can personally experience the daring, inventive and colorful creativity of Downtown New York City in the 1980s.
Robert: I was introduced to Nelson’s work in 1993 by Dick Richards of Funtone. For many years I watched Nelson’s tape with the same enthusiasm I once had as when I would stay up late in the 1970s to watch “Soap” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”. Nelson’s friends were so fascinating to me. In 2000 Dick asked me to help him continue Nelson’s legacy and I accepted. Working with Nelson’s footage has been one of the many highlights of my life.
⒉ From your knowledge, How does Ru Paul feel when she views her early works filmed by Nelson?
Dick: RuPaul is delighted to have been captured on video by such a talented artist as Nelson. After all, RuPaul did so many fabulous things early in his career, it would be impossible for him to remember them all without the reminders in Nelson’s videos. Watching Nelson’s videos of RuPaul, it quite evident how fond and respectful they were of one another.
⒊ Out of all the videos, are there any that have not been made public?
Robert: Nelson shot over 1500 hours of footage, so there is lots still to be uploaded to the masses. Dick Richards does most of the posting on 5ninthaveproject, Nelson’s youtube account. We usually post whatever we are watching at the moment.
Dick: The videos Nelson made with his family in South Carolina have not been made public, but all the ones Nelson made in New York are available for everyone to see.
⒋ With us approaching the 23rd anniversary of Nelson Sullivan’s death, do you see Nelson’s work becoming a general release Documentary?
Robert: I would like to see a documentary made for the 25th anniversary of his death.
Dick: To me, Nelson’s videos are more appropriate for museums because Nelson’s style and composition are inspired art. The world in which Nelson lived, that being New York during the beginning of the out-gay culture – would be of interest to a general release audience because people don’t realize as much these days that before the 1980s, the gays were hesitant about being on television actually being gay. In one of Nelson’s last videos made at New York Gay Pride in 1989, Nelson is holding the first issue of his friend Gabriel Rotello’s “Outweek” magazine. With its publication, outing began.
Thank you again for continuing the legacy Of Nelson Sullivan. It is a very important time in our history and we’re glad to see it was so well documented. Thank you Nelson Sullivan. Love you. You are missed. But never ever forgotten thanks to Robert Coddington and Dick Richards, http://funtone.com and http://backinthegays.com.
Nelson Sullivan – Video Vampire: a short film by Laurie Weltz
http://youtu.be/atqaTSFT284 Swiss produced short “La Bande a Nelson”(2000). The last segment contains the last tape Nelson shot.
http://youtu.be/LexpNQTNSME THE JUDY PARADE, an ACT UP demonstration from 1989.
http://youtu.be/8-6oxMwdXjw The fabulous Holly Woodlawn singing in a Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman production at the Limelight in 1986.
http://youtu.be/8-6oxMwdXjw Super 8 footage that Nelson shot on July 4, 1976 on Fire Island…..
http://youtu.be/7IcODsQD9hM Lady Bunny, Lahoma and RuPaul model BodyMap clothes at the 1989 Love Ball.
http://youtu.be/6106tuI6tnY Nelson’s footage at the 1989 Love Ball with DJ Keoki, Michael Alig, Julie Jewels, Lady Kier, Lady Bunny, RuPaul, LaHoma, Steve Rubell, Stephen Saban, Malcolm McLaren and many others!
Be friends with Nelson Sullivan on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/nelson.sullivan.3