Book Excerpt: Royal Young’s “Fame Shark”


Photo by Amanda Segur.

Photo by Amanda Segur.

TLD contributor Royal Young, born and raised on the Lower East Side, is making the rounds with “Fame Shark,” his just-published memoir.  He will be celebrating with a book launch party at University Settlement on Friday, June 28th. Today we have an excerpt:

Royal Young’s “Fame Shark” Finds a Publisher

Royal Young – photo by Lee Brozgol

Our contributing writer, Royal Young, got the good news the other day that his memoir is going to be published.  Heliotrope Books will be coming out with “Fame Shark” in June of next year.  The book tells the story of Royal’s obsession (followed by disillusionment) with celebrity, his battles with alcohol and his parents and his offbeat upbringing on the Lower East Side.

Bryan Zanisnik on Hoarding, Philip Roth and the Absurdity of Failure

Bryan Zanisnik: Every Inch a Man, site-specific installation and performance, 2012

Home is where your stuff is. In Bryan Zanisnik’s latest installation, Every Inch A Man, at Abrons Art Center, he has mined material from his childhood home as well as Abrons’ vast basements to create a magically cluttered world filled with memories. A hoarder’s dream come true in vivid color, the exhibit conjures the secret spaces of childhood: attics, basements and garages where one’s old favorite toys were discarded. Zanisnik reigns at its center, trapped in a clear plastic case — crumpled two dollar bills and old baseball cards around his feet, reading Philip Roth’s arguably failed classic The Great American Novel.

Successfully portraying the absurdity of failure is something Zanisnik does with pathos and spectacular visual effect. He has elevated these lost objects, dredging them up from their shadowy hiding places, making them important once again. On a sunny day last week, I sat down with Zanisnik on a bench on Orchard Street to discuss the Freudian depths beneath his work, childhood memorabilia, his parents role in his art, Philip Roth and New Jersey.

Royal Young: “Rather Unique” at Woodward Gallery

"Go Hard 2011" by Indie184. Photo credit: Royal Young.

Street art, of course, has a legendary history on the Lower East Side. From graffiti and gang signs to colorful murals on the walls of community centers, the canvas of the streets has always been a perfect place to paint the urban dreams of downtown Manhattan. Artists like Jim Power (Mosaic Man), who tiles New York’s surfaces, and Chico, the ubiquitous muralist, have made street art a highly visible and dynamic form.

Now, Woodward Gallery, on Eldridge Street is celebrating artists who draw inspiration from and paint on public spaces. The gallery’s first ever guest curator, Harlem-based street artist Royce Bannon, has put together “Rather Unique,” an exhibit of fellow creatives who use their visual skills to reflect and redefine what they see in the streets. Artists include: Cassius Fowler, Celso, Chris RWK, Cope2, Darkcloud, H.veng.Smith, Indie184, infinity, KA, Keely, Kenji Nakayama, Kosbe, Matt Siren, Moody, Nose Go, Royce B., Russell King, UR New York, Veng and Wrona.

Royal Young: Two Boots Celebrates 25 Years and Pays Tribute to Loisaida

Carlos Pinto's mural celebrating LES poet Bimbo Rivas.

Two Boots started as a fun, family style restaurant on the Lower East Side, back in the days when these kinds of places were rare. As a kid, I was friends with Leon, the son of owners Doris and Phil Hartman. The restaurant became a refuge, where I was able to stuff my face with delicious, spicy thin crust pizza. I remember spreading my crayons and coloring books over the glittering tables — those smooth surfaces housed artful collages full of old record sleeves and Mardi Gras beads.

This year, Two Boots celebrates its 25th birthday, with 25 events in and around the Lower East Side, a “thank you” to  the neighborhood that helped make its early success possible.

Kicking off the festivities at the Avenue A shop last week was a packed unveiling of a new mosaic mural by artist Carlos Pinto, celebrating the great LES poet Bimbo Rivas. It was his 1974 paean to the Lower East Side that originated the term “Loisaida,” an enduring part of the local dialect.

Royal Young: Family Recipe Keeps Creative Spirit Alive on Eldridge Street

Akiko Thurnauer recently opened "Family Recipe" on Eldridge Street.

For years, Eldridge Street, the block I grew up on, was littered with empty crack vials.  Businesses of any kind were scarce. These days, new, enchanted establishments are popping up. From Apizz, where my parents (artists who renovated their tenement home in the ‘80’s) proudly spent an anniversary dinner,  to Family Recipe, a sleek Japanese restaurant run by Akiko Thurnauer.

Akiko was born in Japan, but has spent the past fifteen years in New York. “I wanted to open a restaurant that was a little bit hidden, not on an obvious street like Orchard or Ludlow, where it’s more party and people come for drink. I like to have people who really come for food,” Thurnauer told me in her open kitchen space, which she helped design. “I moved to Grand Street five years ago, but I’ve always lived in Nolita or the Lower East Side, so I know the neighborhood.”

Royal Young: Ed Wood’s Sleaze Paperbacks

Photo by Lee Brozgol.

For decades, the Lower East Side bled into Soho bohemia. The two neighborhoods shared seedy streets, and tin-ceilinged lofts where artists were able to live cheaply, pouring their passion onto canvasses and paper.  Though this deliciously dangerous atmosphere populated by prostitutes, junkies and creatives—sometimes playing interchangeable roles—is gone, Boo-Hooray gallery recently celebrated the seedy with an exhibition of Ed Wood’s sleaze paperbacks.

Nutcracker in the Lower: Taking Ballet to the Streets

Photo credit: Urban Ballet Theater.

Editor’s note: Today we’re pleased to welcome New York writer Royal Young as a regular columnist on The Lo-Down. Royal contributes literary coverage to Interview Magazine and the new web site Holy Diver. Young recently completed “Fame Shark,” his memoir.  After six years living in exile (in Brooklyn), this Lower East Side native is back in his natural habitat, rediscovering the old neighborhood.

As a kid in the early ‘90s, I spent my time haunting the halls of Henry Street Settlement and the backstage at the Abrons Arts Center, chasing the creative energy that pulsed through those corridors.  Now that energy has exploded on the Abrons’ stage with the Urban Ballet Theatre presenting its 10th anniversary run of “Nutcracker in the Lower.”  A modern, Lower East Side take on the classic Christmas tale, this urban Nutcracker is bursting with life and longing.  Following Clara, a lonely young girl whose father has disappeared, leaving her only a collection of soldier style dolls, the colorful production whirls into fantasy when she falls asleep beneath a patchwork, glittering pine tree.

My LES – Royal Young

Royal Young - photo by Lee Brozgol

This weekly feature spotlights a wide variety of people who live and work on the Lower East Side. If you know someone you would like to suggest be featured in “My LES,” please email us here.

What do you do?

I contribute literary coverage to Interview Magazine (as well as the new website, Holy Diver). I also recently completed my debut gritty Manhattan memoir “Fame Shark.”

How long have you lived on the LES?

I was born on a five-flight walk up on Crosby Street and lived there for my first year, while my artist social worker father and neuropsychologist mom removed hypodermic needles, rats and mountains of garbage from an old tenement building on Eldridge Street. I would grow up in this building until dropping out of Bennington College and getting kicked out of my parent’s house at 20. I lived in sketchy apartments in Brooklyn for the next six years and went through intense family therapy, before returning to the Lower East Side and my own crib a (couple) weeks ago.