Sam Wagstaff — Robert Mapplethorpe // The Mapplethorpe Foundation // J. Paul Getty Collection

Samuel Jones Wagstaff was the product of old Yankee money and private schools. He was the famed collector who catapulted photography to an art form. Chisel-featured handsome, he wore his patrician refinement over ratty jeans and socks with holes. An elegantly cheap bastard, he spent fortunes on art but was an annoying bummer of cigarettes — although generous with weed and coke. Publicly, Sam Wagstaff was the man who made Robert Mapplethorpe’s career — and made him his lover. I was a gay woman, a second-generation Italian escapee from Detroit and barely middle-class. I shouldn’t have fit into Sam’s world…


cockroaches RTM: Right This Minute

The Tragedy of Slurryville in Fashion

I

Her prickly hairs point straight up, stiff and unappetizing by any predator’s standards. She cannot teach at the school of Slurryville á la Mode like this, and so she concentrates on her jointed legs. Especially the two closest to her head that curtsies in unruly slow-motion nods. She must be careful to balance that bobbler in its notch on her shell. She strains her two closest legs into desired movements. To anyone watching, she looks engaged in alarming punches at some invisible enemy.

She persists, though, strong- as well as large-headed. Both are valued. She is liked for it…


Across the road from the Abbey it is special. Welcoming. Quiet.

There is rain. There is always rain it seems. Slippery cobbles and the sound of a cock crowing distant in that gentle insistent rain. The insistent quiet in the gentle rain.

There was someone here before as I reach the gate. And is still. They are still. But as insistent as the rain and the quiet.

Not silent. Just quiet. They are here and they are near.

I go gently with respect. Humbled because I feel them. A steady presence. I made a wish with them, like none I…


Joe Groppuso

A Gay Woman, and the Boy-Man Who Loved Her

“It’s supposed to squeak!”

He roared it at me. The first and last time ever. I had said it twice in my child voice, “Joe, it’s squeaking.”

I flinched from the shock wave of it hitting me, so loud his yell. It was too naked, that reveal of anger for himself that exploded at me for his botched saxophone practice.

Handsome, athletic, so much older it seemed beyond my measly six years or so then, that was my big cousin Joe. I could brag that he was on the football team at Pulaski High School not far off Eight Mile…


Beyond the Detroit Institute of Arts Debacle

Few remember Sam Wagstaff was more than the elegant titan who made photography into art and made Robert Mapplethorpe, too. The curator, collector, and insider didn’t agree that the public was just another word for the art-ignorant, and therefore ignorable. The patrician had a populist sensitivity. When SoHo snarled from its grimy cobbles elitist how dare theys at the “public” who protested Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc in 1985, Sam Wagstaff didn’t damn the public. …


He is a giant Grinch wedged in a wheelchair that’s scattered with others like old-time Dodge-Em cars stranded by a failed power supply. Any moment one of his compatriot demons dozing at the controls will lurch forward to demand the attention that baffles and scares me.

“I know they’re warehousing us and they shouldn’t do that. We know.”

He is talking about his family who never visits, and on behalf of his fellow inmates he bullies because of it.

Physical defects have not changed them from their former selves here at the “home.” It’s what others think of their natural…


Los Angeles freeways are scary enough, but a woman alone leaving LA on a cross-country trip with a hesitant eleven-year-old Labrador Retriever and an assertive black cat made me have coraggio inscribed on my new iPod. It was a desperate prayer to my neglected heritage of Tosca-s and Sophia Loren-s. I hoped it would remind me I was strong. Italian “strong woman” was in my blood even if I felt I was too short for all that grandeur.

I could do this. Oprah took a road trip with another adult and everyone thought it was a big deal. Try doing…


I want her romance when she has none to give. Only sex. I want her smoothness beneath me. I pound into her like she wants. As hard and fast as you can. She said that. I did it.

I did it. Her small cry, no, her cry of loosed need was a cry of strength so that there was nurture to me. She had made me need that. To hear her. And it has ruined me.

She ruined me. I want to hear her like the cry of something small; feral need released in a song. For seconds, a song…


Is she a muse or a mutterer? Surely in speech she is, a mutterer. Like so many of her youth. My nephew is like this.

But no, I mean a mutterer to me. In my thoughts. The soft drone of something indecipherable and unimportant. The flutter of a plane over the Hudson.

But she haunts. Is it really only a push to feel? For that only? This boil of excitement.

And today with no contact how am I to feel or not? It may be over. It may be a game — her game.

By the Hudson on my bike…


This is the beginning of the musing to the youth I am in love with. Hers. And mine, long gone.

How I want her to know, not with the easy grace of gay boys’ sliding glances and smut-tinged shouts that are performance, but that instead she is a stainless and yet tainted soul that the world does not offer easily. Gone like dinosaurs and good coke that actually made you really high with that slippery first drop.

For you, girl of twenty-four, I want to understand the warmth and necessity of our kind. It’s not playing, not exploring. It’s the…

Roberta Degnore

writer, traveler, renaissance activist-- what? .................my books: The Assistance of Vice, Until You See Me, Invisible Soft Return:\ on amazon

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