Jim Bidgood (03/28/1933-01/31/2022) missed his biggest break by not crediting his work to himself. Pink Narcissus, the film that should have defined his entire career after its release in 1971, was credited to “Anonymous” rather than himself. It was not until 1998 that it was re-released under his name. Many thought it was the work of Andy Warhol. He was quoted as saying in a 2011 interview, "See, why I took my name off of it was that I was protesting, which I'd heard at the time that's what you did..." Jim built all the sets and filmed Pink Narcissus in his apartment in Midtown Manhattan from 1963 to 1970. The film is a dialogue-free vision concentrated on a young, naked, loose man. To artists like Jim, necessity is the mother of their invention, and poverty pushes their creativity. At the time of his death, he had even less than he started with. Jim, who never created another full-length film, was also a photographer. Fantasies caught on film. Dream worlds upside down underwater and gorgeous men lost in glitter with beautiful hair. Nothing, before or after, has ever come close to replicating their energy and magic. Below is a fascinating glimpse into Jim Bidgood as an 86-year-old struggling artist—an interview inquiry that should have been realized. Towards the end of his life, he became disillusioned by everything. He was disturbed by the world he lived in, lost in a vision that vanished after the Summer of Love. Like so many, he never knew what he needed but knew what he did not want and did not have. His story is a lesson about adapting to the times and not limiting your pride. He burned a lot of bridges but has left a legacy that will endure longer than most.
Only his replies are included. The emails have been lightly editted. –August Bernadicou, The LGBTQ History Project
Jim Bidgood and Rumi Missabu, New York.
JIM BIDGOOD March 7, 2019 In New York? Are you on Facebook? Did you know I live on 14th Street! Are you East or West? We should talk about your project before I commit. Wow. I just checked out your website site! All my best, Jimmy JIM BIDGOOD March 30, 2019 Yes, we can do an interview because of Jimmy [aka Rumi Missabu, who introduce me–Ed.] But leave me alone for a little while… unless you want to take down my garbage or shop for me… or help me out physically in some way. I am sick and tired of living below the poverty level while everybody else including periodicals and books and museum exhibitions and the interviewers and the film distributors and photo printers and galleries… profit from my life. Maybe not a lot.. but a great deal more than I do. There is something very wrong… there is an incredible imbalance that I will not tolerate anymore. I think people think that when I am paid a little attention like with this wonderful new exhibit at the Museum of Sex… my circumstances improve. THEY DO NOT. The money I get from Social Security only covers most of my rent… not all of it. Beyond that… I get 190 some dollars from the government to cover food and electricity and everything else the costs money...
Even the trash bags I mentioned above. And so perhaps you can relate or begin at least to understand my bitterness. I have only dirty clothes… a pair of cheap trousers and a 12 dollar shirt… I have been wearing for about 6 months now to wear to the opening. Fortunately, my shoes were mostly out of view. I have only one pair and they are about to fall apart. I was surrounded by admirers who wanted to be photographed with me...flashbulbs were flashing… I felt like a homeless person who for an hour was a movie star… and then went back via an Uber car… to their reality and the shit I live in… and am too old to maintain. Meanwhile, my mind is half the age of my body. I often feel like I am being buried alive. And so, forgive me if I am not all that enthusiastic about another interview… you are one of the four people waiting to interview me… or too make a film inspired by me… or whatever. Meanwhile, I have to figure out how I am going to carry cat food and litter up four flights of stairs. Being a legend… SUCKS. Sorry for the rant but I just cannot take anymore. Best wishes, Jimmy JIM BIDGOOD March 30, 2019 Not right now… I am too deeply depressed … fed up with my life. I take 6 meds a day to ward off depression… to help me feel like life is still worth living. I maybe need to take 12… but they also affect the rate my heart beats and so trying not to hate myself could kill me. I just need some time to pull myself back together… I need someone to care about me without some sort of fee or profit attached other than that person has helped an injured soul. Actually, I think as much as I want to please Rumi… I think we had better forget about this. Maybe you should share all this with him. Maybe he can clarify how dark my life has become… how ashamed I am of how I have lived. Your response makes me doubt you even have a clue. Good luck and all my best, Jimmy JIM BIDGOOD May 1, 2019 If you are still interested in talking with me let me know and maybe we can make a deal. If you could come by and walk me around the block… a few times or as many times as you can deal with… in exchange for my babbling on about whatever you want me to babble on about… that would be a fair exchange I guess. Because I do not get outside and walk every day… my health is declining. I have a lot of emotional problems… I take six pills a day for depression. Even all those antidepressants do not always help… Being as housebound as I have become doesn't help either. Let me know when you have a moment to respond. All my best, Jimmy JIM BIDGOOD May 1, 2019 Hi August, I never answer the telephone… and I do not like talking on the phone. I only answer when I am expecting a scheduled call. If I answer any other calls 90% of the time it's a telemarketer I do not like talking on the phone because either my hearing is impaired or the phone sucks… or the caller's phone sucks. I usually cannot understand very much the caller is saying… it's often like they are using a tin can for a telephone and it ends up seeming as if I am speaking to someone with a heavy foreign accent and I have to keep asking them to repeat what they said over and over and over again. I check my emails several times a day. JIM BIDGOOD May 1, 2019 I do not eat in front of people because I have no teeth. It's sweet of you to offer… but I do not usually go anywhere outside of my neighborhood. And I am a vegetarian! I do coffee with people now and again at Think Coffee.
JIM BIDGOOD May 5, 2019 If you could come by this weekend and walk me for an hour or less ..whatever it takes me to waddle around the block… both Saturday and Sunday and also Wednesday… we would be off to a great start. Maybe we might make a trip to the grocery store instead... you won't have to carry anything… they deliver. JIM BIDGOOD May 5, 2019 Do you use Facebook? What zodiac sign are you? … the Wellbutrin seems to have leveled me out. Let me know… what suits you best. Do you use a recorder? Maybe we could circle the block and end up at Think Coffee and have a treat. Love, Jimmy JIM BIDGOOD May 8, 2019 I canceled my face surgeries today I am stopped down in the dumps… I always sort of am after making public appearances… and Friday Art forum interviewed me and Monday I was on some panel at the New York Times about "WHAT IS CAMP!" JIM BIDGOOD May 8, 2019 I always come away feeling like I have made an ass of myself ..that I was too loud, too vulgar, too uninformed and stupid sounding… like something bad they all stepped in and couldn't wait to get off their shoe. JIM BIDGOOD May 9, 2019 The weekend or next Wednesday… not too early… after one or two… if that is O.K. with you. My God you have a great first name… and last… is it real or one of those Hedda Lettuce contrivances. I am going to go lay down now… maybe sleep… hopefully feeling I find a reason to get up again. Love, Jimmy
JIM BIDGOOD May 9, 2019 Hi Rumi's friend, If you are still interested in talking with me let me know and maybe we can make a deal. If you could come by and walk me around the block… a few times or as many times as you can deal with… in exchange for my babbling on about whatever you want me to babble on about… that would be a fair exchange I guess. Because I do not get outside and walk every day… my health is declining. I have a lot of emotional problems… I take six pills a day for depression. Even all those antidepressants do not always help… Being as housebound as I have become doesn't help either. Let me know when you have a moment to respond. All my best … Jimmy JIM BIDGOOD May 9, 2019 I will pencil you in for Wednesday. I will write to you on Tuesday about time etc. I am an Aries!!!!! Love, Jimmy JIM BIDGOOD May 11, 2019 I am sorry… I will need to move this to the weekend… the surgeries Monday are very sore and I did too much yesterday and I am exhausted today. Plus, Kelly came by last night to order bling for me and so I could sign prints… and that kept me up later than usual. So, if you can spare an hour on Saturday and Sunday that would be great. I have no other plans that would wear me out… except for a film Friday night… but that does not involve any work. I am 86 you know! Love, Jimmy JIM BIDGOOD May 13, 2019 Please, sweetie… no t-shirt… just let's meet on Saturday. I really am just fine as far as shirts go. When you actually know me and what I need and don't need… we will see later… if you can just walk me for now and help get me back in shape so I might live another five… ten… twenty years! I do not know how time flies for you… you are young… it goes by slower when you are young… it crawls by when in your pre and early teens… but ten or twenty years ago is like yesterday for me… so imagine how close that puts me to death's door. Scary shit my dear! Maybe you better check me out on Facebook… so you have a better Idea what you are facing… or this past weekend Sunday Times I think.. there is a piece about "camp"... I am in… yes, here it is… JIM BIDGOOD May 20, 2019 You are going to hate me but I cannot make it today. I was supposed to go to a film festival screening last night and I had to cancel that too. I am in the middle of having cancers removed from my neck (and ears and hair and cheeks)... the cheek one is O.K. but my neck is one big red sore… I cannot put a shirt on because the collar rubs against the place where the cancers were. It will be better I hope in a few days. I had no idea this neck thing was going to get so bad. The surgery healed quickly but these are burns from where lessor cancers were and a being burned off by a special cream. The burning off is finished but it will be a few days???? before all those burned areas are not so sensitive, I have to apply a great anti-infection ointment all over my neck now twice a day. I have to clear something else up with you too… but I need to go back to bed now. I may send you a photo of my neck later today. Love, Jimmy
JIM BIDGOOD May 29, 2019 I am worse. Only it's not the neck… I came down with a terrible cold last night! I do not know how I could have contracted a cold… I haven't left the house… I have only seen two or three people… none of whom have a cold! So… I will be in touch! Maybe the germ came in on a package of bling… I have received three shipments of rhinestones, glitter and sequins in the past week??? JIM BIDGOOD June 2, 2019 I am only just beginning to feel better. I am 86 you know. I am still weak from being sick. I need help but I cannot ask you for help because you just want your interview… and I do not really know you. Everyone else that used to help me has either moved away or is away for the holiday or business. I live in filth and I am too old to do much about it. I am embarrassed to let strangers see how poorly and shabbily I live. I am up shit creek without a paddle. I will be in touch again when and if I survive this latest on-slaughter and humiliation. I am sorry I cannot be more helpful right now. I have to worry about myself and surviving my hell at the moment more than I usually have to. All my best, Jimmy JIM BIDGOOD June 2, 2019 Jimmy Bartlett has help… I am basically alone… my friend Kelly helps pay my bills but he does not have time… nor does anyone else to help me other than that. And I live on the fourth floor… I get out of breath very easily. I can only do the best a person my age can do all alone. And I too am an Aries. I am not accustomed to not being able to do things and take care of myself. And I am so weary of begging for attention. Or battering for someone to give a damn. JIM BIDGOOD June 12, 2019 I have walking pneumonia… it will take a little longer. and I may do any more interviews… I will let you know. This may have been my last one… JIM BIDGOOD June 12, 2019 Leave me alone. You just do not get it. I wish no one would ever ask to interview me again. You are way too pushy. I expect that's because you are an Aries. You do not need my interview in your book. And I do not need to ever be interviewed ever again. I hate my little bit of fame… I wish I had never done any of the things I am known for having done. Nor do I understand anyone not having Facebook. James JIM BIDGOOD July 2, 2019 Hello August, I am writing you to ask if you would be interested in helping me for minimum wage (15 dollars an hour plus subway fare to and from) after work maybe one maybe two nights a week… for two hours. It would maybe change according to my needs. Your interview is something out side of this but if you are really interested in helping an elderly gay man… here is your opportunity. It may even be on a weekend or whatever best suits your schedule. Let me know if you are interested as soon as possible. This might begin in a week or maybe before. All my best Jimmy
JIM BIDGOOD July 2, 2019 Reread my email… I am not ready yet. You will have to accept the money… unless you are very wealthy. If you are very wealthy… "put some money in the pot boy. " I will explain that expression when I see you. I have several other things to do to prepare for your helping me. I will let you know when I am ready. You are I think you said an Aries… so to some degree I think I understand you… but if I say green or I ask for orange or Tuesday or in a few days or in a week… THAT IS WHAT AND HOW I WANT IT. I too am an Aries. That's all for now. I am very pleased you will be able to help me. Very pleased. All my best Jimmy JIM BIDGOOD July 12, 2019 In a week or two maybe less... All my best jimmy
JIM BIDGOOD August 2, 2019 I am still all fucked up, August… I don't know if I am better or worse. I now have some new trouble… I will know more after I see him. At the moment I have more help in a way than I need. But I almost have completed my shopping list… it’s a photo illustrated set of pages… of the foods I eat… I am pretty sure I will need more help soon. My friend Luke who is not always in the states because he goes so many places in the world to do photoshoots has been home for a month and has been helping me. I have a great deal of trouble finding reason not to sleep all day… or dose… I have no purpose anymore really… and I do not know how to handle that… I do not know what to do with myself… and I do not like any of the things that other elderly people enjoy… I cannot create an interest in something or activities that have always bored me and that I thought wasted time. Not all people are the same and I am especially different from most folks. I get very tired of explaining all this over and over again. I really do not like people anymore. I really wish I could be a hermit… but since I need help to accomplish physical feats I can no longer do myself I have to have some contact with the outside world. I mean the physical world… the 3D world… I correspond regularly with my mythical friend on Facebook… but they are like ghosts. I should warn you that if you have not read everything available on the net about me and I have done an awfully lot of interviews for years and years now… and I very much dislike being interviewed by people who have not done their homework. I do not want to have to say asked and answered. Jimmy JIM BIDGOOD August 3, 2019 … I don't give a flying fuck if you are God Almighty!