in Opinion | 06 MAR 95
Featured in
Issue 21

Mr. Make Out

Undressing Christopher Makos

in Opinion | 06 MAR 95

These boys are really into being out of it. Some of them are way past out of it already, but before they got to that sad point, Mr Make Out snapped their lovely picture. Mr Make Out thinks pulchritude is a boy thing. Boy smell, boy lingo, boy aura, boy taste in the mouth, boys and their boy stuff and boy problems: there are more boys than girls for Mr Make Out. These boys say things like 'I stopped going to school and then I became a stripper for a while with a tour group called Boy Heat.' They are 'straight', whatever that means, yet somehow beyond definitions or caring. A few of these boys have been lifting weights since they were 14 so they can easily pull up their workout shorts to show you their quad and calf development, which is as overwhelming as a new language, but most are skinnier, sleek as minks. They put their hands on their hips but are best doing absolutely nothing, their look a doorway to nowhere.

The opening of the Warhol Museum provided a thrust not only to reconsider Andy and his Andyness but to shift the gaze onto those, like Christopher Makos, no longer shadowed by the silver of his fame. Wrongly perceived as an in house Ron Gallela, Makos and his work have nothing to do with the photography of the paparazzi. Paparazzi shoot the various embodiments of fame and beauty because they consider those bodies to be only what they seem. They can depend upon their placement as distant and different from that of their subjects: this is why they frequently rely upon the telephoto lens. Makos' boys float away like satellites from any notion of what they were. He has no need for a telephoto lens because his work is about proximity and its effects - the schism between fame and beauty and the bodies that produce them. He is particularly enamoured with the vertigo which occurs when the rhetoric of beauty (so long associated with the feminine) is applied to boys - which is why Makos' hallmark is discontinuity; his boys never quite match up.

Makos' first book, White Trash, the best portfolio of 70s New York, was mistakenly thought to be about fame and who Makos knew - Andy Warhol, Halston, Man Ray, Tennessee Williams - when what really motivated it was the anonymous: models (Ava Cherry, Grace Jones), nameless musclepunks, boys safety-pinned into their desire. This project evolved into his 'IN' column for Interview, where the models are men and the anonymous were provided with names. IN was in L.A., IN was in New York, in Madrid, in Paris, in Ibiza to find the boys of the month, the stomach of the month, the sneer of the month. IN allowed Makos to print society-page candids of parties, boy models, cute students, hustlers, brothers of somebodies, knockout nobodies.

Makos' work was as thought-provoking as Bill Cunningham's, but while Cunningham investigated the daily history of dress, Makos indexed a timeless little black book of undress. Toying with the tradition of the fashion photograph caption, he butched it up: 'Edward Privot is majoring in engineering and aerospace design... Chest 46", Arms 19", Waist 32", Thighs 26"., Lederhosen Courtesy of Peter Wise.' In Towel Boys, a home furnishings-style spread, towels by Fieldcrest, Canon, Frette and Hermès wrap around various boys' unbelievabilities of waistline and crotch. Tom McClendon appears to lower himself into view from a chin-up bar. Jonathan Schell shows the striations in his delts and makes a diamond with his hands so everyone pays attention to his tender abs, while singing She's a Brickhouse, to himself about himself, although he has forgotten most of the words. The most winsome and dopey is Cameron Hall, who keeps his sneakers on as he lifts his leg and closes his eyes and smiles because he is as clean as porn and knows he would furnish any home nicely.

Moving closer to learn less, Makos ventured into TV with a show called Makostyle. Hearing these boys speak with voices full of lunar pause and wowed by the sun and themselves, it is now possible to see how all of Makos' work holds a mike up to masculinity, listening to it answering by saying very little and showing everything (whether it understood the question or not.) Makos visits Morgan Windsor, a model who drags on a cigarette and squints as he tells anyone at all about his rock band and how he came to be him. Makos visits Martin James (his model name, since the camera makes him stumble when pronouncing his Polish one.) Makos says, 'Let's do Martin' and when he does, Martin just sits there. Masculinity has never looked so fit and louche, never had such a cachet of do-me. Martin sits and babbles about maybe being a policeman or an actor or an actor who gets to play a policeman. Makos moves on by saying to Martin and anyone else who's listening: 'Well, let's see, how should we end this interview? You know, stand up, just stand up, end this interview - because I want to see how his body has come on from his training - just take your shirt off and let's see how you're coming along.' The boy just grins and stares. He is you. The cares of the world are only weights to be lifted.