Because the Night

Ten reasons I love living in NYC:

1. Thanks to [info]nydeborah‘s brother and sister-in-law, last night [info]nydeborah and I attended the opening of Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005 at the Brooklyn Museum.

2. Thanks to [info]nydeborah‘s persistence (tempered, I hope, by my amusement), we prevailed over the drastically mismanaged distribution of first come, first served tickets for the “conversation with the artist” and landed seats in the first row, right in front of Leibovitz and museum director Arnold L. Lehman.

3. The pieces of paper fastened to our seat backs identified us as “Guests of Annie Leibovitz.” Whoda thunk it?

4. [info]nydeborah got to ask Leibovitz a tough question about life and death and the whole damn thing. (Leibovitz’s life with, and the death of, Susan Sontag is a major concern of the exhibit.)

5. A last-minute addition to the evening’s festivities was a performance by Patti Smith on the museum’s fifth floor, right outside the Leibovitz exhibit.

6. We were (again) right up front, this time stage right, for the short but lovely acoustic concert (close enough to see Patti, before the show, emerge from a backstage meeting with Leibovitz, her mother, Sontag’s daughter, and assorted family members, and wipe a tear from her eye).

7. For her last number, Smith recounted how, a few years ago at her annual New Year’s Eve concert at the Bowery Ballroom, “Someone came backstage and told me that Susan Sontag had been dancing to this song.” Then she and her band launched into “Because the Night.” Leibovitz rose to the occasion to dance with her five-year-old daughter Sarah while, directly across from us, Sontag’s daughter kept wiping away the tears.

8. Afterwards, serpentining our way through the museum and admiring Leibovitz’s work, we happened upon Lenny Kaye, Smith’s guitarist (as well as rock critic and the man responsible for the classic Nuggets collection). After saying how much we’d enjoyed the show, I reminded him that we’d met before (last month at Paul Nelson’s memorial service), and asked him if I might interview him for my book about Nelson. Kaye admitted that he hadn’t known Paul that closely. “So I’m not sure how much help I’d be to your book. But,” he added as we parted, “I look forward to reading it.”

9. On our way out, we wandered through the reception, which by then was winding down, weaving our way through the various looming Rodins as I snagged a few of the remaining potato chips.

10. I got to go home with [info]nydeborah.

Patti Smith, St. Clair Shores, Michigan,
by Annie Leibovitz, 1996

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