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THE STORY OF JOHNNY H: THE MUSICIAN, BODYBUILDER, ACTOR AND HIS BIZARRE CONNECTION TO ELVIS PRESLEY
’m going to cut right to the chase here and tell you about Jesse Haemmerle—aka Johnny H/John Haemmerle and his connection to Elvis, as it’s too weird to wait for. You may know Elvis’ mother Gladys Garon was set to deliver twins at home in Tupelo, Mississippi when tragically Elvis’ brother Jessie arrived stillborn just before Elvis was born. The loss of his twin weighed heavily on Elvis psychologically for his entire life. Gladys has said she and her husband Vernon gave Presley the middle name of Aaron (an adaptation of the family’s last name of Garon), so he would always feel as though his brother was there with him. Even before his own death, it was said Elvis would have meandering conversations with his deceased brother while traipsing around Graceland. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a kid named John Haemmerle would learn he had been adopted from a family in Tupelo, and his actual date of birth was January 8th, 1935, just like Elvis.
Elvis-association aside, John Haemmerle was a pretty interesting cat on his own. He served in the Air Force and worked as a police officer for several years. Haemmerle dedicated a large portion of his life to bodybuilding and became good enough to participate in the Mr. America competition in 1968. He was also a member of the impressive sounding organization, the Federation of Arm Wrestlers and built the first opposing grips arm wrestling table in 1969. He scored some television roles and an uncredited bit part in the 1973 film Serpico, but was most successful musically and put out a number of singles under different names including Johnny H in the 50s and 60s, which you could classify as Doo-Wop. He was also known for the creation of his unique space rocket-inspired hollow body V acoustic guitar (pictured at the top of this post).
In getting back to Haemmerle’s (maybe) Elvis connection, there are many accounts which have been shared over the decades—here are a few.
Sometime in 1964, Haemmerle claims to have met Elvis and somehow got to lay the story on him he was his brother Jesse apparently speaking to the big E for “hours.” In an interview with truth-champion The Sun, Haemmerle recounted strange Elvis-related experiences such as seeing an image of Elvis materialize on his cellar wall, and a session with well-known psychic Ann Fisher which conjured up memories of his days in Tupelo prior to his adoption. Haemmerle’s Myspace page contains other ramblings about his psychic visions, including one concerning a recurring dream where he traded clothing with his “twin brother” as he died. Haemmerle also had regular dreams about his custom hollow body V getting ripped off—which it did. Luckily, according to his son, he made two just in case his nightmare came to fruition. At some point along the way, Haemmerle changed his name to Jesse Garon Presley. In 1990 an article published on September 19th in New York newspaper The Reporter cited Jesse for winning a first-place award (as well as several others) at the National Creative Arts Festival in Albany in rhythm/blues/religious category for his interpretation of Elvis’ 1970 hit, “Kentucky Rain.”
Now, I’m sure you (maybe) might be thinking “whatever happened to Jesse Haemmerle?” I have a bit of an unexpected twist for you. According to Haemmerle’s 2003 obituary, he was, in fact, adopted and raised by Oscar and Felicia Albarea Haemmerle in the New York/New Jersey area. He is referred to by name in the obit as Jesse G. Presley noting his place of birth as DUN DUN DUN! Tupelo, Mississippi. This all reads like an old episode of In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy, and since the all-knowing Nimoy isn’t around to help me figure this one out, I’m going to wait on passing any judgment regarding the truth behind this very strange story.
Here are some images of Haemmerle during his bodybuilding days as well as his musical ones. Also included below are some of the musical stylings of the mysterious Johnny H.
Podcast Ep 27: Amos Poe (Punk and No-Wave Filmmaker)
Ep 27: Amos Poe (Punk and No-Wave Filmmaker)
Amos Poe is one of the leading figures of the No Wave Cinema movement (75-85) that grew out of the bustling East Village music and art scene. The No Wave paralleled the punk music explosion and included Jim Jarmusch, Abel Ferrara, Eric Mitchell, James Nares, Beth and Scott B, Vivienne Dick, Sara Driver, John Lurie, Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Bette Gordon, Melvie Arslanian, Charlie Ahearn, among others - they embraced B-movie genres, the avant-garde, & the French New Wave to create a fresh, vibrant American art cinema.
Over 40 years of creating for the screen, Poe has directed, written for and collaborated with a host of impressive figures of the film, music and art worlds, namely Iggy Pop, Blondie, Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell and the Heartbreakers, The Ramones, Talking Heads, and Wayne County, as well as Debbie Harry, Vincent Spano, Run DMC, Anthrax, Steve Earle, Burt Lancaster, Macaulay Culkin, Bill Pullman, Richard Edson, Gina Gershon, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. We talk about his start in shooting the early NYC punk scene, his films, his influences, and more. This was a huge honor.
You can find out more about him at his website.
HELP AMOS! HE HAS A RARE FORM OF CANCER
Filmmaker Amos Poe was recently diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer that has left him too weak to continue working. Following a recent barrage of testing, a treatment plan is finally coming together. His family and friends are hoping for the best while knowing the road to recovery will be a long and grueling one.
The costs of care and testing leading up to treatment have been astronomical, even with insurance. The treatment itself and the aftercare will be nearly insurmountable without all of our help.
Beatniks, Beatniks, and more Beatniks
Chronicles of an Affair with his Secretary, Found in an Abandoned Suitcase
Chronicles of an Affair with his Secretary, Found in an Abandoned Suitcase
The briefcase was found three decades after the affair took place, abandoned in a German apartment and later sold at auction. The contents of the suitcase, an extraordinary collection of materials that chronicled the adulterous relationship between a businessman and his secretary in the late 1960s and 70s.
Exposed to our own voyeurism, a recent exhibition in New York invited the curious to discover an archive consisting of hundreds of photographs of the same woman, identified only as “Margret S,” posing in hotel rooms and enjoying secret getaways.
Her illusive lover and man behind the camera, is married Cologne businessman and construction company owner, Günter K. He is 39 when the affair begins in May 1969, and Margret is 24, also married.
We know this because Günter meticulously documented the affair like a compulsive accountant. Not only did he endlessly photograph Margret, but he took detailed notes of the affair, written with a typewriter and inscribed with dates like they were official records.
He kept receipts from hotels, restaurants, casinos, spas and shopping sprees, as well as travel documents, theatre tickets and even held on to empty contraception packets and had samples of Margret’s hair.
“The couple go on ‘business trips’ in Günter’s Opel Kapitän,” observes curator Veir Loers in his introduction to the original exhibition of ‘Margret’ in Austria. “Then the trysts begin to take place in an attic flat in Günter’s store building … Margret prepares roulades and redfish filets with cucumber salad. They drink Cappy (orange juice) with a green shot (Escorial, strong liquor) and watch “colourful television.” Margret dresses for him in the clothes he has bought her.”
Indeed, his notes reveal that his wife Leni is aware of the affair but chooses to endure the humiliation. In one of the first long notes, typed on a page from a calendar, Günther describes a confrontation between Margret and his wife:
[Roughly translated from German]
Monday 7.9.1970: At lunch Leni (Günthers wife) says to Margret: Madame, you are a lesser character, you are disrupting a good marriage.
Tuesday 8.9.1970: Around 10 a clock Margret says to me: You let this insult from your wife against me pass? No more sex, you can jump on your own wife. Whatever you do, you are not allowed to jump on me anymore.
Later, my wife has to apologize to her at lunch on 8.9.1970.
That afternoon they go upstairs again to make love and the note ends with:
Devil salad is eaten. Everything is okay again.
The affair takes place at the dawn of the sexual revolution and yet old conventions prevail. One only hopes he didn’t type up his reports in the living room accompanied by his wife. Or would it even make a difference?
“He, the perfect lover, in truth is a macho man who wants to have everything under control”, concludes curator Veit Loers, who was first to exhibit the archives. “She [Margret] enjoys his attention, his generosity, is happy to let herself be manipulated, is jealous, becomes pregnant despite the pills, and has an illegal abortion − for the third time in her young life.
As the voyeur, we find ourselves in an even more conflicted space as the obsessive nature of the relationship becomes increasingly obvious.
During one of their “business trips”, Günther makes a list of all the times they made love….
Wednesday 12 Aug. 1970: 17 18.15 1x
Beginning of her period (tampon) Initiation party anyways.
Tuesday 18 Aug. 1970: 15.15 -15. 20.
Yellow chair in front of the aquarium (sitting) 1x
Wednesday 2 Sept. 1970: 17. 05-18.00 1x
With beautiful music, resting afterwards
As the affair progresses, his descriptions get longer, become more bold and explicit.
From the earlier black & white photos to later ones, we also observe Günther’s apparent transformation of his secretary from a shy, simple, mousy-haired girl to a modern, sophisticated woman with a fiery red high-maintenance beehive do.
She loses the glasses and starts smoking. He buys her pink satin dresses, jewellery and lingerie and photographs it all.
The relationship appears to come to an end just before Christmas in 1970 when reports and photographs of Margret begin to break off. According to Günther’s notes, she tells him that “after Christmas the f***ing will be over and you will not dance at two weddings anymore.”
He gets involved with other women at the request of Margret who wants him to go on dates with other women, presumably to quell suspicion from her own husband.
There is Giesela, who Günther describes as “sexually starving”, and Ursula, a “big and skinny” 21 year-old who “looks really good. White boots, green dress, black hair.” Günther reveals Margret’s subsequent panicked jealousy, begging him not to fall in love with Ursula. He also mentions that despite him still being involved with Ursula, Margret fights with her husband and asks for a divorce.
His last note is a long description of him and Margret making love. The story is left unfinished, fragmented, there can be no real happy ending.
And the questions linger. What makes a man document his affair so meticulously? Did he want to preserve the relationship to relive it later? Was this industrial businessman searching for a creative platform to express his love? Or merely the confirmation of his control over the situation, as he mastered the art of adultery?
The book ‘Margret: Chronik einer Affare – Mai 1969 bis Dezember 1970’, published in German in 2012 is now out-of-print. The White Columns Gallery exhibition in New York was the first presentation of ‘Margret’ in a non-German speaking context.
The Incredible Posters of Tadanori Yokoo
The Incredible Posters of Tadanori Yokoo
Yokoo Tadanori (also known as Tadanori Yokoo) is possibly the greatest major influence on contemporary poster design. But does the current generation of designers even know who he is? Here’s a primer: In the mid-60s, Yokoo rose to prominence through works such as Koshi-maki Osen and La Marie Vison. These works doubtless influenced the psychedelic style in the U.S. at the time. His posters are even more important in Japan because, rather than following foreign styles, they define a Modern Japanese graphic design aesthetic.
Now, thanks to Christopher Mount, who “mounted” an exhibition of the Russian poster masters, The Stenberg Brothers, in New York in 1997 at MoMA, there’s a major exhibition titled “The Complete Posters of Tadanori Yokoo” that opened on July 13th at the The National Museum of Art, Osaka. Mount wrote the main essay for the catalog, which includes more than 800 images, being published by Kokusho.
“This may be the last time this kind of extensive exhibition will be put together of his work,” Mount tells me. He adds: “He has the cultural status and following of a rock star or movie star in Japan. Yokoo is considered one of the great postwar cultural figures right along side Kurasawa, Mishima, Ono, Kusama, Ando or Miyake. I was surprised once when I met him for lunch at MoMA many years ago and a group of teenage Japanese tourists swarmed him for pictures and autographs. Everybody in Japan knows who he is. We don’t have graphic designers like that here in the U.S. My hope is that he can receive more of his proper due here in the U.S. and the West in the coming years.”
Yokoo’s creative life eventually expanded to include a wide range of fields such as painting and literature, but as he continued to produce design throughout his career, the poster remained at the core of his artistic output. “His work has a level of experimentation and personal expression impossible in most Westerners’ understanding of what graphic design can be,” Mount explains. “His work is a kind of contemporary and unrestricted version of the Ukiyo-ei. Thus, Yokoo is able to exceed in terms of creativity anything we expect posters to be.”
Is there a chance that a Yokoo exhibit will come to the U.S.? Mount has spoken with museums on the West Coast and hopes to have interest on the East Coast. “An exhibition of this sort could be particularly appealing with the recent popularity of artists such as Murakami and Nara, and the current fascination with Anime, Manga and popular Japanese culture. Yokoo is the progenitor and otherwise had such a strong influence on so much of this,” he notes.
And an article on their animated work.
BEHOLD THE NATIONAL PORK QUEEN!