More visuals for my personal oral history of the Squares. . . here’s a pic of my best friend at the time, Stephanie Chernikowski, an old fashioned photographer who lived in a storefront on the Bowery and processed her own black and white images in her own self-made darkroom underneath her loftbed. The smell in her groud-floor, mostly sunless apartment was acidic, mysterious, and agreeable because my father had a darkroom in the basement and I loved those smells. Stephie took a fair amount of my boyfriend, Rick, and me for the Village Voice quite often. Tom called Stephie “The Silver Fox” because she grew her hair out naturally gray & white at an early age so that her face remained pretty & unwrinkled (she had merry brown eyes, too) but her hair was quite different from almost everybody we knew. She was fifteen years older than me, too.
Steph shot and wrote in the ‘80’s mostly for The Village Voice; her Getting and Spending columns always waxed poetic (like the one here, where she referred to the passing of Andy Warhol, one of her heroes).
Originally hailing from Beaumont, Texas -- like our idol, Janis Joplin -- Stephanie moved to Austin, the hip college town. For a brief spell, she taught at UT at Austin, her most notable English student being a freshman George W. Bush (“Dumb as a post,” she said, wondering how he ever managed to finish school, much less transfer to Yale).
When Stephanie moved to NYC in her thirties, she wasn’t expecting to get involved in the downtown music scene, necessarily. Her oeuvre was country music and in the seventies the Lone Star Café was the best place to catch all kinds of Nashville and Texas musicians (George “Possum” Jones, Delbert McClinton, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, etc.). Her other best friend, Martha Hume, wrote for Country Music Magazine and the like so she always had work. Then, when CBGB’s opened and started up, because Steph lived two blocks away, it was a cinch to go out and get early photos of the Cramps, the Ramones, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Television, Tish & Snooky. . .and then she met me.
We got along famously -- for 20-plus years.