Music producer Barb Morrison remembers her friend, Pop artist and Andy Warhol associate Ronnie Cutrone.
There are certain people in your life that you just can’t describe to anyone who hasn’t met them. Ronnie Cutrone is one of those people but I’ll do my best here anyway.
Ronnie was a salt ‘n’ pepper punk rocker, a weathered little boy, a funny man who could make you cry by telling you a joke but not a happy cry — a serious, ‘oh my god that hit me in the soul’ cry. He was an inspiration, not only through his art but just by the way he lived his life. He told stories that blew my mind, stories that couldn’t possibly have been true, but you knew when it was coming out of Ronnie’s mouth it was always true. He spoke a harsh truth. He didn’t mince words. He was on to himself. And if he was on to you he’d let you know it. He loved, lived, played, worked and healed all with a full throttle.
I met Ronnie in 1990 through some mutual friends. I was a kid, he was 42. We hit it off immediately and became fast buddies. I don’t usually talk about my recovery from drug addiction but to say Ronnie kept me sober when I was newly clean is an understatement. I had a tough run with drugs and alcohol and was on death’s door at the tender age of 23. Like him, I played hard, too.
He was the first person that actually made being clean & sober look attractive to me. Sure, I met people who were walking the walk, but Ronnie gave that lifestyle the look of a rock star. I wanted what he had. He’d let me know that it wasn’t going to be easy but it’d be worth it. If I was bullshitting myself he’d get in my face and call me on it. He told me I was “a beautiful unique weirdo and to never be ashamed of that.” Ronnie gave me permission to be exactly who I am.
We ran together like crazy teenage pals. We got tattoos together. Mine was a heart that said “broken hearted” in it for some chick that had done me wrong. His was a funny cartoon pig. When I asked him why he chose that he said, “Cuz we all need to be reminded about the dirty little piggy.” This was the kind of answer that you never questioned. You just took it and walked around letting it marinate for months or years until it finally made sense to you. That’s what all great artists do. They deliver you something to think about, something for you to walk around and ruminate upon, and you never really want the meaning of it because it’s set up that way. You’re supposed to find your own meaning in it.
While I was sitting in the tattoo chair getting inked he took the sadistic opportunity to lean right into me while the needle was ripping through my skin and say, “Oh, does it hurt? Boo fuckin’ hoo! Here’s your pity party!” I wanted to smack him and hug him at the same time. That’s another thing great artists do — make you feel many emotions at once, sometimes very conflicting emotions. Ronnie was a ninja at that kind of stuff.
We spent late nights gabbing on the phone or sitting in coffee shops in the village making up funny little voices or stupid sayings. We went to monster truck rallies together, cruised chicks together, cried together and laughed our asses off together. I can honestly say my life has been richer for knowing him. None of us know where we go or what happens after we die but there’s something about knowing that Ronnie’s already there that gives me even more peace as I move through my own journey towards that dimension.
A mutual friend of ours named Jimmy Mckenny was asked to paint at 5 points in Queens NY and he dedicated it to Ronnie. I know Ronnie helped Jimmy as much as he helped me too. The first thing Jimmy said to me when I told him Ronnie wasn’t with us anymore was, “That guy helped a lotta people”.
So if there’s any wisdom I can share on Ronnie’s behalf it’s this: Help someone, tell them they’re beautiful, make them laugh, call them on their shit, give them something to think about, play hard and shine.
R.I.P., Ronnie Cutrone.
Originally published on superbuddhamusic.com
Photo courtesy of the author.