John Lohse (painter, promoter, former traffic reporter)
Income $24,000 (1999)
Health Insurance covered by father
“I was working for 13 fucking dollars an hour last year at CBS,” says painter John Lohse, 27, about his day job. “I wrote every single traffic report ever written—you know, ‘multivehicle accident going north on the BQE.’ My friends thought I had money up the ass ’cause I was working at CBS. I didn’t make shit.”
In January 2000, fortune smiled on Lohse and he became an artist in residence at the Gershwin Hotel, which also means helping out with public relations. “I get free rent, $350 a week, plus I go to beautiful parties and get fringe benefits—like I brought in wine.com and got five cases of wine. I get to meet celebrities, hang out with Chuck Close. I’m an energy-based abstract painter. I take all kinds of colors and go crazy. I used to paint live every Friday night at Divas on 14th. In March I had 57 paintings up at the Fleet Bank in the Empire State Building. A lot of the paintings are about money. On one, I wrote ‘Cha-Ching.’ It’s the sound a cash register makes. Most of the people enjoyed that one.”
The Gershwin, a former SRO on 27th near Fifth that was renovated eight years ago, is “more like an artsy-type hotel,” Lohse says. “In the front, there’re these huge flaming tongues coming out into the street. They light up. One of the artists in residence did the tongues.”
Lohse’s best friend is Danish photographer Jacob Fuglesang, another Gershwin artist and events coordinator in residence. They work in a tiny hotel office painted silver in the spirit of Andy Warhol’s aluminum-foil-lined Factory. What King Kong is to the Empire State Building, Warhol is to the Gershwin—the hotel has made him its artistic godfather. “It is the Chelsea Hotel of the ’90s! The center!” Lohse says.
“Our PR company is called the Factory People, all the people left over from the ’60s—Billy Name, Neke Carson. We launch companies, print materials. We’re creating the scene happening in the hotel. It’s like an energy vortex. We have photo shoots. Even in the laundry room, we had a photo shoot last week.”
Lohse and Fuglesang go to clubs every night. “No, I don’t pay to get in. I started going to clubs at 17. I must have spent at least $100,000 over time. Now I want something back.”
His free room at the Gershwin is thesmallest—a bed, a computer, some canvases. “I’m never going to leave this room. Before the hotel, I lived with my parents in Staten Island—my father’s a retired disabled detective. My mother’s a student aide in a high school. Staten Island is like no other place in the world. It’s so weird, like a pizza place on every frigging corner. Everybody knows your business, everybody’s related to each other. Everybody at one time worked in the mall or the golf course.”
Forget Staten Island. “I didn’t meet anybody who had any brains in their head. Nobody in Staten Island has big dreams. Nobody wants to go for the gold.”
How much gold will Lohse have one day? “I’m going to make Bill Gates’s dream house look like a toolshed. I have every receipt I ever spent on art supplies from Pearl Paint. Forty thousand I’ve spent on my artwork. I’m going to own Pearl Paint one day.
“I have three inventions I’m ready to produce. I can’t tell you them or I’d have to kill you. They’re so amazing, you’d go out and do it today. Well, one, there will be this machine and you’ll be able to put your music track in and a fresh painting will pop out. I want everybody to experience what it is to have an original Lohse. If I die, my artwork will continue to be produced. Thus I will never die. I will always be on the planet.”