A Film Review of Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Drugs & Disco
*Featured Image is property of Summitridge Pictures & RSJC ltd
Walking into the auditorium, I did not know what to think. As per usual, I was one of a few brown faces amongst the crowd, quelle surprise. After a brisk caustic exchange with an ICA worker whom upon domineering where we could and could not sit, freely allowed other members of the audience to sit where they desired……The overall vibe was ambiguous and to be expected. Just another auditorium full of your film students, ex- film students and probably other press there as well. Defo not my neck of the woods, to say the least. In terms of my thoughts towards the film itself, I was uncertain about what was about to follow. Being indecisive about seeing the film in the first place, I can say hands-down that I was honestly shook about what came of once the lights went down….
*Tina Chow. Property of Summitridge Pictures & RSJC ltd
Sex, Drugs & Disco is ultimately a kaleidoscope of the fashion movement between 1969-1973 in predominantly Paris & New York. Consisting of archival footage and photographic stills, this film invites you into Antonio Lopez’s journey and influence within the uprising fashion movement through his illustrations. Originally born in Puerto Rico, Antonio and his parents migrated to New York, where he grew up in the infamous Bronx. Whilst growing up, it was noted that his father persuaded Antonio to attend fashion school rather than art school. In a short clip, Antonio mentioned being close to his mother until he came out as bisexual- the principal cause for the severe decline in their relationship. Upon finishing fashion school, Antonio swiftly moved to Harlem to spark off his career as a fashion illustrator. During the start of Antonio’s career, his life consisted of frequent clubbing, excessive drinking and elicit sex- nothing abnormal for the 70s equivalent of a club kid.
*Sourced from Google*
What started off on a personal level for Juan Ramos and Antonio, progressed into a professional one as Juan soon became Antonio’s colourist and creative director. It was commonly described that Juan was the anchored entity within the relationship, contrary to Antonio’s free spirit. Their partnership worked successfully due to Juan being the intellectual out of the two and often found grounding Antonio, whilst Antonio unlocked Juan’s creativity through his ability to visualise. Juan’s classic and Antonio’s contemporary approaches amalgamated brought forth something so subliminal that had never been seen before within fashion. Watching this film, I became quite interested in the relationship between Juan and Antonio. The work they produced was built through countless arguments and a kind of love hate intimacy.
*Sourced from Pinterest*
Judging from the interviews with the likes of Grace Coddington, Joan Juliet Buck, Jessica Lange, Bill Cunningham, Bob Colacello & Tina Chow– you can particularly imagine the significant influence Antonio had towards their later success. When they speak of Antonio they only talk fondly of him, recalling many memories that they shared together. Each interviewee had a glee in their eye at the mention of his name- Antonio was their idea of a god. At the end of the film when there was a Q&A with director James Crump, someone asked the poignant question we were all wondering- “Did anyone hate Antonio?” He was just represented in such a positive light throughout the whole film as well as individual accounts of him. Even when his few flaws were briefly mentioned, it was dismissed and painted over with his beaming personality. One thing most (if not all) interviewee’s stated, was his gift of being so full of life that was/is so scarce to find in people. Going hand in hand with his good looks and sweet charms, you would often find yourself getting intimate with him pretty quickly. Those close to him felt like a fragmentation of his soul.
*Bill Cunningham & Antonio Lopez. Property of Summitridge Pictures & RSJC ltd
Specialising in line drawings, Antonio added a fun element to fashion illustration that was a breath of fresh air from preceding decades of classic couture. Every time he drew, he would blare out disco music (hence the title) to direct him into the right state of mind in order to produce. Antonio was known as an intense drawer. His hands would climax as he reached the peak of his sketches. Requiring his muses to maintain a fixed position, the euphoria that he was in every time he picked up a pencil needed to be transferred into his drawings. Whenever he had artist’s block, he would consult his hypnotherapist who was able to get him into the exact trance he desired . With Antonio’s father being a professional psychic and deeply interested in hypnosis, no raised eyebrows why Antonio was referred to as having an other-worldly mannerism about him. His friends and creative partners found a sense of clairvoyance within him. Upon viewing the footages of the illustrator, I can 100% agree. Even through my stubbornness, something inexplicable about him drew me in. As much as his dark eyes were striking, there’s this transcendental spirit that arrays from him. You really do get sucked in.
*Antonio Lopez & Karl Lagerfeld, sourced from Google*
Antonio’s renowned muses includes Cathee Dahmen, Grace Jones, Pat Cleveland, Tina Chow, Jessica Lange, Jerry Hall as well as some of Warhol’s associates such as Donna Jordan, Jane Forth & Patti D’Arbonville. Antonio’s craft did not only rest within the walls of his drawings. He was also a great stylist- sculpting his muses miraculously. In the midsts of Antonio’s career, he temporarily vacated to Paris to sketch for French fashion house Chloé’s latest collections, developing a tight relationship with in-house designer at the time Karl Lagerfeld. No surprise Lagerfeld would be attracted to Antonio considering their common love for the outlandish and heavy drug use. In the 70s, the designer’s entourages’ were the socialites of today. In the fashion industry, the people you associated yourself with pretty much shaped the way people viewed you. As you can imagine, there was an innate rivalry between Lagerfeld’s and Yves Saint Laurent’s scenes, despite being distant acquaintances. Even though it was code not to fluctuate between the two designers, Antonio’s and Juan’s social butterfly personalities enabled them to go between the two contrasting scenes. It wasn’t just the socialising that was key to Antonio’s experience working in Paris. With the inclusion of woman of colour being rejected by US Vogue, Antonio went on a pursuit to explore using them as muses for his illustrations. Europe was much more open to the significant change in society, especially in the fashion industry. We all know about Grace Jone’s success thanks to Antonio, but a black model I didn’t know from this era that I should had known is Amina Warsuma. He also instigated Donna Jordan’s modelling career, as she had too much of an unconventional look for America to handle. As a black female with an unconventional look, I champion Antonio’s determination to include darker skin women as well as those with more character to their face- a nice contrast to the generic fair-skin ones.
*Sourced from Google*
Overall, Antonio’s creations reflected the cultural changes and sexual liberation in the early 70s. His whole work was based on his own hyper-sensuality, adding a raw sense of eroticism to what was an uptight world of fashion. The director of Sex, Drugs & Disco– James Crump quotes “I became fascinated with Antonio….fantasising about the early 1970s.” And that’s the problem. Fantasies often focuses on happy endings rather than giving an eagle’s-view of what truly went down at the time. Crump states “Given the elements of race, ethnicity and sexuality that Antonio injected into fashion–a Puerto Rican-born, Bronx-raised bisexual–the film needed to be produced now at a moment when these Latino, African-American, LGBTQ issues are still being contested and underrepresented in dominant media and culture.” This statement would had be contextualised if this was portrayed within the film. But it wasn’t. Considering the fact there was still a fair share of social and political ignorance, Antonio being a Hispanic pansexual was bound to have faced a plethora of racial and queer persecution. Lets dive deeper into this, and consider the fact he was a person of colour working in the fashion industry. His life wouldn’t have been ‘the breeze’ that was conveyed within this film. His ability to overcome all the aversion he would had experience and still maintain his loveable personality should had been touched on. It’s a truly inspirational story told through the eyes of a Eurocentric viewpoint.
*Photography by Juan Ramos. Copyright of The Estate of Antonio Lopez
Words by My Superiority Complex
*This is not sponsored or affiliated content to any of the entities mentioned. All opinions are my own. Summitridge Pictures & RSJC ltd are the owners of the images with her accreditation. All images used within this article are sourced by either Dogwoof Ltd or Google. I am not responsible for the source beyond these entities*