The artist Richard Prince (that’s him above, the one who isn’t topless) once bought me a sandwich, for which I was, and remain, very grateful. It was in the local diner in Rensselaerville, upstate New York, where he had a home at the time, and I think still does. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and I can safely say it was the greasiest grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten, not that I intend that as a criticism.
Maybe what I needed was a fizzy lemon drink to wash it down and cut through the fat. Maybe, belatedly, Richard Prince has had the same idea. At this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach he’s launching a drink called, Lemon Fizz, making it in collaboration with the AriZona tea people. They say it’s “a slightly carbonated beverage that contains natural lemon flavor and is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and sucralose." OK, so that sugary glop might not have cut through the grease so well after all. And it would surely be improved by a giant slug of liquor.
The can, above, looks particularly fine, showing young Prince in the days when his hair was bleached a post-punk white. Strangely enough he seems to have about as much hair now as he did back then. The pic below is by Terry Richardson.
As with all things Prince, I’m never sure that his accounts of his own past are really to be believed, or whether it’s all some sort of art prank, but if you go to a piece of his prose titled “Tell Me Everything” you’ll read that his mother, a former spy, had a second career as one of those women who hands out food samples in supermarkets.
Prince writes, “My mother ended up working … as a food demonstrator. She would dress up like June Cleaver and stand behind a little folding table and try to hand you a piece of beef jerky. She always kept kool-aid in small paper cups ... ‘doctor's’ cups ... just in case you didn't like the taste and flavors of what she was trying to demonstrate. She said the ‘refreshment’ was her contribution, her ‘brain child’ to the job.”
As an Englishman, the deeper semiotics of Kool-Aid have always rather passed me by. If it was available in England when I was going up it certainly never made it into our house. I associate it far more with the Grateful Dead and Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test than with any childhood beverage. Above is the rather sober edition that I first read; modern editions look much more "psychedelic." We do know that American spies were big fans of acid, and I also know that Richard Prince has a fine collection of acid-related books. Coincidence? You be the judge.
You can see more of the Richard Prince’s deeply wonderful book collection here:
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