LAX / JFK (RuPaul) — Nelson Sullivan’s camcorder captured queer icons like RuPaul long before they made it big. @slate slate.com/human-interest….
His constant presence in New York nightlife during the period left a remarkable legacy.
Thirty years ago, Sullivan released the first episode of a cable access show featuring video he shot of the underground queer community in New York City. A day after his first episode aired, he died. He left behind thousands of hours of unaired footage of drag shows, parties with gay icons, and scenes of 1980s Manhattan. These tapes are now in the care of the Fales Library at New York University, and they constitute some of the most thorough documents of queer history at a pivotal and challenging time.
In the 1980s, portable VHS camcorders (the kind lugged around by dads at Disney World) hit the consumer market via stores like RadioShack. They recorded on tapes available for a few bucks that could record for up to 120 minutes. Since these systems used magnetic tapes instead of film, which required chemical processing (like the popular Super 8 cameras by Kodak), they were much more accessible to amateur videographers. Sullivan bought one of these early VHS camcorders to document the lives of downtown New York City’s artists and weirdos, rising luminaries who also happened to be his friends. — Matthew Terrell/@RuPaul