Keith Haring in the Hands of Brad Gooch
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Published in: July-August 2024 issue.


Brad Gooch. Jacket photo for Radiant.

IN A RICHLY VARIED literary arc, Brad Gooch went from writing novels (Scary Kisses, The Golden Age of Promiscuity) to publishing authoritative biographies of three fascinating, complicated figures of 20th-century American art. His pivot into nonfiction began in 1993 with City Poet, about influential New York School poet Frank O’Hara, and continued with his Flannery O’Connor biography in 2009, a memoir in 2015, and a life of Rumi in 2017. His latest book, Radiant: The Life and Line of Keith Haring, is about the gay graffiti artist turned global celebrity who died of AIDS in 1990 at age 31.

            Haring left his hometown in Pennsylvania for New York City in 1978 and discovered a heady scene that combined art, music, literature, nightclubs, sex, and drugs. Fueled by a prodigious output—Haring did more than 5,000 drawings on New York subway stations—and his distinctive imagery and bold line, his reputation soared. His friends included Madonna, Basquiat, and Warhol. By his mid-twenties Haring was exhibiting and selling in New York, Europe, and Japan. He threw himself into politics, especially AIDS activism.

Gooch, 72, lives in New York City with his partner, Paul Raushenbush. They have two sons, Glenn and Walter. Gooch came to New York from Wilkes-Barre, PA, in 1971 to attend Columbia. He worked as a fashion model and has written for The New Republic, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and The Paris Review. A Guggenheim fellow in Biography, he has received a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship.

            This interview was conducted by telephone shortly before the release of Radiant.

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Claude Peck is a writer and editor who lives in Minneapolis and Palm Springs.