By Robert Heide and John Gilman
We first encountered Hoop with party promoter bon vivant man-about-town and New York Post Page Six reporter Baird Jones at a movie memorabilia extravaganza held at the Roosevelt Hotel on Madison Avenue and 45th Street. Baird, whose father was the founder of People Magazine, was looking for paintings, drawings, doodles or anything that was relevant in a creative way that was connected to a bona-fide celebrity. His collection consisted of works of the famous including Yoko Ono, Bob Dylan, James Dean, Tony Bennett and the infamous, which included Rudolph Giuliani, a host of violent serial killers such as Ted Bundy and the child murderer John Wayne Gacy. Hoop and Baird were for many years the very best of pals, becoming almost just like brothers; and Hoop drove Baird all over town in his Hoopmobile and helped him to orchestrate his late night disco parties where often the liquor was supplied free to invited partygoers by Absolut or Finlandia Vodka to promote their product.
The second time we met Hoop was again through Baird at The Tunnel where he introduced us to Tiny Tim and then again at The China Club where we hung out with Eddie Fisher who was the celebrity host that night. At this time (early ‘90s) Hoop invited us out to his house on Charles Street in Clifton, New Jersey where he maintained his fleet of art vehicles like the Time Machine van of which the exterior was covered with clocks, his ‘Canvertible’ expertly covered with soda pop cans, and his 1940 Packard hearse covered with faux Zebra fur. Hoop was then caring for his mother Bea who was recovering at home from a stroke; and she with her bright red hair went everywhere with him. Influenced by New York street-costume artists like Steven Varble and John Eric Broaddus Hoop took to dressing himself up as well. Sometimes for his headgear he would wear an upside-down chromium tea-kettle in which was installed a battery operated blue light bulb that flashed on and off. A long feather boa emanated from the teapot spout and with that feathery conceit the outer space hat was complete. He also liked to don crazy pattern zigzag jackets worn with loose-fitting baggy plaid or orange day-glo pants in the manner of his friend Soupy Sales. “I like being a clown and having a good time” Hoop would say, “and after all I have been declared—by myself of course—‘The King of Art!’” At his house Hoop showed us some of his many sculpture collages and artworks; and we were particularly impressed by his colorful painstakingly painted line-to-line enlarged thumbprints of celebrities like Allen Ginsberg, Taylor Mead, Kenneth Anger and others. One of these art thumbprints is featured in our book New Jersey—Art of the State (Harry N. Abrams ‘Art in America’ series), as is ‘Hoop’s Golfbag’ from the Montclair Museum of Art.
Many times on our highway adventures in the 1954 pink Plymouth Belvedere convertible we would head first to Hoop’s so he could look things over on the old car and then we went on forays to diners like the Egg Platter Diner in Paterson and the now newly restored Colonial Diner in Lyndhurst and other Jersey hangouts like the famed Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, Hot Dog Johnny’s in Butzville, and Holstein’s old-style ice-cream parlor on Broad in Bloomfield where the last episode of The Sopranos was filmed. Connected to a new edition of our guidebook O’New Jersey we took a busload of aficionados to about 20 of Jersey’s classic diners including the Bendix on Highway 17, the Harris Diner in East Orange—now closed, the Summit diner, the Miss America Diner on West Side Avenue in Jersey City, Max’s Grill, and the Truck Stop Diner in Kearny. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner was part of the fare; and at several of our pit-stops Hoop made surprise appearances driving different art-cars each time to everyone’s delight. The Hoop Art Car Happening hit just the right note and he was dressed to the hilt and smiling ear to ear.
We especially enjoyed the big classic car meets like Lead East in Parsippany on Labor Day weekend with Hoop always cruising the gigantic parking lot parade with his Time Machine Van and the Saturday night car meets in Lyndhurst. When Baird Jones died suddenly Hoop inherited several million dollars as well as Baird’s famous celebrity art collection. Hoop bought a Nash Metropolitan and the party continued—he got involved with ex-Warhol factory superstar Ivy Nicholson, formerly a Vogue cover girl model, and became infatuated with her daughter Penelope Palmer who had acted in movies in France. As in the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion Hoop liked to adorn Penelope in satin and sequined designer dresses and feathery frocks attempting to somehow extend her lost Warhol 15 minutes of fame.
One day Hoop’s doctors told him he had cancer and in a new and very real sense he somehow decided to throw caution to the wind and began to burn his candles at both ends. Partying and driving faster than ever he often would say, smiling at fate, “Whatcha’ gonna do?” To anyone who was a friend or who knew Hoop it can only be said the he was one who was—unforgettable! His beautiful blonde cousin from North Carolina, Andrea Rubin, said that Hoop was “very shy, very kind, funny, gentle and helpful to others, a good listener, non-judgmental—and just a very good person.” Hoop, a true artist and a for-real Jersey Boy was born October 25, 1946 and left this world on September 21, 2011.
Robertheideandjohngilman.blogspot.com is online and was created by Hoop. Click on it.