Describe the influence your childhood in Connecticut has had on your work.
The public schools in Connecticut were amazing. I took everything in art that was offered. When we moved to North Carolina, I went from a beautiful school in Connecticut to 30 kids crammed into a trailer. Connecticut had this incredible arts program and incredible schools. I was at Roger Ludlow High School, now closed. Typical story, I was attacked and bullied. My locker had “faggot” spray-painted on it. Out of a movie. In North Carolina, someone painted “faggot” at the bottom of my driveway, which was so fucking humiliating. ... It got bad, and I started coming toNew York when I was 14, where I went to Studio 54 with friends.
Who were your artistic influences?
Walt Whitman. In photography Avedon. I loved Helmut Newton and Dianne Arbus. It runs the gamut. I love more than I don't love. My art heroes weren't necessarily photographers. Freedom, body, light were so important. The idea that God exists because of the beauty of mankind. I loved Pop Art. Andy Warhol.Georgia O'Keefe.
What is it about actress Pamela Anderson and transgender icon Amanda Lepore that ignites such passion and creativity in you, resulting in some of your most memorable photographs?
Funny enough, they are the only two real friends I've made and kept out of anyone I've ever photographed who is still alive. Through photography we became friends. You can not judge a book by its cover. Pamela is loyal and a good mother and a good, good friend. She'll be there for you. In a strange way Amanda is a guru to me because of her kindness. I met Amanda when she was just a club kid and now she's this international gay icon. Amanda hasn't changed a bit. All she ever wanted was a sex change and when she got her sex change she was content. There are two people I've never heard badmouth anyone — my father and Amanda. I loved how [Amanda] looked when we met. I call them Pamanda because they get along so well. I can be very melancholy, and Pamanda really lighten and sparkle the mood.
Of everyone you've photographed, who in your mind stands out as the most natural?
The more that is given, the more is expected. That also applies to the more famous. Muhammad Ali was so generous and kind. He could see how tense I was — it [the photo shoot] was for a Taschen book. Every time I'd turn around he'd be giving the crew the finger. He taught me to chill out.
What was it like to photograph the recently departed Elizabeth Taylor, whom you cast as a turbaned and bejewelled Bel Air matron?
God, she was funny. … That woman lived!