Walter Cooper signs copies of Unbuttoned: Gay Life in the Santa Fe Arts Scene at Collected Works Bookstore
According to local artist Walter Cooper, the late and legendary Santa Fe artist Ford Ruthling — a gay playboy and the leader of a great circle of likeminded artists and artistic types back in the 1970s — once had a six-month affair with silverscreen heartthrob Rock Hudson. Cooper reveals this juicy bit of gossip in his new self- published memoir, Unbuttoned: Gay Life in the Santa Fe Arts Scene. Cooper left a New York advertising career in 1973 to come find himself in the City Different, to live openly as a gay man and pursue his artistic impulses. He hit town during a fertile time for both of these activities, when housing was still affordable for people trying to live off their art, and Santa Fe was well established as a haven for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. Cooper and his clan succeeded the earlier bohemian generation that preferred the closet, a hiding place Cooper disdains for such luminaries as Georgia O’Keeffe, who is rumored to have had dalliances with women but preferred to keep her sex life separate from interpretations of her art. Cooper also recalls several marriages between gay men and lesbians, as well as the raucous pick-up scene that was the men’s bathroom at La Fonda, but his fondest laments are for the casual closeness of the old Santa Fe before the real- estate boom of the 1980s and the infiltration of the art scene by moneyed interests. Cooper signs copies of Unbuttoned at 4 p. m. on Sunday, March 13, at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St., 505-988- 4226) in an event that is also a reception for Douglas Atwill and his novel, Dinner in the Labyrinth, published by Sunstone Press. On display is an exhibition of visual art by both men, who are longtime friends and members of the social and creative milieu Cooper writes about.