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Guest of Cindy Sherman Co-director Paul H-O on Dating Sherman and Fighting Julian Schnabel

Guest of Cindy Sherman, which opens today, chronicles the ill-fated relationship between famous photographer Sherman and Paul H-O (short for Hasegawa-Overacker), a former cable-access star. Sherman would rather you not see the film; after screenings last year, she issued a statement expressing regret that she’d cooperated with the filmmakers, documentarian Tom Donahue and H-O, who met and fell in love with Sherman when he was still doing his goofy art-world party-crashing show, “Gallery Beat” (which ran from 1993 to 2000). Vulture spoke to H-O about his relationship with Sherman, the art world’s wimpiness, and Julian Schnabel’s temper.

When’s was the last time you and Cindy talked?
Two-and-a-half years ago. After I moved out [of Sherman’s Soho loft], there was a certain point when she wrote me an e-mail and it said she didn’t feel like she needed to talk to me anymore.

But she cooperated with the film while you and Tom were making it.
Oh yeah, yes, very much so. I mean, we did it legally — we got life rights and rights to images.

The New York art world, as seen in all the archival footage you and Tom worked into the film, seems very likable during the “Gallery Beat” era. With, of course, the exception of Julian Schnabel, who basically hates on you.
He looks a lot worse in other footage we didn’t use. Oh my God.

He rambled on further about how awful you are?
Oh, there was quite a back-and-forth going on there. I got some good punches in.

We were hoping it would come to fisticuffs.
That’s the funny thing about the art world.

Everybody’s a wimp?
Yeah. I mean, if you push somebody, they might start crying, you know.

Parts of the film are almost like a requiem for a time before big money ruined the art world. You seem hurt not only by what happened to your relationship, but also sad about what’s become of the art world.
I am not hurt by what happened to the art world.

I became alienated from what it became. In a lot of ways, I’m very detached from the elements in the film that might seem like they’re, you know, deep emotional moments.

The title of the film comes from a night when you arrive at a formal dinner party with Cindy to discover that not only are you not seated at your famous girlfriend’s table, but you’re treated like a nobody.
I really did feel support of the artist, of her accomplishment. It’s like, “Okay, you’re the admiral — I can accept that.” I just like to be the captain of my own boat. I need to have my own boat.

Guest of Cindy Sherman Co-director Paul H-O on Dating Sherman and Fighting Julian Schnabel