he talk about his time with Warhol? Did you and him have a connection while he
was working for Warhol?
went through some periods when we weren’t that fully connected. I wasn't that
fully connected with him at that point in time when he was working for Andy Warhol.
I knew he was working there. I had my own career and a creative career in the
industry that I worked in, in creating television commercials for these rock
stations. I didn't really pay that much attention to Steve's career like the
business of what he was doing. I just really paid attention to the fact that we
This looks like a big blur to me at this point in time. When
you look back on your life, there's a lot of things that you probably should
remember, but you just don't really see them in a clear vision as you could or
should. I never related to Steven on that basis as a really successful artist
or what was going on in his career. I was always there for him and we were just
I do remember he and Adam, when they first started off on
their own, they had a building not too far from my loft. There was a vacant
building, and they had an apartment way up on the top. There was no heat in the
building. It was on 20 degrees there. It was on 22nd Street off of 6th Avenue.
You had to walk up three flights of steps, four levels, to get to this place
that they had. It was there. They said they had no money. They started their
first business. He and Adam were really good buddies from the Bronx. They were
really tight. He was trying to get his art into galleries and stuff like that.
I came back. I wasn't living in New York at that point in time, I guess. He
said, "I got a place for you to stay." It was pretty rudimentary. It
was a dark, round, with plywood, a bed in it, and it was the most rudimentary
room you can possibly imagine.
You know something? To Steven's credit, Steven didn't care
about that. If you saw where he lived because he lived at his studio in Los
Angeles, and that’s not a place you want to be living. Bobby lived there too and
has fixed it up, but it certainly wasn't anything like it looks now.
I don't want to put it down, but at a certainty level, it's
not a place you'd really want to be living in. Later in years he bought this big
house in Las Feliz, and the only reason he bought that house was—and I talked
to him about it significantly—was because he found love with this woman. But
that didn’t work out, and Steve was devastated. He really loved this woman.
Yeah. Steven at a certain point realized that he wanted to
have a relationship with a woman, and he got into a certain point in time in
life where something just kicked in. He was good friends with Hugh Hefner. He
was hanging out at the Playboy Club. It didn't matter much to me. I just wanted
him to have somebody who would really care for him.
I know this is off the subject, but he had his mother in his
life. His mother was an arbiter to some degree as to what decisions Steven
would make with respect to women, because he knew that at some point he would
have to bring whoever this woman was to meet his mom.
could say whatever he want and press whoever he wanted to, however he tried to,
but at the end of the day he'd have to cross the bridge, and this woman would
have to meet his mom. That was something that he had to deal with. He knew that
all the time because his mom was a loose cannon. She only wanted the best for
I don't think she came out to L.A. often. There was one
time, I'm trying to remember, where both she and Melinda were coming out to LA
and Steven was going through… That's why Steven needed to have; he needed to
kind of step it up, because Steven was very proud of his accomplishments. And between that and wanting to find
someone, here he's doing all this art and very successful, but he's still living
in that container at the studio.
It was really the woman that Steve loved that coerced him to
get the house. It took a couple of months before he was able to close on it.
That was unfortunate at the end because the woman, I believe, was married and
had some kids. And Steve didn't know that, plus the fact that he did some
things and repair work to the house that he didn’t have permits to do. It just
became a financial albatross around him at the time when he was making good money,
but not enough money to cover his big mortgage payments on it.
He had some financial problems, but he wouldn't divulge them
to me because he was a very proud person. Steve would suck up whatever problems
he had, keep them within, and keep a straight face as much as he possibly could.
That's Steve Kaufman. He was tough and strong physically, but he was one of the
most gentle, kind, and wonderful people.
do you think your influence on him had when he started his Give Kids a Break?
always wanted to give back. I've had some very successful TV campaigns, and I
have donated money to various charities. Steve saw that. He told me,
"That's what I want to do. I want to give back." Steve started from a
very humble background. I'm not saying that Steve made it to the real high upper
echelons, but to Steve he did. He was very successful with his art.
reached his goals financially, I think.
was making money. He bought that property where his studio was. He had some
really great paydays. For Steven, he had reached some really great heights.
That was his world. He was very kind. He wanted to always give back and he was
always… (Bob became very emotional here.)
I know it is upsetting to talk about this.
was kind. He was so kind and so generous to a fault. He was tough with the gang
of kids that he worked with, but that was all out of kindness. He wanted to
help these kids. He was great to Bobby Womack. They were a great team. They
were like brothers. Real close. They worked great together.
was like his right hand.
would take care of him. They took care of each other. Bobby was his de facto partner in a sense. Really, if you
look at a partnership where there are people, it wasn't a defined partnership.
It wasn't anything that was in writing or already done professionally, but they
were buddies. Bobby was Steven's right hand guy.
they traveled out together.
built everything together.
definitely. Steven wouldn’t have accomplished what he accomplished without
Bobby. Steven definitely brought Bobby to new heights for Bobby. There’s
definitely no question that was a great relationship for both of them. Steven
was the engine that made that operation run, but he needed Bobby because Bobby
was the gas, whatever it took to run the machine.
you see when they bought the place on Madison Avenue? Did you see it before?
What a mess that whole place was.
you saw it from the beginning until it was workable.
were pit bulls there. That place was just unbelievable. The latest incarnation
came when they started finally putting the containers in there, and they would
live in them, and he had an editing suite in there at one point. He had a guy
who Steven befriended and who did the auto body work in the driveway out of
there. In fact, I had an old classic BMW 2002, 1972 that I bought from Dave who
worked for me. Steve took the car and painted it for me.
characters? With his art?
He painted the car. He restored the car through the guy who was working for
Steve. It wasn't like the motorcycles. He went and did the body work. They
fixed the car up, and it really looked nice. I remember I flew down and he
picked me up at the airport in my car. It was an amazing because I had a
station wagon, so I gave it to my niece who went to Colorado College so she
could go skiing. It was an all-wheel drive station wagon. I didn't really need that
much of a car, so I had this classic BMW. Steve said, "Let me fix it up
for you." That's what we did.
We were so close. We used to level. I never questioned
anything that he did. I just wanted him to do well, so I never really looked
into... I had my own business going, which is going pretty high level. I just
looked at Steven and said to Steven, "Gee, I just hope everything is going
well. It looks like its going great. You got all these kids working for you.
You have a place. You got to own this property that you bought. You got this
and so forth. You got a couple of bucks in your pocket." That's all I
he was happy?
was very happy. He loved L.A. He would contact people and do pop art paintings
of them. Some people were very flattered to have a pop art painting made of
them. One thing begot another. That's how it happened. I remember all the stuff
with Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra and the Sinatra family.
I got bits and tidbits. I wasn't really intimately involved
with his business. I was involved with Steven and just wanted to make sure that
he was doing well. He didn't have any problems at that time. Maybe he had a
financial problem here or there, but his business seemed to be rolling along.
He was really doing quite well. That's all that mattered to me. I didn't look
below and see if there were any other things going on.
the time you met him until the very end, do you feel that there was times that
he was the happiest, times that he wasn't, times that everything was going
He had reached the level where his business would seem to be drawn the line
apart. It seemed to be on somewhat of an even keel. The house caused some
financial duress because I know he wanted to put a pool in or do an extension,
and he got somebody that wasn’t licensed. One of the neighbors informed that he
was doing it, and he had some problems. He was doing what he wanted to do. Steven
lived by his own rules.
He loved living in L.A. He saw himself as being very
successful. Maybe he had a couple of highs and lows along the way. but he saw
himself as being somebody really successful. He loved doing his art.
Steven was the person that I knew, who was Steve Kaufman, my
friend. I never looked at him (differently). We go out for dinners, stuff like
that. I was very proud. I've looked around and seen the place, and there was
ton of art there at the studio. I didn't look behind the cover and see what was
going on. It's none of my business. I didn't have any knowledge of what was
going on other than the fact that the studio kept getting bigger and bigger.
I know he bought that property and paid in full. I think he
told me $130,000. He owned that property. He was very proud of it. He had also
some plans of things that he was going to build and do this and that. Steven
was on uphill spiral. He was just heading upward. Along the road, things happened
that might have derailed him a little bit, but Steven was very determined. If
he wanted to do stuff, he'd figure out a way to make it happen. If he couldn't
go straight through it, he’d go around. If he couldn't go around, he'd go over
it or he’d go under it.
he always like that as a child?
didn't really see that when he was younger, but as he grew older he knew that
there was a way to get whatever he wanted to get accomplished. That was a really wonderful trait the he
had. He was always kind, generous, and always wanted to give back. That's what
all of the paintings was—stuff that I know he was involved in different causes.
He had a heart of gold. He was just a really sweet, great kid. There's no
question about that. I feel I had a lot to do with that, but still he innately
had that. That is who he was, period.
I there anything else that you think that would be interested in knowing about
him that you know?
just feel horrible that this whole thing has come to this point. I'm just very
determined to make it happen in a different way. This is the last thing, the
best thing that I could do for him in one sense, to help his art become more
successful. That's what I would like to do.
Bob: I remember when you asked if he was happy. I remember
after he had his stroke, he did change a little bit. He was less dynamic,
obviously. He might have known that at that point he had some pretty severe
health problems. He started to change his diet. I remember having lunch with the
family. He was sitting, eating green salad. He didn't enjoy it, but he knew he
had to do that. I think the reality of his health affected him a lot. I noticed
a slight personality change after the stroke.
He came to my dad's 90th birthday. We had a birthday party
in Santa Monica for my dad. There's a lot of longevity in my family, so he came
to it. Steven was a little rough around the edges, in a sense. He was a really
great, sweet, wonderful human being. My two nieces both went to pretty high end
colleges. Steve was a little bitter for the acquired taste in a sense. I have a photo. There we go. I have a
photo of him with my nieces. Steve was like, they all cared for him, but he was
just a little, I want to say again, rough around the edges.
was a Bronx boy.
I know. Exactly.
know what he loved doing? He loved getting on his Harley Davidson and cruising
down Melrose Avenue.
he take you for a ride?
took my girlfriend Carol on a ride on his Harley, and they rode down Melrose
Avenue together. Everybody turned and looked, "Who's this huge guy with
this little blonde hanging onto him?"
He would always have like a red or blue bandana that he
would wear. I've got a couple. I didn't bring them. I have a couple of photos.
We had beer with both my nephew and myself. I've got photos which I will get
you copy of. I haven't scanned them, but I will.
would love to have copies. Whatever you have. Do you have any of you and Steve?
have one of Steve and myself, two, but I don't have that many photos. We just
never really took photos or good stuff like that. It's a shame. But who would
think that there would not be plenty of time?
I've always been a fitness type person. I would always be on
Steve's case to be in really good shape, stay in good shape because he was a
big kid, a big guy. Sometimes you would put on some. He had the worst diet, in the beginning. I don't think he
ever saw a vegetable until he was probably in his 30’s.
My brother and I—not that my brother was really in this
exact great shape—but we challenged Steve and Adam to a race. We went out, and
we beat them. It was the two of us against the two of them. He came out, also
he came to my 50th birthday party out there with his girlfriend, who he
originally bought that Porsche for that Bobby now has. She was very pretty. I
have a photo. I have to find it.
Steve was really a good-looking guy when he got his act
together. There was a period in his life that I felt he was a really
good-looking kid. He was big. He came out, and he gave me the Superman
painting, the one with Superman that says, "Dad! Dad! It's all my
fault!" I became like his father, really. He gave me that painting. I gave
it to Dave, my partner. He gave me so many paintings that it was like I didn't
have enough walls for them. I didn't realize the significance of that painting
at the time because I had so many other paintings I had in my office. I so
regret giving it away. I feel very bad. I had all Steve’s paintings in the living
room. I had the one that he gave me with the dollar bill where it said,
"Thanks for being my big brother.” We had the American Indian up there, and I also had the
Batman. I traded it for another painting with Dave. He gave it back to me. I
then gave it to my nephews whom I totally love. It's in their bedroom. I told
him how important it was.
This is a great story. The first radio series that I ever
created on my own, before it got into TV where my business really took off, was
the Marvel Comics radio series. We produced 5-minute shows each week. Each week
we completed the Adventure of the Fantastic Four.
How Steve factored into it is this: He had nothing to do
whatsoever with the creation of the programs, but he knew Stan Lee. What
happened was Marvel Comics gave me all these posters, beautiful posters, which
I would give one of the posters to a radio station when they bought the series.
At the end, Marvel Comics called me up, and I didn't realize
at the time, and they asked me did I have any of the remaining because they
didn't have any more. I said, "No. I've sold them all. I provided them all
to the radio stations." We have 22, 23 radio stations that ran the
program. These were the big rock stations. I said no, but a short time later I
didn't realize I had 40 of them.
knew about the radio series, obviously. He said, "I know Stan Lee. I worked
with Stan Lee, but I'm in touch with Stan Lee right now." Years later.
"Let me take those posters. I'll have Stan sign them for you." Steve
took the Marvel posters that I had, and had Stan Lee sign them. I have, I don't
know, 40 of them. It's the 10th most valuable Marvel Comics poster. I've given
them to people who I really care about. Steve Kaufman was the person that had
Stan Lee sign the posters. The posters that are signed are just spectacular. My
brother had one, and my brother had it framed in black. I'm looking at all this
work that he has, and I’d say, "Steve, you need this poster framed in red
or yellow." He would say, "They're just spectacular."
We framed his poster. I did see, I think it was on YouTube
somewhere, they have the 10 most valuable Marvel posters, and it was the number
10th most valuable all-time Marvel poster.
that before or after Steve did that collaboration with Stan Lee?
after because he knew Stan. I didn't know how he knew Stan. I never asked any
questions. I actually called Stan and spoke with him. I had worked with Stan.
We're talking 1975, 76. This is right after I left National Lampoon after we
closed it. The radio show closed. Everybody went over to Saturday Night Live.
I had the Marvel Comics radio series, and I had all these
posters. This was significantly after, so I wasn't really in touch with Stan
after that, but he remembered the radio series and the fellow Peter who worked
with us in producing it. Stan was totally into it.
earlier works seem to consist of mainly superheroes.
I don't really know. I have no influence or anything with what direction
Steve's work went in or any influence on any of that. I just knew that he was
doing his art.
He loved it.
Superheroes, whether it was a Marilyn, whether it was a pop icon or Marvel
Comics or DC Comics. He kept turning the work out. He would show me all the
work. He was so proud of everything he did, the portraits and stuff like that.
I had no input whatsoever on that. I was like an outsider looking in, just
being very happy that he was just doing well.
closing statement do you want to make?
can I possibly say? When I think about it, it's emotional. It was really great.
We had a great relationship. We trusted each other. It was honest. I was very
proud of him. I tried to be the best person I could be for him.
That's all I have to really say.
I really appreciate about you is how much you really cared for him and loved
a personal note, I think the very first conversation I had with Steve in 1999,
the very first conversation we had, he told me about you.
told me about you as well. He said he met this woman in New York who was just
great. You were honest and you were selling his art. He really cared for you
and trusted you. He didn’t really talk about these things with me, but he told
me that about you.
He was very kind, generous person you could always count on,
if you needed something. I didn't, but if you needed something, Steve would be
there for you. He was a standup person. Diana, you have a love for Steve and
the commitment to Steve. That is just wonderful. He left his licensing in good
hands, his legacy to you. I just would like to add what I know so more people
know how great he was.
been tremendous. The last time I saw Steve was January 2010, just a few weeks
before he died. We went to Chin Chin. He got really serious. This is when he couldn't
talk, when he lost most of his voice. He looked at me really seriously and said,
"I left you the licensing." I was totally wiped out emotionally by
the thought of losing him, and I think he knew at that point how ill he was. He
was very frightened. I said to him, "I promise you, I will make sure
everyone knows your name.” What an honor I feel. I feel like I was given the
best gift of a lifetime but, I would give anything and everything to have him
back, alive and well.
Bob: Yes, I know what you mean. That's great, he knew you
were the one. I feel bad in retrospect that I didn't really get involved in
some way, shape, or form with his business, but that wasn't what our
guys were really tight. I mean, he loved you. He told me about Howard and
Melinda and then he's mentioned, "My big brother." I said, "Howard?" He said,
"No. My big brother." Then he told me the whole story about you and
how close and what you meant to him.
Bob: I didn't see Steve toward the end. Steven didn't want
me knowing what was going on with him. I didn't really have a clue toward the
end. His voice was so bad. I would talk to him, and he could hardly talk. It
was a very raspy type of voice on the phone. I wasn't there for him really at
the end because I didn't really know.
Diana: I don't think Steve wanted anyone to know because he
didn't tell his family anything. He was protecting people.
Thank you, Bob. This was a wonderful experience for me to
hear your stories. I know that there are many people that would love to learn
everything they can about Steve. All this will be in art history books.
Bob: What a loss… But we have his art to keep him alive.