Andy Warhol DowntownExplore
Warhol lived uptown and worked in midtown, but his heart was very much tied to the downtown’s arts scenes. In 1967, he moved the Factory to 33 Union Square, between East Seventeenth and Eighteenth Streets in Manhattan. Across Union Square Park was a restaurant and bar named Max’s Kansas City, one of Warhol’s regular haunts even before the move. Max’s became a key destination where radical politics, painting, poetry, rock ’n’ roll, and Off-Off-Broadway theater crossed paths, and the downtown’s center of gravity continued shifting eastward as the 1960s progressed. Check out some of the places Warhol frequented, and click through to see who else also hung out there.
Start where Andy Warhol used to socialize in Greenwich Village at San Remo; then head up to another bar he haunted, Lenny’s Hideaway, before going further north to The Living Theatre, where Warhol spent time during the theater company’s Monday Night Series. Then head a couple blocks east to Union Square, which was adjacent to the Factory’s second location, and across the park was another regular Warhol hangout, Max’s Kansas City. Then go south to St. Mark’s Place, a former Polish social hall in which Warhol mounted his Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia show at the Dom with the Velvet Underground. For a taste of Warhol’s theatrical experiences, head south four blocks to La MaMa, where he mounted a play he “wrote” named Pork, before heading back to Greenwich Village, where the artist would catch shows at the groundbreaking Off-Off-Broadway venues Judson and Caffe Cino.
Greenwich Village CoffeehousesExplore
Coffeehouses proliferated in Greenwich Village during the late 1950s and early 1960s because the area had plenty of empty commercial spaces; these establishments were much cheaper to run than bars, which required the proper city licenses and Mafia protection rackets. Use the map to explore the neighborhoods surrounding MacDougal Street, and click on the locations to read about events that happened in those places.
Start at Gerde’s Folk City, where Bob Dylan played early in his career, and head south to Caffe Cino, a coffeehouse that helped ignite the Off-Off-Broadway revolution. Then check out the locations that used to host the Café Bizarre, Cafe Wha? (which is still standing), Why Not Café, and the Gaslight before finishing up at Café Rafio.
La MaMa's Many LocationsExplore
In September 1961, while living at 334 East Fifth Street, Ellen Stewart came across a sign that read “basement for rent.” Café La MaMa’s first location at 321 East Ninth Street was closed in April 1968 when the city’s Buildings Department enforced a ban on theaters in the area and shut down Café La MaMa once again. Undaunted, Stewart moved her theater to a second-floor loft at 82 Second Avenue, and soon after was forced to move it farther down Second Avenue. Like a bureaucratic version of whack-a-mole, La MaMa then moved to St. Mark’s Place, and finally to its longtime home on East Fourth Street.
Start at 321 East Ninth Street to see Café La MaMa’s original basement location, then walk up to 9 St. Mark’s Place before heading back to Second Avenue to visit two of La MaMa’s locations on that street before ending at 74A East Fourth Street. MORE WALKING TOURS WILL BE ADDED IN THE NEAR FUTURE!
Abbie Hoffman was an activist who co-founded the Youth International Party (better known as the Yippies) and helped organize Washington, D.C.’s first major antiwar demonstration, where Ed Sanders and others attempted to levitate the Pentagon.
Agosto Machado was a Chinese-Spanish Christopher Street queen and Zelig-like figure who witnessed the rise of the underground theater and film movements, the 1960s counterculture, gay liberation, and punk rock.
Al Carmines served as the associate minister for the arts at Judson Memorial Church, where he wrote songs for plays that Judson produced in addition to giving sermons and other ministerial duties.
Alan Betrock launched his DIY paper New York Rocker in early 1976, not long after he produced the first Blondie demos (Debbie Harry’s first cover story was in New York Rocker, with a photo taken by Lisa Jane Persky).
Like many artists who became part of 1960s avant-garde art movements, Allan Kaprow developed an expanded approach to painting, composition, poetry, and, eventually, performance—when he coined the term “Happenings.”
After becoming well-known as a Beat-era poet, Allen Ginsberg became heavily involved in the downtown’s activist and arts scenes during the 1960s, when Hibiscus (George Harris III) met Ginsberg and the two became lovers.
Known as LeRoi Jones when he collaborated with Diane di Prima on the mimeo poetry zine The Floating Bear; this poet, playwright, and writer later relocated to Harlem and disassociated himself from the downtown scenes and became a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement.
Romanian immigrant and poet Andrei Codrescu moved to downtown New York in 1966, where he worked at the Eighth Street Bookshop and encountered other writers such as Ted Berrigan, Susan Sontag, and Allen Ginsberg; he later moved to the West Coast, where he lived in a commune with Hibiscus after he left the Cockettes and formed Angels of Light.
Andy Milligan directed some of the earliest shows at Caffe Cino and La MaMa, and later went on to make trashy, low-budget movies such as The Ghastly Ones, Vapors, Seeds of Sin, The Body Beneath, The Man with Two Heads, and Torture Dungeon.
Best known for his Pop Art silkscreened work, Andy Warhol was a key connector figure who circulated not only through uptown art circles, but also within the underground film, poetry, theater, and music scenes.
The original drummer for the Velvet Underground, Angus MacLise first collaborated with John Cale and Tony Conrad in LaMonte Young’s Theatre of Eternal Music.
Ann Harris began collaborating with her six children in the early 1960s after her oldest son—an eleven-year-old soon-to-be Hibiscus—hatched the idea to start a family theater troupe after learning that his mother had written two plays in college that had moldered in a trunk for years; by the early 1970s, she was writing songs for Hibiscus and his sisters in the Angels of Light.
Theatre Genesis playwright and director Anthony Barsha directed Sam Shepard’s Back Bog Beast Bait as part of an ill-fated double bill that also included Cowboy Mouth.
Interview magazine contributor Anton Perich—who documented the scenes at Max’s Kansas City and the Mercer Art Center with his Super 8 film and Portapak video camera—also began making his own public access show, Anton Perich Presents, which debuted in January 1973.
Arthur C. ClarkeExplore
Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke was a resident of the Chelsea Hotel, where became friends with Shirley Clarke; during her time in the Chelsea, Patti Smith sometimes lurked by his door hoping to get a glimpse of him.
Off-Off-Broadway actor Benton Quin contributed props and sets to Blondie’s early live shows after Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and Gary Valentine moved into the Bowery building where he lived, which became known as the ”Blondie Loft.”
After the young fashion designer Betsey Johnson met Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol, who needed silver outfits for a film they were shooting, she began designing clothes for the Velvet Underground and married group member John Cale in 1968.
Bette Midler was cast in the 1965 La MaMa production of Tom Eyen’s Miss Nefertiti Regrets at the age of 18, and later performed a cabaret act at gay bathhouses with with pianist Barry Manilow (who also sometimes performed at Caffe Cino).
Daughter of artist Al Hansen, Bibbe Hansen was a regular at the Factory in the mid-1960s—where she co-starred with Edie Sedgwick in the 1965 Warhol film Prison and also appeared onstage as a go-go dancer at an early Velvet Underground show.
Bill Graham grew up in New York as a German Holocaust survivor and an aspiring actor, and after moving to San Francisco he found success as a live music promoter by opening the Fillmore Auditorium to capitalize on the city’s thriving psychedelic music scene before opening the Fillmore East in 1968.
Legendary speed freak Billy Name, who created the original Factory’s metallic installation art design, learned lighting design under Nick Cernovich, who was part of the Black Mountain College group that also included John Cage.
After moving to Downtown New York, Bruce Eyster became fast friends with the likes of Harry Koutoukas, Jackie Curtis, Candy Darling and others; he also appeared in a few of Koutoukas’ shows until they had a falling out after the playwright demanded that Eyster bleach his hair white and shave off all his body hair for his play Too Late for Yogurt.
Born James Slattery, Candy Darling grew up in Massapequa Park, Long Island and moved to New York in the mid-1960s, where she became part of the street scene—eventually befriending Jackie Curtis, with whom she appeared in Warhol films.
Carolee Schneemann is well-known for many significant pieces, including her 1964 performance piece Meat Joy, which featured nude performers who played with paint, sausage, and raw chickens, and was presented at Judson Gallery.
After his career as a couturier fizzled, Charles James resided in the Chelsea Hotel—where a young Lisa Jane Persky worked as his assistant.
Playwright and performer Charles Ludlam briefly worked with John Vaccaro’s Play-House of the Ridiculous before forming his own Ridiculous Theatrical Company and mounting his breakthrough play, Bluebeard, at La MaMa.
Longtime Village resident Chris Kapp was a performer in Hot Peaches and the Play-House of the Ridiculous, and was also the long-time director of “Coffeehouse Chronicles” at La MaMa.
Brooklyn native Chris Stein played in bands as a teenager (including a memorable opening gig for the Velvet Underground in 1967), before cofounding Blondie with Debbie Harry in 1974 and documenting the punk scene with his camera.
Clem Burke grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey, where he was high school friends with Gary Lachman, who bonded with him over their love of glam rock and later joined Blondie on drums and bass, respectively.
Craig Leon produced early singles and albums by Blondie, the Ramones, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and others.
Dancer Daniel Nagrin appeared in Shirley Clarke’s first short film, 1953’s Dance in the Sun, and he later could be found performing in the Kitchen at the Mercer Arts Center.
Ramones manager Danny Fields was a ubiquitous presence downtown, which he documented in his column for the SoHo Weekly News.
A shape-shifting rock ‘n’ roll oddity who helped spearhead the glam rock movement in the early 1970s, David Bowie could be seen haunting various downtown locations such as Mercer Arts Center and Club 82.
Before becoming the New York Dolls’ frontman, David Johansen worked at a variety of downtown establishments—including a St. Mark’s clothing store that provided costumes for Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company and Max’s Kansas City.
In the late 1960s, Debbie Harry sang backup vocals in a short-lived hippie band named Wind in the Willows, then quit the group and worked as a waitress at Max’s Kansas City before joining the Stilettoes and eventually cofounding Blondie with Chris Stein.
Dee Dee RamoneExplore
Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee Ramone) was the Ramones’s bassist and boyfriend of the Cockettes’s Pam Tent, who connected him with others in the downtown arts scenes.
Diane di PrimaExplore
Diane di Prima was first associated with the Beat poetry movement before becoming involved with LeRoi Jones, with whom she coedited the mimeo poetry zine The Floating Bear and started the New York Poets Theatre.
Ed Sanders was a mimeo publisher, frontman of the Fugs, and potty-mouthed poet who opened the influential Peace Eye Bookstore on the Lower East Side, cofounded the Yippies, and was also involved in the underground film scene.
Edie Sedgwick was a Factory superstar who appeared in Horse, Vinyl, Poor Little Rich Girl, Kitchen, Prison, and several other Warhol films between 1965 and 1966 before splitting with Warhol.
Playwright Edward Albee, best known for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, helped support the Off-Off-Broadway venue Caffe Cino by throwing benefits after it caught fire.
Off-Off-Broadway actress Elda Gentile performed in the Stilettoes with Debbie Harry after the demise of her previous band, Pure Garbage (which also included fellow Warholite Holly Woodlawn), and also had a child with Eric Emerson.
DIY theater impresario Ellen Stewart cultivated an extended family of theater folks after she founded La MaMa in the basement of an East Ninth Street building, which then moved to various East Village location before settling in its permanent home on East Fourth Street.
Eloise Harris, the fifth child of the Harris family, got her Equity card at the age of nine performing in Invitation to a Beheading at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater and later joined her brother Hibiscus in the Angels of Light.
Eric Emerson was discovered by Andy Warhol while dancing in the audience at a Velvet Underground show at the Dom and was promptly cast in several Warhol films; he was also Chris Stein’s roommate while he was in one of downtown’s first glam bands, the Magic Tramps.
An early member of the Cockettes in San Francisco, Fayette Hauser relocated to New York City and performed with fellow Cockettes Pam Tent, John Flowers, and Tomata du Plenty in the drag group Savage Voodoo Nuns, which opened for Blondie and the Ramones.
Dancer Freddie Herko was part of the Judson Dance Theater and was a friend of Diane di Prima before committing suicide by pirouetting from a four-story window on Cornelia Street, a few doors down from Caffe Cino.
Blondie Loft landlord Benton Quin first introduced bassist Gary Valentine (born Gary Lachman) to Lisa Jane Persky, who later inspired the early Blondie hit he wrote, “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear.”
George Harris, Jr.Explore
George Harris, Jr. was married to Ann Harris, and together they raised six children who were all involved in theater at Caffe Cino, La MaMa, and Judson Church.
A Lithuanian immigrant named George Maciunas was the informal leader of Fluxus, an irreverent 1960s art movement that also included Yoko Ono and Al Hansen.
Poet Gerard Malanga became part of the Factory scene after being hired as Andy Warhol’s screen-printing assistant; he could also be seen wielding a whip while dancing to the Velvet Underground in the Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia series, and costarring with Mary Woronov in Vinyl at Caffe Cino.
Hair co-creator Gerome Ragni could be seen hanging out in downtown hotspots such as the Chelsea Hotel to La MaMa, soaking up ideas that eventually made it into the Broadway version of that show.
Poet and antiwar activist Grace Paley cofounded the Greenwich Village Peace Center, inspiring everyone from a young Bibbe Hansen to Ed Sanders.
Haralambos Monroe “Harry” Koutoukas was an outré playwright with a kaleidoscopic way with words, whose plays were presented at many of the key Off-Off-Broadway venues: Caffe Cino, La MaMa, Theatre Genesis, and Judson Poets’ Theatre.
Hampton Clanton grew up in the projects, though Clanton himself was nothing like the character he portrayed as a gang member in Shirley Clarke’s The Cool World (his parents raised seven kids who went to church every Sunday and stayed out of trouble); he has since appeared in dozens of films, as Rony Clanton.
Harry Smith is perhaps best known for compiling 1952’s Anthology of American Folk Music, though he was also a notable underground filmmaker, occultist, and world-class eccentric.
Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein had his La MaMa debut in the 1971 Warhol play Pork well before winning two Tony Awards for writing and starring in Torch Song Trilogy.
Hibiscus (George Harris III)Explore
Hibiscus was a gender-fluid performer and founder of the psychedelic drag troupes the Cockettes and Angels of Light who was among the very first who succumbed to the AIDS epidemic, in 1982.
Hilly Kristal began his nightlife career in 1959 as the manager of the jazz club the Village Vanguard, and went on to open Hilly’s on East Thirteenth Street, where he booked folk and blues acts throughout the 1960s until changing the bar’s name to CBGB in late 1973.
Holly Woodlawn appeared with Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis in many Warhol films, on cabaret stages, and in underground theater productions, and was name-checked in the opening lines of Lou Reed’s classic song “Walk On the Wild Side” and appeared briefly in An American Family.
Born Jim Osterberg, Stooges frontman Iggy Pop first witnessed the Velvet Underground in 1966 when he played in a suburban Detroit pop band called The Iguanas (which earned his nickname, Iggy) before Danny Fields signed the Stooges to Elektra; he frequented Max’s Kansas City’s back room and upstairs performance area, where he could be seen slashing his chest with broken glass.
Shirley Clarke’s 1961 film The Connection was adapted from Jack Gelber’s play, which had been a hit for the Living Theatre in 1959, and Gelber collaborated with Clarke on the screenplay, which incorporated the presence of documentary filmmakers into the plot.
Jack Smith’s underground film Flaming Creatures (1963) was hugely influential, erupting with sexually ambiguous images of gay and trans performers and shot DIY-style on shoplifted black-and-white film stock that was often overexposed to create a hazy white sheen.
The playwright and performer Jackie Curtis was a working class Lower East Side native who was raised by his grandmother, “Slugger Ann,” the proprietor of a rough East Village bar named Slugger Ann’s.
Before this California singer-songwriter rode a wave of popularity in the 1970s with laidback country rock songs, he passed through Max’s Kansas City, where he hooked up with the Velvet Underground’s Nico, who recorded three of his songs on her solo debut, Chelsea Girls.
Jacque Lynn ColtonExplore
Jacque Lynn Colton often performed at Caffe Cino, Judson Memorial Church, and La MaMa; she was also among the first to tour Europe as part of the emerging La MaMa Repertory Company, expanding the downtown diaspora’s reach.
West Village writer and activist Jane Jacobs engaged local independent media outlets like the Village Voice to help preserve sizeable swaths of the downtown landscape, allowing people to transform largely abandoned industrial areas into places to live and make art.
Well before she became Lily Tomlin’s longtime collaborator and partner, Village resident Jane Wagner met Andy Warhol in 1965 and developed several Factory connections, including Jackie Curtis, who befriended Wagner.
Jayne Anne HarrisExplore
Jayne Anne Harris, the oldest of the Harris sisters, appeared in the Judson production Sing Ho for a Bear, an adaptation of Winnie-the-Pooh, among many other productions; in the early 1970s, she joined Hibiscus’s Angels of Light.
Wayne County—who transitioned to Jayne County by the end of the 1970s—fronted several glam and punk groups throughout that decade: Queen Elizabeth, The Electric Chairs, and The Backstreet Boys (whose name was unwittingly ripped off by a 1990s boy band).
The actor, activist, and scenester Jim Fouratt was a regular at Caffe Cino, Max’s Kansas City, and other downtown hangouts; in addition to cofounding the Yippies, he witnessed the Stonewall Rebellion firsthand and later managed Studio 54 and Danceteria.
Blondie keyboardist Jimmy Destri entered the band’s orbit through Paul Zone and his brothers in the Fast, who introduced him to Debbie Harry and Chris Stein.
Joey Freeman was embedded in the social networks that linked the downtown’s overlapping arts scenes; he was an assistant to Andy Warhol who was responsible for a teenaged Chris Stein opening for the Velvet Underground, and later collaborated with Stein and members of the Cockettes on a public access television show.
Joey Ramone (born Jeffrey Hyman) played drums for the glam band Sniper before joining the Ramones as their drummer, until it became clear that he was a much better frontman—so Tommy Ramone took over on the drum stool.
Poet John Giorno was the subject of Warhol’s infamous six-hour film Sleep, which he shot as his boyfriend slumbered at night and later shared a Bowery residence with William Burroughs known as “The Bunker,” a very short walk from the Blondie Loft.
Cartoonist John Holmstrom cofounded Punk magazine with Eddie “Legs” McNeil and Ged Dunn Jr. after attending the School of Visual Arts with Blondie’s Chris Stein, who became a regular contributor to the magazine.
John Vaccaro was the mercurial director who orchestrated the Play-House of the Ridiculous, whose shows were unrelenting explosions of color, glitter, and noise underscored by social satire.
Film director John Waters often visited New York City as a young man—watching performances and films by Jack Smith, Charles Ludlam, and John Vaccaro’s Play-House of the Ridiculous, which deeply influenced the trash cinema auteur.
Caffe Cino lighting genius Johnny Dodd also lit other Off-Off-Broadway venues such as Judson Memorial Church, changing the direction of theater lighting; dancer Freddie Herko committed suicide from the window of the apartment Dodd shared with Michael Smith.
Before Queens native John Cummings played guitar as Johnny Ramone, he performed in a 1960s garage band called the Tangerine Puppets with drummer Tommy Erdelyi (aka Tommy Ramone) at school dances and around the neighborhood.
New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders later joined forces with Dolls drummer Jerry Nolan and former Television bassist Richard Hell to form the Heartbreakers.
Underground filmmaker and Village Voice critic Jonas Mekas was a Lithuanian immigrant who came to America after World War II and eventually formed the New American Cinema Group in 1960 with his friend Shirley Clarke and other likeminded filmmakers.
Lighting designer Joshua White studied lighting at film and theater school and worked at discothèques like Trude Heller’s before his tenure at the Fillmore East, where he masterminded the Joshua Light Show.
Judith Malina was the cofounder of the Living Theatre, along with her husband Julian Beck, and they played key roles in the development of Off-Broadway during the 1950s and Off-Off-Broadway in the 1960s.
Before Kristian Hoffman regularly played CBGB in the Mumps with his best friend Lance Loud, they both appeared in the first weekly reality series, An American Family, which premiered on January 11, 1973 and became an immediate pop culture sensation.
La Monte YoungExplore
Minimalist composer La Monte Young moved to the city in 1960 and became involved in Yoko Ono’s Chambers Street Loft Series and the Fluxus art movement; his Theatre of Eternal Music ensemble included John Cale, Tony Conrad, Billy Name, and many others.
An American Family introduced audiences to the first openly gay man on television, Lance Loud, who had forged links with the downtown underground in the mid-1960s after striking up a long-distance friendship with Andy Warhol via mail and telephone.
Landford Wilson’s The Madness of Lady Bright featured an openly gay main character—the first play of many written by the Caffe Cino regular, who developed into a major American playwright and eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, among many other honors.
Off-Off-Broadway director Larry Kornfeld honed his skills at the Living Theatre before directing dozens of shows at the Judson Poets’ Theatre throughout the 1960s before cofounding Theater for a New City.
Leee Black ChildersExplore
Photographer and scenester Leee Black Childers worked as the vice president of David Bowie’s management company, Main Man, and was a roommate of Wayne County, Jackie Curtis, and Holly Woodlawn.
Lendon Sadler grew up in Atlanta and visited New York City as a teenager before moving to San Francisco, where he met Hibiscus and joined the Cockettes; he then settled in downtown New York after the Cockettes’ debut in the city.
Beat-era comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested for obscenity in 1964 when the he performed his material at Café Au Go Go in Greenwich Village; he was also an early subscriber to Paul Krassner’s magazine The Realist.
Lenny Kaye met his longtime musical collaborator Patti Smith at Village Oldies, where he was working at Village Oldies while also freelancing as a music writer and compiling Nuggets, an influential garage rock anthology that inspired many a punk rocker.
During the early 1970s, Laugh-In star Lily Tomlin met and fell in love with Jane Wagner, who first introduced her to the likes of Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis, whose Vain Victory show was then playing at La MaMa.
Lisa Jane PerskyExplore
Lisa Jane Persky first met Harry Koutoukas in 1965, when she was about ten years old and her family moved into 87 Christopher Street; by 1973, Koutoukas had cast Persky in her New York stage debut at La MaMa, which was followed by a role in Tom Eyen’s Women Behind Bars opposite Divine in 1976, the same year she became a founding staffer for the New York Rocker and shot Debbie Harry’s first cover photo.
Future Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren lived in New York while he was managing the New York Dolls and often went to CBGB, where he Richard Hell’s chopped hair and ripped, safety-pinned clothes—a style McLaren popularized with his partner, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.
Before starring in several Warhol films and Off-Off-Broadway plays, Mario Montez first appeared in Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures and was named after Smith’s favorite 1940s starlet, Maria Montez.
Marsha P. JohnsonExplore
Marsha P. Johnson was a street queen and early gay liberation activist who performed with Hibiscus’s Angels of Light; Miss Marsha’s impromptu banter with the audience always brought down the house, and she became a second mom to Hibiscus’s sisters.
Suicide keyboardist Marty Rev produced a wall of sound from behind a bank of keyboards and other crude electronics while Alan Vega psychologically tortured audiences at the Mercer Arts Center, Max’s Kansas City, CBGB, and other downtown venues.
Mary Curtis RatcliffExplore
Mary Curtis Ratcliff was one of the three founding members of the Videofreex, which began in the downtown loft she purchased while working as a teacher before the group expanded and moved into a larger loft in SoHo.
Mary Lou HarrisExplore
The youngest of the Harris family siblings, Mary Lou Harris appeared in several Off-Off-Broadway productions in the 1960s before teaming up with her sisters and brother Hibiscus to form the Angels of Light.
The Chelsea Girls actress Mary Woronov began hanging around the Factory around the time the Velvet Underground joined forces with Andy Warhol to produce the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, which featured Woronov and Gerard Malanga as dancers.
Melba LaRose was the star of Jackie Curtis’s first play, Glamour, Glory, and Gold: The Life and Times of Nola Noon, Goddess and Star, which was directed by Ron Link, who went on to direct many Off-Off-Broadway shows, including Tom Eyen’s Women Behind Bars.
Choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham and his partner John Cage were closely involved in the overlapping downtown arts scenes, collaborating with their friend Robert Rauschenberg and others at Judson Memorial Church and the Living Theatre.
Actor Michael Arian joined the Play-House of the Ridiculous, where he worked with director John Vaccaro for many years and met Ruby Lynn Reyner, whose band Ruby and the Rednecks featured Arian as a backup vocalist.
Playwright Michael McGrinder frequented the Old Reliable before it became a theater, and in 1968, McGrinder staged his first play, The Foreigners, at venue, which quickly became a second home for him.
Playwright and Village Voice theater critic Michael Smith championed the Off-Off-Broadway scene and print when he wasn’t directing and writing plays, and later running Caffe Cino after Joe Cino’s suicide.
Film director Michel Auder married Warhol superstar Viva, who starred in Agnès Varda’s film Lion’s Love with Shirley Clarke; while they all lived in the Chelsea Hotel, Clarke successfully encouraged them to become video-makers like herself.
Before opening Max’s Kansas City in 1965, Mickey Ruskin ran the East Village’s Tenth Street Coffeehouse and Les Deux Mégots, and Greenwich Village’s Ninth Circle (which in the 1970s and 1980s transformed into a well-known gay hustler bar).
After Tony Conrad left the Velvet Underground, its classic lineup was rounded out by drummer Maureen “Moe” Tucker; Reed was a friend of Maureen’s brother, Jim Tucker, and they cofounded a mimeo poetry zine, Lonely Woman Quarterly, while the two attended Syracuse University.
Nancy Cain joined forces with the Videofreex after CBS contracted them to produce the pilot television show, Subject to Change, and she stayed with the group after it was cancelled and the ‘freex moved to Upstate New York.
Nick Cernovich was part of the Black Mountain College group that also included John Cage (dozens of experimental artists passed through that influential North Carolina school); he did the lighting design for many Judson shows, and was a mentor to Factory custodian Billy Name.
Free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman collaborated with Yoko Ono and other avant-garde artists; his 1959 residency at the Five Spot was legendary, expanding the possibilities of jazz.
Soon after moving to New York City, Patti Smith met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe—who shared a room with her in the Chelsea Hotel and later shot the iconic cover photo for her debut album, Horses; along the way she appeared in Off-Off-Broadway shows (at La MaMa and elsewhere) and performed poetry in various downtown locations.
Paul Dougherty got involved in video during the early 1970s as a college student and later documented the nascent punk movement in New York City, cofounding the Metropolis Video collective with Pat Ivers while working at Manhattan Cable’s public access station.
Playwright Paul Foster met Ellen Stewart in the early 1960s and helped her open the first of Café La MaMa, which was soon showcasing Foster’s plays—including Balls, Tom Paine, and Madonna in the Orchard.
Paul Krassner published the influential satirical magazine The Realist—which pioneered an envelope-pushing style that laid the groundwork for “New Journalism”—and he also cofounded the Yippies with Ed Sanders, Abbie Hoffman, Jim Fouratt, and others.
Cabaret performer and Off-Off-Broadway music composer Paul Serrato managed the Paperbook Gallery in Greenwich Village, where he met Jackie Curtis and began writing music for Curtis’s Lucky Wonderful and the underground hit La MaMa show, Vain Victory.
Peter Crowley worked at the Living Theatre well over a decade before he began booking the Ramones, Blondie, and other punk bands at Max’s Kansas City; in both venues, he witnessed the dissolution of barriers that separated audiences from performers.
Peter Crowley worked at the Living Theatre well over a decade before he began booking the Ramones, Blondie, and other punk bands at Max’s Kansas City; in both venues, he witnessed the dissolution of barriers that separated audiences from performers.
Folk musician Peter Stampfel moved from the Midwest to New York in late 1959, just a few months before Dylan arrived in the city, and by 1963 he formed the Holy Modal Rounders with Steve Weber (which later included drummer and playwright Sam Shepard).
Composer Rhys Chatham became involved with the Kitchen after Daniel Nagrin asked Chatham to accompany the dancer at a performance at that Mercer Arts Center performance space, after which he began booking music at the Kitchen.
Before Richard Goldstein became the Village Voice’s first rock critic, this Bronx-born teenager explored the city’s downtown by attending Off-Broadway shows and attending folk hootenannies in Washington Square Park and in Greenwich Village coffeehouses.
Getting his start in the music business during the early 1960s, Richard Gottehrer co-wrote the girl group classic “My Boyfriend’s Back” before cofounding Sire Records and producing punk acts such as Blondie, the Fast, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids.
After moving to the Lower East Side in 1966 and became part of the underground poetry scene, Richard Hell eventually transitioned to rock ‘n’ roll with his old friend Tom Verlaine, with whom he started the Neon Boys and then Television, before quitting to form the Heartbreakers and then his own band, Richard Hell and the Voidoids.
After Richard Goldstein left the Village Voice, Robert Christgau began his long tenure as the paper’s self-proclaimed “Dean of Rock Critics,” chronicling the rise of punk and other leftfield rock acts.
Robert De NiroExplore
Robert De Niro’s first semi-professional appearance on a New York theater stage was in the Jackie Curtis-penned play Glamour, Glory, and Gold, in which he played all the male roles.
Playwright Robert Heide presented his plays at Caffe Cino and elsewhere downtown, where he eventually met Andy Warhol, who enlisted him to write dialogue for his films (footage Warhol shot of Heide’s Caffe Cino play The Bed was incorporated in The Chelsea Girls).
Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith became inseparable after meeting each other in the late 1960s, and could be seen sipping Cokes at Max’s Kansas City when they were living together at the Chelsea Hotel; in 1975, Mapplethorpe shot the iconic cover photo for Smith’s Horses album.
Robert Patrick was a Caffe Cino regular who began hanging out there in 1961, an immersion that led him to become a prolific playwright with boundless energy; after Caffe Cino closed in 1968 he moved over to the Old Reliable, a dive bar and Off-Off-Broadway theater venue on the Lower East Side.
Painter Robert Rauschenberg was associated with the Pop Art movement, but he was also involved with performances at Judson Memorial Church—designing sets and collaborating with his friends John Cage and Merce Cunningham.
CBGB doorwoman Roberta Bayley was also a photographer who shot the cover photos of some classic punk records, including the Ramones’s self-titled debut and Blank Generation by Richard Hell and the Voidoids.
Playwright Ronald Tavel was a friend of Jack Smith who worked on Flaming Creatures and wrote scenarios for Warhol’s mid-1960s films, then collaborated with John Vaccaro to form the Play-House of the Ridiculous before working with the Judson Poets’ Theatre to do his play Gorilla Queen.
Ruby Lynn ReynerExplore
Off-Off-Broadway actress and musician Ruby Lynn Reyner was the star of several Play-House of the Ridiculous shows, including Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit and Cock-Strong; her band Ruby and the Rednecks often played the Mercer Arts Center, Max’s Kansas City, and CBGB throughout the 1970s.
Rudi Stern produced light shows for LSD guru Timothy Leary before cofounding the video-making collective Global Village, one of the many video groups that coalesced downtown that included the Videofreex, Raindance, and People’s Video Theater.
Playwright Sam Shepard was a key figure in Theatre Genesis, and was also the drummer in the Holy Modal Rounders—which is how he met Patti Smith, with whom he collaborated on the play Cowboy Mouth.
Shirley Clarke began as a dancer before becoming a headstrong filmmaker who directed The Connection and The Cool World; by the late 1960s she had largely abandoned the film world to become a video pioneer, forming the Tee Pee Video Space Troupe with her daughter Wendy Clarke.
Simeon Coxe was the keyboardist in Silver Apples, which regularly performed in Max’s second-floor room starting in 1968 and also performed as the accompanying musical act in the La MaMa production of the Play-House of the Ridiculous’s Cock-Strong.
Skip Blumberg joined the Videofreex after they had moved into their SoHo loft on Prince Street, which was still being built, and he slept on a mattress on a pile of sheet rock while construction proceeded.
When he was part of the Warhol crowd, Soren Agenoux wrote a twisted version of A Christmas Carol that debuted at Caffe Cino in 1966 and later could be seen in the reality television series An American Family as Lance Loud’s roommate in the Chelsea Hotel.
Chelsea Hotel co-owner and manager Stanley Bard filled its lobby with art created by those who couldn’t pay for their rooms (Bard not only accepted artwork in lieu of rent money, he also charged artists lower rent than other professionals).
The Kitchen was founded by early video pioneer Steina Vasulka and her husband Woody, two immigrants who created an alternative arts space at Mercer’s that programmed everything from video to electronic music.
Another resident of the “Blondie Loft” was Halston designer Stephen Sprouse, who created clothes for everyone and helped Debbie Harry transition from wearing thrift store clothes onstage to a more elevated style.
Guitarist Sterling Morrison met Lou Reed at Syracuse University and later reconnected with the songwriter in New York City, where he joined the fledgling Velvet Underground.
Writer and theorist Susan Sontag famously used drag and camp to think through the relationship between performance, artifice, and sexuality—something that was partially inspired by Caffe Cino’s outrageous shows and free-thinking atmosphere.
Before becoming a Factory regular and appearing in a variety of Andy Warhol films, Taylor Mead was already a star of underground film after his appearance in The Flower Thief, a 1960 film by Ron Rice.
Poet Ted Berrigan, who founded the mimeographed zine C: A Journal of Poetry, would hold court in front of Gem Spa smoking unfiltered Chesterfields and while surrounded by younger poets such as Andrei Codrescu.
Tom O’Horgan was a multitalented director, musician, and choreographer who worked on dozens of shows at La MaMa before hitting the bigtime as the director of the Broadway musicals Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, though he continued to return to La MaMa after his mainstream success.
Tom Miller met Richard Meyers in the mid-1960s at a boarding school in Delaware and were both drawn to New York, where they settled into a life of letters before starting a band together and rechristening themselves Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell.
Tomata du PlentyExplore
Tomata du Plenty was a former Cockette who formed the punk band the Screamers in Los Angeles after settling in downtown New York during the mid 1970s.
Tommy Erdelyi, aka Tommy Ramone, played drums in in the 1960s with the future Johnny Ramone (born John Cummings), and in 1973 Erdelyi encouraged him to start a new band, and was more of a manager figure during the Ramones’ early days who helped define the band’s image.
Jack Smith’s friend Tony Conrad helped create the soundtrack for Flaming Creatures and performed in La Monte Young’s group the Theatre of Eternal Music with Billy Name and John Cale before performing in an early version of the Velvet Underground.
Tony Ingrassia was larger-than-life figure who directed several Off-Off-Broadway plays, including Andy Warhol’s Pork, Wayne County’s World: Birth of a Nation, Jackie Curtis’s Femme Fatale, and Island (the latter two featured Patti Smith in acting roles).
Off-Off-Broadway actor Tony Zanetta played the Andy Warhol character in Pork; when he and the cast performed in London, he befriended David Bowie and became president of his management company, Main Man, during the Ziggy Stardust era.
Beat poet Tuli Kupferberg could be seen selling his own mimeo poetry publications at Jonas Mekas’s film series and in 1965 joined forces with Ed Sanders to form the Fugs after Sanders’s Peace Eye Bookstore opened next door to where he lived on East Tenth Street.
Valerie Solanas had previously been known around downtown as a hustling street urchin who wrote the satirical-but-serious SCUM Manifesto in 1967 before shooting Andy Warhol after he and others declined to producer her play Up Your Ass.
Walter Michael HarrisExplore
Walter Michael Harris was the second child of the Harris family, the younger brother of Hibiscus (born George Harris III, aka G3), and was the youngest cast member in the Broadway debut of Hair.
Wendy Clarke is the daughter of Shirley Clarke, and together they began experimenting with video in the late 1960s—forming the Tee Pee Video Space Troupe and collaborating with other pioneering video artists, such as the Videofreex.
William Burroughs was the author of Naked Lunch and was a Beat era icon who, by the mid 1970s, was living with poet John Giorno in the Bowery, a couple blocks south of CBGB and a few doors down from the Blondie Loft.