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.
On Cornelia and Fourth Street was a dress shop with a fancy mannequin in front where movie stars sometimes shopped. It was run by Andy Milligan, a designer who also directed some of the earliest shows at Caffe Cino. He 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. “Andy was an S&M motorcycle freak, but a good director,” said playwright Paul Foster, who was connected to another Off-Off-Broadway theater, Café La MaMa. “He was outrageous. He would say anything and do anything, which was exciting because it was new. Andy was quite a character.” Robert Patrick added, “Andy Milligan was a dress designer and into S&M, as pretty boys learned when they first hit the Cino.” He staged a homoerotic dance during his production of Jean Genet’s Deathwatch at the Cino, and Milligan’s version of Genet’s The Maids had a lesbian sex scene that was sizzling for its time.
From Chapter 1 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Robert Patrick was another bohemian immigrant who was drawn to Caffe Cino. After working a dishwashing job at a summer stock theater in Maine in 1961, he made a stopover in Greenwich Village on his way back home to Santa Fe, New Mexico, on a Greyhound bus. As he walked down West Fourth Street, Patrick saw a young long-haired man with jewelry around his neck who was clearly not wearing underwear. “His name was Johnny Dodd,” he said of Caffe Cino’s genius lighting technician. “So I followed what I call the ‘other brick road’ down to Sheridan Square. I followed him a couple of blocks and he looked over his shoulder at me and turned the corner.” Patrick continued down Cornelia Street, which had a little art gallery and bookstore, then followed Dodd into the Cino—which was dark and smelly. Actor Neil Flanagan and director Andy Milligan were in the midst of rehearsing a show, so the newcomer sat down, watched, and basically never left Caffe Cino until it shut down in 1968.
Ellen Stewart’s first theater was a twenty-by-thirty-foot space with a ten-foot ceiling—little more than a room with a hall, toilet, fireplace, coffee bar, and stage. About thirty people could sit at the nine tables crammed into the space. “I would stand up on the street on the sidewalk and tried to lure in customers,” Paul Foster said. “We were willing slaves to the theater. And so we had a lot of work to do on no budget, and just two people. But we didn’t know, because nobody told us that it could not be done, so we just did it. We had no expertise. We’d admit it, but we wouldn’t shout it.” After nine months of renovations, the unnamed space opened on July 27, 1962. Its first production was One Arm, a Tennessee Williams story adapted by Andy Milligan, the intense dressmaker who also directed shows at Caffe Cino. He taught Stewart and Foster the basics: what was stage right and stage left, for instance, and everything about lighting—a lesson they learned one day when Milligan asked them if they had any gels, the industry term for lighting filters. It was a simple question that confounded this unlikely theatrical couple, a beautiful black woman and gay white ex-lawyer. “I looked at her and she looked at me,” Foster recalled, “and I said, ‘I don’t know, sugar pot, you have any gels?’ And Ellen said, ‘Hmm, let me look at my purse.’ Of course, who would put lighting gels in a purse? Andy knew he had to take total charge, and he did. We used him like an open book, and he was a very good teacher.” With no money to buy theater lights, Milligan taught them how to place an ordinary lightbulb in a large tomato can, painted black, and attach the gels with a rubber band.
From Chapter 6 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore