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.
With his eye on breaking David Bowie in America, his manager Tony DeFries hired Pork performers Tony Zanetta and Cherry Vanilla to work at the New York offices of MainMan, his management company, alongside photographer and scenester Leee Black Childers. Zanetta became president of MainMan, Childers was vice president, and Vanilla directed publicity. They had absolutely no business experience and were fairly irresponsible, but no matter—DeFries was selling an image one couldn’t learn about in business school. “MainMan was definitely about Tony DeFries wanting to make money,” Zanetta said, “but I was there because I liked David Bowie and I liked what he was doing.” MainMan’s new president became friends with Bowie and toured with him during the Ziggy Stardust era, which further fueled his Warholian infatuation with stardom and image-making. “Once I admitted that to myself,” Zanetta said, “it kind of freed me and the whole world kind of opened up, especially rock ’n’ roll.” Andy Warhol, however, did not receive Bowie quite as enthusiastically. When he paid a visit to the Factory, the artist muttered something about liking his shoes, but things got more awkward when Bowie played him “Andy Warhol,” a rather corny track from his Hunky Dory album. Silence. While visiting New York, Bowie also connected with Iggy Pop, who signed a management contract with MainMan, and Bowie finally got to know his musical hero, Lou Reed.
From Chapter 24 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Alan Vega spent the first three years of his life on the Lower East Side before his family moved to a more middle-class area of Brooklyn (his father was a renowned diamond setter). At the age of sixteen, he got involved with a collective named the Art Workers’ Coalition, then started working with the Project of Living Artists. “It was basically this group of about a half dozen people that got money from the New York state government,” Vega said. “With that money we got a huge loft, a big open space, by Broadway, where anyone could wander in off the street. I was basically the janitor there.” This job allowed him to pursue a career as a visual artist and sculptor, creating large light paintings with colored fluorescent tubes. “I incorporated some glass things later on,” Vega said, “and also TV sets, subway lights, electrical equipment, and anything, really, I could get my hands on.” His interest turned toward music after seeing the Stooges in 1969, when Iggy Pop enthralled him with his confrontational theatrics. Vega had never considered going onstage, but he wanted a challenge. “I wanted to evolve as an artist, because what I saw Iggy do was so futuristic and so new,” he said. “If I stayed a sculptor, a visual artist, I would have stagnated.” Vega had already been experimenting with electronic sounds, and after he saw Marty Rev play at the Project of Living Artists, the two formed Suicide.
From Chapter 27 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore