OK Harris, one of the first galleries to open in SoHo, was owned by Ivan Karp—an art dealer who played an early role in promoting Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg (in 1970, Karp booked one of Suicide’s earliest performances at OK Harris).
One of Suicide’s earliest shows was in 1970 at OK Harris, one of the first galleries to open in SoHo. It was owned by Ivan Karp, an art dealer who played an early role in promoting Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg. “I told him Suicide should play at his gallery,” Vega said, “and to our surprise he said yes, and they printed up postcards and everything saying Punk Music by Suicide. It was a pretty intense show, but we got invited back, even though we freaked everyone out.” The OK Harris show flyer contained the first use of the word “punk” by a band, one of the many ways in which Suicide was truly cutting edge. “I remember seeing Alan Vega around the scene very early on,” said Chris Stein. “Suicide was so groundbreaking, it’s hard to convey how far ahead they were in relation to what was going on at the time.” Debbie Harry added, “As a performer, Alan was sometimes a baffling struggle of danger, drama, pathos, and comedy. He held nothing back from us, and the interaction with audience hecklers was fundamental.” Not only was their music radically different from the New York Dolls, so was their look. “We were street guys, we took what we could get, sometimes from the garbage,” Vega said. “I remember Marty [Rev] went through the trash and other thrift store or Salvation Army type stuff, mainly out of necessity. We didn’t have any money, so what became the punk look was born out of necessity. I cut holes in socks so that my fingers went through and I stretched the socks up to my elbows and had a cutoff pink jacket. That was really something, man! Basically, I just wore what I could afford. I’m not sure really what the fuck I was thinking.”
From Chapter 27 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore