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.
Before becoming a Factory regular, Taylor Mead was already a star of underground film after his appearance in The Flower Thief, a 1960 film by Ron Rice. The actor, activist, and scenester Jim Fouratt fondly remembered Mead as an early performance artist whose head-scratching routines could be seen in a variety of downtown venues. During one show, he sat on a swing while wearing red long johns attached to several Campbell’s soup cans. “He was doing this sort of burlesque,” Fouratt said, “throwing the cans to the ground, while swinging.” Taylor also read poems at the San Remo with lines like, “There’s a lesbian in the harbor that has been carrying a torch for someone for a hundred years” and “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. And let me blow them.” Mead was typical of the people who surrounded Warhol, because he was given an inheritance to keep him away from his hometown. The money gave Taylor the kind of privilege that Edie Sedgwick also enjoyed—that is, as Fouratt noted, “until Edie ran out of money, because Andy always made her pick up the check. And she always graciously picked up the check.” Money was a constant source of tension at the Factory, causing Mead and many others to eventually fall out with Warhol.
From Chapter 3 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
It was certainly true that Ondine and other Factory folks ramped up the amphetamine use at Caffe Cino, though it wasn’t as if they brought the forbidden fruit of drugs into an innocent Garden of Eden. After all, marijuana and speed had already been around the Cino from the beginning, but as Harry Koutoukas put it, “The Warhol people brought in drugs we never even smelled before.” The little hallway in the back was littered with syringes, and there were always pots of amphetamine cooking in the dressing room, with people shooting up. “Cino, it was speed-infested,” Caffe Cino regular Jim Fouratt said. “And of course, there was glitter everywhere. There was a lot of amphetamine use at the Caffe Cino, but I don’t want to talk too darkly about it, because it was very innocent.” Fouratt recalled how Ondine suggested one night that they go to the bathroom together, which turned out to be a kind of prank. “I thought I was going to get a blow job,” he said, “and he pulls out the biggest dick I’d ever seen in my life, and then shoots up in it, with speed. I had never seen anything like this in my life. I was completely, AHHH! I must have been ashen.” When Fouratt walked out, three people sitting on the other side of the room burst out laughing because they knew what just happened.
From Chapter 12 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Harry Koutoukas’s plays were wild and chaotic, but they still followed a basic order and logic: what the playwright called “the ancient law of glitter.” Camp developed as a private language shared among the urban gay men who populated Caffe Cino, which was frequented by Andy Warhol and others who absorbed ideas from its free-thinking atmosphere. Downtown scenester, actor, and gay rights activist Jim Fouratt recalled, “When Susan Sontag—who came from outside—looked at camp, she created a more intellectual interpretation than the sort of thing Harry Koutoukas did.” Camp had been used as a gay survival tool that was meant to heighten and make fun of the reality of their surroundings, to not let the pain of life get in. “It’s all coded to the straight person,” Fouratt said, “but we all know what it meant, and that sensibility really was incubated at the Cino.” One important element in camp’s coded language was imagery from trashy old movies. “Harry had that kind of tongue-in-cheek attitude,” Robert Heide said, “and he used to come over to my apartment and we’d watch the stars of the silver screen like Gloria Swanson, shining gloriously on late-night movies on television. Harry liked that whole romantic idea of the silver screen, these actresses that were bursting out of themselves.” The composer John Herbert McDowell had celluloid copies of old 1930s and 1940s Hollywood movies like Busby Berkeley’s 42nd Street, Dames, and Gold Diggers of 1933—which Koutoukas, Heide, and McDowell sometimes watched backward while tripping on LSD.
From Chapter 13 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
“A lot of the Cino scene was camp,” Jim Fouratt recalled. “Just look at Dames at Sea. That was the embodiment of camp.” Caffe Cino’s biggest hit was a playful homage to old 1930s and 1940s Hollywood musicals and, in particular, the black-and-white films of Busby Berkeley. “I think what made us such a hit was we were doing this homage to Busby Berkeley films, which had hundreds of dancers,” said David Christmas, who starred opposite Bernadette Peters in the Cino production. “But there were only six of us recreating all of that stuff in this tiny storefront coffeehouse.” Joe Cino almost always restricted productions to two-week runs in order to make room for the next play, but he made an exception for Dames, an inventive DIY show that raked in the money. “It’s quite amazing when you look back at how much originality was happening,” said Agosto Machado. “The stage area was tiny, and they did so much with so little.” Joe Cino painted his tiny eight-by-eight-foot stage with high-gloss black paint sprinkled with glitter, and the costumes, lighting, and makeup were also staged entirely in black and white. The Dames at Sea set used reflective Mylar to create the cheap illusion that there were many more people onstage during the dance numbers, and the other side of the rotating wall panels was decorated to look like a ship during other scenes. Show composer Jim Wise often played piano at the Cino, though sometimes his substitute was Barry Man. Later known as Barry Manilow, he accompanied Bette Midler for her cabaret shows in gay bathhouses during the early 1970s, and Midler also passed through Caffe Cino and La MaMa after she arrived in New York.
During an August 24, 1967 action that targeted the New York Stock Exchange, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin dropped a few hundred-dollar bills from the viewing area above. The goal was to create a mass-media spectacle in order to highlight the connection between the military-industrial complex and corporate war-related profits. Fellow activist Jim Fouratt hatched the idea, and Hoffman executed it with Jerry Rubin. “At first, they didn’t want to let them in because they were a bunch of hippies,” Paul Krassner recalled. “Then Hoffman said, ‘We’re a group of Jews and you don’t want to be accused in the media of being anti-Semitic, do you?’ So they got in, and the trading ticker-tape stopped.” Then, on New Year’s Eve 1967, Hoffman, Rubin, Fouratt, Ed Sanders, Paul Krassner, and other activists cofounded a political “organization” called the Youth International Party, aka the Yippies, while they were planning a protest of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Krassner coined the group’s name. “Y was for Youth,” he explained, “because there was a generation gap, and the I was International, because this kind of revolutionary consciousness was around the world, and P was for Party, in both senses of the term. Yippie! The moment I said it, I felt it would work. It was a form of marketing an attitude.” These prankish tactics provided free publicity for the demonstrations, but, unfortunately, the riots that ensued in Chicago resulted in conspiracy charges against the organizers, known as the “Chicago Eight.”
From Chapter 15 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
The Warhol film Flesh introduced Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis to the underground film world, after which the two became regulars at Max’s (in “Walk on the Wild Side,” Lou Reed observed, “Candy came from out on the Island, in the back room she was everybody’s darling”). Born James Slattery, Darling grew up in Massapequa Park, Long Island—where she was friends with future Off-Off-Broadway director Tony Ingrassia. By the mid-1960s she and Ingrassia made their way to New York City, where Darling became part of the street scene. Hanging out on the stoops or in the parks, she would often be invited back to people’s apartments in the hope that she could inject a little glamour into their evenings. “Candy looked beautiful,” Jane Wagner recalled, “like she just stepped out of a movie.” Curtis quickly took Darling under her wing and, one evening, brought the new arrival to Jim Fouratt’s apartment. “I would like you to meet this boy that just arrived in town,” Curtis told him. “His name is James, but we’re going to call him Candy—Candy Darling. And Candy Darling is never going home again.” Curtis and Darling first met Andy Warhol on the Greenwich Village streets, asking for an autograph and inviting him to Glamour, Glory, and Gold, playing at Bastiano’s Cellar Studio. “Walking just ahead of us was a boy about nineteen or twenty with wispy Beatle bangs,” Warhol recalled, “and next to him was a tall, sensational blonde drag queen in very high heels and a sundress that she had made sure had one strap falling onto her upper arm.” Warhol loved Curtis’s show and provided a publicity blurb—“For the first time, I wasn’t bored”—which led to parts for Curtis and Darling in Warhol’s Flesh.
From Chapter 17 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Soon after Mickey Ruskin opened Max’s Kansas City in December 1965, his bar and restaurant became one of the downtown’s premier social hubs. Ruskin—who Lou Reed described as a hawk-faced man with dark stringy hair that hung over his right eye—had already developed several music and entertainment contacts in the previous decade. Most notably, he 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). At Max’s, large abstract art hung on the white walls, including a Frank Stella painting, though everything else was red—from the tablecloths to the red bowls filled with chickpeas, which sustained many a hungry artist. “What Mickey would do is he would trade credit for art,” said Off-Off-Broadway actor Tony Zanetta. “So basically, that’s how he built his business. Some of it was probably just luck, in that the Factory moved across Union Square, so the Warhol people started going there.” One might say Ruskin was an art patron who happened to run downtown bars and coffeehouses. Warhol gave him art in exchange for an unlimited bar tab, so that he and his Factory associates could eat and drink for free.
From Chapter 18 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Jim Fouratt recalled that all the macho painter guys drank at the bar in front while Andy Warhol and his entourage hung out in the back, where the artist sat at the precise spot where he could observe everything. “This beautiful boy, an absolutely, a stunningly beautiful California boy shows up at the bar,” Fouratt said of the time that he, Nico, and Warhol first saw singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. “And we all go, ‘Ahhh.’ ” Warhol, the master passive-aggressive manipulator, asked “Who is that?”—prompting Factory scenester Andrea “Whips” Feldman to jump up from the table to find out. “Word comes back, ‘He’s a singer from California, he’s seventeen. Would you like to meet him?’ ” Fouratt said. “And Nico goes, ‘Mine. Mine.’ She’s already staked him out. Jackson Browne comes back and he’s beautiful, he’s California, he’s sunlight. You know, this is New York, where everyone’s in black—in red lighting, from the neon in the back room—and he invites all of us to come hear him perform the next night.” Browne was playing at the Dom, the bar on St. Mark’s Place where Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia shows had been staged. After Nico left the Velvet Underground in 1967 to pursue a solo career, she enlisted him to accompany her on guitar. Three of Browne’s songs appeared on Nico’s solo debut, Chelsea Girls, including his classic “These Days.”
Before opening Max’s Kansas City, Mickey Ruskin had run the Tenth Street Coffeehouse, Les Deux Mégots, and the Ninth Circle. “Les Deux Mégots was a coffeehouse that was part of the underground poetry scene,” said Max’s regular Jim Fouratt, “but at Max’s, Mickey really mixed. It was the center of the universe, it really truly was. It was always a place where everyone passed through.” Large abstract art hung on the white walls, including a Frank Stella painting, though everything else was red—from the tablecloths to the red bowls filled with chickpeas, which sustained many a hungry artist. “What Mickey would do is he would trade credit for art,” said Off-Off-Broadway actor Tony Zanetta. “So basically, that’s how he built his business. Some of it was probably just luck, in that the Factory moved across Union Square, so the Warhol people started going there.” One might say Ruskin was an art patron who happened to run downtown bars and coffeehouses. Warhol gave him art in exchange for an unlimited bar tab, so that he and his Factory associates could eat and drink for free.
After Andy Warhol discovered Eric Emerson dancing at a 1966 Exploding Plastic Inevitable show, he was promptly cast in The Chelsea Girls and several other Factory films. By 1971, Emerson had become the frontman of one of New York’s earliest glam rock bands, the Magic Tramps. He would wear giant glittery angel wings and other eye-popping accouterments onstage; when he chose not to wear clothes he just showered himself in gold glitter dust that flaked off when he flexed his muscles—lasciviously staring at some of the boys in the audience. “Eric Emerson was this beautiful blond boy,” said Jim Fouratt, who used to see him in the back room of Max’s Kansas City. “First of all, he was working class. He wasn’t a rich kid. And he was very pretty, but he was also very strong—handsome, sexy, sort of masculine.” The Magic Tramps started a residency at Max’s in early 1971 after owner Mickey Ruskin gave them access to the upstairs room, which had largely gone unused since the Velvet Underground played their final gigs with Lou Reed a year earlier. The Magic Tramps outgrew Max’s as the city’s glam rock scene flowered, so Emerson scouted for a new space to play and stumbled across the fledgling Mercer Arts Center. Emerson helped fix up Mercer’s in exchange for rehearsal space, and when it officially opened in November 1971 his band performed regular cabaret sets in the venue’s Blue Room. “I met Eric when I went to see the Dolls for the first time,” Blondie’s Chris Stein recalled. “The whole scene was very accessible, hanging out backstage and all that. Eric was a great character.” Stein became the Magic Tramps’ informal roadie after he booked them to play a Christmas party at the School of Visual Arts, where he was a student, and the two became roommates in a welfare apartment on First Street and First Avenue.
From Chapter 27 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Bars and clubs that catered to gay crowds were subject to periodic police raids up through the end of the 1960s. This harassment intensified in the lead‑up to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, when city officials cleaned up the streets to make it seem more family friendly. “You’d have the police clear the sidewalks and the streets,” Agosto Machado said, “so where could you go? Into mafia bars, or after-hour clubs. Conveniently, Stonewall was just down the street from where a lot of people hung out on Christopher Street.” In the years before the 1969 uprising at the famed gay bar, one part of Jim Fouratt’s experiences of being gay was going to those establishments. He was one of the handful of people who witnessed the start of the Stonewall rebellion in the wee hours of June 28, 1969 (many more would join over the next few evenings, and even more would claim to be there after the fact). As he was walking down Christopher Street on his way back from a nightcap at Max’s Kansas City, Fouratt saw a police car parked in front of Stonewall, after which the doors flew open. “Out comes what you would call a bull dyke,” he said. “The nice term of that period was called a ‘passing woman.’ She passed as a man. She was like, Rr-rr-rr, like being as butch as she could be, and the police officer puts her in the car.” (She was arrested for not wearing three pieces of clothing “appropriate to one’s gender,” as was mandated by a New York statute.) About fifty people watched outside the bar as the woman began rocking side to side until the car door popped open. She got out and began throwing her weight against the police cruiser, which nearly tipped over. “There’s a moment—which is, to me, the critical moment—where the crowd screams,” Fouratt recalled. “It’s the moment of, to me, liberation. It is the moment when all of that stuffed-down feeling, all of that oppression that every gay person had ever had, gets released, in that crowd.” The growing crowd began fighting back, with Christopher Street regular Marsha P. Johnson flinging debris at the cops. “It was fun, almost,” Fouratt added, “and the police had no clue what to do because gay people never acted like this before.”
From Chapter 30 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore