Joey Freeman

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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.


Debbie Harry and Chris Stein Discover the Velvet Underground


The Velvet Underground won over future Blondie cofounders Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, who saw them on separate occasions around 1967. “The stage was bright and colorful and beautiful,” Harry said of a show she saw not long after she moved to the Lower East Side. “I remember Nico was wearing a chartreuse outfit and it was stunning. It was just beautiful to look at, as well as to hear, and I remember Andy being there in the balcony. Andy Warhol was running the lights, and it was just this beautiful burst of colors and vibrations. The projections behind them were just so lovely and impressionistic, but also dark and scary at the same time. I guess I was drawn to the darkness.” Stein and his teenage pals loved the group’s debut album, and one day in 1967 they realized every garage band’s dream: opening for the Velvet Underground. “My friend Joey Freeman’s job was basically to go wake up Andy at his house,” Stein recalled, “and one day he told me that the band that was supposed to open for the Velvet Underground had cancelled. We just went up there, set up, and played at a place called the Gymnasium.” That casual pickup band was sometimes known as First Crow on the Moon, which Stein didn’t really take seriously, but the show itself was a life-changing event. “That Velvet Underground show was completely awesome, in every sense of that word,” Stein said. “It was just overpowering.”

From Chapter 15 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore

Downtown Freaks Take Over Public Access Television


There were few places to present video in the early 1970s, aside from screening venues like the Kitchen (in the Mercer Arts Center) and the pirate broadcasts of Lanesville TV. Into this vacuum emerged public access channels on cable television. In the early 1970s, public access stations began popping up around the country, channeling underground culture into people’s living rooms. Before Chris Stein cofounded Blondie in 1974, the guitarist collaborated with his friend Joey Freeman and some former members of the Cockettes on a public access show called Hollywood Spit. “It was the four of them—Fayette Hauser, Tomata du Plenty, Gorilla Rose, Screaming Orchids,” he said. “They considered themselves kind of the Drag Beatles. We just edited in the camera, carefully in sequence, as we were shooting, and it was just a weird, ahead-of-its-time drag situation comedy. Unfortunately, the tapes were destroyed in a fire in my friend’s loft.” 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. “Video was the freshest flower in the machine garden, fragrant and black and white,” he said. “The Portapak was this miraculous machine in a miraculous epoch. It was truly a revolutionary instrument. I was ready for revolution.” In one infamous episode of Anton Perich Presents, downtown scenester (and soon-to-be Ramones manager) Danny Fields acted out a scene in which he tried to cure a television repairman’s hemorrhoids by inserting a lubricated lightbulb into his anus. “The show was censored during the cablecast,” Perich recalled. “They inserted a black screen and Muzak. It was the biggest scandal. Every major media outlet did a story about it.”

From Chapter 28 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore