Pat Loud was one of the breakout stars of the first reality television series, An American Family, which landed her and the family on the covers of national magazines and television shows; she would later be seen at CBGB cheering on her son Lance Loud and his friends in the Mumps.
When An American Family went into production, Lance Loud and Kristian Hoffman didn’t think twice about having cameras record every moment of their lives, for it was all part of their master plan. “We were in a self-deluded dream that we were going to somehow become big rock stars or big artists like Andy Warhol, or some crazy thing,” Hoffman said. “So when this opportunity came to us with An American Family, it didn’t seem unnatural at all. It just seemed like, ‘Well, life is progressing like we expected. Someone is paying attention,’ so we’re going to move forward and do something crazy. Also, we were young and thought we were the most fascinating people in the world. It didn’t really occur to us that we might not be that interesting.” When filming started, Lance was living at the Chelsea Hotel with roommate Soren Agenoux (who had written the twisted version of A Christmas Carol that debuted at Caffe Cino in 1966). “My first clash came immediately,” wrote Pat Loud in her 1974 memoir A Woman’s Story. “I flew to New York to spend a few days with Lance, who, as the world now knows, was staying at the Chelsea Hotel, a place I’d pictured as a nice, quaint, middle-class hostelry where a white-haired grandma type with a big bunch of keys at her waist clucked over boys far from home and brought them hot toddies and did their laundry.” She soon discovered otherwise. “Lance had endeared himself to Soren Agenoux, who was a kind of creepy guy,” Hoffman recalled, “but he had an apartment in the Chelsea Hotel. So that’s who Lance was living with when Pat first visited Lance in New York.”
From Chapter 23 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
The second episode of An American Family, which focused on her first encounters with the underground, provided fodder for water cooler conversations around the country. “We’re going to the La MaMa theater tonight,” Lance told his mother, Pat Loud. “Vain Victory with Jackie Curtis. It’s the ultimate of the underground, honey. You’ll just think it’s so neat.” Several minutes of campy performance footage from Curtis’s show were included in that episode, as well as an awkward moment in which Holly Woodlawn met Pat Loud in a Chelsea hallway. Later that evening, in a diner after the play, the cameras made it clear that Pat was not impressed by what she saw at La MaMa. Pat Loud explained her reaction to Vain Victory decades later, which mostly had to do with the fact that it was a hot summer night, and La MaMa had no air conditioning. Along with the outré dialogue and uncomfortable bench seating, it was all a bit too much for her. “I was just a housewife from Santa Barbara, California,” she said, “which was a small town at that time, and I had no idea there were people like this in the world. And it was pretty crazy. I remember there was a toilet in one of the major scenes, and it just did not appeal to me. It did not have my name on it.”
Lance Loud and Kristian Hoffman found out about the Dolls when the British music weekly Melody Maker raved about them. “Lance and I thought, ‘God, they’re just playing right down the street,’ and so we went and saw them, and then we went every single time they played.” They would sometimes bring along Lance’s mom, Pat Loud, who was game for anything. “I have pictures of Pat Loud in the audience at Mercer’s,” Hoffman recalled. “I was on the dance floor right in front of the stage and I had my Brownie Instamatic, and she got in the picture in front of the New York Dolls.” Their new friend Paul Zone had first seen the Dolls at the Hotel Diplomat, where the crowd numbered about a hundred and everyone dressed in their own original styles. “It just seemed so different from anything that we’d ever seen before,” Zone recalled. “We just knew right then and there that there was a place that we could feel like we can express ourself without feeling like an outcast.” The New York Dolls became downtown stars after they began performing every Tuesday night in the Mercer’s two-hundred-seat Oscar Wilde Room, which was perfect for the group because of its theatrical lighting. “Just walking into the Mercer that first time and seeing them onstage and everyone in the audience,” Zone said, “you were just like, ‘This is it.’ ” Richard Hell was also drawn to the Dolls’ simple songs and sloppy performances, which he found riveting. “Their gigs were unlike any I’d ever experienced,” Hell recalled. “They were parties, they were physical orgies, without much distinction between the crowd and the band.” The Dolls attracted future members of Television, the Ramones, Blondie, and other early punk bands to the Mercer Arts Center.
From Chapter 27 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Pat Loud took a job in publishing in 1974 and followed her son out to New York, where she opened her small Upper West Side apartment to Lance and his friends. “She’s the most marvelous mother,” Kristian Hoffman said. “I mean, I really think of her as my other mother. She takes care of us all the time, to this day. So when she met Lance’s colorful panoply of insane artsy friends, she would just invite them into her house for dinner without prejudice. They had a little kitchen about the size of a California closet, and she made all of this magic happen in that room.” Pat also used to drop by CBGB and other downtown venues to see her son’s band play. “The Mumps were on the bill when she went to see Television,” Roberta Bayley said, “when Richard Hell was in the band. I remember Richard dedicated a song to her from the stage, which was nice. I also remember Lance’s mother invited Richard and I to an Oscar party at her apartment. I think she was just culturally open to different things and seeing what was going on, and really supportive of her son and his friends.” Despite Pat Loud’s initial dislike of the Jackie Curtis play Vain Victory, the two eventually became very good friends; Pat even contributed to Curtis’s drag wardrobe after taking revenge on her cheating husband. “One of his mistresses owned a clothing shop in Montecito,” she said. “I went over to that clothing shop and I bought everything that fit me—which was a lot of stuff. I put it on a bill, and they let me walk out with all of these clothes.” Having no desire to keep them, Pat donated the expensive fashions to the Off-Off-Broadway star (“I gave Jackie lots of stuff,” she recalled). Lance Loud was also good friends with Hibiscus, who often came over to Pat’s place for dinner. “That’s why there’s pictures of me there having dinner with Jackie Curtis,” Hoffman said. “Holly Woodlawn was there. Hibiscus was there. You would think having all those crazy people there would be kind of like an art salon,” Hoffman said, “but it was more like Pat cooking a delicious meal for love birds that had wet wings and they were lost. It was a place to go to get warm and have a good meal with someone who is completely accepting and loving.”
From Chapter 32 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore