Cabaret performer and Off-Off-Broadway music composer Paul Serrato managed the Paperbook Gallery in Greenwich Village, where he met Jackie Curtis and began writing music for Curtis’s Lucky Wonderful and the underground hit La MaMa show, Vain Victory.
“I worked part-time at the Eighth Street Bookshop,” Andrei Codrescu said, “the greatest literary bookstore of all time.” The downstairs room housed the traditional books with spines; poetry mimeos could be found in the store’s second-floor room, which was dedicated to books from smaller publishers, such as Something Else Press. “The Eighth Street Bookshop was pivotal to a young poet in those days,” Ed Sanders recalled. “It was there I monitored little magazines such as Yugen and Kulchur and where I first purchased Allen Ginsberg’s epochal Kaddish and Other Poems.” Eighth Street bustled on the east and west sides of the Village, but the stretch between Fifth and Second Avenues seemed cursed. Odd-ball businesses—such as a French art store that employed both a classical painter and a modern painter, wearing berets—would open and then disappear, though the area came alive around the Eighth Street Bookshop. Another jewel in the downtown’s literary crown was the Paperbook Gallery, on Sixth Avenue around the corner from the Eighth Street Bookshop. Cabaret performer and Off-Off-Broadway music composer Paul Serrato managed the Paperbook, which stayed open until midnight—a practice that encouraged people to socialize. “The area was like the Times Square of the Village,” he said, “In those days, everybody hung out there, and Paperbook Gallery was the epicenter of all the independent publishing.” Frank O’Hara, Ted Joans, Diane di Prima, LeRoi Jones, and others came in to drop off their mimeographed publications, which were displayed on a series of shelves that looked like mail slots.
From Chapter 5 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Jackie Curtis, who was always writing, quickly followed his theatrical debut with a musical, Lucky Wonderful. It was based on the life of Tommy Manville, a playboy socialite who had several strange, exotic wives. “Jackie decided to write a musical,” Melba LaRose said, “and he starred in it, and Paul Serrato wrote the music for it.” Serrato also composed music for Curtis’s biggest underground hit, 1971’s Vain Victory, and he later did a cabaret act with Holly Woodlawn. He first met Curtis when he worked at the Paperback Gallery, one of Greenwich Village’s literary hotspots. “Jackie would come in, as everybody did,” He first said. “Through one thing or another—we were all very young then—Jackie and I became friends. Jackie learned that I was a musician and composer, and he came in and told me, ‘I’m writing this script for this musical. You want to do the music for it?’ And so I said, ‘Of course.’ And that’s how we met, in a Greenwich Village bookstore.” Lucky Wonderful included a lovely bossa nova number, “My Angel,” along with the sultry “White Shoulders, Black and Blue” (the song was later revived in Vain Victory for Candy Darling to sing). The songs were fairly low-key, though the acting was wildly animated. “Jackie wrote things with tremendous energy,” Melba LaRose said, “and each show was only an hour and ten minutes straight through. It was high, high octane energy.”
From Chapter 17 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Before Andy Warhol declined to produce Valarie Solanas’s Up Your Ass, she had already approached Charles Stanley and Robert Patrick at Caffe Cino about directing the play. Stanley wanted Patrick to direct the play, but it was a little too extreme and filthy even for his tastes, so Patrick declined. “I remember her look,” he said. “She shot Warhol for not doing that play. I wish I had done it. It might have saved Andy Warhol. I deeply regret it.” Ed Sanders was another man who dashed Solanas’s dreams after she delivered the twenty-one page SCUM Manifesto manuscript to his Peace Eye Bookstore. She hoped he would publish it, but after he sat on it for too long, Solanas left a terse note for him at the bookstore. “She wanted the manuscript back,” Sanders recalled. “I got the impression from the store clerk that she was miffed.” Adding to her frustration, Solanas unsuccessfully approached Realist publisher Paul Krassner about publishing SCUM, yet another male gatekeeper who turned her down. “It didn’t fit whatever my editorial criteria were,” he said, “but I did give her fifty dollars because she was an interesting pamphleteer and I wanted to support her.” She ended up self-publishing the manifesto and sold it at Paperbook Gallery, the Greenwich Village store where Jackie Curtis collaborator Paul Serrato worked. “Valerie would pop in with her SCUM Manifesto and she’d chat, just like anyone else,” Serrato said. “Who knew what she was gonna do, right?” Solanas began showing up at the Factory more frequently, asking for money, so Warhol put her to work by casting her in his 1967 film I, a Man. Over the course of 1968, she became increasingly agitated until she finally snapped on June 3 and shot Warhol.
From Chapter 18 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
The buzz created by An American Family brought the Loud family to the attention of millions of people, including Lisa Jane Persky. The year it debuted, her father, Mort Persky, hired Pat Loud to write a piece about the show for Family Weekly, a newspaper insert that he edited. Lisa thought Lance Loud’s brother was cute, and a couple of months later, Mort introduced her to Grant Loud when he and the other Loud kids visited New York. She took them to see Holly Woodlawn perform at Reno Sweeney, an intimate cabaret located at 126 West Thirteenth Street in Greenwich Village. “Because of Warhol films like Trash and Off-Off-Broadway,” said Paul Serrato, who often accompanied Woodlawn as a pianist, “everybody wanted to see Holly perform at Reno Sweeney. It attracted everybody from the underground scene.”
From Chapter 32 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore