106 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012
Café Bizarre was one of the first coffeehouses to cash in on the folk and beatnik boom, and in 1965 it was where Ed Sanders, Andy Warhol, and others discovered the Velvet Underground.
In late 1965, the Velvet Underground began performing at Café Bizarre, which had fake cobwebs, candles, and waitresses in fishnet stockings who looked like Morticia from The Addams Family. “I walked by Café Bizarre a hundred times but I never went in,” said Peter Crowley, who managed another coffeehouse. “It was absolutely another tourist trap, so I never bothered going.” The Velvets’ dissonant droning and sordid tales clashed with the Greenwich Village folk crowd’s more conventional tastes. “One night at the Café Bizarre,” Sterling Morrison recalled, “we played ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’ and the owner came up and said, ‘If you play that song one more time you’re fired!’ ” The Velvets began their next set with a ferocious version of “The Black Angel’s Death Song” and were promptly fired.
From Chapter 11 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Andy Warhol’s association with the Velvet Underground deepened his reach into the world of popular music, expanding his multimedia empire. “The Pop idea, after all, was that anybody could do anything,” Warhol wrote in POPism, his memoir of the 1960s, “so naturally we were all trying to do it all. Nobody wanted to stay in one category, we all wanted to branch out into every creative thing we could. That’s why when we met the Velvet Underground at the end of ’65, we were all for getting into the music scene, too.” In November 1965, before the Velvet Underground’s Café Bizarre residency abruptly ended, a theater producer named Michael Myerberg came up with the idea of opening a Warhol-branded discotheque. He approached Paul Morrissey—Warhol’s sort-of manager and assistant filmmaker—who put the word out that the Factory wanted to find a house band for the space. Malanga, Sanders, and underground filmmaker Barbara Rubin had already seen the Velvet Underground, which led to Warhol signing the group to a management deal. (Myerberg eventually chose the Young Rascals, a better business move for someone looking to draw in a large teen and young adult audience.)