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.
From Chapter 18 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore