The links between the downtown underground and the midtown mainstream can be seen in Walter Michael Harris’s varied creative outlets. “I managed to simultaneously be in Hair and also participated in a Bob Patrick show at the Old Reliable at the same time,” he said. “We had already collaborated on a few things, and he asked me if I would help him with the music to an Easter pageant he wrote. The first one was Dynel and the second one was Joyce Dynel, which opened on April 7, 1969—which was exactly one week after I left Hair.” Joyce Dynel began like a piñata explosion as street kids gathered on an East Village corner one Easter evening. “Feathers, fringe, serapes, boleros, bells, beads, incense and streaming hair,” the stage notes explain. “No flowers—that was the West Side! And this is the East Side, the Lower East Side, of Greater Babylon.” The actors playing America’s Street Children passed around joints and begged the audience for money until two actors playing police officers emerged in glittering blue jumpsuits, twirling their nightsticks: “Rrrrrroutine duties to attend to, tend to.” Robert Patrick wrote each scene within the framework of Christ’s story, giving it an absurd spin, and Harris helped him arrange the music in his tiny loft on Second Avenue, between Third and Fourth Streets. “My one window looked out to the large window of the Hare Krishna temple across the street,” Harris recalled. “Each morning I awoke to pleasant chanting by the devotees, and incense wafted my way if the wind was right.” Much of this East Village atmosphere was incorporated into Joyce Dynel, which featured Mary (who wore chic white “swinger” garb), God, and their long-haired, guitar-playing hippie son, Jesus Christ.
From Chapter 20 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore