Westbeth Artists Housing

Westbeth Artists Housing

55 Bethune St, New York, NY 10014

Residence Theater

An early example of “adaptive reuse,” the old Bell Laboratories Buildings were converted in the late-1960s into Westbeth Artists Housing—where Ed Sanders moved after fleeing the increasingly grim East Village in 1970.


Wayne County at the Trucks


When compared to Wayne County, both Lou Reed and David Bowie seemed as transgressive as the era’s most chaste pop act, Donny and Marie Osmond. While working for MainMan, Tony Zanetta cooked up a plan to manage County. With the New York Dolls monopolizing the downtown rock ’n’ roll spotlight with their own drag act, Zanetta figured that the only way to set County apart from her peers was a full-blown theatrical show. This led to Wayne at the Trucks, staged at Westbeth Theatre. “The Trucks” refers to one of Zanetta’s favorite downtown hotspots—a gay cruising area at the end of Christopher Street, by the Hudson River, where delivery trucks parked at the piers. He and County came up with the idea of setting the show at the Trucks while having lunch: “Well, it should be kind of Gidget Goes to Hawaii,” Zanetta said, “like, Wayne Goes to the Trucks.” They rented a theater for a week for rehearsals and one performance, and brought in Tony Ingrassia to direct the show. At the beginning of the show, County clicked the heels of a couple fabulous platform boots—with a realistic looking penis that curled up in front, like Persian-style “genie” shoes—it cued her offstage band (the Backstreet Boys) to start rocking. Play-House of the Ridiculous musicals usually placed the musicians to the side of the stage, an idea that County borrowed for this show and was later adapted by Bowie. “In a way,” Zanetta said, “Wayne at the Trucks was a little bit of a rehearsal for Bowie’s Diamond Dogs tour, because Bowie wanted to do this theatrical tour but we weren’t sure how to stage it.” As Blondie’s Chris Stein recalled, “It was one of the first times that a rock show was done with a band out of sight. Many people think that was a big influence on the Diamond Dogs tour, where Bowie was onstage with a band behind a screen.”

From Chapter 24 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore