Café La MaMa Faces Adversity

Café La MaMa Faces Adversity

Upset by what was happening to La MaMa and other venues, Ed Sanders used Fuck You/A Magazine of the Arts as a bully pulpit: “Shriek! Shriek! The Goon Squads are loose! We are motherfucking tired of the brickout of books, movies, theatre groups, dope freaks, Times Square gobble scenes, poetry readings, night club acts, etc. in New York. The Department of Licenses, the freaks in the various prosecutors’ offices, the Nazis, the fascists, et al., have joined psychoses for a Goon Stomp.” La MaMa’s 82 Second Street venue opened on June 28, 1963, with Eugène Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, but by October the theater literally went dark because no one could pay the electric bill. After quitting as a designer for a Brooklyn swimsuit factory, Stewart began working for the fashion label Victor Bijou to pay the bills. Selling instant coffee at La MaMa wasn’t a big moneymaker, but that didn’t stop the Buildings Department from charging her with profiting from the coffee sales, and the city padlocked La MaMa’s doors once again in March 1964. Stewart was finally able to keep her new location open by giving away the coffee for free and turning the theater into a private club. “You paid one dollar dues,” Robert Patrick said. “For that, you got to see all of that week’s shows.” The new twenty-by-eighty-foot loft at 82 Second Street could seat seventy-four people, a big improvement from its original basement location, but it still needed a lot of work. Friends came to build a twenty-by-eight-foot stage, dressing rooms, and a coffee bar, and also installed a light board. They scavenged the streets for tables and old chairs, which furnished the new theater.

From Chapter 6 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Café La MaMa (second location)
82 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003