Caffe Cino Burns Down, Reopens

Caffe Cino Burns Down, Reopens

Caffe Cino burned down on Ash Wednesday in 1965, an omen of trouble on the horizon. Edward Albee, who was the most famous person in theater at the time, threw benefits for the Cino, and Ellen Stewart also used Café La MaMa to stage benefits organized by Harry Koutoukas. People urged Joe Cino to use the fire as an opportunity to expand his theater and move into a bigger space, but he wanted it to retain its original atmosphere. Just two months later, Caffe Cino reopened in its original location on Cornelia with Koutoukas’s With Creatures Make My Way. The show revolved around a transsexual, transhuman figure who lived among “baby alligators that are flushed down toilets every day,” as well as other strange critters. With Creatures Make My Way was an homage to Caffe Cino—a refuge for outsiders, artists, and oddballs who didn’t fit in anywhere else. As Koutoukas wrote in his stage notes, the setting was an underground inversion of “the churches of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, known as WASPS, that exist everywhere.” Exiled from that normal world, the Creature spent his days playing Mozart on a huge pipe organ, pining for a lobster he loved many centuries ago. At the end of the show, the Creature discovered that his newest friend—a pearly piece of ectoplasm—was actually his long-lost love, the lobster. Koutoukas’s “camp” concluded with the two joining together in a song and dance, as the Creature observed, “music Scotch-tapes the whole world together, doesn’t it?”

From Chapter 12 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Caffe Cino
31 Cornelia St, New York, NY 10014