After Andy Warhol discovered Eric Emerson dancing at a 1966 Exploding Plastic Inevitable show, he was promptly cast in The Chelsea Girls and several other Factory films. By 1971, Emerson had become the frontman of one of New York’s earliest glam rock bands, the Magic Tramps. He would wear giant glittery angel wings and other eye-popping accouterments onstage; when he chose not to wear clothes he just showered himself in gold glitter dust that flaked off when he flexed his muscles—lasciviously staring at some of the boys in the audience. “Eric Emerson was this beautiful blond boy,” said Jim Fouratt, who used to see him in the back room of Max’s Kansas City. “First of all, he was working class. He wasn’t a rich kid. And he was very pretty, but he was also very strong—handsome, sexy, sort of masculine.” The Magic Tramps started a residency at Max’s in early 1971 after owner Mickey Ruskin gave them access to the upstairs room, which had largely gone unused since the Velvet Underground played their final gigs with Lou Reed a year earlier. The Magic Tramps outgrew Max’s as the city’s glam rock scene flowered, so Emerson scouted for a new space to play and stumbled across the fledgling Mercer Arts Center. Emerson helped fix up Mercer’s in exchange for rehearsal space, and when it officially opened in November 1971 his band performed regular cabaret sets in the venue’s Blue Room. “I met Eric when I went to see the Dolls for the first time,” Blondie’s Chris Stein recalled. “The whole scene was very accessible, hanging out backstage and all that. Eric was a great character.” Stein became the Magic Tramps’ informal roadie after he booked them to play a Christmas party at the School of Visual Arts, where he was a student, and the two became roommates in a welfare apartment on First Street and First Avenue.
From Chapter 27 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore