Harry Koutoukas’s apartment was small, dark, and cramped. There was just enough room for a sink and bathtub in the kitchen area, plus a little dining table, and behind that was a small area where the playwright slept. Actor James Hall, another resident of 87 Christopher, recalled, “All kinds of people went up to his apartment—Jim Rado and Gerry Ragni, who wrote Hair—all those guys. His apartment had dragons, creatures, all kinds of wild decorations.” Koutoukas also made an impression on the young Lisa Jane Persky. He dazzled her with his reality-bending stories, such as how his electricity was powered by albino cockroaches that ran on little spinning wheels in his bathtub. “It was like having a real poet in your midst,” she said, “who completely grasped what was going on around him and turned it into something more beautiful, elegant, crazy, exaggerated.” Jane, Lisa’s mother, remembered Harry as a very warm person who made life in the building much more interesting, introducing her to his friends and bringing them by the apartment. “I don’t think Harry ever had a regular job,” she said. “He had some patrons, always, but he also always owed money.” Ono helped Koutoukas from time to time throughout his life, and if bills came when he didn’t have any money, he would stamp it deceased and mail it back—so he could spend what little he had producing his Off-Off-Broadway shows.
From Chapter 8 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore