Lisa Jane Persky Meets Harry Koutoukas

Lisa Jane Persky Meets Harry Koutoukas

Lisa Jane Persky entered Harry Koutoukas’s life in 1965, when she was about ten years old and her family moved into 87 Christopher Street. This nineteenth-century tenement apartment building was a microcosm of the neighborhood, hosting everyone from the playwright, Persky, and Yoko Ono to a mother-daughter pair who were always standing at the building’s entrance. Rosie was a diminutive older lady, and her daughter Ernestine was in her forties or fifties. “Harry is not a homosexual,” Rosie would insist. “He is refined.” “The thing about the Village that I really miss now,” Persky said, “there were lots and lots of old ladies in the doorways, just enjoying the night air and hanging out.” In these small residential buildings, neighbors passed each other returning with groceries or coming home from work (if they had jobs, which wasn’t true of Koutoukas). People were coming and going at all times of the day and night, and they inevitably stopped and talked to each other. The surrounding streets were also a mixture of old and new worlds, where openly gay street queens crossed paths with those from more traditionally conservative immigrant backgrounds. Persky also couldn’t help but notice that Christopher Street was a place where many gay men congregated, including Koutoukas. “I remember thinking that Harry was so exotic, because he dressed in a really flamboyant way,” she said, “but to me it was just fashionable and lavish. He had really cool clothes and other stuff. He had a very fanciful way about him that was, to a kid, so attractive—because it was totally genuine, not false.” She recalled that everything was theater to Harry, including the exaggerated way he carried himself while swooping to pick up a bag of groceries, or rounding a corner. He once described these fluid movements to Lisa’s mother as being “like the inside of a washing machine.”

From Chapter 1 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


87 Christopher Street
87 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014