Pam Tent Meets David Johansen

Pam Tent Meets David Johansen

Pam Tent lived in downtown New York in the late 1960s before moving to San Francisco and joining the Cockettes. She was squatting in a rundown building on East Third Street that was populated by a biker gang, the Aliens, who rode their motorcycles up and down the stairs. “It was pretty wild,” she said. “It was a very scary scene, very dubious, so we didn’t stay there long.” Tent didn’t have a steady job, so she panhandled in the streets while singing “Pennies from Heaven” and catching coins that people threw at her. She had been a natural performer since she was a child, when her mother made curtains and set up bleachers in their backyard for a “circus” that she produced every summer. While she was still living downtown, Tent met future New York Dolls frontman David Johansen. He was working after high school in a clothing store in the St. Mark’s Place area that had all sorts of garish clothes strewn throughout—fantastical outfits with boas, rhinestones, and other glitter-camp materials. “It turns out that he was making costumes for Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company,” Johansen said of the store’s owner. “So I started going around to where they would rehearse and getting involved in that, playing guitar or doing the sound and lights. Sometimes I would be a spear-carrier or something.” He appeared in a few Ludlam productions, such as Whores of Babylon, where he appeared as a lion, nude with teased hair. “David was walking down the street and we got into a conversation,” Tent said of the first time they crossed paths. “There was never stranger danger. Everybody just was brothers and sisters. David and I used to sit around St. Mark’s Place, which was a place for all the hippies.” The two became quite close, and he introduced her to Max’s Kansas City, where he had worked.

From Chapter 20 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Max's Kansas City
213 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10003