The Dolls’ New Style

The Dolls’ New Style

The Dolls first threw rent parties at their downtown loft on 119 Chrystie Street before hitting the DIY concert circuit. With Jackie Curtis as the opening act, they played their first proper show in early 1972 in the Hotel Diplomat. The group also had a short residency at a gay bathhouse, the Continental Baths, where Bette Midler regularly performed with Barry Manilow (who sometimes blended in with the patrons by wearing nothing but a white towel). Underground rock, Off-Off-Broadway, and the cabaret scenes converged in the early 1970s, cross-pollinating each other. Midler, for example, had appeared at La MaMa in Tom Eyen’s Miss Nefertiti Regrets before she leveraged her act at the Continental Baths into pop stardom. Roberta Bayley, who later worked the door at CBGB, noted that the Dolls’ glittery, feminine clothes stood in sharp contrast to their masculine swagger. “That’s what was interesting,” Bayley said, “because these real guy-guys were wearing off-the-shoulder blouses and being very confident in their heterosexuality.” The Dolls had several ties to the fashion world; guitarist Sylvain Sylvain, for instance, was a designer who had a successful clothing company called Truth and Soul. “There were lots of people who wore colorful clothes or scarves or what have you,” said Agosto Machado. “It wasn’t unusual to see a more masculine man with a pink scarf, or have a few of their nails painted different colors.” Lisa Jane Persky added, “Growing up in the Village, everybody already dressed like the New York Dolls. And everybody was dressing like that in theater.”

From Chapter 27 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Continental Baths
230 W 74th St, New York, NY 10023