The Videofreex Move from Downtown to the Country

The Videofreex Move from Downtown to the Country

By the time the Kitchen opened its doors in the Mercer Arts Center, the Videofreex were preparing to leave New York. When their CBS funding ran out, the group reassessed their options. “We didn’t have any income,” Mary Curtis Ratcliff said, “and all of us were trying to live in Manhattan, but there was no real market for this stuff we were doing.” So the ’freex did what many in the counterculture did at the time: moved to the country and lived communally. They found a huge twenty-seven-room boarding house called Maple Tree Farm located in Lanesville, New York, about a three-hour drive north of the city. After moving there in 1970, the Videofreex also set up America’s first pirate television station, thanks to Abbie Hoffman. He had known Videofreex member David Cort from their college days, and the activist met the rest of the Videofreex during their time downtown. When Hoffman wrote Steal This Book, his subversive how-to guide published in 1971, he paid the ’freex to build a transmitter to test out for the chapter on pirate broadcasting. “We realize becoming TV guerrillas is not everyone’s trip,” he wrote, “but a small band with a few grand can indeed pull it off.” Ratcliff said, “Abbie had tried to get us to broadcast guerrilla television all over Manhattan, but you couldn’t broadcast from a VW bus, and you couldn’t get a signal with all those huge buildings all around.” In Lanesville, this wasn’t a problem, so the Videofreex used the equipment to build a little broadcast tower atop their farmhouse. “We turned on this little transmitter that Abbie had given us,” Videofreex member Nancy Cain said. “We took a TV set down to a bar about half a mile down the road, Doyle’s Tavern, and we turned on the TV set and the signal was there!”

From Chapter 28 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Videofreex's loft
94 Prince St, New York, NY 10012