Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pre-Punks Let Their Freak-Flag Fly At Mercer Arts Center Part VI

UPDATED: 02/23/10

Excerpt from:
'The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB: A Secret History of Jewish Punk'
by Steven Lee Beeber - 2006 [p. 45]

The Mercer Arts Center collapsed [on August 03, 1973], falling down into a heap of rubble, and CBGB was born as a result.

*Click HERE to read about the 10/19/72 Grand Opening of 'Hilly's On The Bowery' a.k.a. CBGB.


*Herbert Whitehead (Age 79) - Resident of the hotel
*Peggy Banks-Sherwin (Age 30's) - Resident of the hotel, pregnat at the time
*Arthur C. Sherwin (Age 35) - Resident of the hotel
*Kay Parker (Age 30's) - Resident of the hotel

Excerpts from:
'Theatre Owner Reports Warning of Hotel Collapse'
New York Times - 08/09/73

The owner of the Mercer Arts Center told a board of inquiry yesterday that as early as January of this year he warned the proprietors of the old Broadway Central Hotel and the city's Buildings Department that the Hotel's facade was bulging dangerously and that cracks were persistently appearing throughout it's interior.

The Department of Buildings on Tuesday convened a formal inquiry into the causes of the collapse, and District Attorney Frank S. Hogan of Manhattan announced that his Homicide Bureau had begun investigating the possibility of criminal negligence.

Yesterday, Seymour C. Kaback, owner of the Mercer Arts Center - which occupied what had been the ballroom and catering section of the old hotel - was one of another group of four witnesses. Before entering the hearing room he disclosed in an interview "what I'm going to tell them inside."

He said that when he began his alterations of the Mercer Street side of the Broadway Central in August 1971, he found "nothing that was done in the building to be legal."

"In January, I noticed cracks in one of the arches in the hallway leading to the Viveca Lindfors workshop," Mr. Kaback said. "I called the architect I had used. He came over and saw the bulge in the outside wall. I sent a letter to the Buildings Department, telling them of my concern because I run a public Theatre."

There have been indications of concern about the hotel from other sources. A spokesman for Attorney General Louis J. Lefkowitz said yesterday that state inspectors investigating the hotel as a possible public nuisance last September found "that not one violation had been placed on the building by the city." The Department of Buildings has said it first served notice violations last Feb. 22.

Mr. Kaback said: "We replastered the cracks, but they kept breaking through. I kept telling the management of the hotel they better do something. They kept telling me that they were. Last Thursday the wall between Gene Frankel's workshop and the adjoining room cracked in two places. I heard the walls groaning. By 2:30pm on Friday it was Panicsville in there."

He went outside early on Friday, he said, and saw that "the bulge was worse. I got [Joseph] Cooper [Manager of the Hotel] and told him to do something," Mr. Kaback continued, "We were expecting 2,000 people that night."

At 3:35pm, Mr. Kaback said, Mr. Cooper telephoned an engineer, Alvin Fischer, but was told that Mr. Fischer was out. Mr. Kaback said he asked the landlord to leave his phone number with the engineer.

"By 5 o'clock," Mr. Kaback went on, "too much was going on. Bricks began to fall. We blocked off a hall. My secretary called the Buildings Department to tell them we had an emergency."

Shortly after 5:00pm Mr. Kaback called the Fire Department and 911, the Police Department emergency number, "but we didn't have time to wait." At 5:10, he saidthe building "felt like it was exploding."

"My secretary was flung into the air," Mr. Kaback said. "we ran out the fire stairs. Then I remembered that I had forgotten my wallet. I ran in from the Mercer Street side to get it. It was all black."

He said he "managed to get out just as I felt another explosion," and the building crumbled.

'City Freed of Liability in '73 Hotel Collapse'
New York Times - 06/15/83

The state's highest court ruled today that New York City should not be held liable for damages in the 1973 collapse of a Manhattan hotel in which four people died and many others were injured.

In a unanimous ruling, the Court of Appeals ordered a lower court to redistribute liability responsibility among the owners of the former Broadway Central Hotel, at 673 Broadway near Bond Street, and managers of the building, in the collapse on August 3, 1973.

No trial has yet been held on the ammount of damage awards, but Justice Edward J. Greenfield of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled in 1980 that New York City was 30 percent liable because the Department of Buildings failed to insure that the hotel's dangerous condition was remedied.

However, the Court of Appeals ruled that "in the absence of some special relationship creating a duty to exercise care for the benefit of particular individuals," such as the hotel owners, "liability may not be imposed on a municipality for failure to enfore a statute or regulation."

1854 Construction complete, 'Metropolitan Hall Opens'
18?? 'Metropolitan Hall' changes name to 'LaFarge House'
1869 Hotel purchased by E.S. Higgins - undergoes substantial renovations
1869 Renovations complete, hotel reopens as 'Grand Central Hotel'
1871 Hotel undergoes further reconstruction/renovations
1876 National Baseball League formed at Grand Central Hotel
1892 'Grand Central Hotel' renamed 'Broadway Central Hotel'
1966 Air conditioning mogul Seymour 'Sy' Kaback and 'Village Gate' owner Art D'Lugoff lease space (240 Mercer Street) in the Broadway Central Hotel with plans to open a multi-theatre entertainment complex
03/..../71 Art D'Lugoff drops out of the Mercer Arts Center project, leaving Seymour Kaback as sole proprietor
06/15/71 The Kitchen opens at Mercer Arts Center
08/13/71 Cynara
08/14/71 Cynara
12/20/71 Mercer Arts Center Official Grand Opening
01/31/72 Inferno
03/16/72 'Mercer Brecht' Theatre Opens at Mercer Arts Center
11/..../72 Broadway Central Hotel renamed 'University Hotel'
11/02/72 Ruby and the Rednecks
11/03/72 Magic Tramps
11/04/72 Magic Tramps
11/05/72 Midnight Opera Company
11/05/72 Teenage Lust/Eightballs
11/07/72 Ruby and the Rednecks
11/12/72 Midnight Opera Company
11/12/72 Teenage Lust/Eightballs/Patti Smith
11/13/72 Melissa Manchester
11/14/72 Ruby and the Rednecks/Bang Zoom
11/16/72 Modgy & the Rhythm Kings/Patti Smith
11/17/72 Magic Tramps
11/18/72 Magic Tramps
11/19/72 Midnight Opera Company
11/19/72 Teenage Lust/Eightballs/Patti Smith
11/21/72 Ruby and the Rednecks
11/23/72 Teenage Lust/Magic Tramps
11/24/72 Thirty Days Out
11/25/72 Thirty Days Out
11/26/72 Teenage Lust/Eightballs/Patti Smith
11/26/72 Midnight Opera Comapny
11/28/72 Ruby and the Rednecks
12/01/72 Magic Tramps/Five Dollar Shoes
12/02/72 Magic Tramps/Five Dollar Shoes
12/10/72 Teenage Lust/Eightballs
12/19/72 New York Dolls *1st show /W/ Jerry Nolan on drums
12/22/72 Midnight Opera Company
12/23/72 Midnight Opera Company
12/31/72 'Endless Party 1973' New Years Eve Show
................../W/ New York Dolls/Ruby and the Rednecks/Magic Tramps
...........................Modern Lovers/Wayne County's Queen Elizabeth
01/05/73 Magic Tramps
01/06/73 Magic Tramps

02/11/73 New York Dolls/Queen Elizabeth/Ruby and the Rednecks/Magic Tramps/John Blair/Novak/Alan Suicide
03/15/73 Rolling Stone
New York Confidential
by Ed McCormack

The writer of that editorial would have been appalled by the crowd that came to celebrate Valentines Day with the New York Dolls and a bevy of other groups at the Mercer Arts Center. Not only were some of the brothers wearing makeup - they were also wearing clothes pins clamped onto their nipples. (These clothsepin fetishists seem to be a new cult in New Yorks subterranian satyricon and we wish them the best of luck.)

Parading around the lounge before the show were the usual collection os sexes and sub-sexes, all of them in their finery and tilted forward on enormous platform heels for that stream lined assembly-line proletarian decadent effect. On girl standing at the bar even had a live gold fish swimming around in one of her transparent plastic platforms.

Among the as-yet unrecorded underground glitter bands performing in the various clockwork orange rooms at the Mercer Street were Ruby and the Rednecks, the Magic Tramps and Queen Elizabeth. Eric Emerson, lead singer for the Magic Tramps, was decked out in feathers and a gold lame costume that he made himself, ("I'm a pretty good seamstress," he says) but somewhat more subdued than usual in his stage movements. "Last week I strained myself while preforming and got a rupture," he explained to us.
08/07/73 Remainder of hotel declared unsafe - ordered demolished
08/18/73 Benefit performance held for displaced residents of hotel collapse
04/20/05 R.I.P. - Gene Frankel - Mercer Arts Center Co-Founder

To Be Continued...

Pre-Punks Let Their Freak-Flag Fly At Mercer Arts Center Part V


PART V - The End Of The Mercer Arts Center

Steven Tyler (Vocalist - Aerosmith)
Excerpt from:
'Walk This Way - The Autobiography of Aerosmith'
by Aerosmith - 1997 [p. 170]

The funny thing was...Aerosmith played at the Mercer Arts Center...and the next day after we played, the exterior walls collapsed and the building was condemned and nobody ever played there again. Aerosmith literally brought the house down.

*Uh...OK, Steven. I can find NO evidence, other than this quote, that Aerosmith played at the Mercer Arts Center on 08/02/73. Actually, I can find no evidence that they EVER played there. Anyone who can provide proof of this, PLEASE leave a comment at the end of the post!!

Wayne/Jayne County (Vocals - Queen Elizabeth)
Excerpt from:
'Suicide - No Compromise'
by David Nobakht - 2005 [p. 50]

The day after I had a gig there, the Mercer caved in. People were saying 'Wayne County destroyed the Mercer Arts Center!'

*Oh. Maybe Wayne and crew were opening for the boys from Beantown? Yeeeaaah, I don't think so either.

Cynthia Parker-Kaback (Wife of Mercer owner Seymour Kaback)
Excerpt from:
Lost New York City.Com

We were in the building when it collapsed. We had been hearing wierd noises all day. We called the 24-hour Buildings Department hotline to try to get an inspector to come out and tell us if it was safe to open all the shows that night and we were told to call back on Monday. Sy was debating what to do. The situation made him uneasy, but if he closed the shows for the weekend and nothing was wrong he would be sued by all the shows' promoters. Things kept getting wierder and wierder and Sy told me to call the fire department. He just wanted some kind of official agency backing him up for closing the shows on the weekend. I was on the phone to the fire department when the building went down. I kept asking them to come and they kept asking me what was wrong. I kept saying 'The walls are making strange noises.' And they kept saying 'Have you been drinking?' Then - BAM! We wre disconnected, and I [was thrown] up in the air from the impact. Everyone in the office went out the fire escape in the dark, holding hands. When we reached the street the fire department was there and they said 'Don't go back in the building!' We said 'Yeah, no kidding!' No one from Mercer Arts was hurt, but four people [staying in] the welfare hotel above it were killed.

Sesu Coleman (Drums - Magic Tramps)
Excerpt from:
Private Interview - 2008

I remember [the collapse] like it was yesterday. How it changed the scene was quite simple: Before the collapse you had the Mercer, Max's and a glam-rock scene. After the collapse, the scene shifted to CBGB and more of a punk-rock kind of thing. We were not hurt. It was about 5:20pm on a Friday and we were there rehearsing for a gig there later that evening.

Alan Vega (Vocals - Suicide)
Excerpt from:
'Suicide - No Compromise'
by David Nobakht - 2005 [p.49]

Where the Blue Room was, there was just a stage sitting there, but there was no building around it. There was all this rubble out on Broadway. It was about two or three in the afternoon (actually it was near 5:15pm), I just happened to be walking by and someone said to me, 'Alan, you just have to see this!' It was like someone had dropped a bomb on that spot. History was made in that place. The Dolls played there...Suicide played there. There were some great nights in that place. That was the end of the scene. It was before CBGB and Max's started to go on. With the Mercer Arts Center coming down, again there was a void in New York City. CBGB was [still just] a Hell's Angels hangout, Max's was closed at the time. There was literally zero.

Excerpt from:
'Probe Hotel Collapse, Six Still Missing'
New York Post - 08/04/73

Policemen and firemen were digging into the ruins of the University Hotel at the edge of Greenwich Village today for six persons still missing in the collapse of part of the 123 year-old building. The rescue operation was pressed as Mayor Lindsay called for a "full inquiry" into the cause of the disaster, which miraculously left only six unaccounted for and fifteen of the hotel's more than 300 residents with minor injuries. The rest had fled or were led to safety unharmed when two sections of the eight-story hotel - the former Broadway Central - at 673 Broadway between E. 3rd and Bond streets - caved in late yesterday afternoon. Three policemen and a fireman suffered minor injuries in the evacuation effort.

When asked what hope there was for survivors, fire department Deputy Chief John Hart replied: "None. We're looking for bodies. We're not talking about survivors." Fire chief John T. O'Hagan said he was "discouraged" about the prospect that anyone could survive under the debris, since the building "fell like a pancake," leaving no air pockets in which trapped victims could breathe.

Silence fell over the scene as policemen and firemen working with picks and shovels under a light rainfall, began the monumental job of burrowing in the huge mounds of rubble.

Excerpt from:
'Dazed Survivors Describe a Kaleidoscope of Terror'
New York Times - 08/04/73

As rescue teams kept up their search in the rubble, Mark Fingeret, deputy Director of the city's Emergency Medical Services, ordered 20 pine coffins to be brought to the scene from Bellevue Hospital. A newsman asked him weather that was necessary. "You don't think there's anyone alive in that rubble, do you?" replied Mr. Fingeret.

(Unknown Publication)
'Rock Group Rolls Out Of Hotel Just In Time'
by Alan Caminiti

Musical vibrations from a Park Slope rock group called Mushroom may have contributed to the collapse of the 119 year-old Broadway Central Hotel last Friday, according to group members.

Mushroom, composed of Nick Schiralli (Manager), Joe Tomeck, Tom Charboneau, Max D'Auria and three others, was preparing for it's evening performance at the Mercer Arts Center, located in the hotel complex, when the collapse occured.

"We were running a sound check of our system when we were told that it would be best if we stopped since the vibrations were causing cracks to widen in the ceiling and walls of a nearby room," said Schiralli. "We stopped and cleared off the stage and were waiting around for the keys to lock up when the whole place started to cave in. We went back in and tried to save our equipment, but debris was falling in huge chunks by that time, so we gave up and all seven of us tried to get out the same door at once," he said.

Group members said they had been alarmed earlier by creaking noises in their dressing room, but were told that building officials were aware of the noises. They were also instructed not to enter the next room because it was "being repaired." When they looked inside they said they saw the ceiling cracking and one of the main building arches showing. Their dressing room was part of the 75-foot section of the building that crashed to the street in rubble, killing at least two persons and injuring 19 others including three policemen and firemen.

"When the building first started to go," said Frank Annunziata, another band member and former Bay Ridge resident, "it just sounded like a subway going by. Each time one passed we would feel the vibrations, so no one could really tell the difference. But then all of a sudden a water main burst and some guy came in screaming that the building was falling..."

According to Schiralli, the broken water main would have made escape impossible for anyone remaining in the groups dressing room.

"It's a good thing we did the sound check when we did," said Annunziata. "If we hadn't, the vibrations from the evening performance would have definately caused the building to fall, only then there would have been hundereds of people in attendance."

The group was to have performed in the Blue Room of the Center. The stage there was destroyed and the room was extensively damaged in the collapse.

"When we finally got outside after the initial cave-in, we saw that our panel-truck was in danger since it was parked on Broadway in front of the hotel," said Annunziata. "We started to run towards it when another portion of the hotel collapsed, hurling giant slabs of brick and cement on it." Pictures of the goup's demolished truck appeared in New York newspapers following the disaster. (See photo at top.)

In addition to the truck, Mushroom felt the impact of the cave-in by losing approximately $10,000 in uninsured equipment. "This puts us out of business," said Schiralli. "We have to cancel bookings."

But Mushroom members say they are simply glad to be alive and can't really complain about the outcome of the whole incident.

Excerpt from:
'Hotel's Fall Was Also A Cultural Disaster'
(Bergen County, NJ) Sunday Record - 08/19/73

The day the Broadway Central fell apart, a four-piece rock band, the Mushroom, was rehearsing [on the] second floor. As the building crashed, the band was playing "Everything's Going To Be Alright." That smugly cheerful tune might well be a motto for a city where nobody cares.

Excerpt from:
'Mercer Arts Center Is Undamaged, Mostly'
New York Times - 08/04/73

Although one second-floor theatre collapsed along with the University Hotel, the rest of the six theatre Mercer Arts Center, which had brought back a touch of culture to the old hotel in recent years, was undamaged by the cave-in. Most of the Center, the birthplace of a number of recent Off-Broadway succeses, is housed on the Mercer Street side of the Broadway Central. The entire building was closed last night but the theatres are expected to re-open within a few days.

Joel Weinberg (Program Director at Mercer Arts Center)
Excerpt from:
'Hotel Collapse Leaves Plays Without Theatres'
New York Daily News - 08/07/73

Last year, we did 40% of the Off-Broadway business. we had closed circuit TV coming in. We had new rock groups about to open, nightly entertainment, and a showcase presentation going. We had Off-Broadway's three longest running shows. We had total community involvement. We were happening and we were about to happen in a big way. Now I don't know what is going to happen.

Excerpt from:
'Mercer Arts Center Digs Out'
New York Post - 08/08/73

The loss of the privately owned entertainment complex [The Mercer Arts Center] which opened only three and a half years ago, is estimated at $1 million.

"Because a large portion of the Center on Mercer Street, behind the hotel, remained standing, some people were hopeful that the Center might be saved," said a spokesman for Seymour Kaback who owns the Mercer Arts Center. "But now it is definate that whatever is left of the building must come down."

"My band was going to open here in October," said Jack Abbott, manager of the New York Central, who had come back to the Center to retrieve his files. "It would have been our first paid performanec here," he said. "But we feel sentimental about this place, because we showcased here alot. Maybe 50 [other] bands did also. In the last year and a half it was the most important showcase a band could get in New York. I don't know where all the new bands will be able to go for exposure now."

Excerpt from:
'Ramones - An American Band'
by Jim Bessman with the Ramones - 1993 [p. 25]

One of the biggest problems was that there was practically nowhere to play. After Mercer Arts Center's walls came tumbling down there were basically the Coventry in Queens and a few Manhattan clubs including the 82 Club, Mother's, Kenny's Castaways and Max's Kansas City.

Excerpt from:
'Glam! Bowie, Bolan and the Glitter Rock Revolution'
by Barry Hoskyns - 1998 [p. 92]

Many of the original Mercer Arts Center bands played Club 82 after the Mercer itself collapsed in August 1973. Among the newer acts on the scene were The Fast, the Brats, Jet Black, Another Pretty Face, the early Television and the Stilettos featuring Debbie Harry. Here was the germ of the CBGB punk scene.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Pre-Punks Let Their Freak-Flag Fly At Mercer Arts Center Part IV



Teenage Lust Concert Review
Village Voice - 11/16/72

Teenage Lust is a rock band that really isn't very good. So why do I keep going back to hear them whenever I find out they have managed to wrangle another appearance someplace? I followed them from upstairs at Max's to a huge SOHO gallery party, and now every Sunday for the next few weeks, they'll be doing it at the Mercer Arts Center.

I guess it's the total of what they do rather than what they simply play that signals my synapses and makes my heart go jangle.

They are raucous. They are too loud. They are an eyeful. They even become screamingly monotonous. Today, so much rock 'n' roll has become glitter and gestalt and maybe Teenage Lust can shout and screech and slither their way to the top of the fave rock pile. Their name is perfect and probably prophetic as a tube of Propa PH, I can just see them building their fame by playing all the important high school dances all the way from Syosset to Long Island.

Every time I see them perform, the audience catches the foot and mouth dance disease, stomping and shouting all over the place. Very anti-Quaalude. Ears actually ring for an hour afterward. Isn't energy what it's supposed to be all about?

But energy isn't their only appeal. Teenage Lust is accesible. It's clear that almost anyone can play as good, including yourself, so it's easy to change places in your head. Billy Joe the lead singer with the long blonde hair, sequined black shirt, General MacArthur shades, red velvet pants and white clogs, has a quirky kind of magnetism. He looks like the little kid next door is either wearing someone elses clothes or he suddenly grew up overnight and became sexy.

The rest of the band also look theatrically enlightening. But wait until you see the Lustettes, four prancing, dancing girls who carry on while yapping background vocals. They wear red boas and black bikinis with a sequined "LU" on their right tit and an "ST" on the left. Three of the Lustettes are ass-shakin' little sexpots. The fourth is a long-legged asparagus who shakes her beautiful bones.

Teenage Lust is really not a very good group at all, but from all these words I've written about them, I hope you get the idea they are terrific.

*Click HERE to view a set of 15 photos of Teenage Lust in action at the Mercer Arts Center on 11/23/72.

Bob Gruen (Photographer)
Excerpt from:
'Please Kill Me - The Uncensored Oral History of Punk'
by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain - 1996 [p. 132]

The first time I saw the Dolls was after [original drummer] Billy [Murcia] died, right at the time they got signed. I was hanging out flipping knives with the Hell's Angels on 3rd street. The Mercer Arts Center was nearby and a friend had told me to drop by there, so one night I did.

Bob Gruen (Photographer)
Excerpt from:
Bob Gruen.Com

[Mercer Arts Center] was a really important place. That's where I first saw the Dolls. The place had a couple of different rooms. The club was really the ballroom of the Broadway Central Hotel, but you came in the back on Mercer Street. One room was a boutique with wild plastic miniskirt clothing like I'd never seen before. The Kitchen had video machines all over the place showing all this experimental stuff. There was a room in the middle of the bar. I was there maybe ten minutes when I saw a guy with eye-shadow. I was out the fucking door! I talked to [my friend] later that week and he convinced me to give it another chance, I just had to see the band.

So I came back and this time I stayed long enough to get a beer. And this time I noticed the place was packed with the sexiest little girls I'd ever seen. So wild, so cute, so open. I never did see the band come on that night.

I went back the next week, and this time walked around a little bit more, checked out the store, the videos, the girls. I was still looking for the band when I noticed a door with people walking in and out. It was like a Fellini movie in there. There was bleacher seating that was so steep it looked like a wall of people, and a stage with the New York Dolls playing in the middle...the loudest, fastest, most exciting music I'd heard. There were even more people on the stage thn in the seats. Everyone seemed to know each other. It was a big crowd and in the middle a band that was just so wild. The way they dressed, they wore some things that girls might wear, but they weren't dressed like women. No woman dressed like that!

Bob Gruen (Photographer)
Excerpt from:
'Glam! Bowie, Bolan and the Glitter Rock Revolution'
by Barry Hoskyns - 1998 [p. 71]

It was almost Felliniesque, with these people on bleachers surrounding the band and the band playing in the middle of this crowd. It was sort of hard to tell who was in the band and who wasn't. Everybody was drunk or stoned on Quaaludes, reds, Cocaine...the chaos level was pretty high and it was the most exciting thing I'd ever seen.

David Johansen (Vocals - New York Dolls)
Excerpt from:
'Please Kill Me - The Uncensored Oral History of Punk'
by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain - 1996 [p. 118, 122]

The audiences [at the Mercer Arts Center] were pretty depraved.

[David] Bowie used to come see us play at the Mercer Arts Center. I had never heard of him before. I remember he used to come around in these quilted drag outfits and he asked me, "Who does your hair?" I said, "Johnny Thunders," which was the truth.

*Click the links to view photos of a fall (October?) 1972 New York Dolls show at the Mercer's Oscar Wilde Room at which David Bowie was in attendance.

Excerpt from:
'New York City's Ultra-Living Dolls'
by Ed McCormack
Rolling Stone - 10/26/72

David Bowie, a brittle, powdered flake of hermaphroditic humanity, is watching the bodies writhe to the music of the New York Dolls in the Oscar Wilde Room at the Mercer Arts Center for the second night in a row.

Pale as an albino beneath his fiery cosmic crew cut, this elder statesman of the New Decadence is standing there in the shadows just off the dance floor in his white spacesuit, smiling broadly at the painted, tainted young men on the bandstand.

Still, one cannot help but guess that somewhere in his enthusiasm, a bitchy little doubt may be rearing it's sequined sea horse head: So soon on the heels of his own success, could this be...the new wave?

Excerpts from:
'Suicide - No Compromise'
by David Nobakht - 2005 [p. 41]

Martin Rev (Electronics - Suicide)
We played the Kitchen as part of a Valentines night (actually, the show was on 02/11) festival that Marty Thau promoted which had many bands from the scene...Dolls, Tramps, Miami's, possibly Wayne County. It went on all night and in all the Mercer's theatres. We played in the Kitchen room about 2:00am. Great gig. Must have been arund 1971-1972. (It was actually on 02/11/73.)

Marty Thau (Manager - New York Dolls/Suicide)
On that show, we took over the whole of the Mercer Arts Center and we presented the Dolls, the Modern Lovers played, Wayne County and Suicide and a couple other artists as well. We stage Suicide in the Kitchen. We thought it was a perfect match-up, what they were doing and what the Kitchen was all about. It was a very successful show. All the shows were running simultaneously in the Mercer's different rooms.

Sylvain Sylvain (Guitarist - New York Dolls)
The Dolls were kind of wondering through the Blue Room. Either [Suicide] were playing there or they were doing their soundcheck. It was Alan and Marty. I can remember looking at Johnny [Thunders] and going, "This is fucking wierd!" We came from kind of like Rolling Stones-type guitars and for us to hear that stuff was like, wow, way out there. Not that I didn't know about experimental music or stuff like that. I thought Suicide were fantastic. I did not understand and I still do not understand it.

Wayne/Jayne County (Vocals - Queen Elizabeth)
There was that famous night at the Mercer when they had Queen Elizabeth, Ruby and the Rednecks, New York Dolls, Suicide. The groups would all be on at the same time and people were running back and forth trying tro see all the bands. It was hysterical. When you went in the room to see Suicide it was amazing, you knew you were seeing something new.

Alan Vega (Vocals - Suicide)
It would be the Dolls in one room, Jonathan Richman in another, then us in another. Their room was like a party, ours was like a death scene.

Excerpt from:
'Ramones - An American Band'
by Jim Bessman with the Ramones - 1993 [p. 18-19]

[The New York Dolls] commercial failure was taken as proof postive that New York's incipient underground scene didn't stand a chance above the surface. In New York though, the Dolls ruled, and their roost in 1972-1973 was a decaying theatre complex in SOHO called the Mercer Arts Center. An air conditioner mogul with an interest in theatre owned the place, but there weren't enough good shows available to fill the eight small rooms, so he allowed rock bands to perform there on off nights. Besides the Dolls, the heavy hitters there were Wayne County...Ruby and the Rednecks and Eric Emerson and the Magic Tramps. Emerson was an Andy Warhol 'Superstar' and a seminal figure in the New York underground rock scene...he was one of many who would die before it took off.

But alas, so would the Mercer. [The Tramps] were rehearsing one day when the wall behind them collapsed and the whole place had to be torn down, but not before the house bands, especially the Dolls, had left thier mark on a generation of musically inclined New York street kids who wanted it before they knew how to get it.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pre-Punks Let Their Freak-Flag Fly At Mercer Arts Center Part III

*The photo that originally appeared here has been deleted. Click on the link below to view the photo at another website.

Mercer Arts Center Box Office/Lobby. One ticket window for each theatre. Notice the sandwich board, which displays an article from the Village Voice, probably a review of one of the Center's theatrical presentations.



Johnny Thunders (Guitarist - New York Dolls)
'New York City's Ultra-Living Dolls'
Rolling Stone - 10/26/72

They didn't even want us at the Mercer Arts Center until they counted the bar receipts.

Arthur 'Killer' Kane (Bass - New York Dolls)
Excerpt from:
'Fools For Rock And Roll - The New York Dolls' Rise (and Fall)'
by Ralph Heibutzki
Discoveries Magazine - 05/00 [p. 38]

On June 13, 1972, the Dolls began 17 straight Tuesdays in the 200-capacity Oscar Wilde Room, supporting Satan the Fire Eater and the Magic Tramps which included late singer Eric Emerson (who's death [in 1975] inspired Lou Reed's 'Street Hassle') and future Blondie guitarist Chris Stein. The Tramps often bombed before ravenous rock audiences, [According to whom???] but [New York Dolls bassist Arthur 'Killer'] Kane remembers them fondly: "Eric Emerson was a big Dolls fan too, he was a good guy. [The Tramps] weren't interested in being commercial. They were underground stars in New York and that was O.K. They didn't have to be rich."

Excerpt from:
'Glam! Bowie, Bolan and the Glitter Rock Revolution'
by Barry Hoskyns - 1998 [p. 87]

[Bette] Midler, who made her name as the high priestess of Glam at a gay Manhattan establishment called the Continental Baths, [where she sometimes shared the bill with the Magic Tramps] was often to be seen watching the Dolls at the Mercer. Prior to his joining the band, Jerry Nolan and she had been lovers.

Jerry Nolan (Drums - New York Dolls)
Excerpt from:
'Please Kill Me - The Uncensored Oral History of Punk'
by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain - 1996 [p. 117]

I used to go out with Bette Midler and I hadn't seen her in a while, but I ran into her again at the Mercer. People don't realize it, but New York wasn't a meeting ground for anybody then. You did your shit and then went back home again. But the Diplomat Hotel and Mercer Arts Center brought everyone together.

Bette Midler (Singer/Actress)
Excerpt from:
'Cookin' With Bette Midler'
Modern Hi-Fi & Stereo Guide Magazine - 06/73

Bette Midler's first home in the Big Apple was a $15.00 per night room at the Broadway Central Hotel, one of the town's all-time shoddy dives. "There was a hole in my bed and I was always falling through it at night. And the bathroom was down the hall. And I mean really down the hall. You had to get dressed, go out the door, turn right, turn left, turn right again. It was your basic freak scene, that hotel. Winos in the hall, whores in the next room, junkies outside. The dyke bar was downstairs and the gay bar was down the street."

Excerpts from:
'Alice Cooper? David Bowie? Ugh! And Ugh Again!'
by Grace Lichtenstein
New York Times - 09/24/72

The [New York] Dolls merely take [Alice] Cooper's epicene punkiness one step further. David Johansen, the 20 year-old lead singer, pouts prettily in the Mick Jagger mode, strutting around on stage in platform heels. The drummer wears dark red lipstick. The lead guitarist wears satin hot-pants and the bassist, jeweled sunglasses. The music is loud and not particularly distinguished but the Oscar Wilde [Room] audiences adore it, especially the limp gestures by Johansen.

Even more bizarre than the Dolls is the act that precedes it at the Mercer Arts Center, Ruby and the Rednecks. Ruby is a campy, vampy shark-toothed shrieker who manages to make fun of female rock singers and cabaet performers at the same time. Some viewers have apparently been entranced by her use of her breasts as maracas; those with purient interests should be warned that, on the night I saw her, her dress kept slipping off her shoulder to reveal mostly bones.

It is not terribly surprising that rock has reached this point; the music itself has become thouroughly self-concious after almost two decades of growth. The real question is why the high school and college record-buying public has taken the Cooper genere to it's bosom. Maybe it's out of sheer boredom. I mean, if, at the age of 18, you've already worked your way through the Kama Sutra and the Physician's Desk Reference, perhaps there's nothing left for you but transvestites and violence.

Excerpt from:
'Random Notes'
Rolling Stone - 10/26/72

Apple Records unleashed Elephant's Memory (you remember them) and their debut album [with John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band] on the press with a party at the Mercer Arts Center, New York's nearest manifestation of a milk bar for droogs. The band did a good job of entertaining, playing mostly trad-rockers like 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On', and 'Jailhouse Rock' rather than the original stuff on their LP, while John and Yoko did a good job of finding an anonymous corner, not far from the more conspicuous half-ton baby elephant present, painted up like a Lower East Side groupie for the occasion.

Excerpt from:
'Patti Smith - A Biography'
by Nick Johnstone - 1997 [p. 50]

[Jane] Friedman was a partner in the Wartoke publicity firm and had been responsible for press co-ordination at the Woodstock Festival. She was finishing 1972 by booking acts for the Mercer Arts Center, ensuring that there was an advance bill for early 1973. Patti [Smith] siezed this opportunity, and tried to persuade Friedman to let her perform at the Mercer, but Friedman was reluctant because she couldn't see that there would be an audience for a poet.

At the beginning of 1973, Patti began hanging around the Mercer Arts Center where she met Friedman again and, using some of her swift talk and famous charm, navigated Friedman's reluctance and persuaded her to let her open for a New York Dolls show. The Mercer was the showcase for a lot of the budding glam-trash acts like the New York Dolls, and the audience was less than prepared for a poetry reading by a New Jersey girl with a Kieth Richards fixation; but, despite all of this, Patti vainly won them over. The success of her performances led to Friedman's booking her as the opening slot for other rock bands who played there.

[At this point] Patti never used a microphone or any instrumental backing, but instead read through cupped hands or a megaphone. Her biggest problem was dealing with hecklers, but she generally out-heckled them and won the crowd over. Her successful slots at the Mercer ran up to and during spring 1973.

Martin Rev (Electronics - Suicide)
Alan Vega (Voice - Suicide)
Excerpt from:
'Suicide - No Compromise'
by David Nobakht - 2005 [p. 40-41]

Martin Rev:
Our reputation had already preceded us. We turned up and attempted to get in the front door of the Mercer Arts Center, but someone tried to shut it, so I just put my foot in to try and keep it open.

Alan Vega:
We were just asking for a gig, not trying to rob the fucking place.

Martin Rev:
Al Lewis, who was the Center's booking agent, was inside freaking out and shouting 'Suicide's here!' We were eventually let in. We ended up in Sy Kaback's office. He said we reminded him of his ancestors who just got off the boat. I was wearing a long coat, Alan literally walked in with chains just for his own security. I used to walk around with a steel pole, whatever gave us a little strength. We were like street warriors. Kaback actually gave us a contract for four consecutive weeks in one of the theatres. So we went from Al Lewis not letting us in the door, to getting a contract for four gigs on Wednesday nights in a matter of minutes. I did not want to sign the contract. I was just looking at it and Alan was saying 'Just Sign it!'

Suicide usually got to play in the Blue Room. The New York Dolls dominated the larger of the rooms.

Alan Vega:
We once had the major room where the Dolls played. I think there was a huge rainstorm that night in New York - it set the record for rain in the city and only three people showed up. We finally got the big room and only three people showed up.

Excerpt from:
'The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's - A Secret History of Jewish Punk'
by Steven Lee Beeber - 2006 [p. 45]

As [Suicide] became regulars at the Mercer Arts Center, along with the New York Dolls and the Modern Lovers, [Alan] Vega pushed...confrontation to the limits. At this daytime theatre turned nighttime rock club, bands played in rooms named for great dramatists. While the dress-and-lipstick wearing Dolls, a band that figured as the missing link between glam and punk, performed to packed audiences happy to dance in the Oscar Wilde Room, the Modern Lovers played a discordant yet danceable rock beat across the hall, Suicide worked it's dark magic in the tiny and appropriately named Blue Room. Rev's tense Farfisa and Vega's almost Yoko Ono-esque vocalizations set most of those in attendance heading for the doors. When Vega jumped from the stage to stop them, it wasn't just the fact that he was breaking down the invisible fourth wall seperating the audience from the performer that made them apprenhensive. And it wasn't even the wild look in his eye or his stream of conciousness lyricizing. It was the fact that he was brandishing a chain like a gang member, and displaying a switchblade in his pocket, though he never hurt anyone but himself.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Pre-Punks Let Their Freak-Flag Fly At Mercer Arts Center Part II

A flyer for a pair of shows by the Magic Tramps at Mercer Arts Center, November 17th and 18th, 1972.
The photo was taken on a rainy afternoon, just a few blocks away from the Mercer in nearby Washington Square Park.
(Flyer Courtesy - Magic Tramps.Com)



Excerpt from:
'Suicide - No Compromise'
by David Nobakht - 2005 [p. 39]

The decor of the [Mercer Arts Center] consisted of fuzzy blue fabric on the walls, ceiling and floors and white, molded plastic tables and chairs.

Excerpt from:
'A Pinch Of Moog, A Dash Of Light'
Village Voice - 03/30/72

The ambience is torn between New York chic and a funky Village atmosphere that is most prevalent on weeknights. The entertainment, on Friday and Saturday nights, is continuous from 6:00pm to closing. Things get mellower as the evening progresses and there is less hustle and formality. Dinner is available and on the past few weekends, the post-theatre crowd has joined with tourists and locals to pack the place. During the week Michael [Tschudin] encourages jam sessions and visits from old and new performers. Last week, Caroline Plummer, who plays guitar, sings, and writes for Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, dropped by with Warren Benbow and legendary master Charlie Byrd in tow. Eric Emerson and the Magic Tramps are on hand nightly.

So are two of Michael [Tschudin's] aggregations, the Rhythm Section and the Midnight Opera Comapny, which rock and roll for your dancing pleasure and then offer snatches of the sort of music Michael is writing for a Jazz-Rock opera. It all sounds very good.

Another product of the Kitchen, 27 year-old Michael Tschudin recently took over the musical direction of The Blue Room, the cabaret/nightclub that bears a chilling resemblance to the milk bar in the film version of 'A Clockwork Orange.' Tschudin apprenticed with Pablo Casals and Leonard Bernstein, has played piano with The Fantastiks, and recently took over the musical direction of one of the Center's plays, 'Love Me, Love My Children.' [Tschudin] is working on a model for a 12-tone piano in his spare time. The musical direction of the Blue Room is eclectic and Tschudin has been stocking it with everything from belly dancers to rock and jazz combos to stand-up comics and underground superstars.

*Michael Tschudin was a 1966 Harvard University graduate who had previously worked as a music teacher at Horace Mann School as well as teaching Dramatic Literature at N.Y.U. in 1967. He soon landed a job as a record producer at Vanguard Records from 1968-1970, and then he also produced at Capitol Records for a time in 1971 before coming to the Mercer Arts Center.

Tschudin was a busy man. He was involved in several projects simultaneously. Aside from being the Musical Director at Mercer Arts Center, he was a member of The Midnight Opera Comapny, The Rhythm Section, and another group called Cynara who had recorded and released an album. He had also previously played in another group called Listening who had recorded and released one LP as well. Tschudin was known to sit in occasionally with the Magic Tramps at the Mercer and jammed with them a few times at Max's Kansas City as well.

'Magic Tramps - Songs, Instrumentals, Dance'
'42 Mins - Mercer Arts Center, New York'
Variety Magazine - (Date N/A)

The Magic Tramps, featuring Eric Emerson who has appeared in Andy Warhol's films, offers one of the more colorful and varied acts on the local underground scene. Emerson sings, dances, camps and prances his way through rock and more conventional pop. He leaps from the stage, cavorting on the dance floor, and spreads glistening paper sequins on himself and the audience in the Oscar Wilde Room.

He is backed by the instrumentalists of the Gotham-based Magic Tramps. Violinist Lary Chaplan stands out in classical pop numbers while lead guitarist Kevin Reese is excellent in a short featured segment. Bass guitarist Wayne Harley Harley vocalizes and supplies harmonies, while joining Reese and drummer Sesu Coleman in solid rhythmic support.

Black and gold is the combo's motif from drum coloring to Emerson's garb, which includes glittering black shorts over black leotards, gold sash and sparkling gold boots. Gauze-like drapes are alongside the stage with a Far-Eastern style backdrop.

Emerson's dancing ranges from ballet to pop forms. His voice is steady with confidence, a big asset. The act closes with two theatrical encores including the Can Can from Offenbach's 'Gaite Parisienne' with Emerson, skirted as dancer. The second is the finale from Rossini's 'William Tell Overture,' the Lone Ranger Theme. For this, Emerson, in western attire, cracks a long whip and twirls a toy revolver.

Bebe Buell (Model, Playmate, Artist)
Excerpt from:
'Glam! Bowie, Bolan and the Glitter Rock Revolution'
by Barry Hoskyns - 1998 [p. 71-72]

Eric [Emerson] was astounding. He could leap through the air like Rudolph Nureyev. He would wear Iggy Pop costumes but added sparkles and glitter to his costumes. Iggy could contort but Eric could fly through the air like a fucking bird!

Rick Rivets (Guitarist - New York Dolls/The Brats)
Excerpt from:
Magic Tramps.Com

Sesu Coleman and Jerry Nolan were the two top drummers in New York City. Sesu's drumming was the force behind the Tramps - he was always interesting to watch as he really played the kit. And Eric Emerson was a great front's too bad their music never got released as the Magic Tramps were one of the first bands at the Mercer Arts Center. We went to see every show they played there. Their musicianship was always a caliber above most bands of that period.

Wayne/Jayne County (Vocals - Queen Elizabeth)
Excerpt from:
'Man Enough To Be A Woman'
by Jayne County with Rupert Smith - 1995 [p.87 - 88]

I was announcing to people that I'd got a band together and that we were going to be the most outrageous thing you could ever imagine. [Then] someone told me that there was a group playing at Mercer Arts Center every week called the New York Dolls who wore makeup and women's clothes. I couldn't believe it. I thought we were going to be the first but the Dolls beat us by a few months. I went to see the Dolls with Tommy and Jimmy Marcus and they kept turning to me and going 'Wayne! They're wearing makeup! Wayne! They're wearing women's shoes.' The bass player had a dress on! But I loved the Dolls, we were part of the same scene really. Queen Elizabeth and the other bands like The Harlots of 42nd Street, Eric Emerson and the Magic Tramps, Teenage Lust, Ruby Lynn Reyner's band Ruby and the Rednecks, were the first wave of New York glitter bands and we all had connections with the underground, with the Rediculous Theatre, with the Warhol crowd.

I went to a Dolls gig at the Mercer Arts Center one night, dressed to the nines and wearing a black Cleopatra wig. There was a demonstration outside the gig by lesbians and gay men calling the Dolls 'Transvestite Scum!', and saying that people like us were causing women to be raped on the street.

Excerpt from:
'A Pinch Of Moog, A Dash Of Light'
Village Voice - 03/30/72 [p. 49-50]

Much of the Center's present activity flows through the Vasulka's Kitchen, a large room on the second floor that has been bubbling over lately with electronic alchemists and experimental musicians drawn almost entirely from the surrounding community.

Chris Stein (Guitarist - Blondie)
Excerpts from:
'Suicide - No Compromise'
by David Nobakht - 2005 [p. 40]

There was a very modern atmosphere, very trendy, as was the crowd.

I saw the Dolls at the Mercer. I never paid any attention to them as I thought they were a drag act. I found out they were a rock band and I went to see them [with] Eric Emerson [and the Magic Tramps]. I kind of liked Eric better at the time. I played a few shows with [them] later on.

David Johansen (Vocals - New York Dolls)
Sylvain Sylvain (Guitarist - New York Dolls)
Excerpt from:
Interview at CBGB - (Date N/A)

*It is not clear who is saying what here as both are speaking, regarding shows with the Magic Tramps at the Mercer in May/June 1972.

"So then the only other band we knew was Eric Emerson, right?"
"I remember Eric."
"Eric was like this Andy Warhol actor who had an act called the Magic Tramps."
"The Magic Tramps, right, that was it."
"He used to wear lederhosen and do the Chaska Dance with some guy [Lary Chaplan] playing violin, and Eric says 'I got this gig at the Mercer Arts Center.' We didn't even know what it was because they had just built it. They built it in this old hotel, and they made this, in a really old, ancient hotel they made this ultra-modern kind of 'Clockwork Orange'-looking arts complex with a bunch of different rooms that they needed to fill you know. So we went and played with [the Tramps] and then went on again after them. That first show, that was at the Kitchen, it was a video. It was a experimental video, yes, like a workshop for artists back then and I remember we got paid $1.25 at that first show. It was enough subway money to get back."

David Johansen (Vocals - New York Dolls)
Excerpt from:
'Glam! Bowie, Boland and the Glitter Rock Revolution'
by Barry Hoskyns - 1998 [p. 70 - 71]

After a couple of scuzzy Midtown gigs in the spring of 1972, [David] Johansen got word from Max's regular (and Warhol veteran) Eric Emerson that there was a new place to play downtown.

'Eric was out of his mind, but he was a great guy," says Johansen. "He had a thing going in the video room, The Kitchen, where Nam June Paik would put on his videos of John Giorno taking a nap or whatever, and [Eric] said 'Why don't you come down and play with [us]?'

Sesu Coleman (Drums - Magic Tramps)
Excerpt from:
Interview with PunkGlobe.Com

The fact is, the Dolls did open for us and brought their fans with them. They played, we played, then their fans wanted to hear more, so we let the Dolls go back on. They were friends and it was no big deal. It was in a small video room called The Kitchen. We played there often and were trying to give the Dolls a place to be seen. I think this was their second gig ever.

I became a huge Dolls fan after seeing Arthur Kane break a bass string using a beer [bottle] cap as a pic.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pre-Punks Let Their Freak-Flag Fly At Mercer Arts Center - Part I

The 'Broadway Central Hotel' - this would be the eventual location of the infamous Mercer Arts Center.
(Image via

Imagine this scenario...

You have just stepped out of a time-warp. Date: August 03, 1973. Location: New York City. The time is 5:15pm - you find yourself standing in a room. An auditorium or theatre of some kind. No one else in the room can see you, but you see them clearly. Several people hustle about, obviously preparing for a performance of some sort. A rock concert by the looks of it.

And just as suddenly as you appeared, someone yells out "The building is COLLAPSING!" Everyone in the room begins running frantically for the exits, and a few minutes later, all are safe out on the sidewalk out front, as the building falls in a nightmare of dust clouds and debris.

You just witnessed the destruction of the 123 year-old monolith known as the University Hotel, more commonly known as the Old Broadway Central Hotel. You also just witnessed the final minutes of a piece of New York City Rock and Roll legend - The Mercer Arts Center, one of the most important venues for live rock and roll in New York City from 1971 - 1973.

Several Off-Broadway shows, film screenings and other assorted art exhibitions and performances were also staged at the Mercer during it's existance, but is rock and roll that took place there that concerns us most.

Brush yourself off. Let's dig a little deeper and see what we missed out on...


University Hotel (a.k.a. Broadway Central Hotel)
673 Broadway (between East 3rd and Bond Streets)
New York City, NY

Mercer Arts Center
240 Mercer Street (between East 3rd and Bleecker Streets)
New York City, NY

Excerpts from:
'Mercer Stages Are A Supermarket'
New York Times - 11/01/71

In Greenwich Village, hard by a row of shipping-receiving platforms, there is one small door that leads to five Off-Broadway theatres. A flag over the enterance marks the Mercer Arts Center - a family of theatres under one roof that, until very recently, leaked. The place, named for the street it faces, is a little north of Bleecker Street and a little east of Washington Square. Inside, theatres are jumbled and stacked together with jigsaw flair, irregular, but precise in the way it fits them all together. The theatres are Off-Broadway in the narrowest sense, since the back door to all five is on Broadway. The front door is at 240 Mercer Street.

[Proprietor] Seymour Kaback: "We've got 35,000 square feet of space total. Everything in this place is air conditioned - that's my business. If you want to examine my motive, my motive is to make this a financial success. I'm taking a run-down, rat-ridden pestilence and making it into an oasis."

[Mr. Kaback] estimated that the center would be taking in $12,000 a week in rents by late November [1971].

Seymour Kaback (Owner/Operator - Mercer Arts Center)
Excerpts from:
'Historic Hotel New Home For Theatre Dream'
The (Bergen County) Sunday Record - 03/12/72 [p. B-17]

I have long been irritated by how costly and how difficult it is to spend a night at the theatre. I have often shelled out $50 for a night of theatre on Broadway. That's rediculous. Here, you spend a pleasant night under one roof. We serve full-course dinners in the Blue Room for $3.95. You can have an inexpensive snack or drink in Obie Alley. We offer special economy rates for parking in a neighboring underground garage. We want to make theatre going inexpensive and attractive. It shouldn't be a chore. I have trained my box-office people to be cheerful and helpful. Often, Broadway box-office people snap at you as though you were a criminal.

Mr. Kaback is not only a theatre owner-impressario. He deserves a medal for restoring an architectural landmark in grave danger of demolition. "My theatres are in an historic building, the Broadway Central Hotel," he declared. "I have 35,000 square feet in this distinguished caravansary. It was in desperate decline, with rotting pipes, ceiling leaks and peeling paint. It will cost me close to $500,000 before I am finished.

Excerpts from:
'Rags To Riches'
New York Post - 08/04/73

The Broadway Central [Hotel] started taking welfare clients in May 1970, charging them $5.00 a day, often with seven persons squeezed into two rooms. In July 1970, outraged complaints from residents told of dangerous open wiring, dusty rooms, rats, and an invasion by prostitutes and drug addicts. By November 1972, the Hotel, renamed the 'University Hotel', was called a "squalid den of vice and iniquity" [as well as " open and notorious public nuiscence and a den of thieves."] by Attorney General Lefkowitz. Lefkowitz moved in the Supreme Court to have the hotel removed from it's owners, the 667 Hotel Corporation, whose officers were Henry Dercher, Philip and Matilda Edwards and Gertrude Latham.

In the first six months of last year, Lefkowitz said, there were 22 robberies, 1 homicide, 3 rapes, 7 petty larcenies, 5 grand larcenies, 6 felonious assaults, 18 drug-related crimes, 49 burglaries and 6 miscellaneous offenses [committed at the hotel]. Last December, Dercher agreed to maintain a round-the-clock uniformed security force...and to run a decent hotel.

Excerpts from:
'A Pinch Of Moog, A Dash Of Light'
Village Voice - 03/30/72 [p. 49-50]

...the [New York City] club scene is just now struggling back to life after being swamped in the wake of rock 'n' roll festivals.

The activity at the Mercer Arts center is spreading to St. Adrian's, a dimly lit hang-out for artists, anarchists and loft-dwellers that is situated in the same building, but with a seperate enterance around the corner on Broadway. Owner Jerry Houk will be offering live music very soon, as well as food and drinks.

*Among the first groups to perform at St. Adrian's would be the Magic Tramps.

The Mercer Arts Center is an important step in the Village's return to eminence.

Excerpt from:
'New York Rocker - My Life In The Blank Generation'
by Gary Valentine - 2002 [p. 3]

There were precious few places to play in New York then. Max's Kansas City on Park Avenue, home of the Warhol crowd, would later rival CBGB as a punk palace, but at the time it was only booking established acts and would soon close. In 1972, the Mercer, an Off-Broadway theatre complex, decided to book rock bands to pay it's bills. The first truly 'underground' music scene in New York since 1966, when the Velvet Underground's 'Plastic Exploding Inevitable' opened at The Dom on St. Mark's Place, had begun.

'New York Confidential'
Rolling Stone Magazine - 09/13/73
by Ed McCormack

The Mercer Arts Center, home hatchery for New York's indeginous glitter rock scene and erstwhile social headquarters for the proletarian neo-decadents, has gone the way of Sodom...

It happened at around 5pm on August 3rd, when the Broadway Central, whose rear end the three story complex occupied, collapsed mysteriously in an apocalypse of falling beams, flying bricks and hydrogen mushroom plaster dust.

An elegant hostelry in the days of Diamond Jim Brady and Mayor Jimmy Walker which had been reduced to a flophouse and welfare dive in recent years, the Broadway Central was ordered evacuated a half-hour before it fell; but so far, three bodies have been found in the rubble, and the search continues for others who may not have heeded the evacuation order.

"It's a good thing it happened when it did," says Nick Scarelli, the manager of a band called Mushroom which was rehearsing in the Mercer Arts Center that afternoon and had to flee, leaving $10,000 in equipment behind. "Later on that evening there would have been about 1,500 people in the place."

The Mercer Arts Center opened in December 1971 as a kind of supermarket of entertainment containing five theatres, a video-tape room, an actors workshop, a bar and boutique. In it's short history it housed several Off-Broadway productions, including Ken Kesey's 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' and 'The Proposition', a satirical review. But perhaps it's single most unique cultural contribution was as the launching pad for such glitter rock bands as the New York Dolls, Ruby and the Rednecks, Teenage Lust, Wayne County's Queen Elizabeth and the Harlots of 42nd Street.

On those nights when the painted and tainted glitter tots thronged the bar in their cosmic drag and unisex finery, the lounge called Obie Alley was the sight of more than one severe case of contemporary culture-shock as the older, more conservative theatre crowd mingled and gawked among them at intermission time. We remember, in particular, one middle-aged lady from Westchester who almost blew her cookies when she was confronted by one of the clothsepin fetishists: a muscular, shirtless young man wearing smoked goggles and a leather aviator's cap and black elbow-length gloves - the ensemble topped off by two red plastic clothsepins clamped onto his nipples!

Then there was the girl who walked around with live goldfish in the eight-inch transparent heel of one of her Minnie Mouse platform shoes...on such nights, the crowd at Mercer Street seemed prophetic of some 'Clockwork Orange' future of genderless sexual fantasy; and we look back on them now with a sense of retrospective relief that the Dolls did not literally bring down the house as they tore up the appropriately named Oscar Wilde Room...if they had, it is doubtful we would be here to write about it today.

Sesu Coleman (Drums - Magic Tramps)
Excerpt from:
Private Interview - 2008

We helped open a revamped Off-Broadway theatre complex called the Mercer Arts Center in the West Village. We actually helped the center's owners with the remodeling and reconstruction of the place, Lary [Chaplan] and I pushing wheelbarrows full of stuff around while keeping an eye out for the rats! I remember cleaning for days for the grand opening there. (12/20/71 was the date of the "Official" grand opening.) We got the gig through Michael Tschudin. He brought us in there.

We soon became the house band at the Mercer Arts Center and the Dolls got thier start [there] opening for the Tramps. Ironically, we helped open it, developed a huge music scene there - the decadent era of glam bands in every room - Magic Tramps, Suicide, Teenage Lust, Rags, Harlots, Dolls, Luger, Butch, Sniper, Brats, Ruby and the Rednecks, Tuff Darts, the list goes on and on. And then we were there rehearsing when the place collapsed!

We started in the kitchen, a "multi-media" room at the top of the stairs, along with Jazz pianist/keyboardist Michael Tschudin and his group Cynara. Other times, we played with his other group The Midnight Opera Company. Michael also played cabaret-style piano with us in the Blue Room for dining patrons preparing for one of the plays being staged in yet another of the Center's theatres. After the theatre ended, we'd rock out 'till the wee hours in the Oscar Wilde Room.

We still couldn't quite figure out our look. Feathers and tin-foil on my drums with lights inside the bass drum. Feathers in our hair with glitter. White-Face. Candles, skulls and platform shoes. Gold and silver Lame'...satin pants. Leather whips and violins. Eric doing the splits on stage, sometimes bringing up a Warhol Superstar to perform with was a beautiful scene.

Mercer Arts Center Match Book (Tony Mann Collection)
(Image: The Tony Mann Collection)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 Years Ago Today...

The world watched in horror as the skies over Manhattan turned deathly black.
The images are forever burned in our collective conciousness.
It is IMPOSSIBLE to forget.

(Photo: Daniel Hulshizer/AP)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


A passerby studies the faces on some of the thousands of "Missing" posters that appeared around lower Manhattan in the days following the disaster.
(Photo Credit - Unknown)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008