Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

December 8th - A Tragic Day in Rock History...

12/08/04 "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott (Guitarist - Pantera/Damageplan)
12/08/80 John Lennon (Guitarist/Vocals - Beatles)
Take a moment to remember two of rock's fallen heroes...
Both taken from us on this day in rock history.
Their songs, stories and memories will live with us forever...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Meanwhile, Over at Max's - Part 1: 12/06/65 Max's Kansas City Opens For Business

43 years ago today, on 12/06/65, in New York City, Mickey Ruskin gave birth to a bouncing baby nightclub he named Max's Kansas City. Happy Birthday...

Larry Poons (Painter)
Excerpt from:
"High On Rebellion - Inside The Underground at Max's Kansas City"
by Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin (1998)[p.24]
The night that Max's opened in December of 1965, only a few people showed up. John Chamberlain and Neil Williams asked me to come with them to the opening of Max's, which was a huge place whose size was emphasized by the fact that nobody had shown up. We got there at about four-thirty in the afternoon and by seven Mickey was pacing back and forth. When he gets nervous, he really gets nervous, and he was walking around like a slow motion skiing accident. Finally we hit on the idea for the three of us to go from booth to booth, ordering a drink at each one - we'd already had quite a bit to drink by then - to give Mickey the illusion of one hundred glowing afterimages at all of his tables.

Tim O'Donnell (Balloon Vendor)
Excerpt from:
"High On Rebellion - Inside the Underground at Max's Kansas City"
by Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin (1998)[p.25]
I walked into the grand opening on January 15 [1966], looked around and said, "This will never last." The scene was always from the San Remo, to the Cedar, to Dillon's, to the Ninth Circle, to the new Cedar, which never really caught on.

Mickey Ruskin (Owner - Max's Kansas City)
Excerpt from:
"High on Rebellion - Inside the Underground at Max's Kansas City"
by Yvonne-Sewall Ruskin (1998)[p.25]
Meanwhile, the night business started growing even before I had the grand-opening party on January 15, 1966. I don't remember sending out invitations to Max's big opening. I kind of recall handing out invitations, and the rest was word of mouth. I must have had 1,500 to 2,000 people come through the place. From that night on, it just took off like a shot.

John Chamberlain (Sculptor)
Excerpt from:
"High on Rebellion - Inside the Underground at Max's Kansas City"
by Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin (1998)[p.25]
[Max's] was [Mickey's] living room and he had in who he wanted. From the opening on, Max's was always packed, except maybe around eleven in the morning, which is always a good time for cognac and coffee.

Excerpt from:
"A Directory To Dining"
by Craig Claiborne
New York Times - 11/04/66
Max's Kansas City, 213 Park Avenue South (between 17th and 18th Streets), CA.8-2080. The name on the menu of this restaurant is Max's Kansas City Steak Lobster Chick Peas, and it is one of the most switched on restaurants in Manhattan. There are waitresses in mini-skirts and waiters with beards. Max's is a large angular, two-level restaurant. At the moment it is wildly popular, and consequently there is at times a wait for tables. The service is a bit disorganized, but the simply grilled steaks and lobsters are good. The dishes are a la carte with luncheon entrees from about $1.10 for hamburgers on a seeded roll to $3.25 for broiled Filet Mignon; dinner dishes from about $2.50 foe broiled swordfish steak to $4.95 for boneless sirloin. Coctails, wines. The house wine ($2) served in a pichet or pitcher is dreadful. Open 7 days a week.

David Johansen (Vocals - New York Dolls)
Excerpt from:
"New York Dolls Photographs by Bob Gruen"
Bob Gruen (2008)
When I was a kid, fourteen, fifteen, there were so many places where bands were playing. In the West Village, you had the Night Owl, the Cafe Au Go-Go, The Wha?, and the Bizarre. It was all set up. All you had to do was get your act together and show up. But then when I was 17, they made some kind of cabaret law, and all those places seemed to close down.

"Cabaret Zoning Faces Court Test"
New York Times - 01/22/67
The validity of a city zoning decision is being tested by the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, supported by the Fifth Avenue Association.

The insurance company has gone to court in an attempt to have nullified a recent zoning variance that would benefit the owner of a neighboring restaurant on Park Avenue South. The association, whose purview includes Park Avenue, also opposes the varience.

Guardian Life's headquarters is in a 20-story building at 201 Park Avenue South, at the northeast corner of 17th Street, just north of Union Square. It's next door neighbor is Max's Kansas City, a restaurant that occupies the ground floor of a five-story structure at 213 Park Avenue South.

The restaurant by day is a luncheon place for local business people. At night it swings with a "mod" young crowd and is a lively, bright spot in a deserted business area.

B. Michael Ruskin, who operates Max's, wants to provide dance music for his dinner patrons. This would put his restaurant in the cabaret class, but his neighborhood is not zoned for cabarets, a fact well known to Guardian Life. An application for a cabaret licence for the restaurant is still pending.

Guardian Life, one of the major companies in the Park Avenue South business District, has been a strong supporter of the general upgrading the avenue has undergone in recent years.

Street Renamed

The stretch of Fourth Avenue from 17th to 32nd Street was renamed Park Avenue South a few years ago to give that part of the avenue more prestige and zoning in the area was tightened under the new zoning resolution of 1961.

The area is in a C-5-2 zone, which limits it to a highly restricted commercial use. Restaurants are permitted, but cabarets that provide entertainment and dancing are not.

Cabarets are allowed only two blocks south of Max's Kansas City, where the area is in a less restricted zone, termed C-6.

The zoning variance was granted to the Coldover Realty Company, the owner of the restaurant's building, by the Board of Standards and Appeals which reviews applications from property owners for an easing of the zoning resolution. The zoning resolution is administered by the City Planning Commission.

The Commission in the past has charged that the Board issues exceptions to the zoning resolution too often. In seeking a variance, a property owner has to show that compliance with the zoning resolution would result in unreasonable hardship.

A spokesman for the Commission said officials of the agency were disturbed by the variance granted to Max's Kansas City.

Excerpt from:
"In and Out of Books"
by Lewis Nichols
New York Times - 01/29/67

The literary cocktail party is a legendary thing, perhaps more legendary to those who don't go than to those who do. It's purpose is to celebrate the publication of a book, allowing the author to mingle with his peers - and sometimes his critis - and in any event showing that someone, namely his publisher, cares.

There are big literary parties in hotel ball rooms and small ones in bookstores, and the other week there were two which somehow seemed to run the gamut by themselves.

The first of these was in honor of George Grotz, otherwise known as the Furniture Doctor, the most recent of his books from Doubleday being "Antiques You Can Decorate With." This was held in an upstairs room of Max's Kansas City restaurant on Park Avenue South, currently an "in" place, and a spot where Mr. Grotz felt he might meet some of his cronies. The upstairs room was equipped with a bar, cigarette machine, record player and a cloakroom where Max's waitresses change from civilian mini-skirts to working mini-skirts. The invitations read to bring any pieces of furniture the guests wanted refinished, and while the party was in progress, the guest of honor busily worked at repairing a footstool, a table, and a shaving mirror. An odor of shellac mingled with an odor of garlic and a smoke odor from a fire Max's had just undergone, and it all was a fine thing of it's kind.


Ace Frehley.Com to Launch 12/15/08

The coolest man on the planet - Ace Frehley - lays it down in 1977.

FINALLY...the Space Ace will have his own official website.
You can find it at: AceFrehley.Com
It goes live on 12/15/08 at 12:00PM (EST).
Go there now and check out the cool "Countdown" graphic...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Giving Up The Ghosts of the St. Adrian Company (NYC, 1968 - 1972)

"Officers and Sergeants of the St. Hadrian Civic Compan"
by Frans Hals (1633) (Graphic via
-The painting from which the St. Adrian Comapny derived it's name.

UPDATED: 12/08/2013

Let's hop back in the time machine once again. This time back to 1968. You step out at 673've been here before. This is the Broadway Central Hotel alright, in all it's decrepid, aged splendor. But 1968 is a bit too early to vist the Mercer Arts Center. That scene won't really take off for a few more years yet. "So", you wonder to yourself, "why am I here?" Looking down the street first one way, then the other, you spy another door off from the main entry of the hotel. You step forward, in the direction of this other door, pausing momentarily to take notice of the name "The St. Adrian Company" painted in nondescript lettering on the window to your left. You look over your shoulder one more time and then step inside...

The St. Adrian Company is/was another in the seemingly endless list of long gone/nearly forgotten New York City drinkinking/dining/socializing establishments of the late 1960's and early 1970's period. It was much more of an "Artist/Writer Hangout" than a live music venue. Some of these places give up their ghosts rather easily - through stories told as legend in numerous books, old magazine and newspaper articles, photos, audio recordings, and in some cases even video. And some of them are just so obscured by time that it is a real thrill to uncover any information about them at all. Such is the case (as I found it to be) with the St. Adrian Company. Google it. You won't find much other than a few small mentions here and there. But you want to know more. You always want to know more. So do I.

I was contacted recently by an individual who put me in touch with a few others, and with their generous help, I was able to pull some of the St. Adrian story out from the layers of a vanished time, from the deep recesses of the history of a New York City that is no more...

Welcome to the St. Adrian Company...

Jerry Houk (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Comapny)
Bruce [Bethany] and I met in Tokyo in 1954 and reunited in New York City in 1958.
Bruce Bethany (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
I had worked with Mickey Ruskin when he owned The 9th Circle bar/restaurant at 139 West 10th Street. When the original Cedar Tavern on University at 9th Street closed in April 1963, many of the artists drifted over to The 9th Circle.

When Mickey opened Max's in late 1965 (December 6th), those artists...John Chamberlain, Carl Andre, Bob Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Donald Judd, Niel Williams, Frosty Myers, John Clem Clarke, Brice Marden, Henry Geldzahler, et al filled the place. Andy Warhol's Factory was around the corner on 17th Street and Broadway and he soon commandeered the back room on street level as his own "salon" where all of his associates and hangers-on spent their nights.

My partner (at the St. Adrian Company) Jerry Houk had tended bar at Max's for a couple of years and he knew dozens of artists, photographers, odd characters, drunks, weirdoes, phonies...the usual mix of a trendy joint.

Max's packed them in...only problem was, Mickey was practically giving the food away, so that a hefty cash flow didn't generate profits and caused Max's to slip into debt. Many of those artists ran up humongous house tabs that ran up to a quarter million in total uncollectible money. It wasn't until '73 or '74 that in desperation, Mickey turned Max's Upstairs into a venue for rock music, about which he knew little, if anything. He hired Sam Hood with the help of John Cale to run the music thing. You know what happened at Max's then. Patti Smith, Ramones, Blondie, all the rest. And Hell's Angels. I don't know how, but Mickey glared them into submission, the little devils.

Excerpt from:
"Greenwich Village - Culture and Counterculture"
Edited by Rick Beard and Leslie Cohen Berlowitz
Chapter: "Something Glorious: Greenwich Village and the Theatre"
Author: Brooks MacNamara (p. 318)
...beginning in the fifties, the section of the Lower East Side adjacent to Greenwich Village began to aquire a certain cachet. In fact, it seemed to become, in many ways, what Greenwich Village had been a half-century before. Rents were undeniably cheap, and depending on one's point of view, the neighborhood posessed a certain tarnished charm. Artists and Avant Garde oriented galleries began to move into the area.

The neighborhood turned out to contain a virtually unnoticed treasure, the nations greatest surviving concentration of Cast-Iron architecture, and it would shortly achieve fame as SoHo. Like the East Village, SoHo was pioneered by artists in search of cheap space and a colorful atmosphere. Like the East Village, [SoHo] would become a kind of crucible for the arts in the '70's.

Bruce Bethany (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
The St. Adrian company got it's name from a painting of the same title by Frans Hals (see photo at top). When we found the bar in 1968, an adjunct of the Broadway Central Hotel at 673 Broadway between Great Jones (3rd Street) and Bond Street, it had lost most of it's clientele - workers from the small manufacturing lofts in the area that, in the usual dynamic of fringe neighborhoods, were moving away only to be replaced by artists, glad to find large space at low rent. I think the joint had been called the "Casino" when we bought it.

Jerry Houk (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
We found St. Adrian's through a broker. At the time it was called the "Broadway Central".

Bruce Bethany (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
The bar/restaurant, now for sale ($20,000 - with $800.00 monthly rent), was 30 feet wide by 110 feet deep with high ceilings, a 40-foot long bar, a spacious dining area, big well equipped kitchen, and sturdy Art Deco tables and chairs. The place dated back to the turn of the 19th century when Astor Place, LaFayette Street and Broadway were at the center of a thriving, prosperous community. By the end of the 1960's the vicinity had gone to seed, and the hotel was occupied by ex-jailbirds and homeless welfare clients. We closed the interior entry from the hotel lobby, making it an emergency exit.

Jerry Houk (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
We opened in November of 1968...

Bruce Bethany (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
...and were immediately beneficiaries of the symbiotic effect that a crowd hungry for an alternative place to hang out provided. Yes, we did give out bar tabs, but had a rigid cutoff point [which was] $150.00. You'd be surprised at the high dudgeon and bad vibes you get when you ask somebody to pay up. Oh, well, tough shit!

Above the bar was a large kitschy mural that we covered with an immense...6-foot-by-20-foot...oil on canvas by John Clem Clarke. John was doing his slightly modernized versions of Old Masters, and we had chosen Hals' picture (again, see the photo at the top), thus the name of the restaurant. One picture was called 'The Nuns of Haarlem', which is what the place would have been called if we'd chosen it. We didn't. [There was] a movement among certain artists to appropriate the past with a twist of irony. This idea didn't float for long, as we were on the cusp of minimalism.

Excerpt from:
"Art For Art's Sake"
Time Magazine - 02/28/69
Lately, works of art poking gentle, and occasionally savage fun at other works of art seem to be multiplying like guppies. Though these works sometimes look like literal copies, they are usually sly, even malicious comments about the nature of art and it's relation to reality. John Clem Clarke's stylized version of Frans Hals' "St. Adrian Militia Company", which hangs in a downtown Manhattan bar, is surrounded by a white line so that the staid, 17th century Dutchmen appear to be figures on a television screen. Clarke thus suggests that TV's ubiquitous eye has changed everybody's way of seeing reality.

Bruce Bethany (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
We attracted even more downtown artists...Bob Indiana, Robert Morris, Al Held, Dan Christiansen, De Kooning (who at this point only drank Ginger Ale), Pat Oleszko, Barnet Newman, Michael Heizer, Richard Serra, Nancy Graves, Marisol, Clem Greenberg, etc. We were also a hangout for actors. Sylvia Miles, Peter Boyle, Al Pacino, Sam Shepard, Eric Emerson and many others were regulars. I remember Pacino, one night in '71, telling me he was shooting a movie with Brando, and that "The Great One" would flip Al out by "mooning" him in the middle of a serious take.

I also recall Rip Torn, playing "MacBeth" at the Mercer Arts Center, with Gerry Page as his lady. He would come in to St. Adrian's on days when they had a matinee followed by an evening performance. Rip would knock back 5 or 6 straight shots of Tequila and then go back out to "Lay on MacDuff!" I don't know how he managed it - a real trouper.

New York Times - 08/04/73
In recent years the [Broadway Central] Hotel housed a complex of six theatres at it's rear known as the Mercer Arts Center. The hotel went through still another phase in the late 1960's and early 1970's when a restaurant in the building, called the St. Adrian Company, became a hangout for hippies, many of the apparently affluent...

Jerry Houk (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
Add these names...Malcom Morley (painter), Dennis Hopper (actor), Warren Finnerty (actor), John Hammond (blues musician and the firstbaseman on the St. Adrian Company softball team), Lane Smith (actor), Carlo Ponte (producer), John Holtberg (painter), Seymour Krim (Beat Generation author), Billy Sanderson (actor), David Amram (musician) and Janis Joplin.

Yes, we had a ball team. We played Max's many times and the Actors' Studio [team] - some of their players went on to do very well in film and stage work.

Joan Silber (Author, former St. Adrian Company employee)
Excerpt from:
"The $ Question with Joan Silber"
I began my fabulous waitressing career [at] Max's Kansas City (a hotbed of Downtown Hipness at the time), was fired after six weeks, and went on to work for years in a Max's spin-off called the St. Adrian Company. I didn't want to have a regular job and anyone could live in New York without earning alot [of money] then.

Jerry Houk (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
Many said we were like Max's. And in some respects that is true. We had more raw energy than Max's and we were a bit wilder. We were more in the mold of the original Cedar Street Tavern.

Ed Siejka (Frequent St. Adrian Comapny Patron)
I remember two bartenders...Charlie was a musician and Larry was an artist who I used to run into in the East Village.

Bruce Bethany (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
Charlie Turin, who was [also] a waiter at the 5 Spot, and later worked with me at the 9th Circle, played sax, having studied with Jimmy Giuffre. Larry...I can't remember his last name...drifted into drug dealing and disappeared. Danny Kohn, another bartender, later opened a restaurant on 19th Street near 6th Avenue called "L'Acajou", which did well for some 20 years then closed. Joel Fisher, another barman, is an accomplished artist with studios in Paris and Vermont. Pat Oleszko, a waitress, became a very prominent performance artist and is still highly regarded. Joan Silber, another waitress, has become a successful novelist, having won the Hemingway Prize for a first novel and was recently short-listed for the National Book Award. Jennifer...? Another waitress, from Australia, married William Friedkin the film director. Elaine Grove, also a waitress, had a succesful career as a model and sculptress, and married the artist Dan Christensen. Judy Steig, wife of musician Jeremy Steig, was also a waitress. She later worked for years at Bradley's on University Place, and then married Wes Joice who owned the Lion's Head on Sheridan Square.

Harry Lewis, a writer/poet, tended bar and ran poetry readings on Sundays. Paul Blackburn, Joel Oppenheimer, Paul Pines, Grace Paley and many others performed regularly. There were others [as well]...

Ed Siejka (Frequent St. Adrian Company Patron)
From 1968 - 1973, I attended college...wanted to be a writer and lived in the Village. Needless to say, I met many an interesting character. I did hang out at the St. Adrian Comapany as well as numerous other bars including Hilly's before his place became CBGB, Max's, the Spring Street Bar, the Broome Street Bar, and the Locale, which Mickey Ruskin fronted.

When I first began to frequent St. Adrian's...early 1971...there was no dancing. [There was] a jukebox in the middle between the bar and the dining area...sort of divided the place in two sections. [There was] no TV at St. Adrian's. It was a mellow crowd - artists, poets, soft music, a lot of conversations. About the time Bruce sold his share of St. Adrian's in March 1972...there was dancing and music provided by the Magic Tramps.

Sesu Coleman (Drums - Magic Tramps)
Excerpt from:
Private Conversation with Author - 06/08
You know what a lot of [music and NYC] historians don't reference is a club we helped introduce music into and never got much attention that was called "St. Adrians". We helped get a music scene [of sorts] going in that bar, which was quite large inside. We lost it in the Mercer Arts Center collapse too!

Excerpt from:
"A Pinch of Moog, A Dash of Light"
Village Voice - 03/30/72
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.

Ed Siejka (Frequent St. Adrian Company Patron)
However, with the dancing came an entirely different crowd. The only band that played there was Eric Emerson and the Magic Tramps. I recall speaking to Eric Emerson and found him to be a nice guy - friendly and approachable. The Magic Tramps performed in a way that was uniquely theirs...a somewhat chaotic sort of combination of Rock, Gypsy and Country. The music always got you up on your feet, but like everything else in life, some people did not care for their type of sound.
(*Unthinkable! Blasphemy!! Listen to the Magic Tramps Kick Ass HERE.)

Jerry Houk (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
We had a great time with Eric and his band. He was a great one to be around as he was always "up". I wonder how he did it??

The only other band that played at St. Adrian's were the Brooklyn Blues Busters - they could get it on! John Hammond, who had a loft close by, would often jam with them as well as David Amram on his French Horn.

Ed Siejka (Frequent St. Adrian Company Patron)
During it's heyday, the St. Adrian Company was packed to the wall. The place had a large bar and despite this, you would have a hard time approaching the bar to get a drink. I usually had a hamburger, but, I tell you, it was really good!

Jerry Houk (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
It was the waitresses with the short skirts who helped bring people back as they were all pretty AND bright.

08/24/72 Village Voice (St. Adrian's, NYC, NY)
08/24/72 Village Voice

Bruce Bethany (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Commpany)
I don't think beer was more than 50 or 60 cents. Mixed drinks were under a dollar.

We did great business for 3-4 years and then things slacked off as other places opened in SoHo, and Fanelli's was discovered. In March 1972, I offered to sell my half-ownership to Houk, and he agreed [to buy me out]. Not long after I left, Jerry started booking in bands for the same reason that Mickey did [over at Max's] not long after - business was slow and it needed a goose. Of course, this drew in a totally different crowd and the [old] regulars disappeared.

When I left St. Adrian's, we did a little traveling and the I had to find work, so I took a job as bartender/manager at a cabaret called Reno Sweeney on 13th Street. It opened in 1972, and for several years was THE cabaret in NYC where many significant performers honed their chops.

Jerry Houk (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
I closed [St. Adrian's] in October 1972. There were many reasons for the closing. SoHo coming into it's own was only part of it. The hotel turned into a halfway house for drug users, pimps and an assortment of those just out of jail. They would hang out in front and intimidate people coming in [to the bar].

Bruce Bethany (Co-Owner - The St. Adrian Company)
Jerry hung in until October 1972 and then he finally gave it up. The building collapsed the following August. (Read about the August 3, 1973 collapse of the Broadway Central Hotel HERE.)

Read "St. Adrian's Last Call" from the 10/19/72 issue of Village Voice HERE.

Postscript... is nearly midnight and after a tasty hamburger and a few too many drinks, you stand and begin to head for the door. The bartender (What was his name? Charlie? Danny?? Whatever - he was certainly a nice guy anyway) calls after you..."Hey, Buddy, have a great night! Stop by St. Adrian's any time!"

And as the door closes behind you, you somehow know that sooner or later, you'll be back...

Update: 12/08/13

Very Special Thanks to reader Richard Schuster for sending in this photo of 3 original circa 1970-1971 St. Adrian Company matchbooks!

The St. Adrian Company Matchbooks (1970-1971)(Richard Schuster Collection)

If you visited, frequented, hung out, ate, drank or worked at The St. Adrian Company between 11/68 - 10/72, PLEASE add your thoughts, comments and memories in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and special thanks Sesu for "hipping me to the place" and to Ed, Bruce and Jerry for sharing your memories...

12/24/58 - 11/30/08 RIP Munetaka Higuchi - Drummer, Loudness

Loudness drummer Munetaka Higuchi
(Photo by Hiro_Photo via

Another Drum God has been silenced.
Munetaka Higuchi (of Japan's most famous metal-export Loudness) passed away yesterday (11/30/08) after battling Liver Cancer. He was 49 years old. Full details at