Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Trude, Trude, Trude...

TRUDE HELLER’S--418 6th Avenue (SE corner of 9th Street and 6th Avenue). Sometimes spelled “Trudy”; having never seen an original ad for the place, I’m stumped on the actual spelling, but I’ll go with the majority rule here. This club had a 20-year life span, but its legend looms large mainly for its ‘60s pedigree. It was originally called Trude Heller’s Versailles Club (the earliest reference I’ve found dates it to 1960), but the name was soon eponymously shortened—and throughout the decade, the place had a rep for raucous, crowd-pleasing music and frenzied go-go dancing. Brewster and Broughton's Last Night A D.J. Saved My Life (New York: Grove Press, 2000) and this interview with Jimmy Castor state that the place went by the name Trude Heller's The Trick (spelled Trik in Last Night a D.J.), but I have not seen it referred to as such anywhere else.

So who was Trude Heller? I haven’t been able to dig up much personal info on Trude, save for what I recently read in Genya Ravan’s memoirs, Lollipop Lounge (New York: Billboard Books, 2004). Back when she was still Goldie Zelkowitz, Ravan performed at the club with her first two groups--the vocal/doo-wop-oriented Escorts, and the groundbreaking girls-only Goldie and the Gingerbreads. She describes Heller as an out lesbian with an intimidating “tough cookie” demeanor. “She required rockers to rock—no ballads. She’d go crazy with rage whenever we sang a ballad. I’d look down from the stage and see her getting angry, then she’d run over to the light switch and start flicking it on and off, screaming, “C’mon! C’mon! Let’s twist already! Let’s twist the night away! Come on, baby, let’s do the f**kin’ twist!...All she wanted was action and for the place to rock.” She also required a lot from her performers—Ravan describes a schedule of “six 45-minute sets a night, with half-hour breaks in between.” In addition to running the club, Heller produced/promoted big concerts at other venues (such as the Supremes at Lincoln Center) and started a record label, Tru-Glo-Town Records. With her son Joel, she co-owned another equally wyld club on 8th Street called the Eighth Wonder (as told to the Spectropop yahoogroup by Alan Gordon, songwriter and member of the Magicians, post # 20101).





Trude's featured live music interspersed with discotheque interludes. Go-go dancers of both genders twisted, frugged, and jerked with abandon all night long, encouraging customers to do the same. Ravan writes, "[T]here was even a gay boy, dressed very campily, twisting on the wall. The walls had handles on them for the dancers to cling to, and even ledges for them to stand on...between the dancers and the patrons, everyone doing the Hully Gully, the Swim, or the line dance, the place was one big sweat box, a real circus, loud and hot." Francis Grasso, later a prominent NY club dj, was one of those dancers, though he's likely not the gay boy to whom Genya is referring. He describes the dancers' duties as "20 minutes on and 20 minutes off, and you could only move your ass from side to side because if you went back and forth you'd bang off the wall and fall right onto the table you were dancing over." When asked if the club was "ritzy," he acknowledges, "Kind of. Kind of like date oriented. Very few recorded records...It was the hardest 20 dollars I ever made in my life. I'm going home, my muscles were killing me." Other dancers included Kathleen Cano and the folks referred to here. Ravan adds that there were no dressing rooms, so performers had to change in the customers' restrooms--often choking on the noxious aerosol hairspray fumes of primping female patrons. Across the street stood the notorious Women's House of Detention, whose inmates would catcall to Ravan and presumably many of the club's other comers and goers.


A multitude of bands played at Trude's, and of course I can only list a few notables. Chief among these for me, and dearest to the hearts of garageniks everywhere, would have to be Boston's Barry and the Remains. Their late-1965 residency at Trude's led to an appearance on Ed Sullivan's Christmas "shew" accompanied by some of the club's dancers (go-go action was rare on Sullivan--dig the evidence here or here), and eventually to a slot on the Beatles' final tour. Joey Dee and the Starliters received high praise from Peter O'Toole when they played Trude's in 1965: "When I was in that bloody desert making Lawrence of Arabia, your record was my only link to civilization." [Peter Criss was drumming with the Starliters at that point. Speaking of celebrities, George Hamilton and his then-steady gal Lynda Bird Johnson were photographed at the club that same year. And according to one of Walter Winchell's last Variety columns in 1968, "Salvador Dali showed up at Trude Heller's Greenwich Village fruggery with his pet ocelot for his date."] A Floridian girl group called the Sandpipers had an engagement there in mid-1966, backed by the Allman Joys, which featured young Duane and Gregg Allman--and they "shared the stage with the likes of Otis Redding, Ben E. King, and Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs," according to this great article. [The Sandpipers also snagged a contract on Tru-Glow-Town Records, an offer curiously not extended to the Allman Joys. According to Ralph Scala of the Blues Magoos, "We made friends with them when we were first touring in Florida. We brought 'em up to the city. They couldn't get into any of the clubs we played. They had to play at the disco clubs. You had Trude Heller's and the Eighth Wonder. They only played cover music. So, that's how you got discovered in those days."] Other performers with Trude's gigs include Lothar and the Hand People, Childe Harold, the Soup Greens, the Rock-Itts, the Angry (a.k.a. the In Crowd), the Progressions, Curtis Blandon, Baby Huey and the Babysitters, Rod McKuen, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy, the Magic Tramps, and Gandalf. Supercool memories and memorabilia about Trude's and other Greenwich Village clubs of the day are available at Chuck Harris' (a.k.a. chazzsongs) blog--particularly chapters 11, 13, 14, and 27.

Based on what I've managed to Google, it seems that by the early '70s the club's policy turned more towards disco/funk and campier, cabaret-type acts like Holly Woodlawn, Blossom Dearie, and Manhattan Transfer--not to mention female impersonator Arthur Blake. I'm not even certain if the real Ms. Heller was still involved in running the place by then. [Side note: a Robert Christgau consumer guide from 1974 reports that the club was cited for several health code violations.] But rock and roll did still rear its ugly head at the club from time to time, such as the 1975 debut of Lance Loud and Kristian Hoffman's band the Mumps (opening for Cherry Vanilla), a 1976 gig by early "no-wavers" Danger, and occasional shows by the Shirts. Supposedly Trude's was used for some location shots in the 1977 film The Magic Hat. The club is listed in Punk Magazine's "Summer 1979 Punk Club Guide" with a 2-star "DJ-Dancing-Expensive" rating. Here's a circa-'78 photo of a band called the AllStars posing on the club's front steps (click on the photos link, then on the Seventies link). The most recent references I was able to find were for gigs in 1981 by the Beastie Boys (in their punk days), Reagan Youth, the Agents and Even Worse (this last site states that the club's name was changed to the Playroom for a while)--so I'm guessing the place met its demise around this time.
[UPDATE 5/31/2010: Someone did leave a comment about this a while back, but I just found a date for a show by Gang War, featuring Wayne Kramer and Johnny Thunders--December 29, 1979.]
According to the fun NY Songlines website, in the 1920s there was a gay bar called Paul and Joe's at 418 Sixth Avenue. The building now houses a mainstream brewpub called the Greenwich Brewing Co., along with an Italian restaurant called La Scatolina on the lower level.


UPDATE 7/20/2006: These restaurants were closed as of May, 2006. A comment left on gothamist.com states, "when this apartment house was built in 1901, the Greenwich Savings Bank was on the first floor."

UPDATE 9/28/2007: According to recent posts on Spectropop (#38435 and 38459), a Florida group called Tommy Strand and the Upper Hand put out a dance-craze 45 inspired by the club, entitled "The Trik" b/w "The Trik-INSTR." (R 1515, Ramot Enterprises, produced by Tom DeCillis).

UPDATE 5/26/2010: NYCDreamin' of This Ain't the Summer of Love found a 1967 scrap book at a flea market a while back, and one of the pages featured a Trude Heller matchbook and handbill.

UPDATE 5/31/2010: Just found this tidbit about it in the April 27, 1967 issue of the Village Voice: "And uptown, Trude Heller opened a new discotheque. Most amazingly dressed was six foot plus model Donyale Luna." A pic of her dress was printed on the front page, but the reproduction in the Google archives is not very clear. The location was at Broadway and 49th Street, according to a mention in Andy Warhol's Popism: The Warhol Sixties. Apparently it was this uptown branch that was called the Trik--pardon my confusion above, but I completely missed this bit of info when I was first researching this post! It gets a further mention in a June 22, 1967 Voice "Scenes" column about the expected summer influx of teen hippies: "Trude Heller, owner of the Trik, says if the hippie invasion becomes critical, she is considering making a place available for a Sleep-In. 'After hours, the Trik would be used for supervised sheltering of the hippies until they find other lodging or return home.'"

UPDATE 6/1/2010: I just saw a large ad for the Trik in the May 11, 1967 issue of the Voice. I wish I could copy an image of it, but the best I can do is relate the ad copy verbatim: "Be-in at Trude Heller's Trik, 49th and Broadway...That's where it's at...NOW! Tune up, turn on, keep time and create your own psychedelic lighting effects. Be in-sight, out of sight, in 5,000 Reflecto mirrors. All live up-tight sounds. Stompin, rompin, moovin [sic.], groovin, dancin, prancin [and no apostrophes--Ed.], nightly 8.p.m., Sunday matinee 2 p.m....The dancing arena for ages 16-100. Tel. 765-1430." That week's bands included the Indian Nuts, Rocky and His Friends, and a special "switch-on" on May 12, 13, and 14 with the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble. There was also a "Wild Freak-Out Dance Contest" that week
.
UPDATE 6/1/2010: Found a picture of some Russian ballerinas getting their go-go on at the Village Trude's in 1965
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UPDATE 6/3/2010: Having finally figured out how to get the ad images, I posted a whole mess of Trik ads here.

UPDATE 11/16/2011: Here's a revised and improved post with 1967 Voice ads for Trude Heller's Trik.

UPDATE 12/29/2012:  A deli called Lenny's currently occupies 418 Sixth Avenue.  The club is mentioned a couple of times in Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir (New York: Atria Books, 2012)--one of her early bands, Flyer, played there.  Page 68-9: "We had our first NYC gig at the famous music club Trude Heller's.  I don't know whether they paid us or not and I didn't care, because it was the first time that people sat and listened to us because they wanted to.  A lot of places in NYC didn't pay, like the Bottom Line...Even at CBGB, the owner, Hilly Kristal, wasn't such a sweet pussycat type of guy.  He didn't pay anybody either...They were all cheap--they squeaked when they walked.  They weren't very nice."  Page 75: "After I [got my singing voice back], I got a gig singing at Trude Heller's.  What I loved about it was that it was a nightclub (now it's gone) where people didn't pick up each other but really sat and listened to music.  All of a sudden, they really heard the things I was doing...I wanted to sing like an instrument.  And people noticed it and actually liked me.  So when I got a taste of that, I told myself I wanted to keep playing in Manhattan and stop doing cover material."  One of the people who caught her act there was John Turi, with whom she soon formed Blue Angel.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am Trude's granddaughter.. if anyone wants to talk to me please email me @ aheller6699@yahoo.com

Chazz said...

I performed at Trude's and you can read all about it and see a photo of Trude's profile on a matchbook in my eBook "The Musician...see you among the stars at http://chazzsongs.blogspot.com/ begining at Chapter 11.. Joel Hellers club The Eighth Wonder too. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

During the Summer of 1969, in fact, right around the time of Woodstock, my brother and I attended a big folk festival held at the NY State Pavillion. Performers included Tin Hardin, Tom Paxton, Odetta, The Incredible String Band, and many more. For those of us who weren't able to make it up to Woodstock, it was the next best thing!

Steve said...

I was a bartender at Trude Heller's. I am tall. There were large round glass balls with lights inside above the bar. Trude always yelled 'don't touch my balls' when I did. Manhattan Transfer played there when I worked there.

Anonymous said...

The show with Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin also had The Chambers Brothers on the bill. I was there. I know. Not certain of the date. It could have been 1968 or so.

ShuttlePilot said...

I worked at Trude's in 1972. Frankie Paris & Company were the house band -- alternating with a guest band for long sets every night.

Carol Lou and Billy were two fabulous dancers on the wall at the time, and the place still jumped although it's glory was beginning to fade.

Trude was tough on the outside with a soft heart on the inside and took me under her wing when she found out how young I really was (lied about my age because I needed the job).

It was one of the best times of my life, and I wouldn't have traded it for the world.

Really enjoyed finding your blog!

Cheers.

Kevin Cannon said...

I bartended and then managed trude's place in the 70's early 80's

She was a character and I loved her..The greatest show was when a group of us promoters etc brough johnny thunderrs back from sweeden and one night in Dec 79 ?....i put on Johnny Thunders "GangWar" with
"Wayne Kramer" (MC 5)..Indescribable night...
kevin Cannon

Claude said...

Anyone would be able to give me ANY details regarding Mrs. Coco Colos, who was a Mistress of Ceremony (as I was able to find) at Trude Heller's? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I can confirm that Led Zeppelin did play the NY State Pavilion at the World's Fair grounds, altho I can't remember the date. All I can remember was being up over the stage, crammed in with thousands of kids, mostly girls, all standing up and going crazy. Robert Plant had long shaggy hair, he was wildly shaking his head as he blasted out "Communication Breakdown", and we all jostled for space to see the band.

Anonymous said...

around 1980 my friend's band, The Volcanos, were made the house band, and were allowed to run the place several months. the drummer Sami knew Trude's girlfriend (Lady B)- both were from Paris- and at that time the club was practically closed. Trude liked their band and seemed to just want her place to rock again. She didn't impose any financial obligations, and we had a great time. @1981 Trude brought in a former protogee, who was then running an afterhours club, which is when it was called The Playroom. That's when Johnny Thunders played there-an incredible night. My second year in NYC.

Bruce jenney said...

I worked for Joel and Trude Heller from 1967 for about 5 years both at the 8th Wonder and Trude's. It was one of the best times in my life.
The group I had was called Soulosophy and we played original music. Trude was very good to me and got me TV spots as well as letting me stay on vacations at her home in Palm Beach. I have to disagree with some of the statements by other people. All the years I worked for her most of the music was from original artists. She was fun to be around as was Joel.

Anonymous said...

I worked all of 64 as a dancer and had great time ..was there when savadore dahli came in gave dance lessons to georgepeppard elisabeth ashley fran allison she got me a job with clay cole dancing at the worlds once got 300 in tips from a mafia lt that frequented both trudes and the eight wonder he tip every employee three hundred in cash band bartenderrs waiters everyone we changed in the kitchen and got free food

Anonymous said...

I worked all of 64 as a dancer and had great time ..was there when savadore dahli came in gave dance lessons to georgepeppard elisabeth ashley fran allison she got me a job with clay cole dancing at the worlds once got 300 in tips from a mafia lt that frequented both trudes and the eight wonder he tip every employee three hundred in cash band bartenderrs waiters everyone we changed in the kitchen and got free food

Autumn said...

JOEL HELLER IS MY FATHER, IF ANYONE WANTS TO GET IN TOUCH WITH HIM, EMAIL ME OR FIND ME AND OR HIM ON FACEBOOK UNDER AUTUMN HELLER OR JOEL HELLER, HE IS ALIVE AND JUST AS SHARP AND HANDSOME AS EVER! HE IS LOOKING TO CATCH UP WITH OLD FRIENDS...

HIS LOVING DAUGHTER, GRANDAUGHTER OF TRUDE-

AUTUMNHELLER@GMAIL.COM

kathy said...

I used to go the eighth wonder in 1968-1970...so many good times, dancing to Soulosophy, and just looking forward to seeing the regulars there. My friend Mary, Yondo and myself had many good times there..

TheHandballDiaries said...

While attending the Institute of Audio Research in '78 I hooked up with a glam band with a member also in that school. They drafted me as soundman. These guys had a regular slot at Trude's. I was familiar with The Academy of Music, CBGBs, but had never heard of this club. I had seen The Heartbreakers and The Dolls, none of which prepared me for what was Trude's place. My 1st night was an eye opener! Insane fun, but the scene was too heavily into Tuinals and heroin by that point, partially fuelled by a late 70's reefer drought. Sid and nancy ring a bell? By 1980 the scene was so depressing. And Jagger glorifying the decaying scene, "...givin it away on 7th avenue."I was soon on a flight to Cali for brighter options. I cherish those times, though I am not sure why.

Unknown said...

I was the DJ at Trude Hellers when it closed down. I was fiends with the Volcanoes and with Gino Rose, who worked at the club and sang with the volcanoes. The Bad Brains played there as well as many other good punk acts at the the time. There was an Australian bartender named Nerida as well as well as a bouncer named Travis from TX. Trude was partners with Rena from the Nursery in the East Village at the time. It all ended one day in the early 80's when I showed up for work and the padlocks were on the door. I never got my turntables or records back. I assume the old cow sold all my stuff to pay off her debts. Would love to hear from any of the above.
Serge Lozach
Wrkbx30@gmail.com.
We had a good time though.

Anonymous said...

Am a NYC transplant living in Renton, WA. not far from Hendrix's cemetery. When I was fifteen,back in 1979, me and my guy would come dancing here after smoking a "J" with the late Charlie Barnette. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi my dad has come across several "Trude Heller" poker chips or entrance chips. Im not real sure what they are actually. Is there anyone on here that can help me figure out what they are please? if so please email me @ virginia.myers831@yahoo.com thanks so much for any help or suggestions.

Kevin said...

The below post is Totally WRONG...Trude's protege was Rena Heena ,but she was not involved with the club..and it WAS NOT the Playroom at that time..I ran the club still at that time and the woman called in to help run it was Joyce a NYC publicist who was writing (supposedly) a book at the time to include Rena Heena which is why Rena was there.And yes,Lady B and her brother were there(Living upstairs in Trudes crash pad apartment)..The Playroom people is what brought downTrudes and financially bankrupted her..Trude caved in to Lady-B's desire to turn Trudes into her personal playground and brought in people like the model Pat Cleveland to host afternoon High tea and all this outdated crap & it absolutely busted trude..trude was also financing and supporting Lady-B's expensive tastes (taste ? she had none) FYI-Johnny was my friend and myself along with several other promoters brought johhny back from Sweeden to play various gigs,of which trudes was one and it was 1979 NOT 81 ..get your facts straight..i doubt you were even there..

Anonymous said...
around 1980 my friend's band, The Volcanos, were made the house band, and were allowed to run the place several months. the drummer Sami knew Trude's girlfriend (Lady B)- both were from Paris- and at that time the club was practically closed. Trude liked their band and seemed to just want her place to rock again. She didn't impose any financial obligations, and we had a great time. @1981 Trude brought in a former protogee, who was then running an afterhours club, which is when it was called The Playroom. That's when Johnny Thunders played there-an incredible night. My second year in NYC.
8:16 AM

JohnG said...

The poker chips were used to buy drinks. If you bought a drink for someone and they had a drink in front of them the bartender would give them a chip to use to buy a drink later. I just found one . . . it's what made me do a search to see what there was about TH and 8th Wonder on the internet.

Anonymous said...

Did he own a club in Palm Beach? Early 70's.

Freddie Meister said...

It was between '79 and 82 when I saw The High Heeled Women with wonderful Zora Anderson at Trude Heller's late one night.

John Buck said...

1) "I’m stumped on the actual spelling, but I’ll go with the majority rule here"

The comments from those who recall the place / worked there confirm it, as does the exterior photo, here:
http://i685.photobucket.com/albums/vv217/BillBurgess/Burgess%20Family/img233.jpg



2) Re: Poker Chips reference above. A bartender could confirm, but in that era, many clubs placed a poker chip in front of your drink when someone bought you one / backed you up

Jeff L. Lieberman said...

Does anyone here remember Nina Simone peforming at Trude Heller's? Would have been sometime in the late 50s, early 60s. Trying to determine dates and any other interesting anecdotes for a documentary film currently in production.
Many thanks,
Jeff Lieberman
Jeff@re-emergingfilm.com

Anonymous said...

Hey! I was the Bass Player with Frankie Paris in the house band at Trudie's in the late 60's. We called ourselves Purple Haze. And I remember the dancer... Carol Lou very well. She was so talented making her own dance costumes even!! Frankie was a real good friend often bringing me home to his pad in Bklyn where he, his wife and young Frankie... the cutest little boy I ever saw lived. Sadly Frankie passed on several years ago and I don't think I will ever recover from the shock of his too early demise.

Old geeser x-bass player;

Jim Kirby

Anonymous said...

ps if anyone wants to chat you can email me at .

looie[at]pa[dot]net

Jim Kirby... Frankie Paris' Bass player with Purple Haze

Anonymous said...

I had several raucous filled years w Trude and Lady B both in Manhattan, and Trudes Fire Island home in the summers around mid 80s. Yes, it seems Lady B (who was more intoxicated than eccentric) certainly had a persuasive hold on Trude. Trude, although I didn't know too intimately, had a tough exterior, but was a warm heart. It appeared that Lady B was draining her financially. Lost touch by the by. I hope she is well. She seemed to have a constitution that could endure forever.