Monday, May 16, 2005

Yesterday...And Today, at the "Tent of Tomorrow"

NEW YORK STATE PAVILION--in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, situated northeast of where the Grand Central Parkway and the L.I.E. intersect. It's a crying shame that one of the few structures deemed fit to remain from the 1964 World's Fair--a Philip Johnson-designed building, no less--has been left to such derelict, decrepit rot. There's pipe-dream talk of using the structure's bones as the basis of an Air & Space Museum. More likely it will meet the same wrecking-ball fate as the old Aquacade/Amphitheater--but I hear a new pool is slated for construction at that site, so who knows? For historical background and pictures of the Pavilion past and present, click here, here, and here.

This page is particularly informative on the brief late '60s/early '70s period when the Pavilion was actually in use, first as a cultural institution, then as a roller rink called "Roller Round." Seems like a few rock shows were held there in '69. Steppenwolf, Spooky Tooth, and Rhinoceros shared abill on August 1-2, 1969. Charles Aybar, who worked at the building during that time and is frequently quoted on the page, believes the Byrds played there, but I found no reference to it on a Byrds info site. Similarly, the Grateful Dead is listed here as having played the Pavilion on July 11 and 12, 1969--but I couldn't find a reference to these shows elsewhere. This and other Led Zeppelin websites list a mystery March, 1970 show, but I'm highly dubious--no exact date is cited, and there'd be no logic to an open-air show in cold March when they were easily headlining the likes of Madison Square Garden by then.

[UPDATE 9/28/2007: An exiled Brooklynite named Lewis recently hipped me to the following: "Yes there was a Led Zeppelin show at the Pavilion. I know because I was there. I think the '70 date is wrong, it was more likely '69 since it was early in their career, the same time period when I saw them play at Central Park. And it could have been March because it was not an open air facility, it was definitely indoors. I almost certainly was stoned but I definitely would have noticed if I was outdoors, as opposed to being indoors." Now, this blows my mind. Were temporary walls erected inside the Pavilion during the concert era? Or was the round snack bar building adjacent to the site--later converted into the Queens Theatre in the Park--used for the rock and roll shows?]

[UPDATE 12/15/2012:  Jeez, so embarrassing. Obviously I dropped the ball here--but when I put this post together seven years ago, I guess there weren't many super-comprehensive Zep sites around.  August 29 and 30, 1969!] 

But I'm quite sure about this one, and boy do I wish I could have been there--David Peel and the Lower East Side, The Stooges (apparently in their NYC debut), and the MC5 on September 3, 1969! Here are some eyewitness accounts from Please Kill Me by McNeil and McCain, p. 63 (New York: Grove Press, 1996):

Steve Harris: Iggy looked at the audience, picked his nose, somebody threw a beer can, Iggy threw it back, sang a couple of lines, somebody threw another bottle, the bottle broke on the stage, and Iggy rolled around on it and cut himself all over the place...Alan Vega: The Stooges launched into one of their songs, and the next thing you knew, Iggy was diving off the stage onto the concrete, and cutting himself up with a broken guitar. It wasn't theatrical, it was theater...but with Iggy, this was not acting. It was the real thing. Iggy's set ended in twenty minutes, and somebody had the f**kin' genius to play Bach's Brandenburg Concerto through the speaker system. The audience was throwing bottles and roses at him. I swear it was beautiful...It changed my life because it made me realize everything I was doing was bullshit...the MC5 were one of my favorite bands, but I couldn't watch them after the Stooges. They knew it, too. They were just boogying their ass off all night trying, but baby, they knew they were outdone by Iggy.

And here's some further reportage from Clinton Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids (New York: Penguin, 1993):

On 29, August 1969 both of Detroit's arch-exponents of garage-rock shared a New York bill, at the State Pavilion in Queens. Though the Stooges would later make some of their most infamous appearances in New York, on this occasion they were watched by just a small enclave of New York rock fans who had come to see what all the fuss was about with these Detroit punks. Iggy's final act before leaving the stage was to pick up two drumsticks and "cut long welts into his chest with the tips of the drumsticks."

I know of no other Pavilion shows, and certainly none as cool as that.

After the roller rink operation was shut down, and the unstable fiberglass roof panels were removed rather than repaired, the building was pretty much left to its own devices. I have fond childhood memories of roller-skating and bike-riding over the New York State map on the Pavilion's then still-smooth terrazzo floor (now hopelessly cracked and weed-strewn), and my older brother used to regale me with tales of climbing the towers and making mischief on the observation deck. One of my high school friends had a brother in a band that briefly had a major label contract; I'm "senior momenting" on the band's name, but I distinctly recall that their CD longbox featured pictures of them inside the Pavilion. The site's photogenic potential was also realized in The Wiz, Men in Black, and the video for They Might Be Giants' "Don't Let's Start." But the ravages of time, weathering, vandalism, and neglect have taken their ostensibly irreparable toll on the "Tent of Tomorrow." The Pavilion has been fenced off from public access for many years, and only the most intrepid or morbidly curious of urban explorers dare go beyond the gates. Few ruins have ever looked so anachronously futuristic.

[UPDATE 5/14/2010: I went to see Iron Man 2 last night, and much to my surprise a CGI restoration, or should I say re-imagining, of the fairgrounds plays a major part in the film!!! The Unisphere and particularly the Pavilion are prominently featured, as is a scale model for the so-called "1974 Stark Expo," which was basically a replica of a '64 World's Fair scale model as far as I could tell. See the Bowery Boys and the NY Daily News for more details. And here's a report about current efforts to restore the Pavilion.]

[UPDATE 6/17/2010: Here's an ad for the 1969 season from the 6/5/69 issue of the Village Voice. It's a tad incomplete, so I'll keep looking for revised versions of the ad in the archives.]

[UPDATE 6/25/2010: Here are more 1969 Pavilion ads.]

[UPDATE 11/15/2010:  I recently finished Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), and among its many delights is a 1969 piece about the Pavilion entitled "Summer of Love in Queens."  It's a review of a Joe Cocker/Grateful Dead show held there, and includes this description of  the milieu:

At the Pavilion, it soon became evident that the rest of the crowd shared our expansive mood.  They kept coming in, thousands of happy kids--almost five thousand by the end of the evening.  The Pavilion was large enough to accommodate everyone without strain.  The ground level served as a huge round dance floor; on the balcony there were tables and chairs, the food concession (the main culinary attraction was tacos, a beautiful idea, though the reality was mediocre), and a nice view of the park.  The atmosphere was totally relaxed.  As in the San Francisco ballrooms, people were free to dance, crowd in front of the stage, sit in a corner, wander around, eat, or do whatever impulse dictated.  There were no intrusive guards or cops.]

[UPDATE 3/15/69 issue:  Revised and improved post on 1969 Pavilion ads here.]

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Flushing the Bowl

My husband and I usually stay at a certain Manhattan hotel when visiting NYC, but it's all booked up this week, so we have a reservation at a new Ramada in Corona, my real hometown--overlooking scenic Grand Central Parkway and Shea Stadium. I've got to spend lots of time with what's left of my family (my mother passed away recently), so it's more convenient for my pops anyway. The hotel's proximity to Flushing Meadows Park (more pics/info here, here and here) is prompting me to ponder past rock and roll action in the area. I'll start with a long-lost hotbed of hippiedom:

(Via The Bowery Boys.)
SINGER BOWL--At the northern edge of Flushing Meadows, near the Shea Stadium/Willets Point stop on the 7 train. The Singer Bowl was an open-air stadium built for the '64 World's Fair and apparently sponsored by the Singer sewing machine company. Seems it was used primarily for sporting events until the late '60s, when it became a major venue for big summer rock shows. Some notables who played there:

The Doors, with the Who and the Kangaroo as openers, performed on August 2, 1968--an event which caused a riot, though of course volatility was not uncommon at Doors gigs (or Who shows for that matter!). There's a ticket stub for sale here, and the Doors' setlist for the night can be read here.

[UPDATE 5/14/2010: Quite a bit of footage from the Doors show wound up in When You're Strange, as shown on PBS the other night. Not so much of the band performing, but you do get to see Morrison mingling with some people in the crowd before the show (including a guy selling Who programs), and of him backstage comforting a girl who got hit with a chair during the melee. I tried to see if there was more on youtube, but no dice...however, I did find audio of "Light My Fire," and of the Who's whole set.]

Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Jimi Hendrix Experience were the big draws on August 23, 1968. This show is often called the New York Rock Festival, but I've seen the Doors/Who show referred to as such also--perhaps this was an overall title for concerts at the Singer that summer. I'm not absolutely sure who else was on the bill, but it may have included the Soft Machine and the Chambers Brothers, if this guy's memories are correct. Audio and video of Hendrix's set has been well-circulated among Jimi-philes.

[Oddly, this August 23 date conflicts with a reference I found for a bill featuring Country Joe and the Fish, the Byrds, and the 1910 Fruitgum Company.]

[UPDATE 5/25/2012: I just found some vintage reviews and photos for this show at a French Hendrix fan forum.  And a lady who attended the show recently posted a couple of Janis snapshots at the "You Know Your [sic.] From Flushing" FB group.]

Two of the NYC-area's finest, The (Young) Rascals and the Vagrants, shared a bill there on August 30, 1968--here's a ticket stub.

The Singer Bowl Music Festival happened on July 13, 1969, and appears to have been the heaviest show in the stadium's history. I haven't seen a copy of the full bill, but based on various websites I've perused, it included the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Raven, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Vanilla Fudge, the Jeff Beck Group, and Led Zeppelin--plus a jam session (no late-'60s fest was complete without one) comprising various members of those last three bands.

Later that summer, Poco, the Chambers Brothers and Albert King shared a bill on August 23. On August 29-30, Zeppelin played the Bowl again, with support from Buddy Guy and Foreplay, which featured Larry Coryell, Cream's Jack Bruce, and Mitch Mitchell from the Hendrix Experience. The Jimmy Castor Bunch played the Bowl in the early '70s, but I can't confirm the date.

On July 4, 1973, the Bowl was rededicated as the Louis Armstrong Stadium, a fitting tribute to Corona's most famous longtime resident. A concert in honor of what would have been Satchmo's 73rd birthday was held there that summer (presumably on August 4, though I haven't confirmed the date), featuring Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Eubie Blake, Gene Krupa and other jazzbos. But the stadium's days as a music venue were numbered. In 1978, Armstrong Stadium was adapted for use as a tennis facility called the USTA National Tennis Center, and it became the new home of the U.S. Open (formerly held at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills--a place with its own musical legacy, to be discussed in a future entry). Armstrong Stadium still stands today, albeit in a much-renovated form; it serves as a supplemental facility to the larger Arthur Ashe Stadium, which was built beside it in 1997. Thousands still flock to the area every summer--but instead of rock and roll, they're more likely to hear grunting tennis players, balls whacked against racquets, and the otherworldy hum of the Fuji blimp circling overhead.

I'll cover more of Flushing Meadows' musical happenings next time.

[UPDATE 5/23/2010: Why I failed to learn about or mention the important role that Gary Kurfirst played in all of this until just now is a mystery for the ages.]

[UPDATE 6/17/2020: Here's an ad for the 1969 season from the 6/5/69 issue of the Village Voice. It's incomplete, so I'll keep looking for revised versions of the ad in the archives.]

[UPDATE 3/15/2012:  Revised and updated post on Singer Bowl and NY Pavilion ads here.]

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Go Go forth

All this talk about go-go-ing inspired me to investigate a NY club which incorporated one of thee key phrases of the '60s in its name. Might be a bit of a misnomer as I don't believe go-go dancing took place there...but if you ponder the original French derivation of "a-go-go," which as I understand it means something like "galore," "as much as you like," or "to the nth degree," you can see how the appellation applies to this venue. The list of performers who graced its stage represents a staggering gathering of grooviness...galore!

CAFE AU GO GO--152 Bleecker Street. Owned by one Howard Solomon, about whom I know next to nothing except that he also managed Fred Neil, and passed away on June 3, 2004. The name certainly conjures images of fringed, frugging females, but this club was more serious, offering a varied mix of blues, jazz, folk, stand-up comedy, avant-garde performance and film, and, by the late '60s, psychedelia. Presumably established sometime in the early '60s (couldn't pinpoint an exact year), the club was on the lower level of a building which also housed the Garrick Theater upstairs. I had a hard time finding descriptions of its atmosphere until I came upon an interview with Greg Shaw, author of The Doors on the Road. This fellow is not the same Greg Shaw of Bomp/Mojo Navigator legend--he has more of a New York background: "My brother and friends frequented the Cafe au Go Go in Greenwich Village, which was a long rectangular club that couldn't have accommodated much more than 100 people. The stage dimensions were so narrow that the bands practically played into the opposite wall while the majority of patrons were seated on either side." He may be a little off on the seating capacity, which most accounts gauge at 300 or so. Still, that's quite small in relation to the caliber of many acts who enjoyed bookings there. [On the other hand, when big names played there, they were usually booked for several nights in a row, two shows per night.]

Johnny Ace, NYC blues bassist, has fond memories of the place:

I think the Cafe Au Go Go on Bleeker Street in the West Village was my favorite place to go hear blues. They didn't have a liquor license-so no liquor. This meant that at the ages of 15, 16 or 17, I could go in and see Muddy Waters with Otis Spann. I would also see James Cotton with his great band: the late Luther Tucker on guitar who played with everyone in Chicago (Sonny Boy Williamson II too, Little Walter, etc.) the late, crazy Alberto Gianquinto on piano who told me he had a try out with the New York Baseball Giants when he was 16, Francis Clay, Muddy Water's x-drummer, the gentleman of the blues who dressed so elegantly in his suits and scarves and who played so great on drums, and little Bobby Anderson, the heart beat of the group on bass. Bobby had a heart of gold and was my mentor. When I first met him at the cafe Au Go Go, he asked me if I was hungry and took me outside for a hot dog. I got to know them and I would get into all their gigs at the Au Go Go and the Fillmore East for free.
[Side note: A while ago I read somewhere that a more dance-oriented club operated in the building from the mid-to-late-'60s--maybe it took over the Garrick Theater's space? I cannot recall the name of this phantom club, and lately I haven't been able to find any references to it on the web, in books, or in my notes. Maybe I dreamed this factoid, or I'm thinking of some other place. A senior moment at 34? I'll have to dig further to find out...]

George Carlin, Lily Tomlin, and, most infamously, Lenny Bruce (apparently with Tiny Tim as the opening act), were among the innovative comics who wowed 'em at the Au Go Go. (These links offer more details on the Bruce obscenity trial.) Andy Warhol premiered his film Harlot at the club on January 10, 1965, and in October '65 Nam June Paik screened one of his earliest video works there. But alas, it's music which concerns us most, so here are just a few of the musicians with CAGG gigs under their belts:

Stan Getz with Joao and Astrid Gilberto on August 19, 1964, which resulted in a live album, Getz Au Go Go (Verve). (See the front and back covers here.)

The Blues Project were practically the house band throughout '65-67. Their Live at the Cafe Au Go Go (Verve/Folkways) was supposedly recorded during the "Blues Bag," a series of shows over Thanksgiving weekend '65--an event which yielded another live album on Folkways, Living Legends, featuring Son House, Skip James, Bukka White and Big Joe Williams.

Speaking of live blues albums, John Lee Hooker was backed by Muddy Water's band for his own Live at the Cafe Au Go Go, released on ABC-Bluesway in 1967.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band played a few shows in July 1966.

John Hammond, Jr. enlisted the back-up aid of Jimmy James and the Blue Flames during some Go Go gigs ca. 1966. The Flames were simultaneously booked at the Cafe Wha? over on MacDougal, so they'd have to hightail it between the clubs to make their sets on time--can you picture Jimi Hendrix running down Bleecker, guitar case in hand? Randy California, later of Spirit, was also in the Flames, but was too young to accompany Hendrix on his star-making journey across the pond. Hendrix later headlined at the Au Go Go in July 1967, and occasionally sat in on after-hours jam sessions there when in town, like this one from March 17, 1968.

Folkies at the Au Go Go included Fred Neil, Tim Buckley, Tim Hardin, Tom Pacheco, Dave Van Ronk, Ian and Sylvia, Richie Havens, Chuck & Mary, Joni Mitchell, and the Au Go-Go Singers, a folkie troupe which included Stephen Stills and Richie Furay.

On to the rockers and psych-meisters. Here's a short list--click on the links for specific dates and other pertinent details if they're available.
  • Blood, Sweat & Tears (or, as my old buddy Bruno used to call them, the Excretions).
  • The Jefferson Airplane
  • Country Joe & the Fish
  • The Youngbloods (see also this article).
  • Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, though some of these shows were upstairs the Garrick Theater (with Sandy Hurvitz, a.k.a Uncle Meat)
  • Procol Harum
  • The Doors
  • Cream (see some pics here and here. According to an article on by Little Steven, "I first saw Clapton with Cream, at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York in 1967 -- sort of. I stood outside. It was sold out. I couldn't get in. But you could see them -- the band was right in the window. And it was loud, even outside." Hmm...was the stage set-up similar to that of the Lakeside Lounge?).
  • The Nazz
  • Moby Grape
  • Them
  • The Grateful Dead (who evidently didn't care for the place. According to an excerpt from Blair Jackson's Garcia: An American Life published here, "That place was really strange," says Laird Grant. "You're jammed into this brick, low-ceilinged tube — this room — where they served ice cream and everyone was sitting down instead of dancing like we were used to. That was a weird trip..." "We hated the Cafe Au Go-Go," adds Mountain Girl. "It was all painted black inside and it smelled really bad. The ceiling was about 7-feet high; you could reach up and touch it. It seemed like we'd come a long way for such a small gig. The stage was tiny and all the equipment had to be wedged in there.")
  • Rhinoceros
  • Soft White Underbelly (precursors to Blue Oyster Cult)
  • The Fugs
  • The Jagged Edge
  • Silver Apples
  • The Chambers Brothers
  • The Godz [News flash: the Godz' Paul Thornton has been doing some musical stuff lately with two former members of the Left Banke, according to the leftbankism yahoogroup. He's also been establishing an acting career and word is he'll appear on The Sopranos next season--I wonder if the aforementioned Li'l Steven helped him get that gig...]
  • The Paupers (opening for Cream) and Luke and the Apostles (two bands from Toronto's Yorkville scene).
Cafe Au Go Go closed sometime in the early '70s. The space was reopened as the second location of the Gaslight, which had moved its operations from 116 MacDougal. (Apparently in the mid-'70s there was also a strange private club called the Cockroach Club in a loft on an upper floor of the building). I'm not sure how long the Gaslight Mk II survived, nor am I sure what occupies the site now. But I'm visiting NYC next week, and if I get a chance maybe I'll take a ghost-stroll down ol' Bleecker.

[UPDATE 5/24/2005: It appears that the original buildings at the southeast corner of Bleecker and Thompson Streets were torn down and replaced by an apartment building which, judging from its architecture, was probably built sometime in the '80s. The ground floor of this building has a few storefronts facing Bleecker; the one occupying 152 is a nail salon.]

[UPDATE 1/14/2010: I've recently made the e-mail acquaintance of a fellow blogger named Corry, co-author Rock Prosopography 101 and a couple of other blogs devoted mainly to exploring the lost venues and bands of the Bay Area. His purview often reaches beyond the West Coast though, as in this fine roundup of practically every gig known to have taken place at the Cafe Au Go Go. Corry has heaped much praise on yours truly, but my efforts pale in comparison to the research skills of him, his co-author "The Yellow Shark," and his friend Marc who compiled the list. Bravo!]

[UPDATE 5/23/2010: Check out psychlops' post delving deeper into the background history of the Au Go Go/Garrick Theater building, at his blog They're Dancing in Chicago, down in New Orleans, Dead-icated to exploring various Grateful Dead venues.]

[UPDATE 11/16/2011: I posted a whole bunch of 1967 Cafe au Go Go ads from the Village Voice here.]

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Still more Trude references

Accidentally found a couple more references to Trude Heller's in the January 1965 issue of Harper's Bazaar yesterday:

Diane Pine, eighteen-years-old, is a hugely talented young dancer. She currently performs at Trude Heller's, in Greenwich Village, whose style and beat match her own. Diane's style--very hip--manifested here in a raisin brown zipsuit--worn with a white turtleneck ye-ye sweater and a sailor cap...Lada Edmund, at seventeen masterminds a full-blown dance-singing-literary career that includes the Broadway stage, television and columning. Here, she dances the Blob at Trude Heller's with pro Tino Valentine, exhibiting her own look--described as Beatle: ribbed ye-ye sweater, repp tie, checked knee shorts.

Zowie! I don't know what became of Ms. Pine, but Lada Edmund--Lada Edmund Jr. to be precise--is well-known to '60s nuts as the caged go-go gal with furiously flinging fringes on Hullabaloo. For personal reasons I don't feel comfy linking to her fansite, but it's easily googleable--you can also look her up on, and the fab Go-Go-Ology website. Found out an interesting factoid myself--I knew she'd recorded some singles on Decca, and was in a few movies in the late '60s and early '70s, but darned if she wasn't in the original cast of Bye Bye Birdie as well.

Speaking of the Great White Way, two other Hullabaloo dancers, Michael Bennett and Donna McKechnie, went on to become Broadway legends with A Chorus Line. But the H. dancer I'm most curious about is the heavyset gal with the semi-beehive. You really didn't see women of her non-stick-figure size shaking their moneymakers on TV in those days, and she could really move--wish I knew her name.

I'd long assumed Hullabaloo was made in L.A., but according to Station to Station: The History of Rock & Roll on Television by Marc Weingarten (New York: Pocket Books, 2000), it was taped at NBC's Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, the same studio of SNL and Toscanini fame. "Despite Hullabaloo's strenuous attempts to put a temperate face on rock 'n' roll, the atmosphere inside Studio 8H...was always thick with sexual tension. Apparently, many of the show's participating rock stars just couldn't keep their paws off Hullabaloo's go-go dancers. 'The NBC executives used to send memos down to the set about how they would find prophylactics in the bleachers,' says [Gene] McEvoy [the show's set designer]. 'The show was taped in a Brooklyn studio during the last season, I think, because NBC just wanted to get rid of us.' Hullabaloo lasted about as long as Shindig, but its eventual cancellation in August 1966 was more like a mercy killing." True, the show as a whole was more square than Shindig or some of the other more local teen rock & roll programs of the time--but those Hullabaloo-a-Go-Go segments, inevitably featuring a caged Lada Edmund Jr. rivaling Candy Johnson for hyper hip shaking, are once and future bastions of boss.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Trude redux

I was perusing the 1965 microfilm reel of Harper's Bazaar at the library yesterday, and was particularly drawn to the April '65 issue, a veritable pop art spectacu-larrrr. 'Twas loaded with a multitude of breathtaking Richard Avedon photos (many with the lens focused on Jean Shrimpton), references to Roy Lichtenstein and Bridget Riley, a cool Tom Wolfe article on how the elite were emulating bohemian behavior (I think the title was "Pariah Styles"), and a fun article on the metabolic and muscular benefits of go-go dancing entitled "Frug That Fat Away" (which included a testimony from Killer Joe Piro), among other delights. Best of all were some photos on page 183 of Pamela Tiffin, beauteous brunette of the '60s silver screen, caught in mid-gyration at Trude Heller's. I'm sure I've seen references to Trude's in a couple of '60s Vogue issues as well, but I wasn't smart enough to write the dates down at the time--ah well, now I have an excuse to wade through Vogue microfilm again someday when I have the time.

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 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
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.