Friday, October 05, 2007

A few Doll houses

I'm currently working my way through Kris Needs' and Dick Porter's Trash: The Complete New York Dolls (London: Plexus, 2006). It's somewhat more detailed than Nina Antonia's fine Dolls bio of a few years back, particularly on the individual members' pre- and post-Dolls activities. As any good New York rock and roll book should, it discusses some of the jernts where it all went down--and so I'll summarize a few of those discussions here. I've covered a few of these places already, but will offer some Dolls-centric updates to those previous entries.

QUINTANO'S SCHOOL FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS: "Although they weren't full U.S. citizens and thus had no need to beat the draft, Syl and Billy enrolled at Quintano's--a well-known Fame-style school located behind Carnegie Hall that groomed students for careers in the performing arts. 'It was sort of like a school for young professionals,' explains Syl, 'a lot of cool people came out.' (One of whom was Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las.)" [p. 25] While students there, the pair formulated their groovy knitwear company, Truth & Soul. Syl also got a job at a hip men's shop called The Different Drummer, located at 63rd and Lex. "Right across the street from that shop...was this toy repair shop upstairs. It was called the New York Doll Hospital. That's when I first thought of the name...I thought it was a f***ing great name!" Seems like Quintano's was one of those only-in-New-York, only-in-the-'60s-and-'70s institutions, replete with liberal applicant-acceptance policies and lax attendance requirements. Other students associated with it include Bernadette Peters, Andrea Feldman, Rick Derringer, Steven Tyler (who described it as a "school for f**k-ups like myself where you just had to show up to graduate"), and some members of the Left Banke (whose management thought it prudent to re-enroll them in high school as a sort of draft-dodging measure--learned this tidbit off the leftbankism yahoogroup).

NOBODY'S--Not sure where this was, but it was one of the young Dolls' favorite bars. Needs writes that it was "described by Jayne County as a hangout for 'young guys from Queens who wanted to be Rod Stewart.'" [p. 36] [UPDATE 1/16/2008: Two folks have informed me that Nobody's was located on Bleecker Street.]

ENDICOTT HOTEL: A welfare hotel at 81st and Columbus--located near Rusty's Cycle Shop, a bike shop in whose basement the early Dolls frequently rehearsed. Around Christmastime 1971, workers at the hotel were organizing a party for the residents; they heard the Dolls jamming across the street and asked if they'd play in exchange for free food. "Faced with a mainly black and Puerto Rican audience, the Dolls launched into a set consisting of covers such as Otis Redding's 'Don't Mess with Cupid,' 'Showdown' by Archie Bell and the Drells, and other R and B covers. 'They got a real hoot out of it,' recalled Johansen. 'We were terrible, but we felt real proud.'" [p. 39] First and last gig with Rick Rivets and without Syl Sylvain, who was in London at the time.

HOTEL DIPLOMAT: "By May 1972, the quartet had gathered sufficient confidence to make their live debut at a proper venue. This took place at the Palm Room, a basement club housed beneath the Hotel Diplomat on West 43rd Street. At the time, the room showcased rock groups, but it would later become a popular gay disco hangout where Gloria Gaynor was inaugurated as the Queen of Disco in 1975. 'We found out about this benefit for this anarchist that was coming up, a "free somebody" programme at the Hotel Diplomat,' David told Melody Maker in 1978. 'Some kid who had another band told us about it, and we said, "Get us on it!" We didn't play the benefit for political reasons--we played it because it was a gig...That was the first time we ever got dressed to play...just a nice pair of pants and a nice shirt. We got a great response. There were a couple of people from the music business there--Danny Fields for one told me he thought the band were great, and all this heavy stuff, so I figured we would stick to it."...On 29 May, the Dolls made a return to the Palm Room, under the banner 'An Invitation Beyond the Valley.' The event was partly organized by Warhol's organization and featured Jackie Curtis as support...[T]he Diplomat gig would mark the beginning of the Dolls' ascent towards occupation of the niche vacated by the Velvets at the nexus of the Big Apple art/rock confluence...Support at the Palm Room came courtesy of Shaker, who featured Jerry Nolan on drums." [pp. 44-45]

MAN COUNTRY: The band's next gig was at this Brooklyn gay bathhouse--address unknown. "On the first night the band dragged up for the occasion, but most of their potential audience opted to carry on f---ing. The next night they wore leather, which intrigued the revellers sufficiently for them to emerge from their booths." [pp. 45-46]. Syl described this as their first paying gig in a 2005 interview for Creem Online.

MERCER ARTS CENTER: Home of the band's star-making residency, housed in a former grand hotel that would famously collapse in 1973. Thoroughly well-documented elsewhere. [The Modern Lovers opened for the Dolls' '72 New Year's Eve gig...I simply adore the audience member who can be heard marveling "He REALLY means it!" on the live recording of this!]

MY FATHER'S PLACE--19 Bryant Avenue, Roslyn, NY. "A former Long Island bowling alley, which had been converted into a 400-capacity bar and concert venue by promoter Michael Epstein. " [p. 89] The Dolls played there on August 14-16, 1973, returned on April 15 the following year, and possibly did an early '75 date as well. [I hope to attempt a more thorough write-up at some point, but don't hold yer breath...]

THE WALDORF-ASTORIA: "On 30 October [1973], the Dolls hosted a triumphant homecoming Halloween party at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Grand Ballroom...NBC News reported that a thousand or so punters, some ticketless, smashed the glass doors to pour into the venue." The costume contest (judged by Tommy Tune among others) was won by "a Mae West look-alike and a fan who'd dressed as an exotic alien to win the prize of a night on the town with the Dolls." [p. 96] (The runner-up won a night for three in a Newark motel.) Bob Gruen's All Dolled Up DVD features footage from local CBS news coverage of this event, including blast-from-the-past reportage from Jim Jensen and Joel Siegel.

ACADEMY OF MUSIC: "Mercury stumped up for some promotion and David recorded a radio advertisement that featured him declaring, 'Man, I'm getting tired of seeing your face every night this winter. There's one thing about this winter. We've got the New York Dolls coming to the Academy of Music on Friday night, February 15. We got our own St. Valentine's Day Massacre, honey, since all the deco got stacked up. That's this Friday, honey. You better be there.'...Almost as soon as the Dolls launched into their customary opener, 'Personality Crisis,' the sound system cut out. After a short delay they stormed through a triumphant homecoming..." [pp. 115-6] View part of Bob Gruen's "Lipstick Killers" short, as screened before this gig, here.

CLUB 82: "This had been one of Manhattan's most glamorous drag venues between the 1940s and late sixties, playing host to a bevy of transvestites and female impersonators. Latterly, 82 had lost some of its sparkle once such establishments could operate openly, but still employed a team of lesbians to man the door and bar. In keeping with the spirit of their surroundings, the Dolls dragged up more thoroughly than usual...The Miamis supported and acted as the Dolls' 'gentleman dates.' 'That was the only club that we ever did anything like that, really devised shit,' recalls Sylvain. 'It was run by this lesbian woman who was gorgeous, called Tommy, and ran it like a brick shithouse. It looked all tropical. The Copacabana goes gay, if you will. The center of it was the actual stage, like a square. Completely around the stage was the bar. We would hang down there. The prostitutes were on Tenth Street and after their work hours they would go down to Club 82 and drink down there. They would have like drag shows and performances...Tommy never used to want [rock & roll bands]...But business was bad for them. They needed new fun and excitement again. That's where the New York Dolls came in. They still talk about what we did at Club 82 because it was the most exciting thing going. It came at a time when the Dolls had been on their way up and then on their way down and this was sort of the valley of their career.'" [pp. 118-9]

LITTLE HIPPODROME: Needs' account of the Red Patent Leather shows pretty much reiterates others I've heard, but he also notes that the Hippodrome had a capacity of 2000--somehow I didn't conceive of it as being quite that large. Check out the fab poster at, and actual video on youtube!


thombeau said...

Hmm, Chicago has a Hotel Diplomat, a Man's Country, and an Apollo theatre. All have seen better days!

jukeboxgraduate said...

Also attended Quintano's, and tells plenty of stories onstage: Jesse Malin.

Apparently when he was attending there was some teenage prostitution ring being run with the students.

Peter Crowley said...

There may have been a Nobody's in Queens, but I'm pretty sure the joint associated with The NY Dolls was located on Bleecker Street next to Kenny's Castaways. It was owned by a girl named Annie who'd been a waitress at The Cafe Rienzi on MacDougal Street in the early '60s and was patronized by the rock'n'roll elite of the late '60s / early '70s. (In the summer of 1964, Annie, Gram Parsons and I shared an apartment on East Houston Street while Gram had a residency at The Rafio Cafe with his bluegrass band, The Shilohs.)

francesca said...

I am a Quintano, I was looking around to see if my aunts in Ny were doing anything about the school and its rememberence, I started searching. Leonard Quintano was a wonderfull man, we loved him very much, so did steve tyler, he said to us that if it weren't for my uncle aerosmith would gave never exicted. It was a fabulous one of a kind school. And if you ever want info, I am the direct heir to the school
-Francesca Quintano

Groovey Records said...

I new Johnny from Jackson Heights, Elmjack little League and Newtown High School. We both ended up at Quintano's.

I saw the Doll's many times but one of my first recolections was in Queens after the band had a little notoriaty,. It was on Roosevelt ave and 61st street called Coventry. They had a good promoter for a while and they brought in some good bands.

ANyway late as usual the band came into a crowed bar and shoved their way into the back with their equipment dressed in their stage/street clothes alienating every local in the bar.

Then Frenchie came out cap guns blasting away.

The Band kicked it and mayhem broke loose

Real hot and sweaty

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Anonymous said...

Hey I also attended Quintano's. Class of '72. Great times---no prom we all went to Rye Playland instead. I remember Nobody's also, not my scene, we thought that was the Anglophile crowd.
My Father's Place was always fun. Saw the original Toots and the Maytals/Heptones/Big Youth there.
The Heartbreakers played a couple of very good shows there also.
Cool writings.

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I saw the Doll's many times but one of my first recolections was in Queens after the band had a little notoriaty,.
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