The Bar Project: Voices from an Artists' Community

by Francie Lyshak

Francie Lyshak Brad Ellis Evan Lurie Joe Vojtko
Bette Bourne Steven Harvey John Lurie Tony Nunziata
Ray Dobbins Gary Indiana Larry Mitchell Bill Rice
  Allen Frame Richard Morrison  
 

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Photograph by Ande Whyland

Lavinia Coop

Performance Artist

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Lavinia:  Before the Bloolips came to New York in 1980 or 1981, we had developed as a theatre group.  We'd done a tour where we'd saved up enough money to buy a ticket to come over for each of us. Betty Borne had saved the money and said, "Do you want to go to New York or here's some money?" We said, “Okay we'll take a gamble”. This meant when we got here we had to find little jobs or do things to manage.  Danny was deaf, so he couldn't work or anything.  There were lots of different issues. Betty had to try to make work for us. There were six of us. There was Betty Borne, Diva Dan (who was Daniel Barrett), Precious Pearl (or Paul Shaw), Naughty Knickers (or Nikki Phillips who played the piano).  Then there was Gretel Ferber, Stuart Feather, and me, Lavinia Co-op. We'd already done the show for a good year touring the Festivals of Falls.  We had done our own tour for three months plus.  It was in England and in Europe, Germany and Holland.   We'd got on the Festival of Fools tours. There were so many countries that we'd gone to that we had all these different currencies. We put it all together and said, “Okay let's go over there.” We got here on a wing and a prayer in a way. We posted luggage to somebody and got through to the U.S. There were these loft space bookings.  I think it was Peggy Shaw’s and also Martin Worman’s. We did it all with just neon house lights.

There was a queen, we called her Wendy Wattage.  She just wanted to come.   She wasn't part of the show. She was young.   She is dead now. She did the lights and sounds. We had some wine for people, but she got so drunk.  There were no real lights. There was not much for sound either. When we got to the part where there was a blackout, we just went over and pulled the string for the neon lights. But it went across. And people couldn't believe it. It was because we were strong. We’d done the show to death. So out of it George Bartineff came and so we got a booking at Theater for the New City. We went up there and the only show they had was at 12:15 at night. They've had 2 shows go on earlier. There was an 8 o'clock and maybe a 10 o'clock show. There were 5 different theater spaces up there. This was in the basement in what used to be the swimming pool. It was an old Baptist Church with a swimming pool in the basement. With the rake in the swimming pool, the rows of chairs could go back. The stage was on the ground. We went in there and put up our set and we took it down every night.  It went across well. We weren't making a fortune at it. We had to get other work. I remember working for a thing called Lend-a-Hand. It was a cleaning company. It used to be called “Lend a Fag.” And I did that.

We used to come out of the Theater for the New City and walk down Second Avenue. The theatre was on Tenth or Eleventh Street, opposite the church on 2nd Avenue. We come out of there at about about 1:30 to 2:30 at night. For us this is late.  We walked down to The Bar where we got noticed and known.  There were six of us, so we could infiltrate and network. And there were a few English people that were here anyway who we could stay with. Danny stayed with Gordon Howie. To go into that bar was just a revelation. It hadn't been open long, I think. This was in 1980/81. You’d go in that bar and it was so gay and out front, really real. People were very real with each other. You know, I was a bit like the wallflower and kept back a bit. But I could see people would go over to each other and say, “Do you want to fuck? Let's go home.” There was no beating around the bush. “I fancy you, let's do it.”  If not, there was a toilet. But you had to be quick in there, because there was only one of them. They'd be smoking joints in the bar. Even in Larry Mitchell’s book, The Terminal Bar, they’d pass the joint along the bar. It developed over the years that you couldn't really smoke a joint at the bar. A long time later there was no smoking at all in the bar. Then you could get a dollar joint. You could always buy one. You could always get a little smoke. Of course the drinks were strong for us. They really pour a double vodka, compared to the English bar. So that's where we met a lot of people, the downtown theater kind of people. This was an eye-opener to see this. We were at the Theater of the New City. There were a lot of other theater spaces in that area.  There was the Amato Opera.  There was the Jean Cocteau Theater. On 4th street there were loads of theatres, including LaMama and WOW, a women’s collective. Also there was The 82 Club, a sex place with a very long history.  It had a real flavor. Phoebe's was on the corner of 4th Street and the Bowery and was kind of a hangout. You'd eat there sometimes. It was a very trendy place. In that bar, there were lots of things. So gay, gay, gay. Women were in that bar. Julia Dares was there. It was a mixed lesbian, gay bar.  You could stand at that window in the bar and watch the traffic go down 2nd Avenue, hear the fire alarms.

Francie: Did you encounter people there that were particularly memorable to you?

Lavinia: I remember Jackie Curtis going in there once or twice and people pointing her out. And then there was Larry Ray who was Mme. Katrina Sovinchaia.  She started the Trockadero. That's Larry Ray (original Trockadero). Madame Katrina Sovinskya. We used to call her Madame Stolichnaya He wasn’t in drag, but certainly he might wear a cowboy hat or something very grand. He would pop in there. People like Ethyl Eichelberger wouldn't necessarily go to the bar.  Ethel Eichelberger, a performance artist, was a bit of a worker, did other things. That's where I met Larry Mitchell and Richard Morrison. Bill Rice was a big influence. A big warmhearted, encouraging person. He could see where we were coming from, where we were at. We were doing like a music hall, vaudeville, variety kind of the show. It was a bit of song and dance. The one we came with was called Lust in Space. 

Francie:  I remember.  It was brilliant. 

Lavinia:  We did that three month tour. Then we went back to England.  We came back to the U.S. and we managed to get a visa to come and work at the Orpheum. We did four months at the Orpheum, eight shows a week. We went to San Francisco and we did two months there, eight shows a week. It was at the Boarding House. Coming back and doing that, it was like the ‘cream in the candy.’

We went bankrupt in the end. We managed to pay ourselves. But then we didn't do the whole thing.   You needed to invest a lot of money and have a long year of doing it, before you could get your money back. Of course, you'd have to invest in publicity, such as the Village voice. You'd have to pay for everything. Of course you were hiring the theater, which cost so much a week. So there was a whole company started and we did a whole thing where we had to go straight. We had Frank O’Looney as a manager. Betty said, “You've got a have somebody who’s our friend, who is going to be the manager, whose American.” They had their manager that was an American. Then we could understand what was going on. That was good. That was difficult for us to do eight shows a week, but we did it. We got loads of people coming. I remember a queen used to come pretty regular. She knew all the lines. She'd sit there with her sixpack and carry on drinking and having a ball. It wasn't packed houses, if you look at the overall thing. I remember later on, with the AIDS thing. We came back again other times, 1983 I think, and 1984/85. I'm thinking, “Oh where is that one? Oh no, she died. She caught a pneumonia and within 3 weeks she was dead. Oh, really quick.” No one really knew what was going on.

Francie: I have to say that I'm shocked that the company went bankrupt. I remember sitting in one of your performances in the audience. It was packed and the audience was just completely enraptured with what was going on. It was one of the top theater experiences in my life. It was so superb. It's interesting to me; because when something is that good and it still goes bankrupt, what does that tell you about the art world or the theater world?

Lavinia:  I'm trying to stick with The Bar and Bill Rice. Going up and down 2nd Avenue, people knew you. You knew people.  It was unbelievable--2nd Avenue and 1st Avenue.  You'd bump into people. You couldn't avoid bumping into people.  There were so many people going.  Avenue A was much more difficult. I remember me and Danny got a little apartment on Avenue A and it was like, "This is scary." We got this apartment.  We rented it. We just managed to get from A to 2nd Street.   “It isn't too bad,” they said; but if you went down to Avenue B and looked down there, there'd be all kinds of carrying on. Danny used to walk and because he was deaf, he'd be very visual. He'd look at the people who were on the tops of the roofs of the buildings, thinking “What are they doing up there?” Perhaps he fancied them. Whatever was going on, he didn't know. We had to say to him,   “Look Danny, don't do that; because they're watch-outs for the drug dealers.” This was what New York was like. We’d come over and we'd spend a month getting over the vibe. It'd take you a while to get used to it. You'd always be looking on both sides when you're crossing the street. You'd always be checking where you were going, making sure there was no one on the street. They taught us how to behave. “If there is no one on the street, don't go down there. If you don't like it, then cross the road. Go back.  If they want your money, hand it to them.” Little things that taught us:  “Don't make contact. Keep going where you’re going. Act like, “I'm busy.  What do you want.” There was that edge.  This was New York to us. This was somewhere else.   It was a wild thing. 

During the 70s probably and drifting into the 80s was another thing, coming down Second Avenue. The Saint opened at some point--the big disco. One of our friends was doing décor in there. He said,  “Help me do some of that, help painting and things.” I thought, “Look at this space. This is an old theater converted.” The stage had a big dome on it, a big planetarium dome. You went in there and they danced and danced. On the outside of it was a balcony.  You could look into it. Of course, there was the carrying on in the balcony. Below that was another whole room that was another kind of the disco. Apart from the coat check, there was the bar in different places. I never went. We weren't really into clubs. But I couldn't believe some of the going in there. There was the double parking of the limousines. Then they came out with triple parking.  Me and Danny would look at some of them: “My God, look at her getting out of that car, standing there. Other cars are waiting, all waiting to get in.” What a trip that was.  They probably paid a fortune. That was amazing because it was something so different or separate to the theater world.

Francie: Yes, you had all these different things going on. There was The Saint and the amazing gathering there. Then you had Avenue B and Avenue A, where you had these heavy scenes with drugs, guns. It was dangerous. Especially if you're gay, it was very dangerous. If you are gay or even if someone thought you were gay.

Lavinia: Same with women!

Francie: Yes, it was dangerous for women to walk alone at night. Are you kidding me, alone?  Forget about it. Then you had this theater scene on 4th street and   Theater for the New City.

Lavinia: Second Avenue was really easy, no problem. All the restaurants, like the Kiev Restaurant.  The Kiev was such a fabulous American place to me, an all-night diner. You could get a cheap bowl of soup and challah bread and you could afford to get things there.

We went back to New York City and made another show called Sticky Buns. It might've been 1982–83. That was much more of a cabaret style show. The previous one was more of a storyline--Lust in Space. Lust in Space was us going to the moon and meeting Russians on the moon. It was written by John Taylor. We called him John-John.  John made a big influence. For our first show, the Ugly Duckling, we were like a collective of people all writing different things. Well, John was able to put it together and wrote some of the scenes and wrote some songs for it. One or two others wrote a few bits for it. He was able to stage it too.

Betty kept it together artistically. Betty had come from out of that collective, that hippie thing. Betty wanted to say, “I'm Bossy Betty because I've seen how collective things don't get done and there is no general line through here.” So he had to dominate and be the artistic director. He did get people to bring their performance up and stuff like that. Of course, when we went back, John and Betty weren't getting on. So we got together another sort of caberet of stuff that we'd used with Marge Mellow, Babs Your Ankle, Danny, Precious Pearl, Diva Dan and the pianist, Martin, Bella Martine and Bette Bourne.

Francie:  Then along came AIDS and people started disappearing.

Lavinia:  You’re right.  This was the beginning of people all getting ill. Generally over that whole time, you could always go to the clap clinic and get antibiotics. You were constantly getting gonorrhea, and STD’s and syphilis. The syphillis was a bigger injection. I remember coming here and we were going over to the clap clinic on 8th Avenue and 27th or something. As time was going along, some people were getting amoebas, which was a parasite. There was this whole new development with being gay--with this incredible freedom of going out. You could go up to 14th St. and there were porno cinemas. That was the place to go and get sex. You could go up to cruise on Stuyvesant Park, up 2nd Avenue, just on the top of 14th Street. There were places that people cruised and there was still outside cruising. We got freedom, along with the women who got the pill. We come out, being gay. We were wild. We had this incredible freedom.

That's why the Bloolips show was about being gay and not so much about labeling it.  It was just, “You are yourself. Be yourself. Act yourself. You’re gay anyway. This is camp anyway. You don't have to highlight it, to make comments about being gay. Just be real.” These are real characters. Yes, we’re dressing up in drag. Yes it's fun. You know, it's bizarre. You know, it's not the right kind of drag. Oh, it's wrong: “Oh, you're putting something else on. Oh, it's trash you are wearing; but it looks glittery.” Also, it felt like we were doing it in the moment, this had just happened. It was written that way--that it's just happening. “Oh, did Betty say that? Oh, we’re going to go over there and do that. Okay.”  Maintaining the spontaneity, even though we’d done it over and over again.

Francie: That was one of the brilliant things about your shows. I think what you just said rings so true to me.  I say this because for me it was also a moment to be free and to be myself, to be sexual and artistic and wild in crazy ways.  That was part of the thrill of that time. Yes, there was the labor of being an artist and making it happen and hard work. But there was this spirit to the time that was really extraordinary.

Lavinia: There were other performers like Charles Ludlum. Going to see some of his shows just blew me away, with his skill and the language. It was a kind of a gay theater sensibility. Seeing Ethyl Eichelberger perform--very much like a solo with maybe one or two people, creating shows about the Borgia’s, Lysinestra, the Egyptian character, Nefertiti. She did a whole history in a little show. There were also other theater experiences. Having been in Europe, there were American groups coming over to Amsterdam and Berlin. You think about the Hot Peaches. In time this diminished. You couldn't get that many people together. At the time, people were performing in groups and developed a group. Of course, that depleated. The standup comic became more viable as business, for making money. The singer could do it on their own, you know.

I remember coming back to New York City and the beginning of the AIDS thing and hearing about this terrible disease. Nobody knew what it was about. We were starting to get it in London. The paranoia. It was labeled as a gay and a Haitian thing.  For some reason they didn't know what it was. The news and the media said it was the gay plague. We were absolutely paranoid and besides ourselves. We were seeing people getting sick. They hadn't even developed the ability to say HIV. It took a while for that. Then over successive times of coming back thru the 80s, you'd hear about more. You'd say, “My God, he knows 100 people dead.” John Vaccaro said, “Oh that guy died.” “Did he?” “Oh really?”   “It was the Kaposi’s sarcoma (the cancer of the skin) or the PCP pneumonias (the lung one).  There were these particular kinds of diseases because the immune system was weak. Then, of course, we were going back to England and the spread was slower. Over here it was much more quick and immediate. Some of us, when we look back, we'd say,  “In that period that's probably when we might have picked up the AIDS. It was probably in the 80s traveling here.” Some of us got it and some of us died. Some of us are still alive that have the HIV, with the retrovirus. We managed to survive.

Francie: Did that affect the work you were doing together, the shows?

Lavinia: It's funny there was a period there where we did a sho. It was with Rex Lay.  He was Betty's old boyfriend. Betty and him got together. It was a show called Yum Yum. We did it in Vancouver. Betty didn't want to bring it to New York. I think it was because he thought it wasn’t good enough or something like that. It was a mad show. It was a bizarre story that you couldn't work out. There were bits in it such as the pink triangle in the ocean, where all the last pink whales were going to die. All the gays were getting together. They had done so much in the way of extreme things--like all the different kinds of ways you can have sex and blah, blah, blah. Now they were getting into actually eating each other. It was ridiculous. So in the show we were putting Betty Borne in the pot. It was like we were cannibals. It was like,  ‘How extreme can you go?’  We did a number called Tap your Troubles Away:

“That rash that you thought was the clap, it won't go away. Your Dr. says, “Why you’ll probably die.” So tap your troubles away.

So this was before it really kicked in. We cut that verse; because it was like, we were hinting at it. We didn't quite know what was happening; and Rex was writing the show. In the show, we were getting marooned on an island. It was mad.

After that we came back with another show. This was a bit later. We did another one called ‘Living Leg-ends.’ That was about the Old Testament and the New Testament. It was a silly story, but a good one. We came over with that and did it here. This was in the 80s and AIDS was in full swing. Lots of people had died. People had died in England. You were coming back with your own stories of people that were gone.  There were people up the street--the English guy that died, Gordon Howie.  He was living here for a while. Then he went back to England. He thought it was pneumonia. They thought it was pneumonia all the time, but some different kind of pneumonia. It might not be the gay one, we thought. It was quiet. Nothing was said. It was a time when people liked denial. You don't say it. You don’t admit that this is what's going on.

I remember another English guy, Julian, when we were touring in Amsterdam. I had three weeks in Amsterdam and I came to London for another work. He'd got pneumonia in Amsterdam. I stayed with his friends. We were getting up to go and do a tour in England. This guy John comes around and says Julian is dead.  So we went round there. We were going to go on a tour in the van.  We've had to travel right away.  We stopped by and there was Julian in the bed, propped up with this mouth open and he's just dead. We went in there and said, “Oh my God”. We said, “John you’ve got to get an amblulance.  He said, “The ambulance wouldn't take him last night because he's got the AIDS.”

I remember going to dentists here. They would wear the plastic gloves.  They would wear their mask and gloves. They were very distant from you. They were really paranoid.

The Bar was a dump. It was a bit of seating around the bar itself. There was the pool table. There was a wooden bit in between. It was a piece of wood the size of a plank to put a drink.  The cat was in there. The cat used to walk around the bar and all across the bar. He’d move around and sit there, almost take your drink. I think the cat died in there when there was a fire. That was the end. Also, there whole idea of tipping. You’d tip a quarter or $.50. It was so American. The gayness of it, the freedom of it. This was somewhere where you could absolutely be yourself. Nobody’s going to bother you in here.

I remember when the AIDS was really hitting. It was so paranoid in that bar. We just didn’t know what was going on. Where is it coming from? What’s it about? Should we have sex with each other? Or should we not? What is safe sex? Is it dirty? What is it? What with the hype on the TV, amongst the gay people it was like, “Wow. This is really scary.” No one knows. Were all looking at each other. We don’t know.

Francie: You’ve talked about these two kinds of general states. One is an earlier time when people are feeling free and everyone’s excited. There is a place for this expression, and there’s an audience in support of it. Everyone is out there. Then, along comes AIDS; and then there is this paranoia that sets in, this fear and anxiety.  What’s safe? Who’s safe? It was like a black cloud that fell over this moment of freedom, this outpouring.

Lavinia: It was a complete contradiction to what we’d experienced. Here we are having to learn to restrict ourselves--finding out about something, how it worked. How are relationships going to develop? It was surprising how many people did have relationships throughout all of that. Afterwards, you’d think, “My god, they were together for all those years. All the way through the freedom?”

I suppose it's not till the 90’s that you get the beginning of Act Up. You get a whole other approach. You get artists like David Wojnarovich, who died of AIDS. He was into talking about death. The society doesn't talk about death. He was very angry.   We very angry with them--with Thatcher and Reagan. Reagan didn't want to have anything to do with supporting or finding out about this disease, giving any help or healthcare. It was a really long time before you were able to get disability insurance here or you got good proper healthcare. It took a long time for that. We had Thatcher in England. So we were in the time of the changing the approach to the economy. It was like, ‘Free up some markets, change the rules.’ It was the beginning of the financial crisis that we’ve gone thru through till now. The free market attitude carried on even the Clinton and Bush and it’s still going on.

Francie: My question to you, the thing I’m very curious about, is your opinion about how this community of people at the Bar affected your work. What did it mean that you had a community of people here that were enthusiastic about what you were doing?   Did it have an impact at all?

Lavinia:   We got incredible support from the community. Bill Rice said,  “You are breath of fresh air” in the 80s when we came. To our audience, we were saying, “This is fun. This is jolly.  We’re quite intelligent. We can be frivolous. We’re okay. We’re making our little points.” It was supportive of people. People could say, “Yeah, it’s okay.” We were out there and being gay and it was in the drag sense. It was dressy-uppy madness. It was sort of radical drag. It wasn’t absolutely radical. We played with our makeup and costumes.

Francie:  To me it was very radical. Did things like that go on before? If they did, it would have been underground. Don’t you think that this kind of theater was very radical?

Lavinia: Yeah, it was. It seems funny; because I think in the 80s you get people who were developing dressing wildness—like Leigh Bowery in England, an Australian costume performance artist, club kid kind of person. To me, that’s a parallel--with someone that was younger and doing it in their own way. We came out of the hippie thing. It died by 1976-77 in England.  We’d gotten ourself together; but we hadn’t done any ‘drag’ gay theater. Others were doing gay theater/art. To do that we’d have to be a gay writer. We have to be gay performers. We’d have to be a gay painter. What is this? We were learning and developing how this goes. We were into doing the drag. We said there is nothing wrong with dressing in the androgynous way, to cross-dress, to be feminine, to use the other side and to not look at it the same way. The drag isn’t always a stereotype. It isn’t always the female. You didn’t necessarily wear tits and a wig; but you could certainly wear what you liked. So it was cheery and jolly for people; and it wasn’t what was happening with the AIDS. As were going along, we were finding more and more people that were dying and less and less people that were coming to the shows. As time went along, the community theater was going downhill—I mean the theater business and off-off-Broadway.   It survived.  It carried on.  It still exists. But the focus became that you can get up there and do it by yourself.  

Francie: My question to you is this.  What are the conditions that helped your group do something radical in the world? What made that possible? What makes it possible for people with talent to emerge and show their talents in the world in a way that breaks the rules?

Lavinia: We were playing to the gay markets. We were trying to get the gay market. We were part of the gay market. The straights came along and loved it. They were there. But we weren’t necessarily talking to them. In England, you would go to the local church hall to get the thing out. But you couldn’t get much work out to the public. We did odd spots. The money wasn’t much, even in the 80s. Then you could go to Amsterdam and Berlin. There were gay people there that would come. They would see it. It was a scene. Sometimes in Germany they thought we were punk. Well, we weren’t punk. Punk was 1977–79 and goes into the new wave in the 80s.  Then you get the Romantics and different movements that happened in the 80s. Of course, coming to New York, we got this real respect for the skill and the work we were doing. We were seeing Charles Ludlum or Ethel Eichelberger, meeting photographers like Peter Hujar. People were strongly into validating your work. You could do film, photography, paint pictures, perform. These were the people in the Lower East side. It was different. I did lots of dance bits. You would come here and find out about dance. Trisha Brown was down on Broadway at the Judson Church. I was fascinated with the Alexander technique and other different dance things.

The other thing I was interested in was the Co-counseling. It was all over the world. You could come to New York and you could hook up straightaway with counselors, which helped really a lot. You could discharge some of the issues that were going on. You could sort of evaluate what was going on and think it through. You’d have support. You could go to little groups. There was a gay and lesbian counseling group.  Wow, I’d never been to one of them. That really helped me to be able to deal with a lot that was going on, such as the grief about some of those people who were dying.  Also when you are working in the theater group, you’re on top of each other. There are a lot of issues that come up. You are talking about being gay. You are dealing with straight people. You are coming out a bit; because you’re standing up on the stage and coming out a bit. Even though you’re not spelling it out. Just living with people is difficult. You’ve got to get this show on.  You’re sometimes packed together in a van.

Also there were so many other things going in New York. I remember Peter Hujar photographing us. He got one picture of me.  I thought, “My god, you’ve caught me there in a moment. I’m tired. I’m a bit bored with this. And you’re going to take a photograph?”  He caught it. Sheyla Baykal got lots of photos. In England we tend not to support the artist. We have a sort of a negativity towards some of the arts, especially if you’re working class: “You think you’re an actor?” You couldn’t do Shakespeare. Who are you kidding?”

Francie:  Like the class system?

Lavinia:  Yeah.  So that for you to get out there and do it, you’ve got a lot of support in America. It was possible to do it. The fact was that we came over here and we did stuff with costumes made out of street refuse which we put on stage. We could do a show out of nothing.

Francie: So it was the support.  There was all this support.  That was the boat that kept you moving and afloat.

Lavinia: Also, there were six of us. So we had that network. Together you could find things to do, where to go. I remember going to Sixth Street where the Indian restaurants are. There was a macrobiotic restaurant there that was kosher. The dykes that worked in there saw that we were starving and penniless. They said, “Now have a dinner. We know what you’re doing.” “Well OK,” we said,  “Can I have an Apple juice?”  “Yes, yes,” they said,  “Have an apple juice.” 

Francie:  Is there anything else you want to say. 

Lavinia:   I remember that I was always staying with Diva Dan, who was deaf, in different places. One time we were with Tom Job, who was a dancer, who was coming back from London. He was a really good singer/dancer. He died of AIDS. He was putting on a show and he didn’t have the money. There were backers. It was a dance show. He was living in this place on Sixth Street. He couldn’t afford the rent. So he let me and Danny stay in the living room. It was great to be there with Tom. Tom was drinking. He’d have tequila and the beer for a chaser. There was one time when we were staying there, when Danny picked up a man.  The next morning I said, “Where is my boom box?” Danny said, “I don’t know. Oh it’s gone. Oh that man must’ve taken it.” You’d pick up people and they’d rip you off. Of course, Danny got me another boom box which was decent of him.

I remember coming back there another time. I think we’ve moved out; but Tom was still there. I said, “Are you okay, Tom?” He said, “No I’ve just taken some pills.” I said, “Oh really, how many pills?”   I thought, I don’t know whether to believe him or not. I thought, “Okay we’ll carry on talking. See how it is.” We were talking, talking, talking. He started to fall asleep. I said, “Okay Tom, don’t fall asleep. What’s going on? Okay, come on Tom. No wake up.  Stand up.” I got him up. I phoned his friend, the girl from the show. I told her, “Tom said he’s taken all these pills and blah blah blah.” She said, “Okay I’m coming over.” She came over. They went over to St. Vincent’s. They put the pump in. He woke up the next morning. He took the pump out and walked out, because he couldn’t afford the bill. He did it because of all the stress of putting a show on when you do get backers. The girlfriend’s mom was remortgaging her house, so she could have money for the show. The show didn’t go anywhere. Tom was a real strong influence on me and a good friend. Coming over here was nice to get that feeling from friendships. Also, meeting Americans in England in the dance school was an eye-opener to learn what New York was about and what people were like. Tom Job was in the London contemporary dance school/scene(??).

I was back and forth in the 80s. It really showed me how to get along around Manhattan, how to get work, how to see people, what were people’s ideas of theater. I learned about all the different scenes:  You could get into anything in New York--the theaters scene, the music scene, the disco scene. Everything was here. It would absorb other cultures, rechange it, spit it out again and we’d pick it up again in Europe. We’d say,  “That’s the Americans. Look at what they’re doing.” The culture goes around the world. New York is like a hub. It goes across America. It gets European, maybe Japanese. It picks up.