Kembrew McLeod’s book on Blondie’s Parallel Lines is one that twists and turns through downtown New York of the late 1970s. Please enjoy this very short excerpt from the book which is out March 24th at an independent bookstore near you! Or pre-order from Bloomsbury now!
Last month Gothamist published a menu from the infamous watering hole and venue, Max’s Kansas City, where Debbie Harry waited tables. This menu, ostensibly from 1976, appeared two years before the release of Parallel Lines. I’m just glad to learn that “fave” was used in 1976.
If you need drink recipes feel free to get in touch with me directly 🙂
Here’s a little taste of what you’ll find in Kembrew‘s 33 1/3 on Paralell Lines, number 111 in the series coming March 24th, 2016.
Max’s Kansas City
Max’s Kansas City—where Debbie Harry waited tables and Jonathan Richman was a busboy in the late 1960s— was a key node in a social network that connected New York’s various underground scenes. Because all sorts of creative types lived downtown, the barriers separating art forms largely evaporated: playwrights and actors played in bands, musicians dabbled in film and theater, visual artists were involved in “happenings,” and so on.
“At Max’s, everything and everyone crossed paths in that small, intimate space,” Harry recalled. “Writers, painters, musicians, actors, drag queens—just about everyone in the downtown scene hung out there.” Owner Mickey Ruskin previously built his reputation operating Tenth Street Coffeehouse, Les Deux Magots on Ninth Street, and other establishments that had been centers of activity for the literary avant-garde since the early 1960s.
This helped build Ruskin’s clientele after he opened Max’s on the northwest corner of Union Square at 17th Street, in 1965. Business picked up more the following year when Andy Warhol began spending time there. The artist had a mutually beneficial arrangement with Ruskin, who accepted his paintings and silkscreens in exchange for credit towards bar and food tabs. After The Factory moved within a block and a half of Max’s in 1968, its back room became a regular haunt for Warhol and his entourage.
Paul Zone, along with his older musician brothers Miki and Mandy (who performed as The Fast), stumbled into Max’s back room after they began leaving their Brooklyn neighborhood in the early 1970s. Its air of exclusivity kept many an aspiring scenester at bay, though the young Zone brothers glided in without a problem. “I was this cute little boy and I was all dressed up in glam regalia,” Zone explained, “and so were my brothers.”
The Fast weren’t your typical high school band. “At thirteen or fourteen, even in eighth grade and ninth grade, I was already wearing clothes that were just completely not accepted in a Brooklyn suburban neighborhood,” Zone said. “I had platform shoes on. I was wearing satin pants.” A couple years before David Bowie brought glam rock into the mainstream, the Zone brothers had already been there, done that.
In Max’s back room, they crossed paths with the likes of Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, the New York Dolls, and Patti Smith. Paul Zone soon became a house DJ at Max’s, sharing duties with a gender-bending character named Wayne County—who transitioned to Jayne County by the end of the 1970s.
County fronted several glam and punk groups throughout that decade: Queen Elizabeth, The Electric Chairs, and The Backstreet Boys (whose name was unwit- tingly ripped off by a 1990s boy band). She often shared bills with Blondie, Suicide, The Fast, The Mumps, and The Ramones—who formed something of an on- and offstage clique by striking up friendships, sharing stylistic sensibilities, and swapping equipment.
2 Thoughts to “Blondie and Max’s Kansas City”
The CHERRY VANILLA is there because of me. In 1971, I had a show on radio station WPAX, which broadcast anti-war programming to the American troops in S. Vietnam. “Cherry” was invited to do a show that featured her sexy poetry and anecdotes about various rock stars in her then on-going groupie career. The idea was she would read a poem about a particular guy and we’d then play a song he’d made.
When she got to the studio on Lafeyette and Spring and realized there would be no censorship— that she could talk freely about sex and drugs etc., the realization struck that, her other, “straight” life working in TV and PR would not allow for her being so blatant. So to do the show she decided to use an alias. We were all trying to think what that should be, when I saw a small cup of (probably) Dannon yogurt, and suggested using its name, CHERRY VANILLA. So she was CV for our show, and that became her nightlife name, and her recent book LICK ME, How I became Cherry Vanilla details the juicy details…
This is an amazing story. Thank you for sharing!