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‘Definitely a New York Hang’: Jazz Musicians Remember the Five Spot Café

Until we return to our usual schedule Jan. 3, enjoy this daily series of longer pieces in which we unravel the mysteries and the histories of storied addresses.
frontpicUrban renewal plans are nothing new to the Bowery. In 1955, New York dismantled the Third Avenue El, the elevated train that ran overhead, in an effort to bring light and air to the sordid strip of dives and flophouses. The cleanup campaign inspired brothers Joe and Iggy Termini to transform their No. 5 Bar, named after its Five Cooper Square address, into a place that would welcome the artists, writers and dancers moving into the neighborhood.
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Was Banksy Inspired By This East Village Nudist Who Ran For President?

AbolafiaposterLouis Abolafia’s campaign poster featured the East Villager almost completely nude, asking, “What have I got to hide?”

Abolafia died 18 years ago today. But in May 1967, he was kicking off his run for the presidency at the Cosmic Love Convention at the Village Theater, where he said, “We should be a country of giving and giving and giving. The way we’re going now, we’re all wrong. We could be giants; we should be 10 times above what the Renaissance was.”
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‘He Treads Kind of Softly’: Two Musicians Remember Working With Lou Reed

Genya Ravan with Lou Reed at Bottom Line. (Photo: Chuck Pulin)

Genya Ravan with Lou Reed at Bottom Line. (Photo: Chuck Pulin)

The leather jacket and moody persona were only a part of the puzzle that was Lou Reed. Musicians like Steve Katz of Blood Sweat & Tears and Genya Ravan of Ten Wheel Drive remember him as a friend with a wicked sense of humor and a gracious heart. Katz was the producer of Reed’s live album Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal and the rocker’s highest-charting LP, Sally Can’t Dance. Reed rarely performed on other artists’ albums, but he agreed to join Genya Ravan on “Aye Co’lorado”; Reed would later invite Ravan to sing on his “Street Hassle.

Bedford + Bowery today asked Katz and Ravan to share their memories of Lou Reed.
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A Look Back at the Electric Circus, the Greatest Show on St. Marks Place

ElectricCircus6Few nightclubs exemplified the excesses of the drug-fueled ‘60s like the Electric Circus. Trapeze artists, mimes and jugglers illuminated by pulsating strobe and black lights created a psychedelic atmosphere; predictably, the Circus became the club of choice to smoke pot and drop acid. But the Electric Circus also presented a powerhouse array of rock bands, many of who would become superstars: Sly and the Family Stone, Dr. John, Deep Purple and the Allman Brothers Band all played the Circus early in their careers.
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Sid Bernstein, Who Brought The Stones to the East Village, Has Died

(Photo: the private collections of Jason Knox and Harold C. Black)

Promoter Sid Bernstein will long be known as the man who brought the Beatles to America for their 1965 concert at Shea Stadium. But Bernstein, who died last Wednesday at age 95, also presented British Invasion groups like the Kinks and the Moody Blues at the Academy of Music, an aging East Village movie theater on East 14th Street at Third Avenue.
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Paradise Alley Was the Beat Generation’s ‘Oasis in the Middle of Chaos’

501 East 11th Street ca. 1940 (photo: New York City Municipal Archives) and today (photo: Frank Mastropolo).

501 East 11th Street ca. 1940 (photo: New York City Municipal Archives) and today (photo: Frank Mastropolo).

The senior housing complex on the northeast corner of Avenue A and East 11th Street hardly looks like a landmark of Beat culture. But there, at 501 East 11th Street, three buildings shared a courtyard where residents gathered to talk, eat and drink wine. Fifties-era hipsters called it Paradise Alley.

The complex first drew attention in 1958 when Jack Kerouac published The Subterraneans, inspired by his affair five years earlier with black poet Alene Lee. The original version of the short novel was set in Paradise Alley, where Lee lived, and used her real name. For legal reasons, her character was re-written as Mardou Fox, one of the novel’s jazz club crowd; Kerouac’s character pursues an affair with Fox at her tenement apartment in what was changed to Heavenly Lane in San Francisco.
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'People Loved It Loud': Rockers Recall Academy of Music and Palladium

Academy1

(Photo: the private collections of Jason Knox and Harold C. Black)

Built as a movie palace in 1927, the Academy of Music on East 14th Street, at Third Avenue, was a place where Lower East Siders would watch first-run features in grand style. Promoter Sid Bernstein, who brought the Beatles to America, understood the 3,000-seat hall’s potential: in the mid-1960s, he regularly booked British Invasion bands like the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and Herman’s Hermits there. Manfred Mann, on the charts with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” would share a bill with the Exciters, the American group that first recorded the tune to little notice.
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