Back in the Day

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‘Downtown Was My Heaven’: Generations of Performers Revisit Club 57

L-R: Holly Hughes, Moe Angelos, Martha Wilson, Carmelita Tropicana (photo: Cassidy Dawn Graves)

Last Thursday, the theater at MoMA went back to the 20th century when Performing Difference: Gender in the 1980s Downtown Scene, a day of panel discussions presented in conjunction with the exhibit “Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983.”, took over one of the museum’s spacious screening rooms.

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This Time Capsule Shows the East Village Shopping Scene of 30 Years Ago

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 8.14.22 AMJust about 30 years ago to this day — on August 6, 1984 — New York published a shopper’s guide to the East Village that we’ve reprinted at the bottom of this page. At the time, the East Village was “a bastion of small, independent businesses” and “tiny shops exuding fresh ideas,” from the St. Mark’s Bookshop (which, back then, was actually on St. Marks Place) to the fashion designers whose “new New York couture” was influenced by the neighborhood’s “enormous energy and creativity.”

And yet the neighborhood was also “under siege by speculators.” Author Linda Dyett warned that “many of the small, independent shops (both old and new) are in danger of disappearing,” and indeed most of them vanished soon after she sung their praises. But others have hung on against all odds. We took an accounting of the survivors and the sinkers, to find out just how much has changed in the past three decades.
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