This week, we continue with our series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.
(Photo: Nigar Hacizade)
If you walked into a building expecting to see a regular museum, but found an apartment-sized living room with minimal, seemingly random paraphernalia, unremarkable oil paintings and posters on the walls, and a $20 admission charge, what kind of review would you post on TripAdvisor? Would your visit even be long enough to merit one? And yet 56 of 70 reviews for the The Museum of the American Gangster, on the second floor of 78-80 Saint Marks Place, described it as “excellent” or “very good.” Half the reviewers on Yelp gave the place five stars. The glowing assessments have something in common: they all caution the visitor to get over any initial disappointment and enjoy the guided tour.
If you missed Kathleen Hanna and Ad-Rock’s performance at the book party for St. Marks Is Dead, don’t worry, they may be sharing a stage again soon. Neal Medlyn, husband of the book’s author Ada Calhoun and the guy who brought the Beastie Boys-Bikini Kill power couple together for a round of punk covers at Cooper Union’s Great Hall, is performing as his ridicu-rap alterego, Champagne Jerry, and he’s bringing some of his famous friends with him.
L to R: Medlyn, Hanna, Horovitz. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)
“I know a lot of you complain about new groups coming in and replacing you,” Ada Calhoun told the crowd of East Villagers and ex-Villagers gathered in Cooper Union’s Great Hall last night. “If you’re not a Lenape Indian, I just don’t have a lot of compassion.”
Behind her was a photo of the area in all of its bucolic splendor, 400 years ago – way before the Pinkberrys and the Red Mangos inspired the tongue-in-cheek title of her new hyperlocal history, St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street.
Everyone has a St. Marks story — my first was smoking free hash after getting ripped off on bunk X. “And since the middle of the twentieth century, kids from all over the country, and the world, who wanted to be writers or artists or do drugs have come to St. Marks Place to find one another and themselves.” So says St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Coolest Street, the dizzyingly fascinating mostly-oral history by Ada Calhoun, which launches Monday, Nov. 2, at Cooper Union with free beer from Brooklyn Brewery and a punk cover band—the St. Marks Zeroes—featuring Ad-Rock.