Category Archives: Caravan

Hibiscus and The Cockettes

Hibiscus and The Cockettes


This article by Robert Heide is from the October 2020 issue of New York City’s WestView News, The Voice of the West Village. All rights reserved.    

JOHN ROTHERMEL, NY cabaret singer and Cockette star, was an avid collector of 1930s 78 rpm records—here on the cover of Zoom magazine, 1971. Photo courtesy of Fayette Hauser.

By Robert Heide

2020 is the 50th anniversary of the famed Cockettes, who made an acid drenched splash in San Francisco while living commune style shortly after the Summer of Love in the Haight-Ashbury, with their thrift shop vintage, fabulously collaged and assemblaged outfits barely covering their nudity with a profundity of accessories, including bakelite bracelets and jewelry, immense headdresses, manly beards and tons of glitter pasted all over themselves. The group performed their way-out musical extravaganzas at the North Beach movie theater, the Palace, and were a midnight sensation for several years from 1969 to 1972. A big, glossy, and exquisitely put together art book entitled The Cockettes with the subtitle Acid Drag and Sexual Anarchy by Fayette Hauser, a photographer as well as a member of the tribe has just been published to celebrate the activities and lifestyles of the psychedelic gay liberation theater collective known as the Cockettes. The extraordinary photos by Ms. Hauser and a flurry of others including Peter Hujar are augmented with essays by some of the Cockettes themselves and interviews with filmmaker John Waters, whose star Divine performed with the Cockettes on several occasions, and American history documentarian Ken Burns’ narrator Peter Coyote, a hippy himself back in those days, living in a commune in Olema in Marin County who befriended the group’s leader Hibiscus.

The book is dedicated to Hibiscus, the Shaman of the Cockettes, and the chief director of the group’s musical theatricals in North Beach. His past experience in Greenwich Village theaters as George Harris III in the burgeoning off off Broadway scene qualified him for the job, and his prodigious usage in San Francisco of windowpane acid, pot, peyote mushrooms and other drugs fueled his imagination without limit. The Harris family consisted of six children and they were all in demand in downtown New York theater. Michael Walter had a big role in the Broadway show Hair, and the girls, Jayne Anne, Eloise, and Mary Lou formed a singing act based on the Andrews Sisters, specializing in World War II hits like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else But Me. Ann Harris, the mother, was a star in the cult film Honeymoon Killers (she’s the one that got away) with Shirley Stoler the buxom award winning actress who later had a recurring role in Pee Wee Herman’s television show, and the father, George, who appeared in The Great White Way on Broadway and was featured in dozens of movies including Superman. I met George III at the Caffe Cino on Cornelia Street (now a New York City historical landmark) where my plays The Bed and Moon were initially staged. The Cino was the first to present what is known as theater of the absurd, plays that went against the naturalistic realism of Broadway plays at that time, presenting what was called ‘super-realism.’ Tom Eyen, who later wrote Dreamgirls, a Broadway musical hit about The Supremes, staged several of his early works there, including Why Hannah’s Skirt Won’t Stay Down which starred Helen Hanft, known as ‘the Queen of Off Off Broadway,’ as a woman who acted out her sexual fantasies in a mirrored fun-house at Coney Island where she stood over a breeze hole, the air blowing her skirt up around her head. Nearby a sexy narcissistic muscleman played by Steve Van Vost in a red, white, and blue speedo stared at himself in a mirror while watching Helen’s orgasm over the breeze hole. In Jeff Weiss’ That’s How the Rent Gets Paid, the protagonist, played by the author, returns home from a sanitarium supposedly cured of his psychosis, only to rape both his mother and father, as well as his little brother—a part played by the blonde, young, and handsome George Harris III. 

Not too long after the Caffe Cino closed (in 1967) George III met Allen Ginsberg and the two went off on a road trip to California, stopping along the way long enough for George to stick a sunflower in the barrel of a Marine’s rifle at a Vietnam War protest at the Pentagon. A photo of the event by Bernie Boston is included in the book and has become a symbol of the counterculture of that era. George was just George then, but after dropping acid in San Francisco, he shed the name forever and became Hibiscus. In the book Peter Coyote said of Hibiscus and the Cockettes “to them sex was like a handshake! I liked them because they were not trying to be girls, only instead showing off their feminine side with exaggerated hairdos and wigs, garish make-up and gobs of glitter.” Chief among Hibiscus’ followers was John Rothermel, a 78 rpm record collector who became the music director of the Cockettes introducing such classic 1930s Depression era songs as I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, Hot Voodoo, By a Waterfall, Lullaby of Broadway, and Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love to fellow record collector and the group’s piano player Peter Minton who banged out the songs at the Palace as the boys and girls of the Cockettes romped and cavorted. They included Sebastian (a black singer who later pursued a solo career with a group called Sebastian and His Hot Band), Gary Cherry, John Flowers, Scrumbly, Rumi Missabu (who recently presented an extravaganza at the Judson Church in the Village where I ran into drag superstar Rollerina), Goldie Glitters, Harlow and others in shows with titles like Pearls Over Shanghai (their greatest hit inspired by San Francisco’s old Chinatown), Hollywood Babylon, The Rise and Fall of the World As Seen From a Sexual Position, Tropical Heat Wave, and Tricia’s Wedding (also made into a movie.) Campy movies shown at the midnight frolics at the Palace included 1930s classics starring Mae West and Joan Crawford, as well as John Waters’ hits Multiple Maniacs, Female Trouble, and Pink Flamingos. It was Waters who came up with the term “sexual anarchists” stating in his essay in the book, “bearded drag queens, freaks in vintage costumes, glitter scattered everywhere, sitting partially nude reading Lenin—they were hilarious!” 

John Waters also makes the point that the Cockettes reminded him of the theater of cruelty, Artaud, and the Living Theater, incidentally pointing out that not only were the performers high (on acid) as a kite, but so were the audiences screaming enthusiastically every night throughout the crazy, far-out performances. When the group, changed their name to ‘The Angels of Light,’ (sans Hibiscus who advised against it) and decided to take a new show Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma for a three week run at the Anderson Theater on Second Avenue in the East Village, they were eagerly anticipated by all of New York’s hoi polloi as well as uptowners and celebrities like Bianca Jagger and Truman Capote. They were axed by the press, and people stormed angrily out not getting the drugged absurdity at all. They were probably on very different drugs, or none at all. Waters concluded that in San Francisco “It was such a radical audience because it wasn’t just gay people. It was a complete mix of men and women that didn’t fit in anywhere, not even in the Hippie movement.” Many people in the Village will remember the glittering billboard over United Cigars in Sheridan Square, advertising ‘Hibiscus and the Screaming Violets,’ a hilarious club act with his talented sisters which sadly turned out to be Hibiscus’ swan song. He became one of the first 100 people to die of AIDS, and passed away in 1982. 

I bought my copy of The Cockettes—Acid Drag & Sexual Anarchy by Fayette Hauser, published by Process Media in 2020 at BookMarc on Bleecker Street. Related books are: Flower Power Man by Mary Lou, Jayne-Anne, Eloise Harris and Caravan to Oz—A Family Re-Invents Itself Off Off Broadway by the Harris Family, both published by Eldorado Books USA. My latest book is Robert Heide 25 Plays, published by Fast Books Press. All are available on Amazon.


The Cockettes at 50

The Cockettes at 50
San Francisco Chronicle arts & culture columnist Tony Bravo sits down for a panel discussion with Cockettes Fayette Hauser, Scrumbly Koldewyn, Rumi Missabu and Sweet Pam Tent that explores the group’s ongoing relevance in pop culture, their most outrageous memories and news on their current projects.    © 2020 San Francisco Chronicle


The Coat Check Girls of Studio 54 … life, love and happiness after the ball!

The Coat Check Girls of Studio 54 … life, love and happiness after the ball!

By: Jayne Anne Harris, Mary Lou Harris, Eloise Harris-Damone, Calliope Nicholas and Oboe Bourgeois

The coat check girls of Studio 54 came from all walks of life and found themselves in the epicenter of a high-voltage whirlwind! In the dirty, gritty impoverished New York City of the 1970s rose a glittering, ultra-hip, fabulous utopia that celebrated its citizens yearning for bright lights, glamour, power and fame. The owners and managers picked each coat check girl for their beauty, youth, energy and style. Velvet ropes were opening up all over New York City to the girls who worked at the most exclusive nightclub on the planet … Studio 54! The coat check girls not only survived the temple of excess, they thrived. Some went on to college, met the loves of their lives, bought real estate, created careers and families, and built happy futures.

The Harris Sisters

Jayne Anne Harris, Eloise Harris-Damone and Mary Lou Harris came from a large New York City theater family who, collectively and individually, encompassed theater, music, film, broadcast media and performance art. They literally spent their entire childhood off-off-Broadway in New York’s experimental theater movement; performing in their brother Hibiscus’ glittering theater troupe, The Angels of Light, and with his rock n’ roll group, Hibiscus and the Screaming Violets. Studio 54 became a new and refreshing scene for the Harris sisters. It was a playground for the rich, famous, fabulous, the notorious and the beautiful. Studio 54 encouraged them to feel their own jet-setting oats and to spread their wings. For the first time, they were mature enough to enjoy freedom and had money to burn.
(left to right: Jayne Anne Harris, Eloise Harris-Damone, Mary Lou Harris – photo: Dean Janoff)

Studio 54 offered weekly “Tea Dances” jam-packed with fun, gorgeous gay boys there to dance the night away. The coatroom was filled to the brim with identical leather motorcycle jackets. Front to back, they lined the coatroom like wallpaper. Euphoric boys would ultimately lose their coat check ticket and then saunter up to the counter with their dilemma. The coat check girls would say very officially, “Can you identify anything in your pockets?” The answer was always the same, “Poppers and Pot!” As the girls scanned the coat racks, they were swept into a confusing sea of “searching for the right coat” possibilities. Along with this problem came the frequent pungent popper spill that created a leather popper steam room. The vapor sent the now kaleidoscope-eyed coat check girls four feet off the ground for the rest of the night.

Working at Studio 54 saved them from the downward spiral of the era in New York City. So much went on, so many drugs, so much alcohol, so much money and so little sleep that you really had no choice but to fall from grace, either temporarily or sadly permanently, or become sober. It was before the devastating wide spread of AIDS. People freely shared what drugs they had. The liquor flowed, the music was loud and happy, the people were beautiful and the night never seemed to end. A grand plus for the Harris sisters was the flexible schedule that working in the coat check provided, as they were all working actors and music artists. The sisters would often finish their shift and go straight to a movie set or music studio. Studio 54 provided a new performance venue for The Harris Sister’s singing trio and gave them all-access passes to concerts by emerging stars like Duran Duran, Culture Club and Madonna. Celebrities used the coatroom to take a break from the crowds. The hours were grueling and the work was extremely physical. Looking back, the Harris sisters are not sure how they did it.

When A-list party promoter Robert Isabell, and Studio 54’s head of security, Chuck Garelick, asked the sisters to run coat checks at their major events, Coat Check Inc. was born. The Harris sisters became entrepreneurs and executives overnight, working prestigious parties in Manhattan. Their new enterprise was given a nod in Business Week and Crain’s Magazine. Their client list included top brands including Cartier, Victoria’s Secret, Bloomberg LP, American Express, the American Museum of Natural History, The Bronx Zoo, Robert Isabell, George Trescher, Sotheby’s, The Costume Ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Phillips Auction House, Today’s Man, Municipal Arts Society, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker and MTV. This new adventure enabled the sisters to get out of grueling round-the-clock shifts at Studio 54 and allowed them to become daytime people with regular schedules. Their employees were actors and entertainers who needed flexible shifts to accommodate their unpredictable audition and performance schedules. The Harris sisters were joyfully surprised at the mammoth scale of their new business.

During their lifetime in theater, music, art and working at Studio 54, the Harris sisters were eyewitnesses to many of the great artistic revolutions, movements, revolutionaries and pioneers of the 20th century. They learned first hand that there are magical, magnetic people in this world who leave an indelible mark on those they meet. Jayne Anne, Eloise and Mary Lou thank all of the owners, Ian Schrager, Steve Rubell and Mark & Alan Fleischmann and the staff of Studio 54 for taking them on the adventure of a lifetime.
(left to right: Mary Lou Harris, Eloise Harris-Damone Right: Jayne Anne – photo: Michael Ian)

Over the years, surviving members of Studio 54 have become a family. Once the AIDS virus was finally diagnosable, the Harris sisters realized how hard their Studio 54 family had been hit … and the knock-out punch of their own brother, Hibiscus, who died in 1982 of the deadly virus. Jayne Anne Harris, Eloise Harris-Damone and Mary Lou Harris cherish the Studio 54 reunions, films, Sirus XM radio show and group updates through social media.

The Harris Sisters are co-authors of two books: Caravan to Oz– a family reinvents itself off-off-Broadway (2014), and Flower Power Man (2017), a biography of their late brother, George Harris III, aka Hibiscus. They live with their families in Manhattan and upstate New York.

Calliope Nicholas recalls her years as one of the coat check femmes at Studio 54.

(left: Calliope Nicholas, right: Lisa Wright – photo: Richard Manning)
I had a recurring fantasy about Studio 54, usually during the nightly bike ride to the club. The fantasy was, when gliding around the corner of Broadway & 54th, there would be a huge crater where Studio had been standing. That God, who’d been working undercover all this time, finally had enough of its nonsense & exposed himself long enough to blast Studio out of existence.

Studio was the world’s epicenter of all things wildly decadent during those disco years from ’77 to ‘82. Steve and Ian set out to create precedents in the nightclub world including lavish, over-the-top parties that attracted the rich & famous. And they did it in an environment where VIP’s could lose themselves in the glittering lights & pounding music among a thousand other chosen people. Everyone who was anyone was there to play: Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, Cher, princes of faraway countries & heads of state.

As a naive twenty-one-year old, I took great pleasure in witnessing these icons of culture immersed in their pleasures. As an employee who worked there for seven years, the scenes became a normal reality of nights on the job. Our job as the coat check femmes was to arrive at 9 PM, set up tickets on hangers & psyche ourselves for the night ahead. The doors opened at 10PM with a sea of celebrities & wannabe’s clamoring to get in. Studio was the first to create a mystique of opening its portal only to those who got a nod from Steve. As a result, the air was charged with anticipation along with an underlying pulse of hysteria. This was part of the appeal of Studio & Steve relished his undeniable power as lord of the club. In an effort to get Steve’s attention, people dressed in outrageous outfits, ranging from couture to furs, to intricate sequined outfits with feathers & some only wearing G-strings. One of my favorite VIP’s for eye candy was Grace Jones. Her favorite ploy was to strut in completely naked on stiletto heels, her buffed mahogany body glistening in the neon lights. It soon became a joke among the employees that Grace had only one outfit in her wardrobe.

Night after night the norm at work was a world of sensory overabundance, filled with splendid creatures & a sense we’d all stepped into a rabbit hole. Those sensations were heightened by the thumping percussion of disco music & a throbbing base that vibrated through our bodies in rhythm to the tangle of limbs moving on the dance floor. And through it all the coat check femmes hung all the accoutrements & played cool. We saw all of it & dug most of it. Throughout the night, we’d step out from the behind the counter, explore the scenes at play, then come back to gossip. We gave each other special names as part of elite members of the ‘Studio scrod squad’ and over the years became involved in each other’s lives.

Walking up from the basement one night to check on the back coat check femmes, I came across Bianca Jagger, lying on the stairs in a bit of a drug-induced stupor. As beautiful as a thoroughbred, she was in a satiny, swirling, creamy gown spread out over the stairway, blocking me from continuing up without stepping on it. Standing above Bianca was her guard, a blond Nordic god in a tuxedo made for fabulous creatures like him. I stopped and stared, not sure what to do. Bianca raised her hand with an elegant wave said, “Dahling, go ahead, step on my dress, it’s fine, I don’t care.” I daintily stepped up, leaving a dusty toeprint on a bit of satin, past the scowling Nordic & up into the cacophony of disco music & the bright blinking lights. The rabbit hole was indeed open. (left: George Alvarez, right: Calliope Nicholas – photo: Courtesy of Calliope Nicholas.

After Studio 54, Calliope Nicholas worked at Pierros Bar in Mykonos, then back in the States started one of the first day spas in NYC in the mid ‘80’s, New Life Health & Spa, featured in magazines such as Vogue & Elle. She lives in upstate New York, having raised a family there & now works as the Managing Director of Millay Colony for the Arts, an international artist colony that serves writers, artists and composers. Calliope is also Managing Director of FilmColumbia, which has grown into a ten-day international film festival, featuring award-winning films & documentaries.

Oboe Bourgeois in the coatroom at Studio 54.

(photo: Courtesy of Oboe Bourgeois)

One evening I was working the auxiliary coat check by the dance floor, the one where rolling racks were set up in a hallway. Andy Warhol dropped two Polaroids on my counter. Puzzled I picked them up to look at them. He retrieved them from my hands and proceeded to give me his coat check ticket. Neither one of us said a word to one another. Studio 54 coat check girls are cool like celebrities!

On the opposite side of the dance floor for the other auxiliary coat check I remember spending many exhilarating and dazzling evenings observing the hedonistic behavior of the dancers on the dance floor. Some dancers were doing more than dancing!!! One evening for a private party Brooke Shields checked a Barbie doll size doll of herself. Probably the older gentlemen had given it to her. I thought that was cool!

Another evening I was attending a private party behind the backdrop on the dance floor, which separated the attending guests from the clientele. On one banquette was Christy Brinkley with her boyfriend Oliver Chandon and I was on the banquette next to them. The festivities were to celebrate a birthday and they were smashing birthday cake into each other’s faces.
(left: Oboe Bourgeois right: Bartender, John Bello – photo: Courtesy of Oboe Bourgeois)

I was ready to work the auxiliary coat check in the hallway for the private wrap party for Coppola’s film One From the Heart with Natasha Kinski. I’m a big fan of hers! I was obsessed with her film Tess. I ran into her and shyly just said hello. There were tables with food set up on the dance floor and cocky me went mmm no one is around so I think I’ll help myself to some food, alas, I was busted by the club manager, who tells me you can take the night off! I was upset, of course because I wanted to make money. SO, I called this cute French boy I knew and had him put on the guest list. He was thrilled! We partied and had a great time getting free drinks, of course. I saw the club manager later that evening, all drunk and was like…Hi!!! He didn’t say a word. He had said, Take the night off, not go home. Of course I took that cute French boy home!

I am a native New Orleanian. The magical city of New Orleans has contributed to shaping the person that I am. I worked at Studio 54 for 4 years alongside some amazing young women who have become lifelong friends. Before I moved to New York I lived in San Francisco and was involved in the Punk Rock scene. Preceding working at Studio 54, I worked at Bond’s International Casino as a coat check girl and thereafter, I worked at The Palladium, managing the coat check room. I am currently living in my beloved city of New Orleans and I teach Pilates.


There are many more Coat Check girls of Studio 54 to honor including families that worked side by side: The Wright sisters: Lisa and Holly; The Lange sisters: Julie, Nancy and Patty; The Burke sisters: Martha, Hilary, Agnes and Noelle and other fabulous femmes: Angel, Getchie, Ronnie and Danielle to name a few.

They shared a spectacular historical New York story. The emergence of style and relational conduct within the arts, fashion, hotels, club operations, restaurants, the world of celebrities, fans and so much more, certainly have origins from the stunning success of Studio 54! Yet, The greatest gift of all is their continued close-knit friendships that were created during those treasured golden years as The Coat Check Girls of the fabulous …. Studio 54!


(left to right: Calliope Nicholas, Julie Lange, Lisa Wright, Eloise Harris-Damone, Jayne Anne Harris – Photo: Courtesy of Calliope Nicholas)


Author Kembrew McLeod talks about his kaleidoscopic tour of New York at its cultural peak

Author Kembrew McLeod talks about his kaleidoscopic tour of New York at its cultural peak

from – Richmond, VA,

Kembrew McLeod’s new book, “The Downtown Pop Underground: New York City and the literary punks, renegade artists, DIY filmmakers, mad playwrights and rock ‘n’ roll glitter queens who revolutionized culture” is published by Abrams Press.

The author will read from it at Chop Suey Books in Carytown on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. He will be in Charlottesville on Friday, Oct. 26, at New Dominion Bookstore with Jocelyn Johnson at 7 p.m.


The whole idea for the book started in Richmond in 1989, the author says, when as a youngish-looking 18-year-old he talked his way backstage at a Lou Reed, Maureen Tucker and Half-Japanese show — getting his Velvet Underground records signed, interviewing the notoriously cranky Reed (McLeod’s first interview) and scoring great, candid material.


“He still gave me his resting bitch face, and when he was walking away, I asked for my lucky pen back,” McLeod says. “He walked back and stared at me for what felt like 10 minutes. Then I said, ‘I guess times like this, it sucks to be a rock star,’ and he smiled and gave me my pen back and walked away. … I think my earnestness broke down his usual defenses.”

Style Weekly: How did you set about making your book different from the hundreds out there on this period?

Kembrew McLeod: I think one of the things I knew might set this book apart is that I wanted to show how deeply interconnected all these different scenes were, how each one didn’t develop in isolation. They needed this outside creative energy coming from other art forms and mediums. The book is really making a prolonged argument that isn’t necessarily intuitive to many people: I’m arguing that underground theater, which came along 15 years before punk, created the template for what gets credited as punk innovation. Breaking down barriers between audience and performer, doing-it-yourself, going around cultural gatekeepers, reusing public and private spaces to create a scene — all that happened with Off-Off-Broadway theater first.

There are a lot of names and seminal moments — I’m sure that was a challenge to structure or make sense of all this info.

Yeah, it was the biggest challenge. I spent years immersing myself in other books. Then over the past five years I did well over 100 interviews — over a million words of transcription. I thought about it like a movie like “The Godfather,” or a show like “The Sopranos.” Lots of characters and plot threads. So I picked the eight key people who represented border crossings of different scenes and art forms, and who were at the center of social networks that formed around downtown. Through them I could talk about pretty much anyone else — that provided the scaffolding. They took me into John Cage, Yoko Ono, Richard Hell, etc. I wanted to balance people who are very well known with people who have amazing stories but who weren’t household names … Chris Stein [of Blondie] was really helpful, those are mostly his photos on the cover of the book.


Some parts remind me of the early ’90s scene in Harrisonburg and Northern Virginia with Riot Grrrl kicking off and Teen Beat bands Sexual Milkshake and Blast Off Country Style that we experienced — looking back, it all seems very Fluxus-influenced.


Exactly. Yeah, that is a gift Virginia gave me. I saw a lot of ourselves in the lives of these people, although they had a much larger impact partly because of where they were, in this nexus of culture near Midtown [Manhattan]. Walter Cronkite was showing the Velvet Underground on TV in 1965 before their first album even came out.

In your coda you mention newer music group Talibam! — how it tried to levitate the Vice Media building and dump it into the East River.

Yeah [laughs]. I put that in there because of the parallels with the earlier story of the yippies levitating the Pentagon. The Talibam story encapsulates everything that has gone wrong in the past 20 years in New York. They are spiritual stepchildren of the Fugs and that’s a smart and funny moment of cultural criticism, using the Internet to get their story out.

They targeted Vice because it had moved into a building previously used for underground rehearsal space and performance space for local artists. It was a perfect metaphor for what Vice does, which is cannibalize the culture of the underground and repackage it for various media platforms. It’s almost impossible for artists to survive downtown now in one of the highest income ZIP codes in the country.

I wonder, with your history of pranks and friends of yours like the Yes Men, why are activist pranks not happening more in the age of Trump?

That’s a hard question. A lot of us who do pranks are rethinking the efficacy of them. Basically those satires we were doing, most people would realize they were too absurd to be true. Today, we’re living in a time when [reality] seems like a prank. Also, a lot of our pranks were premised on basic ground rules of human rights — you don’t put children in cages, slavery is wrong. At the time there was some consensus about basic human rights that now is being called into question. Maybe that’s why younger people aren’t gravitating toward these tactics: They’re growing up in a completely different world. Doesn’t mean that satire is dead. We’re just rethinking the strategy. Yeah, I need to write about that [laughs].



‘Flower Power Man’ reviewed by Robert Heide, Cino playwright

‘Flower Power Man’ reviewed by Robert Heide, Cino playwright

Robert Heide, prolific playwright and author, has written a wonderful review of our new book, Flower Power Man, for WestView News, ‘The Voice of the West Village’ in New York City. Here is a link to the review:

Flower Power Man

Bob’s plays include The Bed and Moon at the Caffe Cino; Why Tuesday Never Has a Blue Monday at La MaMa; Tropical Fever in Key West and Crisis of Identity at Theater for the New City to name a few. The Bed was filmed by Andy Warhol (his first split-screen), and Bob wrote Lupe for Warhol to direct with Edie Sedgwick. With his partner, author/actor John Gilman, Bob has written articles for periodicals including The Village Voice, WestView News, Oklahoma Today and many other publications. They are authors of many pop culture books, and books about New Jersey.

Robert Heide’s new book, Robert Heide 25 Plays, is available on, as is Flower Power Man.



“HAIR” featuring Harris sisters opens in NYC

“HAIR” featuring Harris sisters opens in NYC

by Walter Michael Harris

Last night my sisters, Eloise Harris-Damone and Mary Lou Harris-Pietsch, opened in a new concept production of the musical ‘HAIR’, directed by Ari Rodriguez and presented by Columbia Stages at the Connelly Theater, 220 E. 4th Street in Manhattan. Here’s a mini-review by our friend, Jackie Rudin, who also took the photos below this post:

“Went to opening night for this glorious new production of HAIR at The Connelly Theater staring, among others, my dear friends Mary Lou Harris and Eloise Harris-Damone, sisters of my old friend Hibiscus (entertainer)!

Went with Fussy Lo Mein, Fannie Mae B. Free, Hucklefaery Ken, Sasha Silverstein, Jamie Leo and Alan Sabal and what a treat to run into Jim Rado, co- writer of the original production of HAIR and theater luminaries Robert Heide and John Gilman from Cafe Cino days.

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of HAIR is was quite poignant to have a cast mostly made up of actors in their 50’s 60’s and 70’s, who were around for the original HAIR debut in 1967, beautifully giving it their all!

The show put on by The Columbia University School of the Arts under the leadership of Anne Bogart is almost sold out but get a ticket if you can! Bravo to Mary Lou, Eloise and all! You certainly deserved the standing ovation!

Photos above by Jackie Rudin.

And here’s some background on HAIR from our good friend Jim Gossage, off-off-Broadway’s premier photographer:

“Hair: A Tribal Love-Rock Musical” is connected very strongly to Cafe La MaMa. In April, 1966 Co-author Gerome Ragni was Clown 1 in an Open Theater production, “The Clown Play”, a scene by Bertolt Brecht. Clown 2, Joyce Aaron Funk, a year earlier joined Ragni and his “Hair” co-author James Rado in the Chicago production of Ann Jellicoe’s “The Knack” where the two authors worked on the “Hair” script.

Joseph Papp was preparing the opening of his new Public Theater space when Gerome Ragni and James Rado brought him their play. Eventually Papp decided to use “Hair” as his inaugural production at the Anspacher Theater and Ellen Stewart invited him to use Cafe La MaMa on Second Avenue for production of the replaced play “Stock Up On Pepper Cause Turkey’s Going To War” (February, 1967) by Frank Zajac. Joseph Papp brought in his portable stage and he set it up on the floor of Cafe La MaMa. I think this was the first production at Cafe La MaMa without the service counter. The traveling stage took up too much space.

“Hair” anniversary celebrations have occurred at La MaMa Experimental Theater including the fiftieth only a couple months ago.

With Tom O’Horgan directing, the original Broadway cast included La MaMa people Walter Michael Harris, Jonathan Kramer, Marjorie LiPari with Seth Allen as a standby for Claude (James Rado’s character). Later, Tom Eyen cast Leata Galloway, an original cast member as Nefertiti in his 1973 production at La MaMa Experimental Theater Club on East Fourth Street.

And a new production will include more La MaMa alumni, Michael Harris’ sisters who enjoyed success in their own La MaMa productions, including “Cheek To Cheek” and “Hibiscus” (directed by Jacque Lynn Colton, written and originally produced by Walter Michael Harris at Pilgrim Center For The Arts in Seattle). Jayne Anne Harris is recovering from an injury but her sisters, Mary Lou Harris and Eloise Harris-Damone are cast members in a production that is part of a Masters thesis at Columbia University with performances beginning this Wednesday, March 29 at Connelly, 220 East Fourth Street.


‘HAIR’ Celebrates 50th Anniversary at La MaMa, New York City, Jan. 21

‘HAIR’ Celebrates 50th Anniversary at La MaMa, New York City, Jan. 21

hair logoCurated and directed by Coffeehouse Chronicles Series Director Michal Gamily, LaMaMa is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of HAIR: The American Tribal Love Rock Musical with co-creator James Rado, composer Galt MacDermot, and featuring members of the original Off-Broadway cast of 1967Broadway cast of 1968, and the cast of the 2009 Broadway revival, including Shaleah Adkisson, Debbie Andrews, Michael Butler (via video), Peppy Castro, André De Shields, Lauren Elder, Ellen Foley, Annie Golden, Walter Michael Harris (via video), Ula Hedwig, Antwayn Hopper, Rev. Marjorie Lipari, Melba Moore, Natalie Mosco, Allan Nicholls, Jill O’Hara, Jim Rado, Robert Rubinsky, Dale Soules, and Jared Weiss. The artist lineup is subject to availability and may change. The musical director and pianist Balint Varga will lead Richard Cohen as Musical Supervisor/Saxophone/Flute/Clarinet, Aaron Drescher on drums, Dave D’Aranjo on bass, and Thayer Naples on Guitar. The Coffeehouse Chronicles #139, at La MaMa (66 E. 4 St. in NYC) on Saturday, January 21 at 2 p.m, moderated by Gamily and Coffeehouse Chronicles Co-Founder, Chris Kapp, will offer a panel, performances, and archival media by Dagmar Krajnc and the HAIR private collection. The event will also feature artwork by Suki Weston. Click here for more information on Coffee House Chronicles and here for the 50th Anniversary of HAIR.

Dagmar_Walt_RonnieRonnie Dyson and Walter Michael Harris sang the duet “What A Piece of Work Is Man” in the original Broadway cast.  Photo by Dagmar.

Read the New York Times preview article:

And La MaMa’s press release:


Remembering Ann Marie Harris, 1926-2016

Remembering Ann Marie Harris, 1926-2016

Mark Thompson – author, historian, photographer and contributor to ‘Caravan’ has died at 63

Mark Thompson – author, historian, photographer and contributor to ‘Caravan’ has died at 63

Mark Thompson helped the world understand the LGBT community. His influence is enormous, and his voice will continue to resonate through his publications, photos and in those he has influenced.

Follow this link to a wonderful profile by Karen Ocamb: