Anna Sui, Max's Kansas City, NY, 1978
Tish & Snooky / Manic Panic, St. Marks Place, NY, 1978
The Fast, Pat and Lance Loud’s House, Hollywood, 1979
Lance Loud and Paul Zone, 23 Street, NY, 1974
Wayne County, Coventry, Queens, NY, 1973
Paul Zone makes his triumphant return to New York with Growing Up in the New York Underground: From Glam to Punk, a solo photography exhibition presented by the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, in association with Tony Zanetta and Kymara. The exhibition, which features more than 70 rare images from Zone's life in New York's 1970s music underground and its legendary players selected from his landmark photo memoir Playground (Glitterati Incorporated), will be held at Museum’s Prince St. Project Space, 127-B Prince St., New York, will be on view May 29-31, 2015.
The opening celebration and book launch will be held on Friday, May 29, from 6-9 pm, featuring Superstar DJ Miss. Guy and host Howie Pyro. Exhibition hours are Saturday, May 30 and Sunday, May 31, from 12-6 pm, with a gallery talk and book signing by Paul Zone on Saturday, May 30 from 4-6 pm. Photographs selected for the exhibition include legends of the New York underground such as Blondie, The Ramones, The New York Dolls, Iggy and the Stooges, Richard Hell, Johnny Thunders, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Wayne County, Alice Cooper, Lance Loud, Stephen Sprouse, Christopher Makos, Anya Phillips, Cherry Vanilla, Arturo Vega, Anna Sui, Sable Starr, James Chance, Lydia Lunch, and many more.
Playground beautifully presents the gritty glamour and grandeur of New York in those heady days, when Zone was among the artists and musicians in what would go on to become one of the most explosive cultural movements of the last quarter of the twentieth century. Undoubtedly, this was a movement that started downtown, in the heart of the city.
As Zone recalls in the introduction to his book, “New York is the center of the universe. Just ask any New Yorker. And in 1976, everyone I knew agreed that Max’s Kansas City was the center of it all. On June 26, 1976, all eyes at Max’s were on me. Minutes earlier Debbie Harry of Blondie waved a checkered flag, kicking off Max’s debut of our band, The Fast, finally playing the club we’d been haunting since we were underage eavesdroppers hovering around David Bowie in the backroom. As sirens blared, my brother Mandy (dressed like a rock ‘n’ roll vampire) fired up the Farfisa while working the headlight we’d wired into his keyboard, bathing the crowd in blinding light. My brother, Miki, hit the frantic first chords of his absurd power-pop composition, ‘Motorcycle Mania.’ And I stormed the stage in a checkerboard-patterned jumpsuit, my explosion of corkscrew curls bouncing wildly as I wailed Miki’s preposterous lyrics.
“The club was packed with a dream team of incredible human beings that night. There was Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny Ramone, who’d played some of their first shows opening for us; David Johansen and Jerry Nolan from the New York Dolls, our gateway band to the New York underground; Lance Loud, America’s first reality TV star and the best friend I ever had; Lux and Bryan from the Cramps; Ace and Paul from KISS; Jimmy and Chris from Blondie; as well as Neon Leon, Kristian Hoffman, Wayne County, and Lydia Lunch. These were all people we loved!
“In this corner were the neighborhood guys who had chased me around Brooklyn a few years earlier because I was the only kid in school wearing glitter and sequins. In that corner was our manager Tommy, the owner of Max’s, who’d later tell us he invited ‘a bunch of important people’ that night that all left with smiles on their faces. We saw Bobby Orlando, a fan of The Fast who’d soon invite us to record in his tiny studio, where he’d one day build a dance empire. And most importantly, looking magnificent in a black silk pantsuit, was out number one fan: Our mother, Vita Maria, who beamed with shameless pride as her three flamboyant boys conquered the stage….
“I suppose The Fast started in 1965, on Christmas Day, when my mom gave Miki his first guitar, a Sears Silvertone, complete with an amp and a speaker in the case. Our cousin Anthony taught him to play, and for the next few years, he’d practice chords and write songs, fantasizing about rocking and rolling like his favorite British bands.
“But Miki was saturated with music and pop-star ambition long before he played his first lick, so The Fast really started on January 23, 1954, when Miki Zone (my parents mistakenly named him Bruno, after my father’s father) was born. Seventeen months later, his future bandmate Mandy (originally Angelo, after my mother’s father) came into this world, and on March 7, 1957, his most loyal musical collaborator and biggest fan, Paolo Jr. (the future Paul Zone) joined the act. Though he wouldn’t rename us for a decade, Miki was always making sure rock ‘n’ roll was the most important part of our lives. Credit should also go to our older sister Camille who never was in the band but had all the right records….
“On the one hand, we were spoiled rotten. We had whatever we wanted: bicycles, clothes, records, anything. When our band became the thing, we got guitars, amplifiers, lights, and a public address system.
“On the other hand, there was no judgment. When I started getting stylish at age eight, wearing my belts cocked to the side, or going to the girls’ department to buy puffy-sleeved jackets, or midriff-baring tops, my mother never questioned me when I said this was the way rock stars dressed. She was a homemaker who taught me how to use the sewing machine and took me to the fabric stories to buy textiles with stars or polka dots to make outfits for myself and the band, even when the band was more conceptual than real.
“Our glitzy clothes had nothing to do with gayness or sexuality, but had to do with the Zone brothers living the pop-star life. The clothes did not represent our wanting to be pop stars; for us, it was about deciding we were already pop stars and had to dress this way. Our zeal for the spotlight was something that our mother had connected with….Our mother let us do whatever we wanted in our rooms behind locked doors. She let us turn the basement into a practice room. And between 5a.m and 5p.m., when our father was away, she’d let her house become warm, welcoming place for all our friends, even in the mid-seventies, when our friends included misfits like the Ramones….
We’d do anything. We’d play in the back of empty restaurants. We’d play in the park. We’d play high school dances. We played the Brooklyn College cafeteria during lunch. The funny thing was when we started to make it, we continued to play schools….
“Since The Fast’s first public shows in 1971, the act had developed from satin pants, platform shoes, and frilly shirts to over-the-top wear, incorporating and going beyond what we had seen at the Mercer Arts Center. We were completely unknown, so it was very difficult to find our way onto Manhattan stages, The first thing we did was get money from our mom to rent out little theaters and put 2” x 2” ads in the Village Voice, always with some ridiculous band photo I took. We’d flood shows with flyers in the hop that maybe some of the other acts and their audiences would be interested. We were constantly making friends with bands and trying to get on their shows as an opening act or play at (rent) some of the same venues they were playing.
“The first performance The Fast did in Manhattan was at the Abbey Theatre, a run-down, off-off Broadway-type storefront with a small stage and velvet seats. We created dynamic show with an Alice in Wonderland theme. There was a candy cane backdrop, strobes and sirens, and an intro tape playing audio clips from Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. The flyers and Village Voice ad (‘Direct from Wonderland…The Fast’) must have worked because the place, although far from full, was well-stocked with the type of colorful people we’d come to love.
“Like many of the shows those days, it seemed like most of the audience was in other bands. Along with members of Milk ‘n’ Cookies, Harlots of 42nd Street, the Planets, Another Pretty Face, and the Magic Tramps, Paul and Gene from KISS showed up. Paul was obviously taken by Miki’s big black heart on one eye and the next time we saw KISS, Paul was sporting a black star over his eye. But it was an era of rapid transgressions, and by that time we had already moved on to another look.”
Reflecting on the idea of chic, Zone observes, “I think I come from a place that the word chic could go hand in hand with style. It has everything to do with personal taste and vision on how to present yourself. You know it when you see it but can’t explain it. One person can wear the same thing as another person but it can make a much different statement on each. Self-invention is how one sees one self and in turn how others see you. I always said that every bit of clothing has always been there and it’s just the way one wears it or puts it together that creates a style.”
Lance Loud, Greenwich Village, NY, 1974
Arturo Vega, At Home, NY, 1975
.Tommy Moonie, Mandy Zone, Peter Hoffman,
Miki Zone (The Fast) / Abbey Theatre, NY, June, 1973
Linda (Danielle) Ramone, Anna Sui,
Nick Berlin & Howie Pyro, Coney Island, NY, 1978
Steven Sprouse / Steven Sprouse Loft, NY, 1977