Queer|Art Celebrates Lower East Side History Month

Slugger Ann’s, 12th St. and 2nd Ave, photo courtesy Joe Preston  via Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York

Slugger Ann’s, 12th St. and 2nd Ave, photo courtesy Joe Preston via Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York

May is Lower East Side History Month, and Queer|Art is the new kid on the LES block, having recently relocated our offices from Nolita to the East Village this past year. Heralding our arrival to the neighborhood, we have organized four days of programming throughout May to celebrate the queer past, present, and future of our beloved new East Village home.

We kick things off with a special edition of Queer|Art|Film in which we pay tribute to East Village drag legend International Chrysis, subject of the 1993 documentary Split, presented tonight by Chrysis’ drag daughter Perfidia (Queer|Art|Film presents Split, May 13 at IFC Center). The following weekend, long-time East Village resident, theater artist, and Queer|Art Mentor Moe Angelos (of The Five Lesbian Brothers) leads a wry and spry walking tour of the places she remembers that “used to be gay” in her neighborhood (“This Used to Be Gay!” Moe Angelos’ East Village Walking Tour, May 18). And finally, we will fill the sanctuary at St. Mark’s Church with two evenings of new performances by alumni of Queer|Art|Mentorship, highlighting the transformative relationships between artists of different generations that have been forged through Queer|Art’s cornerstone program (“Food For Thought: After Mentorship” at Danspace Project, May 23 and 24). A full itinerary follows.

International Chrysis performing at Wigstock, 1989

International Chrysis performing at Wigstock, 1989

Monday, May 13, 8-10pm Queer|Art|Film: Perfidia presents Split
IFC Center
(323 Sixth Ave)
Tickets: $16, available

GAG! Queer|Art|Film’s winter season, Winter’s a Drag, is extended with a screening of this 1993 documentary about East Village legend International Chrysis. Kicked out of her Bronx home at age 14 for what she said were “differences in taste” with her family concerning her wardrobe, she flourished downtown during the 70s as a singer and showgirl. She was daughter to Flawless Sabrina and a mother to many queens including our guest presenter, Perfidia, who remembers her fondly. “She literally was the first person to put me in full drag...from there we shared our lives.” We’ll screen Split, plus other rare clips (including clips by photographer John Simone), followed by a panel on Chrysis’ legacy with some of her closest friends Brian Belovitch (theater artist and author of Trans Figured) and Connie Fleming (international supermodel and legendary Downtown “It” girl). Winter’s a Drag co-curators Adam Baran and Lady Quesa’Dilla host.

Perfidia on Split:
“When I moved to New York 1985, I was lucky enough to rent a room with Clark Render whose other tenant was International Chrysis, the muse to Salvador Dali. At the time I had never met a trans person and really didn’t even know what kind of pronouns to use around her. Her famous line was, ‘Well, Do I look like a man?’. She literally was the first person to put me in full drag and encouraged me to go on to entertain at Boy Bar, where I was crowned Miss Boy Bar 1986. From there we shared our lives and she was my drag mother. Through her I met so many trans superstars like Jayne County and Romy Haag. But most of all, she was mother to all of the Boy Bar queens and Pyramid queens. I still think of her every day. Like the line from Hedwig: ‘How can I say who touched me the most?’”

St. Marks Baths, image courtesy of Mikkel Aaland

St. Marks Baths, image courtesy of Mikkel Aaland

Saturday, May 18, 3-4:30pm

“This Used to Be Gay!” Moe Angelos’ East Village Walking Tour
Tour starting point shared with RSVP
Suggested Donation: $15

Theater artist and charismatic raconteur Moe Angelos (of The Five Lesbian Brothers and The Builders Association) has lived on 13th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues since 1981. The East Village is her gay-borhood, and she has seen it go through many changes over the years. In this wry and spry walking tour, Moe will lead participants on “a shamelessly nostalgic journey” to visit the sites of former discos, clubs, bathhouses, theaters, galleries, and oh-so-many bars that once proliferated these streets and provided gay people of all kinds with an astonishing array of options for socializing, organizing, hooking up, finding themselves and each other.  

Some highlights on Moe’s tour will include:

  • Slugger Ann’s (“Once a translady hangout, now a downright terrible bro bar, Slugger Ann’s was a very OG dive bar owned by the grandmother of Jackie Curtis, Ann. Jackie bartended on occasion. I had some amazing afternoons there.”)

  • Boy Bar (“The upstairs was where the sex happened.”)

  • Elaine’s Bar (“Not officially a dyke bar but a sometimes de facto one. I spent time here back when the neighborhood was still inexpensive and dangerous and full of low-rent queers.”)

  • All-Craft Center (“Formerly the Electric Circus, All-Craft Center had a CETA training program for women in the trades. A bunch of amazons taught plumbing, carpentry, electrical, and cabinet-making. Plus a nursery to leave kids while training!”)

"This Used to Be Gay!" Tour Guide Moe Angelos

"This Used to Be Gay!" Tour Guide Moe Angelos

“Advances in social acceptance for LGBTQ people have come with a price, however benign it might seem,” Moe reflects as she considers the much gayer glory days of the East Village. “We have lost many, many spaces for socializing that used to be gay. As homosexual, bisexual, and trans identities have become decriminalized and we have been allowed more open movement in the larger culture, the places we once went to congregate in peace have gone away along with the shame. While mainstream critics on the right complain bitterly that gay is being shoved down their throats (complaint or dream date?) the side effect of this mainstreaming of gay culture is a dilution of the community where that culture began and once thrived. Born in the murky shadows, in bars with sticky counters, watery drinks, and postage-stamp dance floors, in discos and clubs and bathhouses now bearing no plaques to commemorate them, the gay ghosts of my past will be resurrected for your entertainment and curiosity as we visit a few of these hallowed sites and trace a path of queer life through the East Village.”

greenhowiwantyougreen by David Antonio Cruz, image by Lance Reha

greenhowiwantyougreen by David Antonio Cruz, image by Lance Reha

Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24
“Food For Thought: After Mentorship” Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church (131 E. 10th St.)
Tickets: $5 + 2 cans of food or $10, no reservation necessary

Queer|Art presents a new edition of the After Mentorship series at Danspace Project with two evenings of performances by Neil Goldberg & David Antonio Cruz (May 23) and Angela Dufresne & Kerry Downey (May 24). Each evening is organized to highlight the unique relationships—creative, professional, personal, and otherwise—that have developed between these artists through their participation as Mentors and Fellows of the celebrated Queer|Art|Mentorship program.

After Mentorship, curated by Queer|Art is organized as part of Danspace Project’s Food For Thought series. The series presents two unique evenings of performance selected by a different guest artist curator each night. Admission each night is just $5 + 2 cans of food or $10, no reservation necessary. Canned goods are donated to the Momentum Project, which provides support to any person in need in NYC, especially those living with HIV/AIDS or other chronic illness.

Thursday, May 23 at 8pm
After Mentorship with Neil Goldberg & David Antonio Cruz

Neil Goldberg mentored David Antonio Cruz during the 2017-2018 Queer|Art|Mentorship cycle. With Neil’s support, David expanded a drawing series and an operatic performance based on the ethnographic photographs and ‘Black Diaries’ of British consul and Irish Nationalist Roger Casement, in which Casement wrote of his affairs with young men of color during his travels to the Congo and Brazil. “Queer|Art|Mentorship provided the one on one mentoring that I was seeking,” David writes of his time in the program. “I held back at the beginning. I believe Neil saw that and created a safe environment for me to open up and be honest about my artistic insecurities to help guide me.”

Friday, May 24 at 8pm
After Mentorship with Angela Dufresne & Kerry Downey

Angela Dufresne mentored Kerry Downey during the 2012-2013 Queer|Art|Mentorship cycle. They have continued to collaborate and show work together ever since. In spring 2015, Angela took Kerry on a fishing trip upstate. Kerry’s subsequent project, Fishing with Angela, both a video and performance recreated for tonight’s program, uses an overhead projector to mimetically recreate their mentor’s gestures. This work explores the relationship between fishing and painting, mentor and mentee, wetness and flow.

About Lower East Side History Month

Lower East Side History Month is an annual celebration of the rich and diverse history of the Lower East Side.  Each year in May, Lower East Side cultural and community groups, small businesses, and residents create a variety of public events, exhibits, tours, and learning opportunities. All events take place in the historical boundaries of the Lower East Side—which includes the East Village, Chinatown, Two Bridges and Loisaida. Conceived and launched by Downtown Art and FABnyc in partnership with LES-based cultural and community groups, LES History Month aims to connect our present to our past, exploring how our history can inform and inspire our future.