LOW LIFE 7: BOWERY BOMBSHELLS at HOWL! Festival in Tompkins Square Park, New York City. Photos & text by Glenn Belverio


Dear Shaded Viewers,

This past Sunday–which was a balmy, humid, sexy day–I attended the Jackie 60’s crew Bowery Bombshells show in Tompkins Square Park, which was part of the yearly HOWL! festival. It was quite a treat but far from fluffy as there were many wonderful literary and New York historical anecdotes throughout. Homage was paid to Lower East Side legendary women from the 19th century to recently–so there were some bittersweet moments concerning a couple of women I actually knew back in the day.

Here is some of the background from the Low Life Facebook page and then I’ll walk you through my photos:

The storied history of the EAST VILLAGE and THE LOWER EAST SIDE was made in part by a glorious mix of female firebrands, artists, libertines, showgirls and other pioneers – the inspiration for this year’s LOW LIFE @HOWL. Now in its seventh year as the closing show at the HOWL! FESTIVAL, LOW LIFE is produced by East Village based performance/club collective THE JACKIE FACTORY and its entertaining masterminds CHI CHI VALENTI and JOHNNY DYNELL.

Their 2013 edition will be a 90 minute free outdoor spectacle, starring generations of NYC contemporary and alternative performers and ensembles. From East Village icons to emerging stars, each will present an homage (in dance, song, striptease, dramatic reading etc.) to one of the title’s BOWERY BOMBSHELLS.

These tributes will span more than a century: East 13th Street resident
and Anarchist EMMA GOLDMAN, writer and John Waters star COOKIE MUELLER,
Brooklyn-born MAE WEST, who began her career in the neighborhood’s
vaudeville theaters, Bowery icon and tavern-keeper SLUGGER ANN
(grandmother of JACKIE CURTIS), La MaMa titaness ELLEN STEWART, Velvet
Underground chanteuse NICO, neo-psychedelic star WENDY WILD, Beat
Goddess DIANE DI PRIMA, artist GREER LANKTON, celebrated lesbian and
pioneering decorator ELSIE DE WOLFE, poet laureate PATTI SMITH and more.


So good to see the Dueliing Bankheads again. These pickled dames have been around for 20+ years, at least! I’ll never forget the night they played Squeezebox–and didn’t go on until 4:30am!–and did a toilet-humor version of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”

For HOWL! they did a bawdy, un-pc tribute to lesbian interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe: “It’s a nice day for a DYKE wedding!” Of course it also worked as both a tribute and a satire of the gay marriage zeitgeist.


I took this photo today–I walk up Irving Place every morning on my way to work at Tiffany’s. It’s the former home of Washington Irving but later on lesbian decorator Elsie de Wolfe lived here. Oscar Wilde lived next door. Paul Alexander and Chi Chi talked about it from the stage.


This was the tribute to East Village puppet maker Greer Lankton (who went from male to female when she was 14). She had a shop on East 6th or 7th street in the mid ’80s called EINSTEIN’S and well, because my babysitter used to push my stroller into the shop every week in 1986ish, I actually remember the place well. I have vivid memories of the fabulously creepy dolls that were propped up in the window and all around the store. The clothes for sale were interesting too. I really miss that place! I sort-of remember seeing Greer at the Pyramid Club and her looking like one of her dolls.



The sublime, postmodern tribute to Nico.


A burlesque tribute to anarchist Emma Goldman.



Justin Vivian Bond did a lively, hilarious reading of a Cookie Mueller poem about golden showers.


The afternoon’s marvelous hosts, Jackie founding legends Chi Chi Valenti and Paul Alexander. Johnny Dynell, another Jackie founder, was backstage commandeering the soundtracks.


A tribute photo of Wendy Wild, who was a friend of mine in the late ’80s and ’90s. She passed away from breast cancer in 1996. She was a guest on my TV show filmed at Wigstock on the piers in ’95. Every Sunday night I hung out with her at the Pyramid Club when she was doing coatcheck, and I never missed a performance of her band Das Furlines at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut or any peformance of her character Joey Heatherock, based on Joey Heatherton, whom she resembled. I really miss Wendy!


More Bankheads!


Jessica Rabbit did a highly energetic and captivating can-can dance.



Velocity Chyaldd as Mae West. Gorgeous! Mae West was born in Bushwich, Brooklyn. She visited the notorious Suicide Hall at 295 Bowery in the 1920s as research for her novelization of “Diamond Lil.”





Thanks for reading.


Glenn Belverio

Glenn Belverio

Glenn Belverio is a writer and New Yorker. He has been reporting for ASVOF since 2005 and currently works at The Museum of Modern Art as the Content Manager for MoMA Design Store.