Posts Tagged ‘East Village in the 1960s’

The East Village hippie who ran for president

September 14, 2015

Third-party candidates for president tend to come from out of the mainstream. That’s the case with Louis Abolafia, a 27-year-old East Village artist.


In the 1960s, Abolafia, the son of a florist, made a name for himself as an abstract expressionist painter who staged happenings around the Village and helped shelter teenage runaways in his East Fourth Street apartment.

LouisabolafiaposterA nudist who came up with the cheeky campaign slogan “What Have I Got to Hide,” Abolafia decided to run for president in the 1968 election.

His ticket was the “Love” party, according to a New Yorker article from 1967, and his campaign kicked off with a “love in” at the Village Theater.

“In running for the Presidency I’m trying to bring about a world unity,” he told a crowd there.

“We should be a country of giving and giving and giving. The way we’re going now, we’re all wrong. We could be giants; we should be 10 times above what the Renaissance was.”

Abolafia scored some attention from the media. He appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (as a candidate for the Nudist Party) and distributed a poster of himself naked except for a bowler hat.

Amazingly, he received 300,000 to 2 million votes that November, but it wasn’t enough to beat Richard Nixon.

Louisabafolia“Louis decided to run for president because he understood that to be an artist, you have to do something a little outstanding,” his brother Oscar, a celebrity photographer, told Bedford and Bowery in 2013.

“Even today, don’t we look for people who are a little off the wall? I think my brother started that whole movement, doing something that’s off the wall so people notice you.”

After the publicity died down, Abolafia moved to San Francisco. His next appearance in the national press was his obituary in 1995, after he died of a drug overdose.

Father Ritter and the runaways of Times Square

February 2, 2012

As a young Franciscan priest serving St. Brigid’s Church on Avenue B, Father Bruce Ritter began opening his East Seventh Street apartment to runaway kids who had no place else to go.

From those humble beginnings came Covenant House, which served homeless street youths—first on LaGuardia Place, then in larger quarters near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in the late 1970s.

He described his mission as helping kids “find a way out of the gutters and brothels and strip joints where their young bodies are in demand as objects of pleasure for lustful adults.”

In the 1980s, he was constantly lauded by politicians. Millions in donations flowed in.

Until 1990, that is, when a male hustler accused him of setting him up in an apartment in exchange for sex.

Soon, more young men made similar accusations. Father Ritter then came under fire for financial improprieties.

The Franciscans ordered him to take a leave in 1990. He resigned, denying the allegations.

Later that year, an independent investigation found substantial evidence that he had made sexual advances toward young men associated with Covenant House since the 1970s.

Father Ritter lay low for the rest of his life, dying of cancer in upstate New York in 1999.

Covenant House didn’t end with Father Ritter. It still serves homeless kids here in New York at its West 41st Street shelter as well as in cities across the country.

Stanley’s: a bohemian 1960s East Village bar

November 15, 2011

For years, the ground-floor of this handsome tenement, on the northwest corner of 12th Street and Avenue B, has been home to a bodega.

But in the early 1960s, it was Stanley’s, “a hip place where Harlem met bohemia,” according to one resident at the time, a hangout for artists, writers, musicians, and other creative types who had begun colonizing the neighborhood real estate folks had just christened the East Village.

A 1965 guide to Greenwich Village had this to say about Stanley’s, as well as the bars that came before it:

“Among its patrons: [Allen] Ginsberg, David Henderson, Calvin Hernton, Tuli Kupferberg, Odetta, Ishmael Reed, Ed Sanders, and actors Lou Gossett, Moses Gunn, and Cicely Tyson,” states The Beat Generation in New York, by Bill Morgan.

Stanley’s was run by Stanley Tolkin, who later opened the Dom on St. Marks Place, a bar-slash-performance space that took heat in the mid to late 1960s for attracting a very uncool crowd.

Faded ad: The infamous Village Plaza Hotel

February 19, 2010

This almost-gone ad, seen from Sixth Avenue, is like a time capsule from the gritty, druggie Village of the 1960s and 1970s.

Judging by the few accounts of it I could find, the Village Plaza Hotel, at 79 Washington Place, was a squalid mess. Yes, as the ad says, it was air conditioned. But a 1972 New York Times article describes it as a dumping ground for criminally inclined welfare recipients. 

And a Times article from 1967 cites it as the final home of Linda Fitzpatrick, the Greenwich, Connecticut teenager who was one half of the “Groovy Murders”—killed along with her hippie boyfriend, Groovy Hutchinson, on Avenue B that year.

According to the article, Linda Fitzpatrick’s wealthy family had no idea she was living in a filthy SRO hotel:

“The Fitzpatrick’s minds were eased when Linda assured them she had already made respectable living arrangements. ‘She told us that she was going to live at the Village Plaza Hotel, a very nice hotel on Washington Place, near the university, you know,’ her mother said.

“The Village Plaza, 79 Washington Place, has no doorman. A flaking sign by the tiny reception desk announces ‘Television for Rental’ amidst a forest of other signs; ‘No Refunds,’ ‘All, Rents Must be Paid in Advance,’ ‘No Checks Cashed,’ ‘No Outgoing Calls for Transients.'”

When the East Village was “up and coming”

January 26, 2010

The East Village has been deemed “over”—overpriced, invaded by hipsters and posers—since at least the late ’60s.

But there was a brief time in the mid-1960s when it was crowned the New Bohemia, a haven for authentic artists and bohemians living cheaply beside Ukrainians, Poles, and other ethnic minorities.

In 1965, the Inside Guide to Greenwich Village published this little gem on East Village/Lower East Side living in its “where to live” section.

Rents average $40-$70 for 2-4 rooms? I wonder what that translates into in today’s dollars.

Strictly Kosher: the Peace Eye Bookstore

August 14, 2008

In 1965, the Peace Eye Bookstore opened in a former kosher meat market in the East Village; a map printed in John Gruen’s The New Bohemia has it at Tenth Street and Avenue C.

It became a cultural center for the peace-and-love crowd as well as the headquarters for the Fugs, a folk-rock group that played nearby venues like the Astor Playhouse on Lafayette Street and toured nationally.

Later references to the Peace Eye place it on Avenue A; maybe the kosher meat market didn’t work out and they relocated.

In any event, John Gruen describes them this way: “But the Fugs!!!! They are the one authentic group of singers that has emerged from the New Bohemia, and when their voices are lifted in song . . . well, those old four-letter words never had it so good, and that old rock-and-roll beat was never so gaudily sounded.”