I wandered into the Pyramid one Sunday afternoon where a rehearsal for a cracked version of Family Feud was going on. After watching for just a few minutes, I found myself as contestant on the Feud and as they say, the rest is HerStory. I made SO many friends there over the years, some of them VERY fast. At the time I was working at Vogue and there would often be accessories and expensive makeup giveaways, which I bagged and took to the Pyramid. I became FAST friends with lots of drag performers, many in this video, giving away $25 lipsticks & $40 YSL gold makeup compacts like candy.
For a couple of years, ’83-84, I hosted Straight To Hell, a live version of The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts (true gay stories) started by Boyd McDonald and then edited by my friend, Victor Weaver. I hosted a cavalcade of star performers and legends every Sunday night in rapid succession, and if I didn’t have the posters I designed to prove it, I would believe the line-up; John Waters, Fran Lebowitz, Kenneth Anger, Quentin Crisp, Warhol Superstars Jackie Curtis & Taylor Mead, John Sex, Cookie Mueller and on and on.
Between 1983 and 1988, Marjan Moghaddam was the resident video artist at the legendary Pyramid Club, where she made and showed video art in addition to shooting bands, performance art, drag shows, etc.
“I’ve held on to the original videos for decades now, and in 2011 I put together this short video for a Pyramid event at Howl! Festival, where it was originally screened. It was shown again at Howl! Gallery during the Pyramid show in 2015.
At some point in 1985, Brian Butterick the manager of the Pyramid and I decided to interview patrons for an anniversary of the club. The interviewers also included performance artists John Kelly and Marlene Mennard. Working with the interview footage from the 80s, I edited other videos I had of the Pyramid ranging from Lady Bunny’s disco band, to seminal punk and hard core bands like Butthole Surfers, Gwar and False Profits, and experimental musicians such as Elliott Sharp.
The line “Drag Queens and Skinheads” was from Raybies of NYC hardcore band Warzone, who alongside Jimmy Gestapo of Murphy’s Law, attempted to describe what made the Pyramid special. The interviewees included the likes of jazz singer Stephanie Crawford and Sound Man Craig Overbay (who went on to produce Nirvana and other Grunge bands), to East Village icons like Wendy Wild.
The Pyramid’s unique inclusivity across all cultural lines, mixing gay and straight, disco and punk, high art and pop culture foreshadowed the social justice, LBGT and trasgendered civil rights movement in America by decades. As many people point out throughout these interviews from 1985, it was rare for all the tribes of the underground in NYC of the 80s to mingle so seamlessly together. But mostly it was exactly as Wendy Wild said,
“there has never been anything like the Pyramid.”
I agree. I still live in NYC and unlike more than half the people in this video, I’m still alive, and can attest that Wendy was right. After the credits I have created a tribute to all the people who appear in this video who passed away from AIDS, drug overdoses, accidents and cancer/disease, sadly, its many.
These are all my dead friends and I have to keep these for them. This is for all of them.”
In order of Appearance:
Brian Butterick, Alan Mace (Sister Dimension), Michael Ullman (aka Kittie), stephanie crawford, Shazork, Lady Bunny, Dimitri, Gordon Spaeth, Butthole Surfers, Craig OVerbay, Dean Johnson, Rat At Rat R, David Rat, Sonda, Ethyl Eicheberger, Happi Phace, Stephen Tashjian (Taboo), Bunny Manhattan (aka Richard Lieberman), Pyramid Float Gay Pride 1986, John Kelly, Marlene Mennard, Bush Tetras, Marjan Moghaddam, Iris Rose, Joshua Fried, Julie Hair, Grace, Natalie Gestapo, Gwar, Raybies, Jimmy Gestapo, Bernard Zette, Tobine Cradle, Bobby Bradley, Keith Streng, Wendy Wild, They Might Be Giants, Margaret Ann Outhred aka Hali Fields, Jesse Hultberg, 3 Teens Kill Four, Doug Bressler, Lefferts Brown, Masters of Reality, John Sex, Animal X and the Amazons, Chris Clements, Jim Fouratt, Joey Arias, Nick Cave, Liquid Liquid, Phillip Overbay, David Crocker, Sapho, Tanya Ransom, Edgar Carson Oliver, Helen Carson Oliver, Anne Craig, Disturbed Form, Bill Milhizer, False Profits, The Archies, Richard Baran and Barabra Buryak, Bernell Crawford, Brian Damage, Stephen Ielpi, Andrea Poole, Lucille Reader, Winston C Robinson Jr, Rolf Rombschick, Larry Shox, Greg Smith, and Louis Williams.
Special Thanks to the following for their help:
Jonny Sender, Diane D Streiker, Geordie Gillespie, Sonda Andersson Pappan, Daniel Durning, Nick Zedd
Technical Note: *All footage is as is, with no stabilization, image or color correction, in attempt to preserve the video’s media and historic authenticity.