Resident at Westbeth since 1979
I came from Chicago with what I thought was a pretty good theatre résumé. But I wanted to know more about acting, so I enrolled at HB Studio hoping to work with Uta Hagen, and I did. Bouncing around the Village from apartment to apartment was not easy while working nights at the Buffalo Roadhouse–before finally subletting at Grove and Bleecker. I knew I had to be in the Village. I loved everything going on, and started doing showcases at Judson Poets Theater. It was 1974 when I met the wonderful singer, actress, and painter Lee Guilliatt at McBell’s on Sixth Avenue, where Judson people hung out. Lee had a studio at Westbeth where she painted and lived. She insisted that I waste no time in applying for an apartment here, and I did so right away. I modeled for several paintings too.
I don’t remember the year, but I was so impressed by a banner put up by Westbeth residents stretched from Westbeth across Washington Street saying, “Dear John, we have your license plate number, and first we are calling your place of business and then calling your wife!” The area was still hooker heaven at night with pimps sometimes fighting it out, and gunshots weren’t uncommon. The banner did the job. I remember thinking at the time, it takes an artist to move in and save an area, something I’d been part of in Chicago–so I knew I had to live here.
I also did my first show at Judson wearing nothing but a red Speedo at this time. Talk about hitting the gym! (Eventually I did over twelve shows at Judson for the great Rev. Al Carmines.) More theatre about town, two years on Broadway in Equus, a stint in L.A. as a contract player at Universal, plus a year in SoHo living with Lee and her partner Essie in their loft. Then I got the call in 1979! My apartment in Westbeth was available. My own space to live and work in. Dream fulfilled. I could see the Empire State Building out my window! With street finds and contributions from friends, I set up my new home. I started writing again and did a staged reading of my first play, The Flower Palace, at the little theatre down in the courtyard. Yeah. I was home.