a patti smith pilgrimage guide

[text by Alison K. Armstrong, w/ minor additions by Fiona Webster;
unless otherwise noted, photos by Alison K. Armstrong]

When I visited New York City for the first time this September, 1996, to see Patti perform at the CMJ Music Conference and Summerstage, I began looking for sites connected with her, places I'd read about in various books as well as some suggested to me by babel-list members. My search, I saw, as a "pilgrimage," but not in the traditional religious sense of the word. Instead, I see a pilgrimage as a journey to places associated with someone supremely important in your life. This is not to imply that Patti is some saintly or superhuman figure, but rather someone who has made a very significant impact on many people's lives, including mine, helping us to be aware of potentials, of magic, of sacred connections.

This guide is intended to help people interested in Patti locate relevant sites. Like the people have the power page it is designed as a sort of work in progress so that people can keep adding to it. Since the places listed so far are just a few of the many associated with Patti, and several of the entries are quite brief, additions, including more photos, are encouraged. Although I have focused on New York City sites, the guide could eventually be expanded to feature places in Michigan and other locations.

One thing I feel strongly about is that, in addition to being informative and entertaining, the guide should be respectful of Patti's privacy. Anything that might interfere with her personal life, such as her current or Michigan address (if known), information about Patti, her children, and other people close to her that is not readily available in books, magazine articles, radio and TV interviews, etc., should not be included.

Any suggestions for improvement are welcome. Also, if people on the babel-list find the word "pilgrimage" offensive, maybe they could suggest other titles and we could somehow vote on them. After all, this is a group project, and it should reflect our shared love for Patti.

(Much of this information was obtained from Patricia Morrisroe's Mapplethorpe: A Biography, Legs McNeill and Gillian McCain's Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, or Clinton Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids.)

Brentano's Bookstore
5th Ave., NYC

Where Patti worked for awhile soon after she first arrived in NY City. No dates were given by Morrisroe, who mentions it on p. 52 of the Mapplethorpe biography.

FAO Schwartz
767 5th Ave. at 58th St., NYC

Very pricey toy store, in existence since 1852, where Patti worled as a cashier after the Brentano's job. Robert Mapplethorpe also worked here briefly at the same time as a window designer.

Scribner's Bookstore
5th Ave., NYC

Where, according to Morrisroe, Patti worked after the FAO Schwartz job. However, Clinton Heylin in his book From the Velvets to the Voidoids mentions this as Patti's first job in NY in 1967 (p. 106). Patti has talked about this job in interviews with Hit Parader in '76 and with Elle in May '96. (Scribner Publishing is now owned by Simon and Schuster, and there is no current address listed for Scribner's.)

Gotham Book Mart 41 W. 47th St., NYC

This bookstore, known for helping to boost the careers of Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, and others, is where Patti used to sit amongst the stacks and read French Symbolist poetry during lunch hours. Bookstore owner Andreas Brown spotted her there, and as he states in Morrisroe's book, noting her "bizarre and emaciated" appearance, "felt sorry for her" (p.80). Later, in September 1973, Brown published Witt, her third book of poetry, and planned an exhibition of her art at the store. Gotham Book Mart is also credited on the Radio Ethiopia liner notes: "harry crosby's opium pipe courtesy of gotham book mart."

All the books by Patti that were published by Gotham Book Mart are listed on the bibliography page.

Village Oldies
Bleecker St., NYC

Where Lenny Kaye worked. Patti visited Lenny here and asked him if he wanted to accompany her poetry with guitar.

Matt Umanov's Guitars

Well-known among guitarists and apparently one of Patti's favorite guitar stores. She made a reference to it on stage at the Beacon Theater last year, commenting that she was using a Umanov guitar pick and that the place has "great people, great guitars, overpriced." Zeke Schein from Matt Umanov's Guitars played slide guitar at Patti's September 1996 Central Park Summerstage concert. The store is also mentioned under "thank you" on the Gone Again liner notes.

Allerton Hotel
302 W. 22nd St., NYC
photos: A, B, and C

Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe were here briefly after a short stay in a loft on Delancey St. and before moving to the Chelsea. According to Patricia's Morrisroe's book about Mapplethorpe (p.62), this hotel, frequented by "derelicts and drug addicts," was where Patti wrote "Sister Morphine". At this time she was taking care of Robert, who had a serious infection, and inspired by his condition as well as the sound of numerous ambulances speeding towards the nearby St. Vincent's Hospital, she captured her impressions in this poem. A few lines:
once, a long time ago, i checked into the alton house with my friend, in pain. his nerve was exposed and he laid for several days on the bumpy rusting cot draining and weeping. from the room next to ours came the moans of a willow bending in rhythum to the watershed of my friend. one night, in desperation, i called on the voice. i had never seen him but i had slept on the fire escape breathing through the morning in term with his wailing, his tolling, his haunting songs of wind.
(This poem is published in Babel.)

Chelsea Hotel
222 W. 23rd St., NYC
photos: A and B

An old, eccentrically stylish hotel built in the late 19th century -- where Patti and Robert lived after moving from the Allerton. According to Morrisroe (pp.62-63), Patti had carried an ailing Robert down the Allerton fire escape and accompanied him, by cab, to the Chelsea, where she then carried him over the threshold and announced herself to the manager, Stanley Bard. It is in the lobby of the Chelsea where, as Morrisroe relates, Patti met Bobby Neuwirth, who subsequently introduced to his famous friends, including Janis Joplin. The Chelsea is where filmmaker Sandy Daley filmed Robert Gets His Nipple Pierced, which stars Mapplethorpe and Patti. In addition to its association with Patti and Robert, the hotel is famous for the many artists -- such as Joplin, Hendrix, the Jefferson Airplane, and William Burroughs -- who stayed here. The Chelsea was also featured in the PBS documentary series American Family, since Lance Loud, the family's gay son, stayed at the Chelsea when he moved to NY. A more lurid aspect of the Chelsea's recent history involves Sid Vicious, who killed his girlfriend Nancy at the hotel in 1978.

There is a mention of the Chelsea Hotel in Patti's January '76 interview w/ Rolling Stone.

Also see these lyrics by Leonard Cohen.

El Quijote
[? address], NYC
photos: El Q and composite w/ Chelsea Hotel and El Q (by Anthony Roukis)

Bar near the Chelsea where members of the Patti Smith babel-list met up with each other and saw Patti after her September, 1996, Summerstage performance.

Good Luck Cheng's
206 W. 23rd St., NYC

Formerly the Oasis Bar, above which Patti and Robert shared a loft for several years. The place is now a Chinese restaurant which has drag shows.

St. Mark's In-The-Bowery Episcopal Church
131 E.10th St (2nd Ave. at 10th), NYC
photos: A and B

Historic church and poetry performance venue where Patti gave her first concert in February 1971 on Brecht's birthday. Lenny Kaye accompanied her while she performed poetry, including "Oath," which would later transmute into the opening for "Gloria" and also "Fire of Unknown Origin."

For information on Cash Cow -- The Best of Giorno Poetry Systems, 1965-1993, featuring "Seven Ways of Going" and other Patti selections performed at St. Mark's, see discography page.

See this home page for current info about the church.

The American Place Theatre formerly (1971) in St. Clement's Episcopal Church at 423 W. 46th St.
since moved to 111 W. 46th

Where Patti Smith and Sam Shepard starred in their first and only performance of The Cowboy Mouth (original title) on April 29, 1971. This performance was the American premiere of the play, which was directed by Robert Glaudini. Glaudini also played the role of "Lobster Man." There was no advance advertising, and the performance was not reviewed.

The Cowboy Mouth was presented as "an afterpiece," following the headline production, which was Shepard's Back Bog Beast Bait. Back Bog Beast Bait, also in its premiere performance, was directed by Tony Barsha. (In this performance Shepard's wife, O-Lan Johnson-Shepard, played the role of "Gris-Gris.")

In The Cowboy Mouth, written by Smith and Shepard, Patti (under the stage name of "Johnny Guitar") plays Cavale -- "a chick who looks like a crow, dressed in raggedy black" -- who kidnaps Slim (Shepard, under the stage name of "Slim Shadow") and tries to transform him into a rock star savior figure.

When Patti and Sam wrote and performed this play, they were lovers and lived together at the Chelsea Hotel. In Don Shewey's book about Shepard, Sam is quoted as saying, "I'd never written a play with somebody before, and we literally shoved the typewriter back and forth across the table. We wrote the whole thing like that, in two nights."

The text of Cowboy Mouth first appears in print in Sam Shepard's Mad Dog Blues and Other Plays (copyright 1972). In later editions of the play Patti Smith alone holds the copyright. The play contains the text to two songs:"Have No Fear" and "Loose Ends," which are credited as by Patti Smith and Sam Shepard.

See photo of Patti in Cowboy Mouth.

Also see:

Max's Kansas City
Park Avenue South and 17th St., NYC

Where Patti performed in 1973 as an opening act for Phil Ochs and subsequently played regularly. As Morrisroe points out, before becoming well-known, Patti and Robert used to hang around here at night, hoping to get noticed by the Warhol crowd and other hip people who frequented the back room at Max's. Later, Patti was the headliner act for Television when they performed here Aug. 28-Sept.2, 1974. Max's Kansas City is the subject of a song by the same name performed by transsexual Jayne (formerly Wayne) County on the Max's Kansas City 1976 record (ROIR USA). This song has a reference to Patti as well as the other musicians who played here. A live Velvet Underground album was recorded there also.

See interview with Wayne County (mentions Patti at Max's).

Mercer Arts Centre
[? address], NYC

Where in early 1973 Patti, then managed by Jane Friedman, began reading her poetry as an opening act for the New York Dolls, sometimes accompanying herself with a toy piano, and fought back at hecklers. She performed without a mike in "The Kitchen" of the Centre. In August 1973, the Centre collapsed, and the NYC proto-punk scene didn't really have a locale until they moved to CBGB's.

See this history of The Kitchen.

(aka CBGBOMFUG, which is short for Country, Blue Grass, Blues, and Other Music For Uplifting Gourmandizers)
313 Gallery, NYC
photos: A and B

Hilly Crystal opened CBGB's on the lower east side in 1973. After Tom Verlain convinced Crystal to let Television play there, CBGB's hosted performances by Patti, Television, Blondie, Ramones, etc. and considered the birthplace of "punk" in the '70s. Patti and Lenny first went to CBGB's to hear a band in 1974 and beginning in February 1975 she started performing here regularly. In March 1975 Patti had a two month residency here, each weekend performing with Television. Due to the bands' performances, CBGB's began packing in crowds and developed a reputation as a cutting edge venue for innovative rock. Describing the unique CBGB's atmosphere, Clinton Heylin in From the Velvets to the Voidoids writes, "If New York had piles, it was a fair bet that this was their postal address" (p. 182). From a different perspective, Patti, in Morrisroe's book, says that the place reminded her of a "revival meeting" because it was so packed and "the feeling so intense" (p. 155).

See CBGB OMFUG Home Page for lots of loving details -- be sure to check out "The Shrine," or go directly to their Patti Smith feature

Review of 1975 CBGB's appearance by Patti

Kenny's Castaways
157 Bleecker St. at Thompson, NYC

Where Patti as opening act in May 1973 performed "Rape," among other pieces, and was later reviewed by the Village Voice.

Le Jardin
[address?], NYC

A gay discotheque where Patti performed at a Rimbaud reading in 1973, wearing a black evening gown and boa. She was accompanied by Lenny on guitar, and a piano, and sang torch songs.

Robert Miller Gallery
41 E. 57th St., NYC

Where Patti and Robert had a joint exhibition -- "Film and Stills" -- of art by Patti and work by Robert, including his film Still Moving, which features Patti.

See the gallery website for current details.

Electric Lady Studios
52 W. 8th St., off 6th Ave., NYC

Originally called Electric Ladyland, this recording studio was opened by Jimi Hendrix, and is where Patti recorded Horses and Gone Again. Patti has been interviewed there a few times a recently.

Comments about the atmosphere at Electric Lady(land) in these interviews: 7/77, 9/95, and 3/96.

The Bottom Line
15 W. 4th St., NYC

Where Patti gave seven famous sold-out shows in late December 1976. Here's what the New York Times said at that time, in anticipation of the event:
Recently returned from SRO gigs at the Roxy in Los Angeles and the Boarding House in San Francisco, Patti plays New York's ultimate rock emporium, The Bottom Line, on December 26-28, days before her 29th birthday. It's all rolling in fast now, and her cult followers from the old days wonder, Will Patti be a star? while her new fans wonder, Just who is this tough little chick?
Patti's performances at the Bottom Line are also mentioned on these babelogue pages:

      history around the time of horses

     diatribe against patti in after dark


The Other End (aka The Bitter End?)
[? address], NYC

Where Patti played in May '75, an event remarkable for the fact that her idol Bob Dylan paid a symbolic and widely photographed visit to hear her. This is what she told Thurston Moore about that occasion (from Bomb, January '96):
Somebody told us he was there. My heart was pounding. I got instantly rebellious. I made a couple of references, a couple of oblique things to show I knew he was there. And then he came backstage which was really quite gentlemanly of him. He came over to me and I kept moving around. We were like two pitbulls circling. I was a snotnose. I had a very high concentration of adrenaline. He said to me, "Any poets around here?" And I said, "I don't like poetry anymore. Poetry sucks!" I really acted like a jerk. I thought, that guy will never talk to me again. And the day after there was this picture on the cover of the Village Voice. The photographer had Dylan put his arms around me. It was a really cool picture. It was a dream come true, but it reminded me of how I had acted like a jerk. And then a few days later I was walking down 4th Street by the Bottom Line and I saw him coming. He put his hand in his jacket -- he was still wearing the same clothes he had on in the picture, which I liked -- and he takes out the Village Voice picture and says, "Who are these two people? You know who these people are?" Then he smiled at me and I knew it was alright.

Reno Sweeney's
126 West 13th Street, NYC

Now closed; where Patti gave a fashion show in 1974.

See Creem review.

The Beacon Theatre
[? address], NYC

Where Patti opened for Bob Dylan in December '95.

See reviews and details at Mitch Gart's website.

In the future, this project may be expanded to include sites from places other than NYC, such as The Old Mariner's Church in Detroit, and the place at Coney Island where Patti first met Fred.

other links, info, photos, references, stories, etc., are welcome! please send corrections/additions to j. bolt.

Copyright © Alison K. Armstrong 1996

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