Revisiting the late, great Max's Kansas City
by Francie Scanlon
Oct 13, 2010 | 2481 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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In her barely three decades of high-octane living, the transgender icon, cabaret singer, actress and Warhol Superstar - CANDY DARLING [a/k/a/ James Lawrence Slattery] - is depicted hanging out at Max's Kansas City, circa 1970. "Max's Kansas City" is the inaugural 2010/2011 season exhibition on view through October 16, 2010 at the Steven Kasher Gallery - 521 West 23rd Street, New York, New York 10011. (Photo: Anton Perich)
In 2005, Kansas City adopted "Kansas City" as its official song, dedicating "Goin' To Kansas City Plaza" in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz district.

First recorded in 1952 by the R&B Singer, Little Willie Littlefield, "K.C. Lovin" was made famous in 1959 by Wilbert Harrison's rendition, "Kansas City Here I Come."

The Beatles recorded a version of this song with Little Richard's "Hey, Hey, Hey" in 1964. The only time The Beatles performed the song in America was when the owner of the Kansas City Athletics baseball team paid them $150,000 to perform at their stadium.

In 1993, a recording of The Beatles playing "Kansas City" and "Some Other Guy" at the Cavern Club in 1962 was auctioned for about $32,000 at Christie's auction house in London.

The city has gotten a lot of love, but perhaps the most famous of Kansas City tributes was delivered by Mickey Ruskin when in 1965 he opened the doors to his iconic Park Avenue bar/restaurant Max's Kansas City, which was THE place to be until its closing in 1974.

A frequent haunt of artists from every vantage and prism of the New York art world - Color Field, Pop Art, Minimalism, Conceptual, Earthwork and Performance Art – Max's Kansas City was an extraordinary, pulsating place that was as much a work of art as any of its famous denizens.

There was a very fine demarcation of artistic space and time at Max's Kansas City - the front room was populated by the likes of John Chamberlain, Larry Rivers and Robert Rauschenberg, while the back room was reserved for Andy Warhol and his entourage, film and music people.

Painters and sculptors stood at the bar and the so-called 'regulars' - the avowed 'heavy-hitters' - were given the privilege of occupying booths beside the bar. Drink and argument flowed readily amongst the standing-room-only crowd, which was surrounded by the art work of prominent emerging painters whose work was displayed on yet another wall tableau.

The words of Andy Warhol echo still: "Max's Kansas City was the exact spot where Pop Art and Pop Life came together in the '60s - teenyboppers and sculptures, rock stars and poets from St. Mark's Place, Hollywood actors checking out what the underground acts were all about, boutique owners and models, modern dancers and go-go dancers – everybody went to Max's and everything got homogenized there."

All this is very well-chronicled in an accompanying ABRAMS-published book. Max's Kansas City Art Glamour, Rock and Roll [with an Afterword by Lou Reed] reclaims the heady past with over 100 vintage and modern photographs in black and white and color shot at Max's along with large-scale sculptures and painting by the inner circle.

Kansas City, here you come – and art-lover, you can get there just the same - to the Steven Kasher Gallery (521 West 23rd Street) by Saturday, October 16, and the Loretta Howard Gallery (525 West 26th Street) by Saturday, October 30. Don't forget as you enter the Kasher Gallery to pick a selection from the vintage era juke-box [similar to the original at Max's Kansas City] - it's free as is this journey through the era of free love!
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