Some places go down in history for their architecture, for having housed dignitaries, for being the scene of a heinous crime, and some are all of those things. Enter Max’s Kansas City, the New York, late-night hotspot of grimy interiors, rock and roll royalty, and some seriously debauched
Before the influx of corporate cash, New York was the only place to be. The city was vibrating with creative energy and Max’s provided a safe space for the giant forces of music art and poetry to converge in one extra special spot. Whether they were drinking or performing pretty much anyone who was anyone during the seventies found themselves at Max’s.
Found on Eighteenth Street and Park Avenue South the venue housed some of the scene’s biggest characters and with the chance of Debbie Harry being your waitress for the night, we would’ve been there every night.
Plus the opportunity to ‘accidentally’ bump into William S. Burroughs, or Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, John Cale, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Rauschenberg, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn, whom all called Max’s home for an evening or two.
“I met Iggy Pop at Max’s Kansas City in 1970 or 1971,” recalled David Bowie. “Me, Iggy and Lou Reed at one table with absolutely nothing to say to each other, just looking at each other’s eye makeup.”
James Wolcott recalls in Vanity Fair that Max’s was “a restaurant and nightclub on Park Avenue South whose name had little to do with Max and even less to do with Kansas City, this magnet for artists, actors, musicians, poets, and fame moochers was opened in 1965 by Mickey Ruskin [1933–1983]”
Wolcott continued: “The mottled glory that was Max’s is a two-part saga. From the mid-60s to the early 70s, it was thronged with painters, sculptors, and Zeus-browed critics, its in-crowd back room becoming the banquet spot for Andy Warhol and his apostles from the Factory. (Warhol’s flagship band, the Velvet Underground, recorded a live album there.)
“This gave way to the thundering hooves of glitter-rockers such as the New York Dolls in their platform wedges and lipstick pouts, bringing down the curtain on Act I. Max’s closed in 1974 and reopened in 1975 under new management and became the North Pole of the punk/New Wave movement to CBGB’s southern pole on the Bowery.”
So many great photographs were taken by long time patron, busboy and photographer for Max’s who joined in 1972 recalls: “There were three epicenters at Max’s: Bar, Back Room
The collection of images comes via the following sources: Vanity Fair, Dazed and Stephen Kasher Gallery.
For more salacious material, check out Max’s Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock