For the Voice, Greenwich Village was never just a place. It was a state of mind and a way of looking at the world. Photography by Fred W. McDarrah, Sylvia Plachy, James Hamilton, Amy Arbus, Catherine McGann, and Robin Holland.
Jack Kerouac reading poetry at the Artist’s Studio at 48 East 3rd Street, February 15, 1959.
“I smoked pot with Jack,” Fred W. McDarrah, who served as a picture editor and photographer for the Village Voice from 1956 to 2005, told the East Hampton Star in 1999 of
his friendship with Beat writer Kerouac. “The funny part was that we both hated it. It was not something we enjoyed,”
he said. “Even though it was part of the culture at the time, I don’t like anything that puts you in a place where you’re
floating. I like to keep my feet on the ground.” McDarrah passed away in 2007.
American poets LeRoi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka)
and Diane di Prima sit together in a booth at the Cedar Street Tavern, April 5, 1960. The following year, the pair would begin publication of a literary magazine, the Floating
Bear. Though originally located on Cedar Street, the tavern had, by the time of this photo, relocated to 24 University Place.
A group of young people celebrate outside the boarded-up Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street after riots over the
weekend of June 27, 1969. The bar and surrounding area were the site of a series of demonstrations and riots that led to the formation of the modern gay rights movement in the United States.
Backstage at the Grammy Awards at the Uris Theatre (later renamed the Gershwin Theatre). From left, David Bowie, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, and Roberta Flack (John and Yoko’s neighbor at the Dakota), March 1, 1975. Lennon wears a medallion around his neck that reads “Dr. Winston O’Boogie”
and a jeweled “Elvis” brooch; Ono and Lennon’s only child together, Sean Lennon, was born seven months later.
Mr. Purple, 1985
“He was like a spirit, his white hair flowing as he rode his bike up and down the East Village. He always wore purple and he always rode fast. There was also a Mrs. Purple who wore purple, but she went out less.”
Under the Williamsburg Bridge, 1987
“It was the time of AIDS. It was late and I was heading home
when this sign called out to me. I had to stop, set up my tripod, and take this image from thedarkness with me.”
The Circus Comes to Town, 1977
“Every end of March, Barnum & Bailey would parade through
the streets of Manhattan with some of its stars. I was there
when Gunther Gebel-Williams stopped the procession and
gave a command. Suddenly, the two elephants lifted their
bulk into the air. I dropped to the ground, focusing furiously.
Unaware of the second command, I stayed down. Only
when the elephants started lowering themselves and the
people were shouting to me did I scamper to my feet.”
Angel Jack and the Kittens at Studio 54, 1983
Guy Trebay and I often went together scouring the city for his weekly column. This time we were in the basement dressing room of Studio 54 with the Kittens, young girl singers who were about to go on stage, when Angel Jack appeared at their door. Here is an excerpt of Angel Jack in Guy’s words, a “ towering vision in fishnet unitard that covered half his body with sequins, the other half not at all.”
Wild Bikes, 1986
“This is what kids did on their bikes back then. A platform
was built in an alley on the Lower East Side and the boys
would pedal fast to the top, do a flip in the air, and scoot
back down. For the best view I positioned myself on the
ledge and asked them to be careful and they said they
Pope John Paul II, 1979
“The pope was visiting New York and people were gathering at Yankee Stadium to hear him say Mass. There
were welcoming pictures and signs along the way, like
this one in the window of an Irish bar.”
Murdered protester at Tiananmen Square, June 1989
“The editor of the Voice at the time, Jon Larsen, decided to send us. While we were on our way there, the military charged in and slaughtered hundreds of protesters. With the help of university students, we covered the aftermath of the massacre as the government imposed martial law in Beijing. The students had loaned us bicycles, and one night, after curfew, they led us to a large shed near a hospital. We broke in and discovered that it was filled with body bags of the murdered protesters. I uncovered the bodies, and as it was dark, I had to use the flash on my camera. This aroused attention from a trailer near the shed and the authorities began to show up with flashlights. We ran and managed to get away on our bikes. These students had risked their
lives for us. Since we feared having the film confiscated
at the international airport, we made our way to Guangzhou on a domestic flight. Because there was a news blackout, the
authorities in Guangzhou were not aware enough to search us at the airport and we took a train to Hong
Kong, where Joe wrote the story. I connected with Newsweek and sent the film to the Voice in their pouch. The Voice was the first paper anywhere to publish photographs of the murdered Chinese citizens.”
Tompkins Square Police Riot, August 1988
“I was at a dinner party at Karen Durbin’s place with a bunch of Voice writers, and someone mentioned that there may be trouble in Tompkins Square because the police were going to
roust some squatters. Since I had my camera with me, as usual, I ran over and made this picture.”
Teamsters Boss Jackie Presser At The Teamsters Convention, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, May 1986
"Reporter Joe Conason & I went to Las Vegas and crashed the Teamsters Convention at Caesars Palace, pretending to be reporters for a Teamsters paper. I made this picture at the climax of the convention, as Teamster Boss, Jackie Presser was carried in in style."
Congressman Gary Ackerman and State Senator Franz Leichter on Imelda Marcos’s bed at Malacañang Palace, Manila, Philippines, February 1986
“Joe Conason and I were sent by the paper to the Philippines to cover the campaign and the People’s Party’s election of Corazon Aquino. After we returned, dictator Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown and we went back to cover that story. We eventually went to check out Malacañang Palace and I discovered two New York politicians, Congressman Gary Ackerman and State Senator Franz Leichter, laughing together on Imelda Marcos’s bed.”
The Beastie Boys, December 1986
“My apartment is across the street from where the Voice used to be, on University Place, and it still doubles as a studio/darkroom. I would often have subjects in for portraits, and the Beastie Boys showed up one evening.”
Jimmy in the Half Moon bar, the Bowery, April 1977
“In the late 1970s, Michael Daly and I decided that we
wanted to find out what life was like in the bars and flophouses on the Bowery, places we had passed many times but knew nothing about. I kept my camera under my coat in the bars, and Michael stayed in the flophouses. The most notorious bar was called the Half Moon, where the bartenders were horribly abusive to the men. There was a guy there named Jimmy that I liked very much.”
The Clash, 1981
“It was an excuse to talk to anybody,” Arbus said. “It was a way for me personally to be involved in a very hip scene, the downtown East Village scene, that I wasn’t initially a part of"
“The only direction I was given was to photograph anyone that made me turn my head,” Amy Arbus told the Voice in 2015 of her popular “On the Street” feature, which ran from
1980 to 1990. “The theory behind the whole ‘On the
Street’ page for ten years was that these kids were inventing the styles that then were going to be borrowed by [designers
such as] Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui.”
A portrait of former mayor Ed Koch and the Reverend
Al Sharpton shot for an October 19, 1999, cover story by Peter Noel entitled “Brothers in Arms: How Ed Koch made
Al Sharpton kosher and is winning the hearts of African Americans.”
Michael Musto, 1992
“After sixteen years of working with him every week on his column, I have so many photos of him that I love. This is an outtake I’ve never released before from the Madonna Sex
book spoof we did to raise money for AIDS.”
L-R: L.L. Cool J (a/k/a James Todd Smith), Russell Simmons, Heavy D (a/k/a Dwight Myers), and Jalil Hutchins of Whodini pose for a photo at a party for the release of Run-D.M.C.’s Tougher Than Leather album on September 15,1988, at the Palladium nightclub.
Michael Alig, circa 1990s
“How about this one for Michael Alig? I have to tell you, I’ve never released this one before to anyone, anywhere...it’s from Limelight. This one is of the Club Kids at one of Michael
Musto’s birthday parties. Michael Alig is the one in the center, with his head turned. Ernie Glam is at the back on the left; he also once worked at the Voice.”