Up on the 5th Floor
I was living with my friend Carla Dee Ellis in a small apartment on Thompson Street between Prince and Spring. When we heard that a loft was available at 98 Bowery we grabbed the lease. The rent was $175 a month for a 2000 square-foot space with a five-flight climb to the top floor.
The space was a mess. You could still see markings on the floor from the partitions that separated the beds when it was still a flophouse. Haphazardly installed tin tiles barely covered crumbling walls that were still visible. More positively the sloping ceiling that rose to 18 feet and a huge skylight created a dramatic effect. We divided up the large open space with temporary walls and cubicles, setting aside about a third of the loft as a studio for Carla, where I could also indulge in my own fledgling art efforts.
There was plenty of room for parties and for out-of-town visitors to stay either overnight or for extended periods. Many of our friends from those early years -- Mike Shannon, Billy Collins, Shelley Bennett, Mike Malloy and Alan Moore -- were fellow expatriates from the University of California at Riverside. Other regulars included art historian and painter Tom Wolf, a friend at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts; and Trevor Brown, a photographer whom Carla met when she began working as a fashion model. Trevor introduced us to our neighbors at 96 Bowery -- trumpet player Randy Brecker of the Brecker Brothers, and the singer Denise Delapena, a cast member of Hair. During those early years hundreds of people passed through adding to the open spirit.
Everyone in the building was friends. Artists Ernest Gusella and Tomayo Sasaki, the earliest tenants on the fourth floor were Canadians who had recently graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute. They were followed on the fourth floor by two School of Visual Arts students, Cheryl Meinken and Janet Tate; and then a couple of years later by painter Curt Hoppe and his wife Becky Anderson who came from Minneapolis. Video artist Paul Tschinkel had a studio on the third floor; when he moved to Soho, photographer Eve Sonneman and painter Bob Yucikus took over the space.