New York City history is full of stories of idolized places and people. Clubs, music scenes and first shows of bands that would later become famous are discussed in excited, nostalgic-tinged tones. On the short list of such conversations is Max’s Kansas City, the nightclub and restaurant that was at center of NYC cool from the late ’60s on through the ’70s.
At Max’s, everyone could be someone. It was the hangout spot of choice for Andy Warhol and his entourage and artists including John Chamberlain and Forrest Myers. Many famous musicians frequented the club, too: David Bowie met Iggy Pop in the backroom, said Yvonne Sewall Ruskin, partner of the late Mickey Ruskin (Max’s Kansas City owner) and a former waitress at Max’s, who shared highlights of the club’s past with us. But you could also just go there and become someone, if you were dedicated.
Mickey was adamant about making his customers feel comfortable and he wanted them to become “regulars,” said Sewall Ruskin.
In her memoir, “Just Kids,” Patti Smith described how she and the artist Robert Mapplethorpe went to Max’s repeatedly before they were admitted to the backroom, where the “cool” people hung out.
Sewall Ruskin is the director of The Max’s Kansas City Project, a nonprofit that provides emergency relief for individuals in the arts in need of housing, medical and legal aid. She’s celebrating the 50th anniversary of Max’s with a benefit tribute concert for the organization on Thursday night at The Cutting Room in New York City. (Info and tickets here: thecuttingroomnyc.com.)
Max’s defined an era in New York City, and played a role in the success of many bands and musicians, from Bruce Springsteen to Aerosmith to the Velvet Underground. Take a trip back in time with us.