BY BOB KRASNER | If you want to receive an Acker Award, keep doing what you’re doing — and who knows? — it could happen.
In the meantime, if you want to get a seat at the ceremony, get there early. The East Village community quickly filled the seats at The Theater for the New City, sending the staff scrambling to bring in extra seats and floor cushions, and still part of the audience was left standing.
The draw was longtime resident Clayton Patterson’s annual salute to the people who make the East Village / Lower East Side what it is. Honoring an eclectic mix of avant-garde artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, activists and more, the evening moved quickly as emcee Phoebe Legere — appropriately dressed as a very fashionable ringmaster — presented each award.
Patterson hung back, handing out the boxes containing a mix of memorabilia and art contributed by the winners, and occasionally snapping pics.
Crystal Field, director of TNC, received the first award for Lifetime Achievement. Field gave a brief speech, noting that she thought that “things are getting better,” while reminding us that “we are a grain of sand in history’s march forward.”
Cynthia Carr, a writer and historian, received the Candy Darling Award.
“I hope that I’ll end up deserving this someday,” she said.
Linus Coraggio, of the Rivington School, accepted his Acker “in the name of positive cultural transformation.”
“This award means more to me than any other, because my life is avant-garde theater,” noted Melba LaRose.
Trigger, former owner of the late, lamented Continental bar, reminisced about his friend Joey Ramone’s last show, which took place at his club. An Acker Award “honors the past, present and future,” he remarked.
Musician Jesse Malin related how he “found my tribe on St. Mark’s Place.”
Power Malu began his turn at the mic with a tribute to Patterson and ended with an impassioned spoken-word piece about the plight of post-hurricane Puerto Rico. Community activist Lila Mejia also had Puerto Rico on her mind, as she offered T-shirts for sale to raise money for the island.
Tattoo artist Tommy Houlihan thanked his mother, who bought him his first tattoo machine.
Patterson, who spoke only sporadically during the ceremony, summed up the reasons for the Ackers’ existence.
“If we don’t save our own history, who will?” he asked. Explaining his desire to recognize local talent, he explained, “A lot of the time, the real heroes are the ones you don’t know about until years later. The real geniuses are in the background.
“These are people who inspire the community,” he added. “I’m not trying for a crew, I’m going for a community.”