Max's Kansas City

Max's Kansas City was a nightclub and restaurant at 213 Park Avenue South in New York City, which became a gathering spot for musicians, poets, artists and politicians in the 1960s and 1970s. It was opened by Mickey Ruskin (1933–1983) in December 1965, and closed in 1981.

Max's Kansas City
LocationManhattan, New York
Coordinates40°44′12″N 73°59′19″W / 40.73667°N 73.98861°WCoordinates: 40°44′12″N 73°59′19″W / 40.73667°N 73.98861°W
OwnerMickey Ruskin, Tommy Dean Mills
TypeMusic venue, restaurant


Max's I

Max's quickly became a hangout of choice for artists and sculptors of the New York School, like John Chamberlain, Robert Rauschenberg and Larry Rivers, whose presence attracted hip celebrities and the jet set.[1] Neil Williams, Larry Zox, Forrest (Frosty) Myers, Larry Poons, Brice Marden, Bob Neuwirth, Dan Christensen, Ronnie Landfield, Ching Ho Cheng, Richard Bernstein, Peter Reginato, Carl Andre, Dan Graham, Lawrence Weiner, Robert Smithson, Joseph Kosuth, Brigid Berlin, David R. Prentice, Roy Lichtenstein, Peter Forakis, Peter Young, Mark di Suvero, Larry Bell, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, Lee Lozano, Carlos Villa, Jack Whitten, Edward Leffingwell, Philip Glass, Max Neuhaus, Ray Johnson, Malcolm Morley, Lotti Golden, Marjorie Strider, Edward Avedisian, Carolee Schneemann, Dorothea Rockburne, Norman Bluhm, Kenneth Showell, Colette Justine, Lenore Jaffee, Tally Brown, Taylor Mead, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, René Ricard, Richard Gallo, Stephen Shore and Marisol were just some of the artists seen regularly at Max's. Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, art critics Lucy Lippard, Robert Hughes, Clement Greenberg, and Harold Rosenberg, art dealers Leo Castelli, and David Whitney, whose gallery was across the street,[2] writers Lillian Roxon,[3] Germaine Greer,[4] and architect Philip Johnson occasionally would be seen there as well.[5]

It was also a favorite hangout of Andy Warhol and his entourage, who dominated the back room. The Velvet Underground played there regularly, including their last shows with Lou Reed before he quit the band, in the summer of 1970. It was a home base for the glam rock scene, which included Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, the New York Dolls, Wayne County, Dorian Zero and the Magic Tramps. While her band did not play there until the second incarnation of the club, Patti Smith and her boyfriend, artist Robert Mapplethorpe, visited Max's almost nightly from 1969 through the early 1970s. Smith and guitarist Lenny Kaye also performed there as a duo on New Year's Day 1974, opening for Phil Ochs.[6] Many bands made early appearances there. Bruce Springsteen played a solo acoustic set in the summer of 1972.[7] He also played sets at the club on November 6, 7 and 8, 1973.[8] It was the site of Aerosmith's first New York City gig. Columbia Records president Clive Davis later signed Aerosmith to his record label there. Bob Marley & the Wailers opened for Bruce Springsteen at Max's, commencing Marley's career on the international circuit. Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, Odetta, Dave Van Ronk, John Herald, Garland Jeffreys, Sylvia Tyson, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Elliott Murphy and Country Joe were some of the musicians that played there.[9] Fashion designer Carlos Falchi was a busboy,[10] as was artist, publisher and filmmaker Anton Perich;[11] Deborah Harry was a waitress.

By the end of 1974, Max's had lost popularity among the art crowd and the glam era was in decline. The legendary establishment closed in December of that year. Ed Koch later had a campaign office in the building.[12] In 2015 photographer Marcia Resnick documented the people at Max's in her book Punks, Poets, and Provocateurs – New York City Bad Boys – 1977–1982.

Mickey Ruskin

Shortly after graduating from Cornell Law School, Mickey Ruskin opened The Tenth Street Coffeehouse, which featured nightly poetry readings. He then opened Les Deux Megots on East Ninth Street. His next endeavor was a bar called the Ninth Circle Steak House, a hangout for artists and musicians on West 10th Street. After opening Max's Kansas City, he opened similar restaurants including: the Longview Country Club[13] (later known as Levine's Restaurant) which was on 19th Street and Park Avenue South, diagonally across the street from Max's[14] and Max's Terre Haute, on the Upper East Side, but they did not do as well. His next club was The Locale on Waverly Place that he opened with partner Richard Sanders. Sanders kept The Locale and Mickey went on to The Lower Manhattan Ocean Club, on Chambers Street in TriBeCa.[12] Ruskin's last enterprise was Chinese Chance (nicknamed One U), a bar and restaurant that he opened with partner Sanders, located at 1 University Place in Greenwich Village. The French composer Duncan Youngerman and the poet and mail artist Adam Czarnowski both worked there as busboys. Lauren Hutton, Ellen Barkin, Gerard Malanga, Joe Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Nico, David Bowie and a score of other Lower Manhattan celebs hung out there, as well as the artists that formerly frequented Max's and the doormen of the Mudd Club.[15] Ruskin died in New York City on May 16, 1983, at the age of 50.[16]

Max's II

Max's Kansas City reopened in 1975 under the ownership of Tommy Dean Mills, who initially thought he would make it a disco. Peter Crowley, who had been booking the same early punk bands that played at CBGB and Mothers, a gay bar on West 23rd Street, was hired to book bands at Max's.[17]

Under Crowley's guidance the club became one of the birthplaces of punk, regularly featuring bands including Cherry Vanilla, Wayne County & the Electric Chairs, the Fast, Suicide (who all appeared on the compilation album "1976 Max's Kansas City"[18]), the New York Dolls, Patti Smith Group, the Ramones, The Mumps, the Heartbreakers, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, Sniper, the Dictators, the Cramps, Mink DeVille, Misfits, Little Annie, the Fleshtones, the B-52's, the Bongos and Klaus Nomi, as well as out-of-town bands such as the Runaways and the Damned. After the breakup of the Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious played all of his US solo gigs there. Devo played several shows at Max's in 1977,[19] including a show where they were introduced by David Bowie as "the band of the future."[20]

Max's original site closed in November 1981. Bad Brains were the headliners on the final night, with the Beastie Boys opening. The building survives and now houses a Korean deli.[21]

Max's III

Mills reopened the club again on January 27, 1998, at a new location—240 West 52nd Street—site of the former Lone Star Roadhouse.[22][23] However, it closed shortly after opening.

The opening had been delayed due to litigation by Ruskin's widow, Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin, who claimed that she owned the trademark to Max's Kansas City and was granted a temporary restraining order to prevent use of the name.[24]


In 2000, Acidwork Productions, Inc., a production company founded by Neil Holstein (second cousin of Mickey Ruskin) began working in conjunction with Victoria Ruskin (Mickey Ruskin's daughter) on a feature-length documentary about Mickey Ruskin and his many establishments, including Max's Kansas City.

In 2001, Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin established the Max's Kansas City Project, in memory of her late husband. In the spirit of Ruskin's philosophy of helping artists in need, the project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit provides emergency funding and resources for individuals in the arts in crisis, empowers teens through the arts.[25]


  1. ^ "December 31: Max's Kansas City". 31 December 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
  2. ^ Bourdon, David (1 May 1970). "What's up in art? Follow the clan". LIFE. Retrieved 27 October 2018 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "Lillian Roxon: Mother of Rock, book review" by Clinton Walker, The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 October 2002
  4. ^ "High on Rebellion, overview of Sewall-Ruskin's book". Retrieved 27 October 2018.
  5. ^ Sewall-Ruskin 1998, pp. 2–105.
  6. ^ Smith, Patti (2010). Just Kids. Harper Collins Publishing. ISBN 978-0-06-093622-8.
  7. ^ Bruce Springsteen – Growing up (Max's Kansas City, NY 1972) on YouTube
  8. ^ "Who makes music & where?". The New York Times. 1973-11-04. p. 174.
  9. ^ Sewall-Ruskin 1998, pp. 210–229.
  10. ^ Cathy Hoyrn, The Return of the King of Patchwork, The New York Times, October 29, 2009, Accessed October 30, 2009.
  11. ^ Marina Galpirina, Anton Perich's Photos of Cultural Icons Partying in '70s New York, Flavorwire, July 5th, 2011, Accessed October 2, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Hart, Jon (2003-05-11). "Neighborhood Report: Union Square; Archetypal Host". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
  13. ^ LLC, New York Media (7 April 1969). "New York Magazine". New York Media, LLC. Retrieved 1 August 2017 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ "Les Levine". Retrieved 2017-08-01.
  15. ^ Sewall-Ruskin 1998, pp. 246–279.
  16. ^ Sewall-Ruskin 1998, p. 279.
  17. ^ Nobakht, David (2004-12-15). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing. p. 66. ISBN 0-946719-71-3.
  18. ^ "Various – 1976 Max's Kansas City". Discogs. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  19. ^ "Devo Live Guide – 1973 to 1977\". Retrieved 2013-06-21.
  20. ^ "Happy Birthday, David Bowie!". 2010-01-09. Retrieved 2013-06-21.
  21. ^ Seabrook, John (2010). "The Back Room". The New Yorker. Condé Nast (August 30, 2010): 26–27.
  22. ^ Stamler, Bernard (1997-10-09). "Neighborhood Report: Midtown; Downtown Moves Uptown Redux". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-24.
  23. ^ "New Yorkers & Co". The New York Times. 1998-01-04. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
  24. ^ DiGiacomo, Frank (1997-12-07). "Factory Kids in an Uproar Over the Whitney's Warhol Show". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
  25. ^ "The Max's Kansas City Project". Retrieved 1 August 2017.


  • Sewall-Ruskin, Yvonne (1998). High on Rebellion: Inside the Underground at Max's Kansas City. Foreword by Lou Reed. New York City: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-183-2.

Further reading

  • Weinberger, Tony, The Max's Kansas City stories (1971) Bobbs-Merrill [1971] Call number in Library of Congress: PS3573.E393 M3
  • Kasher, Steven, Max's Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and Roll (2010) Abrams Image, ISBN 0-8109-9597-2.

External links

Billy Yule

William "Billy" Yule (born c. 1954) is an American musician, best known for his brief stint as a temporary drummer for the Velvet Underground during their famous summer engagement 1970 at Max's Kansas City, sitting in for Maureen Tucker while she was on maternity leave.

Catch a Fire Tour

The Catch a Fire was a concert tour organised to support the album Catch a Fire by The Wailers (Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer).

The tour began at the Coleman Club in Nottingham, England, on 27 April 1973, as the first show in Peckham had been cancelled before, and ended with four shows at Max's Kansas City in New York City, in late July. In October they performed as an opening act for the Atlee Yeager Band and Sly and the Family Stone (who served as the headliners), in a figure skating hall in Las Vegas, New Mexico. The majority of the audience thought The Wailers, an American rock band, would perform, but they were surprised seeing a Jamaican band; Mark Paul, the drummer of the Atlee Yeager Band said that they looked like biblical figures from the Old Testament. Bunny Wailer refused to participate in the second tour leg in the United States and was replaced by Joe Higgs.

Chords of Fame

Chords Of Fame was a 2-LP compilation of folksinger Phil Ochs' career, compiled by his brother shortly after Ochs' death in 1976. Released on A&M Records, it compiled tracks Ochs had recorded for both that label and Elektra Records. The compilation included several rarities:

An electric version of "I Ain't Marching Anymore", released as a single in the UK in 1966

Both sides of a 1974 single:

"Power and the Glory", recorded with a fife and drum corps

"Here's to the State of Richard Nixon", a revision of "Here's to the State of Mississippi", taped live at Max's Kansas City

An acoustic version of "Crucifixion" recorded at Carnegie Hall on March 27, 1970, at the show that had produced Gunfight at Carnegie HallThe three singles had not been available previously on any album.

As with many compilations, favoritism abounds on the album. Seven tracks from Ochs' third album and four from his first appear, while only one song each is included from his second and fifth albums. No tracks from Ochs' seventh album are included, and his remaining albums are represented by two or three songs apiece. With the exception of the 1997 box set, never again would Elektra material be released on A&M, or vice versa.

Danny Sage

Danny Sage (born April 7, 1965 in New York, New York) is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer. He is most recognised for having played lead guitar in American rock n roll band D Generation.

Sage started playing guitar as a child, and quickly formed a band at the age of 14 called The Possessed, which performed in many New York City clubs in the early 1980s, their first show being one of the final nights at Max’s Kansas City. Their last show was at the legendary NYC hardcore venue, A7, in the winter of 1981. He then joined Heart Attack, and appeared on their 1983 album, “Keep Your Distance”. In 1990, Sage began to assemble a band that would later become D Generation. D Generation has recorded 5 albums (only four were ever released, one for EMI, two for Columbia/Sony, and one for Bastard Basement) and the band toured extensively in the 1990s, and again 2011-2018. Sage has also guested with performers such as Debbie Harry, Ronnie Spector, Joey Ramone, Leonard Graves Phillips, and former bandmate Jesse Malin. In 2002, Sage recorded his first solo album in Los Angeles, but it remains unreleased. He also recorded a 2007 UK tour-only promotional ep "Don't Look Down".

Sage also produced the 2016 D Generation album “Nothing Is Anywhere”.

Dorothy Dean

Dorothy Dean (December 22, 1932 – February 13, 1987) was an African American socialite, connected to Andy Warhol's The Factory—for which she appeared in the films Batman Dracula (1964), Space (1965), My Hustler (1965), Afternoon (1965), and Chelsea Girls (1966)—and Max's Kansas City, where she worked as door person. She also appeared in the documentary film Superartist (1967) about Warhol and his films.

Dean, who graduated from Radcliffe and earned an MFA at Harvard, had a master's degree in art. While living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she began associating almost entirely with gay white men, presumably in an effort to distance herself from the politics surrounding being both black and female in the fifties and sixties, politics with which she did not identify.She was loved for her strong, verbose personality, perhaps mostly for her playful phrasing and clever nicknames (Andy Warhol, to Dean, became "Drella," a combination of Dracula and Cinderella; James Baldwin was "Martin Luther Queen"). She rarely worked; she held brief editorial and proofreading positions at publications such as The New Yorker and Vogue magazines.

Born in White Plains, New York in 1932, she died of cancer in Boulder, Colorado on February 13, 1987.Dean is one of the subjects of Hilton Als' 1996 book The Women.

Edward Leffingwell

Edward G. Leffingwell (December 3, 1941 – August 5, 2014) was an American art critic and curator, affiliated with MoMA/P.S.1 and Art in America and associated with avant-garde art.Leffingwell was born in Sharon, Pennsylvania, on December 3, 1941. In the mid-1960s he moved to New York City and began associating with Max's Kansas City and the Warhol Factory crowd. During the 1960s and 1970s he was involved with a variety of avant-garde art projects, including a 1969 film by sculptor John Chamberlain ("The Secret Life of Hernando Cortez").In the late 1970s Leffingwell left New York to take care of his mother, who was ill, and began to transition to a curatorial career in the arts. He entered Youngstown State University, completing a B.A. in 1982, and went on in 1984 to earn an M.A. in art history from the University of Cincinnati.In 1985 he was hired by PS1, now affiliated with New York's Museum of Modern Art.Leffingwell organized a number of key exhibitions, including two while he was in school. His first exhibition, in 1983, was at the Butler: "Chinese Chance: An American Collection", which profiled the collection of Leffingwell's long-time associate, Mickey Ruskin, who had been one of the owners of Max's Kansas City. His next major exhibition was at the University of Cincinnati, reviewing Lawrence Weiner, a conceptual artist.Over the next several years Leffingwell organized several significant shows. In New York, he developed a 20-year retrospective of sculptor John McCracken ("John McCracken: Heroic Stance") and a 1987 show of artist Michael Tracy ("Michael Tracy: Terminal Privileges"). In 1997 at P.S.1 he organized a retrospective of the work of artist and filmmaker

Jack Smith ("Jack Smith: Flaming Creature: His Amazing Life and Times"). He also organized a show on James Rosenquist, and "About Place: Contemporary American Landscape" (1986).Leffingwell spent four years in Los Angeles, directing the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park from 1988 to 1992. There he organized an exhibition of George Herms, and a proposed biennial show, LAX: The Los Angeles Exhibition, a contemporary art exhibition spanning seven to eight institutions.During this time Leffingwell became interested in and associated with Brazilian art and the São Paulo Art Biennial. For that biennial, he organized a show on the painter Neil Williams, one of long-time friends and associates.Leffingwell wrote prolifically, penning hundreds of reviews and critical essays for Art in America, as well as contributing to scholarship on artist Lawrence Weiner, photographer Joe Deal, artist Judith Murray, Claude Monet and Jack Smith.Leffingwell died from cardiac arrest in Flushing, Queens, on August 5, 2014, at the age of 72, after suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Future Language

Future Language is the debut studio album of Von LMO, released independently in 1981 through his label StraZar. It is dedicated to the advancement of the United States space program. After a performance at Max's Kansas City in November, Von LMO disappeared from the music scene until 1991.

Live at Max's Kansas City

Live at Max's Kansas City is a live album by the Velvet Underground. It was originally released on May 30, 1972, by Cotillion, a subsidiary label of Atlantic Records.

Live at Max's Kansas City (Johnny Thunders album)

Live at Max's Kansas City is a live album by The Heartbreakers. Recorded at a "reunion"/"farewell" show on September 16, 1978 at the famous Max's Kansas City nightclub, the album's performance — loud, sloppy, and laden with bawdy introductions and/or lyric changes to many of the familiar songs from their only studio album, L.A.M.F. — further cemented the band's live reputation. A classic of early punk rock, the album has been called "probably the best official document of any New York band of the era."

Punk (magazine)

Punk was a music magazine and fanzine created by cartoonist John Holmstrom, publisher Ged Dunn, and "resident punk" Legs McNeil in 1975. Its use of the term "punk rock", coined by writers for Creem magazine a few years earlier, further popularized the term. The founders were influenced by their affection for comic books and the music of The Stooges, the New York Dolls, and The Dictators. Holmstrom later called it "the print version of The Ramones". It was also the first publication to popularize the CBGB scene.

Punk published 15 issues between 1976 and 1979, as well as a special issue in 1981 (The D.O.A. Filmbook), and several more issues in the new millennium. Its covers featured Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, and Blondie.

Punk was a vehicle for examining the underground music scene in New York, and primarily for punk rock as found in clubs like CBGB, Zeppz, and Max's Kansas City. It mixed Mad Magazine-style cartooning by Holmstrom, Bobby London and a young Peter Bagge with the more straightforward pop journalism of the kind found in Creem. It also provided an outlet for female writers, artists and photographers who had been shut out of a male-dominated underground publishing scene.

Punk magazine was home to (many of whom were being published for the first time) writers Mary Harron, Steve Taylor, Lester Bangs, Pam Brown, artists Buz Vaultz, Anya Phillips, and Screaming Mad George, and photographers Bob Gruen, Barak Berkowitz, Roberta Bayley and David Godlis. After Dunn left in early 1977 and McNeil quit shortly afterwards, Bruce Carleton (art director, 1977–1979), Ken Weiner (contributor, 1977–79), and Elin Wilder, one of few African Americans involved in the early CBGB/punk rock scene, were added to the staff.

Punk was briefly revived in 2007.

Robin Crutchfield

Robin Lee Crutchfield (born September 8, 1952) is an American artist. He is best known as one of the founding musicians of the former New York No Wave scene. He has performed at such hallowed musical grounds as CBGB's, Max's Kansas City and Artists Space; as well as had his work on display at prestigious venues like MoMA and The Whitney Museum of American Art.

Sid Sings

Sid Sings is the first released solo live album by English punk rock musician Sid Vicious. It was released posthumously on December 15, 1979 and peaked at number 30 on the British album charts.

The album features the two singles "My Way" and "Something Else". These songs also appeared in the film and album The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle along with "C'mon Everybody", which did not appear on this album. Most of the album features cover versions of other artists songs whilst only one original by Vicious is featured on the album, that being "Belsen Was a Gas", originally a Sex Pistols song that Vicious regularly performed and so far the only known Sex Pistols song that has a solo version done by him.

Sniper (American band)

Sniper was an early American glam punk band that formed in New York City in 1972. They were one of several bands that played at the Mercer Arts Center, Max's Kansas City and the Coventry alongside the New York Dolls and Suicide, and were most famous for its former members, which included frontman Joey Ramone (Jeff Hyman), prior to his forming the Ramones,

and guitarist Frank Infante, later of Blondie.

Sweet Jane

"Sweet Jane" is a song by American rock band the Velvet Underground; it appears on their fourth studio album Loaded. The song was written by Lou Reed, the band's leader, who continued to incorporate the piece into live performances as a solo artist.

When Loaded was originally released in 1970, the song's bridge was cut. The box set Peel Slowly and See and reissue Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition restored the missing section.

The song also appears on the albums Live at Max's Kansas City; 1969: The Velvet Underground Live; Peel Slowly and See; Live MCMXCIII; Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition; American Poet; Rock 'n' Roll Animal; Live: Take No Prisoners; Live in Italy; The Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Rock and Roll: an Introduction to The Velvet Underground; NYC Man (The Ultimate Collection 1967–2003); Live on Letterman: Music from The Late Show; and Berlin: Live At St. Ann's Warehouse.

The Heartbreakers

The Heartbreakers, also known as Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers to distinguish them from Tom Petty's band, were an American punk rock band, formed in New York City in May, 1975. The band spearheaded the first wave of punk rock.

Tuff Darts

Tuff Darts was an American punk rock band. They were one of the first bands to establish an audience at CBGB. They reached their greatest fame in the mid-late 1970s with such songs as "Slash", "(Your Love Is Like) Nuclear Waste" and their biggest hit single, "All For The Love of Rock and Roll." The band appeared at popular New York City clubs like Max's Kansas City and CBGB and featured Robert Gordon (vocals), Jeff Salen (guitar), Bobby Butani (guitar), John DeSalvo (bass), and Jim Morrison (drums). This was the original band that was on the "Live at CBGB's" compilation record in 1976. After parting ways with Gordon, the band found new lead singer Tommy Frenzy (Frenesi). In 1978 the group released their self-titled debut album Tuff Darts!, on Sire Records, produced by Bob Clearmountain and Tony Bongiovi, shortly before disbanding.

Tuff Darts reunited in 2002 to play a gig upon the release of Tuff Darts! on compact disc (CD). They subsequently played several additional shows and recorded one more album, 2007's You Can't Keep A Good Band Down. It was released only in Japan.

In 2009 Spectra Records released two albums worldwide, Here Comes Trouble and You Can't Keep a Good Band Down. Tuff Darts!, You Can't Keep a Good Band Down and Here Comes Trouble are now available as downloads on iTunes and other sites.

Jeff Salen, founder and lead guitarist of the band, died of a heart attack on January 26, 2008 at age 55.Tuff Darts have been performing since 2011 with a reformed lineup in and around New York City.

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