By James Maher
Name: Jeremy X. Halpern
Location: Key Food, Avenue A
Time: 2 p.m. on Monday, July 6
I’m from Boston but I’ve been here for over 30 years. I’m an artist and basically you only got a couple choices, LA or New York and LA was out of the question. So New York was the one. I went to NYU and I’ve been living around here since then. Never really moved out of the neighborhood.
I do performances. If you go weirdos.com, you’ll see the video performances that I do. I have a cable-access show for local New York. The artwork is very weird, very strange, totally uncommercial, but I’m also working on a TV show, which is very commercial. It will probably make lots of money. But that, I’m just producing that. All my personal work is completely out to lunch.
Right now I’m performing in Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic. Currently, I’m playing the owner of a French club in the 1920s. It’s like a precursor to the haunted mansion at Disney World. I’ve also done some theatre here at the Metropolitan [Playhouse].
I’m involved with the burlesque community around here. There’s still a big community. My girlfriend is Dirty Martini, who is one of the top burlesque performers in the world. Everything is still very much vibrant and it’s really a nice community. The theatre community is sort of like, ‘what’s my motivation,’ you know? Whereas the burlesque community is sort of like, ‘let’s go, let’s do it.’ There’s much more performance art and much more variety.
When I moved in it was the early 1980s, it was still much more like the warzone. My parents were terrified. They couldn’t believe it. Unlike most people, I’m not really that upset about the change. That’s New York and I wasn’t surprised by it. I enjoyed it very much back then. When my band performed in the bandshell in Tompkins Square Park ... all of the homeless people danced on the stage. That was really wonderful. But it’s also got its perks now. It’s nice to be able to have the park a little cleaner and have the neighborhood be shinier and full of restaurants and shops. So I’m okay with that.
In general, I find the neighborhood very addicting because it’s still full of creative energy. I love it and am totally addicted to it. You know, I went to Burning Man a few years ago, and that was great ... but it’s tough in the desert and I kept thinking all the creativity that I’m seeing in Burning Man, I see in the East Village, and I don’t have to live in the desert. The East Village is a great experience and continues to be. I mean, we just saw a poster for Penny Arcade when we walked in [to Key]. I know Penny. There’s still a community feeling there and there’s still a feeling of the history of what the East Village has meant ... I’m still thrilled about this place. It’s still very fun to walk out of my door and find myself there.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.