[Being crowned King of the Mardi Gras at a Lower Eastside Girls Club benefit last year. Photo by Greg Masters]
Lower East Side icon Taylor Mead has died after suffering a massive stroke last night in Colorado. He was 88.
In a brief farewell ahead of a full-length obituary, the Times refers to him as "the Warhol 'superstar,' Beat poet, stray-cat feeder and sweet face and voice of an era."
[Andy Warhol and Mead in 1975]
Here's a passage from a profile on Mead published last summer in The Paris Review:
When Taylor drifted to New York, after a stint in the poetry clubs of San Francisco in the late fifties, he found himself in the midst of a vibrant scene. “McDougal Street is where everything was,” he remembered. He fondly recalled night after night spent at the Gaslight, a basement café that no longer exists. Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso would read there often. Bill Cosby was a regular. “The police wanted to close the place because of Allen's and my language. The owner would sit there with a shotgun. This was the early days of New York. He sat down there with a shotgun! New York was so wild.”
Mead was a familiar figure in the neighborhood, whether performing at the Bowery Poetry Club or eating at his favorite restaurant, Lucien on First Avenue. He lived in the same apartment on Ludlow Street the past 34 years. Mead continued to live in his rent-stabilized apartment while the rest of the building that Ben Shaoul purchased last summer was converted to market-rate homes. (You can read more about that here.)
Mead eventually accepted a buyout in April and moved to be with his niece in Colorado, as BoweryBoogie noted.
Back to The Paris Review piece, which discussed how Mead found his home at Max's Kansas City in 1965.
After Max’s closed, things weren’t the same. Taylor spent some time at the Mudd Club, where he filmed a public-access television show and continued to read poetry and perform in theatrical productions at La MaMa Theatre; later, he spent time at Max Fish, before, as he claims, he was insulted by the bartender and forced to take his business elsewhere. The Mudd Club closed in 1983; La MaMa is a shell of its former self; Max Fish will, it’s being said, close in the next year due to escalating rents. People and places are gone for good, and during our conversation the East Village begins to sound more and more like a ghost town. Taylor is the last resident, the final holdout.