By James Maher
Name: Tom Kopache and Chia
Location: 5th Street between 1st and 2nd
Time: 5:50 on Friday, Oct. 18
My family moved a lot but I did a lot of my growing up on the West Coast. Then, after college and grad school I joined a theatre company that went to Europe. After Europe, I came here thinking I was only going to be here a year or two, but I ended up staying till now. I moved to the Upper West Side in 1976 and to East 3rd Street in 1983.
I’m an actor. It’s what I majored in in college and grad school. I work in theatre, film and TV, when I get the work. It’s an up-and-down profession but it’s been alright for me. I’ve been able to earn a living. I worked at La MaMa for many years. I worked at the Manhattan Theatre Club when they were in their old space. I did a couple of Broadway Shows and then TV and film work.
My favorite roles that I’ve played were a few from Shakespeare ... I played Macbeth at La MaMa and "Measure for Measure" when I was in Europe. And I’ve enjoyed some of my TV parts, but those parts were predicative.
I have to say, I’m glad a lot of the changes have taken place here. It was a rough area in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The drug scene was out of hand and the buildings were really run-down. There was a high crime rate. You had to watch yourself. Back then I was a young guy. I was a tough guy so I held my own.
I remember a girlfriend came to visit me on 3rd Street and she came up to my apartment. We had a nice time together and she said, “I will never come here again. If you want to see me you come up to the Upper West Side.” It was that kind of place. That relationship didn’t last very long. I liked my neighborhood, but I knew what she meant. It was tough and she wasn’t used to that kind of scene.
Some of the gentrification has gone a little overboard and [the neighborhood has] lost some of its character, but the streets are better. I like a lot of the changes. The arts are still here. I heard somebody say that the artists were leaving but there’s theatre here and a lot of little theatre companies. There’s a lot of painters and dancers. All-in-all it’s cleaned up a bit, but I think for the better. And there are good restaurants and coffee shops. Every block has got something. It didn’t used to be that way.
I’m heading to Social Tees right here. I’m a volunteer. They rescue animals, they adopt, they do fostering, and they take volunteers to do things like this, walking dogs. They’re a community-oriented group and they care about the community and taking care of the animals.
This is Chia. He’s an old guy. He’s been a shelter dog for awhile, but he’s a very gentle, sweet dog, and he’s up for adoption — if anyone’s looking for a nice, friendly little, I think you call him a Terrier mix. He’s low key. Not a yapper.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.