By James Maher
Name: Miss Joan Marie Moossy
Location: Clinton Street
Date: Monday, June 12 at noon
Read part 1 of this interview here.
I’ve had a lot of jobs in New York. I worked at the Limelight in the art department. I worked at the Puck building as a party manager. I worked as a casting assistant. I worked for Stripe First Generators, working on a generator on movie sets and street fairs. I’ve had a lot of interesting jobs here. I’ve been lucky in terms of hitting jobs where it was at the high point of the place. I used to do a show on WBAI and then MNN called "Let Them Talk" with a boyfriend Paul DeRienzo. I’m also now doing a detective series set on the Lower East Side on YouTube called "Miss Moossy's Neighborhood Mysteries."
I worked at the Limelight in its heyday. I was there from 1984 to 1988. And at that time I had a boyfriend who worked at the Pyramid as the lighting guy, so we had the club scene down. In the beginning, we did major installations, like every day at the Limelight. We had a big budget, and the Pyramid was more low budget. The Limelight had the celebrity scene. The Pyramid had the experimental, avant-garde scene. I knew all these people who worked at the Pyramid, so I danced on the bar sometimes. And that’s how I met Ethyl Eichelberger, who was a playwright and performer, and I worked for him for the last four years of his life. He died in 1990.
I started as his stage manager, and then he wrote parts for me in his plays. He showed me I could talk on stage, because when you dance you don’t really say anything. I sang in his plays — things I thought I could never do, but he pushed me and I did it, and it was life changing, really.
He committed suicide in 1990. He had AIDS, and I think he feared the loss of intellect, because he was a very bright individual. I’ve been working on perpetuating his legacy. And it’s not just me, it’s definitely a group effort, and we’ve been successful at it — he certainly deserves it. Twenty-seven years later his legacy is still going, and I’m proud of that because it’s a commitment of gratitude for me. He did so much for me and taught me so much. You know, I had been a dancer, which in the 1970s was not quite the same thing as being a dancer now – we were kind of scumbags. I don’t know how else to put it. We were not considered respectable members of society.
New York’s a tough town. You can’t really get around that for all the joy and inspiration it provides to people — it can be difficult. My life has the balance, and I’m incredibly grateful to have the youth I had here in this neighborhood, but yeah there were hard times. There were the things that really impacted, I don’t think just me, I think I’m talking for a generation of people. There were things that happened that deeply affected all of us, that colored our lives.
AIDS decimated this neighborhood, and it decimated my friends. It caused a portion of our youth to be spent nursing people to their death, which is a unique experience for young people. I mean unless there’s a war, most young people go through life without a lot of deaths. There’s always going to be death, but death in that magnitude and concentration, that happened here too. When you have multiple friends sick, and you’re running from apartment to apartment trying to help, this is your life. It’s a big part of it. It certainly wasn’t just me. It was a lot of people.
I never imagined I’d get old and it would be like this. When you’re young, you don’t realize, you think it’s all going to stay the same forever, you’re never going to get old. But here you are this many years later. I didn’t think I’d live, because when you watch all your friends die, you think, ‘Well, I’m going to die too.’ I’ve been taking care of these guys, they’ve thrown up on me, everything’s happened that would put you at risk, so you figure, yeah, I’ll die too. So I never envisioned myself in my 60s.
Those were the things on the hard side, and obviously on the pleasant side I’m a happy person by nature. I loved it and I still love it — I adore New York. There are a lot of things that I like about living here. I love to walk around the neighborhood. Freedom is one of my highest ideals — the freedom to be who you are and do what you want to do. There is a certain amount of anonymity compared to a smaller arena, where everybody watches everybody. You know, for a weird person it’s nice to just be able to walk the streets and people aren’t judging everything.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.