The following info does not have any direct reference to the Santurce Arts District, other than this is where I've ended up after many interesting years in NYC. Many people have requested information about Baby Bones and how to find their recordings - so I've included some info and a playlist for ease of download.
When I first moved to New York City after attending the University of Connecticut, I crashed on th sofa of a friend of a friend from high school. It was 'street find' furniture that had seen many better days - but was my passport to Manhattan's exploding gay arts scene in the years after Stonewall and before AIDS. Richard Holm
BABY BONES at C.B.G.B.
Paul and Baby Bones were one of a group of bands that C.B.G.B could call on short notice and knew that they'd always show up (a rare attribute in the 70's/80's punk scene).
Paul's most notable performance was probably his least favorite - opening for The Ramones at C.B.G.B.
It was a short-notice bookings, and I don't think he knew who the main act would be that night - it was just another gig and good exposure.
But when he got there - he knew it would be a bumpy night - The Ramones fans were notorious for hating any band that dared delay The Ramones!
It was a hard core punk crowd - and they sure as Hell weren't prepared for a silver-lamé frocked, flamboyant, futuristic, glam queen in high heels who pranced around the stage and often used dildos as props!
When they came onstage it was like an alien had landed... they hated him! They threw bottles, garbage, chairs, whatever... but instead of running, Paul and Baby Bones stood their ground and finally won the crowd over with their unique blend of glam rock.
Sticking Needles Through Paper Doll Eyes
Other than the songs I wrote, this is my favorite Baby Bones work - although not the rock version on the album.
Paul and Rosie had an apartment on the upper west side. But it wasn't the gentrified neighborhood you find today. It was just after the drug-infested years made famous by Al Pacino and The Panic in Needle Park as the neighborhood became a cheap place for a few 'out' gays and a huge 'artistic' community (ie: gays who would be fired, evicted, disowned or worse if it became known that they were homosexual). In those years after 'The Boys in the Band' - you could be gay as you wanted with your friends or in the gay bars... and 'creative folk' could act gay - just as long as you didn't admit it.
Paul lived in a $65/month brownstone studio just upstairs from a semi-discrete massage parlor on 75th between Columbus and Amsterdam. The bathroom was a wildlife sanctuary for every species of cockroach possible - warning on the door was 'don't turn on the light"!
The apartment evolved into a meeting place for an eclectic gay underground who could always stop by Paul's ever-changing salon for show-biz news, the latest gossip, make-up tips, acting lessons or ask Paul to act as match-maker for a hot date. If you had any medical or emotional problems - he went to a big fish bowl of assorted, unidentified pills and dug around until he felt the vibrations for the 'magic cure' - and then we all watched as the patient gulped it down. When I asked what he had chosen - a typical answer was 'Hmmmmm..... I'm not really sure - either speed, a laxative, or thorazine - but whatever, I'm sure it will work wonders!".
If the conversation lulled - it was time for tarot cards or better yet - 'record fortunes'! Paul had a huge stack of 45 records that went just about to the ceiling. As he ran his hand along the stack - you yelled STOP and he would tell your fortune based on both the A side and the more notorious flip side of the record.
As a signal that it was time to go home, Paul would usually sing Sticking Needles Through Paper Doll Eyes as a sweet, acapella lullaby - signaling the end of the salon and time return to reality.
Paul Vanase and Baby Bones
Paul was one of the first openly gay actors in NYC, working with gay theatrical legends like Holly & Cindy Woodlawn, Divine, The Cockettes, Brenda
Bergman, John Glines, Harvey Fierstein, Steven Holt, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, Tom Eyen, Charles Ludlam, Hot Peaches, Roller Rina, and Sweet William.
He understudied for Robert Dinero in one of his first Off-Off-Broadway roles and made several films including 'A Very Natural Thing' and 'Saturday Night at the Baths'.
When I arrived in New York, Paul was just finishing up a run of his musical 'Wonderful Woman' off-Broadway and re-writing 'A Drop in the Pudding' - the first production at The Glines - the first off-off-Broadway gay theater in what is now TriBeca.
My personal favorite memory of Paul was the night that he took over the role in "Women Behind Bars" that Fanny Fox originated at the Truck and Warehouse on E. 4th Street…. The show featured Divine who always took her final stage bows dressed in the gown she made famous in ‘Pink Flamingos’. Well, Paul had found a fabulous second-hand baby blue gown that was even better than Divine’s and, since he took his stage bow first, stole the show in his ‘more-than-divine’ gown… so when Divine finally came out for her bows – there was nothing more than polite applause….
Paul was fired before he even left the stage… but he had made his point… nobody, not even the great Divine could out-glam Paul Vanase!
Since musical theater in the 1970's wasn't ready for Paul's concepts - singing a love song to a dildo or having nuns serenade enima bags, he reinvented himself for the newly emerging club/punk scene. Paul became the first gay 'GLAM/PUNK' artist with The World of Baby Bones and Electroshock/Z.O.M.B.I.E.
After New York, Paul moved onto LA in the 90's and as far as I know is now in Las Vegas - hopefully as fabulous as ever!
I hope you enjoy the music, please pass it around as much as possible.
Link to Article in SCRAM magazine
(Interviews with Paul Vanase & Richard Holm)