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When Jackie Met Ethyl

Howl! Happening
New York, NY

This exhibition considers the cultural and historical impact of Jackie Curtis (1947-1985) and Ethyl Eichelberger (1945-1990), two of the most influential figures from the East Village’s heyday as a cauldron of transgressive gender performance.

Born John Curtis Holder, Jr., Jackie Curtis was, along with Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn, one of Andy Warhol’s original network of Superstars, and starred in his films Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971). But Curtis's greatest artistic influence was as playwright and songwriter for the productions Glamour, Glory and Gold; Vain Victory; and Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit, all of which featured transsexual characters.

Ethyl Eichelberger was born James Roy Eichelberger in rural Illinois. In 1975 he legally changed his first name to Ethyl, and introduced a flamboyant stage presence, singing while playing piano and accordion, and radically re-conceiving classic characters like King Lear and Medea as drag cabaret. His main impact was as a performer in intimate East Village venues, and in the course of more than thirty original or adapted plays, his was nearly always the title role, often with multiple male and female characters switching parts.

"Howl! Happening invited me to develop an exhibition that spoke to the cultural history of the Lower East Side, and my immediate response was to bring the legacy of Jackie Curtis & Ethyl Eichelberger to a new generation." 

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