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Wonderboy: The life, loves and death of Eric Emerson

Gary Comenas (2016)

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As mentioned on the previous page, Eric and the rest of the band returned to New York after the San Fernando Valley earthquake that took place on February 9, 1971.

Sesu Coleman (drummer, Magic Tramps):

After an earthquake in early 1971, Eric suggested we travel to New York City. He knew Andy Warhol would embrace us and he spoke highly of a nightclub/restaurant that had an upstairs music hall that hadn't been used for quite a while since the Velvet Underground played there, called Max's Kansas City. The owner of Max's, Mickey Ruskin, was a good guy & would allow us to showcase there - off we went, LA to NYC. ( Magic Tramps - History)

Eric and the band initially stayed at Elda's place. By this time Elda had given birth to Eric's child, Branch. It was a narrow four-room railroad flat. Lary Chaplan (violin) lived in the kitchen, Young Blood (guitar) in a second room, Sesu in a third room and Elda, Eric and Branch lived together in the living room that was also used for rehearsals, complete with P.A. system. (Magic Tramps - Reflections 2)

Although Eric may have started out living with Elda and their son Branch, the mother of one of his other children, Jane Forth, later told the New York Post that Eric lived with her from 1970 to 1973. As he was in L.A. for part of that time and also lived with Elda and Krysteen for part of that time, he presumably stayed with Jane for only part of that time - probably just before he moved in with a new love interest, Barbara Winter, who was the ex-wife of blues musician Edgar Winter. (In one of Krys' later emails, she said that Jane left Eric after she became pregnant with a baby by a different father and Eric moved in with Barbara.) Eric was living with Barbara when he died in 1975.

After returning to New York in 1971, Eric performed at La MaMa in Jackie Curtis' play Vain Victory which took place Wednesday - Sunday, May 26 - 30 and June 2 - 6. Eric and "Messiah" (aka the Magic Tramps) are listed in the original La MaMa program:

Vain Victory Program - La MaMa

Sesu Coleman:

In some articles Lou Reed is credited to have written the music score [of Vain Victory]. Also some have documented that Paul Serrato wrote music for the play. However for history sake... I was there at the time and know for a fact that two important and less documented contributors to the music score also were Richard Weinstock and "Messiah's" Lary Chaplan who was there every night playing as well. Actually we performed some of these original songs in our cabaret show outside of "Vain Victory." I think many artists contributed to the success of the music score in the show but credit should be noted to Richard and Lary as well... At which time we [as Messiah] performed some musical parts in the show also. It was a joint effort - always evolving. (Magic Tramps - Reflections 2)

Footage of Eric performing in the La MaMa production of the play can be seen on YouTube:

Eric Emerson in the La MaMa production of Vain Victory

For two weeks during the following month (July 1971), Eric left New York and travelled to Los Angeles to be filmed in Andy Warhol's Heat (directed by Paul Morrissey).

Paul Morrissey:

Eric Emerson was kind of a bulldozer type. When I did Heat, Eric said, "Oh, I want to be in Heat. I want to go to California and meet one of my children that I've never seen. I have to go, please take me." And I said, "Awwwww!" I didn't want him in it because I know how he hogs the screen. So I said, "All right, you can come. I'll give you at ticket. You can be in the movie but you have to play a deaf mute." (JOEB181)

After returning from L.A., Eric went on to perform in the second production of Vain Victory which opened at the WPA theater on August 11, 1971 as part of their "new plays" series. Larry Chaplan from Messiah/the Magic Tramps was also credited in the ad under "words and music."

Village Voice ad, July 29, 1971

According to Sesu Coleman, Messiah played at Max's Kansas City soon after they arrived in New York from L.A. in early 1971, before the first production of Vain Victory.

Sesu Coleman (drummer in Messiah/Magic Tramps):

Upon arrival Mickey [Ruskin] said we could showcase and gave us the key to the upstairs room. Max's was the first gig we played in NYC. The entire Factory & Warhol entourage was there. I recall Paul Morrissey, Andy Warhol's film assistant, told us, "Rock & Roll will never fly in NYC, cabaret is the way!" - so we created two shows; one R&R, one cabaret. Our first few gigs were played under the name Messiah (except for a few gigs under the name Star Theater). We later returned as the house band at Max's after a fairly immediate fire upstairs in which we lost some equipment. We went on to work with Jackie Curtis on Vain Victory, an off-broadway play. We played in exchange for food and drink. I was a vegetarian and didn't drink, so I ate much salad in the giant wood bowls and had chick pea fights with the band for fun. (Magic Tramps - History)

The first Village Voice ad for Messiah playing at Max's did not appear, however, until September 1971 which was after the second production of Vain Victory ended. It actually appears underneath an ad for the third production of Vain Victory which took place at the Village Arena on 62 East 4th Street.

Village Voice, September 30, 1971

Eric was no longer listed as part of the cast of Vain Victory in the ad, presumably because of the Messiah performances. After the initial Messiah ad, Eric was billed by his name only in the Voice although members of Messiah/Magic Tramps performed as his backing band.

Eric's show was reviewed in the December 9, 1971 issue of the Village Voice, in the "riffs" column. Although there was no mention of the Magic Tramps or Messiah, members of the band were mentioned as Eric's backing musicians:

Richard Nusser, "Riffs," Village Voice, December 9, 1971 (p. 59-60)

Ads for Eric's show at Max's also appeared in the next two issues of the Voice. Again, neither ad mentioned the Magic Tramps.

Village Voice ad, December 23, 1971

Village Voice ad December 30, 1971

When Eric and the Magic Tramps started playing the newly renovated Mercer Arts Center the following year, the Tramps did eventually receive billing in the Voice's ads for the venue although initially it was just Eric's name that was advertised. It was while Eric was performing at the Mercer Arts Center that he met and befriended Chris Stein who would later form Blondie with Debbie Harry. As with Eric, Debbie was also a heroin user. (DH) (DHB11) (PL582) (PL591) (PL601) (PL619) (PL628) (PL696) (PL705) (PL2362) (PL4442) (PL4442) (PL4600)

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