Ackers pack ’em in at HOWL! Happening gallery

Phoebe Legere ACKERS

Emcee Phoebe Legere hit all the right notes. Photo by Clayton Patterson.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The third annual Acker Awards, honoring Downtown’s avant-garde artists and luminaries, did not disappoint at HOWL! Happening gallery last Thursday evening.

Multi-format artist Phoebe Legere was the emcee. L.E.S. documentarian Clayton Patterson, the event’s co-founder, gave the intros of the many honorees, who included, among others, filmmaker Sara Driver, whose beau, Jim Jarmusch, was in the crowd. Accepting her award, Driver said she was glad to see the room filled with “people who color outside the lines.”

Punk rock photographer Godlis thanked the late Hilly Kristal for giving him total freedom to document the music scene at C.B.G.B.

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Eliot Katz read a poem about having a philosophical conversation with a dinosaur at the Museum of Natural History. He said it was Allen Ginsberg’s favorite poem of his. Photo by Lincoln Anderson


Three Villager contributors were honored, including poet Puma Perl, photographer Q. Sakamaki and, belatedly, reporter Sarah Ferguson, who got an Acker last year, but was unable to make it then. Ferguson said radical attorney Stanley Cohen deserves an Acker.

“He had our back on the Lower East Side for a long time — things that Clayton covered,” she told the crowd. “He was there to defend us. So, right on, Stanley.”

Sara Driver ACKERS

Sara Driver with her Acker Awards poster and box. Each honoree got a box, their contents assembled by Clayton Patterson, with something that each of the honorees had made or given for it. Photo by Clayton Patterson

Other honorees ranged from the likes of Chris Flash, publisher of The Shadow, and Yippie activist Alice Torbush to poet and Allen Ginsberg disciple Eliot Katz, Pyramid Club drag queen Brian “Hattie” Butterick, PUNK magazine’s John Holmstrom and tattoo artist Nick Bubash.

Acker winner Zito this year helped add a new dimension by painting discarded coffee cups with portraits of greats who were recognized with Posthumous Acker Awards. These included a full roster of such legends as Vali Myers, John Evans, Dean Johnson, Mars Bar owner Hank Penza, Jack Smith, Hilly Kristal, Bill Rice, Allen Ginsberg, attorney Flo Kennedy (who defended Patterson in some of his cases against the police), Bimbo Rivas, Taylor Mead, Joey and Dee Dee Ramone, “major pot dealer” and gambling-chip manufacturer Linda Twigg, Holly Woodlawn and Quentin Crisp — plus comedian Rockets Redglare, who got a particularly warm round of applause.

Dr. Dave Ores, also an Acker winner, praised Patterson to the crowd, saying, “Thank you, Clayton. Clayton is our greatest inspiration,” getting a big round of applause.

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The crowd at the Acker Awards. The event’s co-founder, Alan Kaufman, is in the center of the front row, wearing a driver’s cap. Photo by Clayton Patterson


Writer Alan Kaufman, a co-creator of the Ackers, related the awards’ origins. PEN America was looking to give an award to an editor, and Kaufman and Patterson thought to nominate Jim Feast of Unbearables fame.

“Then we thought, why not just give him an award ourselves?” Kaufman recalled, and so the Ackers were born.

Of course, there were a few critics taking pokes at the affair. Little Italy artist Sante Scardillo quipped, “This is like an ’80s high school reunion — the ’80s was the high school.”

Another activist charged that the event lacked diversity.

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Brian Butterick a.k.a. Hattie Hathaway after receiving his Acker Award. He was a key figure in the Pyramid Club scene in its heyday. Photo by Lincoln Anderson


“I think they should call it the ‘Cracker Awards,’ ” he joked.

But the sense of community and pride in the close-knit Downtown arts scene was strong, and the event is steadily building more prestige each year.

As one honoree said, “I’d rather have one Acker than a bagful of Grammys.”

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