Friday Night Fever

Recollections of the Electric Circus: “If you remembered much of what happened, you weren’t really there.”

The interior of the Electric Circus on St. Mark’s Place. Pic courtesy Christian Montone/flickr

WARNING The article contains a couple light spoilers about last night’s ‘Mad Men’ on AMC.  If you’re a fan of the show, come back once you’re watched the episode.  But these posts are about a specific element of New York history from the 1960s and can be read even by those who don’t watch the show at all.  You can find other articles in this series here

Almost predictably, a couple characters from ‘Mad Men‘ finally interact with a psychedelic temple of Andy Warhol, in this case the nightclub Electric Circus at 19-25 St. Mark’s Place, today the site of a Chipotle and a Supercuts.

As I wrote back in an article from 2007: “It became the East Village fuse box for Warhol’s talents and those of his entourage, in particular the Velvet Underground and Nico.  The dazzling synthesis of psychedelica and glamour, of the Velvet’s strange atmospheric music and Warhol’s performance displays of lights and costumes, immediately attracted the scenesters to this odd little street — according to the New York Times, “everyone from hippies to Tom Wolfe and George Plimpton” — way before St. Marks would make its reputation in the 1970s with the punk scene.”

An original ad from the Electic Circus, summer of 1967 (courtesy butdoesitfloat)

Since I wrote that article, many people have chimed in within the comments section to relive their memories of Electric Circus.  Here are a few of my favorite comments from those who were actually there:

“What memories.  I started working at the E.C. as a ticket taker.  I say working, but in reality we didn’t get paid, we got let in for our work.  Like Woodstock, if you remembered much of what happened at the E.C. you weren’t really there.” – Being the Best

Below: Headline from the Village Voice, July 6, 1967

“I worked at the Electric Circus, 67-68-ish.  I was the fire-eater, and mime/clown, working with another mime named Michael Grando.  Larry Pizoni was the director of the circus show.  We had a trapeze artist named Sandy [Alexander], and security was a biker club called the Aliens (which worked, unlike Altamont).

Everytime I’m in New York, in the East Village, I stop on St Mark’s and bow my head.  I wanted to have someone put up a plaque, but nobody in the stores knew who to call.” – Richard Bluejay

“I was one of 5 or 6 people who worked at Limbo* for number of years across from the Electric Circus.  I was there at the opening night, and then on for a long time I remember we use to give discounts to the Circus employees so we get in free. Can not tell you how many times I was in there but it was a lot!!!!  It was great time back then.  Fillmore East was around the corner and Max’s Kansas City was not far away.  East Village was where it was at back then ” – Anonymous

A freakout-indusing video from Electric Circus, scored to the music of Frank Zappa: 

“I remember two things about the electric circus from my one visit in 1969. One was the fact that the walls were not at a right angle to the floor, which combined with the strobe lights and swirling crowd, made for a delightfully disorienting experience. The other was a dark room off to the side where couples — or even strangers I suppose — could sit and smooch. In addition to all kinds of nooks and crannies for this purpose there was a rotating upholstered carousel in the middle of the room, divided into sections, one per couple.” — Anonymous

Below: A typical crowd on the stairs outside the Electric Circus (pic courtesy Old New York)

“I’m so excited, after all these decades to hear from people who got to experience the the most amazing Electric Circus, as I did.  By far dancing myself into a dazed, psychedelic trance, while absorbing the magical energy of the Chambers Brothers sing ‘Time’, was right up there in my top ten of life altering experiences.  I was a runaway, living with new friends in the Village.

I used to panhandle on St. Marks Place, and spend all my money on clothes at the Limbo, pizza, and tickets to hear my fav bands, except for the times I used to get in for free.” — Sonny

Below: Sonny’s jam from the floor of the Electric Circus:

“I can’t remember exactly how I arrived at St. Marks Place that first night.  I had never been to St Marks Place and I certainly didn’t know about Electic Circus.  I was just following a friend of mine who was interested enough in the new culture to find out where to go and what to do.

There must have been some kind of happening that night because the streets were full of people.  People were hanging all over the stairs leading up to the Circus.  And, you didn’t have to pay.  We just walked in. I still remember it emotionally.

The big room was completely decorated with fabric amorphously draped on walls and spanning corners and cornices.  Projectors behind the fabric ran continuous short loops of films. Of course it was dimly lit so as not to wash out the films.  People were everywhere and moved mysteriously in the smoky dim light.  I was born in Brooklyn and had already lived a few years in Manhattan, but I never saw anything like this before.  The next time I saw EC the decor had changed. I never paid to get in because I was a member of the PABLO Light** show.” — Anonymous

* Limbo was a famed ‘hippie clothing’ boutique where today’s Trash & Vaudeville sits today.

** That would be Lights By Pablo, a leading ‘liquid light show’ exhibitor of the late 1960s, frequently here and at Fillmore East.

60 replies on “Recollections of the Electric Circus: “If you remembered much of what happened, you weren’t really there.””

I took my son there when he was about ten years old. (I was 33). We were both enthralled by the rubber room.
A room with walls, floor, and ceiling lined with foam rubber. To this day we ocasionally reminisce about the experience.

Ah, yes the “Circus”, I grew up in NYC and my friends and I used to go every weekend.
what I would give to back and be there again for a night!
The light shows, the crowd, strobs, and yes the bar which did not sell alcohol! wasn’t necessary, everyone did drugs, uppies, downies, acid etc.
the carousel room wh7ch was all black with only black lights.
the cylindrical cubbies upstairs, make out heaven.

I went there with some buddies from school in Feb 1968… I was just 15 like my friends from the city and suprised to get in but they didn´t sell booze so it was ok. I hid in a nook upstairs plastic grass for a carpet people making a chick painted my face and arms with day glow black lights out-lots of smoke and meth after frontloading some Rhinegold “Chug-a-Mugs” we got in a deli despite our age nobody even thought of carding us and took in the light show-pulsing ameobas-light struck chopped super 8 home movies….and sombody jamming…tiny stage just who I am still wondering

we were from brooklyn and we started going the electric circus in 1968 we were there every weekend we knew all the regulars every one got along every shared what ever they had with each other one nite the chambers brothers were playing and after a set they took a break and a friend of ours was a excellent drumer so he went up on the stage and started playing and instead asking him to leave the chambers brother came out and started playing a song with him playing the drums, and brian there drumer just stood on stage with a big smile as if to say the kid was good things like that just don”t happen to day also i remenber that the drink there was ice coffee is so good at that time even through it had coffee grings at the bottom of the cup but no one seemed to mind what they did in that place was bring a generation together with peace and friendship to the owners thanks you for the experance

I was born in nyc Amsterdam houses.Me and my boy Frenchie used to go to the circus,wow good times fine and freaky women.Dont forget Sly he was always there.We were disco freaks a d used to sleep on the far as I can remember..

My dad was a partner from 67-71 when they closed. I was a kid and never saw it. I always heard tales from dad Mark Pernick and partner Willy Millman. Sadly Dad passed 20+ years ago. Willy is retired on the water in SC. Thanks for your comments on this story of the EC. I have a list of bands that played there but I can’t paste it here.

My dad worked lights at the Electric Circus in the late 60s. He didn’t tell me a lot about it but the place intrigued me. I wish I knew more about it but he passed in 2014.

Anybody remember seeing/hearing a band called GRACE at Electric Circus in 1969? Or remember a girl named Liz (a regular)? Also, one of my favorite things at the time were some mimes that wld perform during band breaks.

I had been trying to remember the Dom. All I could remember was the name and that I was always dancing. I remember socializing on the street in front of it too. Glad to know it wasn’t my imagination!

It was a magical place..Loved the music and everyone was so friendly! Allof Brooklyn was there and the Chamber Brothers rocked it!! Great memories♡

I worked their from the 1970 till they closed down on 71 .ran the light show and my cousin spun the music. Something l will never forget.

Willy is like my uncle. Will MILLMAN was dad’s best friend of Mark Pernick. My father and also one of the partners. Willy is retired in SC. He is 83-84. Mark passed 21 years ago

My older brother played in NYC in a band called and the Echoes. He took me and my older brother of two years to the Electric Circus. I was around 14 and my brother Richard was around 16. What an experience it was to see all of the colors and pictures on the canopy above. We sat in the walls on I think they were old back seat car seats that were placed in the walls. I will never forget how much fun and what an experience it was to have been there.

I can’t remember much except the amazing feeling of everyone together,and closing up time when the impressions people get ready was played. The venue itself was gorgeous coloured sheets draped on the ceiling all sorts of nooks to hide in.the music was always the best great bands. F One time speakers were turned on to the streets and everyone was dancing in the street . I can’t remember paying as I was broke and semi homeless at the time it was just an amazing place to be, so I sort of moved in there.

I saw Little Richard at the Electric Circus New Years Eve must have been 69? He had on all pink- pants, shirt, boots and headband and put on a fantastic show. I rember trying to walk a straight line across the dance floor and it was almost impossible there were so many trippy disorienting strobe lights. I felt like I was going to loose my balance and fall over. I had dropped out of college and was basically a run away from Ohio. I lived in one room in the back of a store on 9th near Tompkins Square Park. I think the rent was $50 a month and even that was way too much. Howard Johnson’s in Sheridan Square had all the fried chicken you could eat on Monday nights for $1.49. After reading these other posts I wish I had gone to the Electric Circus more often.

We were a Fearless Back Then. Lol For $50.00 You Could Live Like A Queen. With An Entire, Really Nice Apartment.
Not Sure How “Nice” The Back Of That Particular Store was.
But It Probably Didn’t Matter Then. I Do Know People Who Livee sin The Back Rooms Of The Candy Store. But They Owned The Store. I Was Best Friends With Their Daughter “Linda” Ever Since We Were Around 4 Years Old. I Often Slept Over. Even Though I Lived Right Next Door. I’ve Seen 3 Older Crowds Pass
Through there. Until I Was The 1 That Got To Be Part Of The Crowd That Hung Out In “Charlie’s Candy Store”. I Miss My Block, Neighborhood, Kids From The Candy Store So Much. There Was Nothing Like It.

My first husband, may he rest in peace, proposed to me on the slide in Tompkins Sq Park, after a night at the EC. It was the night the Chambers Brothers performed TIME. Loved the EC and the east village. Best of times, best of memories.

Hi Helayne, I just finished a documentary film about the Electric Circus and we’re planning to have a private screening event. If you’re interested please send me your contact info?…..Larry

““If you remembered much of what happened, you weren’t really there.”” Yeah, I always hate reading that kind of BS. I lived across the street at 22 St. Marks and I remember all of it, including the fact that Andy Warhol’s Dom (i.e., Polski Dom) was downstairs. I went there regularly, and Sly and the Family Stone were the “house band” and were advertised as such in The Village Voice and elsewhere. I also attended the Three Ring Yip-In, a series of events funding the 1969 Yippie intervention in Chicago, ’68. Bohemo’s Five played, as did The Stone Poneys, with a young Linda Ronstatdt singing. I just wish there were good photos of the stairway leading to the place…it was a wild paint job.

Yea, Norman, I remember a lot of what as happening. I worked there from 1967 t0 1970. I got out just before the place went bankrupt. I’m even in one of the paintings. The one behind the “bar”. The naked black guy with a mustache
Those were the days!

Hi Norman, I just finished a documentary film about the Electric Circus and we’re planning to have a private screening event. If you’re interested please send me your contact info?…..Larry

I went to the Electric Circus in 1968 through 1969. It was the coolest place I ever went to. The coffee sodas were the best. The music was incredible. The lighting, the décor were so weird but all so “in”. And the circus acts made it all. I saw some famous groups there too. One night my boyfriend and I got up onto one of the small stages in the middle of the floor and danced. Soon we saw the spot light was on us. There’s nothing that can ever top the Electric Circus and all that it was. I will remember it forever. I’d like to ask that if you have more pictures of the inside of this incredible place, please send them to me so I can look at them and go back in time to those incredible years. I’m 73 years old now but I never forgot my youth and all the fun. I loved the music, the Nehru shirts, love beads and the Electric Circus. Love was all around us.

72 yrs old myself and use to go every Saturday night on acid. Most likely I could of danced with you, lol. I would love to know all the bands that played there so if you have a list of them could you please reply and give them to me? like I said, 72 went to Woodstock 69 and still rocking! thanks.

I’m 72 also…I went with 4 or 5 friends I remember dancing to the Chambers Brothers TIME in the black lights…girls underwear glowing…at the time we thought that was hilarious!
Magical place…Best times..great memories..
didn’t we get in free with no shoes?

I loved the E.C. It was the coolest place I ever went to. What an experience! Nothing like it. Wish it was still there. If there are videos of the inside of the E.C., I’d love to see them. I was there many times, still didnt get enough of it.

I remember going there every Saturday night with my two friends Billy & Ronny, both past away. Frank Zappa would always save a spot for us. He called us the Brockton boys because thats where were from. One many many times we did acid & Andy Waho use to blow are minds, so did Frank. The great times there & Woodstock 69 & at 72yrs old & still rocking!!

Went to the Electric Circus with 2 friends for our first trip on Christmas Day.
It was, “Legalize Marajuana Day“.
Those were the days!

I was there a few times in 1968, at the age of 10. I saw The Chambers Brothers, and was also there for a Hog Farm party. I have a vague memory of having been knocked over by Pigasus, and also of being given half a chocolate cake and a joint. Seeing the pictures is weirdly evocative, particularly the stretched out canvas pieces.

I am doing some research on the Electric Circus. There are some news reports that suggest the club was the first “mainstream” nightclub in NYC to openly welcome Gay people. According to news reports and book excerpts the club announced a gay night for July 6, 1969 via a press release saying- “We’ll be open to the general public as usual, but we’re especially encouraging gay people to come — and we really hope that everyone will dance together and dig each other.”

If anyone has any recollection of that- I would love to speak to you. Sadly- I just found out Jerry Brandt- who opened the club, died of COVID-19 on Jan. 16, 2021.

If you have information please email me:

I worked at the Electric Circus in and around 1968. I started in the coat check room and then upstairs as waiter and cleaner in the milk shake bar. I loved being there. The walls were lined with a sort of Tent and three projecton booths, 2 on the sides of the ballroom and one at the back which was where the very first electric music synthesizer by Morton Subotnick was located. The light shows played over all the walls of the large hanging tent and on the back of the stage. It had two “Exotic dancers”on the right and left sides of the stage, who danced to the music during the bands and the DJ intermissions.
I was there during the Jimi Hendricks performances and The Chambers Brothers who were the house band. The light show was very special and played 360 degrees around the tent, consisting of short films, slides and liquid projections.

It was life changing for me. We were such buddy and I went there in 1967 in coars and ties! We somehow got two girls to dance.We had about two minutes of dance moves and song that came on was “Light My Fire”. My dance partner said she was a speed freak..I had no idea what that was. There were Staten Island girls who had eaten so many cough drops their mouths were purple. There was an actual trapeze act to the strobe light and light show that still bloes my mind 55 years later. When the Chambers Brothers came on, that was it. The entire building jumped in rhythm. My kids and grandkids will never experience anything like the Circus…sadly. Thanks for the wonderful memories!

Hi Sandy, I’m Richard maybe you remember me. Worked at the Circus as night manager at the same time you were there. After the Circus closed I moved to Germany with my ex wife Heike. The 2 of you were friends for a while.

Good old memories at the Electric Circus. Was there all the time and sometimes I used to hangout at the light booth.

Good old memories at the Electric Circus. I Was there all the time and sometimes I used to hangout at the light booth.

I remember the rubber room & the girls swinging on both sides of the stage, pretty high up. Some say the girls didn’t wear underwear. I think most people were stoned including myself. Love Peace & Rock n Roll. The best times of my life. Wish we could go back even if it’s for one night. Please post some pictures! Memories of Lenny an old love…..

Never got near the door because the show was in the street. The Chambers Brothers were set up outside. The block was cut off to traffic on both ends. A light show was projected on the building across the street. I remember a guy standing on his fire escape as the lights played over him chowing down on a bowl of something. The street was packed with people shoulder to shoulder all of us bouncing with the music. “Time” rattled the windows up and down the block. Someone was tossing clothing up into the air. A tan military jacket with the sleeves cut off and a major’s oak leaf cluster landed on my head. Kept it for years. What a night.

I went there with some of my friends from Union Hill High School. Best dance I ever attended. Atmosphere was out of this world ! Wish it was still open.

I was trying to remember if The Dom and the EC coexisted for a time. The Dom was mostly young black clientele and was downstairs while the Circus was upstairs. Anyone remember?

Yes The Dom and the EC coexisted. The Dom was more of a jazz club. Both were extremely popular. My group played the EC in 1968 which was a highlight.

I worked at EC (as face painter and then in the light show booth) when the club opened. All those great bands. Got introduced to Pete Townsend at that time and also met Donovan and Jimi Hendrix. Wonderful memories with my fellow circus folks. Film on the walls were of friends, as well. Only worked there a number of months. It was a wild ride of creativity. Lived near Tompkins Square Park that summer and loved the egg creams at Gem-Spa.
Fun to read others’ reminiscences.Remember the Dom as well, and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable…those were the days/nights.

I was there the night the Chambers; Brothers played TIME. I was wearing a jumpsuit that glowed in the dark and a helmet with antennae. I came down a wire and got stuck before hitting the stage as I saw a gorilla on the stage and freaked out. My legs back tracked causeing me to get stuck. Once I got unstuck I wound up in the arms of the Gorilla.
My husband at the time, Hopeton Morris made and designed paper capes lined in silk, that looked like Chicken feather fur for the Electric Circus Gift shop. He was the only one who designed and made them.

I flew down from Boston to hook up with a couple of BU girlfriends and got to the Deep Purple New Years eve show. I was a regular at the Boston Tea Party venue but I have gotta say that the Circus was supremely something else.


it was august of 1968 i had just graduated high school i went with my then girl friend we lived in connecticut and dressed like it i remember it was like an old gym there was like a round couch in the middle and these things,i think they called them rat holes sly and the family stone was the band that night.

Yes, I remember it well. I was the night manager of The Electric Circus from the day it opened, June 27, 1967, until it closed for remodeling. As the night manager, I was in the lobby every night greeting customers and checking-in guests. I was surprised to recognize many of the names on your list but not surprised at their comments. I thought it was the greatest, too.
A movie-documentary, “Psychedelicized: The Electric Circus Story” is
almost ready for release. Watch for it. Love from Thom Williams

I think I went to the Electric Circus but I can’t recall so I probably did go.
And the Chambers Brothers sucked, big time.

I remember going with my friends and I believe 1971 we had a blast. We also saw actors and we saw other singers that were popular. I will never forget that night for the rest of my life. Awesome!!!!

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