My Velvet Underground Experience: NYC

By Laura Flanagan

From October 10 – December 30, 718 Broadway NYC is home to The Velvet Underground Experience; a series of unique experiences, concerts, special events, lectures, pop-up installations, fashion collaborations, art exhibitions, screenings, performances, and master-classes about the band and the cultural world they inhabited and helped create.

A fascinating history, to be sure, but for my family, also a personal one; in fact, it’s another window into the extraordinary life of a very unique cultural figure, who happens to be my mother-in-law; Rosemarie Feliu – at the time, simply known as “Rosebud.”

“Rosebud was a was a bohemian New York  teenager in the mid 1960s, when she spent a great deal of time hanging out with her close friends Barbara Rubin and Allen Ginsberg. Rosebud and Rubin had hitchhiked across the country together, and in late 1965 Rosebud went along when Rubin first took Warhol to see the Velvet Underground perform at Café Bizarre.” While Warhol famously “discovered” the Velvet Underground, he had his source in Rosebud and Barbara. That same year, “Rosebud appeared with Warhol, Rubin and many other celebrities of the avant-garde in Piero Heliczer’s epic 8mm film Dirt,  in which she and the film-maker Harry Smith had a central role.”   

Walking through the exhibit with Rose’s sisters Jeanie and Denise, had its own unique effect on my Velvet Underground Experience.  Respectively, a woman who photographed some of the most legendary early Hardcore Punk bands and shows in NYC and the woman who founded the seminal NY Punk band the Stimulator’s – influencing everyone from the Beastie Boys to Agnostic Front to The Cro-Mags; let’s just say, my perspective was unique. Denise spent her teenage years with Ginsberg, Orlovsky and Barbara Rubin. By the mid-1960s Rose had already crossed the country with Barbara and become the “spiritual wife” of Harry Smith. For Denise and Jeanie, it was surreal walk down memory lane- a picture book of photos that looked like their own, but curated.  The collective archive of this family, including my husband, Harley Flanagan, could easily fill an exhibition of its own; spanning the 1960s to the present in NYC underground music culture.

We passed through the rooms filled with the words and pictures of Malanga, Ginsberg, Warhol and Dylan, and then past what we thought of as the “wall of influence”, an homage to so many artists who were influenced by the Velvet Underground – from the NY Dolls to The Kills, the Ramones to the Bad Brains, Keith Herring, Nick Cave, and it goes on and on and on.

At once dizzying and yet completely familiar, the Velvet Underground Experience presents a fascinating and important history, which worked for me as yet another rarified lens through which to understand my extraordinary tribe.  

See it- it’s important that you know.

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