December 31, 2014
Tonight, Auld Lang Syne (roughly, for the sake of old times) will be sung in pubs, parties and in, God help you, Times Square. It’s all a bit maudlin but this message is about the future and how one person totally remade herself in order to be herself. On this New Year’s Eve, I give you Penny Arcade.
“I am just coming into my own now,” she says. “What I’ve realized is that at 60, if you had a rigorous inquiry into your life, then you get to start all over again, as if you were 20, but this time raised by you — your values, your ideals, you!”
Penny Arcade was an original from the get-go. She and a few of her friends left their home in New Britain, CT and visited Provincetown. This was the mid-60s. She was 14. At the end of an eye-popping and fun weekend, her friends jumped back into their car and called to her to join them to return home. She yelled back, “I’m staying.” No money, no place to stay. For the next 5-6 weeks, she slept on porches and in doorways.
And even though she was 14, homeless, broke and living in P-Town (where she had hung out with John Waters and others) she wanted more. Still broke, she moved to the East Village. How was she so brave, careless, self-sufficient and risk-taking, I wonder?
By the 1980s, she was a well-known performance artist and writer. She had acted at the legendary Theater of the Ridiculous and at Warhol’s Factory.
Since she has just begun anew at 60, I look forward to seeing what else she has in store for a society in need of nonconformist creation.
So, a toast to Penny Arcade on this New Year’s Eve.