Darinka Membership Card
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Alien Comic and DanceNoise at Darinka Flyer from 1985.
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Darinka interior archive shot.
‘They Might Be Giants’ performing at Darinka.
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Darinka: A Performance Studio was opened on April 21, 1984, by Gary Ray Bugarcic (aka Gary Ray). The club served as a venue for artists of all disciplines, including performance, theatre, music, dance, film, video, fine art, and poetry and prose. In keeping with the Eastern European roots of the East Village/Lower East Side, the club was named after Gary’s mother, who was Croatian-born. Darinka is a derivative of the Slavic word dar, meaning “gift.”
The club was located at 118 East First Street, two doors down from Avenue A, and had a speakeasy type entrance under the residential stoop of the building. Up to the late 1970s, the space was used as a local Italian Social Club until a fire destroyed it. During the renovation of the space, all the old charred beams were laid in the backyard to provide an urban rustic wood patio enjoyed by patrons during the hot summer months. The interior of the club had a small proscenium stage that was described by many as looking like a live television. A variety of local painters such as James Romberger and Mark Kostabi showed their work on the walls of the club until the permanent murals and stencils were painted. Regular performers included They Might Be Giants (considered the house band), performance artist Steve Buscemi (still a fireman when he started performing), Karen Finley, Jack Smith, Charles Long, William Pope L., Kembra Pfahler, Nick Zedd, Anna Deavere Smith, and John S. Hall. In addition, there were many writers who read during the Sunday prose and poetry nights, including Darius James, Patrick McGrath, Hal Sirowitz, Lynne Tillman, Mark Dery, Nina Zivancevic, Peter Cherches, Bob Holman, Ira Cohen and Taylor Meade.
On June 29, 1985, the NYPD raided the club during a mushroom party and performance by artists David West and Andy Somma. Gary Ray and the bartender, Robin Clements, were arrested for operating an unlicensed bottle club. Several months later Darinka reopened as a private club with Randy Lee Hartwig and John Gernand as managers. As a private club, each new member would fill out a membership application card upon entrance. The application cards were kept in a file near the door in case of a police inquiry. Membership cards were also distributed.
Darinka was the first home of “The Church of the Little Green Man.” The church was founded by conceptual artist Mike Osterhout and had its first service in December of 1986. Darinka closed in May of 1987.
Articles mentioning Darinka have appeared in The Village Voice, New York magazine, Performance, East Village Eye, Toronto Globe and Mail, The New York Times, and The Drama Review (Spring 1985). The club is also acknowledged in the documentary Gigantic: A Tale Of Two Johns.
Gary Ray Bugarcic, a graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, has worked as an actor and stage director in almost every downtown New York theatrical venue. As a musician, he played in several bands, including State of Desire and The Academy, which performed regularly at CBGB and Danceteria before opening Darinka. After closing the club he toured with Karen Finley in her play The Theory of Total Blame and worked with The Ridge Theatre Company as well as with Kestutis Nakas and in Jeff Weiss’s “Hot Keys.” He has also appeared in such indie films as Todd Haynes’ Poison and Desperately Seeking Susan. New Blood magazine published his poetry in the 1980s and his “3-D Lenticular Photographs of the Eighties” have been shown in several New York City galleries, including the Participant Gallery.
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Here is a calendar list that Gary provided me to give an idea of the lineup that appeared every week at Darinka in 1985.
1/4, Ted Sputnik & his Orchestra plus the music of Kid Ego (Gary Quasar), plus performance with Mike Smith.
1/5, Show of Force, films and performance w/ Richard Kern and Brian Moran.
1/6, Short stories & Poetry w/ M.Kasper, Kennon Raines, Sadik Sedan (Sedik Grice), Bruce Benderson and Lisa Blauchild.
1/11, performance w/ Leonard Grendel in “Do You Want to Fight $11,750,000 ?” plus music w/ Tom Cora.
1/12, Accordion Summit # 2 presented by Zeena Parkins w/ the B’Z’s Squeezes and Billy Swindler and the Happy New Yorkers. Also Guy Klusevek performed.
1/13, Poetry w/ Robert Kendall and friends.
1/18, They Might Be Giants, plus the music of Bond Bergland.
1/19, Films by Mark Kehoe including; “Revenge of the Amazons,” “Metal Madam,” and “The Naked Hiptress.” Plus performance w/ Michael Smith and the music of Burnt Orange.
1/20, Poetry w/ Amy Shaipiro & friends with Sharon Gannon, David Life, Sue Ann Harkey, Judy Berger, Eric Eddy, and Stephen Paul Miller.
1/25, Performance w/ Cindy Frawely’s “War Dreams,” plus video & performance w/ Steve Thurston and James Minnis.
1/26, Directart Productions Ltd. Present A Cavalcade of films. “Three Step” & “Minute of Mystery,” animation by Joey Ahlbum and “Bass Line” & “Devil Movie’ by Barry Masterson, “Dapple-Grey’ & Dirt Road” by Leslie Pascel-Laufer, “Soul City” by M.Henry Jones, “Bloody Stump” by Michael Wolfe & Sidney Gilbert. “A Portrait of the Man’ by Fabio Roberti & Directart Films. Plus 2 films about the local band The Jickets; “Good Lovin’ Guitar Man” and “Heterosexual Love” by Directart Films.
1/27, Celebrate Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Birthday “ The Disciplines of Distress” a play by Greg Masters & Jeff Wright w/ Elinor Nauen, Doris Kornish, Francesca Shrady, Blair Breard, Jeff Wright and Greg Masters. Plus readings by Carla Liss, Don Yorty, Mayer, Hamilton and Mastersschiff.
2/3, The Tweed Theatre presents: Tzara’s “The Gas Heart.” Directed by Kevin Malony. Plus Club 86’ed w/ Mike Golden, Bob Riedel, Meegan McCombs, Rusty Hoover, Janet Cannon, Phil Herter and Mike Schwartz.
2/8, music and dance w/ Gregg Bendian, Ned Rothenberg, Sally Silvers and Pooh Kaye.
2/9, “A Hollow Venus (the Diary of a GoGo Dancer),” performance w/ Heather Woodbury.
2/10, Hard Boiled Night of Readings curated by Peter Cherches w/ Bill Dupp, Jim Strahs, Lee Eiferman and Sue Weinstein.
2/15, Nancy Cassaro’s “Be My Valantine” w/Otis Jah Baker, DeWitt Mebane, Jennie Moreau, Mark Nassar, Hal Simons and Moira Wilson.
2/16, Barbara Lehmann’s “Physical Education” performance concerning her medical history.
2/16, Music – Hugo Largo- w/ Mimi Goese.
2/23-24, They Might Be Giants plus performance with Watchface.
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Thanks to Gary Ray for this interview!
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