15 x 21 inches
“The Caffe Cino is the beginning! This is it! The major things done in New York were done there, and nowhere else. I don’t give a shit what anybody else says. They’re lying.”
A gay hangout before gay bars were allowed to operate openly, the Caffe Cino, which opened its doors in December 1958, was started by Joe Cino and his boyfriend at the time, the painter Ed Franzen, in a storefront located at 31 Cornelia Street. The core staff consisted initially of Joe Davies, Charles Loubier, and painter/dishwasher Kenny Burgess. Joe Davies recalled, “Tuesday was poetry night and then there was a music night and a dance night, and finally somebody said, well, ‘let’s have a play reading!'” The initial play readings at the Cino evolved into fully staged productions and “Off-Off-Broadway” was born. It was also at the Caffe Cino where the first staged performances offering positive portrayals of homosexuals took place, serving as the foundation and harbinger of American Queer Theater. Together the Cino habitués nearly single-handedly created what would become the gay themed productions that were an integral part of Off-Off-Broadway history. Closely anchored at the center of this inspired madness was the ingenious artist Kenny Burgess. He created the advertising and signage for the theatrical productions throughout the Cino’s lifespan, his hand-painted posters and collages offering a glimpse into the DIY ethos of the venue. The Cino was the cradle of modern gay culture, informing future generations with its fiercely independent spirit, rebelliousness, and creative anarchy. Like so many artistic urban communities whose members lived on into the 1980s, the Caffe Cino alumni suffered heavy losses during the AIDS epidemic. Sadly, Kenny Burgess passed away in 1989.
G.E.Work by Kenny Burgess