NYC Cerebrum Club

NYC Cerebrum Club

NYC Cerebrum Club

NYC Cerebrum Club

NYC Cerebrum Club

Connecting the dots

I was watching a 2016 interview that Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Museum Curator Wade Lawrence had done with Dale Saltzman and Peter Brown, the two men who had helped create the Bindy Bazaar merchandise area at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair as well as other cloth banners and the yellow cloth coverings over the Food for Love booths.

During the interview, Peter Brown mentioned a New York City venue called The Cerebrum.  Brown’s memory of the club was a bit sketchy (“it was some sort of touchy-feely kind of thing in the…in the village maybe…”), but the reference piqued my interest and here we are.

NYC Cerebrum Club

Ruffin Cooper

Ruffin Cooper had helped begin the Cerebrum. PBS’s NYC channel Thirteen had this to say about Cooper: Ruffin Cooper…was a conceptual artist and photographer who came of age in the wildly exciting and tumultuous 1960s. Some unique experiences he had during his life included going to Woodstock in 1969 and living for a time at a New Mexico commune. Later he established himself as an artist in San Francisco, crossing paths with such cultural icons as Dennis Hopper, Allen Ginsburg and Andy Warhol.

It was he along with Richard Currie, Bobjack Callejo, and John Brown that came up with the club’s concept.

NYC Cerebrum Club

Others

In the book Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam by David Kaufman, Currie explained that the premise was simply a loft party. “...we’d come in with tambourines and projection equipment and weather balloons. We’d project images, take care of the music, and give them [guests] participatory instruments to play.

A November 28, 1968 New York Times article by Dan Sullivan described it: A new club called Cerebrum shows you not only what it is, but what in five or ten years it may become: a prospect not altogether reassuring.

NYC Cerebrum Club

Mysterious entry

Cerebrum was located at 428 Broome Street. There was no Cerebrum signage. There was an illuminated bell. You pushed it. A opening in the door slid open. A voice asked your name. Did you have a reservation?

The initial entry was into the Orientation Room. You removed your shoes. you paid the fee–$2 on Tuesdays, $3 on on Wednesdays, and $4 on Thursdays.  A white-robed guide, wearing only a white robe,  handed a white robe to you. Some followed his example. Others chose not to, but all followed him into the main space.

A ramp let into an elongated all-white room and a white-carpeted runway in the center. Off of the runway were seven floating platforms. Each platform could hold about 6 people.

Each platform had its own collection of sensory items, or headsets to listen with, or tambourines to play with.

The Cerebrum opened in the fall of 1968 and closed the following spring. Here is a video posted by Bart Friedman, one of the guides, about the club. He describes it as “a nightly laboratory for mind bending excursions into film, sound, slides, mist, music, strobes and eroticism. ” 

NYC Cerebrum Club

Short-lived

Ruffin Cooper attended the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. In fact, he went on to become a member of the Hog Farm.

He became a well known San Francisco based photographer of architectural subjects printed in mammoth scale. His show, Creating an Illusion: huge, consecutive photo details compositing the face of the Statue of Liberty, printed on fabric, spanned the length of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC in 1985.

Here is a video about that project.

He died in 1992.

NYC Cerebrum Club

Fillmore East

By the way, the same day that the NY Times had its article on Cerebrum, there was this advertisement next to the article:

So many choices!

NYC Cerebrum Club
Thanks for visiting

One thought on “NYC Cerebrum Club”

  1. It’s been over 50 years since I visited the Cerebrum, hopefully you’ll find this interesting. In December, 1968 I was taken by a date there. All we were told beforehand was that it was a “different kind of experience” , and that we should strongly contemplate “pre pharmaceuticals”, which we lovingly acquiesced to. In those days this area of the lower East side was a commercial zone, and absolutely deserted at night. So on a cold dark winters night we ventured down Broome Street. When we came to 428 it was a totally non descript Brownstone, no signs, no markers, just a few steps up to an ordinary door as my memory serves me. We thought we had the wrong address, and we really didn’t know what to do. But there was an illuminated doorbell, so eventually we pushed it. A small trap door opened, asked if we had reservations and in we went. We were greeted by someone only wearing a diaphanous robe, and paid for our tickets, were given robes of our own plus a bag to put our clothes in. Then we entered what appeared to be a large warehouse room, rectangular, high ceilings, with an elevated carpeted runway running down the center, with small platforms, perhaps 10′ x 10′ each, sprouting off each side. We were guided carefully to a platform, I’m sure the guides were experienced with the mental state of the patrons. The actual floor of the room was 5-6′ below, so you didn’t want to fall off. There were musical instruments and toys on each platforms, plus headphones to wear.
    There were a fair number of people present, perhaps 100+. Then the experience began, a multi wall light show, enveloping sounds through our headphones, and various situations to engage in from the staff. It was a rave which we all melted into together. At one point white smoke started pouring up from under the walkway, and in the fog a giant white balloon inflated, which we then played a cosmic game of volleyball with. Try to picture a room full of almost naked white gowned giddy laughing souls, music undulating, lights trippingly swirling, it definitely qualified as a remembrance of note.
    I seem to remember that our guides did bring lemonade and grapes around, but that may be a figment of my state of mind. I had a wonderful time, and unfortunately the Cerebrum didn’t last much longer. I loved the 60’s, thank you for bringing this memory back to me.

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