Remembering Harry Katoukas

27 June 2010

 Harry Koutoukas was a special man to the Village. He was a play write, a poet, etc. He knew people all over the world. He was also a very good friend of Yoko Ono. As a matter of fact, Yoko Ono bought him a scooter (which is known as the Chartiot) that helped him to get around the Village and other parts of the city. Harry was known as “The Mayor of Christopher Street” and “Sinister of the Arts.”


Harry” Koutoukas was a surrealist playwright, actor, and teacher from the beginnings of the Off-Off-Broadway movement. 

Koutoukas shared his work in the Greenwich Village in spaces like La MaMa and Cafe Cino. His companions were Lanford Wilson and Sam Shepard who later became more commercially successful. Koutoukas’ writing often strayed from the “rules,” and were written and rehearsed quickly, sometimes even using people taken from the street to be the actors. Some of his plays included MEDEA IN THE LAUNDROMAT, CHRISTOPER AT THE SHERIDEN SQUARED, TIDY PASSIONS, TURTLES DON’T DREAM, and AWFUL PEOPLE ARE COMING OVER SO WE MUST PRETEND TO BE HARD AT WORK AND HOPE THEY WILL GO AWAY. 

“[Cafe] Cino would come to photograph playwrights,” he said, “and say, ‘Do you have a play for me this week?’ There was a need for a different play each week, so you’d have a play ready.” 

The playwrights plays were typically very “out-there” with exaggerated characters and strange situations. 

Koutoukas’ real name was Haralambos Monroe Koutoukas. He was born on June 4, 1937, in the small town of Endicott, NY. When he moved to Manhattan in the 60s he created his own theater workshop whose members include Ed Gerome Ragni, James Rado, Tom O’Horgan, and Harvey Fierstein. The workshops names was the “School for Gargoyles.” 

In 1966 he received a Village Voice Obie Award for “Assaulting Established Tradition.” 

Koutoukas was unique- wearing capes and jewelry, bleaching his dark hair white, writing suicide notes as a child for attention, and thinking of bombing the theatre where his play was running. 

Koutoukas once said of playwriting, “It’s the only way for me. I could write a play with the time and energy it takes to fill out an application for one of those foundation grants.” 

In 1966, he won an Obie award “for the style and energy of his assaults on the theater in both playwriting and production.” 


Personal Reflection by Rev. Lyndon Harris 

 “When I first met Harry I commented, “Harry, I love your blue hair!” To which he replied, “Thank you darling. I thought I’d go natural.” It was no surprise to me when I found out he was one of the primary inspirations for the Broadway musical “Hair.” It was also no surprise that he was an Obie award winning playwrite. 

Harry Died March 6, —-. His “chariot” aka “The Glittermobile,” parked as it usually is in front of the Parish Hall building is now being turned into a makeshift memorial to this beautiful man. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and offer a prayer, or a flower. He loved sunflowers!

Harry’s Last Poem

The Heart Grows Wings

Breaks free from the prison Of the self Secrets entombed Are released to the horizon                 |
On the breath’s last  OMMMMMMM
Delicate currents Made by the migrating butterflies
Then to the prison imposed by freedom O freedom              
A visit to the miniature marigolds Hesitant moments among the impatiens 
And stalwart tulips then the sky
Wrapping kisses in small clouds Carried by cherubs Through infinite space 

Abandoned long ago  By fashion dogs and voiceless cats     
Heart grasps the silver box Of cigarette butts Left behind by blond boys
Whose coughs signal early death         
Worn dreamers And ghosts desert the streets                  
The entrails of a pigeon read no future                 
Spiral upwards heart and away Towards beauty 

From a lofty peak  Heart looks down upon the footpaths
Streams and rivulets glisten                      |
A woman whispers to the birds         
Make your memories now 

The windows frame a Gemini salad Prepare to take over the Earth            
Lucy eats chocolate 
Jackie Gleason threatens his wife 
Spock wriggles his ears                      
The woman looks at the sunlight
The birds fly away 

O Amon, great sun Of flames                 
I bring you fruit    
Let it rot            
Heart hides behind a column of serpents Sees a man implore the heavens          
His hands are empty
The dead dig graves 
Their faces eaten by the rats        
Pharaoh’s boat departs                 
The man continues to pray                       
For he is desperate  In his search for meaning                 
 He questions the pyramid Unaware of his bankrupt past 

 Beyond heaven’s dome All things look reasonable               
In accordance with order And clarity of form 
Is this how God sees? Does he love all, both good and evil?      
We who live in chaos Know nothing    
Who questions justice aka Mr. God? 
Spinoza pray for us  In your exile from norms                   
Let the world pray for itself                  
Heart flies over the children As they play in the rain Among the autumn leaves                  
Some viewings burn in your brain 

An ancient man does not lock his door  
The smell of lemons is his goodbye      
Let his remains be a feast                    
How meaningful, meaningful
Courageous to inquire… 

H.M. Koutoukas © 2010 

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