High on Rebellion: Inside the Underground at Max's Kansas City by Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The creatives of the thirties had the Algonquin Round Table. Those budding into their creative careers in the late sixties had a similar place to go where they could be themselves and let loose—that was Max's Kansas City. In High on Rebellion: Inside the Underground at Max's Kansas City readers discover what was special about this restaurant and how many of the world's famous artists, writers, musicians and fashion designers all cut their teeth on the atmosphere at the bar and in the back room at Max's.
What readers will notice about this first is that the format of the book lets the patrons of Max's speak in their own words without paraphrasing. That, along with clippings, ads and photos, reader can get a sense of how wild and crazy the place could get. The other thing that readers may notice about this book is that it is a namedropping extravaganza. You can't read more than a few paragraphs without someone's story containing a long string of people they were hanging out with at the time. There are many names that are easily recognized such as Warhol, Patti Smith, Jane Fonda and others, but many of the artists and self-proclaimed freaks are not as well known outside of their particular late sixties social circle. Even if you don't recognize all the names (the 130 Fabulous Faces By Leee Black Childers at the end of the book is somewhat helpful, along with the Cast of Characters pages), you do get a sense of a special atmosphere that Mickey Ruskin created at Max's and at some of the other restaurants he had a hand in.
This is a true love letter to Max's Mickey Ruskin, who seems to have been an angel for most of these up-and-coming creatives, letting them eat and drink for free, trading artwork for bar tabs and giving these people the space to congregate without having to conform. There aren't places for artists and musicians like this anymore (and if there is, please let me know. I'll pack a bag). It is a one-of-a-kind experience that a select few are able to hold in their hearts and memories.
*Received a copy of this book through NetGalley
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