John Leguizamo’s East Village


From 1980 until 1996, John Leguizamo, the actor, comedian, writer and producer behind such hits as “Mambo Mouth” and “Ghetto Klown,” lived on East Seventh Street. He now resides in the central Village, but he still has roots in Alphabet City: his production offices are headquartered in his old brownstone there; and last month his wife Justine, who sits on the board of the Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation, spoke at a hearing that resulted in the landmarking of a block on East 10th Street.

Mr. Leguizamo told The Local that the East Village “will always hold a special place in my heart.” Of course, things have changed since the days when “you’d see Eric Bogosian at the bodega, Steve Buscemi buying a coffee, Iggy Pop at the health food store, Quentin Crisp tottering down the street,” as he wrote in his memoir. Over e-mail, he said, “The neighborhood used to be alive with all different kind of artists. Musicians, poets, painters, actors, singers, dancers. But the rich came in and all the squatters left and went to Brooklyn.”

So what’s there still to love about the “East Vill”? Mr. Leguizamo reflected on some of his past and present favorites.

Performance spaces
Nuyorican Poets Cafe, La MaMa, P.S. 122. I have seen some of the best pieces of theater there. I wasn’t accepted in comedy clubs and the East Village was a place where I go to do my storytelling. The Home, Dixon Place, P.S. 122 were all amazing venues that allowed artists to really experiment. You could be your own person and tell your own story, without worrying about pleasing audiences. 

Neighborhood artists
Eric Bogosian, Michael Mayer… The art being created was so beautiful, really intellectual, really crazy, really political.  The whole neighborhood had this sense of encouragement to explore new territories and push boundaries. Lots of poetry. Lots of slam. It was what Brooklyn is now. It was all happening in the East Village.

Best place for people-watching

I love to hang out in Tompkins Square Park, it is one of my favorite parks in the entire city.  I also love those parks along Avenue D – I used to walk there with my dog all the time.

Favorite Restaurants
Esperanto for brunch, and Veselka for the best Ukrainian food in New York.