Partner Joe Cino

Queer Places:
Cafe Cino, 31 Carmine St., 10014, NYC, NY, USA

Joe Cino relied heavily on lighting designer John P. Dodd, who lit the stage using electricity stolen from the city grid by Joe Cino’s lover, electrician Jon Torrey (April 2, 1942 - January 5, 1967). The space made for intimacy between the performers and audience, with little room for typical fourth-wall illusionary theatre. Cino decorated the café with fairy lights, mobiles, glitter dust, and Chinese lanterns, and he covered the walls with memorabilia and personal effects.

Cino eventually became addicted to amphetamines as he struggled to keep up the pace that Caffé Cino demanded from him. On January 5, 1967, Jon Torrey was electrocuted and died in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Though his death was ruled accidental, skeptical insiders claimed that he committed suicide. The event sent Cino into a depressive spiral. He began socializing with members from Andy Warhol’s Factory (attracted by the success of "Dames"), including the notorious Pope Ondine (a.k.a. Bob Olivio), with whom Cino did a great deal of drugs. Caffe Cino itself was beginning to suffer. The Caffe Cino, as a commercial enterprise, was ineligible for the government grants which had allowed other experimental theatres to prosper, and Joe refused to charge an admission or even a minimum.

On March 30, 1967, Cino hacked his arms and stomach with a kitchen knife. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors announced that he would live. However, on April 2, Jon Torrey’s birthday, Joe Cino died. Though friends tried to keep Caffe Cino open, it closed in 1968, finally falling victim to cabaret laws now being strictly enforced by the young, ambitious councilman, Ed Koch.

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