The Tim Buckley Archives


High on Rebellion
Inside the Underground at Max's Kansas City

by Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin


One night I was working the back room and there was this gorgeous creature sitting at Danny Fields' table. He looked like a cherub. He had this mass of curly hair and this angelic smile that just lit up the room. I was so attracted to him. He had that lost-little-boy look, similar to Mickey’s but different. We had this flirtation going on across the room. We kept eyeing each other and I’d make the happy, sad faces, where you run your hand down your face and you frown, then you run it back up and you smile. It wasn’t till much later on that I found out that he had an album out called Happy/Sad. He’d look away for a while and then he’d look up from underneath those blond curls and shine those big brown eyes at me and I’d melt. And he had these beautiful white teeth that went perfectly with his smile. I could tell he was kind of shy, but I knew that he liked me.

The room cleared out at four A.M. except for a few diehard barflies. I tallied up my tabs and handed my checks in to the cashier, changed my clothes and got ready to split. I walked out of Max’s and there he was, this sweet thing, just standing there all alone. I knew he was waiting for me. It was such a rush. I felt giddy, like I was back in high school. I didn’t know who he was or where he came from. I had never seen him at Max’s before. He just appeared out of nowhere, a Danny Fields special.

“Where ya goin‘?” I asked. “Nowhere in particular“. He looked down at the ground, shuffled his foot and then looked up again. Our eyes met. We both smiled. “Well, where are you staying?” “Nowhere in particular.” “You can come home with me.” I was smitten. I thought that he was just about one of the hottest creatures that I had ever laid eyes on, and just to think, he was waiting for me. I suddenly remembered the Dylan album cover, Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, where he and his girlfriend at the time, Suze Rotello, are walking arm in arm down the streets of NYC. For that very moment, that was us. I had never been so blatantly seduced by anyone before. It gave me a certain thrill, a certain high like the kind you get on mescaline where everything is dreamy and perfect.

This was to be my first Max’s Kansas City sexual encounter. He told me his name was Tim Buckley and that he was in New York from L.A. I didn’t know at the time who Tim Buckley was, or that he had a record out on Elektra and was already on his way to becoming the new folk/pop staron the label. All I knew was that he was making me hot. I was so embarrassed when we got to my apartment because I didn’t have any of his records. He said that he liked that I didn’t know who he was, that made him feel secure. His shyness added to the excitement of the tenderness in the way he made love. I felt like a virgin being deflowered. I had never been out with a musician before or gone home with one, for that matter. But one thing was definite: from that moment on, I knew that I like musicians. I also got the word from Lillian Roxon that Linda Eastman was very jealous.

Shortly after he left for L.A., I was working the upstairs when I felt something trickle down my leg. I was thinking, “What the hell is going on? What is this?” At four A.M. when I was turning in my checks, Marilyn Eiser, the cashier who knew everybody’s business, said to me, “I notice that you’ve been hanging out with Tim Buckley.” “Yeah, so what’s it to you?” I snapped. “I just thought I’d mention,” she jeered with much satisfaction, “that Tim has a girlfriend, Janie, and I heard all the way from L.A. that he just gave her the clap.”

It wasn’t like I was out to be totally promiscuous or anything. I was simply eager for the romance and the sexual adventure that comes with being young and free. I was only twenty-one, working my first job in New York in the most sexually permissive atmosphere I had experienced to date. We were wearing skirts shorter than anyone had worn them in history, smoking pot, staying out all night, enjoying a renaissance in music, and going home with whoever we wanted, often the same night we met them. But that was nothing compared to the back-room people who were actually giving blow jobs there at the table and in the bathrooms....

© 1998 Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin

US Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press; illustrated edition (October 1998)

Author and film producer, Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin (BA in English, U. of Conn; Masters in Education, NYU) is the founder of the Max's Kansas City Project, established in memory of her late ex-husband, Mickey Ruskin, creator of the legendary restaurant/bar/club, Max's Kansas City. Assisted in developing " Upstairs at Max's," that showcased and featured unsigned bands some of which included Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Bonnie Raitt, and the Velvet Underground to name a few. Ms Sewall-Ruskin moved on to manage recording studio's including Bearsville Studios (assistant manager), 39th Street Music, Evergreen Recording, and Celestial Sound in NYC.

Established the Max's Kansas City Foundation in 1996, a 501C3 non-profit providing emergency funding & resources for artists in crisis, and has in development a teen empowerment through the arts program Fearless Youth, an interactive online program with a focus on substance abuse and suicide prevention.

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