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Philly Abe (July 8, 1949–January 30, 2018) was a visionary artist, performer and minor-cultural icon of the Lower East Side for decades. She was born in the suburbs of Philadelphia to a mother who identified as a “hereditary intuitive” and taught Philly to embrace magic as a way of life and a means of survival. In the 1960s, after experiencing a childhood defined by bullying amidst a culturally conservative back drop of the 50s, Philly became a political activist and traveled the country, joining radical political movements. She moved to Toronto in the 70s, discovered a blossoming punk movement, and became a performance artist after studying under Lindsay Kemp. Eventually Philly followed her friends to New York City in 1983, as artists were moving to the neighborhood seeking cheap rent and a place to collaborate. In New York, Philly was a member of several avant garde art scenes. She was an iconic performer at the Pyramid Club as part of the boisterous drag scene of the 80s. She was a key member of ABC No Rio, a cultural center for art and radical activism located in the Lower East Side. In the 80s, 90s and 00s, Philly starred in dozens of underground films by the Kuchar Brothers, Mary Bellis, Todd Verow and others. She was the lead singer of a punk band called Eager Meat, which recorded the album “America is a Theme Park.” In 2004, she co-founded the noize/art collective Infinity SS with Stanton Street artist friends and performed at The Knitting Factory, Arlene’s Grocery and CBGBs. Before she passed away, Philly was the recipient of the prestigious Acker Award. Throughout her time in New York, Philly produced hundreds of pieces of mixed-media art, which are now part of the archive at Howl! Happening, a gallery dedicated to preserving and celebrating the cultural history of the East Village and Lower East Side. In addition to her career as an artist, Philly was an anti-gentrification activist, and participated in the Stop Croman Coalition in partnership with the Good Old Lower East Side to confront harassment by her notorious landlord Steve Croman.

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