Brian Butterick, 1956–2019

“People will always say it’s the end. It’s never the end. Time is a river.
It just keeps flowing.” – Brian Butterick

Brian Butterick, known to many as Hattie Hathaway, passed away in her New York City apartment on January 30, 2019 due to complications from lung cancer. She was 62.

Alongside a small band of relatives, he leaves an extended family of countless friends.

His autobiography, written in 2016, reads:

New York born Brian Butterick (AKA Hattie Hathaway) has been a performer, actor, writer, producer and personality working in Downtown art, theatre, film and nightlife for over forty years.

He [sat] on the Executive Board of the HOWL! Festival, the annual celebration of art, music, dance, theatre and spoken word centered around New York’s East Village/Lower East Side. Recently (2007-08), he co-curated the East Village cafe, bookstore and performance space, Rapture Cafe and Books. He appeared in Steven Schainberg’s Fur, starring Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. and made his Broadway debut in The Roundabout Theatre’s production The Threepenny Opera, newly translated by Wallace Shawn, directed by Scott Elliot and starring Alan Cumming and Cyndi Lauper.

In the 1990’s, Butterick co-produced the famed New York Meat Market Tuesday-night-only boite, Jackie 60, and [co-produced] Night Of a Thousand Stevies, the world-famous annual tribute to Stevie Nicks, now in its 20th year [2016] , From 1991-95, he produced, directed and acted in the underground theatrical ensemble, BlackLips, which created performance installations in venues as diverse as a SoHo gallery, Pridefest, a run down Chelsea theatre, and Barney’s New York.

In the 1980’s,. Butterick co-founded The Pyramid Club, a venue that melded the performing arts with music and drag and gave rise to such performers as The “Lady” Bunny, RuPaul, the chart- topping dance act Dee-lite, and produced the first area appearances of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gwar, Psychic TV, and Nirvana.

From 1985-89, he co-founded and produced Wigstock, Tompkins Square Park’s outdoor festival of drag performance, which was later immortalized in the Goldwyn film of the same name. During this time, Butterick also appeared in numerous independent films, most notably Charles Atlas’ Son Of Sam & Delilah, for PBS, as well as composing and performing with the post-punk band, 3 Teens Kill 4.

Hattie has also performed, written and produced a variety of theatrical pieces for many Off-off Broadway venues such as La Mama ETC and PS 122, as well as appearing in works by Penny Arcade, John Kelly, Richard Move, Helen Stratford, Kestutis Nakas, and the late Ethyl Eichelberger.

In addition to theatrical pieces, Butterick has also written for TimeOut NY, Verbal Abuse Magazine, Fag Rag, and Mouth Of the Dragon. He [was] at work on several literary projects: a memoir of his life with the late artist David Wojnarowicz, and, with co-author Kestutis Nakas, a history of the 1980’s seminal nightclub, The Pyramid. [PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art Volume 37 | Issue 3 | September 2015 p.22-45}

Recent additions to Brian Butterick’s biography include continued work with his band, 3 Teens Kill 4 and appearances at the Museum of Modern art and the Whitney Museum of American art. He continued to be a steadfast voice for his community until his unexpected death.

The original Hattie, Hattie E Schenk, was born in 1896 in New York City, a daughter of German immigrants. in the spring of 1914, Hattie married into the Butterick family. Her husband, George, was an electrician for Con Edison. The building he worked in is now known as the Power Station, a prominent recording studio in Hell’s Kitchen. Although Hattie was known in her time as a champion bird caller, she gained her fame somewhat posthumously thanks to one rather unforeseeable event. Hattie passed on in 1974 leaving behind little except for an old suitcase and perhaps a few knitted afghans. From the name emblazoned on this suitcase, along with a bit of witchicism among friends, Hattie Hathaway was born.

As the youngest of three brothers, Brian spent much of his childhood in the close confines of a small one bedroom Riverdale Bronx apartment. Brian, thin, lanky and standing 6’6″ tall, quickly outgrew the quarters he shared with his family and, like most children of the city, found his solace on the subways and streets. He explored his world with youthful forays to the East Village of the 60’s/70’s, museums, poetry readings, and coffee houses, where he drank in the culture of the times.

Brian developed a sense of place and held a keen interest in the history of old New York and its bygone denizens. His passion for the city was enriched by an almost arcane knowledge of the past, especially the unusual, unseemly, and sometimes seedy. Over the course of his lifetime, he never strayed far from the city.

He was a redhead which may have contributed to his artistic temperament and his mother, Kathleen Byrnes, was Irish born. Having immigrated to New York from County Cork, Ireland as a child, Brian’s mother eventually found a job working as a F.W. Woolworth’s cashier. After a long and proper courtship, she married Brian’s father. She later worked as an accountant on the 52nd floor of the World Trade Center until her retirement.

Brian’s father, George, was a gentle soul, a humanist and union activist. He worked in the electronics industry where he eventually designed cold war missile guidance systems.

As a youth, Brian also was a champion swimmer, a member of the Boy Scouts of America and had a fondness for folk music, poetry, science fiction novels and silver age comics.

Hattie was just a small facet of Brian’s many incarnations as he established his place in New York’s subculture.

S/He is sorely missed by all.

Brian Butterick. Photo Credit: Unknown

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