When Charlie Barnett & “Kids” Ruled Washington Square

Charlie Barnett at Washington Sq Park
Charlie Barnett at Washington Sq Park

Would a Charlie Barnett succeed at Washington Square Park today?

The New York Times recently took a look back to “Catch Charlie Barnett and Other Rising Stand-Up Stars Who Never Hit the Top.” Noting that some of these talents, including Barnett, would certainly have become more well known due to the internet and social media, the author writes:

As with so many things, the Internet has changed the status of these unsung or underrated comedians. Besides depleting the power of many of the old gatekeepers, the web has also made it much harder for a hugely talented comic killing in front of crowds to languish in obscurity. Regional scenes are less remote than they once were, and if a guy like Mr. Barnett were performing in parks today, his act would be filmed, posted on social media and go viral. In fact, one of the few recordings of him performing in Washington Square Park already has more than 200,000 views on YouTube.


Would Charlie Barnett be allowed to do his thing in today’s Washington Square Park? Could a Charlie Barnett exist today?

Will the Washington Square Park of today launch future musicians, comedians, actors and artists who are influenced by – perform within – the space itself, who then go to be known by the world, and then tell the world about their experience at the park? I wonder about this – because that has been part of its history, part of the reason the space is so known and beloved.

Imagine the Community Board Resolutions if the Kids from “Kids” still hung at Washington Square Park

There is a documentary planned about the kids who inspired the movie “Kids,” filmed in Washington Square at a very different time – more than 20 years ago- parts of the movie were based on the experiences of the real-life *kids* who hung out in the park. There is a Kickstarter campaign in process trying to raise $81,000 to produce the movie – 14 days to go, as of now. They say there: “THE KIDS is the unprecedented, all-access documentary about the inside story of the kids who inspired the 1995 cult classic film KIDS.” And also a way to remember “the kids” who are no longer here.

Imagine if “the kids” of 20 years past were in Washington Square Park now. Imagine the Community Board addressing THAT now. Imagine the resolutions! Perhaps just thinking about this confirms NYC is really too uptight now — because we know it would be stopped. Too many complaints.

And even if it was overly wild then, somewhere from there to the place we are now is where creativity and change often comes from, from those spontaneous places. Not from concrete, gates and flowers.

Read more about Charlie Barnett in this blog post: King of the Park.

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