Penny Arcade Will Buy a Panhandler Booze If It’s Cold Enough

By
Photo: Jasmine Hirst

Name: Penny Arcade a.k.a. Susana Carmen Ventura
Age: 59
Neighborhood: Lower East Side
Occupation: Performer and writer of performance, theater, poetry, and essays. She’ll be reading from her career retrospective, Bad Reputation, next Wednesday, February 3 at Spoonbill and Sugartown Booksellers, and Thursday the 4th at the St. Marks Bookshop Reading Series at Solas.

Who's your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
It is a tie. Jonas Mekas, John Vaccaro, Taylor Mead, John Giorno, Judith Malina, Dorothy Day, Emma Goldman, Bina Sharif, Edgar Oliver, Diana Vreeland, Sister Helen Keliher, Bobby Beers, Wallace Shawn, and Sarah Schulman.

What's the best meal you've eaten in New York?
Chanterelle, July 2008.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I think, talk out loud to myself, make myself laugh, play music, dance around, do research, answer/write e-mails, and eventually put it onstage.

Would you live here on a $35,000 salary?
Of course, most artists in New York live on much less than that.

What's the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Passing Strange, the musical by Stew that transferred to Broadway from the Public Theater. It won a Tony for Best Book. Douglas Durst came close to bringing my play Bad Reputation to Broadway in 2000 ... Is it time yet, Mr. Durst?

Do you give money to panhandlers?
Yes, and I use my intuition case by case, and don't question what they use the money for. "Oh, they will just buy booze," some people complain. It's 10 degrees below zero! What would you buy if you are freezing and homeless?

What's your drink?
Pellegrino mineral water.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
I try to eat at home five to six days a week … I love to cook from scratch for myself.

What's your favorite medication?
Dr. Joseph Bonovoglia’s NeuroSoma treatment at Columbus Circle Physical Therapy and Wellness.

What's hanging above your sofa?
A red wall full of paintings and photographs, a black crow, and a glass mausoleum containing the ashes of the artist Jack Smith.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
N/A. My friends cut my hair.

When's bedtime?
I go to sleep on a continuum around the year … right now it is 4 a.m.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
The real Times Square! Obviously the old one … not the new Disney Epcot version!

What do you think of Donald Trump?
Donald Trump is the twentieth century’s P.T. Barnum! He has made full use of
the adage "A sucker is born every second!"

What do you hate most about living in New York?
The suburbanization of New York and the loss of distinct neighborhoods.

Who is your mortal enemy?
Mediocrity, cowardice, and people who lack personal integrity.

When's the last time you drove a car?
August 2009, when I drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back on Highway 1.

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
Not at all.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
I scan all three dailies. It’s my grown-up version of the back of cereal boxes!

Where do you go to be alone?
Herald Square at 5 p.m., Grace Church in the afternoon, Wall Street on Sunday mornings.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
A real New Yorker has a personal relationship with the streets of New York.