A New Exhibit Details the Fascinating Life of Hattie Hathaway, an East Village Drag Legend

The drag queen persona by Brian Butterick is on display at the Howl! Arts building.

“Brian Butterick {Hattie Hathaway} and all they loved” exhibit at Howl! Arts
“Brian Butterick {Hattie Hathaway} and all they loved” exhibit at Howl! Arts | Photo courtesy of Howl! Arts
“Brian Butterick {Hattie Hathaway} and all they loved” exhibit at Howl! Arts | Photo courtesy of Howl! Arts

A person’s whole life can’t be swiftly summed up in a few words. This rings especially true when it comes to the 63 intricate and fascinating years of Brian Butterick. Well known for his drag persona, Hattie Hathaway, Butterick was a beloved figure and trailblazer within New York City’s creative community—specifically in the East Village.

“Brian was a born impresario and one of the most generous people I have ever met,” says Jane Friedman, a close friend and the director of Howl! Arts, a non-profit that works to preserve the unique culture of the East Village and Lower East Side through exhibitions and events. “His smarts and nose for talent created spaces and opportunities for artists of all kinds to blossom.”

First getting his start in the local scene in the ’80s as a booker and manager of the Pyramid Cocktail Lounge—an influential music venue that was a hub for the East Village’s drag, gay, punk, and art worlds—it was here that Butterick created Hattie Hathaway.

Photograph of Hattie Hathaway at the “Brian Butterick {Hattie Hathaway} and all they loved” exhibit
Photograph of Hattie Hathaway at the “Brian Butterick {Hattie Hathaway} and all they loved” exhibit | Photo courtesy of Howl! Arts

Taking inspiration from his grandmother, Hattie, and the character, Miss Jane Hathaway from the sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies, his drag career ultimately led to him being one of the founding members behind the 3 Teens Kill Four band; joining the Blacklips Performance Cult; and performing at venues like Studio 54, Club Cumming, and the annual Howl! Festival. Since his passing in 2019, Butterick is fondly remembered for his humility, sense of humor, and dedication to uplifting emerging talents within the industry.

To celebrate Butterick’s magnetic spirit and contributions to the Howl! Arts organization, the Howl! Arts/Howl! Archive has created a heartfelt, posthumous exhibition titled “Brian Butterick {Hattie Hathaway} and all they loved.”

Handwritten letter by Brian Butterick at the “Brian Butterick {Hattie Hathaway} and all they loved” exhibit
Handwritten letter by Brian Butterick at the “Brian Butterick {Hattie Hathaway} and all they loved” exhibit | Photo courtesy of Howl! Arts

On display through July 30, the installation will feature Butterick’s personal ephemera from Howl!’s collection including letters, photographs, graphics, video reels, publication clippings, curated soundtracks, and more. In the back half of the exhibit sits a recreation of Butterick’s Lower East Side apartment—where he lived for about two decades—that includes file cabinets filled with writings, interviews, scripts, and more that visitors can rifle through.

“This is a show about Brian/Hattie and what he loved, so I hope that the exhibition as a whole will give visitors an in-depth look at his genius and the spirit of creativity and community in East Village in its heyday,” says Friedman. “He was there from the beginning and I miss him every day.

“Brian Butterick {Hattie Hathaway} and all they loved” is on display at 250 Bowery on the second floor of Howl! Arts through July 30. Admission is free.

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Izzy Baskette is the New York City Staff Writer for Thrillist. Talk to her at izzy.baskette@voxmedia.com or find her on Instagram.