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BY PUMA PERL | This is what can happen when two native New Yorkers run into each other on social media. Call it the “upside” of Facebook. Kim Reaper (who has a history in the fashion industry) and musician Anne Husick knew each other slightly from the Downtown scene. In early 2018, Reaper’s yearly mammogram revealed suspicious calcifications. A follow-up biopsy tested positive for cancer, which had spread to the lymph nodes. She decided to go public, and, to help educate others, she sent a mass email asking every woman on her Facebook friends list to get a mammogram and to urge others to do the same. Husick was a recipient of the message, and wrote back, wishing her luck. “When I’m done with treatment,” Reaper responded, “I want you to throw a rock ‘n’ roll party.”
Husick decided to turn the party into a benefit, which will be held October 26 at the Sidewalk Cafe. The lineup includes several women with personal and/or familial histories of breast cancer. Serendipitously, the date falls on the exact day of Reaper’s final radiation session, and less than two weeks before her birthday. Reaper is looking forward to the event. “Last March, when I began chemotherapy, I threw myself into an art project, which I called ‘Art in Recovery,’ and began collecting work from local artists. Besides art, music plays a very big part in my life. When I’m well enough, I follow a fabulous group of musicians around the Lower East Side.” Reaper added that by going public, “I wanted to share my strength with others. Today, cancer no longer has to be a death sentence!”
Husick feels a personal connection to the issue. “My mother had a radical mastectomy in 1969,” she said, “and is still alive today. Early intervention and education are key and National Breast Cancer Month supports that.” Her musical roots began in childhood. “I wrote my first song at age six, to the rhythm of my father’s windshield wipers.” She picked up the guitar at nine, and 25 years later added the bass to her repertoire. Her first New York City gig was with an early band, Ground Control, at CBGB, in 1980. “They thought we were too ‘hippie-ish,’ ” Husick recalled, “but the crowd loved us.” In 1999, she auditioned for Ronnie Spector’s band as a guitarist and back-up singer, and ended up also playing harmonica and percussion. Through that association came other opportunities. She played bass in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” Off-Broadway and in Chicago, and, for four months, sang backup with Wilson Pickett. Currently, she is the guitarist and front woman in her band Exit 99, and bassist in four others, led, respectively, by Frank Wood, Ronnie Wheeler, Phil Gammage, and Cid Scantlebury.Since 2012, Husick has been booking a weekly series, AHPresents, at the Sidewalk. “I was so busy giving guitar lessons at night that returning to Sidewalk, where I’d done sound years earlier, was the only way to see my friends play.”
Together, Reaper and Husick decided on a program for Oct. 26 that includes both solo acts and bands. Cyndi Dawson, who lost her mother to breast cancer, will perform with her band, The Cynz, which she has fronted for the last eight years. “I’m doing this benefit to honor my mother, her mother, two of her sisters, and several cousins, all of whom have battled breast cancer,” Dawson said. “Today I know several women who have lived up to 20 years following diagnosis. Treatments have improved, which is why early detection is paramount. I was part of a 10-year study at The Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. I learned about amazing gains being made. Women’s issues are always funded well behind those of men. It’s up to us to push research and raise money to keep moving forward.”
One long-term survivor who will participate is Alice Espinosa-Cincotta, who was profiled in 2016 by this writer, in this publication’s annual Pink Paper edition (“After Cancer Diagnosis, Drawing Strength From the Art of Expression”). “Two years ago, you gave me the choice of revealing my identity or staying anonymous,” recalled Espinosa-Cincotta, who described herself as “secretive” up to that point. “Something changed in my thinking. It was time to come out of hiding. I felt free and found a new strength in sharing my experience.” At that time, she’d been exploring photography and videography. While continuing to develop those interests, she discovered a love of writing after being referred to a workshop for cancer patients and survivors. “Expressing my ideas through writing has allowed me to get in touch with a hidden side of myself,” she said. “We critique and support each other. I found my voice and it has helped clarify my thoughts.” After sharing her work at an open mic reading, Espinosa-Cincotta was encouraged by the poets and writers present to continue; she will read an original prose piece at the benefit. “Performance may be another hidden strength,” she said, adding that she looks forward to sharing her work with other spoken word artists and musicians.
Another artist who has been active on the New York scene is Lindsey Anderson. She is a singer, performer, writer, and promoter, and was co-owner of Coney Island High. As Kitty Kowalski, she fronted her own band, The Kowalkskis. Like Reaper, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2018 and made the decision to go public for similar reasons — encouraging others to get tested and to carry the message that it’s not a death sentence. Although this will be the first time she is performing since before her surgery, she said she had “no hesitation” when asked to do this benefit. “I also want to show that you can be in treatment and be strong, have energy, and, through diet and exercise, alleviate the symptoms of chemotherapy,” she said.
All of the performers are donating their time and talent. There’s no cover or admission — and the tip jar proceeds, which usually go to the artists, will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which Husick chose because of their emphasis on research. The show is open to all ages and the roster of talent also includes Christian Dryden, Marlowe B. West, The Hipp Pipps, Exit 99, Sea Monster, and Don BlackCat & Friends.
“AHPresents: Kim Reaper Birthday Bash and Breast Cancer Benefit” takes place at the Sidewalk Cafe (94 Avenue A, at E. Sixth St.) on Fri., Oct. 26, 6pm-1am. Follow Anne Husick’s AHPresents series and learn about more events at sidewalkny.com. Also visit facebook.com/events/487484338433112.