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Manic Panic Isn’t Just a Hair Dye Brand: It Was the First Punk Store in America
Tish and Snooky Bellomo have always been cool.
BY SARAH LASKOW NOVEMBER 4, 2016
In 1977, Tish and Snooky Bellomo opened a store at 33 St. Marks Place, in New York’s East Village. It was called Manic Panic, and as far as anyone knows, it was the first punk store in America. The Bellomo sisters were singers themselves, but they’d always had enviable style, too. At their tiny store, they sold stilettos, sunglasses, gloves with a bit of glam to them, the vintage clothes that they loved—or tore up until they did, and the product they’d become famous for, hair dye.
Almost 40 years later, to visit Tish and Snooky, you have to head to Long Island City, in Queens, where Manic Panic has been headquartered since 1999, in a warehouse-like building sitting along Newtown Creek. “We’ve always been underground,” says Snooky—a sort of “secret society.”
The headquarters still has that vibe: inside the 14,000 square foot space where boxes upon boxes of extra bright and bold hair dye are stacked, there’s a tiny, hidden boutique, about the same size as the original store, full of hair dyes, rainbow-colored hair extensions and eyelashes, lipstick in pink, orange, purple, blue, and green, and the rest of their iconic line.
Manic Panic is going through a bit of renaissance right now, as pop stars from Rihanna to Katy Perry decide to dye their hair bright blues, red, pinks, greens, and more. Tish and Snooky talked to Atlas Obscura about the place where the company got its start—the store on St. Marks Place.
How did you first even get into music and decide you want to be singers?
Tish: That was easy. We just decided it, and we were.
Snooky: Yeah, we were sisters, we would always sing and dance and put on little shows for our mother, make her watch our shows.
Tish: And for the neighbors and stuff.
Snooky: Oh, yeah, we put on puppet shows.
Tish: We did puppet shows, and then during intermission, we would sell Kool-Aid.
Snooky: We made all the money on the concession stand.
Tish: Yeah, the show was free. But the concession was separate. We’d make Kool-Aid, and we’d sell it. We’d make it in all different colors, very similar to Manic Panic colors. More below....
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Deep Dive - Schmigadoon! (Patreon only)
"Schmigadoon!" streams on Apple TV+. It stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key as a couple who try to repair their relationship by taking a hike in the woods. They get lost, cross over a bridge and suddenly find themselves in a small town called Schmigadoon, which looks like a stage or movie set from the early 20th century. The women are wearing prairie dresses with long petticoats, and the men are dressed like they're in a barbershop quartet. It turns out that in this town, life is a musical. People sing their feelings and dance, too.
This is initially charming for the Cecily Strong character, but Keegan-Michael Key's character hates musicals. Soon they realize they're trapped in a musical. And like it or not, their conversations will be interrupted by people breaking out into song. In this scene, they've just entered Schmigadoon and are totally disoriented. When the townspeople break out into song, see if you know which musical inspired this particular number.