Kathryn Tsoy

24 Jun

After binge watching “The Marvelous Mrs Maisel” on Prime Video, I learned recently, I am a “shiksa”, “menshe” and being called “anti–semitic”. The last one after having two Jewish boyfriends who had broken my heart? So why don’t you just call me “CHINK!!! Chicken?” Here is an email about an old roommate:

Hello, I’m writing in reference to a post where you mentioned Katherine Tsoy, a Korean painter.

I was good friends with a Katherine Tsoy at Columbia University. She was a gifted artist.

I lost touch with her after moving back to California. This was many years ago, I’m wondering if it is the same person and if you have any more information about her, as bleak as that sounds.

Thanks so much,

David Tayler

Hi David,

Yes, we were once roommates in Lil’Italy in 1977–78. She was a very beautiful woman who came from Barnard College and wanted to experience the so–called “;Asian American” experience. This was post­–Vietnam War time and a group of AA artists were expressing our Identity Crises like the Blacks & Hispanic civil rights movements. As a community cultural arts non–profit organization in Chinatown called Basement Workshop, we (Asian artists) were renovating an 8,000 (the size of half a block) square feet loft in Soho. Katherine & I spent alot of time exchanging our stories and wanting to be artists. We took etching classes at Bob Blackburn’s studio. However, Katherine was quite distracted and unable to focus on art. I met one of her friends, son of E. G. Marshall, the actor on TV “The Defenders”, who lived in the abandoned Eldridge St Synagogue which presently is a landmarked museum. In addition, she had explored an abandoned building on 2nd Ave & 2nd St that became the Film Anthology Theater founded by Jonas Mekas.

There were other adventures to tell. But I would like to know where you found my write–up about her?



Hi Susan,

I just had been looking for her on and off and Googled her name. Your blog popped up. I mean if your google her you get nothing.
I’m sure it’s the same person.
I mean, there were people who really cared about her…

She once told me as a child she would write the letter “T” in front of the word soy on soy sauce bottles in the Grocery store. (So her nickname was “Soy Sauce”)
Just one of many things I remember about her.
I actually dropped out of Columbia, then went back to school (UC Berkely) in California, so I lost track of quite a few people.

I figured something had happened to her, I can’t help but feel truly helpless that I could not have done anything.
She made a powerful impression on me, I loved her paintings, the few that I saw. She had this sort of ironic, understated humor that made you feel like you were seeing the world through her eyes and in a very different way.

I remember she was quite cynical about the prospects of making a living as an artist. The last time I saw her she gave me a lift in her preposterously large car that she called the “golden chariot” or something like that….

Feeling blue today thinking of her. Amazing person.

Hi David,

…. “She was very attractive that even the Asian men were constantly calling her for dates while she kept in touch with some of her former friends. i.e. Richard Tsao a Thai Artist; a mandolin performer (maybe you knew her); and the son of E.G. Marshall.

I was in my twenties having just broken up from a Nuyorican Vietnam Veteran boyfriend after a first suicide attempt. This person who was getting his Bachelor of Science at City College, studying to be a psychiatrist exclaimed I was delusional about “love”. I didn’t understand. The same would go with Kathryn. Eventually, with a PTSD episode I broke up with him after I sent him to Bellevue. With roommates gone and needing another roommate & upon referral from the Basement Workshop, Kathryn appeared with her made up cat eyes, long dangling hair, raggedy fur coat and a bottle of wine at the door. We bonded and she moved in.

In our “pumpkin” kitchen she told me her story while eating her “smelly” kimchi that her mother would make, of being married in a Versace wedding dress @ St John’s Divine. He was a Latino so that he’ll ascertain a green card. Amazing that she would talk to her mother almost everyday or week who lived up in Westchester. She was a fun loving, carefree person who would get drunk & run up & down the fire escape. (see photo) The building we lived in felt like New Orleans but with Italian Senior citizens who complained about her running on the fire escape. I would ignore their complaints. In addition, I never saw her paintings because she did alot of running around since we were near the E. Village and other neighborhoods.

(She even mentioned living in the Murray Hill area and some competition with street girls in the neighborhood while getting cigarettes.)

She was flirtatious with the Asian guys, while I was busy renovating Basement Workshop’s 8,000 sq. ft. Soho Loft and learning about etching. Kathryn had met a Filipino printmaker @ Bob Blackburn’s studio. He was cute but she complained about him being an immigrant artist. I, on the other hand became attracted to him and developed an affair. She became haughty and pissed. Eventually she split the LES & BW scene. By then, she was hanging out with the Hell’s Angels. Much later, I heard about her going cross country to California for two years in her own motorbike with them. Whatta a tough woman. She had returned to NYC and was attending Art classes at School of Visual Arts. I think once, I saw her in a bodega with many guys surrounding her. I dare not say hello. Few more years later, as mentioned in my blog at the age of 40 where I had a cushy job at American Museum of Natural History as well as an Upper West Side Jewish Trust Fund PhD boyfriend, at an Asian American artists panel discussion in LES, Richard Tsao told me of her suicide. It was due to “boyfriend” troubles. I’m still waiting for her cigar box of momentos that Richard promised.

Through the years, having read astrological books and since Kathryn was a “Gemini”, I accepted and admired her social abilities as well as her brave freedom of expressions. It took me many years to feel self–confident about my artistic skills and accumulations for living life the fullest even though I never married or had children.

I’ve had a vindictive boyfriend, the trust-fund guy who’s a psychologist & also lives in Provincetown in a house that my $$$ built who made me homeless twice. I suspect he wanted me to do the same suicidal attempt but I had survived the worst attempt and overcame my homelessnesses. 40 years later, the ex–Vietnam Veteran Nuyorican had found me on MySpace.com. I found out he is very successful with a 4th wife who is Japanese. He is retired as a PhD psychiatrist who had counseled soldiers from present American wars.

Accordingly, I learned that Kathryn’s personality warrants a label as “bi–polarism” which required various drugs to control such compulsive reactions to certain situations. This bi-polarism, a new terminology precedes the worse of personalities which would be schizoid. It means this is society’s way of dealing with systemic institutions by cataloging mental illnesses for “others”, especially minorities in America. All I can say is I’m a living history who survived the worse of NYC’s drudgeries.

I also writing this during 3 days of gloomy cloudy, rainy days. How appropriate to open this can of worms before the sun rises again. It makes me have fond memories of a life that present generations will not perceive. I like to boast that I was at Woodstock and heard the Santanas under a blue clear sunny sky who performed under the influences of LSD. Now, this generation cannot emulate such happinesses due to cell phones & computers. As mentioned above, those were normal adventurous moments experienced with Kathyrn.

It has made me analyze my past and thanks for sharing your care.

I notice you are a musician and maybe you can compose a music about her. I had been videoing alternative jazz musicians for past 24+ years of LES seeking sounds culminating of my past interests. Many musicians, I had been following also had passed while I am approaching into my 70s.


Best to you,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: