The punk history of 84 Thomas

Don’t ask me how I stumbled on this — no recall — but it’s a fan’s search for the Tribeca connection to the punk rock band the Plasmatics, founded by Rod Swenson and Wendy O. Williams. And as it turns out, the connection only ended a few years ago. Alex Smith is a NYC writer, blogger and self-described obsessive music geek whose blog, Flaming Pablum, has musings on music and the city. He also works in the neighborhood. This entry: Beyond The Valley of 84 Thomas Street: The Search for Plasmatics World Headquarters

In researching the imagery from the sleeve of the Plasmatics’ late 1981 effort, Metal Priestess, which features the giant pentagram recently up for auction on eBay, I was reading the following Wikipedia entry, and was struck by a tiny detail. Here’s the passage in question.

Dan Hartman, who produced acts such as 38 Special and James Brown, among others, had been working on a session in LA when he picked up a copy of Beyond the Valley of 1984 and couldn’t stop playing it. It was “ground breaking,” he said. “I knew I wanted to meet these people and do something with them.” Dan came down to the Tribeca loft where he met Wendy O. Williams and Rod Swenson and a month later he and Rod Swenson were working on the production of the Metal Priestess EP.

In all my years as a Plasmatics fan, I had never heard that they were based down in Tribeca. During the band’s gestation and its heyday, the neighborhood was still a comparatively desolate no-man’s-land. I started exploring Tribeca in the early 90s, and now actually work at the southern end of it. Before the pandemic, I was walking around Tribeca on a daily basis and now actually know the lay of the land fairly well. This all begged the obvious question — where was their loft?

I started doing some creative Googling, and the first thing that came up was this blog post featuring an interview with Rod Swenson that first ran in 2008, the 10-year anniversary of Wendy O. Williams’ death. In it, Swenson goes into detail about Wendy’s motivations and lifestyle, citing her virulent penchant for anti-conformity and her healthy, toxin-free lifestyle. But the part I was looking for was only fleetingly mentioned — that they grew their own raw food in the loft in “what is now known as Tribeca” and that it also served as “Plasmatics World Headquarters.”

Finding a dead end beyond that, I took my query to a Plasmatics fan group on Facebook, which immediately came back with an answer: A fifth-floor loft space on Thomas Street.

Thomas Street is a narrow little passage that extends off Broadway and runs from east to west. A few steps from its eastern end, 33 Thomas Street — aka the mighty Titanpointe [the AT&T Long Lines Building] — looms like a forbidding, windowless monolith, towering over Lower Manhattan. From there, Thomas slopes gradually to the west into a tight lane that ends at 60 Hudson Street, the massive former Western Union building, serving as a slightly less ominous bookend with Titanpointe. Between these two spots, Thomas Street plays host, on the southeast corner of West Broadway, to The Odeon, the iconic eatery famously cited in Jay McInerney’s paean to irresponsible ’80s hedonism, “Bright Lights, Big City.” I’ve always enjoyed walking through Thomas’ canyon-like architecture. It’s just a cool, atmospheric little street.

But WHERE on Thomas Street was Wendy & Rod’s fifth-floor loft?

On that same thread on the Facebook page, Ramones producer Ed Stasium weighed in with more detail:
Rod owned the building, he offered me a floor for the purchase price of $30k in 1979. I certainly couldn’t afford it then. I can’t imagine what it would be worth now.

From here, I hit Google like the ball-peen hammer Wendy used to use on unsuspecting television sets. But try as I might, searches like “Plasmatics” and “Thomas Street” or “Plasmatics” and “Tribeca” continued to give me nothing I hadn’t already seen or considered, and no extra details.

Then I had a stroke of luck.

Remembering that Swenson, in the wake of Wendy’s suicide in 1998, had left the music business and pivoted into a career of scientific academia, I started plugging in his name and suddenly up popped a heady text from some sort of conference in 1989. The text in question was titled “Engineering Initial Conditions In A Self-producing Environment,” penned by one Rod Swenson. If you read it looking for salacious details about the Plasmatics, you won’t find any. What you will find, however, is Swenson’s old address on Thomas Street, 84 Thomas Street. [Swenson’s name first shows up in city records at that address in 1988; he sold the penthouse in 2017 for $3.25 million.]

To be clear, lest you think I’m overstepping my bounds with my fanboy sleuthing, I’d like to assure you — dear readers — that you won’t find Swenson there today. Prior to Wendy’s death, the couple relocated to Storrs, Connecticut, to be closer to the university where Swenson taught.

But armed with my breakthrough information, I took a stroll back down to Thomas Street to check it out.

I’m not sure what I was expecting or even looking for, but today, 84 Thomas Street is an enviable plot of real estate on the western end of the street. The PH apartment — what would have been Wendy & Rod’s place — is listed on the buzzer as something called Stone Studios, although I could find no other information. I wonder if the occupants of same are aware that the space used to be Plasmatics World Headquarters. To see what apartments inside this are like, click here.

I can only wonder what Wendy would have thought about how the neighborhood has transformed (although I can imagine she’d have some choice words for it).

Anyway, case closed. For a closer look at what Rod Swenson’s up to these days, click here. For a snippet of conversation about The Plasmatics by Jesse Malin and Fred Armissen, see below.



  1. During the late ’70s and early “80s, it was not uncommon to see Wendy on the streets of Tribeca.

  2. Laurie and Todd Stone have lived there for decades, and Todd is a painter of some renown, having done a series on the World Trade Center after 9/11. Something does not quite match up.

  3. I lived in SoHo in the ’70s, and my friend, the painter Laurie Noebels, had a studio on Warren St. We used to work out at the Jack LaLanne Gym in basement of the Woolworth Building, which was open to women on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Wendy O. Williams worked out there too. She was lovely, and she worked hard for that body.

  4. I saw the Plasmatics at a concert on one of the downtown piers in the eighties. The finale included Wendy O. blowing up a Ford Mustang on stage. Surreal!

  5. In the mid- to late-70s my building near Thomas had the only laundromat around. Celebrities, major and minor, used to hang out there, including the late W.O.W., who was so unlike her stage persona — petite, soft-spoken, cheerful.

  6. As chief photographer for the Soho News, I photographed the Plasmatics several times, and as a resident of Duane Street, I’d often see Rod and Wendy in the nabe. Contrary to her stage persona, she was very sweet, and I was shocked and saddened when she took her own life. You can see my Plasmatics photos at

  7. I lived at the new buildings there starting in 1976 until 1980 and I assure you Wendy and I shopped at the only grocery store (a small but well stocked bodega) in that area starting late 1976. How am I so sure? It was that damn bicentennial! The bodega was on Greenwich between Harrison and Jay street.