My comrade Drew sent me this video recently, and it's worth checking out. Not a native New Yorker by birth, but an avid appreciator of vintage NYHC and the fabled East Village/Lower East Side culture of yore, Drew was a little surprised by this video, having heard of how dangerous and gnarly downtown supposedly was in the late `80s. Drew prefaced this clip with:
This really shatters for me the notion that Ave A in the 80s was this insanely scary place…because it doesn’t look too different to me.
In some respects, that's fair enough. Topographically, the cityscape depicted (mostly East 7th and Avenue A) hasn't really changed all that much, although the businesses have. But, I maintain, it still seems a world away from what's there now.
The clip below was filmed by one Nelson Sullivan. If memory serves, Nelson was a real trailblazer -- essentially a video blogger before such things even existed. Himself and a few other individuals used to show videos like like (little slices of life in NYC) via cable access television (for more on that click here). I remember two other similar programs, like "Dog the Cat" and "The Church of Shooting Yourself."
In any case, Nelson was a mild-mannered gay gentleman who gamely carried what was probably a comparatively bulky video camera around with him everywhere, amassing an incredible amount of footage that now belongs in a veritable time capsule. Some of it is pretty banal (i.e. wandering around Tompkins Square Park with a friend, wondering where they should have lunch, etc.), but as period pieces go, they can still pretty fascinating. One might wonder where the individuals pictured here might be today.
If I'm not mistaken, Nelson Sullivan has since passed away, but I'm not certain. You can see more of his clips here.
Enjoy this little taste of the East Village circa 1987. Things to look out for: flyers advertising a gig by They Might Be Giants (then still an unknown local act) and, I think, Fleshtones guitarist Keith Streng sitting at a neighboring table in the background at 07:26.