I guess I was really late to the table on this one, but about a month or so back, that new mural of Joey Ramone went up on the eastern end of Bleecker Street, in roughly the same spot where Drew Carolan photographed his hardcore matinee portraits.
Honestly speaking, I didn’t really know what to think about it at first. For a start, it’s a little late in the day to be commemorating the arguable pinnacle of NYC punk in the wake of everything that’s happened to this storied patch of the Bowery. And not that he doesn’t deserve every goddamn accolade you can throw at him, but Joey's already been feted with his own street sign across the avenue (which they keep raising, as people kept trying to rip it off).
I’m also just kinda suspicious of this mural being a crass appropriation … a wafer-thin cash-in on the neighborhood’s punk rock cache in the same vein as Daniel Boulud’s noxiously named DBGB or … well .. absolutely everything about the John Varvatos boutique at 315 Bowery.
But the thing about the mural I was most bemused by, however, was the fact that Joey’s depicted wearing boxing gloves, of all things. I mean, verily, what the fuck?
By all accounts, Joey was never a fighter. He was a big hearted romantic, if anything. Sure, he was the inimitable voice of the Ramones, but an aggressive figure he was not. Now, Johnny Ramone would’ve happily punched anyone in the face — with or without gloves — and Dee Dee was probably just as ready to needlessly escalate a situation across the threshold of physical violence, but Joey as a boxer? That just does not compute.
Then, of course, it all clicked. The business that now occupies the former clubhouse of the Yippies at 9 Bleecker Street is now a joint called Overthrow NYC, ... a boxing gym with a pastiche-punk vibe.
Last week, Overthrow’s main doors were open, so I strolled into the place. While I was staring up at the seemingly incongruous photos of Sid Vicious and Johnny Thunders on the walls, a very friendly lady-trainer behind the counter (who had arms wider than my waist) asked if I needed any help. I admitted it was a stupid question, but I asked if Overthrow had anything to do with the Joey mural. She said she wasn’t entirely sure, but in retrospect, OF COURSE it does. I mean, why else would he be painted wearing fucking boxing gloves??
On my way out, I noticed another passing allusion to the neighborhood’s legacy. In block capital letters on one of the giant punching bags was emblazoned ”STEAL THIS BAG,” a reference to Yippie mainstay Abbie Hoffman’s manifesto, “Steal this Book.” Um…. har har?
Admittedly, I don’t know one goddamn thing about boxing. I mean, I basically don’t like sports in general, but boxing — to me — seems especially distasteful. Regardless, I know lots of folks like it. Suit yourselves, I guess.
But I know this … it has pretty much fuck-all to do with Yippies and Punk Rock.
Look, if you wanna get fit, work on your guns and train yourself to be able to pummel someone into a quivering dollop of meat pudding, then — I guess — good for you. But can you just respectfully leave the counterculture out of it?