Regular readers might remember a couple of posts from 2013 and 2015 wherein I sought out the location of the photograph that graces the cover of one of my favorite albums of all time, that being Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves by Gavin Friday & the Man Seezer. You can find the original post in all its shaggy, lengthy glory here, but — in a nutshell — the image — snapped by noted rock photographer Anton Corbijn — depicts our Gav and Maurice Seezer posing in what was, at the time, the elegantly decrepit back room of a restaurant here in downtown Manhattan called the Blue Willow, on the northeast corner of Broadway at Bleecker Street. One assumes they chose it for its atmosphere of furtive, carnal noir.
As detailed in that original post, the Blue Willow was an short-lived concern, and shuttered in 1990, shortly after this album was released. In all my travels around NYC, I’m relatively certain I’d have walked by the Blue Willow while it was in operation, but I have no recollection of it. Nor do I know what businesses followed in its space at 644 Broadway in the immediate wake of the Blue Willow.
By the time I became interested in it, the Blue Willow had already been gone for over 23 years. By the same token, when I walked into 644 Broadway in November of 2013, I was thrilled to find certain key elements of the original interior decor captured in Corbijn’s original shoot for the album cover still evident. At the time, the space was occupied by a nondescript men’s clothier called Atrium, with the rear space devoted to a pricey sneaker concern called KITH. Despite this, I was still able to stroll into and fully experience the space of that rear chamber, the very same room Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer had posed in — now filled with pricey footwear for insufferable hipster douchebags.
Two years later, I reported that KITH had modified its hold on the rear of the room, covering up many of the elements of the original room’s baroque interior design with douchey contemporary elements. That made me frown. Some time after that, KITH expanded its operation and took over the entire space, giving Atrium the keys to the street.
Most recently, however, KITH decamped entirely from 644 Broadway, relocating to a massive space one block to the east on Lafayette Street, essentially taking over what had been that two story building that formerly played host to Marty’s Cool Stuff and activist hive, Paper Tiger Television. Some folks used to call this space the Peace Pentagon. Now, people line up behind velvet ropes to get in to buy KITH’s douchey duds. Knock yourselves out, millennials.
So, why is any of this notable? Well, it means that 644 Broadway is vacant again. It’s a safe bet that whatever business next occupies it (or not … the sheer amount of empty retail spaces around downtown Manhattan that have been dormant for over a decade is staggering) won’t be that different from Atrium or KITH, but maybe the stately marble portals and high-ceilings evident on the cover of Each Man Kills… will be back in full view again.
We’ll see. I shot the below over the entrance to alley behind the building. On the original sleeve, the window behind Maurice Seezer's piano looks out onto it.