Burning Flags Press The website of Glen E. Friedman. Renowned for both his work with musicians like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slayer (and many, many more) as well as his groundbreaking documentation of the burgeoning skateboard phenomenon in the late `70's, Glen has been privvy to (and has summarily captured on film) some of the coolest stuff ever. He's also an incredibly insightful and nice guy to boot.
SoHo Blues - Photography by Allan Tannenbaum Allan Tannenbaum is a local photographer who has been everywhere and shot everything, from members of Blondie hanging out at the Mudd Club through the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th. You could spend hours on this site, and I have.
Robert Otter Photographs Amazing vintage photographs of New York City, specifically my own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
oboylephoto Just some intensely cool photographs of abandoned places.
The Weblog of Spumco's John K. The weblog of cartoonist John Kricfalusi, crazed mind and frantic pencil behind the original "Ren & Stimpy," as well as "The Goddamn George Liquor Show." Surreal, unapologetic, uncompromising genius.
The last I'd officially heard on the matter was in January of 2011, that being that Max Fish, the storied bar on Ludlow Street had been granted a stay of execution after it had been read the proverbial riot act. I'm not entirely sure what's transpired since then, although my pals at Bowery Boogie recently reported some doomy goings on over on Ludlow. Things probably aren't looking too swell for the future of the `Fish.
I've mentioned it before, but time was when I was a Ludlow Street regular. Those days are long over, of course, since I become a dad twice over and, well .... old. In any case, I spotted this clip on YouTube this morning and thought I'd share it here. If you don't make it down to the art-splattered walls of Max Fish any time soon, let this serve as a reminder of what it is/was like.
Way back when, I used to routinely post round-ups of interesting little tidbits I’d spotted around the internet that I called – awkwardly and presumptuously – Stuff You Might Have Missed. I’m not quite sure why, but I stopped doing that some time ago (the last one I put up was in 2010). In any case, there’ve been quite a few little things I’ve wanted to call out here, but haven’t had the time to, so I’m now going to revive the practice. Hooray. You’re welcome.
First spotted on the Facebook page of SWANS (the whole notion of Michael Gira sitting at a keyboard logging onto Facebook never fails to make me furrow my brow), "Viva Loisaida" is a visual trek through the East Village, Tompkins Square Park, Alphabet City and surrounding L.E.S. neighborhoods circa 1978.
I can't speak for you, but I've always been hugely enamored of leisurely strolling around the Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side ... preferably on days when it wasn't choked to the rafters with tourists and children. I do seem to remember days in my youth when it seemed I had the entire museum to myself, but I'm not sure those sorts of days exist anymore. In any case, I was intrigued by this article in Gothamist (with video) about how the Museum restores its fabled animal dioramas.
The sidewalk shed that's covering it must have gone up over the summer, but on my way back from taking my kids to school, I got to stroll by and take a closer look. Seemingly without any warning (or none that I'd heard, anyway), it seems that 119, the humble, blink-and-you'll-miss-it bar on East 15th street between Union Square and Irving Place, is no more.
Since time immemorial, If you were ever attending a show at Irving Plaza, 199 was THE dive to meet up in. Dark, dingy, dank, shady... it bore all the necessary trappings of a great bar. It felt like the place to go if you were organizing a clandestine event or trying to lay low. If Han Solo had ever lived in Lower Manhattan, 119 is where he and Chewie would have hung out.
Back in my regular gig-going days, I was something of a regular at 119. The beers were reasonably priced, the atmosphere was cool, the pool table was accommodating and it was just a stone's throw from Irving Plaza. It was so dark inside that you could barely see who was walking in or out of the place. That said, I distinctly remember sitting in one of the booths, glancing up and seeing Shane MacGowan of the Pogues stagger through. On another occasion after a Killing Joke show, I remember accosting one of the twins from the School of Seven Bells and talking her ear off. It was too dark and unassuming to be pretentious. It was great. And now, it's gone.
As I walked by, I noticed the shed door open, so I snapped the photo below. From what I can see, the 119 I knew is gone ... invariably to be replaced by some ersatz Tuscan eatery or exclusive wine bar.
I'm not quite as good at keeping track of all the closings and openings of local businesses as some of my fellow members of the "NYC blog mafia" (specifically EV Grieve ... he's got a lock-down on that beat), but when it comes to my own neighborhood, it's hard not to notice big changes.
Then again, what is a "big change"? Nowadays, things change so quickly and so dramatically that upheaval is the new normal. Places close up shop and gut themselves almost as fast as they open. All too often, new shops or bistros will shutter so swiftly that I never even get the chance to properly check them out. There are almost too many examples of this to cite.
In any case, I was legitimately stopped dead in my tracks the other day by one impending closing. Evidently, the University Diner (or, technically, the University Restaurant) on the northeast corner of East 12th and University Place is up for rent.
When I first moved to East 12th Street in 1996, the diner in question was pretty much my only link to survival (well, that and the Cedar Tavern). It's not that it's the greatest diner in the city (by a loooooong shot), but it was my local. When I moved a few blocks to the south in 2002, I still regularly patronized University Diner (instead of my new local, that being what I would consider the frankly dispiriting Silver Spurs on 9th and Broadway).
Anyway, I can't really wrap my head around it beyond the inevitable assumption that their rent must have quadrupled. The place is always pretty packed, and they do a consistent business, although maybe I'm just projecting.
If a solid, dependable joint like the University Restaurant can't hold it down, what hope is there for the rest of the city?
If you haven't already gleaned as much, I am -- for some inexplicable reason -- somewhat obsessed with the doings of Eighth Street. Hell, it should really have its own category on this blog, by this point. In any case, I spotted another development on that troubled strip this evening that I feel compelled to share.
I'm not sure why, but 24 West 8th Street simply cannot get a break. Back in the day -- as the hip kids say -- that address played host to the original Butterfly's, which was every self-respecting rock kid's sartorial paradise. Boasting a sprawling collection of punk and metal t-shirts and accompanying accessories, whether you were a fan of Andi Sex Gang, Adam & the Ants and Visage or Iron Maiden, Venom and Black Flag, Butterfly's had you covered, and then some.
Then, of course -- it closed. And then it was nothing for a great while.
A long time after that, the space re-opened as a upscale wine boutique with the cryptic moniker of Is Wines.
Then, of course -- that closed. And then it was nothing for a great while.
More recently, the space re-opened as a cute and inviting little bakery called the Apple Cafe Bakery. I never went it, but it struck me a nice little place to grab a cupcake or a croissant or maybe even a baguette for your evening meal. But like I said, I never went in, and apparently I wasn't alone in that capacity.
I spotted an interesting sight this evening. Back in the 90's, I remember the establishment on the northeast corner of East 13th Street and University Place was a slightly grubby noodle shop. It wasn't the sort of place I'd have glanced at twice, but my friend Rob D. (who was taking classes nearby at the New School at the time) absolutely swore by it. Then, I believe, there was a fire and the place closed.
Sometime after that, it re-opened as L'Annam, a restaurant that served Vietnamese food. I remember going once and thinking it was fine, but no great shakes. Regardless, it held court on that corner for years. Right above it was 13, a sort of cut-rate dance club with no readily definable motif. I went there as well a couple of times in the late `90s, but never thought much of it.
Within the last six months or so, L'Annam closed without a word, and the exterior of the place fell into disrepair. When Occupy Wall Street set up shop in Union Square this past spring, the alcoves of L'Annam's doors served as makeshift overnight shelters for the more devoted participants. Beyond that, the place just continued to erode.
In the last couple of weeks, a sidewalk shed sprouted up around it, and as I walking home this evening, I noticed that the building's antiquated infrastructure -- replete with what looks like thin Corinthian columns -- has been exposed like a stark reminder of the original building's considerable age. It now looks like 13 is on stilts.
What will become of the space next is anyone's guess.
Fair point, I thought, but I'm still sad about it. The whole episode got me thinking about some of the other great, divey bars that used to pepper this fine city's shadowy backstreets and less lustrous avenues.
Sure, I've repeatedly lamented the vanishing of my beloved Cedar Tavern, the dissolution of the P&G and the gutting of the collapsed former-speak-easy Chumley's here on many an occasion, but in this instance, I'm talking more about the less established drinking institutions. Here's a quick list -- in no particular order -- of some of my old favorites. Don't bother looking for them today, as they're all gone.
1. Alcatraz (132 St. Marks Place): It's a brightly-painted sushi bar today, but back in the late 80's and into the 90's, this corner of Avenue A was home to an endearingly seedy joint that catered to acolytes of all things loud, boozy and rude. Largely patronized by the East Village's populace of punks, bikers, metalheads and barflies, Alcatraz was a regular stop for my friend Rob and I. Of course, it didn't last. By the way, I prized the photo above from this weblog.
2. The Hog Pit (22 9th Avenue): I already wrote a lengthy post about this favorite place of mine. Today, much like the neighborhood that surrounds it, it's gone pointedly upscale as an outlet of Billy's Burger Bar. They opened a new incarnation of the Hog Pit over in the 20s between Sixth and Fifth Avenues, but I'm just not really interested in that. As far as I'm concerned, the Hog Pit is dead.
3. Siberia Bar: (West 50th Street 1 or 9 stop/40th Street & 9th Avenue): There were actually two incarnations of Siberia, and I miss them both quite a bit. The original one was tucked discreetly away in a subway station right near my old office at TIME Magazine. Legend has it that this tiny little space used to be a clandestine meeting place for KGB agents during the Cold War. It was here in this decrepit closet that they'd exchange microfilm and secrets about national security, like some creepy scene in "Marathon Man" or "Three Days of the Condor." In any case, sometime in the 90's, the place was opened up as a disarmingly intimate but incredibly cool dive bar (with an amazing juke box) that was decked out in entirely in Russian art and Soviet propaganda posters. It was just way too cool.
Typically, it didn't last. Today, that space plays host to either a Subway sandwich shop or a Dunkin' Donuts, and it's a damn shame. In any case, the proprietor of Siberia moved to a great new location in Hell's Kitchen that was vast compared to its former locale. I had my doubts about it, but it ended up being just as cool, albeit in a different way, than its previous incarnation. There was, however, a strange policy wherein they'd actually throw you out of the place for cursing and/or gratuitously hitting on women. I'm not kidding. They'd totally do it. Regardless, they closed the place in 2007.
Here's a little documentary about the original location. Enjoy:
4. Bellevue Bar (538 Ninth Avenue): The Bellevue was a truly enjoyable place right around the corner from the second location of Siberia. I believe there was a rumor that there was a secret passage that connected to two, but who knows? In any case, this was yet another place with an awesome jukebox and a cool vibe. My fondest memory of the Bellevue is pumping the jukebox full of coin and watching a retired mailman in his sixites frug like a madman to "Mother" by Danzig. This place was so goddamn cool. And, of course, it's gone. The awesome photo above comes from this MySpace page.
5. Scrap Bar (116 MacDougal Street): The Scrap Bar, in retrospect, was a bit goofy, but in the early 90's, it was quite a scene. High on style, it was not at all uncommon to run into local heavy metal luminaries hanging about. Losing the Scrap Bar wasn't the end of the world, but I did kinda enjoy it for a little while. The lovely photo above comes courtesy of this weblog.
6. King Tut's Wah-Wah Hut (112 Avenue A at 7th Street) After it was hardcore hotbed A7 and before it was Jesse Malin's Niagara (which it continues to be today), this corner space on the edge of Tompkins Square Park was a funky, arty little bar called King Tut's Wah Wah Hut. Much like many of the other bars cited here, the accent was on rock. I remember propping up the bar one night and hearing "You Got Another Thing Comin'" by Judas Priest come on, and the entirety of the establishment's patronage began banging their heads in unison. It was a beautiful thing. Speaking of beautiful things, see more amazing photos of King Tut's at this Facebook page.
I know I'm omitting a veritable ton of other spots. Some other old, vanished faves include Barramundi and the Ludlow Street Cafe on Ludlow Street, McGovern's on Prince Street, The Village Idiot on West 14th Street, Downtown Beirut and The Lismar Lounge on First Avenue (pictured up at the top of this post), Beowulf on Avenue A, McHale's on Eighth Avenue and many, many more.
My colleague Rosa wrote up an interesting little post today about new website called Drinkify that ambitiously claims to be able to suggest the perfect cocktail to accompany whatever music you happen to be listening to at the time. Being a slavishly opinionated, self-appointed music knowitall and boorish tune-snob, I chortled dismissively at the conceit and wagered I'd be able to stump it in nanoseconds. But, much to my surprise, for each seemingly esoteric entry I submitted -- from proto-cyberpunks Von Lmo to juvenile noiseniks the Happy Flowers to Boston hardcore mainstays SSD to 4AD dream-popsters Insides -- Drinkify had a cocktail to match each artist. Kudos for that.
That said, my pal Drew gave it a whirl and rightly pointed out that the perfect drink to accompany Minor Threat should be a Coke and not bourbon, being that the band in question were the cornerstone of the straight edge movement. Alright, points off for that.
I'm not sure what the algorithm at work with Drinkify is, but it's a fairly entertaining gimmick. My favorite entry was when I typed in the death metal pioneers in Possessed. Drinkify suggested that I drink 6 oz. of blood served neat, garnished with a wedge of pineapple. Bahahaha.
A quick one: Jeremiah Moss unearthed a clip from a late 80's Woody Allen film this morning that featured the interiors of late, lamented speak-easy Chumley's (see above, shot by me circa 1998 or so), however fleetingly. It indeed captures the warmth of that room in the cruelest of ways. If I'm not mistaken, the story went that Woody had always had designs on filming inside the fabled West Village watering hole, but when he got there, he somehow felt that it still wasn't "rustic" enough. As such, he had rafters installed (although they're not visible in this clip). I remember going there with some high school friends sometime in `89 or so and thinking "hmmm.... I don't remember those!" They ultimately served no purpose beyond creating the ambiance Allen was striving for. That's the story I heard, at least.
Chumley's is long gone now, of course. Following a wall collapse and then a ruthlessly efficient gutting, there's been talk of it reopening (probably as some godawful sports bar or velvet rope establishment). In any case, the old Chumley's is gone, but lives on in clips like the one JM found. Drink it in.
I have long threatened -- practically since the inception of this blog in 2005 -- to write up an authoritative list of the best pizza parlors for individual slices around Manhattan. I never got around to doing it, however, because (a) there never seemed to be enough hours in the day and (b) before I knew it, yet another storied pizza place would close. This week marks the departure of one such establishment. As widely reported yesterday, the Ray's on 6th Avenue and 11th street (just across from P.S.41) has closed up shop, and I am crestfallen (or should that be crustfallen?) I'm not interested in getting into a debate about whether this one was the original "Original Ray's" (I once believed it was -- as I wrote back here --- but I've long since stopped caring). This Ray's has long sold wonderfully gooey slices of over-cheesed pizza in a nice, bright, airy venue ripe for people-watching. Well before I moved into the neighborhood in 1996, I was an avid fan of this Ray's. It was everything a proper NYC pizzeria was supposed to be -- nothing fancy, but it always hit the spot. It should also be remembered that the exterior facades of Ray's also acted as a makeshift shrine to the fallen in the days immediately following September 11th, 2001.