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.
As long as we're being honest, I have to say that I never thought much of the Lyric Diner. My kids go to school in that neighborhood, so I'd been known to drop into the place from time to time, and was always somewhat underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong -- no one loves a good, solid NYC diner more than me, and I bitterly lament that they're vanishing in droves, but the Lyric never got me where I needed to be.
Not too long ago, however, the Lyric Diner closed. As I understand it, the same owners re-imagined it as a newfangled Greek taverna. Sometime shortly afterwards, the place got a full makeover (complete with a new, rustic wooden exterior) and re-opened as such. The nice thing, though, was that -- for some reason -- they decided to keep the old south-facing neon signage that boasted the establishment's former name and identity. I figured they were preserving their legacy, or at least acknowledging the fact that neon signs of this variety should be cherished.
Well, you can forget that. As you can see above, they've recently dumped the old Lyric signage, which is too bad.
In case you don't remember it, it used to look like this:
On Thursday evening, I had a friend in from out of town. We repaired to the East Village for what was supposed to be just one drink before dinner, but turned into simply several drinks. These things happen. And, in this instance, these things happened in one of my very favorite bars still left in the neighborhood, that being The Scratcher on East 5th Street between Cooper Square and Second Avenue.
While ostensibly an Irish pub, the Scratcher comes refreshingly devoid of any of the blustery blarney and "Darby O'Gill & the Little People" bullshit that plagues many of this city's other Irish pubs. It's just an intimate little space tucked into the garden level of a humble brownstone that currently cowers in the shadow of that abomination of a modern hotel just a stone's throw to its west.
In any case, while my friend and I were putting away the pints, I was reminded -- as I often am, when in the Scratcher's comfy confines -- of the fabled Dead Boys incident that happened just outside its front door.
I've spoken about it here a couple of times here before, but as told in Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain's fabled "Please Kill Me," back on April 19 of 1978, Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz and Blondie roadie Michael Sticca were out and about on this particular strip (probably on their way home from CBGB), and they were happened upon by a car-load of angry Puerto Rican guys with chains and baseball bats. An altercation ensued and Johnny Blitz ended up getting stabbed and lay bleeding to death in the middle of East 5th (a spooky, dimly street even today). In the wake of this incident, the local punk luminaries of the time organized the Blitz Benefit, a fabled four night event at CB's, featuring a host of notable acts and surprising cameos (guest included Divine, King Crimson's Robert Fripp and John Belushi filling in on drums for the recuperating Johnny Blitz) to help raise money for Blitz's medical care.
I did the math and realized that the Blitz Benefit happened exactly 35 years ago this week.
I've been posting a lot of pictures lately of since-vanished places around NYC. Granted, I do this a lot. In any case, here's a clutch of photos of spots that had either already pulled up stakes and called it a day or were in the process of imploding when I happened to walk by them with my camera.
This was the Westbeth Theater in the West Village. I saw a few great, intimate shows here by artists like Julian Cope, Gavin Friday and the mighty Skeleton Key. For some reason, they closed up shop at this location (although the organization still exists in some other capacity). Here's the former entrance....all bricked up at some point in the mid-2000s.
This was what remained of Sal's Pizza on Avenue A before an upscale makeover.
This was the corner of East 13th and Fifth Avenue. Originally, I believe it was a lavish Schraft's ice cream parlor, but as far back as I can remember, it was the Lone Star (with the big iguana on the roof). Then it became something else. In the `90s, it was a bar called Mr. Fuji's Tropicana (my friend Rob dated one of its bartenders, who lived in a basement level studio apartment on Bleecker Street with no windows). After that, it became an ill-fated deli (a good place to go if you wanted runny, "frambled" eggs). Then it closed and sat dormant. Then it was torn down. Now, it' s in the process of becoming a luxury high-rise.
This was a tiny, humble Italian restaurant the wife and I quite liked in the West Village called Valdino West. Nothing fancy. Not sure what stands in its footprint today.
On the Upper West Side, here's where the iconic P&G Bar & Grill once held court. That's me looking portly in the foreground, beneath the corner where it's signature neon once was.
I can't say I ever set foot in the place to my knowledge (although maybe when I was a kid), but here's the old New York Doll Hospital on Lexington Avenue. This spot is significant to slackjawed rock dorks like myself, as it's the business that inspired a certain band to name themselves the New York Dolls (guitarist Sylvain Sylvain worked in a shop across the avenue). I believe this space is still vacant, but I could be wrong.
Here's the front of the old Hog Pit on 9the Avenue in the Meat Packing District, which was an old favorite haunt of mine in the `90s. After this it moved to 26th street, but I've never been to the new place. Back in the Hog Pit's heyday, the Meat Packing District was an endearingly squalid backwater. I greatly preferred it that way. What was once the Hog Pit is now a chain restaurant of one kind or another. Read more about the ol' Hog Pit here.
Here's the outside of the old Empire Diner on West 22nd and Tenth Avenue, taken after it had been closed for good.
Here's my little Charlotte, a few of years back, standing in front of what had been Subterranean Records on Cornelia Street. There's still nothing there today.
Finally -- you knew this was coming -- here's me in front of what was CBGB and is now the John Varvatos emporium of ridculousness.
I spotted the above photo on Tumblr earlier this week, and felt the need to pass it on here. I have no idea what year this shot was taken, but if I had to guess, I'd say sometime in the mid-`80s. This is, of course, the inimitable LL Cool J and posse perched at the entrance of the Jones Diner, which formerly held court on the corner of Great Jones and Lafayette Streets. Don't bother looking for it now, it's long gone .... along with LL Cool J's credibility in the wake of this laughable gaffe.
I was always a sucker for the Jones Diner. I frequently wax rhapsodic about the soon-to-close Pizza Box on Bleecker Street, but I do remember ducking into the Jones Diner on several occasions after several rack-worrying sorties through Tower Records on East 4th and Broadway (also gone, but you knew that). It was great for a dish of fried eggs and bacon or a burger. Probably not the healthiest grub in the world, but hey ... we were young.
The Jones Diner also plays a central -- if dubious -- role in the 1992 video of "Two Princes" by the all-but-forgotten Spin Doctors. I'm not going to lie: While I hated much of the hippy-dippy jam band scene that the Spin Doctors were spawned from (largely thanks to Wetlands), I found them hugely less offensive than, say, fucking Blues Traveller or Phish or (insert your favorite here). Lyrical claptrap aside, I actually didn't mind "Two Princes," but that might just be because its video featured the Jones Diner.
Today, the spot where the Jones Diner stood is vacant. There's a big construction project underway there, yes, but it seems to be stalled (not that I'm in a great rush to see it completed, mind you). That all said, it pains me that the Jones Diner's no longer there.
The explanation is probably strikingly banal, but I was at Five Napkin Burger on East 14th Street with my kids on Monday afternoon (they really wanted to try the sliders), and while I was looking out the window onto the grotty splendor of that particularly busy stretch of Third Avenue, I spied a sign I’ve frequently wondered about (see below).
At first glance, I’ve always assumed that the billboard-sized sign simply predated the taller building that stands in front of it, and the construction of the latter closed off the remainder of the sign from view, leaving only the cryptic letters “TML ets DNA” in view. But that doesn’t add up, as I can’t for the life of me think of any words that end in “TML” or “DNA.”
I posed the question to my kids, who were surprisingly as immediately fascinated by it as I was (Oliver likes anything to do with letters or numbers). Is it an anagram? Some fractured Latin? Some antiquated code?
The picture above is a photograph of my good friend Rob B. enjoying a bit of post-slice repose and some Spring sunlight in the lovely back patio of the Pizza Box on Bleecker Street between MacDougal & Sullivan. I snapped this pic in April of 1999, but Rob and I have been fairly regular customers at the establishment since as far back as about 1982 or 1983 (although the pizzeria itself dates back to 1957).
I wrote about the Pizza Box more extensively back on this post from 2009, when its future was first called into question. Back then, I wrote:
My friend and fellow music-geek Rob B. and I started hitting Pizza Box when we were in high school in the mid-'80s. After running the circuit of neighborhood record stores – including Second Coming (gone) , 99 Records (gone), Free Being (gone), Golden Disc (gone), Revolver (gone), It's Only Rock N' Roll (gone), Venus Record (gone), Subterranean Records (gone), Record Runner (still there, but seemingly never open) and Bleeker Bob's (amazingly still there, but still a dump), we'd dutifully repair to Pizza Box to enjoy a slice and review our new acquisitions. I vividly remember arguing between mouthfuls of pizza over the dubious merits of 7 Seconds' Walk Together, Rock Together and "She's On It" by the Beastie Boys within the `Box's humble walls. It wasn't high end pizza by any stretch, but it was a good, dependable, frills-free experience.
All of the above still holds true, although Bleecker Bob's (just a couple of blocks to the northwest) closes for good on Saturday (soon to be followed by Bleecker Street Records...formerly Golden Disc). I also neglected to mention Rebel Rebel, Route 66 (originally on Bleecker, but then on MacDougal, and now gone) and both incarnations of Kim's that held court on disparate ends of Bleecker (both long gone). Rebel Rebel, quite amazingly, is still there.
I lump Pizza Box in with all those music shops because, as I detailed above, stopping in for a slice after hunting for specific albums or singles was part of our long-standing ritual. I still stop in for a slice at Pizza Box on occasion. I brought my kids there only about a month ago. Every time I walk in, I'm still transported back to those days to the point where the opening strains of "Walk Together, Rock Together" fill my head.
You obviously know where this post is going, right?
I've never considered this blog to have an overriding theme. That was by design, to afford me the freedom to write about any topic that sparked my interest. Over time, however, certain issues started to gradually define Flaming Pablum. The slow, painful demise of my native New York City's once-thriving network of independent, mom'n'pop record and disc shops certainly edged me in the direction that now guides this blog, but I'd suggest it was one single, specific occurrence that really kicked Flaming Pablum into gear, that being the demise of The Cedar Tavern.
As I've laboriously pointed out in many, many posts on the subject (see arguably authoritative list beneath), the Cedar Tavern was something akin to my second living room. It was the perfect place, ripe for any occasion and any sort of company, cool without being exclusive or sceney and rich with civic history, personal history and personality. I sorely miss it and pretty much lost all faith in humanity when news came that it was gone for good.
It's been about six years since the place closed its doors. Since then, the place was demolished and gutted and rebuilt as a dreadfully shitty condo, but there's been absolutely zero business on the ground floor that the Cedar Tavern formerly occupied.
I walked by 82 University Place this afternoon on my way to the hardware store and was surprised to see something new in the window beyond a "for lease" sign. Evidently, the space that the Cedar Tavern once called home is now going to be a waxing salon.
Yeah, that's great. That's just what our neighborhood needs.