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.
I can only project, but I'd always assumed that when Tom Waits recorded "I'll Take New York" for his 1987 album, Frank's Wild Years, the deliberately off-kilter, slightly nightmarish delivery of the song was purposely disoncerting to offset the somewhat over-the-top, lyrical pastiche that depicted New York City as a plush hotbed of Gershwin-scored glitz and champagne dreams. While waist-deep in the "Me Decade" of wealth and avarice, New York City in 1987 still had its fair share of strife, poverty and turmoil, a reality I always felt Waits' listing, eerie ode was alluding to. Again, however, this is just my own interpretation.
Not to sound too doomy-gloomy, but in 2014, I hear "I'll Take New York" in a completely different, albeit similarly resonant way. Where once it seemed to hint of the squalor, violence and desperation lurking just beneath the deception of the fabulous gotham as rhapsodized by Frank Sinatra and Bobby Short, it now feels like the theme of the this city's current incarnation, one once again seeped in economic imbalance and leglessly drunk on the promise of monied exclusivity. The couplets Waits croons with haunted aplomb now seem ripped right from real estate commercial boilerplate, while the frantic sax wails and wheezing accordion play out the demise of the city's soul and character.
But, y'know, maybe I'm just melodramatically projecing.
A regular reader named Morgwn (who lives in Australia, of all places) hipped me to this film, presuming I was already familiar with it. I must confess that I must have slept on this when it came out in 2002, but "7th Street," directed by Josh Pais, is a documentary about the transformation and gentrification about the director's native East Village neighborhood.
You might recognize Pais from his work as an actor on shows like "The Good Wife," "Law & Orders: SVU," "The Sopranos" and the odd film like "Arbitrage" or "A Beautiful Mind." In any case, this film is assuredly right up my alley, but I need to hunt it down.
Everyone remembers the big lizard that used to hold court atop the Lone Star Café. Don’t bother looking for it now, of course. Not only is the lizard long gone (now in Texas), but the building that acted as his perch -- first a Schraft’s ice cream parlor, then the Lone Star Café, then a nightclub called Mr. Fuji’s Tropicana, then a weird deli and finally a derelict and empty shell -- has been razed to accommodate the luxury condo that stands in its footprint. That big green lizard (who also logged a little time on a TriBeCa pier during the 90’s) was a local icon. But,… there was another.
Prior to its incarnation as, in its proprietor Trigger’s own words, a "classy dive bar," Continental on Third Avenue at St. Marks Place was, of course, a rollicking live music venue, catering largely to the high-volume predilections of the neighborhood’s punk legacy. I wrote about that incarnation here and here. Prior to that, however, circa the dawn of the 90’s, the venue as actually called The Continental Divide. I remember going once or twice during that incarnation (then to see a band I may have mentioned here before called The Niagaras). It had a very different vibe compared to the venue it would later become.
In any case, while Continental prides itself today on being dark and gritty, back then it was a slightly goofier affair, capped off by the fact that on the roof of the place, there was a goddamn brontosaurus. I promise I’m not making that up, but I cannot seem to find any documentation (beyond Trigger’s vague allusion to the place being “a kitschy dinosaur-themed” venture). Hard to believe, but I promise you it's true.
Does anyone else remember or -– better still -– have photographic evidence to share?
Walking home down University Place this evening, I spotted something that really made me stop and practically spit.
The burger bar Stand on East 12th between University and Fifth Avenue closed unceremoniously towarsd the latter end of 2013. Prior to it being Strand, it had been an ill-considered Asian seafood place, and -- prior to that -- a Kinko's. Thought dormant these past several months, it is now newly papered up and titled with new, illuminated signage. The space is shortly to reveal itself as (yet another) Chipotle.
Why does this upset me? Well, despite the fact that there is already a Chipotle just to the north of Union Square on Broadway and another on 8th street between Broadway and University Place, the new spot sits uncomfortably close to Dorado Tacos, Tortaria on East 12th and the long-standing El Cantinero just around the corner and down the block. What's the common thread? All these establishments already serve original and lovingly executed Mexican fare with distinctive aplomb.
We need a Chipotle here like we need another bank branch.
I’ve mentioned the periodical in question a few times here, notably its arguably ham-fisted attempts to encapsulate New York City’s punk scene for its self-styled, smarmily urbane readership. In any event, while still an object of ire and derision for many friends of mine, I’ve always liked New York Magazine. As mentioned in that older post, my family always subscribed to it, much as my wife and I do today.
Well imagine then, if you will, my bliss last week when a representative of the mag reached out to ask if they could re-publish a photograph of mine for their “Approval Matrix” in the back of the book. They were interested in the Instagram shot I posted at the top of this entry from May of last year about Sounds on St. Marks. It is a lovely shot, if I do say so myself.
Having always wanted to contribute to New York (although I’d prefer it if they wanted me to write for them), I gamely said ‘sure,’ and lo and behold, my photograph is now on the back page of the current issue (the one with Alec Baldwin on the cover).
On the Matrix itself, it links to a Gothamist article that utilized a Google Maps image. Online, I don’t seem to get a photo credit (bastards), but if you buy the actual issue, you can see one in microphuckingscopic print on the spine. Yay me!
Feels vaguely disingenuous to be raiding Facebook for content here, but following in the footsteps of the post above, here’s another cool little find, this one courtesy of a user on the also-quite-excellent Manhattan Before 1990 page. Herewith a quick little clip of the Flatiron district circa 1970. It’s fairly amazing.
Spotted this one on the excellent Facebook page, Dirty Old 1970s' New York City. Herewith another photo by the great Edmund V. Gillon of Fifth Avenue, looking north just a few steps shy of East 22nd Street circa the Bicentennial year of 1976.
If you stand in this very spot today and look in the same direction, not that much has really changed, although there is a massive hotel now a few blocks north of the Empire State Building.
The building on the right hand side of the photograph (with the clock) is now, of course, Restoration Hardware, and has been for some time.
In 1976, I was a third grader on the Upper East Side, so didn't see much of this neck of the woods at the time. In later years, when I started exploring Manhattan, though, I do remember a tiny record store (c'mon, you knew that was coming), tucked into the middle of the south side of the block on 22nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway,... in what would now be the area closest to the cash registers at Restoration Hardware. It wasn't an especially distinctive record shop (i.e. it didn't cater to any specific genres or anything), but I still vividly remember it. Anyone else?
I popped out the other evening to make a quick visit to Shakespeare & Co. on Broadway. My daughter's caught the Harry Potter book bug, and had just finished the second novel. Wanting to feed her voracious need to keep reading, I volunteered to go procure her the next book in the series. As such, I found myself walking south on Mercer Street just as it was starting to flurry. I popped in my headphones and hit play, my skull filling with the adrenalized sprint of "Three Sisters" by the great Jim Carroll Band.
The track selection was oddly fitting, as I suddenly found myself walking by the former site of storied NYC rock club, The Bottom Line. Not quite as lionized as fellow-since vanished venues like CBGB or Max's Kansas City, The Bottom Line played an equally crucial role in Manhattan's gestation as a hotbed of music. The list of luminaries to grace the intimate stage of the Bottom Line is long, varied and distinguished (listen to the testimonials in the video below for ample examples of same).
Personally speaking, I didn't actually make it there that many times. I saw only a handful of shows there -- notably Jim Carroll (doing a reading of his poetry), an Irish folk band called The Furies and a rousing performance by Gavin Friday which involved the former Virgin Prune leaping from stage to table with dramatic aplomb. By the time I was a regular gig-goer, the Bottom Line was usually playing host to yawnsome acts like The Roches and The Church of Betty. I liked my live shows a little more visceral.
As has been pointed out here many times, the space the Bottom Line formerly occupied is now a rigorously non-distinct academic facility for NYU today (and currently shrouded in scaffolding). Even still, I still think of Take No Prisoners, the venomously bawdy live album by Lou Reed recorded live at The Bottom Line, every time I walk by the corner of East 4th and Mercer. I spoke a bit about that album on this post.
In any case, I stumbled upon this clip of former Bottom Line regulars, and thought I'd pass it on...