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.
My Facebook bud/photographer Susan Fensten's father John snapped same circa 1980 (which she, in turn, posted on the excellent Facebook group, Manhattan Before 1990). I still remember it being like that.....a wide expanse of space with precious few souls about.
It's a very different scene these days, of course. Here's that very same spot about fifteen minutes ago (with my kids in front of it, of course). How times have changed, eh?
Fensten's original shot reminds of the video below. I've wheeled it out a few times, but I just love the quiet, unhurried vibe of it all....
Hey again, all. Just a very quick one. I'm currently deeply ensconced in familial matters (see previous post) and taking care of a dizzying amount of logistics, but I spotted this whilst quickly perusing the `Net, and thought it was something worth sharing here.
I'm a member, on Facebook, of a group called Manhattan Before 1990 -- which is pretty self-explanatory in terms of the subject matter of the discussion. Essentially, members post their favorite pictures and ephemera of the city from ages past (much like I do here). This morning, a fellow member named Ruben posted the following picture, prefaced with the accompanying information:
Marilyn Monroe Wasn' t The Only Beauty That Sam Shaw Photographed On The Streets Of New York. (Sam Shaw - Lee Remick, The Bowery, New York City, 1960.)
Indeed, few could argue that Lee Remick wasn't an entirely fabulous babe, as this picture handily demonstrates. But can anyone name the street she's giving it some serious smolder on? Weigh in.
Meanwhile, the second I spotted this, my head immediately filled with the strains of this favorite from the old Go-Betweens. Crank it.
Hey all, just a quick one. I'm actually sequestered out on the `Island for a while with limited computer access, so bear with me.
During my two-month hiatus, my comrade Drew sent me the video below, and I've meant to put up a post about it ever since.
This October will mark the eight-year anniversary of the closing of CBGB at 315 Bowery, a milestone that prompted much gnashing of teeth in many circles (including mine). The shuttering of the fabled rock club, endearingly squalid dive bar and ground zero of Punk Rock has since come to serve as a telling signifier of the transformation of New York City. That its address has since been co-opted by a bespoke clothier only reinforces that. The Bowery is a different place. Downtown is a different place. New York City is a different place. Those are just the facts.
Since CB's demise, the already robust mythology that surrounded it has only flourished (no thanks to a truly abortive film from 2013 about same, but the less said about that, the better). An invocation of a night of CBGB now comes grittily entrenched in the artful imagery of dimly lit urban decay, the insouciant cool of bohemia, the whiff of an anything-goes frontier and the palpable threat of violence. The name conjures up pictures like those found in Bri Hurley's "Making a Scene," a striking photographic document of the New York hardcore community (that's one of her shots above), or like the iconic image below of the No Wave all-stars... portraits of romantic characters existing on the edge of society.
Truth is, of course, not every night at CB's was like that. Not every show at 315 Bowery warranted the punk pageantry. Hell, in its last several years of operation, the booking policy at CBGB really wasn't that adventurous, nor did it attract room-filling big names. Even during its 70's and 80's heyday, some shows at CBGB were just that... shows. No one got stabbed. No one showed up with a mohawk. No cops were punched. It was just another night at one of the city's live music venues.
Below is another clip by Nelson Sullivan, the intrepid videographer I've written about before, who presciently made a point to document as much of his life on video as he could (prior to his untimely death). In this clip, Sullivan attends a record release party at the CBGB Record Canteen (remember that?) for Binky Philips, a somewhat-less-celebrated scene veteran, CB's regular and self-described "also-was." As an event, it's fairly low on thrills, but the video provides a tantalizing glimpse back at the scene circa 1987.
Watch for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo of the cover of Killing Joke's Brighter Than a Thousand Suns amid the record racks.
These days, CBGB is the afore-cited John Varvatos boutique and the space that was the CBGB Record Canteen is now a Patagonia, for all your pricey, outdoorsy gear needs.
Way back in February, I put up a little post about a dimly remembered neighborhood artifact, that being the dinosaur that used to stand atop what is now Continental (then Continental Divide) on Third Avenue at St. Marks Place. I remembered it as being a free-standing sculpture of a brontosaurus, but didn't hold out a great deal of hope that anyone would have a photo of it.
Just last week, however, photographer Susan Fensten (whose work you might remember from this post) posted a photo of her father John Fensten's from the 1980's on Facebook It might be a little hard to make out, but this is a shot of Third Avenue at St. Marks Place. From right to left, that Optimo is now The E Smoke Shop. That pizza parlor (boy do I miss that) became a Chickpea then back to a pizza place and is now a diner-y spot called Archie & Sons (which is supposedly not bad, or so I've been told). To the left of that is Continental Divide. You can make out the brontosaurus on the signage, although I want to say there was one on the actual roof as well. Anyway, this is close as I'm probably going to get.
To the left of that is a joint called Dynasty. That's a McDonald's today. Does anyone remember Dynasty?
I've waxed nostalgic about the old Marquee club at 547 West 21st street a coupleof timeshere. It wasn't even there that long (maybe three years? maybe?), but it was somewhat of a crucial venue for me at the time.
Located way the hell over on the very western edge of Chelsea, it had virtually no neighbors during its tenure apart from a gay bondage club across the street called Zone DK. This was all the early 90's, you realize --- well prior to the advent Chelsea Piers, Giuliani's quality of life campaign, 9/11, the High Line and Bloomberg's era of hyper-gentrification.
In its incarnation as the Marquee, I was lucky enough to catch several live shows at 547 West 21st street. I'm sure I've listed them here before, but if memory serves, bands I saw play at the Marquee included Too Much Joy, Pylon, The Wonder Stuff, the La's, My Dad is Dead, The Wedding Present, the Milltown Brothers, the Butthole Surfers, the Rollins Band, the Lunachicks, Primus, 24-7 Spyz, Fatima Mansions, Julian Cope, the Kitchens of Distinction, Lush, Ride, Curve, Chapterhouse, The House of Love, Swervedriver, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Blur, Senseless Things, Pigface, Limbomaniacs, The Sundays, The Charlatans, Mr. Bungle, Birdland and Pop Will East Itself. Actually, the very first time I ever set foot in the place, it was still called Sonic, and I was there to see a little known band (at the time) called Nine Inch Nails.
For whatever reason, the Marquee closed sometime in the almost-mid-90's and morphed into a Latino dance club called El Flamingo --- `cos, ya know, we needed another one of those. For the remainder of the 90's, if I'm not mistaken, El Flamingo played host to a discofied re-imagining of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" called "The Donkey Show." Suffice to say, I never went.
Anyway, I addressed all of this in earlier posts. Back in 2012, I walked back over to that end of West 21st street with my little boy Oliver and snapped a picture of its incarnation as a comparatively whisper-quiet art gallery.
Well, earlier this week, I had a little time on my hands while strolling through Chelsea and once again found myself walking west on 21st street, the sounds of countless 90's bands like those listed above filling my head. As I approached, however, that elusive "sense of place" I've spoken about before was pretty much all gone, ..... as was the building that once housed that art gallery, El Flamingo and before it...The Marquee.
Already looming high above West 21st Street is a brand new development where 547 (and the building to its west) used to stand. It certainly doesn't look that impressive now, but 551 West 21 bills itself as "sharp and crisp and as subtle, luminous and dramatic as a perfectly cut diamond" and "like a villa in the sky."
Where once this street was defined by its quiet desolation, it will now be (yet another) buzzing hive of affluents. Who can afford to live in these places?
Anyway, I doubt I'll find myself taking any more nostalgic walks down West 21st street ever again. As such, here's another taste of the past. I was actually at this show. Here's the Lunachicks at the Marquee in November of 1990....
As I mentioned there, I've always been a big fan of East 12th and Broadway. Yes, it was the original home of Forbidden Planet, and later my own corner when I lived there between 1996 and 2003, but I also just love the visual aesthetic of the corner. If you approach it from the east (say, on the southeast corner), the building on northwest corner looks like the bow of a vast ship.
In any case, I found a couple of interesting pictures that I thought I'd add to the equation.
Here's that corner today in 2014. It's an immaculatey clean if cripplingly characterless Pret A Manger.
Here it was back in 2003. I took this shortly before I moved off the block. The corner business at this point was a shoe out called No Difference. Obviously, there was a massive protest going on about the Bush Administration's decision to go into Iraq.
Here's a shot of the corner when it stil played host to the original Forbidden Planet in 1989. This was taken by Andrew Buckle. See more of his work here.
Below is a shot from a vantage point slightly more to the east. No clue what year, but I'm guessing the `60's or early `70s.
I’ve spoken about University Place several times here, but as a native of the Upper East Side, University Place always seemed like the “mouth” of downtown (that is unless your southbound 6 train bypassed Union Square and went straight to Astor Place).
Shortly after moving into the neighborhood in 1996, I shot the photograph above, for no especially notable reason. At the time, it didn’t seem like a particularly remarkable vantage point. Sure, the World Trade Center was visible, but you could get a much better, centered view of the towers from the top of LaGuardia Place. In any case, I snapped it and filed it away.
In the wake of this discovery, I thought I’d try to recapture the same spot today. Obviously, the World Trade Center is no longer what it was, but check out how much else has changed (notably the newer, taller condos on the southwest corner of University Place and 14th Street, where Patterson’s Silks -- later an Odd Lots -- used to stand.
It must seem somewhat peculiar for me to go banging on about The Scrap Bar when so many other locales are circling the drain these days, especially since The Scrap Bar basically closed up shop in the mid-90's.
As you can see here and here, the former exterior of the Scrap Bar boasted some far-out metalwork designed to broadcast the post-apocalypitc bunker aesthetic of the place. In most instances, when places close up shop, the slate is wiped clean, and all evidence of that particular incarnation vanishes. Not so with the Scrap Bar.
I'm not sure what takes place now -- if anything -- in the subterranean space the Scrap Bar formerly occupied, but I was heartened to see some remnants of the old exterior's metallic spillover still in evidence on MacDougal Street. It was probably too much work to fully dismantle.
Despite the fact that I was just tearing John Varvatos a new one in my last post, I found myself walking up the Bowery with my daughter Charlotte ealrier today, and remembered a photo I'd snapped back in June of 2006 of my then-infant daughter in her stroller, incongruously parked in front of the decidedly toddler-unfriendly CBGB. Thought I'd bring that image to to date.
I can't put a specific date on it, but I'm inclined to say that the Kmart on Astor Place opened up sometime in 1996, but I honestly don't remember voluntarily setting foot in the place until U2 held a bizarre press conference there in 1997 to kick off their ultimately flawed PopMart tour (to this day, I can't help but think back to them playing their somewhat anemic b-side, "Holy Joe" in the area where greeting cards are now sold, just north of the cash registers). Like Kmart's very placement on Astor Place itself, the event was fairly botched and ill-considered.
I didn't do any genuine shopping in that Kmart until I had kids (opting instead to buy my sundry housewares at places like Surprise Surprise on Third Avenue between 12th and 13th). But, once babies were on our scene, I was regularly dispatched to Kmart to procure diapers and accompanying gear in bulk.
Despite seeing the odd punk rock luminary in its expansive aisles (I've run into both Richard Hell and Jon Spencer within its walls), I've never warmed to the Astor Place Kmart, and I sincerely doubt I ever will. If they closed it up tomorrow, there's nothing about it I'd miss. Well, there is maybe one thing...
On the second floor of the southeast corner of the building (which, of course, used to house the department store Wanamakers, way back before my time), there's a chamber with big, beautiful picture windows that face east and south. When Kmart first opened there, that space was used as the "K Cafe." There used to be a clip on YouTube of a news report, suggesting that this little wing of the Kmart stayed true to the neighborhood's bohemian roots, and it would feature art shows and the like. Sadly, that video is no longer available, but you can see a little bit of the K Cafe in this NYU student film from 1996.
Evidently, the K Cafe didn't really take off, and it became their audio/video department for a while. The last time I was there, it looked like the place where cut-out CDs, holiday DVDs, and budget electronics went to die. Being up there is fairly depressing.
That said, the views from what was the K Cafe are still striking. If you're there with a device that takes pictures, it's hard not to succumb to the temptation of snapping a shot. I took that one up top of my kids looking south down Lafayette Street in 2011.
Last night, however, I was perusing around Flickr, and I stumble upon the shot below by one Ethan Wolff (click here to see more of his excellent photographs of NYC). I'm guessing he shot this particular photograph from that same second floor vista in the K Cafe fairly soon after the place opened. The parking lot on Astor Place is still pictured, the diner on the right hand side is just that -- still a diner and not yet a Starbuck's. Across the way, it's still Barnes & Noble (and not yet the Walgreen's, although it would morph into Astor Place Wines & Liquors between those two incarnations, if memory serves). Click on the photo to enlarge...
I've spoken at great length in the past about how I feel about Astor Place, basically how once upon a time in pretty much symbolized the gateway to everything I held dear. As we all know, Astor Place is shortly to get a radical facelift (this on top of having a couple of horrible structures already erected on it). As such, the Astor Place that I know and love will probably not be recognizable as such for much longer.
As a quick aside, the bus stop pictured above in Wolff's photo at the bottom of the image also made a fleeting cameo in Glenn O'Brien's "Downtown 81" (see below) in a scene wherein Jean Michel Basquiat is accosted by a foppish David McDermott. The acting is wooden and terrible, but it's an interesting snippet. When this scene was filmed, the diner on that corner hadn't even opened yet. Today, once again, it's yet another entirely needless Starbuck's.