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.
Here’s an uncharacteristically jocular photo of the last incarnation of the Ramones on the mean streets of Manhattan, taken by the great Pat Blashill — who, you might remember, I spoke with on this post — probably towards the end of their run in the mid-90's.
Pat actually snapped a series of shots around this same location. I have my theories about where this shot was taken (maybe not too far from Pat's old stomping grounds?), but I’m going to put it to you.
I went to meet an old friend from college for a beer last night. He lives in Salt Lake City now, but was in town on business and staying somewhere “on the fringes of TriBeCa.” As such, I suggested meeting him at the age-old standby, The Ear Inn, over on the westernmost edges of Spring Street.
On my way over, however, I was very saddened to spot that the Emerald Pub — formerly on the corner of Spring and Renwick — had evidently closed up shop. I have no idea when that actually happened, but it makes me sad, although probably not for the reasons ya might think.
Truthfully speaking, there wasn’t anything especially distinctive about the Emerald Pub. I certainly drank a few beers there a time or two, although if I was ever on that particular strip, I was inevitably bound for the strenuously superior Ear Inn, or McGovern’s across the way (when it was still there) or raucous rawk club, Don Hill’s further down the block (also gone). The Emerald Pub was ultimately just a generic Irish bar … with a secret.
The Emerald Pub was still special to me, because it was the spot that Martin Scorsese used to stage scenes in “After Hours” as the Terminal Bar. You might remember it looking like this….
Not sure what’s slated to open there next. Maybe it’ll be another bar that seeks to pay homage to the address’ fleeting cinematic significance.
And just like that, the kids are out of school. Goodbye to 3rd and 5th grades, hello summer vacation!
Regardless of my regrettably ongoing struggle to get re-situated into the workforce of responsible, sentient and financially solvent adults, the amount of time I’ll be afforded to bloviate boorishly about any number of topics here on Flaming Pablum might be slightly curtailed in the days to come, given the responsibilities of wrangling my little twosome full-time (although it very well may result in more photographs of C & O posing unwittingly in front of landmarks of very dubious significance around New York City).
Between looking after my kids and continuing the job search, all I ask is that you bear with me.
It’s a park we happen to walk by every day on the way to and back from school.
Early on, I had to explain to my kids that, well, we just aren’t welcome inside the well-appointed black gates of Gramercy Park because, we don’t live in the immediate vicinity.
I’m not sure of the exact protocol, but — as I’ve always understood it, anyway — to be eligible to enter this highly coveted patch of well-coiffured urban verdancy, one must be a bona fide resident of the surrounding community (or a guest of the Gramercy Park Hotel) to be given a key to enter. Unless you can claim to live off the comely square itself, …. tough tits, toots ... you ain’t gettin’ in.
As such, I always feel a twinge of envy and, frankly, resentment when I spy someone lounging inside Gramercy Park. I can’t be the only petty person that feels that way. Can I?
About a month or so back, I was walking back from school with my kids and rounding the corner of East 21st Street onto Gramercy Square. As we crossed over onto the park-side of the street, we watched a large man in some strikingly ill-fitting track pants leisurely exit the gate on the eastern side of the park. The door did not fully close as he ambled south. It stopped just short of its latch.
Wordlessly, I locked eyes with my kids. My little Charlotte even deftly moved into position towards the entrance, silently ready to slip inside. At the last possible moment, however, Johnny Trackpants paused, corrected himself and jogged back to firmly close the gate behind him, entirely oblivious to the reality that the elite sanctity of the private park to which he was privy had come perilously close to being breached by keyless infidels such as we.
This all begs a serious question, though: Is there an actual penalty for being caught in Gramercy Park without a key? Is it essentially trespassing?
When we heard that gate firmly click shut and lock, my kids and I discreetly exhaled in frustration.
I’ve clearly been doing this sort of thing too long if I’m suddenly now doing it subconsciously.
Yesterday afternoon, I took the kids out for some ice cream (one does this a lot on hot days when the kids get out of school at 11:45). Afterwards, we found ourselves aimlessly wandering around the Village. On our slow meander home, we took a stroll down iconic Gay Street. Upon passing a pair of distinctive doors, I asked my kids to go sit on the steps.
I just thought it made for an interesting picture, but my old comrade Be Bop from the New York Review of Record days spotted it on Facebook and matched it with this sleeve from 1972 by American folk duo, Aztec Two-Step (who I cannot say I am even remotely familiar with).
A number of weeks back, photographer Matthew Weber hosted an image on his truly astounding photo-blog, Black and White Street Photographs of New York (really, if you’re an aficionado of my blog, you owe yourself a trip over to his), that caught my eye. Here it is.
While I indeed love the flyers plastered up showcasing then-new albums by Billy Idol and Alice Cooper, it’s the red building in the background that fired my imagination.
The Triangle II … or simply 675 Hudson Street off West 14th Street … always seemed like the centerpiece of the Meatpacking District. Like a slightly diminutive sibling to the Flatiron Building a couple of neighborhoods away, it stands perched on a dividing line between Hudson Street and 9th Avenue, not unlike the bow of a ship sailing north. Weber’s photograph above, shot in 1986, perfectly captures the gritty, weathered and not-just-a-little forbidding character of the surrounding neighborhood at the time. Today, of course, it’s a very different scene.
But even back during the less salubrious days of the Meatpacking District, 675 Hudson was a bit of landmark. It was featured in no shortage of significant films, notably “Single White Female,” “Fatal Attraction” and “The Hours,” and even made a cameo in the stylish clip for “When 2 Become 1” by the Spice Girls (of all bands). Here’s a shot of it circa “Single White Female” in 1992 (thanks to Jeremiah Moss).
Personally speaking, I’ve always been drawn to it — not just because of its interesting history and architecture, but because it also played host to a number of distinct concerns in its lower quarters. Back in the 80s and 90s, among its more celebrated tenants were sex clubs like The Hellfire Club, The Manhole and, most famously, The Vault.
On many an evening during my nights out on the tiles in the 90’s with similarly inclined cohorts, whenever someone asked “Where should we go now?” (invariably postulated after we’d been shown the door by one establishment or another), someone would jocularly and zealously exhort “TO THE VAULT!!” One night we actually went, but that’s a story for another post. Here’s a shot of the exterior I took sometime in the late 90’s.
On its southern side, meanwhile, was The Hog Pit (which I discussed at some length here). In this capacity, this stately triangular building was something of an oasis in the Meatpacking District. It was but a stone’s throw from other fabled spots like The Cooler (long gone), Hogs & Heifers (still there, somewhat astoundingly) and the Village Idiot (now a bicycle shop, if memory serves).
My very first time setting foot in the building, meanwhile, would date back to the summer of 1989. As discussed in this ancient post, I was interning paylessly and perilously at SPIN Magazine at the time, and one afternoon, my fellow intern Sam and I were dispatched to the apartment of estimably affable contributor and rock photographer extraordinaire Pat Blashill. I can’t remember what our mission was — to pick up some negatives or proofs or something?? — but off we went, darkening the already-somewhat forbidding door of 675 Hudson to procure whatever materials SPIN needed from Mr. Blashill. I remember his home being suitably funky, but endearingly homey at the same time.
Now 25 (Jesus Christ!!!) years later, I am back in touch with Pat Blashill, thanks to the world-shrinking services of Facebook. In thinking about this entry, I thought it might be fun to ask Pat — now living in Vienna, Austria, of all places — about living in the heart of the Meatpacking District during the bad old days. Happily, he was more than game to discuss it.
So Pat, when did you move into the Triangle II building?
I moved from Austin, Texas, to New York City in June, 1987. A friend of a friend was subletting his room in the Triangle II building—the address was 675 Hudson. Just before I left Texas, some friends helpfully informed me that the apartment I was moving into had once been a gay S & M club called the Toilet. So I knew I was getting into something. When I got there, one of the rooms in the apartment had a cage in the corner that was big enough for about three humans.
What was the neighborhood like at the time?
It was colorful. The meat markets were still quite active, and after the sun went down, our corner was another sort of meat market. Lots of very attractive African-American fellows in dresses and heels. And there was a great late night bagel spot called Dizzy Izzy’s in the middle of everything. Yummy white fish spread. I walked in there once and Susan Sarandon—dressed head to toe in black leather—was ordering half a dozen sesame bagels to go.
Were you aware of the businesses also in operation in the building (i.e. the Vault, the Manhole, the Hog Pit, etc.) Did you patronize them? Were they good neighbors?
Oh yeah, we were aware and proud of our cozy little historic corner. You may also know that Fatal Attraction was filmed on the second floor of the building before I moved in, and after I moved out, part of the Meryl Streep story in The Hours was shot in our apartment. The Ed Harris character jumps out of my bedroom window and kills himself in that movie.
I didn’t patronize the Vault, but I did go down there once because we blew a fuse and I needed to get to the circuit breaker box. The staff there were easily the palest humans I had ever seen. But very polite.
I didn’t ever go to the Hog Pit—I’m a barbecue snob, being from Texas and all.
What are your most striking memories (good or bad) of the place and/or neighborhood?
We had some really good drum parties in our apartment. We would tell everyone we knew to show up with a drum or something that could be played like a drum. People brought pots, pans, metal crates and industrial washing machine cylinders. We would start pounding out a groove, and just keeping banging until the police came to shut us down. Jon Spencer and one of the guys from Big Black showed up at one, and they were pretty amused by it all.
Eventually a hip hop club opened up nearby, so I also enjoyed being awoken at four-thirty in the morning whenever some of the more macho hip hop kids would decide to fuck with the drag queens. I once saw one of the transvestites chasing some of those kids with a two-by-four. Those club kids got so much more than they bargained for.
Why did you move?
We eventually got kicked out when we couldn’t prove that our apartment had been a residential space for long enough to qualify for rent control. So we had another big party a few days before we moved. A few walls got demolished. Sort of like when Black Flag left Los Angeles.
What do you miss most?
Oh, it was really fun, but I’m not that person anymore. I don’t think New York is that city anymore.
Have you been back since?
I’ve walked around the building a few times since then—at least one of our neighbors still lives there. I didn’t notice any cheap bagel spots in the vicinity…..
Anything you’d like to add….
A fond memory: after I’d been there for a year or so, my mom came to NYC to visit me. Naturally, she had been alarmed when I first told her I wanted to move to New York. But when she got there and stayed with us in 675 Hudson, she loved it. I came home from work one day, and she was just sitting by the window, watching the city buses, and the meat packing trucks, the transvestites and the Hassidic Jews who drove by on their way back to their homes in New Jersey. She looked back at me and said, “Oh Pat, this is just fascinating!”
I’d love to sincerely thank Pat for sharing his recollections with Flaming Pablum
Today, you’d never know the above shenanigans transpired at 675 Hudson. The sex clubs are gone, and the Hog Pit is now a Bill’s Burger Bar. The north end of the building plays host to a well appointed Italian eatery, and there’s now a Tango-themed dance studio on the third floor. I have no idea what’s in the space formerly occupied by The Vault, but I doubt it’s as exciting.
Last night, my excellent neighbor Bruce and I ventured out into the wilds of Flatbush, Brooklyn to the truly, truly spectacular Kings Theater to see Spoon.
The last — and otherwise only ever — time I saw this band play was at the comparatively intimate and endearingly grotty Brownie’s on Avenue A (r.i.p.) in 1996, on the tour for their debut album, Telephono. Truthfully, I don’t remember that much about that show beyond thinking that their lead singer looked a bit like a blonde Shane MacGowan. I also remember being impressed by the fullness of their sound — them being yet another rinkydink indie band in an ocean of similarly rinkydink indie bands at the time — and curious at how their acoustic guitar was producing such an electric sound (I’ll let the musicians in the audience field that one). As much as I enjoyed that show and enjoyed the album that prompted it, I didn’t see them again until last night, and never bought another album of theirs. They've released about ten more since then.
Based on that experience, last night was an eye-opener. It’s a lofty comparison, but imagine going to see Pink Floyd expecting Piper at the Gates of Dawn and getting the ominous sprawl of The Wall. In the essentially TWO GODDAMN DECADESsince I first saw Spoon, they have blossomed into a remarkably tight, accomplished and evidently crazy-popular band. Apart from a Cramps cover, I barely recognized a note they played, but I had a great time. And they FILLED this impressive room … literally and figuratively light years from the cramped, grotty stage of Brownie’s. It’s weird to think that I completely slept on this “rinkydink indie band” while they became this great, versatile entity.
Here’s a clip of them doing “TV Set” by the Cramps … already on YouTube. I did not shoot this.
But this post isn’t really about Spoon.
Bruce and I had seats smack dab in the center, on the ground floor of the theater (although nobody sat). We stood watching and sipping our exorbitantly priced drinks amidst the similarly inclined throng. About two rows in front of us was a trio of girls. Denizens of blogs like EV Grieve and Jeremiah Moss’ Vanishing New York might categorize these ladies as “woo girls,” and I wouldn’t protest. You assuredly know the type. I guess Spoon has made it to the big leagues if gals like these are showing up at their gigs. Move over, Beyonce.
I certainly don’t begrudge enthusiasm at a show. Quite the opposite. And these girls had plenty of it. But their ringleader, a brunette with easily-flicked locks, spent the ENTIRETY of the show demonstrating a frankly disarming display of attention deficit disorder. Either an ardent Spoon fan (or severely intent in telegraphing that notion), she danced, swayed, hair-flicked and gesticulated (inna Mariah Carey stylee) with the music with half of her petite frame, while feverishly pecking at her iPhone with the other. It was never put away.
Before you cry foul, let me admit that I used my iPhone, too. Before the show started, I snapped several pics of the jaw-droppingly gorgeous theatre. Once the show commenced, I snapped the photo below during the band’s second song. That it turned out so sharp is purely an accident. After that, I put it away and didn’t remove it again.
Miss Woo Girl, however, simply COULD NOT PUT HER PHONE AWAY. And she WAS NOT taking pictures of the show. She WAS NOT shooting a video of the proceedings. What was she doing? She was checking the temperature (a comfortable 77 degrees), she was texting, she was perusing Instagram, she updated her Facebook status and she CHECKED ON Linked-In. This last one really blows my mind — although maybe she too is out of a job and just more proactive in her search than I.
How do I know all this? Because, simply speaking, someone diddling on their iPhone in the dark in front of you has pretty much the same affect as a television in a dive bar. Your eyes CANNOT STOP from being drawn to it. It is beyond distracting.
I took a moment to discuss it with Bruce. While I was positively vibrating with contempt, Bruce took a more sympathetic approach. “She can’t help it,” he offered, essentially suggesting that she wasn’t so much an inconsiderate princess as a helpless addict.
The other weird thing about it was that apart from Bruce and I (both of us on the far side of the Rubicon of our mid-40s), absolutely NO ONE else seemed fazed or bothered, not even slightly.
Here we see, of course, John and Paul of the Beatles hanging out at the Hans Christian Andersen statue on the western side of the Central Park Boat Pond. Here’s what Mr. Sessa had to say about the photo.
Paul McCartney, “Magic” Alex Mardas, John Lennon, Neil Aspinall - in Central Park, in front of Hans Christian Andersen statue, May 1968 (photographer unknown). John and Paul were in NYC to announce the formation of Apple and to appear on the Johnny Carson Show.
As New Yorkers, how many of us have taken similar pictures to this one? Having been raised on the Upper East Side, I practically grew up in Central Park. Like millions of others, I have vivid memories of climbing all over this beloved statue, as well as its larger sibling to the north, that being the iconic “Alice in Wonderland.”
I just love the idea that John and Paul also felt inclined to capture a moment there. Only last weekend, I was in that very same spot with my kids, and we also succumbed.
It's also just strange to see these seemingly larger-than-life figures hanging around such a familiar locale. That said, the Fabs aren't the first band to have been photographed around this spot. As I first spoke of in this post, here's Sonic Youth hanging out on the afore-cited "Alice in Wonderland"....
Taking a page from the Beatles (probably not by accident, given their aspirations), KISS were also photographed loitering manfully around this same area of Central Park.
If we’re talking vintage NYHC, I have to confess that I always preferred the proto-hardcore Kraut and the super volatile Cro-Mags over Agnostic Front (especially given the mookier elements of their fanbase). That said, their earlier records could be pretty thrilling. The band themselves seem like decent guys (I dare you to find a more affable NYC punk veteran than Vinnie Stigma), but some of their more zealous devotees? Not always so much.
I fell off after their 1986 crossover album, Cause for Alarm (although I do still love “The Eliminator” and “Bomber Zee”). Decades later, Agnostic Front are still at it, and released a new album a couple of months back. It’s been quite a while since I was intent on buying a new album from Agnostic Front, but the track below makes a compelling case for same.
Addressing many of the shared concerns of this blog, the (recently-unmasked?) EV Grieve and the endearingly Batman-esque Jeremiah Moss, herein Agnostic Front emphatically state their pointed dissatisfaction with the soulless and sanitized New York City of 2015 in their own inimitably burly style.
It’s certainly more authentic a voice than Taylor Swift’s.