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.
Regular readers might remember a photo quiz I put up back in May of 2012 wherein I tried to divine the exact location of a photograph of the Beastie Boys from their License to Ill days. Well, that photograph was taken by erstwhile Beasties associate/photographer/eternal hepcat/native New Yorker Ricky Powell, who later weighed in on the proceedings (check out the comments on that post). Later that year, I put up a little clip of Ricky speaking about the state of the West Village (and the gentrified detrioration thereof).
Somewhat coincidentally, I took my kids out last weekend for a heroic trek around downtown Manhattan (which I'm sure they'd equate with the Bataan Death March, if grim historical allusion was their forte). As I'm wont to do, I decided to replicate some notable photographs along the way (see my homage to Amons Poe's "The Foreigner" from that Friday as an example). Honestly speaking, given the amount of pictures I snapped, I doubtlessly alienated huge swathes of my Instagram followers, put off by my tireless stream of images. In any case, as we were walking down St. Marks, we, of course, had to stop and honor that stoop once again. Here it is, with my little boy Oliver pinch-hitting for absent Mick and my daughter Charlotte serving as Peter Tosh.
Here are some other shots we attempted...
The exterior of "Club Berlin" in Martin Scorsese's "After Hours" from 1985 (Spring Street just steps to the west of Hudson Street)
The firehosue of Hook & Ladder 8 at 14 N.Moore Street, better known as the station from "Ghostbusters" and "Ghostbusters II," pictured here circa 1988...
..and in 2013...
The Beastie Boys on Staple Street circa 1998...
...and, slighty more ambitiously, the location of the video shoot for 1984's "All That I Wanted" by Belfegore (now pier 25 off the West Side Highway)...
...and in 2013
Ironically, this little stretch is quite built up now, and features lots and lots of joggers, unwittingly replicating the frenzied sprint of the video.
As a final bonus shot, here are the kids in front of what was Bleecker Bob's. Remember all that talk about it becoming a frozen yogurt emporium? Apparently, that's no longer the case. The forzen yogurt banner is currently in tatters, and the sign above my little Charlott's head reads: "For rent."
I'm a huge fan of so-called "Street Photography," but I suck at it. If you look at my pictures scattered around this blog and over on Flickr, you'll notice that in nine out of ten shots, there are absolutely zero people. That may look intentional, but most of the time it was because I was too much of a wimp to either seize a certain moment or at least ask someone if I could take their picture.
There are exceptions to that rule, of course --- like the punks in Washington Square Park up above (I couldn't let that Shawn Kerri-designed Germs tattoo get away) -- but most of the time, I just couldn't do it. That's probably one of the reasons I take so many pictures of my kids out and about the city -- they're my captive subjects.
Here in the age of the smartphone, it’s easier than ever to covertly take pictures of people on the street (or, more commonly, on the subway) without their cognizance, much less consent, but that just doesn’t appeal to me. It’s just so discourteous. Personally, I think I’d be pretty pissed off if I found out that someone had taken my picture and posted it somewhere without my knowledge or blessing. And with Instagram (a social media platform I could certainly be accused of ….abusing), you can disseminate said images globally in a veritable nanosecond.
In any case, I recently discovered this illuminating little film about his approach to street photography, filmed back in 1981, fitting on the very streets of Manhattan. Even if you’re not a budding shutterbug, it’s worth it just for the trip back through time.
I understand from Jeremiah Moss that 5Pointz over in Queens has been whitewashed in advance of its impending reconfiguration as a pricey condo. Knowing of its fate, I made a pilgrimage out to 5Pointz late last summer to document it before it was destroyed. Here's just a fleeting handful of images from that day. There were many, many more.
Not to get all hyperbolic, but in terms of NYC street art, the whitewashing of 5Pointz is comparable to the tearing down of the original Penn Station. Just sayin'.
Back in June of this year, you may remember an entry I put up called Where's the Fire, Lou?, which was based around a photo I'd stumbled across of Lou Reed standing in front of an old neighborhood favorite, the garishly painted garage door of the firehouse of West 10th Street, just a few steps to the west of Greenwich Avenue. Here's that photo again.
As I mentioned in that previous post, beyond it being a cool shot of Lou Reed, I have great affection for that firehouse mural. My dad lived across the street from the place back in the 70's, and I remember it from my childhood. As such, I'd taken pictures of my own kids in front of it periodically (see below).
Here's another shot of it I took in 1999. Frankly, I had a hard time not taking pictures of the thing.
Okay, so where am I going with all this? Well, I was out walking around with my kids this afternoon, and we happened to find ourselves walking east on West 10th Street when I was suddenly stopped dead in my tracks by what I saw. The colorful garage door to the firehouse was -- like Lou Reed -- suddenly gone, replaced by a perfectly respectable door, but one that greatly lacked the signature visual panache of it predecessor. Quite simply, I was crushed.
Like Nelson Sullivan, the guy behind "The Church of Shooting Yourself" -- who went by the name Rik Arithmetic -- ran a bizarre cable access program in the 90's wherein he'd basically walk around New York City (primarily the East Village) with a video camera aimed at himself (hence "shooting" himself), and rant. I was never sure if his content was performance art or paranoia-fueled conspiracy theorist crackpottery or evangelical gobbledigook or high concept shtick or all of the above, but I became something of a fan of it for a little while. In any case, I did a YouTube search, and sure enough, up came the clip below.
Now, what makes this particular clip interesting, if you ask me, isn't Rik's usual bug-eyed exhortation so much as the particular patch of real estate he happens to be spastically striding down. It only takes a fleeting instance to spot that Arithmetic is walking west on East 1st street between Second Avenue and the Bowery. To his left (before he starts spinning like the crazy man he is) is the late, lamented Mars Bar, following swiftly (and sadly) by the hulking edifice of 9 Second Avenue, otherwise known as the Church of All Nations and/or the Taoist Temple of the Ancestral Mother. To Rik's right, you can fleetingly see the entrance to Extra Place before he starts proselytizing to the two gentlemen sojourning on the sidewalk. Take a moment and soak it all in ....
I was always fascinated by this particular strip, tucked just behind the Bowery and CBGB. It was a desolate little sleepy backwater that felt like the veritable edge of civilization.
Today, of course, you'd never recognize it. East 1st between Second Avenue and Bowery is now a gleaming canyon of glass, steel and commerce, although still faltering in that last capacity (no business has really flourished on either side of the street, and especially down Extra Place).
On the south side of the street, the Mars Bar is now gone. 9 Second Avenue is now gone. That vacant lot is now gone. 295 Bowery (or McGurk's Suicide Hall) is gone. On the north side, XOXO is long gone, Extra Place has been re-made into an ersatz "Left Bank" (albeit of largely empty storefronts) and there's now a Chase Bank where the lot on the northeast corner used to be.
I have no idea whatever became of Rik Arithmetic. Perhaps he's still at it...?
Here are a few shots I took back in the mid-90's of East 1st street between Second and Bowery as it was. You may recognize some of them.
Today, Extra Place looks like this (looking south from within)...
Loyal readers might remember a couple of entries I posted back in 2009 wherein I mentioned discovering Amos Poe's film, "The Foreigner" through Nick Rhombes' excellent book, "A Culture History of Punk." I went into depth about the film on that post, and then returned to it periodically after I was finally able to see it. It's indeed a bizarre cinematic experience, but it really is a must for anyone who shares my fascination with the downtown Manhattan of yesteryear. It can be tough to track down, but seek it out. It's worth it. I don't believe it's available via Netflix, but who knows?
In any case, my fascination for "The Foreigner" was revived somewhat recently when Gallery 98 debuted its exhibition of No Wave and Independent Film, which included Poe's film. Among the items on exhibit were some still photographs from the production of "The Foreigner" taken by one Fernando Natalici, who acted as the art director for the film. That's one of his photos above (click on it to enlarge). In the image you see the protagonist Max walking away from a momentary interaction with Debbie Harry (see the clip below). This scene is one of the more haunting and memorable moments from the film.
As I mentioned back in this post, upon my first discovery of "The Foreigner," I became fixated with pinpointing the exact location of that alley. At first, I wrongly suspected that it was Courtlandt Alley down in TriBeCa, then Shinbone Alley in NoHo before finally figuring out that it is Great Jones Alley, which runs parallel to Broadway in between Bond Street and Great Jones Street.
The alley in question is private and gated-off today, although as I said in this post, I actually attended a children's birthday party there unwittingly back in 2009 (prior to seeing the film, alas). As decrepit and desolate it looks in Poe's film, it's now a very enviable slice of real estate (no surprises there).
Ever since then, of course, I've been smitten with it. Later in 2009, I snapped the picture below of my little son Oliver standing in front of the gate.
This evening, however, after being out with my kids for dinner, we found ourselves walking west on Great Jones street, and I was immediately struck with the idea of replicating the still from the film at the top of this post, with my son Oliver posing as Max and my daughter Charlotte serving as Debbie Harry. Without the photo in front of me, this is as close as we were able to get. The action actually took place deeper into the alley, but the gate prevented that level of authenticity.
For closer reference, here's a clip of the scene in question.
Lastly, speaking of Great Jones Street, my blogging comrade Jeremiah Moss of Vanishing New York put up the video below on Facebook this evening of jazz legend Charles Mingus being evicted from his home on suspicion of drug possession. His home? Right adjacent to Great Jones Alley.
My comrade Drew sent me this video recently, and it's worth checking out. Not a native New Yorker by birth, but an avid appreciator of vintage NYHC and the fabled East Village/Lower East Side culture of yore, Drew was a little surprised by this video, having heard of how dangerous and gnarly downtown supposedly was in the late `80s. Drew prefaced this clip with:
This really shatters for me the notion that Ave A in the 80s was this insanely scary place…because it doesn’t look too different to me.
In some respects, that's fair enough. Topographically, the cityscape depicted (mostly East 7th and Avenue A) hasn't really changed all that much, although the businesses have. But, I maintain, it still seems a world away from what's there now.
The clip below was filmed by one Nelson Sullivan. If memory serves, Nelson was a real trailblazer -- essentially a video blogger before such things even existed. Himself and a few other individuals used to show videos like like (little slices of life in NYC) via cable access television (for more on that click here). I remember two other similar programs, like "Dog the Cat" and "The Church of Shooting Yourself."
In any case, Nelson was a mild-mannered gay gentleman who gamely carried what was probably a comparatively bulky video camera around with him everywhere, amassing an incredible amount of footage that now belongs in a veritable time capsule. Some of it is pretty banal (i.e. wandering around Tompkins Square Park with a friend, wondering where they should have lunch, etc.), but as period pieces go, they can still pretty fascinating. One might wonder where the individuals pictured here might be today.
Enjoy this little taste of the East Village circa 1987. Things to look out for: flyers advertising a gig by They Might Be Giants (then still an unknown local act) and, I think, Fleshtones guitarist Keith Streng sitting at a neighboring table in the background at 07:26.
I saw this on John Cale's Facebook page (via Tim Broun) this morning, and cannot resist sharing. Here's the immaculately cool pair of John Cale and the late Lou Reed, walking south on Fifth Avenue between 43rd and 42nd. Not sure of photographer or year, unfortunately.
I've been looking for this picture for days, ever since I heard about Lou Reed's death. I shot it in 1968 on 5th ave, just casual shot of an interesting looking guy, only to discover later on that it was Lou Reed and John Cale.
As New York City punk bands go, False Prophets never seem to get their due. Led by the charismatic and sartorially adventurous Stephen Ielpi (a CBGB regular ... and possible employee, if memory serves), their name was everywhere at the time, but they don't quite get the same recognition of other bands of their scene and era. They put out one record on Alternative Tentacles in 1986, but things didn't seem to progress beyond that. Kind of a shame, that.
I saw them once or twice, usually opening for another band (I want to say I saw them share a double-bill with the similarly difficult-to-pigeonhole Alice Donut, but that might be purely projection -- although Alice Donut were also on Alternative Tentacles). They counted Flaming Pablum-favorite George Tabb in their ranks for a little while. Their greatest exposure may have come from an old MTV bumper wherein a bunch of punks -- including Tabb -- are lined up in front of CBGB, and Tabb -- wearing a black leather jacket with FALSE PROPHETS scrawled across the back -- bangs a gong with the MTV logo on it.
So, yeah, they were weird, artsy and didn't adhere to strict stylistic genre stipulation (to their credit, I'd suggest), but I'd suggest they're worthy of revisiting.
Herewith a vid from their debut LP. Even if you're not a fan of False Prophets' brand of caterwaul, it's yet another nice slice of since-vanished downtown NYC culture, largely filmed within Avenue A's Pyramid. Crank it.