Punk rock temple CBGB is closing its doors this Sunday. after 33 years. Its demise has been long anticipated, with rising rents and real estate pressure on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
I spent a fair amount of time there in my reckless youth. Going to CB's was always an adventure. There was usually a wait outside the club, and long before they were termed "homeless" the local Bowery Bums would come by to panhandle and chat with us. The inside was a pastiche of graffiti, stickers, spilt beer, and god knows what else. I doubt the place was ever cleaned. The first time I went there I stood in an inch of water in the men's room. There were these ridiculous life-sized photos of vaudeville performers around the stage. The place had, in the parlance, "atmosphere."
I had the good fortune to see The Patti Smith Group, Dead Boys, John Cale, The Cramps, and numerous others. I remember one matinee show when the Plasmatics performed. The crowd was mostly unamused until lead singer Wendy O. Williams (an ex-stripper who subsequently killed herself) took her top off. The crowd's interest grew considerably after that.
That same afternoon they were showing some tapes of different bands performing at the club. One clip involved the Dead Boys, and guitarist Cheetah Chrome was wearing an ill-fitting Cub Scout uniform. I noticed someone standing behind me, and I turned around to see it was Cheetah, wearing the same outfit. Weird.
Longtime owner Hilly Kristal plans to move the club, urinals and all, to Las Vegas. This is either a really bad idea, or a stroke of genius. I kind of like the idea of the hoards of WalMart habitues wandering into a Bowery scum pit. The mind boggles.
FYI, the name "CBGB & OMFUG" stands for "Country, Bluegrass, Blues & Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers."
My last visit there was back in the late 70s/early 80s for the Tuff Darts and The Shirts. Sitting at a table directly in front of the stage, I was so wasted I put my head down and fell asleep, even though the volume could shatter glass.
Yeah, and while you sleeping I pissed in your beer. You didn't seem to notice when you woke up.
Links to this post: