Will CBGB’s Ever Really Come Back?

News comes that CBGB’s will be revived as a festival and then a club. Investors and even old CBGB’s hands will try to bring it back to life. Whether it will be a glorious resurrection or a Frankenstein-type thing remains to be seen. CBGB’s couldn’t shine Max’s Kansas City’s shoes on most nights, but it was where I gathered to shoot the shit, mingle, and find love. It always had new blood, new wannabe groupie-types being bad in the big city. Yeah, back then I was always looking for love in the wrong kind of places…and in the wrong kind of faces.

It was long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I was at the Academy of Music—now the Palladium Housing on 14th street where Irving dead-ends. I weighed in at a buck 35, wore ripped jeans, pointy boots, and a Ramones T-Shirt; no, not one of the ones you see every day on today’s streets designed by brilliant Ramones artist Arturo Vega—it was a T-shirt an actual Ramone had worn at a show. Yeah, I had washed it, and, yeah, I was down with that. I can’t remember the big band on the big stage, but I know I was bored. So bored that I did a line with an annoying Staten Island couple. It wasn’t coke. I didn’t do much coke or any other drugs for that matter, but I knew this wasn’t it. What it was made me loopy. I ran home. Home wasn’t my walk-up in the ’30s but CBGB’s. It was there that I would hang my head and bop my head and conduct a very raw social life. I was a regular. A regular that was the subject of much debate from parental units, and old friends but rock and roll is a drug I have never been able to get off of. A couple weeks before at the dirty, dingy, rock mecca, Marky Ramone had noticed some suits watching some mullet hair-band. He pointed out the way they were standing was in the formation of bowling pins and he attempted to strike with a trademark large beer mug. I got him away before it was eight on two, which would have turned into thirty on eight, as the cavalry surely would have arrived. It was like that.

I arrived at CB’s on wobbly legs and a confused brain. I told Don, the door guy, the condition my condition was in. He put me up against a wall and told me to stand there so he could keep an eye on me. A Coke kept me occupied. As the world swirled and a rotten band screamed about how bland their suburban lives were, I noticed two hot girls chatting about me with Don. It was all eye contact, giggles, and fun, and I wanted one of them more than the Coke and the wall. The small one, all leathered and laced and bursting with…energy, came up to me and pressed up against my punk profile. Sharp black nails made her point. She looked up at me with black eyes surrounded by smeared black makeup and asked me, "Are you some sort of rock star or something, or are you just good in bed?” I replied very cleverly that "I was no rock star" and she concluded that I "must be good in bed" I won’t bore you with the next few hours. It was a typical CB’s story. A typical wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am story. My golden rule of the time was to never, ever go home with a girl whose hair could hurt you. But…rules were made to be broken. The Bowery was a littered shoreline of broken rules and hopes and dreams.

Sure, some came for the bands, and a few among the thousands who came and had their dreams shattered on the rock chops of that Manhattan stage did break on through to the other side. You know their names—they are legendary. Everyone came through CBGB’s. The good, the bad, and the ugly all had their place.

A hundred places still have a stage and a room and the ambitions to replace it, but none have come close. None had Hilly Crystal. CBGB’s without Hilly is like Casablanca’s Rick’s Café American without Humphrey Bogart’s Rick. Clubs have leaders and personalities at their helm. McDonald’s can fly without Ray Kroc and Kentucky Fried without the colonel, but Studio without Steve Rubell was never Studio. John Varvatos occupies the old space and does so without being an occupier or invader. When CB’s ended over a rent dispute, it wasn’t near as relevant as the T-shirts still seen everywhere. Everything looks good after it’s gone. Shoot, when Jim Croce died he sold zillions of records. Everyone needed his junkyard dog track after he passed—not so much before.

The CBGB’s Festival talk is about Guided By Voices and that’s a wow. Three-hundred bands will play NYC venues large and small in a CMJ Music Festival-like format. The Cro-Mags will headline a hardcore show at Webster Hall. Williamsburg venues will be included. It sounds like a great idea. Time will tell whether it will just be a bunch of entrepreneurs picking at the bones of a brand or if Hilly’s spirit will somehow be felt. Will the new CBCB’s venue capture that spirit? Is it possible to recreate spirit? I remember all those lame attempts to recreate Woodstock, which of course never happened. The energies of places happen organically. I hate that phrase—it’s so fucking crunchy—but in this case I think it applies.

The success of CB’s, the spirit of it, came of course from the boldface bands that made it famous, like The Ramones, The Talking Heads, Blondie, The Police, and such. I believe that a great deal of its spirit came from the forgotten bands who put it all in what sometimes was the pinnacle of their careers, even though their audience was sometimes nothing more than bored staff and a few drunk regulars. They had loaded up the van with dreams of super stardom and stadiums and all the trappings of fame riding with them. They mostly left those dreams and that energy and their hopes on that stage. It remained there, and those who paid attention could feel it like grandmother’s ghost at Thanksgiving dinner. How many hundreds of thousands loaded in and out? How many trips home were in silence or heated arguments? Everyone left a little behind. I suspect that the rebirth will be merely OK. It’s hard to make money on live music, so there’s a danger that the place will just flitter into a glorified T-shirt store for the tourist trade. I don’t think it will do well if it tries to go back. Tim Hayes, a principal, said somewhere, “We want to make room for some of the legends that came from CBGB, but the primary focus is to support new music.” I think that makes sense and could turn that OK into a WOW.

They’re looking to buy a building so that they aren’t plagued with big rents when they reestablish the big brand. A rent increase closed CBGB’s a year before Hilly passed. All the king’s horses came to perform at benefits to keep it going, but the neighborhood had changed and is now home to new high-rises, fine dining, and scenester bars. Only Bowery Electric, a handful of panhandling stragglers, and a sign that calls second street Joey Ramone Place remind passers-by of the glory. I can’t see neighborhoods in Manhattan relishing this type of venue near their bedrooms and suspect Greenpoint or Williamsburg will provide the answers. Manhattan and certainly the Bowery are not the creative cauldrons that fed the CB’s scene. Brooklyn can provide that.

The Virgins are Set to Play CBGB Festival

BlackBook favorites The Virgins are having a busy year, having just released their new seven-inch EP Venus in Chains. The band’s currently recording their new record. More importantly, the New York-based band has signed on to play the first-ever CBGB Music Festival, a show that will take place on July 6 at Bowery Electric in the East Village.

The festival, which runs from July 6 through July 8 at over 20 different venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn, will also feature acts such as Wyclef Jean, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, and Guided By Voices. Appreciating the other mediums that go hand-in-hand with rock ‘n’ roll, the festival also features two days of film screenings and a full day of spirits tastings.

Check out the full line-up for the festival here, and you can take a listen to The Virgins’ new single, “Venus in Chains,” below!


Honorable Rock and Roll: This Weekend’s Benefit for Lucinda’s Kids

Most of us worry about jobs, dating, world affairs, and such; we go to sleep at night and we wake up the next day….we get through. For some, the pressures become too great – whether real or perceived – and they check out. The choice to commit suicide often leaves us stunned and helpless. For loved ones left behind, it is a defining moment that is impossibly hard to understand and move on from. I, unfortunately, have lost a few to suicide. Recently, a life-long friend of mine Alex Gubbiotti took his life. I was, and remain, caught up in a cycle of "what if’s", "if only I had’s, “I should have’s,” and other feelings of helplessness, guilt, and sadness. I can’t imagine what the children of Lucinda Gallagher have gone through. Lucinda was described to me as "a 37-year-old super music fan from Hoboken who took her life in December." The rock and roll community is rallying to raise money at a two-night Bowery Electric benefit. 

One hundred percent of the money raised will go to a trust fund for her children and The Samaritans of New York, a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline. Gillian Stoll alerted me to the benefit. She said, "We want to make it clear that the focus is on her children and their future. The last thing we want to do is to glorify suicide or give anyone the impression that it offers an easy solution to life’s hardships. While this is a great event, the struggle and sadness that these kids are faced with far outweighs the fun that can be had at a concert. No matter how alone you might feel, there’s a community out there and there are people who want to help before it’s too late."

The line-up for the two nights is impressive:

Sunday, April 29, doors at 6 p.m.
Jesse Malin
Wille Nile
Jimmy Gnecco & Dave Milone
Jim Boggia
Aaron Lee Tasjan (The Madison Square Gardeners)
Petter Ericson Stakee (Alberta Cross) Buy tickets.

Monday, April 30, doors at 7 p.m.
Tommy Stinson (The Replacements)
HR (Bad Brains)
Alan Vega (Suicide)
James Maddock
Aaron Lee Tasjan Buy tickets.

Tickets are $20 and there will be an auction as well. Auction items from Fender, Mary Louise Parker, Danny Clinch, John Varvatos, Bob Gruen and many, many more will be soon up online – check the Facebook page for details. Certain auction items, as well as raffle items, will be up at the concerts only.

Jim Boggia added: “Honestly, this cause would be well worth your support even if the bill wasn’t that great, and this show would be a great one to come to even if it weren’t helping some incredible people. This show does both.”

I asked organizer Harry Greenberger and Bowery Electric owner/rock star Jesse Malin some questions:

Why are you doing this?
Harry Greenberger: Our friend Lucinda tragically took her own life. Those of us who knew her, many of us in a particular NY music scene, saw our thoughts immediately shift to those who we could still help Lucinda’s two teenage kids, both of whom are amazing kids: strong, smart, witty and, like their mom, obsessed with music. Nobody who knew them doubted that we had to do what we could. A portion of the proceeds will go to The Samaritans of New York, but most will go directly to making Lucinda’s kids’ lives better in any way we can.

Jesse Malin: Part of my experience over the years with rock and roll music is that it has a great connection to its community. There is a real give and take between the performer and audience. After hearing the news of this awful tragedy, I couldn’t help but think of her two children and what it must be like for them. When I learned of their financial situation, I felt a need to do something to help these kids. As someone who lost his mom at a young age, I could relate on some level and wanted to contribute through my music.

Who was she? What is the meaning of all this effort and talent and use of the space gathering around Lucinda?
HG: Lucinda was a wonderful woman, but the focus of this event is on the children – to pool all of our resources and try to restore options to the lives of her surviving kids. This benefit is not a tribute or memorial to Lucinda; that deserves to happen but will be another day.

JM:Over many years of playing music and touring the world, you realize how important the fans and the people who really support you are. Lucinda Gallagher was one of those people who traveled around to many shows for the artists that she loved and constantly spread the word about new and upcoming bands as well as established ones. She gave people rides to shows and let people crash at her place even if she didn’t know them. If you were a fan of something she believed in, she opened her doors. These types of people are few and far between in an often superficial show business world. The main focus of this event, though, is not the tragedy that took place in December, but the lives and future of these kids who were left with nothing.

How did this tragedy spur people to do something positive?
HG: The truth is, there are no positive sides of this; there are only less negative ones. We’d all rather have helped Lucinda stay with her kids than to help ease the tragedy afterward, but suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The positive things that have happened are because of who these kids are and that a strong community has risen and come together to protect their interests, but there’s no doubt that we cannot restore or replace what is lost. We can try to make what comes now better than what came before and we can make sure that these kids know that they are not alone.

JM:Music is what brings us all together, and rock and roll – being sometimes and somewhat outside of mainstream society – is still a great way to give back and take care of each other in times of need. Many of the artists that she would go see regularly and people that worked for them – from roadies to managers and good friends –  want to get together to raise money for the children who are left in a very tight spot financially and, of course, emotionally. If we celebrate with music most of the time, we also can use it to mourn and see and heal our problems.

How did you get these musicians together?
HG: Largely due to my years of working with Jesse Malin and his efforts as well, we had access to a number of very talented musicians. Those who knew Lucinda and those who never did stepped forward and have given of themselves and their time to this great cause. We’ve established a foundation to build on towards the kids’ future.

JM: Harry Greenberger, my one-time stage manager, guitar tech, and good friend, was persistent and dedicated to making this happen any way possible, as well as several of Lucinda’s friends. There were many musicians who knew her and others that, just hearing this tragic story, wanted to pitch in and be a part of it. I think it’s a great mix of some of my favorite artists, friends, and heroes.

Russell Brand, Knitting, & Playboy: Your Wednesday Night Guide

The place to go tonight is Restaurant i at the NY Charles Hotel in Flatiron, where BlackBook will be toasting the newest opening in our nabe (our office is conveniently located just around the corner). The lowercase “i” doesn’t mean you should bring your iPad – owner Charles Chong credits the casual lettering to the Korean word for “the dreams that children carry.” In any case, if you’re out tonight, and in the mood to party hop, here are some of our favorite Wednesday night extra-curriculars.

Random Awesomeness

David Mamet, A Life in Film Mamet will discuss his career in film and theater. Time: 7:00pm-9:00pm Location: New School Tishman Auditorium, 66 W 12th St New York, NY

Russell Brand @ Barnes & Noble in Union Square The popular actor and comedian returns with his second volume of memoirs, My Booky Wook 2. FREE Time: 7PM Location: Barnes & Noble 33 East 17th Street

Booze and Yarn The old two-stick stumble of knitting made better by drunken encouragement. FREE Time: 7PM- 10PM Location: Arlo and Esme


The Postelles, Ambassadors, Jangula Time:8:00 PM Location: The Bowery Electric

Jimmy Eat World, We Were Promised Jetpacks Time:7:00 PM, $32 Location: Terminal 5

The Thermals, Cymbals Eat Guitars, So Cow Time:7:00 PM, $18 Location:Irving Plaza


Playboy & House of Waris Appearance by Paz de la Huerta and DJ sets by Nate Lowman Time: 8:00pm – 11:00pm Location: Undisclosed (aka, search Twitter).

Fort Greene, Clinton Hill Neighborhood Guide Launch Party BHS Members’ Reception with Francis Morrone celebrates the launch of the neighborhood guide. Time:7:00 – 8:00PM Location:The Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, NY

Party Reunions and Backwards Gossip

“Up is down and down is up,” is Eddie Dane’s cryptic observation from Miller’s Crossing, an early Coen brothers flick. The two sensational clubland cases I written about involving anti-heroes Justin Ross Lee and Tarale Wulff may not be what they seem, as the two are not what they seem to be on the surface. I have had extensive conversations with all parties involved regarding Ross Lee’s big bang-up and Wulff’s class acts. Things don’t seem to be as they appeared in the initial reports. These stories have more legs than a 1Oak cocktail waitress and I’m just dying to tell you, but I can’t say much more as of yet. Except maybe up is down and down is up. I am told things in confidence and being a man of my word, I must wait until I am unleashed to blab.

But I can talk about the weather. As Spring is about to be sprung, the old fogies of my era and those before me are dusting off the pointed boots, ripped jeans and the well-worn leather jacket as reunion parties of long dead clubs are the order of the night. This Thursday we’ll find the legendary Tommy Gunn hosting “a one night stand, 20 years later.” The one night stand will be held at one of the only venues that still holds old-school values, Bowery Electric, the Joey Ramone place on the bowery. Tommy has lined up 10 bands, including New Zealand rockers Electric Mary and local vocals Wild Street. Project Runway’s Stella Zoltis will toss in a fashion show for good measure and go-go dancers are promised. Let’s just hope the dancers are not from the old days. The host committee made up of 24 folks, including myself, Gaslight owner Matt de Matt, Rock photog Bob Gruen, 80’s rocker Sally Cato (Smashed Gladys and The Conchords) and Danceteria’s John Argento. I asked Tommy why he decided to throw a party two decades after his last shindig. His reply: “I wanted to find out if New York City was ready to rock again! I wanted to bring back the magic one more time.”

It might take more than magic to bring back the old days. A crowd that will have to look for their dentures when they’re getting dressed or be literally resurrected might be in order. Luckily young stud promoters like Sam Valentine will ensure a current crop of revelers will join in the throw-back.

A reunion of sorts is now scheduled for Sunday, May 9th for the Danceteria crowd. This unofficial gathering will take place at Aspen Social at 8pm- a starting time that obviously takes into consideration the age of those who will be reuniting. The gathering marks the 30th anniversary of the legendary club, which means most attendees will be in their late 40’s, at best. I did the math.

There are other reunions for Club57 and the Mudd Club. I also I heard of a Cat Club reunion as well. When put into this context, I don’t think I can picture a future where any of today’s clubs would be remembered with such nostalgia and that any of today’s staff and patrons would maintain relationships strong enough to have a reunion 30 years from today. Personally, I never thought I’d survive Tunnel. Maybe I really didn’t?

When the Bowery Was Electric

Some writer way smarter than me once noted, “You can’t go home again.” That’s Thomas Wolfe. I wrote a paper about it in my college days. If I had some time, I would go back to college and get formal educations in writing and design so my editors and partners would have more hair as they age, but what Wolfe said is true. Last night I went home to the Bowery in the early 80s. Back then I weighed in at a buck thirty five, wore ripped jeans, manic-panic pointy shoes, and a well thought out T-shirt. I was working on Wall Street during the day, on my way to becoming a commodities trader, but at night I became a punk rocker. When I DJ, I offer lots of stuff from that era which captured my heart. I bought all those punk anthems new, and many remain at my mom’s house. After quoting Wolfe I’m unclear if I’m allowed to go home to pick them up. Maybe mom will FedEx them. Last night I went to Vera Ramone King’s book release party at Bowery Electric for Poisoned Heart: I Married Dee Dee Ramone; Vera was a wife of my dearly departed friend Dee Dee Ramone.

Jesse Malin and Johnny T’s Bowery Electric is as close to going home as I’m going to get, located a mere second and a half from the street sign dedicated to Joey Ramone (2nd Street and The Bowery) and a half block north of where CBGBs should be. It’s around the corner from the Ramones’ loft where my dog’s godfather and namesake Arturo Vega — the artist who designed all those Ramones T-shirts worn by hipsters and old crows alike — still lives. He also did the lights and taught me showbiz. Bowery Electric is Bowery rock at its purist. Vera’s party was in the upstairs bar where Jon Derian pendant lights gave off kind illumination for the aging attendees. I hadn’t seen Vera in maybe 20-plus years. Back then I’d pick up her and maybe a sister and we would meet Dee Dee at the old Ritz or something like that. She lived in College Point, while I lived in Jackson Heights with Ramones roadie Danny Zykowski. I would stay close with Dee Dee in later years after the divorce as we both lived in the Chelsea Hotel.

Bowery Electric was jammed with a “who’s who was that?” gathering of Ramones followers. Everybody said I looked great, and it felt strange to be like the third-youngest person in a room. I chatted up Monte Melnick, the Ramones’ road manager, who told me about his book, On the Road with The Ramones, now in its third printing. His card has “Gabba Gabba Hey!” printed on it. Photographer Bob Gruen (you know him from his famous shot of John Lennon with sunglasses wearing a T-shirt with “New York City” on it) was accompanied by his brilliant artist wife Elizabeth Gregory-Gruen. Jimmy of Trash and Vaudeville fame was there, and I think he was wearing the same outfit from the last time I saw him back in 1986. Natasha Adonzio, who I produced fashion shows for before back in the day, was telling me she’s re-launching her line of spandex and wanted me to help in show production. I told her, “Spandex is coming back in a big way, but I personally can’t go home again.” Rock comedian Dave Street was there 20 years sober and still writing songs with my old pal Bobby Steele, lead man of The Undead. Their new record — coming out this week — is “I Made a Monster,” with “Sometimes You Gotta Laugh at Yourself” on the flip. These sentiments seem to perfectly describe my recent life, but still I told him I might not be able to go there. I mumbled something about Thomas Wolfe, and he looked at me like I had purple hair.

I watched an elderly woman dancing enthusiastically but alone in the back room. Her purple boa top contrasted brilliantly with her long gray hair. I think “Teenage Kicks” was blaring. She was straight out of hullabaloo or some other show from an even earlier era. Marky Ramone leaned over and said “go-go dancer,” and I turned to hug him. The last of the four Ramones (that I knew) greeted me like a brother. I told his beautiful wife Marion that I’m going to help them with their apartment this very week. It’s in writing, so it must be true. Marky and I talked a little business and reminisced. Some photos were taken, and I chatted up my friend Starr and Sarah from Stay Thirsty magazine. I started to leave as an important BBQ was awaiting. Mickey Hyman, Joey Ramone’s brother, squinted at me, and I said hello. He knew my face but couldn’t remember from where, and I was very relieved. I told him how he might know me, and he said “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” about a dozen times.

Vera was signing books at the front of the joint. She was all decked out in rock and roll finery, chatting up friends as she wrote personalized messages. She was back home once again on the Bowery, armed with tales of her exploits and those of her punk legend husband. A large poster of her and Dee Dee in a different era was easeled behind her, and people were signing it. Back in the day, CBGBs’ walls were adorned with the signatures of the thousands who came through. My name was there in a spot eye-high, to the left of the door going down to the bathrooms. I picked up a sharpie and was about to write something. I looked over at Vera and back at the crowd, and thought maybe old Thomas Wolfe didn’t have a clue. I signed and felt great that I had indeed gone home again.

Industry Insiders: Sandra Ardito, Giving the OK to KO

Sandra Ardito heads sales, marketing and special events for KO Hospitality Management (Cooper Square Hotel, Empire Hotel, Hotel on Rivington, and Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City). We met the hospitality connoisseur at the Cooper Square Hotel to get the scoop on the Hamptons Memorial Day hotspot, the Reform Club Inn (suites and private cottages in Amagansett), working for Ian Schrager, and why we should stay at Cooper Square (besides the fact that it’s the location of the Bjork’s afterparty tonight).

Is this the first hotel KO has developed? No, we did the Empire Hotel on 63rd Street, and we did the Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City for Paul Sevigny and Matt Abramcyk. For those hotels, I would describe us as the hired guns.

Who are the other members of the KO team? Klaus Ortlieb, Yana Yevinson, Meg Burnie, Manuela Kolb, and Annie Ohayon.

How’d you get here? I was the director of special events at Chanterelle. Budgets were $250,000 to a million back then. And while there, I moonlighted by helping people open their restaurants. I opened the Harrison with owner Jimmy Bradley. I met some amazing people, like Joey Campanaro from Little Owl. I was Jason and Jen’s investor at ‘ino on Bedford street. Eventually, Meg Burnie brought me into meet Klaus at the Hotel on Rivington. That’s when I left Chanterelle. My first event at the Rivington was Timothy Greenfield Sander’s XXX Book. Bill Dye called me to be part of Gramercy Park Hotel with Ian Schrager. We opened with the Marc Jacobs party on September 11, 2006, after working for months nonstop. I shadowed Ian for the two nights before we opened the hotel. He had receptions for all of his friends and was surprised at how I knew them. He said, “You are the girl, you are going to do this.” It was like a love letter. And he trained me and nurtured me into this role. Finally, Klaus started KO Hospitality Management about a year and a half ago and asked me if I wanted to be a partner. It was very hard to leave Ian. At KO, we work with owners and developers from ground-up construction. We attaché the restaurant, the architect, the interior designer, and conceptualize the entire project.

Something unique about Cooper Square Hotel? Every book in the Cooper Square hotel was picked through Housing Works, which is a charity for AIDS victims. People can purchase the books and the money will go to the charity. Klaus is a seasoned professional who only takes on projects he believes in. He worked with Andre Balazs and Ian Schrager for years. He wanted the experience at Cooper Square to be completely different, that’s why there’s no reception desk. There’s a lobby host who shows you to your room. It’s about personal attention. Klaus sat on 575 chairs until he choose what he felt was the right one. We’re also building a screening room on the second floor. There’s an indoor/outdoor bar on the second floor as well, and a 3,000-square-foot terrace.

What is your specific contribution? The total experience here. I hand-picked the staff. What Ian and Klaus have given me, I hope to give to someone else.

What’s the next project? We are helicoptering to the Reform Club Inn in Amagansett to get ready to open for Memorial Day weekend.

What music do you listen to? Rock ‘n roll — Iggy Pop, The Raconteurs, Jane’s Addiction.

Favorite artist? Radek Szczesny.

Favorite restaurants? ‘inoteca, Little Owl, and James in Brooklyn

Favorite bar? Royal Oak in Williamsburg, Madame Geneva in the Double Crown and Bowery Electric.

Favorite hotel? East Deck in Montauk for a retro motel and The Crillion in Paris for high-end.

Who do you admire in the business? I grew up reading about Ian Schrager and then had the pleasure of working for him. He hired me to be his director of special events. The man who started the party is looking at me and letting me see his vision. It’s an honor and the best compliment. I also admire Klaus Ortlieb for his loyalty, compassion, and integrity, and Nur Khan for the incredible way he takes care of people

Who do you feel does it right? Joe and Jason Denton of ‘inoteca and Lupa

What’s something people don’t know about you? I’m an avid gardener and spend all my money on plants for my roof deck that I made totally grassroots style with my boyfriend.

What are you doing tonight? Going to Bjork’s concert at Housing Works and then to her after party at Cooper Square Hotel.

Photo: Mike Mabes

Industry Insiders: Johnny T, Cabin Fever

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in New York, you’ve walked into one of Johnny T’s East Village hangs. A staple in the NYC music and nightlife scenes, Johnny recently opened Cabin Down Below, an insta-speakeasy sensation. We sat down for an afternoon cocktail in the basement of his bar Niagara, source of many rock n’ roll memories.

What bars do you claim as your own these days? Black & White, Niagara, Bowery Electric, Cabin Down Below, and Pizza Shop.

How’d you become the East Village guru? I started hanging in the East Village when I was 16, working for artist Mark Kastabi. My first bartending job was at Ludlow Street Café, an after-hours café. I went to work at 2 a.m. and left by 8 in the morning. It was my first introduction to bartending and New York nightlife. I had my first bar upstairs at 2A, a local hangout on 2nd Street and Avenue A. By this time, I knew I wanted to start up another bar too. Along with Michael Sweer, who owns Bowery Presents, and Laura Fluto, we found a tiny place called Walley’s, which eventually became Niagara & Tikki Bar. I also became involved in the Motherfucker events, another collaborative party project that I participated in for years, throwing massive downtown events with Michael T, Justine Delaney, the booker at Le Poisson Rouge, and George Seville, a partner at the Delancey. I opened up Black & White in 2000 with my brother Chris Yerington. After that, Bowery Electric in 2008 with Jesse Malin and Mike Studo. My newest projects are Pizza Shop located next to Niagara and Cabin Down Below, which is my new underground speakeasy-style bar, opened in January with Matt Romano.

You’ve been a staple of this neighborhood forever — what’s your secret? My secret is perseverance and the people that are always around me. Whether they are the employees or the people that hang in my bars, I always try to focus on a great crowd. I want people that wanna have fun and come together for a good time. I found a way to do what I love and make a living. I’ve been playing drums since I was 15 and bartending since I was 18. Having a bar where bands can play, and where local and touring musicians can come and hang was the dream. Being a touring musician for many years too, I met all these people all over the world. I wanted to set up a real rock n’ roll bar. My secret weapon is the music. Rock n’ roll DJs and music are at all my places seven days a week. It’s all about the rock n’ roll lifestyle: making music, getting messy, and getting laid.

Any side hustles? I’ve been a drummer forever. I used to play in a band called Clowns of Progress … we all lived in the “Big Clown House” on Avenue B. I also played with Ryan Adams for a couple years, recording and touring with him. Now I’m in a band called Pop Girls Etc., one of the best projects I’ve been involved in. We’re all music geeks trying to cram a lot of influences into one. We‘re in the studio now and about to release a single in the UK, which Jesse Malin is producing.

What are your favorite hangs? It’s very rare that I’m not in one of my own bars. The drinks are free.

Anyone in the industry that you look up to? I have a great deal of respect for anyone that takes on this industry. I mean it’s fun, but it’s hard work to make something last. Anyone with a enough money and a publicist can have a bunch of celebrities parade around and open a venue for a year or two, but it will always be a flash in the pan. It’s the exact opposite of what I’ve done: start from the ground up, grassroots style. Know your neighborhood and the locals. I have a lot respect for my peers, but I pretty much just jumped into this … so to be standing here now, I feel grateful to still be carrying the torch.

What people have come into your bars? Of course I’ve had a lot of great people in my bars, but I hate to drop names. The reason I still have high-profile patrons is because we have a no rope policy, no bottle service, and we don’t tell magazines what celebrities have come through our doors.

What’s on the agenda for 2009? We’ve renovated Tikki Room downstairs at Niagara, and the gallery upstairs. We’ve also expanded Bowery Electric and opened the downstairs there.

What’s your favorite destination? Hawaii.

What are you doing tonight? Going to Bowery Electric.

Guiltiest pleasure? Late-night food runs to Blue Ribbon. What’s your dream spot for a project? I kinda have my dream spots already … this was an accidental occupation. I never wanted to open bars; it was a means to an end. It was so I could go out and drink, play drums, and make money.

Dave Delzio Brings Back Rock ‘n’ Roll

There’s an exploding rock ‘n’ roll scene in New York City; bands are banging everywhere, and there are more than a few options every night for this vibrant community. I was at Bowery Electric last week for the Bloody Social gig and found a super-hot following of rock models and scenesters mixed with a crowd from the Max’s Kansas City era — old-school rockers that I hadn’t seen in years were everywhere. Dave Delzio is making moves and is a force in this new rock social scene. He’s involved with the post-Snitch rock Mondays at Greenhouse — which are absolutely kicking — and is about to start a Wednesday night slated to run like the long-lasting weekly party at Marquee, which for me was the sole reason to be there. After talking about tattoos — he gets his done over at North Star Tattoo by Becca Roach, and we decided that he’s going to hook me up for my first ink job — we managed to get in a quick chat about the projects he’s currently working on.

Are you a club promoter? Is that what you would call it? I actually own an entertainment company called Rock Box Entertainment, and I just partnered with MoodSwing 360, which is an entertainment talent agency co-owned by Ricky Greenstein and Johnny Maroney, who book DJs and live acts. I’m coming in to bring more live acts and a different dimension to the agency — bringing more of the rock side into it and just expanding upon what they have. Right now we’ve got everybody from the Good Charlotte boys — Joel and Benji Madden — to Tommy Lee, DJ Enferno, The Crooklyn Clan, and a whole mix of artists.

So your focus is on booking talent? Right now I’m getting into a lot of concert production, and the main focus of my business is producing major events.

Where are you throwing events currently? We’re finishing up with SXSW, and then we’ll be working on the Winter Music Conference and the Coachella festival. My partners are down in Austin for SXSW now, and I’ll be heading down to Miami for the WMC this week.

What are you guys doing at the WMC? We have a few things going on: we’re doing the Moodwing360 party with all our artists, the pre-record release party at the Fontainebleau for LMFAO, who have their single “I’m in Miami Bitch” all over the radio; we’re hosting Samantha Ronson, DJ Chachi, and DJ Enferno at the Gansevoort rooftop pool on the 26th and a few other events.

So what are you trying to accomplish at these music festivals? We’re trying to establish the brand, market our talent, and find the next big artists to come out. We’re good at finding new, great talent.

In addition to that, you’ve used your connections to promote certain party nights in New York. What joints are you working at right now? With MoodSwing, we’re programming the talent on Tuesdays for Cain — we’ve had DJ Riz, DJ Chachi, and DJ Inferno recently — Sundays at Southside, and I’m looking forward to starting the new party at Greenhouse on Wednesdays. We’re going to program good DJ talent in there and have a mix of uptown and downtown promoters, so there’s a nice, cultural mix of pretty people — an upscale, sexy crowd with an edge.

So you’re going to be bringing in talent and all of your rock ‘n’ roll friends? I’m excited about it. I want to make it like the nights at Marquee from the get-go — that rock ‘n’ roll vibe, but still upscale and classy. Wednesday nights were always a cool night.

Why Wednesday? Wednesday is good, but I think it’s always been a tough night. Yeah, if you don’t have a great party, no one’s going to come out, but it reminds me of Disco 2000 and Marquee Wednesdays, which were always great. Generally speaking, it’s an industry night. Monday used to be the industry night, but now everybody goes out on Monday. For example, our Monday night parties at Snitch. That was a party that lasted for a long time; it was its own beast. It grew horns, and we took it on for a long time.

I’ve been making statements in my column saying that I don’t think there are really any great clubs, but I do believe that there are some great nights. In my opinion, the rock ‘n’ roll nights are banging, like the Monday nights over at Greenhouse. I stopped by Lit on Wednesday night with my buddy, and although Lit has been around for awhile, it’s still great. You go in there and it’s a hip-hop vibe, with model girls standing around and rockers all over the place. And also, if you look at a lot of the new clubs opening up now, you can see that the bottle service is really starting to swing. I’ve heard clubs are opening up and instead of bottle service, they’re offering pitchers of alcohols now.

The rock ‘n’ roll scene seems to be thriving; there are a lot of great bands being booked, concerts are selling out, and the scene is vibrant — it reminds me of the early 80s in this town. I’m working with a lot of bands right now. I’m currently managing a band called The Dirty Pearls — they’re headlining and selling out the Bowery Ballroom every time they play. And we’re touring with Brett Michaels this weekend for the Rock of Love tour, doing the opening act for that. We have a lot of really interesting things coming up, and I think that during the recession times, the rebel mentality really starts to come back. I live in the East Village, and if you walk down the street now, it seems like it’s getting back to where it was in the early 90s a little bit.

Yes, I think there’s a rebirth of nightlife — certainly in the rock ‘n’ roll community. If you’ve noticed, even in the John Varvatos store which moved into the CBGBs space, there’s now a monthly rock ‘n’ roll party where we’re having New York City bands perform and then do the after-party at Bowery Electric.

The rock community has never been rich — it’s a lot of people who are trying to make it, so they don’t necessarily suffer in this recession. As traditional ways to make money diminish, I think this scene is expanding and become much more vibrant. New York definitely took a break from the rock scene for a long time with bottle service; the lounges took over Manhattan for a long time, and it’s good to see it come back again. But you can see the change now, because every DJ mixes at least some kind of mash-up of rock ‘n’ roll in their sets now — even the old DJs who were playing nothing but hip-hop and house are playing rock ‘n’ roll now.