Don Hill Memorial Show Lineup, Rocco Ancarola Recovering

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Christmas is like tomorrow, and the mayhem in the stores and in our brains has us desperately searching for that perfect gift for our imperfect friends,relatives and lovers. A pair of tickets to the December 15th Don Hill tribute gala at Irving Plaza, albeit a little early, will serve your rocker friends well. The event is being spearheaded by Trigger, a fixture in the NYC rock scene. He’s the guy you always see wearing the conical hat mostly associated with rice paddies.

Trigger owns Continental on the Bowery at St. Marks, that 5 drinks for $10 place. Continental used to book bands, but it’s hard to make money in that game, and the crazy drink special thing seems to work. Don Hill booked bands at his wonderful Soho dive club. He passed in March. It was a sudden exit for one of the finest gentleman around. His glorious spot Don Hills is shuttered without a viable replacement.

The tribute for Don Hill is getting bigger, with a lineup that just added New York Dolls front man David Johansen and The Psychedelic Furs’ lead singer Richard Butler and the infamous Jayne County and a special Squeezebox performance. There will be more "ands" as the date nears.  Those already slated to perform include Jesse Malin, Lenny Kaye, Dick Manitoba (featuring members of The Dictators), actor Michael Imperioli’s band La Dolce Vita, Adam Bomb, Bebe Buell Band, Daniel Rey, Trigger’s All-Stars, and Miss Guy (Toilet Boys), along with special appearances by Michael Schmidt (Squeezebox), and Mistress Formika. The event — "A Celebration of the Legendary Don Hill" — will gather those of us who have been dispersed into some strange rock purgatory devoid of a watering hole with a stage. It and Don were always there to provide the goods and scratch our hard to reach itches. Don Hill provided that joint for us for decades. Trigger says,"Don was a mentor to us younger club owners by example without even realizing it. He was simply the classiest and sweetest guy in the business, period. Don always had such an abiding love of the music and the artists that played it."

Hundreds of people turned out for Don’s memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street, and there is an independent film in the works. Tomorrow I will talk to a few of Don’s closest friends about his love for all things rock, for the thousands he served and the impact he had on us all. Click here for tickets to the memorial show.

On another note, our prayers go out to Lavo’s Rocco Ancarola, who is hospitalized after emergency heart surgery. It was reported that he was hit by an aortic aneurysm while arriving at Lavo where he is a partner and ultra host. He is friends to all that go bump in the night but enemy to paper napkins which he constantly tosses in the air for affect. Before Lavo, he was the grand pooba at Pink Elephant. Facebook friends who have visited him report that "the operation was successful, he is in stable condition and recovering, but he is still under a medically induced coma."

Remembering Don Hill with a Few of His Closest Friends

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Yesterday we talked about the incredible group of musicians gathering this Thursday for the Celebration of the Legendary Don Hill, the deceased owner of the club that bore his name, but rarely bored anyone. Rock royalty will show and renew their vows at this Irving Plaza event. A couple of weeks ago, I sat at a back table at Continental, Trigger’s Bowery and St Marks booze box, and discussed with Don Hill friends Michael T, Michael H, Queen V and Steven Blush, what the man meant to them in life and now in eternity.

Things got a little dicey as a tale of the joint’s demise and its effect on Don were talked about. It’s a tale of the business struggling to get up on its own two feet, but unfortunately stepping on a lot of toes in the process. The Irving Plaza gala will be talked about for years. The rockers will give it their all for love of Don.

Don Hill has passed, and a lot of people are getting together to celebrate his life. Since Don Hill went down, there’s not as many places where we can all gather. And let’s face it, Don Hill owned the place. He booked it, he answered the phones, and, we suppose, at the end of the night swept up the place. He was that kind of guy, and we all loved him. Let’s talk about who he was to each of you. Michael T, tell me why you’re involved in this event, and what did Don Hill mean to you?
MT: I met Don back in the eighties at Cat Club when I was very young. He opened Don Hill’s in the early nineties, and I was one of the first persons to perform there. Later, in the second run of Don Hill’s, I started to do my party, Rated X, there. It was really the first time that Don and I had worked together on a regular basis. It was super easy. Don was always the same. He was Don. It’s so rare in the business to have someone that’s just steady, where you know what you’re going to get out of him. We had a great working relationship, and a comfortable personal relationship. He was a straight shooter.

Michael H, how’d you meet Don?
MH: I met Don when Cat Club started to hire rock and roll bands. They were just experimenting. They’d just started this live performance rock and roll thing there, with Don Hill running the show. I remember him being this sweet guy, talking to me when I wasn’t even in the band. I was just there to do their sound checks and to see what the action was. I was very young as well, maybe a little older than Michael T, but Don was right away just a gentleman, very accommodating to someone just sitting in the corner. Don took care of me that evening, and I always remembered that. Coming back to Cat Club through the years, he was always the same guy, always caring if you had a drink, if you didn’t have enough money. Don was always making sure you had a drink in your hand and a smile on your face. As the years rolled on, we were one of the first bands to play Don Hill’s club. Instead of bothering him, he was calling us offering us gigs. In New York, you’d have to pull teeth to get shows. Don wasn’t that way. He handled his club a whole different way, in a manner of that you’d get a good slot, and you’d play, and he’d make it up to you if something happened. Down the road, Don was a big fan of what I was doing, and offered to manage my band, Bender. Bender got signed with a Columbia and Sony records, and he was very excited to have that accomplishment, that he’d helped out from the ground up. He was just so supportive of musicians who were struggling, who lived in this sort of environment of this city where it’s difficult to afford to put a band together.

As a guy who operated a bunch of joints, he made it look easy and it isn’t easy.
MH: One thing about Don was he was in it for the spirit of the music. He was never really into the money-making side of it. Don could have branched out a bunch of Don Hill’s probably, but he just kept it quiet.

Queen V. Who was he to you, how did he touch your life, and maybe to ask a hard question, what’s it like to not have him around?
QV:
How much time do you have? Let’s break that up into three parts. Don Hill was a person, he was my friend, he was my brother, he was my mentor. He was there for me through thick and thin. Coming up as an artist in New York, he was my lookout on the west side. You had CB’s on the east, and Don Hill’s on the west. I didn’t know him as long as these guys did, but in the early 2000s, I was oohing and aahhing more than performing on stage. Don was very supportive. He was always open to a new idea. He let me do whatever I wanted performance-wise. I think the most important thing to me about Don Hill, besides the fact that he was a hell of a guy, was he let me cut my teeth on his stage and in his club. Through the Bitch nights, the Rock Candy parties, and having my band perform there in all kinds of other incarnations, it was a place that, as I’ve told Steve Blush before, it became my church. It became the place I could go and work out the  demons, worship the lord I know as rock n roll, as corny as that sounds, and really work it out, get ready for other cities, other stages, bigger places, and hone what it is that I do, what I consider my life’s work.

I guess in rock it’s great to be a success, but being a rocker is its own success, almost like a religion. To people like me, who can’t listen to anything else unless I have to, and we all have to, we find purity in a small band. There’s a moment unlike any other moment when you see a young band coming up, a band that’s been trying and trying to make it, and all of a sudden it’s clicking. It’s an amazing moment. Don lived for that moment. He was not necessarily the boss, he was one of us.
QV:
He was. And with his own little sprinkling of Nashville in there, his bandana, his whole thing, he made you feel like a success. That you were successful at what you were doing, that it was working. He really gave a sympathetic ear, little bits of advice. He was just there for you in every way.

Steve Blush, you’re a music guy. There was a time when Don, to make money, moved into hip-hop. It really wasn’t his thing, but he had to make money. So there was a lack of purity there. I guess I want to address with you, not only your own experience with him, but also the rebirth of Don Hill’s, the hope that he had in that second incarnation, the last incarnation, with Nur and Paul Sevigny.  
SB:
We haven’t talked about this before, but what we all share is that Don was so much more than a club owner. I never had a relationship with anybody who was a club owner like I had with him, and I’m sure everybody feels the same. His purity was almost corny, almost unhip, but most people didn’t get it. To me, that was like the ultimate hip. It was all about music and art. At his funeral there was like a thousand people that showed up, bikers and drag queens and suits and rockers.

I first started working with him when I came back to New York in the mid-eighties, and I was tied in with the hardcore punk scene. I booked Monday nights with Carlo McCormick over there for a couple years. I would get the Butthole Surfers, and he would get Lydia Lunch, and Don was just cool with the whole thing, until I put in GG Allen, who shit on the stage and threw it at the crowd and got me fired. It ended up as this big story, and Don was not even that upset with me. We maintained a friendship. Pat Kenny wanted to kill me, but our friendship never wavered. No matter what shitty club we were doing, he’d always show up. But the thing about the remake of the club, I have a sadder view of it. I feel like that’s not what he wanted.
MH: I think we all felt that way.

I didn’t feel that way. I was under the impression he was happy.
MH: Absolutely not.

Okay, then let’s get that out.
SB: I know deep down that’s what he didn’t want. That’s not the kind of club he wanted it to be. He was coming from a different angle, and he was the only club owner coming from that angle.
MH: A church is a place of worship, it’s not a place of greed. Well, I shouldn’t say that. But, ideally speaking, I feel the same way as Steve Blush. I knew the owners, and I knew what they were hoping for and promised. It came out electric. They had a killer week, which was amazing, but I think it was more than some of them could chew as far as the business side. Don didn’t really have an office, he had a little place where he answered the phone, like his little cave. The cave got taken over. I feel that’s what Don lost. He lost his little basement. It became more of a business center.

There’re so few rock clubs, and of course, the reason for that is that it’s really hard to make money booking bands. We’re sitting in Continental, which no longer has bands, because Trigger couldn’t make money with bands. He makes money with five shots for ten bucks. The reality of the situation is that Don wasn’t booking hip-hop anymore, and there were Iggy Pop and Hole on stage. In a sense, there was a chance. It only lasted a year, but there was a chance that it could find its own feet.
MT:
But it didn’t last a year. It only lasted maybe six months, at best. 
MH: And a lot of those bands just played on high, high, expenses.
MT: They were bought for Fashion Week.
MH: It was a De Leon tequila week. They brought in a hundred grand, or whatever it was. They could afford those names.

So it lost its purity.
MH:
Totally. Those shows were bought. Those shows weren’t like the ones when you would have Green Day or whoever come because it was Don Hill’s and they wanted to be there. I had heard that you wrote something about the new takeover, and when I heard about the new players involved…

Nur Khan and Paul Sevigny.
MT:
The word Kahn [con] would be the most appropriate.

Is that a Star Trek reference or do you mean “con”? We can go there.
MT:
They’re friends of mine, as you know.

And friends of mine.
MT:
I just don’t think those guys are the right representation of Don Hill’s because they go into a place and they do their thing. Their thing was nowhere nearwhat Don’s thing was.
SB: Opportunity.
MT: Thank you.

But that’s sort of like people defining you by the last girlfriend rather than the one you’re sleeping with now. Maybe Don needed the new girlfriend to survive, and survive is what he did. Maybe it was a means to survive. And it’s not necessarily a sell out, but a chance to keep it without hip-hop, without selling out in that way. I mean, at least Paul and Nur are rockers.
SB:
It was kind of like a spiritual thing. There was two kinds of clubs, and Don didn’t represent that other kind of club.
MH: Bottle service.
SB: Yeah, he’s the opposite of that. He’s just about making it almost like a play pen, a cultural center, whatever word you want to use for it.

But with rents and insurance and all that you end up at White Noise  as one of your only options.
SB:
You know what Steven, this killed him. People say all kinds of things, something dirty happened. We all loved the guy, but he died of a broken heart.
MH: Amen.
SB: I don’t mean to be weird about that.

I’ve heard this said.
SB:
I believed in the guy, but he was broken.

So like King Kong, it wasn’t bullets that killed the beast, it was a broken heart?
SB:
That club was his life. He loved what he did.
MH: He didn’t want to be part of the new school.
SB: There are those clubs now, and he didn’t want to be that. He wanted to be where you actually make money, and people buy the drinks, and that’s how he survived all that time.
MT: The Page Six clubs are the six months clubs, or maybe if they’re lucky, the year club. Don Hill’s was the eighteen year club. There’s quite a difference. Frankly, I never saw Paul or Nur or any of those guys in there for the next ten years, at the door, downstairs, in the cave, grueling day after day with Don. I just didn’t see it.
SB: And I think it’s really important for us to do this. Most of us are pretty jaded. At least for me, to show up, it’s just because it’s Don. I mean, I wouldn’t think twice about it.

This is rock and roll royalty, New York City, right here. Queen V, you’re involved with this event. When the music’s over, and they turn up the lights, are we all going to be sad or happy, at then end of the night?
QV:
I think it’s a bit of both. I miss Don, I miss him all the time. I miss going to the club. I miss running into various knuckleheads there. I’m not looking at Michael T. I was doing a party there the last couple years called Take Back New York because I was tired of the bottle service clubs. I wanted to do my own night, I was tired of complaining about not having a night to go to. I tried to pass on what I had absorbed from Steve and Motherf*cker and growing up here. So yeah, I miss it. I’m excited to do this at Irving Plaza. It’s a beautiful venue, it’s a historic venue, but I will forever miss the club known as Don Hill’s. That little, proud and pitiful one story shack amongst the high-rise buildings. I think it should be a museum to New York rock and roll. In the end, December 15th will be a night of celebration of the man, all the different people he brought together, all the nights, the artists, the debauchery, the worship, and the love.

Hawaiian Warrior Raven O on Turning 50

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Raven O, best known for his gig as the main MC and choreographer at The Box, is turning 50. I have shoes that are 50 years old so I understand the magnitude of the day and all that it takes to get there. Raven O is marvelous. He is talented and unpredictable and well…delicious. He can turn on a dime from the sweet and innocent imp to the monster we keep bottled up inside. I have caught his act a zillion times on stage or on a street corner or a coffee shop. He is always on. He is the consummate downtown performance artist. You can catch him at The Box, 5 nights a week, Tuesday through Saturday. Some say The Box isn’t what it used to be… what is?…except Raven. I like The Box better now. It’s worn-in and true, like an old leather jacket. It has less to prove and therefore seems more natural, less forced, and not necessarily for the slumming swells that played there way too much for my satisfaction years ago. It’s fun now, especially late at night when it gets real sexy. The Box has always been sexy and I lay a lot of that at Raven’s door. I caught up with the maestro and talked up about the past, present, and future, which includes a celebration at the Lounge at Elmo, 156 7th Avenue between 19th and 20th Street this coming Sunday, June 10th. I think you got to know him but he makes everyone feel like that, doesn’t he?

Turning 50 is a good time to reflect back and to look forward with purpose…it’s like standing on some big hill. Tell me what you see looking back and forward, spiritually, not a list of your accomplishments and goals.
My parents raised me to be fearless, never a follower, and always reminded me to be myself and be honest, above all things. I think that being fearless…being the "Hawaiian Warrior" in me…got me through incredibly tough times in my past which included homelessness, drug addiction, and constant rejection from the mainstream-show-business types. I also feel fearless on stage which has helped my career. Looking forward, I believe that all religion is bullshit and I don’t think about "spirituality." I’m a naturalist. I listen with my heart and try to let my instincts guide me. I’ve learned that if I think too much, I fuck shit up – so I fucked up a lot in my past. I’m much more confident these days in my choices and hope to get through the next 50 years without getting jaded or pessimistic about life.

That last question covers a lot of ground.. let’s talk about how you got here. You’ve certainly followed a road less traveled to the beat of a different drummer. Give us a CliffsNotes version of your career.
I started performing as a child in Hawaii. One of my first paying gigs at 18 was as a male stripper in a women’s only club in Waikiki. I was practically raped every night on stage…crazy bitches! I loved it. Got to New York by winning a dance contest. Limelight was my first job as a go-go dancer…that was awesome! I was a Cat Club dancer. Don Hill gave me that job. RIP Don, great man. Did everything from dancing in contemporary dance companies to singing in hardcore bands to performing in drag shows and acting in feature films. Was homeless sleeping on the streets, a hustler, a drug addict. Did “Bard’O” for 10 years (a cabaret show). Went to Vegas with Cirque du Soleil show Zumanity, and I’m now at The Box NYC and in London.

I caught you at The Box a couple weeks ago. It wasn’t the same but it had a different energy – still a sexy energy. How do you balance the art of what you and yours do there with the plain old shock and awe?
The Box is six years old but I try to always approach it like its opening night. It’s always about "sexy,” not shock. I’m turning 50 but I’m still very much a sexual animal. I would honestly say that I look at everything I do as a performer first on a sexual level and then the rest follows. I have no education in theater and I know very little about literature and art but I feel that’s a plus for me because I have to just go with my talent, instincts, and years of experience. 

When I caught your one-man show about a year ago, I and of course everyone around me were taken by your humble-pie manners and old-world gentlemanly approach to the sleaziest of subjects. Under it all you seethe and boil and are charged with a hard energy to control. This has affected you throughout. Without the bad-boy imp inside and its demands on you, could you be happy and how do you control that monster these days?
Hahaha Steven, you know me so well. I don’t know if I could be happy without that boiling energy. I think it’s that "warrior" part of me. I control it by accepting it as part of my nature and I just try to not hurt people and myself. Being in love has been the greatest blessing. I’m still a hard ass and can go off, but my fuse has gotten much longer as I’ve grow older. Also, it takes much longer for my body to heal from "incidents," like when I started a bar room brawl in Tokyo.

What are you planning and scheming now, and what challenges you?
Honestly Steven, I have no fucking idea! Haha. Fifty years old and I don’t know what’s coming next. That’s what keeps me going…the unknown…that’s the challenge. I do love living on the edge I guess.

From Bartender to Mayhem Man: Talking to Dean Winters

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Dean Winters is living that dream. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, he was a NYC bartender pursuing an acting career. He worked all over town and everybody knew him. He was and still is one of the good guys. In the mid ‘90s he broke out big with numerous TV roles. His Ryan O’Reily character on Oz had me tuning in for years. His Johnny Gavin on Rescue Me kept me glued to the set. Now, because of a TV commercial deal that he almost turned down, he is recognizable to everyone. He is Mayhem, that Allstate gremlin of a man that shows us how dangerous and unpredictable our world can be. He knows a little about that. He had a near-death experience in June 2009 that left him little short in some areas but certainly long in experience and self-awareness. He has always been a friend and supporter of mine, and when he sent me the following e-mail, I gladly gave him this space to tell us all about it:

"Hi, I’m a big supporter of The Heroes Project and I’m excited to finally share the campaign we’ve been working on. I just launched a Wish on Facebook Causes to support the organization. The funds raised will go toward The Heroes Project’s upcoming Indonesia climb with US Army Retired Sgt. Noah Galloway who lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee in an IED attack in Yusufiyah, Iraq. You can check out the Wish page and donate here. This project is near and dear to my heart so I’m trying to get the word out wherever possible. Any love you can show on Facebook or Twitter would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Dean"

How did you get involved with The Heroes Project?
I was introduced to ‘Big Tim’ Medvetz by my L.A. family Richard and Laurie Stark, creators of the Chrome Hearts dynasty, a couple of years back. Tim and I immediately became fast friends. He had been a bouncer at Hogs ‘N Hefers back in the day and a former Hell’s Angel. A number of the Angel’s had been on Oz and I had bartendeded in the clubs so we had immediate common ground. The guy is built like a brick shithouse: 6’5" at around 250lbs – the kind of guy you want on your side, no matter what. Cher, who is also a member of the L.A. family, was an early advocate of The Heroes Project as well, so all of their passion for this project was intoxicating. Having a climbing background as well provided this whole experience for me to be a no-brainer.

What can people do?
People can simply go to The Heroes Project website and donate 10, 20, 50 bucks, any amount helps really, to help fund Tim’s next climb. It is Tim’s sole mission to help restore the confidence in America’s finest young soldier’s after they have suffered these debilitating injuries, by getting them to face their worst fears realized and helping them to climb these peaks all over the world. Watching these young soldier’s summit with prosthetic arms and legs has been a life highlight for me. I’m hoping it will be for other folks as well. Like so many others, you were a bartender in NYC chasing a dream to be an actor. I guess nowadays you are recognized as “that Mayhem dude.” Tell me how you worked at being an actor, your breakout, your career, and where you are going? Also… do you miss bartending sometimes? 
I have had a very rewarding and a very peculiar career, one that I could never have come close to predicting. I have been fastidious to a point of nausea by trying to remain a NY actor. I like L.A. but only for a quick wind sprint, but I also realize that that is really where the business is so I am planning to spend more time there in the future. When we did Oz, which was the first drama series on cable, it was so raw, in-your-face, and new that I think we were all scratching our heads when it was over and thinking “now what?”

Tina Fey and every single faction of 30 Rock has been an absolute gift to me; that cast is one of the fiercest casts in the history of television. So with Oz, 30 Rock, Rescue Me and Law and Order: SVU, I have been spoiled in NYC. Everyone in this business knows that to be spoiled as an actor in NY is the Holy Grail. When Allstate first came to me with the Mayhem campaign, I was reluctant. My smartass answer was no because I became an actor so I wouldn’t have to put on a suit and sell insurance. My dumb ass. My managers – Bill Butler and Sandra Chang – quickly steered me in the right direction. I’m lost without them, and this campaign has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. One of the smartest decisions anyone has ever made for me (wink*). The sheer talent behind the people at Allstate and Leo Burnett (the ad agency out of Chicago led by Britt Nolan) is mind boggling. The creativity in the campaign is beyond what I would ever have expected.

As for bartending, I worked in 17 bars and clubs in the ‘90s. I do miss it sometimes. The music back then – the actual clubs – nothing like that will ever happen again in NY. You can thank the real estate market and a few no-fun politicians for that. With bartending came a certain amount of power and control – two things I am missing in my career these days. It was fun to be the captain of a crazy ship every night, never knowing where your actual destination was or where you were going to possibly be shipwrecked. Wouldn’t trade those days for anything.

I still run into you on occasion at a club or an event. Where do you like to go and what is it about the night that still draws you to it?
It’s always a pleasure to run into you Steve. I feel like I’m not the only one looking around wondering “what happened?” It’s different now, yes, but you have to admire the moves these young guns have made. Richie, Scott, Jason, Noah, Satsky, Ronnie, The SL crew. I mean I remember when those guys all reported to you. Now they have legitimate empires. Very impressive. I’m an old house-head and that music is slowly disappearing into this new horrible cesspool of dance music. You couldn’t fuck with the likes of Junior, Danny, Frankie, Little Louie, Victor, Boris. And sometimes they all played on the same night at different clubs around the city. Insane. I’ll dip into Provac or Pacha for the house. Ritchie, Scott, Noah, and Jason seemed to have pinned down the baby giraffe crew.

God bless Amy Sacco and David Rabin, true warriors if there ever were any in NYC. David was actually the first club owner I ever worked for, back at Rex. I’m also real happy in my hood. A pint of Guinness at Ear Inn suits me just fine these days. Don Hill was a very close friend of mine and his passing rattled NY nightlife to the bone. I truly miss that man. NY is NY though; it is the greatest city on the planet, nothing even comes close. I am very proud to be from here; I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Celebrating Legends Arthur Weinstein & Don Hill

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Today is all about the old school. It would have been the 64th birthday of club legend and dear friend Arthur Weinstein, and tonight a ton of people who are grayer than they ever thought possible will gather for a tribute for the dearly departed Don Hill. This benefit at Irving Plaza will start at 6:30, not only because these days many of us roll that way but also because of the amount of talent that will be hitting the stage to show love. Although this list is likely to be incomplete, the following artists are slated to perform: David Johansen, Richard Butler (Psychedelic Furs), Jesse Malin & the St. Marks Social, Manitoba, Royston Langdon (Spacehog), Lenny Kaye, The Toilet Boys, Daniel Rey, Triggers All-Star Band, Theo, Hired Killers INC., Bebe Buell Band, Adam Bomb, La Dolce Vita (Michael Imperioli), Brucifer & Bitch Band, At War With the 60’s, and Girl to Gorilla.

There will be walk-ons and all sorts of rock-and-roll hullabaloo as a celebration of the life of Mr. Don Hill will require a true to your school rock fest. The pain of our loss is still real. The man and the joint that bore his name will always be impossible to replace. I look forward to seeing faces I haven’t seen in years. Some fool once said "you can’t go home again," and some people believe that shit. Tonight those who were there will return home to gather with their extended NYC rock family. At one point all of us will look at the rafters and smile for Don. At one point all of us will gaze down at the ancient wood floor and drop a tear on it. Irving Plaza has the chops, the credibility to host this gala. We all have seen a lot of great shows in that room. We will all come to praise this Caesar of rock and roll. We buried him months ago. There will much love coming from the stage and around the bars for a man that everyone found easy to love.

After all the bands, speeches, and such, Michael Schmidt will recreate his Squeezebox club night which was as much as a part of Don Hill’s as the tattoo art that he adorned the walls with. That should begin around 1am. Mistress Formika of Squeezebox fame will also host, as will Johnny and Chi Chi of "Mother," Frankie Inglese of "Beahver," and Justine D and Nick Mark of "Tis Was." If you have no idea what I am talking about then I behoove you to come and find out. Don Hill touched and changed the lives of so many. Tonight’s gathering will be all about the love that will never fade.

As I said up top, my dear friend Arthur Weinstein would have been 64 today. I posted this Winnie the Pooh quote on his still very active Facebook page: “If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever”. The first time I saw Arthur was at Danceteria. I was a pay-to-get-in patron of that great old club and I was sitting in the restaurant part of the joint with a couple of friends. Arthur walked in with his beautiful wife Colleen. I had no idea who he was but all eyes were transfixed on the white tux-wearing club mogul. One of the wise guys at my table said "it takes a lot of practice to walk that slow." "What do you mean?" I asked. He explained that Arthur was walking very slowly to make sure everyone saw him and to make sure he saw everyone seated at the tables, acknowledging with a smile or a nod anyone he felt was important. I was intrigued by these thoughts of someone working the room and  endeavored to meet him. It took time and a lot of proving myself, but one day there we were constant friends and co workers. I named my dog after him and Arturo Vega. He was my go-to guy for advice when an honest voice was needed. He would never mince words. So often he would tell me I was fucking up just when I thought I was reaching Nirvana, and he’d be right. Sometimes when I was at my lowest, when the world was doing it’s best to beat me to a pulp he’d lift me to heaven. Not with words of encouragement, but with a couple tickets to a game or by introducing me to some unbelievable character that sold accordians or lived on the streets that he had befriended. When they came for me hard he was my backbone. He could see right through people, show me the worst in the best and the benefits of those I would otherwise ignore. Like Don Hill, we buried Arthur a while back but he still is in our hearts–forever

Money Problems at Don Hill’s, Rock Party at White Noise

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The Don Hill saga continues to get stickier. Rumors and innuendo have become accusations, as unpaid employees left unpaid are increasingly motivated to find a way get paid. I was told that the loot set aside to pay employees was being used to pay huge outstanding debts, like rent and purveyors, and that parties were taking money out of accounts faster than could be put in to pay staff.

In my day, staff money or payroll was put in a separate, untouchable account. According to my source, settlements for unpaid wages were offered—though a small percentage. Fingers are being pointed at every bold-faced name, and words like “thief” and “forgery” are being bounced around. I have heard the word “forgery” twice now, and that is disconcerting. Poor old Don Hill is not around to smile and make it right, so the story keeps going. A close friend even speculated that this whole financial affair—the bursting of the bubble—directly led to his untimely demise.

One former employee told me:

“Every night I worked the place was packed and the bar was doing well. They made a conscious decision to not pay their staff. I personally don’t care why the club closed. An employee is not a bill. I never made an agreement to loan Nur and the gang my services. Where were you born?”

The last part the “Where were your born part” was a result of my defending Nur and Paul Sevigny’s role in the affair, and of course their liability. I left off a great deal of the vitriolic stuff because, after all, children have access to this column. The employee then asked me to help them find a lawyer, and concluded with “anyway, I am devoting my life to this until I am reimbursed.” Speaking of Rock and Roll, Friday night I DJed Luke Brian Sosnowski’s birthday bash. The White Noise co-owner’s bash is one where no one asked me to play GaGa, Jay- Z or Rhianna. White Noise is, of course, a house of Rock and Roll, so there was no need to cart any House tracks either. There is a purity to White Noise’s format, which was obtained in a very short time. They make it look as easy as putting on a leather jacket, uncombing your hair, and finding a cool T-shirt to wear. Friday, the joint was banging, and a state of nirvana was attained (the feeling not the dead band), and you didn’t have to sit in a lotus position or go vegan for a bunch of decades to get there. I went on between 12:30AM and 2AM, joining the regular Friday night DJs including the legendary Michael T., and the fabulous and eloquent Samuel Valentine. Their Friday night soiree is called “The Wild Ones” and according to Sam…

“It is the only rock party in NYC at the moment, that showcases Rock N’ Roll music from the legends to brand-new artists. People enjoy this party in many different ways. For example some girls like to get on the bar and dance, others come to chat, meet new people with similar interest in fashion and music, find that hot rocker to take home, and there are the ones that come to rock out to the music and get wasted. NYC needed to have a rock party with a more modern approach to it rather than concentrate in resurrecting acts that are no longer around all night. Come with an open mind to hear some hits you love, and some new tracks yet-unheard of, which we think you should love as well.”

Check out the images below by Jes Leppard: image image image image

The Legend of Don Hill & The Final Word

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“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” So goes the famous line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. And that’s the way we roll when a legend passes, and such is the legend of Don Hill. We hardly ever dig too deep to find faults, flaws, or the things that define him—up or down—as human. However, recent rumors imply that the joint bearing his name is possibly opening again under “new” management. The implication is that the old management drove the place into dire financial circumstances so that the club was no longer able to continue. This requires a look, as reputations are on the line.

When Don Hills took Paul Sevigny and Nur Khan on as partners last September, it seemed like a second coming—a marriage of heaven and earth. Immediately, mega acts like Iggy and Courtney were banging in the intimate room, and it was déjà vu all over and over again. It was a real rock and roll joint, where true believers could hang their fabulous hats. When it began Don didn’t just go away and let them do it their way. He was there smiling, telling stories, reveling in the renewed fame and possible fortune. He had new life—until he didn’t.

His sudden death shocked us and penetrated our beings on a level unlike most others. Don was the “greatest guy in the world”—a saint who’s sins were amusing and fun, and a big part of the party. I paraphrased another Liberty Valance quote once to describe Don Hill. I said he was “founder, owner, operator, answered the phones, and he also sweeps out the place.” Don was the perfect club owner, everybody loved him.

A bit of time has passed, and the joint has since closed. When I talked to Paul Sevigny, who has created big success out in LA which is now taking up his time, he told me it didn’t feel right without Don. They had had a great run. They had made a statement. I postulated that without Don things would be different with the community, and the landlord and local enforcement. I was told that Martin from the Ear Inn was actually on the license, while Don had the relationship with the landlord covered. I was also told that Don owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent, and to scores of vendors. I asked Nur to comment.

“You will see another live music venue from me. It’s my passion. Don was riddled with debts that kept popping up out of nowhere. I loved the guy but Don’s creditors back from like 2000 who started taking money out of the bank account. When he died we tried to get the lease changed which was being negotiated together while he was alive but were only offered a 1 ½ year lease with a 6 month demo clause. Would have had to pay all Don’s back debts that were way too extensive for such a short-term lease. That, coupled with the fact that we had no idea who was going to come out of the woodwork at any given moment and take money out of the company account, made no business sense to continue. I loved Don and the venue. Yes I’ve had some of the best times in NYC in that room, but I will build another live music/dance room.”

The Nur/Paul/Don Don Hills was a home-run for those into this scene. Nur is right to walk away and to clarify that it was old debt and a changing situation as well as the loss of his old friend that meant the end of this era. Rumors abound of a temporary operator until the landlord is ready to put up hamster habitats in the air space above. I guess going up will bring them closer to the heaven Don dwells in. There is a rumor of a Taco Bell. I think that would be perfect. The city continues to shed it’s nightlife culture to service the high-risers at the expense of the low riders. That’s why Brooklyn was invented, anyway. The Nur/Paul/Don show is over, and the light it shone was a bright, and has left us a little blinded, wandering lost and wondering what can replace it. There’s still places to go and I’ll just pop into Kenmare a bit more to taste the magic until these guys bring it again—together or separately.

Blank City, Tammany Hall, & Don Hill

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Tonight will bring me to Madame Wong’s, that invite-only, pop-up hot spot at 3 Howard Street. It’s an Interview Magazine event for “Blank City,” a feature documentary directed by Celine Danhier. The DJs are JG Thirwell (Foetus), Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), and Dan Selzer (Acute Records). The documentary tells the overdue tale of the disparate crew of renegade filmmakers who emerged from an economically bankrupt and dangerous moment in New York history. In the late 70’s and mid 80’s, when the city was still a wasteland of cheap rent and cheap drugs, these directors — Jim Jarmusch, John Lurie, Jon Waters, Amos Poe, and many others — “crafted daring works that would go on to profoundly influence the development of independent film as we know it.” So the synopsis reads.

The film, it is said, “weaves together an oral history of ‘No Wave Cinema’ and ‘Cinema of Transgression’ movements.” This is a great party, but beware you must be listed. Madame Wong says they hate saying no, but will if you have not RSVP’d. I’m looking for a date so let me know. The film opens April 6th.

On Saturday night I attended a “Good Life Concert Series” event at Tammany Hall. It’s a great place to see a show. I came to see Slick Rick. The event benefited the Fresh Air Fund and was sponsored by Christian Audiger Vodka, and no I wasn’t there solely for the gift bag. I have always adored Slick Rick, and I actually throw in his “Childrens Story” in my DJ set. It’s always a winner. Slick Rick performed 2 tracks, including that one, but hardly moved a muscle. He was anything but slick. Or maybe he was so slick that it went over everyone’s head. Sometimes people refer to me as a legend, and I always quip: “Every time I’m called that I check my pulse.” Slick Rick is a legend, and somebody should check his pulse. Although everyone loved him, he hardly broke a sweat, and then quickly exited through the crowd. He stopped to thank everyone for loving him, and he brought a smile of nostalgia to many faces. I just wish he had offered something new, and maybe swayed a little on stage. My friend, who had recently booked him, says he gets around $1500 for a show these days. He gets that, and my two cents as well.

The services sending Don Hill off to a better place are being held today and tomorrow. They will be for close friends and family, as space is limited. Many who want to attend aren’t going to be able to. There will, I’m sure, be a memorial event where the thousands he touched will be able to attend. I’m still in shock over the loss. There are a thousand Don Hill stories to be told. Facebook friends are offering sympathies and prayers. Eric Foss, artist and Lit owner, summed up this humble, talented, and wonderful man: “Don came to our 9th New Years party. His staff brought him knowing I would be stoked, and I was. He wondered if he could get in and my friends responded that ‘the owner is honored to open his door to you.’ I sure as fuck was! He inspired, employed, and kept the flame of downtown rock and roll alive. He will be missed. He was one of us. He was New York.” When Eric heard the news, he left dinner to get to Don Hill’s, where those who loved him were showing up to share and survive the loss. The dinner he left was with Zack Williams, who owns the gallery where Foss is having his first solo show on September 11th, 2011. At the dinner sat Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, and Billy Crystal. Everything and everyone stopped for Don. All our business, our troubles, our partying took a moment to remember a man who had no enemies, and brought so much to our downtown world.

Paul Sevigny & Nur Khan Talk About the Legendary Don Hill

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A quiet man who made a great deal of noise slipped into eternity yesterday. Don Hill left us in the way he lived, quietly and without fuss or fanfare. His passing showed us all how to go. I rushed to Don Hill’s last night, where friends gathered to support each other, remember and honor. All around, rumors and tales percolated about the circumstances of his passing. It was left to others to figure out how he died, as we all agreed that how he lived was far more important.

I did some math and realized that I must have known him for 30-something years. In a business where a 60% approval or adoration rating is tremendous—and often a great exaggeration—I can honestly say that, in all the time I knew him, I never met a person who didn’t adore Don Hill. When he merged with Nur Khan and Paul Sevigny back in August 2010 I wrote this:

“Don Hill’s was born in April 1993 to much flag waving, fanfare and hoopla. The Smithereens set the tone that night and it has since become a virtual rock and roll hall of fame. Don has booked the joint, hired staff, run day to day and night to night operations, he’s answered the phones and I suspect that on some nights he swept out the joint. He will now be joined by superheroes Nur Khan and Paul Sevigny. They will come in with mad skills, new energy and cash to redux the place. They will merge with Don to create more of the same but even better.”

I had forgotten I wrote it until Brooklyn Vegan referred to it in their post last night. They do a great job. Last night, this piece of news was official, although so many didn’t want to believe it. It was, after all, April Fools Day, and there was the weird coincidence of another Don Hill dying in Kingsport, Tennessee. Was it just a bad rumor—a game? I and many others hit the internet hard to find out. Don Hill, of Kingsport, seemed like a great guy. Hardworking. Loved by all. Kingsport Tennessee is described by it’s Chamber of Commerce as “a beacon of hospitality in an increasingly impersonal world. “ Our Don Hill was also a beacon of hospitality in an increasingly impersonal world. Our Don, I think, would have liked that Don, and I’m sure he would have liked Kingsport too—provided they had a music scene. If they didn’t, he would have brought one there.

My calls to Paul Sevigny didn’t help. He was sure, but not 100%, and this is a 100% sort of thing. But then it was true. Paul called close friends when the hope that it was just an April 1st prank fully faded. Paul said he was “ageless” and asked me what records he should bring to the fast-forming tribute at the club? I told him anything rock. We talked about how loved he was, and how the new incarnation that Paul and Nur brought to Don Hills was a blessing for Don. “All of the wounds were healed all amends were made, he seemed healthier lately. He was getting it back.” We agreed that Don wouldn’t have wanted us crying, at least not alone, and we headed to the club. Paul was organizing a moment of silence at places all around the world.

Nur texted me: “Yes it is (true). I just found out 2 hours ago. Having a tough time processing it. He was a dear friend to all of us for so long. It’s late now, but we’re gonna have a toast and moment of silence tonight, and then I’m gonna figure out how to put the best motherfucking NYC rock ‘n roll tribute show together for him.” He continued: “He was a very dear friend for many years, as he was to any NYC rocker. A true sweetheart, and a gentleman who cared about everyone and everything rock and roll. Maybe this year happened for a reason. You can bet your ass I’ll fly the flag in his honor!“ We chatted some more, and he summed up the last year and its meaning: “I’m so glad we were able to carry on the legacy cuz I’m just as passionate about everything he was. It’s almost like it was supposed to be. I’ll make him proud. Gonna put a lot of heads together for this one and give him a good send off.

The accolades came in on my phone via text and Facebook. A bombardment of “The most nurturing of club owners” and “the best guy ever” and “tell me a Don Hill story.” Someone told me the original concept of Don Hills:

“The place was born from a thousand meetings at his pal Martin’s joint, the Ear Inn just up the road. In the 10 or 20 years they had known Don, that was the place they met. Don Hills was to be a lounge where artists could gather and possibly jam after their Madison Square Garden Show. Hip crowd, no press— a true rock mecca.”

The consensus was that, although his health was failing, the last year he was invigorated by the talent again hitting the stage and the “good crowd“ coming back. We all agreed that he died a man doing what he loved to do, loved and respected by all. That isn’t a bad way to go. Laughter and tears sprang from all of us. A funny story made us laugh, and then lose it. The room was filled with familiar faces—some that have shared air with me for 3-plus decades. Some were new and eager. Michael T, who was as sad as I have ever seen him, commented that it was great that a new generation had seen Don Hill’s as it was meant to be seen. I can’t name all the names, or repeat all the praises.

Nur was beyond tears, hunched. He hugged me and talked of his last moments with the man. “I knew he wasn’t feeling right. he was huddled by a space heater a couple days ago, then he didn’t’ show up yesterday. He wasn’t himself, maybe he knew.” Someone said: “He took a cab to the hospital where he died, he didn’t want to bother anybody and maybe somebody else needed that ambulance more.”

Don’s death is a large rock thrown into a pond. We see the splash, and maybe the first ripples, but there will be more ripples, and some may prove to be difficult. With Don gone, how will neighbors and enforcement view the place? Even they loved and embraced the man. What other neighborhood embraces a popular club? Other ripples might come from the liquor authorities, and maybe even a landlord. Lyle Derek, a longtime Don Hill worker bee, understood how Don would support the scene, even though it didn’t make as much money as other promotions might. The biggest ripple might bring change. In an age where bottle service pays the bills, greed might win out. Paul and Nur will do their best, no doubt, but death brings vulture—types who feed on despair and confusion. They may have other less fabulous ideas about the property. We must support the legacy of Don Hill, and maintain one of the few places in town where guys like him and I could actually hang out. Don Hill was a gentleman, and that’s the greatest compliment I have about a fellow.