The Ghosts of Bowery Past: CBGB, Greenhouse, & W.i.P.

Yesterday I took one of my first days off since ’03 and it was grand. Me and mine went to the Bronx Zoo which was a zoo. Apparently, Wednesdays are donation day with no fixed admission fee, which means approximately 1 billion people descend upon the zoo to enjoy the nice day with the pretty animals at no cost. We had a blast, completely captivated by the captivated lions and tigers and bears. ..oh my! Amongst the zillions of people, we somehow found Hotel Chantelle go-go dancer Nicky Delmonico and assured her tonight’s hot “Generation Wild” Rock Party at Chantelle would be cool. The joint fixed its air conditioning.

We got home, washed the day away, and headed to DBGB Kitchen & Bar for dinner with Marky Ramone and his Marion. We were joined by chef Daniel Boulud who bombarded us with funny tales and scrumptious deserts. Marky and I told and retold tales of yore. We talked of Dee Dee, Joey, CBGB, and Max’s Kansas City. I don’t desire to dwell too long in the past, preferring to keep looking forward, but sitting with an old war horse like Marky leads to inevitable digression. Eventually I’ll tell you all about it. 

As he posed for photographs with giddy patrons – suburban people who now live in nearby condos and chic apartments where there once stood burnt-out buildings that punks, bums, dealers, and scum squatted in – we talked about the ghosts of Bowery past. It was inconceivable to us that such folk are now frolicking and enjoying such fine fare where we youthfully played amongst the ruins. Back then, a container topped with aluminum foil filled with chicken vindaloo and eaten with a plastic fork was fine dining.

Marky is still touring, still banging his drums not so slowly, and doing lots of other things I will, as I said, eventually talk about. At DBGB, his gravy… er sauce, is for sale and prominently on display up front. Marky Ramone’s Brooklyn’s Own Marinara Sauce is featured in delicious pasta dishes that we all shared prior to our entrees. We headed to Bantam, side-stepping homeless folks who haven’t quite heard the good news about how fabulous the neighborhood has become.

I saw a petition on Petitionbuzz that was under the banner "ALLOW WIP & GREENHOUSE to reopen.” When I clicked through, I read this:

"As many of you already know W.I.P & Greenhouse are still closed pending a scheduled hearing on Friday. I know that I can speak for many people when I say that this is a big blow to the people employed by the club, the nightlife community, as well as to the party goers themselves. We all loved hanging out and partying at W.I.P and are sad to see that the actions of 2 world renown hip hop artist acting like thugs shut down a place we all love and leave 300 people (including Greenhouse) out of jobs in this depressed economic state.  I Emailed @NYNightlife asking him whether or not he thought this petition would even be worth while / effective. He replied saying that he would contact someone at WIP/Greenhouse and see what they think. 10 minutes later he Emailed me back saying that he was told "it would go a long way", which means that every "signature" counts. The hearing is scheduled for Friday, so until then lets all make it a point to get as many people  to sign this petition as possible and to share it with everyone we know, thank you."

I have been pretty harsh on the players-to-be-named-later over there at W.i.P./Greenhouse, but anytime a club is closed because of the illegal actions of its patrons, I get confused. It’s like closing Kennedy Airport because the TSA caught some joker smuggling some blow or because a couple of schmoes duked it out on a long line. There were a lot of people making a living over there at those joints. I’m hoping that "were" gets changed to “are.”

 

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Ramones Mania: Marky Ramone Performs Sunday, Johnny’s Tome Comes Out Monday

Game of Thrones is just days away. For millions, it will define their Sunday nights. I, alas, will have to TiVo it because I will be swept to The Bell House on a wave of rock and roll nostalgia and friendship. Marky Ramone is in town with his band Blitzkrieg and they will be playing that great Gowanus venue. It will be Ramones’ songs 1-2-3- 4, after each other and it is as close to the real deal as can possibly be. Alas, Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny have passed on but their legacy will be remembered – Ramone right at this show. Marky is touring and I don’t get to see him much. We are trying to get a dinner in, but it will probably have to wait until he returns from a European tour which will take him and Blitzkrieg to Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Asia, Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, and Italy with more dates to be announced. I’m going to catch up with him at the shows and ask him a bunch of questions for Monday’s post.

It’s a very big week for Ramones fans. Johnny Ramone’s posthumous tome Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone is coming out. Johnny’s wife Linda and pre-Marky drummer and original member Tommy Ramone will be on hand along with John Cafiero (editor and Johnny Ramone autobiography chief-of-staff). It will be at the Tribeca Barnes and Noble (97 Warren Street) on Friday, March 30th where someone, not clear which of them, will be signing books. I will read this book with great interest. Johnny and I were friends for a long while. I got along with Linda just fine when she was Joey’s girlfriend, but things soured (I think) when I was double-dating, with Johnny fixing him up with my friend Lisa. That stuff probably never made the autobiography anyway. It was before I knew about him and Linda. We were hanging at clubs like The Peppermint Lounge. Johnny was very conservative politically and we had many conversations about his right and my left leanings, but we always got along despite that. He was a very sharp guy and, as far as I could tell, the absolute leader of the band. He held them together with his business sense and maniacal devotion to rock and roll.
 
Things got bad when Linda made her shift from Joey to him, but the band played on. The Joey Ramone song "The KKK Took My Baby Away" is thought by some to refer to Johnny stealing Joey’s baby away. I last hung with Johnny a few years ago at the Hudson Hotel Library. He was playing pool with Nicolas Cage, who he had become friends with. Nicolas was really friendly, going out of his way to engage me, but Johnny was quite cold. I questioned him about it as we had never been like that. I was in trouble then and obviously this bothered him, so I bolted. I was surprised when he caught up with me down the long hallway leading to the exit. He wanted to hear my side and I returned with him back to the lounge. We talked frankly, no-holds-barred, as was his norm. It got heated but it was hashed out. We left as friends. I was saddened deeply when he became ill and died. After every show back in the day, I would go backstage and he would turn to me and ask me if it was good and I’d tell him the truth. He knew I would always tell it like it was. He was obsessed with making his fans happy. He was visibly upset when a mistake was made or if he felt one of the other band members had flawed or didn’t share in his enthusiasm. I’m going to pick up a copy of the book but won’t need any signature on it.
 
Domi Dollz
 
In a couple of weeks, on a Thursday before my DJ gig at Hotel Chantelle, I will join the Domi Dollz at the Museum of Sex. They will attempt to teach the sexually needy how to:
create more than just a moment in the bedroom, but an entire experience that will leave your partner begging for more. NYC’s most famed kink experts will explore ideas and techniques from setting the mood, sexy games, and thinking outside the bedroom to the art of the striptease, kinky foreplay, and fantasy scenarios. Enjoy sipping tasty aphrodisiac cocktails while the gorgeous Domi Dollz seduce and inspire you to create your own seduction experience.
OralFix: Aphrodisiac Cafe
Museum of Sex | Lower Level
233 5th Avenue @ 27th St
New York, NY 10016
 
Thurs, April 12th @ 7pm
Admission : $25
Seating is limited
 
The Domi Dollz are simply sexy. They are gorgeous, experienced, intelligent women who talk the talk like they know how to walk the walk. Come, please, please…please.

Listen to a Posthumous Joey Ramone Song, ‘Rock ‘N Roll is the Answer’

Though Ramones frontman Joey Ramone died 11 years ago, there are rarities and B-sides to be mined for further posthumous releases: On May 22, a collection of his unreleased, songs charmingly titled …ya know?, will hit record stores. Right now, you can listen to "Rock ‘N’ Roll is the Answer," which will be released ahead of time as a 7” single on April 21’s Record Store Day. It won’t dislodge any Ramones song from your punk playlist, no, but it’s nice to hear Joey’s voice again, sending you to some faraway stadium show with a cup of lukewarm Coors Light in hand. Listen to it at Spinner, by way of Flavorwire.

Guitar solos! Big stomping riffs! It’s the type of song that would’ve made a younger Ramone vomit on himself, perhaps, which is the purest test of cool: finally putting your youthful urges to rest. Rock n’ roll means different things at different ages, you know?

Celebrating Joey Ramone’s 60th Birthday

Tonight will find me at Irving Plaza for Joey Ramone’s 11th Annual Birthday Bash. Joey, of course, passed away back in 2001 from lymphoma but he would have been 60-years-old today. Punks like me never thought of being 60. Even 40 seemed ridiculous. It meant being “old” and at its core punk was youthful, hormonal, frustrating, and rebellious. It was something for 20-somethings. Now, a generation of survivors of that era will gather to see their aging icons on stage and get a whiff of the best days of our lives.

All of the unusual suspects will be on hand to remember and celebrate and see who’s still around. The stage will have some ex-Ramones and some Blondies, television’s Richard Lloyd, Bebe Buell and others who were there or have the spirit. It’s all for a good cause, benefiting the Lymphoma Research Foundation. The whole affair is put together by Joey’s brother Mickey Leigh.

Back in my punk youth I had the honor of hanging with the Ramones. My 17-year-old dog Arturo is named after their lighting guy, artist, godfather, Arturo Vega. Arturo designed those t-shirts that you see everyday on young punks, young Turks and fratboys showing how hip they are. Arturo’s loft, commonly referred to as the Ramones loft, was where I first met Joey when he was staying there. The corner signpost officially naming the street Joey Ramone Place sits half way between his home and the John Varvatos store which at one time was CBGB’s, one half of the center of my universe. Max’s Kansas City, now a deli on Park Avenue South, being the other half.

The sad tale of Joey’s gal sneaking around with band mate Johnny defined the latter years of the Ramones. Maybe the great track “The K.K.K. Took My Baby Away” refers to it, maybe it doesn’t. There is so much controversy about what really happened then. There remains so much infighting and politics and revisionism. I hear that this one isn’t talking to that one and then they make up because there’s still gold in them there hills with branding and products still being hawked and sold on the internet. The catalog of songs still sell and are used in movies and TV soundtracks. Although things got better later, I always remember money being tight. They were rock stars without Bowie or McCartney money. They lived in modest apartments not Hollywood or Westchester mansions. The one thing I remember clearly is how loving, generous, kind and true to his school Joey was. I spent more of my time hanging with Dee Dee and Marky and Johnny, who I double dated with when he pined for an uptown friend of mine. I still am in touch with Marky and I lived at the Chelsea when Dee Dee did. His wife Vera tasked me to throw his birthday bash at Max’s. It was my first party promotion. Dee Dee and I would always chat. He was a real rock star. He was hysterically problematic.

Whenever I was with Joey, the conversations were engaging and always amusing. He cared about what people said and even though he towered over most he never looked down at them. Although he had trouble crossing a street by himself, he could talk deeply about music and so many subjects. One silly day I went with him to Action Park with a silly band of punks. Action Park was all suburban New Jersey with bumper boats, waterslides, cotton candy, and hot dogs. It was all families and high school daters. We were freaks . People came up to Joey to see the sight and some actually recognized him while most had no idea. He engaged them all and exchanged good natured ribbing. He had had a lifetime of practice. Some pointed and ran away but most wanted to know more. His charisma winning them over, he was all smiles like a world that had never accepted him now did. On the bumper boats a couple of 12-year-olds sporting their dad’s crew cuts zoomed in on him with destruction on their minds. It was war and Joey rose to the occasion and attacked back. They all laughed at each other after the battle was over. Everyone had won. On the go carts Joey’s long legs were a problem. His knees bent so high as to cover his eyes which were always mostly covered by his hair. Somehow he managed and zoomed around the course and won and then we did it again and again. Everyone of that time has a Joey story or three. He was accessible, so much a part of the scene, so much the reason for the scene.

It’s been eleven years since his death, which came right before the World Trade Center attack outlawed America’s naivety. Naivety was one of punks’ most endearing qualities. The world has changed so much since then and even more since the first time I saw the band at a club called My Father’s Place out in Roslyn, Long Island. At that time in my life, I was wearing suits with thin lapels and thinner ties and hanging out in jazz clubs catching the likes of Freddie Hubbard and other trumpeters. A hot blonde took me to see the Ramones who I had known about since I was young. They were in the next neighborhood over in Forest Hills and his band had broken out and were making their mark. Friends of mine had told me about their friend Mickey and his freaky brother Jeffrey who would become Joey.

They’d come over and Jeffrey was watching TV and was weird but now he was a rock star…go figure. Now I was in the crowd at the small club and I was shoved to the front of the stage and Dee Dee was inches from me and Joey a few feet. We all jumped up and down with only a 1-2-3-4 to tell us we had moved on from that song. I was blown away and changed for life. They were singing about a feeling inside of me that I had spent so much energy hiding from view. Their music was celebrating my fears and frustrations and core . I became a follower, a fan, and eventually a friend. Nothing about that has changed. Now older than the craters on the moon I still walk around with those feelings, now embraced instead of embarrassing. The Ramones had a lot of songs with a lot of messages but the one message that seems to blanket it all is that it’s more than alright to be who you are. Happy birthday Joey Ramone and here’s to many more.

1-2-3-4, Joey Ramone & the Time Before

imageMy club career began a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I was sort of a friend, accessory and co-conspirator of the Ramones. I was dragged to see the band one night by a Staten Island girl named Teressa, who could have gotten me to go anywhere. At that time I was listening to classical music and jazz and was a regular at places like Fat Tuesdays and Smalls. Teressa dragged me through the throngs until we were a foot from Ramones’ bassist Dee Dee. I had never seen anything like them. Three or four minute explosions of catchy tracks with only a 1-2-3-4 shouted into the mike by the nearby rockstar to indicate that a new song had actually begun. Eyes that would later see through the frenzy and noise of crowded nightclubs to some necessary truths began to analyze what could endear me to my new obsession. I noticed the needs of the roadies, the only other calm people in the room that night, and the next week I caught up with the band at a Long Island gig with a couple of neighborhood blondes of bad reputation.

I hung with the roadies, who liked my friends and gave me access to the band and most importantly to my dear friend Arturo Vega. Arturo was the artist behind the band. He designed and hawked the famous logoed t-shirts, did their lights, and more importantly owned the loft on East 2nd Street — now Joey Ramone Place — which was the epicenter of all things Ramone. My chihuahua and true love of my life is named Arturo after my skinny and sometimes quick-tempered friend from Chihuahua, Mexico. Later I would befriend Dee Dee, who had slapped me in the face as he banged his bass at that Teressa-inspired gig. At the end of the show, he flipped me a guitar pick with “Ramones” stamped into it. The same stamp was inside my forehead, and jazz and classical music would be reserved forever for taxi rides with intellectual cabbies. I approached Dee Dee one afternoon before sound-check at an Amityville, Long Island hot spot. I was with the two neighborhood sluts who had also succumbed to a Ramones addiction.

We approached the volatile rock star armed with only a silly question, “Hey Dee Dee, do you like playing these small club gigs as much as the larger concert halls?” He replied by putting on his spy sunglasses and leaning his head against the clubs’ facade. Not a glance and no words, only cigarette smoke from Dee Dee. He, of course, had no obligation to answer a silly question from some annoying fan, but I stood there with my two groupie companions and chatted about Queens, Long Island, and I’m sure lots of embarrassing stuff. About 20 minutes later, Dee Dee lowered his sunglasses and said something like, “I like the big concert clubs but I like the small places too. I can get real close to the crowd.” He hadn’t been ignoring me, but taking his time and thinking about a query from one of the most important people in his life: a fan.

That attitude, that the fan — or in my case, the patron of my clubs — was one of the most important entities in my life is what made me successful. Dee Dee’s ex-wife Vera wrote a book about her experiences, which will be celebrated this June 7. I caught up with Vera on Facebook recently, and it was grand. It was Vera who asked me to produce a Dee Dee birthday bash, which would be the first party I ever threw. In months to come I became a fixture around the Ramones’ haunts and a regular at Arturo’s’ loft where Joey and his gal Linda where living.

One summer afternoon my roommate, Ramones roadie Danny Zykowski, Joey, and I went to an amusement park in New Jersey where the lanky rock n’ roll icon was rarely recognized. A couple of 12-year-old boys took delight in tormenting the gangly Joey in the bumper boats, and I was beyond hysterical seeing his knees above his head as he sat impossibly in a go-cart designed for humans with a different shape. He laughed all day, always taking time to sign an autograph or make someone feel important. Joey would be talking to you while crossing the Bowery, and just as you would be about to step on the curb on the other side of the street, he would dash back to the safety of the starting curb. My association with Joey, Dee Dee, and later Johnny gave me some juice at nightclub doors. I would double-date with Johnny, who had political views a little to the right of Attila the Hun. I tried to overlook our differences and celebrate what it was that we had in common. This Dalai Lama approach to friendship had its rewards, as doors in hotspots around town noted the fact that I had famous friends.

Later, Johnny would betray Joey, stealing his gal Linda away from him, and it was never the same backstage after that. Even I stopped believing in Johnny, except for his ability to keep the band going and stay true to its fan base. Joey referred to this betrayal by his right-wing guitarist in the song “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” “She went away for the holidays / Said she’s going to L.A. / But she never got there / She never got there / She never got there, they say,” is how it went. I remember hearing it for the first time in disbelief that Johnny was playing lead for it. I never got up the guts to ask him if he knew it was about him. I’m sure he would have said, “Of course, but it was a good song.”

They celebrated the life of Joey at a benefit at Irving Plaza last night. Rock legends, with every part of them aged save for their hairdos, gave tribute to a real nice man who lead a group of misfits out of the boredom of Queens and into international stardom. Before there was the Ramones, there was pre-Stevie Fleetwood Mac, and a boredom of music that was similar to our current club circuit. Punk changed the way we looked at rock. The genre took club life out of the doldrums and infused it with a basic energy and raw sexuality that has been lacking lately. Not since the birth of house and hip hop in the 80s has a musical genre taken the club world into a new, vibrant direction. Mash-up and electro and sounds spinning off of those are only now bringing excitement to a Serato-pacified DJ class. The Ramones lifted me up and put me down in a new and more enlightening place. I’ve got to thank my dear old friend Joey — or as some called him, Jeffrey — for taking the time to show me a better world. He, Johnny, and Dee Dee have all passed, yet they are now recognized as one of the most important rock bands ever. Spin magazine named them number 2, only behind The Beatles. It was Paul McCartney’s often-used alias Paul Ramone that inspired the name. Say it ain’t so Joey! Jeffrey Hyman, a.k.a. Joey Ramone, would have been 58 yesterday.