Monday night, after Bingo at the Bowery Poetry Club, we trudged through black snow and brown sludge to Heathers for my pal Tina Vaden’s birthday bash. Tina is my on-again-off-again photographer and a cutie, beauty, non-snooty talent and all around great gal. Heathers had my old brain percolating, as I was consumed by a sense of déjà-vu, all over again and again and again. While my Amanda danced with Tina and the ladies, I sidled up to the bar to chat with old friends. I asked, “What was this place?” and was told “Brownies.” After a dozen “no shits,” I strained to remember.
I couldn’t picture it, I couldn’t find anything to confirm the gut feeling: no landmarks or telltale signs remained or jogged my old conscience. I was assured it was true. I whipped out the Droid but alas, Wiki hasn’t gone there yet. Brownies was usually the end of the line. The last desperate place after an evening of failure or too much excess. It was the place to go if you couldn’t go home. It wasn’t necessarily a dead end for the dead heads who stumbled into the place at 7am, or even later. It was the last chance to get a drink, or a pop, or someone to get icky with. It was always there, but reliable and Brownies couldn’t be used in the same sentence. It was one of best after hours clubs of all time.
After hours, as I know it, is long gone. Every so often a place sneaks open for a minute, and I bet there are a few right now that people don’t blab about, especially not to an old dude with a column. Of course, there are legal parties that go past 2am, but the bars are closed, and the sense of being mischievous is absent. One of the key ingredients of a true after hours joint is its illegality, and the sense that some of the patrons, and probably owners, shouldn’t be messed with. These days, the people who shouldn’t be messed with are not part of the club culture. Probably better off, but a certain amount of film noir-like experience is lost. Fun may not describe it, as the feeling has a deeper, visceral impact. Maybe we have been too sanitized by a society that likes us all packaged, neat, and predictable. Maybe some types of lust and enlightenment can only be found in the cracks.
Without after hours, our nights end at a predictable hour. Our lusts and desires are packaged into cabs, and rushed to a million dormitories, and our secrets are played out in familiar settings. We live our lives through characters we channel from Kindle, or from movies which will always be 2D, no matter how many of them are made in 3D. Brownies, Crisco Disco, Save the Robots, AM/PM, The Nursery, Nickel Bag, and their ilk, have been banished to memory by our elected puppeteers. It’s probably a good thing, but there was a time when the night stretched into day, and there was always the next place to find that special something, or someone, you might not even want, but just had to have. I used to tell an old joke that described my disease, so of course I’ll tell you now. “In 20-plus years in the club business, I never went to bed with an ugly woman. Of course, I’ve woken up with a few.” Brownies, I did not recognize you, but you probably didn’t recognize me.
A couple columns ago I alluded to “turmoil” over at the Greenhouse space. “Turmoil,” a little birdy told me, was not the right word. I have been assured that the kids, and everything over there, is alright over at Jon B’s Vandam Street money machine. Rumors still reach my very big ears that Jon’s “green,” as in environmentally-compliant joint is being sold. The rumors say that his Juliet Supper Club, named after his mom is making big bucks, and is also for sale. Both places are open 7 days a week, and are banging, so the possibility of a sale seems unlikely. Still, my sources are reliable and ethical, and it just feels true.
I called my old friend and asked him about it. He didn’t really answer, but instead, just asked me questions like “Where did you hear that?” It was followed by a chuckle and a “Who did you talk to, what did they say— do you believe them?” And so on. He never denied the story, and he chuckled a bit, and offered me a clue in the form of still another question. He asked, “You know me, why would I sell?” I do know Jon, and my feeling is that the old adage, “The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence” may apply. In this case, Greenhouse may be greener, and able to make more money, elsewhere. Jon has always vied to be in Vegas, and is well-connected there. His idols in the business are not the glamour guys, but those making mega-millions. Vegas, and its cash, are a powerful and irresistible siren for the man, I believe. His Miami Greenhouse is in construction, and I believe that a climate that is warmer in general, and warmer for the club business, is in his cards. He ended our chat with a cryptic “You will be the first to know, the first with the story,” and I believe him as I think I am.