Unedited: Celebrating Arthur Weinstein Four Years Later

Four years ago today, nightlife lost a legend, a family lost a father, husband, son…friends lost a dear friend. The loss seemed immeasurable at the time, and four years hasn’t eased the pain. Arthur Weinstein had more faults than most, but he also had more heart and soul and more of an ability to see what’s hidden behind the green curtain than anyone I have met. Toward the end of his life he found work doing lighting for those who saw him as a light. This morning, Greg Brier called me to remind me.

Many refer to my era of nightlife as "the good ol’ days," but compared to the generation before me, it was… amateurish, mundane. Clubs like Save The Robots, Paradise Garage, Area, The Continental, The Mudd Club, Nells, Berlin, Studio 54, Nickel Bag, Stickball, The Nursery, Danceteria and such preceded my reign of terror. I became relevant when I operated The World for Arthur, Peter Frank, and some other guys. Arthur was a mad genius who understood that it was heart that pumped up the volume and love that ran through the veins and cool that ran the thought process. Nowadays, for better or worse, most joints run with little heart, cash for blood, and with lots of educated but not-so-creative brains running the action. Self-interest has replaced the art of it. Arthur would be in Brooklyn now looking for, latching onto, and educating the next big thing.

Below is a lost article I wrote just after his death. It can’t be found online anymore but I found the unedited copy I sent in for edit the day after I heard the sad news.

"Art passed yesterday after a courageous fight with cancer. Known to everyone with clout in the nightclub industry Art was a familiar face for a few decades. He owned and operated some of the best clubs in history. The World, Hurrah, The Continental, The Jefferson provided thousands of extraordinary nights for thousands of hipsters long before the word was unfortunately coined. Everybody loved and respected him, even those who were over him.  Even years after he had operated anything he could still get Calvin or Ian or Grace on the phone. Grace Jones paid a visit to him recently as he lay dying in his Chelsea hotel apartment. He told me of hanging with Ian Schrager and David Bowie who he called the "White Knight" and he never ceased to amaze me with stories of life in the fastest lane. It wasn’t the drugs or the booze that killed the beast it was, as Carl Denham once said, it was beauty that killed him. He was trapped by the drug called clubs, its kaleidoscope like enchantment, its vision and pitfalls and by his camera and his art, the pitfalls were ignored as Arthur only saw the possibilities.

Arthur’s world was light and magic and imparting wisdom on those of us who had less than he, and that just about covers everyone, Arthurs eyes saw through the hype and saw the souls of those around him, once when at the door of one of his clubs I was hustling the celebrity du jour inside when Arthur chided me, “why do you give a fuck about him? get these kids in!” and it was a posse of skaters and then he went inside to share some Stoli with them. Art never gave a damn about the hype. You were either cool or you weren’t and no amount of tabloid success made you cool but a hat tilted at the right angle made you a pal. He loved the Yankees and he would call me and take me to a game and we would roll up and I’d ask where we were sitting and he’d say “shud up!,don’t worry about it” and we’d walk right in with a wave and no tickets and we’d sit downstairs in the good seats and move around a lot because he could not sit still. He could never sit still. He didn’t have a lot of patience, especially for assholes. Often I’d like someone and Art would say “that asshole” and my head would tilt , I’d look a little closer and I’d get over the dudes rap or rep and find no reason anymore to hang with him. Art was right , he was always right about assholes. But then he’d latch on to some loser and find the glory in him and reveal to us why this underestimated denizen of the deep was worthy of our precious time. Again I was wrong, confused, snobby or just dumb, the fool was me and not the denizen.

I don’t know how to continue without Art. He was my biggest critic yet my biggest supporter. Sometimes the press the public and everyone around me would be all up my ass congratulating me on some job well done and Art would point out my flaws and show me a better way. Sometimes I’d be down on myself, designer blocked and he’d tell me “I was on to something. It was really good “and I’d pull it off." He was the wisest of the wise guys and those who met him always knew they had met someone. Once when I was working for him it rained real hard and the crowd was small and he walked in and I made a rain excuse about the numbers. He said “shud up! never blame the rain” and looked around the room “what a great crowd everybodies having fun, get in there with a smile on that puss of yours” and so I did and it was great and I had learned , one lesson of a thousand lessons.

You can’t tell a man’s life in a thousand words and as I write this I’m hard pressed to stop as if when I do he’ll actually be… really gone, I’ve cried for hours and I can’t remember the last time I’ve cried and I remember the last time I saw him so thin, so weak with tubes draining fluids and that tachometry hole and I had been warned by Greg Brier( Arthur and my dearest friend) that it would be shocking. In a few short weeks he had lost his body following the loss of his ability to speak a few months before. I walked in and said “hey art I got 2 tickets to the Yankee game… lets go!” and he opened his mouth wide in a huge silent laugh and I saw my poor friend with his best rings on and knew the fight would soon be over. Colleen and Dahlia, his wife and daughter, will be part of my family forever and I will do my best to be there for them. With his death Arthur has given me new life and commitment to try to live up to the standards he set for me. That he considered me his friend is the greatest validation ive ever had, Im gonna have to stop now as I cant see my words any longer."

Legendary DJ & Producer Mark Kamins Has Passed Away

The rumor mill has it that legendary DJ/producer Mark Kamins has passed. A massive coronary in Guadalajara, Mexico where he (pictured, last on the left) apparently was teaching was cited. He was having heart problems for a few months and about three days ago went to see a cardiologist. Yesterday he wasn’t feeling well and went to a hospital and passed away. Facebook, often the fastest bearer of good and bad news, has it being true. A number of close mutual friends are sadly confirming that this club/music legend has moved on. Mark was best known for helping sign a young Madonna to Seymour Steins’ Sire Records and producing her hit "Everybody." That was back in 1982. 

He worked with David Byrne, Ofra Haza, Karen Finley, and UB40 and Sinead. He had a heart of gold and a million friends. I just got this news about an hour ago and I am a bit shaken and not stirred to write anything. I will say that when I spoke to him a number of months ago, he seemed pressured. Some are saying he needed a heart bypass and didn’t have the means. Word came to me that his ex has confirmed. I’m not sure how this will become official … move from rumor to fact. That’s all I know except that Mark was beyond a legend. He was exceedingly human. He was vulnerable but sure, brilliant yet lost, a good friend but often very much a loner. I DJ’d with him at subMercer a couple years back and it was just about the most fun I’ve had at that game. Justin Strauss was whispering the names of obscure tracks Mark was spinning, and I’d go to the booth and say "hey, I was going to play that" and he was incredulous and amused. Mark tried to help me DJ but of course that was impossible. He was a titan and I a mouse. He was just grand. 

Here is an interview I did with Mark in the mag back in December 2008. Rest in Peace, old friend.

Legend has it that Mark Kamins was bugging Sire Record’s Seymour Stein for a producing gig, and Stein told him to get his own act. That act turned out to be Kamins’ ex-girlfriend Madonna. Stein was so anxious to sign the material girl that she was rushed to his hospital bed to get it done. Mark’s production of her first single “Everybody” still bangs dance floors today. Kamins’ production career includes work with the Talking Heads, Sinead O’Connor, the Beastie Boys, and my old friend and Danceteria bartender turned performance artist Karen Finley. When I was going through my wonderbread years in the nightclub world, I looked up to Mark and always felt privileged to have a few minutes of his time. I caught up with him via Skype as he is now living in Europe, and we chatted about the music and the rise of the International DJ.

Where are you now? I’m in Paris, then I’m going to Moscow, and then Tokyo for a month.

You’ve made a life for yourself as a traveling DJ. Well, now I’m like Barbara Streisand — I’m on my retirement tour, then I’ll come back out of retirement next year.

Can a person like you retire? I don’t think so. DJs will play till they die.

Years ago before I was in the nightlife business, I looked up to you like you were a god. You were one of the people on the scene who was not just making music but was also leading the way, taking everybody to a place they hadn’t been before. Where was your beginning in this business? I was always just a guy who played records at parties, from when I was ten years old on.

You DJed at places like the Mudd Club, Danceteria, and Peppermint Lounge. My first gig was at Trax, which was the rock club on 72nd and Columbus. And that’s when Jim Fouratt and Rudolph heard me and Sean Cassette play, and they decided to put both of us together in the booth at Danceteria.

What are your memories of Danceteria? There were at least three Danceterias; the first one was on 38th Street, and it was an illegal Mafia club with no liquor license, but we sold drink tickets. Jim Fourrat had this concept of bringing the bands, and Rudolph had this concept of image, and we were the first club to have video. The magic of the first Danceteria was Jim and Rudolph taking Sean Cassette from Hurrah (which was Arthur Weinstein’s first club) and then taking me from Trax, where I played Motown and hardcore R&B, and putting us together in the booth at Danceteria. We opened at 8 p.m. and played till 8 a.m., which was the first time two DJs played together for 12 hours. Sean would go into punk, and I would go into James Brown and beyond, and that was the magic of it. This was around the beginning of the new wave era, with the coming out of the Sex Pistols. Those were the original seeds of new wave.

New wave to me was one of the most fun music genres. I guess now that music is going that way, the electronic music is happier. Do you see that in Europe also? What’s going on in Europe right now is amazing; it’s a very 80s feel, but its very electro. A lot of bands want to sound retro; they don’t want to sound fresh from all the new technology. They want to record on tape, they don’t want to record on the computer. So it’s really exciting when I listen to these kids, even my son’s band, The Young Lords … it’s amazing, that these young kids can take the new music and do that again.

In the 50s we had jazz, the 60s rock, 70s disco etc., and somewhere around the 90s and 2000, there wasn’t much new music being made. Now it seems that there’s a new type of music or a new energy coming. Can the mash-up be considered a genre? No. I’m a DJ, and every DJ has the same record — it’s how you play that record, that’s what makes a difference. So what’s happening now is that new kids want to hear live music, and its killing old school guys like myself and Frankie and Jellybean. Rock bands are doing DJ sets, which is now the hippest thing in Paris, and one of the hippest things in New York. So, in a funny way we’ve gone the full circle — we killed live music and bands in the 80s, and now they’re killing the DJs.

Bring me back to a time with the Beastie Boys, with Madonna and seeing a type of music, seeing a person like that — the talent of the Beastie Boys coming up through the nightclubs. First of all, I think Danceteria was a magical space like Andy Warhol’s Factory or Max’s Kansas City or CBGBs. Jim Fouratt and Rudolph had this amazing finesse to hire people that they believed in. Why were the Beastie Boys the sweepers at Danceteria? Why was Madonna one of the dancers? Why Sade was the bartender at Danceteria? That’s crazy shit man. So you’re talking about a magical moment, a magical space, and a magical time where it was the beginning of something. Even Karen Finley was the bartender, and LL Cool J was a busboy. Rick Rubin, who is now one of the greatest producers in the music business, his first gig was playing with the Beastie Boys on the second floor of Danceteria because I had to go to a gig in Europe. I have a Polaroid picture of that night.

How did you help to launch Madonna’s career? I produced Madonna’s first record, “Everybody”. I discovered her and brought her to Seymour Stein. At that time, I was working for Chris Blackwell at Island Records, but I was the DJ for the Talking Heads so I knew Seymour. I brought Madonna to see him, and he gave me a singles deal, and then we did it. That was probably her best record, the only one she made with a live drummer.

You went on to work at other clubs like Mars, Tunnel, Palladium, and at one point decided to take your show on the road and you ended up in Russia, Japan, and Brazil. Every time I spoke to you, you were coming from someplace like that. A lot of club promoters and club owners came to see me, and they would come up to the booth and say, “Forget about what’s happening here, would you come and play in my club?” And I became the first DJ that was booked to travel and play in all these other countries.

That was unheard of, and I remember you bringing back world beats, stuff from Greece, Spain, Africa, that people had never heard of. And Belgium and Japan also … there was one record shop in Japan called Wave that actually had every record from every country in the world.

There was a time when DJs didn’t travel internationally, and the beginning of it was with you, Mr. Mark Kamins. I opened the doors for a lot of guys, especially in Japan. We opened the first real nightclub in Japan called Turia, and then a few years later we opened Gold, and that was the first club where every two weeks I would bring in a DJ from New York. I loved it. It was the first time David Morales, Little Louie Vega, Dimitri, and all those guys left New York City.

Remembering My Old Friend & Ramones’ Logo Designer Arturo Vega

A Saturday afternoon text told me about the passing of my old friend Arturo Vega. You may not know the name, but you know his work. He designed and produced all those Ramones t-shirts. He helped begin the band and was involved with their legacy through the website and merchandizing, long after three of the fabulous four or more had also shuffled off this mortal coil.

Joey, Johnny, Dee Deeand now Arturo left us too soon but left us with so much. The affect of the Ramones on our world will be debated long after all of us have moved on. They helped shape not just a sound, but a downtown culture. They took us from there to here as much as anyone. Financial success eluded them for most of their run, with t-shirt sales far surpassing album sales. Arturo’s contribution  – a graphic identity as well as a brilliant lighting display during shows – cannot be underestimated. The Ramones’ slick punk image appealed to a cognizant set that demands creative aesthetics. Spin placed the band just after the Beatles in influence.

Marky Ramone is touring the globe with a Ramones cover band, with Andrew W.K. playing the lead. It’s doing well. He was in Argentina when the news came. His Marion and I talked about the loss, how he didn’t tell us, and how our world is accumulating casualties. Vera, Dee Dee’s wife, was also "freaked out" to offer much more than:

"The news of Arturo Vega’s passing has been numbing, and all too familiar. Good Times and Great Memories…..I will miss him. R.I.P. Arturo – All Good Cretins Go To Heaven." 

Arturo’s facebook page was a thousand quotes and photos from people he touched from all over the world.

I barely remember the beginning, but can’t get a handle on this end yet. I met him at CBGBs. He was tough, sharp, aloof, but interested. We suddenly became friends. He was there for me always. I am saddened that I wasn’t there for him when he was going. According to plan, I’ll remember him as he was. 

I named my best dog after him. My chihuahua Arturo loved the human Arturo unconditionally. I guess dogs can sense the importance their best friends feel for another. I’d bring him by the loft and Arturo the human would just laugh at the feisty little guy who might bite everyone except for those he loved and even those peeps sometimes.

What happens to the loft and all the art now that Artie’s no longer home? The brilliant collection that chronicled downtown, the file cabinets filled with history. I remember when he tossed all of his clothes out and dressed in workers’ jumpsuits. Then it was marathons and mountains. 

I’ve been reading Please Kill Me author Legs McNeil;s facebook page. He was real close to Arturo. His girl Amy is best friends with my gal Amanda and I guess Arturo is all up in that. He posted: 

"One of the best friends anyone could ever hope for. I knew and hung out with Arturo since 1976 – 37 fucking years, if my math is correct – and if it weren’t for Arturo, Joey and I would’ve starved to death in those early years. Artie was so fucking fun– he made everything into an adventure. The world just became a much colder and lonelier place –  as if it wasn’t getting that way already. Fuck, I miss him so much already."

I’m going to be a little short of eloquent today. I feel like I’ve been hit with a sledgehammer, and that sword that dangles above all of our heads just moved a lot closer to mine. Arturo expected a lot from me. He supported me and my work. He never said yes when he meant no. He never said great when he meant so-so. He expected the same from me. The silver lining of this dark cloud is that I have reconnected with so many that I love and don’t see very much of anymore. 

In fact, an old friend that Arturo told me had passed is found out to be very much alive. Hopefully, some gathering to celebrate his life will bring us together. I hear there’s a small gathering tonight at Manitoba’s. I’m gonna show.

Zach Sobiech, Whose Goodbye Song ‘Clouds’ Touched The World, Has Passed

"We’ll go up, up, up, but I’ll fly a little higher. We’ll go up in the clouds because the view’s a little nicer."

So are the lyrics written by 18-year-old Zach Sobiech in his goodbye song "Clouds." The teenager passed away Monday morning from bone cancer, a disease he fought for four years. The song, since its December debut last year, has garnered over three million views, comments-by-the-seconds, and leaves a trail of gratitude everywhere it’s heard.

But in the midst of his last years, Zach – who’s been described as having "an aura around him and always a smile" – lived fully, in a world of extremes. Some very bad days, like finding out he had a collapsed lung, and some very good days – every date with his girlfriend Amy, the time he test-drove his favorite Nissan GTR car across the snowy streets of his Minnesota town, and the day he signed to BMI Records. 

Watch his story be told by Zach, family, and friends in a stunning SoulPancake video that’ll make you sob, laugh, and feel thankful for, as Zach describes it, the "life that’s beautiful, beautiful moments, one after the other."

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