Saturday, October 14, 2006


The full name was CBGB & OMFUG, which stands for Country, BlueGrass, Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers. It's more commonly just called CBGB, which opened around the time I was born and within a couple of years had branched out somewhat from its original musical mission statement to become the center for the punk and New Wave movements.

The doors will close forever Sunday night, following a performance by Patti Smith.

The Ramones got their start in the club, as did Ms. Smith, Talking Heads, Blondie, Television, Jonathan Richman and many others. Elvis Costello, the Clash, the Police, and Bruce Springsteen all played the legendary stage. And that's just the late 70s.

The club is being forced to close due to rising rents, the result of a massive gentrification project in the Bowery. It isn't clear if the building will even remain standing.

I saw CBGB once with my own eyes. When I visited New York in late 1995, it turns out I was staying not far from there, and we walked past it in the night on the way to the rehearsal for the reading we were going to give the next day.

I remember just catching it out of the corner of my eye, and stopping right there in the middle of crossing the street. It was like stumbling across a unicorn. Even then I knew that so much history had taken place in the tiny club. I couldn't believe it could just exist in the middle of a block like that, that it could be found by happenstance.

My castmates dragged me off, and I made a vow to return when I had a free afternoon in the city. But after searching and failing to find it on the only such afternoon I had, I went to the Dakota building and the Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park instead.

I sat there by the mosaic which reads "Imagine" and thought about the loss of a legendary figure of musical history. My legs were splayed out in front of me, and a hat that reminded me of John Lennon when I bought it at a street fair that weekend was on my head.

A man walked by with his young daughter on his shoulders. As the man walked around my outstretched legs, she pointed at the memorial and asked what it was.

"Paahhh," he snickered. "They all think some fuckin' Beatle's gonna come back." The daughter was maybe two years old.

And I see also that Paul McCartney is registering his name as a trademark for use in branding items. Reuters says: "The full application specifies such disparate items as articles of fancy dress, overalls, waistcoats, hosiery, dressing-gowns, bath robes, sports clothing and swimwear."


He's doing food, too, and although he's been a vegetarian since the late 60s, his trademark is set to cover meats as well.

And Hilly Kristal, who opened CBGB in 1973? He's trying to move the club, dank atmosphere and all, to Las Vegas.

I regret never seeing a show there, even though by the time I could have some of the luster would have faded and I'd only have gone for the ghosts.

Kristal can't bring those ghosts to Las Vegas. But he is, apparently, taking the urinals.

No comments: