R.I.P. Hilly Krystal, Founder of CBGB's, 1932-2007
From 1973 until the day we lost our punk Mecca to the cancer of real estate greed, you gave us a place to create, cavort and convene. You believed in us, and our potential to create culture. Unlike too many hip entrepreneurs who sold short on their boomer dreams, you always cared more about building community than capital accumulation. You gave everyone a chance. CBGB's was our salon, a mold-spore emporium for rowdy boho kids. There, raging bridge & tunnel fevers found a respite, space in a funky, arty, piss factory--your beautiful big house on the Bowery. Some say it wasn't really lung cancer that did you in, but a broken heart. A heart big enough to see the good in us, to take a risk and give the untamed, unwashed and untested a chance at our own version of the American dream. The good, the bad, the ugly, we came, we stayed and we flourished.
Hey, I always loved seeing you out of context---like, in daylight, munching down Tex-Mex at the surfy Blue Parrot in East Hampton. It was an honor to work with you to save CBGB's, to preserve the sanctuary you built for all the kids around the world who still dream of la vida libertad in NYC. In recent years we've lost every precious thing--our clubs, our Ramones, our turf and now you. But CBGB's transformed us, through our music, fashion, values and sensibilities. You left your mark on us forever---culturally, historically, politically, socially, and personally.
You never got to Las Vegas--I guess you knew it was never punk's promised land. No, you departed from NYC, from the scene you launched into cultural history. And the night you passed over, surrendered at age 75, during the full moon eclipse, the heavens opened up and God said "Hey Hilly, it's time to come home." Your work on earth was done and went back to Spirit. We will miss you and we'll keep the flames high for you, upholding your inclusive vision of community, for CBGB's and punk, for NYC and the great family you helped spawn---two generations, cross-cultural, multiracial, and forever genderfucked. You lent us a playground, a counter-cultural post-hippie Utopian landscape and we dressed it in sneering, snarling spit & leather. For this and so much more, we are grateful to you. Say hi to Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny, and when I get there, can you please put me on the house list?
Love, Donna (fangrrrl and scribe; Post-Ramones Empire, NYC)