My City is Gone: The Fight to Save CBGB's

Yes, we fought hard to save CBGB's, and we lost. Landlord greed and gentrification wiped it all away. Last week, I attended the opening, a Vh1 benefit for Save the Music with a lump in my throat. Who are these people, and why are they here? I wondered aloud to my friends.

As a local protest mocked the hip capitalists, crying for lost art's sake, for community, my tears fell for the faces and sounds never to be seen or heard there again. Bowery was a place where outlaws created culture, where at the turn of the 20th Century, immigrant youth broke from European traditions and created their own and called it America. It's where we, the unwashed and unspectacular roamed in search of pleasure, danger, hair products and other dry goods. Now there's a Chase branch, and it's clean, and it's somebody else's American dream, but not mine.

Walking into the Varvatos space, there's an alter of candles, a shrine--it's where Hilly usually sat. Over the years we've lit candles for Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny, for Stiv, Wendy O., Johnny Bully, many New York Dolls and Heartbreakers too. John Varvatos' high-end retail clothing shop is beautiful for what it is: a store. Who else could afford the rents? By all accounts the designer's got a genuine rock & roll heart. Word is, other fundraising events will follow. Given what abominations might have replaced our Punk Mecca on Bowery, (Duane Reade, another NYU dorm), I'm grateful for what we got. I will support any good that comes of this.

As we mingled with all the rich, pretty, shiny happy fashonista kids, I thought about the other half of their generation---the ones deployed in hell, coming back over & over again, sick, crazy and suicidal; disposible heroes, homeless, broken and as quicky forgotten as the stench of sweat, beer and piss that drove the narrative for over 30 years at CBGB's. Maybe we can raise a few million for the kids in the basement too.

We of the ancien regime---old school punks, rockers, bikers, scribes and scene matriarchs---stood off to the side, enjoying "the house band," Loser's Lounge and a rotating pool of awesome talents. There to launch Varvados space, raise some money to keep music in the schools and lend the space some cred, we're working through the final stages of grief. Joey Ramone once said "Everything changes, nothing stays the same." That's the power of history--and the way of the Tao.

Ushering in a new order was a spectacular DGeneration reunion, then Slash, Joan Jett, Cheetah Chrome, Jesse Malin, Daniel Rey, Ian Hunter, Ronnie Spector, Clem Burke and Dick Manitoba. We stood there watching, old friends, exiles in Babylon, humbled, longing for Zion, grateful for a drink of cool water before hanging up our harps.


Anonymous said…
Does America suck or is it just corporate America? Nonetheless, I truly wanna get outta here!