Monday, August 26, 2013

Endless Winter – Play – Dance – (1980)

In which I move to a flophouse, where I get flooded and end up on top of the Electric Circus, the home of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
Author's handwriting.
Mahalo, the responses to the blog have been great, mostly through personal encounters or e-mail. Comments are welcomed. One critique has been that my NY stories seem to glorify the reality and that it appears that my life in NY unfolded in a manner that direction or plan. To be clear, my first year in New York was quite rough at times, mostly due to lack of money, which led to bleeding gums, and other effects of not enough food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Once I got the job at Canal Jean and then Trash & Vaudeville, things stabilized. There were also moments of intense loneliness and heartache. As we go along, I will publish some writing of this time, mostly done at night. the first text appears further down in this post. For better or worse, there has never been much of a plan in my life, more of an underlying drive, or pull, that I am often not conscious off. I have followed my bliss, but I have often ignored practical realities and sometimes I had to suffer the consequences, but I always aim to take full responsibility for my actions.

After I left the New York Niggers, which was the end of the band, The Pope demanded that I leave our shared 10th St flat, so I moved to a cheap hotel on 18th St off Gramercy Park, a few blocks outside the East Village proper. Isn’t that a bit of a ritzy neighborhood you might ask? It certainly is now and even then it was pretty nice, but the hotel wasn’t. Transvestites, rock’n rollers and other outcasts who didn’t have it together enough to rent an apartment, occupied the hotel. Living there further helped my NY education. In the summer everybody left their doors open or ajar, because of the heat. The  NY summer heat can be extremely stiffling, you can slice it with a dull knife.

Besides giving me a living the job at Trash & Vaudeville also provided for plenty of social contact, but with no band, I didn't have anything to focus on. Work and nightlife could not replace the energy and identity that being a member of a band provides.
Trash & Vaudeville t-shirt.

T&V is on 4 St Marks Place right off 3rd Ave, which turns into the Bowery a bit further down. The corner of 3rd Ave and St Marks Pl is like the western entry gate to the East Village. On the corner was the Valencia Hotel, a by the hour place hooker's place. On the other side of the store were the St Mark's baths. Here is a NY Times article on the store and pretty funny video. When you walked down the block you had Ian’s another clothing store, St Marks Bookstore, St Mark’s Records, 23 St Mark’s Place, the former home of the Electric Circus and The Dom, where Andy Warhol and the VU created the Plastic Explosion Inevitable and Nico had had her residency at The Dom downstairs. Jackson Browne was a huge fan of Nico during this time and wrote the lyrics to this song. A few doors down was Tish & Snooky’s Manic Panic, the Dojo’s Japanese restaurant across the street and the Gem Spa on the corner of 2nd Ave, where the New York Dolls took their famous photo and you could buy egg cream (possibly still).
The Dolls in front of Gem Spa.

The 2nd Ave movie theatre was around the corner and still featured cheap Midnight specials. Oh, I forgot, there was also the old pup in the middle of the block, but I had been 86ed there during the NYN days, so I won’t mention it.
The author playing with rubber aliens at T&V,

and standing at the door.

Trash & Vaudeville had all the newest punk stuff from London downstairs and great vintage clothing upstairs, and very importantly the first and only black jeans, no label and super skinny. Every skinny black jean today has one leg in Trash, and every rock’n roller had to have one and so did every band that came to town. I worked downstairs. The downstairs neon sign was featured in the Saturday Night live opening sequence at the time. Not only every band and rock star stopped by the store, so did all the bar tenders and door people from the clubs, and of course all the fans. This put us in the center of the scene, which got us into clubs and often,  to free drinks. Every body who worked at T&V was either in a band or otherwise an artist or scenester. You had to be a character to get hired.
 with Angel Rodriguez. polaroid.
For example Angel, who had lived through the 60's and 70's East village. Angel was the manager upstairs and had great spirit and stories to tell. Her boyfriend Allen drove a 54 Chevy hot rod with flames on the side, and later played bass player in one of my bands.

One day, when I got back to the hotel my room was flooded. During my first two years in NY I had collected flyers, scraps and photos and done a series of pretty large collages, which were all floating under my bed now.  The management tried to blame the flood on me, so I just grabbed my stuff and took refuge with another German expat called Joerg, who, believe it or not occupied the entire top floor of 23 St Marks place. Here I am now, living at 23 St Marks, imagine. An AA sort of organization managed the building and had meetings on the floors below us.
Joerg & I walking down St Marks Place between 2nd and 1st Ave.

Joerg was a few years older than me, pretty wild, volatile, a painter who also played around on his synthesizer. He had spend some time with Native Americans and painted them on large pieces of found wood. He also did the murals at the Veselka coffee shop on 2nd Ave and 9th St, which is still there today. There were many cheap Polish and Ukrainian coffee shops in the East Village, that provided cheap, heart food. Now I lived and worked on the same block and to get a coffee on my way to work I had to go to the corner. Once the winter hit it got pretty rough though since some windows were broken, there was no heat and when Joerg and I both run our little electric heaters the fuses would pop. We couldn't complain since our rental agreement there wasn't quite on the up and up and the rent was cheap.

Dave, Dieter, Joerg at 23 St Marks.

Dieter, Joerg, Dave at 23 St Marks. Beloved Gibson Les Paul special.

 This is not a real band in the shots above, just a few misfits fooling around, and as you know I love the look of slides-to-paper-xerox-copies, which you could do in any copy-shop. Dave was a co-worker from Trash and another wild one. One day Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson bought some suits from us and we were hanging out with them. Before they left the store, Dave had spilled a beer on Mick's, just bought, 50's sharkskin suit. Stories from T&V warrant a whole book.
Author in Dave's elevator, collage.
Dave lived in a bigger apartment building on 2nd Ave and 10th across the street from St Marks Church, were Patti Smith started her rock'n roll career. I did a bit of writing also, mostly late at night, when things weren't all that pretty.
One more time (before I die), Dieter Runge, 79/80?
This apocalyptic reverie was going to be a song, but I never finished it or wrote any music for it.
 Eventually, I did start a new band during this time and we called it The Troubadours, inspired by my travels in the South of France. It consisted of a young German kid named Hinrich, who studied classical guitar and shredded like Jeff Beck, a German drummer (sorry, no name), Joe Drake on bass, and the author. Everybody wrote and sang and we played R&B influenced rock’n roll, with Joerg occasionally chiming in on his synth when we played the VU’s What Goes, a tribute to the hallowed grounds we were playing on top of. Unfortunately we only managed to play one gig right there in the loft, which was well attended. The band had lots of potential, but the two Germans soon went back home. Alas. Joe became my best friend in NY and we played and even recorded a few years down the road. There are no pics of The Troubadors, but this shot of me strapping on Hinrich's Stratocaster.

The author with Stratocaster at 23 St Marks.

Needless to say, without a comfortable home and so much opportunity, I kept up going out  every night. More and more clubs opened,  and more local and visiting bands to see. The East Village was exploding, but not everybody liked it. The East Village Eye and other papers wrote about it as early as 1980, but it took another 8 years for the conflicts to explode in the summer of 1988 with the Tompkin Square riot.

East Village Eye 1980

Tompkins Square park. EVE 1980
East Village Eye, 1980

ETC. East Village Eye. 1980

On August 8th 1980 though, I had my own riot and kicked an innocent refrigerator on Avenue A, right across the street from the park. When I woke up the next morning I had to go to Bellevue hospital.

die Tageszeitung, 1980

The German daily, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ) did an interview with me for a two part series about German cultural emigres living in New York.

On December 8th Joerg and I went to Irving Plaza to see Captain Beefheart play. We ran a little late and when we got there the lobby was completely empty; we just walked upstairs were we heard the news that John Lennon had been shot. In shock we watched the Magic Band.
By the end of 1980,  without a band and clear purpose, and almost 3 years of non-stop night-clubbing life in NY had taken a heavy toll on me, physically as well as mentally.


 On December 30th, I had a bottle of wine with my brown rice and stir-fried veggies for a mid-day breakfast at Dojo’s restaurant. The next morning, the last day of 1980, I barely made it out of bed. I clearly remember thinking that I was not quite yet ready to die. I decided that a profound change was in order.

Occasionally, work and play is the same. At T&V

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