Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Tonight I met John Varvatos. Until a few years ago, I hadn't heard of him. He's a fashion designer. He bought the former location of CBGB and made it into a boutique. Obviously pretty controversial.

For the last few years of its existence, CBGB seemed like a shadow of what it used to be. It wasn't just that famous bands stopped playing the joint - although they had - it also wasn't a stop for up-and-coming-red-hot type bands any more. I think it was great that lots of young local bands without industry connections were tearing it up on the same stage that The Ramones and Television had played back in the day. But the place wasn't what it used to be. Lots of people complaining that it was closing probably hadn't been there in years. By the way, I'm not trying to claim that I was a CB's die-hard. I went there a bunch of times, saw some cool shows there, period.

I think it's lame the city didn't preserve it as a landmark: regardless of whatever the club was doing at that point, it was at the very least an important historical landmark, culture-wise. But what happened, happened. They couldn't pay their rent, or come close, and in the grown up world, you don't get to keep your place if that happens (unless you're a banker or stock broker who has lost millions of dollars).

This past weekend, I was in Asbury Park, New Jersey: it was similarly a bummer to note the loss of "Tillie." I do think cities should preserve certain reminders of thier past, but that's just my opinion.

Anyway, the ex-CBGB was pretty much abandoned when Varvatos happened upon it and came up with the idea to turn it into a boutique. I went there last week. Yes, it is unnerving to see someone selling jeans for like $500 at a place that used to stand for punk rock and used to have hardcore matinees. But the place could have become a bank or something. It was dead and gone. Varvatos appropriated some of the artifacts of the place, and now it is what it is. Some would rather it be a bank, at least then it is a clearer "enemy," instead of a millionarie using rock and roll to draw people in. Personally, I'm not mad at Varvatos. As I mentioned, I met him tonight, I filmed him interviewing the great David Johansen of The New York Dolls (it will be posted at SIRIUS.com soon) and I felt his interest in the place, and in music, was genuine.

But I'm not paying more than $50 (maybe $60, not more than $70) for jeans. (I did, however, buy Handsome Dick Manitoba's Book of Punk Rock Lists when I was there for $15).

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