Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hilly Kristal, RIP

From the NYTimes today:

Hilly Kristal, a Rock Midwife, Is Dead at 75

Hilly Kristal, who founded CBGB, the Bowery bar that became the cradle of punk and art-rock in New York in the 1970s and served as the inspiration for musician-friendly rock dives throughout the world, died in Manhattan on Tuesday. He was 75.

His son, Mark Dana Kristal, told The Associated Press that the cause was complications from lung cancer.

From its opening in late 1973, when Mr. Kristal, a lover of acoustic music, gave the club its name, an abbreviation of the kinds of music he originally intended to feature there — country, bluegrass and blues — until a dispute with its landlord forced the club to close last October, CBGB presented thousands of bands within its eternally crumbling, flyer-encrusted walls.

Most famously, it served as the incubator for the diverse underground scene of New York in the 1970s and early ’80s, with acts like the Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, Talking Heads and Sonic Youth playing some of their earliest and most important concerts there, at a time when there were few outlets in the city for innovative rock music.

“There was no real venue in 1973 for people like us,” Ms. Smith said today. “We didn’t fit into the cabarets or the folk clubs. Hilly wanted the people that nobody else wanted. He wanted us.”

Besides his son, Mr. Kristal is survived by a daughter, Lisa Kristal Burgman, and two grandchildren.

This is very sad news indeed.

Hilly was a genuinely great guy. Hell, he'd have to be to have let my lame-ass band play there on multiple occasions in the 70s.

Boy, do I feel old today....


Kid Charlemagne said...

I made my first and only pilgrimage to the Bowery in Spring of 1980. We caught Richard Lloyd who was playing stuff from his "Alchemy" LP. Great show. Same trip we say Killing Joke and the Senders at Max's KC.

steve simels said...

CBs had the scariest bathrooms that Larry Craig never went to, but it was magic nonetheless.

Cleveland Bob said...

Steve's correct...that bathroom was an OMuthaFUGger

Anonymous said...

Thank your Y chromosome, boys: The ladies room toilets never had seats when I was there.

I can see why he packed in the rent fight--he had a bigger issue to take on.

--NYM, @ work

Anonymous said...

He was a great guy and I'll miss him.

Bobby Sutliff

steve simels said...

Whoa -- Bobby Sutliff as in the Windbreakers?

As in

If so, an honor to have you here.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve,

God forbid there would be someone else stuck with that moniker. BTW - were you the guy who gave me such a splendid review in Stereo Review all those years ago?


steve simels said...

Bobby --

I don't recall specifically if I wrote that review -- it might have been my pal Parke Puterbaugh -- but I definitely really liked at least one Windbreakers album.

I looked at your website, and there's no new news. I assume there is some, but you've just not posted it?

BTW -- How did you find the site?

Anonymous said...

IIRC, when I was there, near the end, the ladies' room had seats but no doors. Plenty of soap and hot water, though.

It's just so sad that the club didn't outlive Hilly. For some curmudgeonly reason, passing the tourist trap on St. Mark's Place that sells CBGB's memorabilia really bugs me, the same way that renaming Irving Plaza "The Fillmore" bugs me. I feel like the whole era is being co-opted ...

steve simels said...

Irving Plaza is now The Fillmore?

What the frack is up with that?

BTW, it's kind of unsettling that suddenly everywhere you go you see people wearing either Ramones or CBGBs t-shirts.

Anonymous said...

Yes, to both your comments. The Fillmore. Right. Sure. Uh-huh.

I was very unsettled by the punk movement, but pseudonostalgia for it is even more unsettling.

I felt the same way about the "Summer of Love" show at the Whitney ... it was like I was in a psychedelia shopping mall in Paramus. It had all the superficial trappings, but was sadly bland. Maybe the curator should have done some acid first.