Bill Hicks Moved to Alphabet City in 1988 – To Get Sober

hicksDaniel Maurer

It’s a little known fact – but no surprise – that Bill Hicks, the insightful and iconoclastic comedian, once lived in the East Village. His first apartment after moving to New York City in 1988 was at 29 Avenue B near the corner of East 3rd Street. In a postcard to his brother Steve, the acerbic stand-up described apartment 3F as “a studio, but rather large, with a full bath and full kitchen. It’s a new building with an elevator and laundromat. What a find.”

Mr. Hicks had a history of substance abuse problems, but arrived in New York from his native Houston eager to focus on his career. His brother told The Local about that time, via e-mail.

Bill got sober in early 1988 [and] he knew he had to leave Houston, TX behind him if he was to grow as a comedian. There were too many temptations and a fresh start was needed. So, Bill packed up and moved to NYC. He had not found a place to live yet so he showed up on the doorstep of one of our cousins and crashed with her until he could find and afford his own apartment, which ended up being the one on Avenue B. Bill was a romantic and a movie buff so he loved the idea of living in Alphabet City.

As his career blossomed, Bill traveled the world for shows, but always yearned to return home. According to his brother, he “considered himself more aligned with the sensibilities of NYC.” In one of his routines, Mr. Hicks referred to LA as Hell-A because of its oppressive year-round heat. “You know, I’m a mammal,” he said. “I can afford scarves, coats, cappuccino, and rosy-cheeked women, and all are available for sale… on the streets of New York. Where I will soon be returning, because LA is a nightmare city.”

Over a five-year period, the comedian lived in three different Manhattan apartments, including one on West 51st Street and another on West 44th. He was a regular at many of the comedy clubs throughout the city, and made many appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman” – one of which was famously banned from airing due to its controversial content. Off-stage, Bill enjoyed the city’s restaurants and, his brother said, took great pleasure in reading in the parks and encouraging other young comedians with their acts.

Sadly, Mr. Hicks was diagnosed with cancer in 1993 – he performed his final show at Caroline’s in midtown on January 6 of the next year. Soon after, he moved back to his parents’ house and passed away on February 26, 1994. He was 32 years old.