At ‘Bye Bye CBGB,’ Regulars Consider ‘Hello Again’

photoKathryn Doyle

Last night, at the opening of an exhibition of Bruno Hadjadj’s photographs documenting the final nights of CBGB, the artist expressed doubts about the legendary club’s impending revival.

“It will be another story,” said Mr. Hadjadj, 46. “If [the original owners] couldn’t keep it open, it can’t happen again.”

A crowd of leather-clad punk rockers and tastefully dressed French artists had crammed into Clic Gallery on Centre Street for “Bye Bye CBGB,” billed as a farewell in photographs to the club.

“CBGB is the property of the world,” said Mr. Hadjadj, flanked by light boxes displaying his black-and-white prints of the club, its patrons, and the neighborhood.

In the room full of former regulars, some wearing CBGB t-shirts, emotions were mixed over the venue’s potential rebirth.

“You can reopen the club but you can’t restart the spirit,” said Bill Popp, 58. His band, Bill Popp and the Tapes, auditioned at CBGB for the first time in 1981 and played there regularly until Sept. 15, 2006, a month before the venue closed. He became a close friend of Hilly Kristal, who founded the club in 1973 and died in 2007.

photo-1Kathryn Doyle A close-up of one of Mr. Hadjadj’s<br>photos.

Now that the CBGB brand has changed hands, many old regulars are wary of what the future will bring. Yeonne Carella, a photographer with fond memories of the club, said, “That community of people: you knew people that you didn’t know, but you knew them,” To try to revive it now? “It’s not even possible,” she said.

Mr. Hadjadj said that much had changed since the late eighties, when he moved from Paris to the corner of Bowery and Houston Street. “When I came out at night, sometimes I would have the taxi driver wait for me – just in case, you know? The neighborhood was… intense,” he said, laughing.

He was attracted to the scene because of what it meant to people all over the world. “It was the dream for everybody, to play here,” he said, adding that while on tour promoting the book that accompanies the exhibit, he spoke to a Korean pop star who said he had always wanted to play at CBGB.

Some were optimistic that the dream would live on. “The spirit is still alive – not everybody is in Brooklyn,” said Christiane Celle, 53, the owner of Clic Gallery and a friend of Mr. Hadjadj. She moved here from France in 1984 as a young girl. “I went to CBGB – not every night, you know, but sometimes,” she said. Now she has teenagers of her own and hopes that the club’s new incarnation will be a place for her children to see music and taste a little of what was, for her, a magical time.

Last night, it seemed as if CBGB had already reopened in some sense, as so many old friends emerged from the underground to pay their respects.