Hell of a Time As Punk Pioneer Celebrates New Book

P1020079Anthony Pappalardo Hell-o!

A punk-rock pioneer celebrating the release of his memoir at a place called the Bourgeois Pig?

Last night at the lounge that’s just a short walk from his East Village apartment, Richard Hell greeted guests with a glass of wine in hand, wearing a minimalist sweater-and-jeans combo. His hair was cut short without any grays (no, he doesn’t dye it — or so he said).

“We didn’t do a pre-game meeting, but I hope someone jumps on the bar and starts reading,” he said when asked if he was planning to read from his new book.

As you know by now, “I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp” chronicles Mr. Hell’s years in New York, where, as a reaction to the flower-child aesthetic, he created a persona and style that was the basis for punk. Malcolm McLaren modeled the Sex Pistols after him, dressing them in leather jackets, shredded gear, and safety pins.

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 11.17.45 AMEcco Press

Mr. Hell, along with Tom Verlaine, later founded Television, one of the most influential bands in American history (it’s safe to say that the Strokes spent a lot of time with “Marquee Moon”). After leaving Television he formed The Heartbreakers with Johnny Thunders but left after only one year to start the Voidoids and record another landmark album, “Blank Generation.” He retired from music in 1983 to focus on writing.

Even with much of the New York City music scene in Austin, Texas for South By Southwest, the Bourgeois Pig was packed. Amidst publishing types and a handful of hipsters were Punk magazine founder John Holmstrom, rock photographer Bob Gruen, former Talking Heads bassist Tina Weymouth, and director Mary Harron. This was a crowd too old to be at a music festival in Texas, but still throwing back drinks at the same pace they did in the ’70s at CBGB.

Living legend and Vanity Fair scribe Anthony Haden Guest swiveled a glass of red wine and made fun of two young New York Observer writers, the only people there wearing suits: “You can’t keep up with me now, never mind the ’70s.”

An employee of Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, agreed that Mr. Hell looked better now than her boss, the former sexiest man alive. (No, the company hasn’t optioned the book, she said.)

The party wound down at 9 p.m. and guests spilled outside, where the “remember when”s and back slapping continued on East Seventh Street.

Spotted today on First Avenue, Mr. Hell laughed, “You guys haven’t changed since last night either.”

If you missed the party, you can catch Mr. Hell reading at Barnes & Noble tomorrow or at Fales Library April 3. A reception will follow the Fales event.