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Nightclubbing | Levi and the Rockats

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

Rockats CBGB flyer

At CBGB, it was a crapshoot what you would hear on a given night (maybe folk rock, maybe noise bands) and we, the audience, said bring it on. If the music was good, we listened to it. But over in England, there was a culture war raging that was alien to most variety-loving New Yorkers.

Teds were the original “rebel teenagers” of the late 40s and early 50s, with their own unique clothing style and love of early rock and roll. They endured as a niche group for years, enjoying a resurgence in the 70s. They held on to their sartorial and musical traditions – and with it, an unfortunate penchant for violence, a behavior certainly fanned by the British tabloids. Though the gritty details remain debatable, it seemed inevitable that the conservative, volatile Teds would pick a fight with the publicity-loving, anarchic punks. The natty Teds didn’t like safety pins and they sure didn’t like the Sex Pistols.

Leee Black Childers remembered going to a rockabilly show in London in 1977 while touring with the Heartbreakers as their manager during the “Anarchy in the UK” tour. “When the lights went up, Teds suddenly descended on us and threatened to beat us up for being punks,” he said. “This kid, Levi Dexter stepped up and stuck up for us and we were saved.” Childers asked him if he had any friends, because with his looks he could start up a band. Levi recruited childhood friend Smutty Smiff and a few others and Childers became their manager. Read more…

Nightclubbing | Stilletto Fads

Tomorrow, as part of the CBGB Festival, Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong will discuss the Downtown Collection’s recent acquisition of their Nightclubbing archive of punk-era concert footage. In this week’s installment of their column for The Local, they speak with Tish and Snooky Bellomo, who will be playing with the Sic F*cks tonight at Bowery Electric and tomorrow at Fontana’s. That band was hardly the only one the Bellomo sisters had a hand in.

tish and snookyCourtesy Manic PanicTish and Snooky Bellomo

In the beginning, there was the Stillettos: Debbie Harry, Elda Stilletto and Roseanne Ross. As flashy and trashy as glam bands got, they played CBGBs so early in the game that the Ramones opened for them. By 1975, Debbie Harry had gone on to form Blondie. Elda transformed the Stillettos into the Stilletto Fads, with Tish and Snooky Bellomo as back up singers.

The Bellomos were no strangers to the CBGB scene. “We used to come down to the city from Riverdale,” said Tish. “We would hide our ‘subway’ shoes in some hedges outside of Max’s and CBGB and change into our cool stilettos and rock-and-roll wear before we went in, then change back on the train on our way back to the Bronx so we wouldn’t scare the neighbors.” Their fashion sense paid off: realizing how hard it was for New Yorkers to get the cool tight black pants that English kids wore, they used $500 to open Manic Panic on St. Marks Place in 1977. “Sometimes, we only made a $2.50 sale all day,” recalled Snooky, “but everyone would drop by, so you almost didn’t care. It was a while before we started making any money.”

Meanwhile, they sang with the Sic F*cks – at CBGBs, Max’s, Mudd Club theme nights, and wherever fun was to be had – and with the Stilletto Fads. Read more…

Coca Crystal, a Wild Child Turned ‘Unconventional’ Mother

Coca Crystal from her Facebook pageRalph Ginsburg Coca Crystal

The first thing on Jackie Diamond’s to-do list: “2008 – Publish book.”

“You see I’m behind schedule,” the 64-year-old said of the unfinished work, her chest purring with laughter. “I got busy with cancer.”

Ms. Diamond is better known to students of the underground as Coca Crystal – a secretary, writer, and “Slum Goddess” for The East Village Other who went on to host a cult cable-access television show for nearly two decades.

In 2006, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Since then, she’s had three operations to remove over a third of her lungs, undergone chemotherapy, and become a patient at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. The last time her cancer returned, her doctor told her it had spread to a part of her lung that was inoperable.

Her to-do list continues: “2010 – Movie based on my life released. Drew Barrymore stars as Coca Crystal.”

“And then the dignitaries and the party,” Ms. Crystal imagined. “And then I’ll live happily ever after. Finally.”

But the real reason she wants to publish her book isn’t the dream of a movie deal – it’s Gus. Read more…

CBGB Returns as Summer Festival, May Reopen as Club

DESCRIPTIONGodlis A 1977 photo of CBGB, which operated on the Bowery from 1973 to 2006. Owners of the club’s assets are now planning a festival and seeking to revive it at a new site.

For the last six years the name CBGB has been little more than a logo on T-shirts for young people in the East Village. Now a group of investors has bought the assets of that famous punk-rock club, which closed in 2006, and plans to establish an ambitious music festival this summer, with an eye toward reopening the club at a new downtown location.

The new owners of the club’s assets — some with ties to the original Bowery establishment — say they hope that the festival will revive the wide-open artistic aesthetic associated with CBGB, which in its heyday served as an incubator for influential acts like Television, the Talking Heads, the Ramones, Blondie, Sonic Youth and Patti Smith. Read more…

Revisiting the No Wave Scene At The BMW Guggenheim Lab On Sunday

Two of the most comprehensive documentarians of the late-1970s East Village punk scene will give a screening of their rare no wave footage at the BMW Guggeinheim Lab on Sunday.

Bush Tetras at CBGB, 1980.

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The Day | East Village Teens Busted for Bridge Walking

Williamsburg FallsC Ceres Merry

Good morning, East Village.

The Daily News reports that three First Avenue teenagers were arrested for walking across a beam of the Williamsburg Bridge early Saturday morning.

According to The Post’s crime blotter, a man posing as a real estate agent showed off an East Third Street apartment and pocketed $3,575 from two victims who thought they had snagged the digs.

EV Grieve notices a sign indicating that an outpost of the organic hamburger chain BareBurger is coming to the former Sin Sin space.

In addition to the mint trash bags we told you about, a baiting station is now being used to fight the Tompkins Square Park rats, EV Grieve notices.

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Appreciating the Music of Television

TelevisionHeartonastick Tom Verlaine performing at Central Park Summerstage, 2007.

There are certain artists one wishes one could outgrow. They belong to one’s youth, after all, and perhaps they should remain there, along with all the other youthful things one is relieved to have outgrown. But for me, the music of the CBGB’s-era band Television, and in particular its singer and songwriter, Tom Verlaine, is one of those youthful enthusiasms which (so far, anyway) threads its way through my life with embarrassing persistence. Occasionally it disappears for long periods while other, more novel interests take hold, but then, like mosquitoes in Spring, back it comes, nipping at the senses as tenaciously as always, only in this case the result is intense pleasure rather than irritation and blood marks.

Television was, or is — no one seems to be sure of its exact current status — the band best known for inaugurating the CBGB’s scene in the mid-1970’s; for having to this day a small but ferociously loyal group of devotees; and for having been eclipsed, at least in terms of popularity, by other bands of that era such as Talking Heads, Blondie, The Ramones, et al. Even by the monstrously egotistical standards set by most rock stars, they seemed weirdly indifferent to fame and record sales, but like the Velvet Underground their musical influence remains pervasive and lives on in a variety of formats which now include amateurishly filmed but invaluable concert clips put up on YouTube.
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