Fading Rock Landmark Faces Last Hurrah

By Ariella Cohen

Published September 09, 2005, issue of September 09, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The stage lights are in danger of going black at the legendary New York rock club where The Ramones, Blondie and the Talking Heads got their start.

Widely held to be the birthplace of punk, CBGB occupies the ground floor and basement of a homeless shelter on the Bowery. But now, the Bowery Residents’ Committee — a publicly funded organization that operates a homeless shelter above the club and holds a 45-year master lease on the building — says that the rock club is not a suitable tenant for the space.

CBGB’s owner, Hilly Kristal, the BRC’s executive director, Muzzy Rosenblatt, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who came out last week in support of the club, are all Jewish.

But when you get down to it, the battle for the Bowery haunt comes to not much more than a good old-fashioned grudge match. “Essentially, Muzzy doesn’t like Fuzzy,” explained Kristal, a hirsute 72-year-old who still runs the club. Yet, for Kristal’s younger acolytes, the fight strikes at something deeper. Thousands gathered last August 31 at nearby Washington Square Park for a rally/musical tribute to the club.

“[CBGB] is not historic. It’s sacred,” said E-Street Band member and “The Sopranos” star Steven Van Zandt, speaking from a stage on which Blondie and Bad Brains later performed.

“We’re not going without a fight,” said Van Zandt, who was joined at the rally by “Sopranos” co-stars Tony Sirico and Joe Pantoliano, who, true to their on-screen personas, talked about settling the dispute with violence.

Though the club’s lease officially expired at midnight on the eve of the Washington Square Park rally, the soon-to-be homeless club is keeping its oil burning with nightly benefit concerts.

“God willing, it will be saved,” said Donna Gaines, the author of “Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia’s Dead End Kids” (Pantheon Books, 1991).

“CBGB is tradition,” film director Jonathan Demme said. “And New York cares about keeping traditions alive.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.