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!
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • 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.