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The Rent's Too Damn High

AN ABBREVIATED SURVEY OF ICONIC NEW YORK CITY VENUES... AND WHAT BECAME OF THEM

1965
1988
2011
START
OPENED 1965
CLOSED 1981
213 Park Avenue South

BACK IN THE DAY:

As Patti Smith wrote in her bestselling memoir Just Kids, "The politics at Max's were very similar to high school, except the popular people were not the cheerleaders or football heroes and the prom queen would most certainly be a he, dressed as a she." Countless art and music scenes waxed and waned behind Max's doors-and a Warhol-haunted VIP room-over the course of its two main runs. During the club's first decade, you might find Philip Glass mulling over minimalism in the same room as glam-rock's holy trinity (Bowie, Pop and Reed), or catch Roy Lichtenstein having a conversation over chickpeas a couple tables away from William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. As for what happened between 1975 and 1981, talent booker Peter Crowley made sure Max's was as much a part of the city's unruly punk-rock scene as CBGB. (Its final bill was headlined by Bad Brains and supported by a particularly bratty hardcore incarnation of the Beastie Boys.)

DOWN IN FRONT
16 YEARS
WHAT IT IS NOW

A buffet-boasting Korean deli called Green Cafe.

WHERE IT WAS
Down In Front

"A lot of people have this picture in their minds of punks in leather jackets with spiky hair, but New York punks didn't really look like that...People were much more into creating their own style. When people like Richard Hell dressed up with safety pins on, it was because they didn't have any money and their clothes were falling apart; it wasn't a fashion statement. Hanging out was a lot like high school-if you weren't in a band, you were nobody basically. I didn't know anybody at first, but I eventually met people like Lydia Lunch and people from Mars and DNA through my girlfriend Nancy [Arlen]. If you played music, you'd just look around until you found someone who looked like they would fit into the concept you had. And if they didn't play an instrument, maybe you could find them an instrument and teach them how to play...

I went into the audience one time at Max's, and this guy jumped up and socked me in the face with a ring on or something. It knocked me out briefly. After the show, I went over to Beth Israel [Hospital] so they could take a look at it...When they heard I'd been in a fight, they wanted me to talk to a cop there. This cop says, 'You were at Max's huh? I heard there was a guy from a band there, going around and getting into fights with people.' I said, 'No, no, no; I just got into a fight over my girlfriend.' After that, I started to phase that sort of stuff out. It was getting too predictable anyway." - James Chance (performer)

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OPENED 1973
CLOSED 2006
315 BOWERY

BACK IN THE DAY:

Yes, the place reeked of piss and had a truly dicey dressing room, one that made middle school plays look like Madison Square Garden. There's still no denying CBGB's pivotal role in the evolution of punk rock. Not punk as a mere form of music, either-punk as an attitude and lifestyle, whether that meant the guitar-guided poetry of Patti Smith, the avant-funk tomfoolery of Talking Heads, or the cross-contaminated chords of Television. No wonder why David Byrne proudly declares "This ain't no Mudd Club or CBGB!" amid the vampy locked grooves of "Life During Wartime."

DOWN IN FRONT
33 YEARS
WHAT IT IS NOW

The flagship store of fashion designer John Varvatos, complete with reverential restorations like 20-year-old playbills and graffiti that once glazed over CBGB's grimy "bathrooms".

WHERE IT WAS
Down In Front

"The first wave of CBGB's was Patti [Smith], Talking Heads, Richard Hell, and the Ramones, of course. I had my personal epiphany after seeing them...I was playing flute in Peter [Gordon's] band, and he said, 'Rhys, have you ever been a rock concert in your life?' So I said, 'No,' and he said, 'Well, there's this interesting group playing at CBGB's. Why don't you come with me tonight? I think you might like them.' It was the Ramones. They'd just put out their first album, and what I saw changed my life...I got a Fender guitar the next day." - Rhys Chatham (composer/performer)

"The first time I saw the Rapture play was at CBGB's. There was hardly anybody there. I thought they played so tough. I met them after the show and we started hanging out. Coincidentally, I had just met James [Murphy] maybe a week before at a magazine party. I didn't know they knew each other and were about to start working together. A couple weeks after the CB's show, I was at SXSW with my boyfriend's band. I bumped into Mattie Safer at the bar. The Rapture were playing the room next door, so I went over to say hi, which is when I ran into James and Tim [Goldsworthy] and realized they were there with them. After that, I couldn't go out without seeing any one of them at the same show or party or bar or Burritoville." - Nancy Whang (The Juan MacLean, LCD Soundsystem)

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OPENED 1973
CLOSED 1986
59 WOOSTER STREET

BACK IN THE DAY:

Steina and Woody Vasulka founded The Kitchen in 1971, when they turned the cooking area of the Mercer Arts Center into a video art space. That plan collapsed with the building itself two years later, however, making a tentative move to SoHo official. While The Kitchen still operates further uptown at 512 West 19th Street-where it's been housed for nearly two decades-the importance of its early years in blurring the line between experimental music and performance/visual art cannot be overstated. Among the many interdisciplinary icons who made their presence known here are Steve Reich, Tony Conrad, Laurie Anderson, Meredith Monk and Patti Smith's longtime muse/sometime lover Robert Mapplethorpe.

13 YEARS
WHAT IT IS NOW

Selima Optique, a trendy spot that describes itself as "the epicenter of downtown eyewear." Apparently, Liv Tyler, Madonna and the undisputed king of light sensitive shades (yep-Bono!) have all shopped here.

WHERE IT WAS
OPENED 1976
CLOSED 1987
84 KING STREET

BACK IN THE DAY:

"At Studio [54] they were into the show," disco singer Rochelle Fleming told Tim Lawrence in his definitive book on '70s dance music, Love Saves the Day. "But at the Paradise Garage they were screaming and sweating and having a ball. It was pure energy coming off the walls."

No kidding; modeled after David Mancuso's private parties at The Loft, Paradise Garage was one of the first discoteques that elevated DJs to the role of record-blending demigods. And unlike many of today's Patron-pushing superclubs, Paradise Garage wasn't about being seen or the scene. It was a celebration of dancing itself; enough that an entire label (the influential West End Records imprint) has long been synonymous with the "Garage Sound", an immaculate mix of house, disco and left-field acts like the Clash.

ON THE FLOOR
11 YEARS
WHAT IT IS NOW

A Verizon office. Yeah.

WHERE IT WAS
On The Floor

"I was at the Garage from the very beginning. The club was built to Larry's specifications. The sound system was designed for Larry; the lighting was designed for Larry; it was Larry's private party, just like how Nicky Siano had The Gallery and David Mancuso had The Loft...One night, Larry went away and [Garage founder] Michael [Brody] didn't know he was stuck in Brazil. When we finally heard he missed his flight, there was no time to get a replacement, so Michael said, 'David, can you handle it?' So I said, 'Yes,' and I did it. I accidentally became a DJ.

I wanted people on the dance floor to feel the way Larry made me feel. I didn't concentrate on how well I mixed; I wanted to play good music and I wanted the people on the dance floor to have fun. Like when I was on the dance floor and Larry was playing something, I'd lose my mind. I'd say, 'Oh my god! I can't believe he played this record or that record!' I didn't care how he mixed it; I just loved the story he told with the songs.

For me, the Garage was like a church. You went to church on Sunday and prayed; you went to the Garage on Friday and Saturday, and you danced. Even on the straight night, guys didn't go to pick up girls, and girls didn't get all dolled up in high heels to turn on the boys...If you wanted to pick people up, you went to other clubs. It was all about the sound, and all about the dance." - David DePino (Larry Levan's left-hand man/DJ)

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OPENED 1976
CLOSED 1997
140 EAST 14TH STREET

BACK IN THE DAY:

Man, where to start with this one? How about the classic guitar-smashing cover of London Calling, which was captured before a crazed Palladium audience on September 21, 1979? Or the fact that U2, Roxy Music and the Fall all played their first New York shows here? Or the many ways New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands made their presence known, from the ball-hugging high notes of Iron Maiden to the S&M signatures of Judas Priest?

That's just the rock venue version, too; Studio 54's former owners converted the cavernous space (capacity: 3,000 crazy people) into a new-wave/house-leaning nightclub in 1985. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf all painted original murals over its walls. Oh, and the last two sets performed here were sold-out Fugazi shows. It doesn't get any more cred-worthy than that.

21 YEARS
WHAT IT IS NOW

NYU bought the land, wrecked the club and built a towering dorm on top of it called...Palladium Hall.

WHERE IT WAS
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OPENED 1977
CLOSED 1987
254 WEST 54th STREET

BACK IN THE DAY:

Everything that was great (the music) and godawful (the velvet ropes) about the disco era. A playground for pretty people (at least in its first glitter-caked phase, run by the rightfully scandalous duo Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager). Music became more important than the celebrity-courting crowd when Mark Fleischman took over however, from breaking artists like Madonna, Duran Duran and Run-DMC to, err, Slayer, Venom and Exodus.

10 YEARS
WHAT IT IS NOW

The on-Broadway home of the Roundabout Theatre Company, which recently hosted a Harvey revival starring Sheldon (okay, Jim Parsons) from Big Bang Theory.

WHERE IT WAS
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OPENED 1980
CLOSED 1987
125 EAST 11TH STREET

BACK IN THE DAY:

Jerry Brandt-a club owner best known for discovering Carly Simon-opened the Ritz in the same 19th century building that housed the original Webster Hall. One of the first New York venues to feature a $120,000 projector and massive screen, it's no surprise that MTV christened its "ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll" mission statement here, with a "Live From the Ritz" concert series that captured Guns N' Roses and Red Hot Chili Peppers in their prime. Also of note in the live clip department at this alt-rock epicenter: Danzig's "Mother" video. Marinate on that one for a minute.

DOWN IN FRONT
7 YEARS
WHAT IT IS NOW

Webster Hall, reincarnated. Not quite what it once was, but a landmark nonetheless.

WHERE IT WAS
Down In Front

"This place was made infamous by their evil bouncers. Chain Gang even wrote a song called 'Kill The Bouncers At The Ritz'." I saw that first hand in 1981. Bow Wow Wow were meant to play the show that night and cancelled. PiL was announced as a fill in. My friends and I trekked down and waited in line for hours in the rain for entry. We were all about 14 years old and I'm sure just had t-shirts on; we were freezing. We finally were let in at 10 p.m., after maybe four hours in the rain.

The opening act was this provocative art-noise duo on a Casiotone. The Ritz had a giant screen where they would show videos, so PiL decided they wanted to use it as part of the performance. It didn't work, AND it was easily 2 a.m. The crowd was furious; bottles and cups were thrown at the screen, with John Lydon egging everyone on. It started to get scary and almost in an instant the place erupted in mayhem. The screen was torn down, equipment destroyed, and bouncers kicking ass. I saw a mic or something on the ground and leaned down to pick it up; it got kicked away and when I stood up I saw the guy next to me had had his teeth knocked out by a bouncer with a pipe. It was time to flee, an exciting but very ugly scene." - Chris Lombardi (Matador Records founder)

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OPENED 1982
CLOSED 1986
WEST 21ST STREET

BACK IN THE DAY:

Decades before mash-ups were a "thing", Danceteria's universally acclaimed DJs were cutting nightclub classics alongside just about any genre with a steady groove, from early hip-hop to new-wave. Maybe that's why members of the Smiths, New Order, Depeche Mode and many, many more could be found creeping through the crowd on any given night. Or as the venue's primary promoter (former stockbroker/Studio 54 manager Rudolf Pieper) once said in a Nickelodeon-yes, Nickelodeon; it was much cooler in the '80s-interview, "The secret is magic and energy, which is transporting people to a different reality or no reality...And at the same time, recharge their batteries...The clubs really are about music and people."

ON THE FLOOR
4 YEARS
WHAT IT IS NOW

Sold for $12.5 million in 2004, the building changed hands yet again just three years later...for $25 million. Beck Street Capital then converted the space into 11 luxury condos, valued from $5,895,000 to $9.25 million. "We like to refurbish buildings and bring the soul back to them," the company's lead investor, Kevin Comer, told The New York Observer in 2008. "The '80s literally drained the soul from the building." Now wait a minute...

WHERE IT WAS
On The Floor

"Once the whole 'disco sucks!' thing' started to kick in, there was a definite sense of loss. People were running around with their heads cut off, not knowing where to go or what to do...All of these other clubs jumped on the new-wave bandwagon of trying to be different. Danceteria was already anchored in that, so they flourished. They were the [Paradise] Garage of that genre-eclectic dance music, not just new-wave. They played everything, really, and were really focused on being very different, down to earth, and free. It set the stage for quite a few things; they played some disco, they played hip-hop before that was going on downtown, they played electro, techno and reggae. It was so varied, you couldn't put a label on it. It was new-wave in a real sense.

I remember when Madonna was the elevator operator there, with Cheyne from 'Call Me Mr. Telephone'...Cheyne had to perform once, and she needed something besides 'Call Me Mr. Telephone', so Madonna gave her 'Into the Groove.' She performed it really well, but Madonna took it back, of course." - Danny Krivit (Producer/DJ)

"Friday night was my night to DJ on the main dance floor at Danceteria. Well, it was Friday and I was late for work. I hadn't eaten a thing all day and my wife Chi Chi was mad at me. 'You never eat!' she screamed. This was 1983 and WKTU was the hot radio station. They would do these monster party mixes on the weekends. I thought, 'I'll just hook up my beatbox radio to the sound system and run across the street for quick burger. No one will ever know.'

So I hooked up the WKTU party mix and ran out of the club for my burger. The people at the door were a little confused but I told them I'd be right back. A half hour later, as I walked back up to the club I could tell by their faces that something was wrong. 'You better get upstairs quick!' Even as I was running up the stairs to the second floor I could hear Crazy Eddie's voice booming over the sound system. When I got to the packed dance floor I was mortified to see everyone just standing around as Crazy Eddie shouted 'He's Insane!' Apparently the party mix had ended and people had been listening to stupid radio commercials for 15 minutes. I looked over at the DJ booth and there was [owner] Rudolf [Pieper] and he was totally insane. He was so mad at me he couldn't even speak. In fact, he was so mad he never ever even brought it up. That of course freaked me out more than if he had screamed at me. Rudolf is a brilliant man." - Johnny Dynell (DJ)

"It was my first trip to the USA for a New Years Eve show in 1984 at Danceteria and one of the coldest winters on record. Madonna was the elevator operator and a dancer at the club. Morrissey didn't wear his glasses that night and mistook a bass speaker for a part of the stage; there was a 3-foot gap so he fell off. We managed to complete the gig after he climbed back onstage, but it was a pretty memorable misstep. On New Years Day, [drummer] Mike [Joyce] was sick and covered in red spots-on his face, tongue, everywhere-from chickenpox. Overall, a great first visit to NYC and the USA. Danceteria definitely made a big impression on me."

- Andy Rourke (bassist, The Smiths)
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OPENED 1983
CLOSED 1996
47 WEST 20TH STREET

BACK IN THE DAY:

The New York location of Peter Gatien's popular Limelight chain happened to be his most notorious, with the building's deconsecration-the stained glass windows and Gothic architecture stem from its time as an Episcopal church-mirrored in a made-for-TV mess of drug addiction and murder. (As detailed in the film Party Monster, promoter Michael Alig was convicted for killing and dismembering a drug dealer/Limelight regular named Angel Melendez.) It wasn't such a bad place to hear music either, from the gleefully indecent industrial of Marilyn Manson to the twisted techno of Aphex Twin.

ON THE FLOOR
13 YEARS
WHAT IT IS NOW

Limelight Marketplace, "New York's Festival of Shops...a retail environment that inspires, engages and offers a sense of discovery." And brick-oven pizza from the world renowned Grimaldi's; can't forget that.

WHERE IT WAS
On The Floor

"I went to the Limelight on Tuesday nights, for the goth/alternative party called Communion. At times they featured prominent bands in that category (Morrissey, The Charlatans, James, Christian Death, Nitzer Ebb) and it always segued into a club night with dancing. All rooms were open in the club and I usually retreated to 'The Chapel' after the band to watch people dance. I was a wallflower.

One of my fondest memories was seeing Morrissey in 1992 on his Your Arsenal tour. Due to overcrowding, the fire department came and from what I remember, the show ended a bit short. Not only that, but my older brother stage dove and landed on his head. Ahhh...those were the days.

Dave Kendall of MTV's 120 Minutes was also a host of Communion and would introduce most bands. For some reason, the crowd hated him and we always heckled him when he took the stage.

In 1994, I went to see Nitzer Ebb and for some reason decided to stay in the mosh pit for the entire show. At that point, I was fully immersed in the goth scene, adorned with 14-hole steel toe Docs and a long, flimsy plum-colored lace dress. By the end of the show, my dress was ripped to shreds and I was forced to walk around basically in a bra, tights, boots and a ripped-up dress. Needless to say, I had the time of my life." - Justine D (DJ, promoter)

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OPENED 1993
CLOSED 2011
511 GRENWICH ST

BACK IN THE DAY:

After a brief reboot attempt by nightlife regulars Nur Khan and Paul Sevigny-complete with intimate, invite-only sets from A-list acts like the Stooges, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Kills-Don Hill's was shuttered down immediately following the sudden death of its eponymous owner. Which was only appropriate; the place wouldn't be the same without Don hovering near the bar, lamenting the death of 'real rock 'n' roll' and watching influential parties like MisShapes and SqueezeBox generate massive fashion-forward crowds that could include everyone from director John Cameron Mitchell to a disguise-wearing David Bowie.

DOWN IN FRONT
18 YEARS
WHAT IT IS NOW

To be continued...

WHERE IT WAS
Down In Front

"I met Don Hill in 1986, when I was going to Cat Club. He was already a seasoned pro in the business back then. I was not; I was a 19-year-old kid. As with many things in life, you don't really know/appreciate things quite as much when you're of a certain age. I didn't realize at the time how great Mr. Hill was.

Fast forward to 1994, almost 10 years later. Don Hill the man now owned and operated the club Don Hill's. My first performance there was doing a live rendition of 'Sweet Transvestite' from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Little did I know that my backing band would end up being a combo of the SqueezeBox band and the genesis of Hedwig.

Within a few years, Don Hill would be running one of the most successful rock venues in NYC. Three major nights were back to back to back-Beaver on Thursdays, SqueezeBox on Fridays, and Tiswas on Saturdays. I spent a lot of time at both SqueezeBox and Tiswas. The former was truly the definitive party at Don Hill's, a polysexual rock 'n' roll, gloriously riotous mess; for five years, SqueezeBox ruled. Sure, it had its own sources of inspiration from previous parties, but it made its own mark on its own terms. What made SqueezeBox even more special was that Don Hill's was 'technically' a straight club managed by a straight man...but everyone loved Don. And Don never batted an eyelash about anything. As long as you were cool, all was fine. That's what made Don Hill/Don Hill's so great.

As the 20th century moved into the 21st, things would begin to change. Unfortunately, most of them weren't for the better. There was 9/11, huge rent increases, and the homogenization and sterilization of NYC, including nightlife. And yet, Don Hill fought the battle throughout; he stayed true to himself and the roots of the club. He believed in live music and he never became a parody of himself for the sake of trying to stay 'hip' or 'cool'.

In its final months. Don-god knows why-decided to do business with a bunch of clowns...Everyone that really knew Don was stunned by this bizarre 'union'. About six months later, Don was gone, at the age of 66.

It truly was an end of an era.

On a personal note, I had so many memorable moments at Don Hill's, both as a patron and as a performer. Moreover, I developed a friendship with Don. He was always a true gentlemen with me, whether we were in a business meeting or just hanging out by the far corner of the bar. He once paid me one of the best compliments anyone has ever given me. I'm paraphrasing a little but it was basically, 'You've really turned into such a great performer; that's where you need to be-on stage

I can't tell you what that meant, coming from a man who had literally seen everyone...and quite a lot of them at his own venue. But that was Don-if he believed in something or someone, he was there for you. We miss Don and Don Hill's." - Michael T (DJ/performer/promoter)

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