at last year’s scrap bar reunion in 2014 i saw fran, an old friend and someone who may have been joey ramone’s girlfriend back in the day. i was never sure.
it was…25 years since we saw each other?……at least.
the reunion was fun and at one point, she recounted something that happened in late 1987/early ‘88, between joey and me at around five-thirty in the morning at a long-running after-hours called, “save the robots,” located around avenue B and second street.
it operated as an “art and performance gallery,” by day and an after hours at night, doling out vodka from canada dry ginger-ale bottles and canned beer.
to put it simply, we had words and i told him to fuck off and walked away.
he grabbed me by the neck and began choking me.
i spun around and saw his chin almost a foot above me and hit it.
he is a tall man. it was all chin. simple.
immediately unconscious, he fell flat on his back, his head dully hitting the floor.
i don’t know how drunk he might have been, but i was sober because of an alcohol-poisoned stomach-lining.
drinking would land me in the hospital.
there was sand?—?“Robots,” had a beach motif at this time, with copious amounts of beach sand, three to six inches in spots?—?that cushioned the fall, but no one could rouse him. i was alarmed. a group of people had to pick him up and carry him out.
i held my breath until the next night at the bar when i got word he was ok.
there’s a lot more to the story and i’m writing it somewhere else.
that night was a small part of a larger story.
as is this;
i need to move back in order to move forward, so please bear with me;
scrap bar opened on april 19th, 1986.
in june, i think, i got a phone call from my friend mary, manager of electric lady studios on eighth street.
she was one of my daytime customers at the be bop cafe on 8th street and macdougal, a half-block from the studio.
she came in for lunch regularly and ate at the bar. we became friends.
when i moved to the night shift, she moved with me and when i opened scrap bar, i made sure she knew about it.
anyway, she called me around three in the afternoon and asked me how i felt about having a record-release party.
“when?” i asked.
“in about two hours,” was her reply.
“yes. the ramones. you heard of them, right?” she mocked. “word’ll get out fast,” she added.
“what do i have to do?”
“i don’t know. buy pizza. they like pizza. beer and pizza,” she said.
it was june, but it was hot as july?—?steaming.
among the things scrap bar didn’t yet was air-conditioning.
we did, however, have a really big fan, the kind found in sweatshops.
it had metal blades with a 24-inch-wingspan, encased in steel-wire housing where you can lose fingers.
you can almost reach your entire hand through the fan-housing. scary.
it was mounted atop a six-foot, stainless-steel pole on a cast-iron base.
when switched-on, it sounded like an airplane was preparing for takeoff in the bar.
the record release party was scheduled for five pm.
streams of skinny, tattooed, pasty-skinned kids in black jeans, crossed the rubicon that was fifth avenue and milled in front of this basement space in the west village with the day-glo scrap-metal sculpture and no name, which brought in even more people.
it was a curiously bright and sunny, east-village-sight in the heart of the west village.
around six, members of the band walked in, one of them brandishing the newly-completed, “animal boy” album on cassette tape.
by seven, the place was jam-packed with strains of, “bonzo goes to bittburg,” running through it, the album on auto reverse and the only music that night.
the big, humming fan up front moved sweat and cigarette smoke through the room and out the opened-back door.
boxes and boxes of pizza from “ben by frank’s,” up on the corner of west 3rd street, were being delivered and devoured on aluminum slaughterhouse slabs that served as tables.
suddenly, everything stopped.
the room stood dark and silent, except at the front and rear doorways where the days’ light continued to stream and ongoing conversations continued.
then, it became apparent there was a problem.
all at once, people mobilized; some running out to get candles, others to grab a boombox and batteries.
tap beer doesn’t need electricity to flow, so we were fine.
it was already a hundred-twenty degrees inside. what difference were candles going to make, anyway?
after a few minutes, with tall, glass religious candles on the bar and tables, hundred-fifty-plus people resumed talking and a minute later, the animal boy cassette came back to life on the boom box.
the crowd roared.
the building’s super came to the door and said it was a “house fuse”, an old-style fuse about the size of a can of red bull and headed out to get one, but it didn’t matter anymore?—?the party was ON and so was scrap bar.
this was almost a year before MTV “discovered” us.
i always tried to show deference to the bands and musicians, but as was happening to a lot of punks at this time, age and uncertainty was rearing-up in a lot of drug and alcohol-abused bodies and minds. these guys were my age and i knew what was happening to ME.
change was, among other things.
elsewhere, i’ll dissect the last pages of legs mcneil’s “please kill me,” and the story of the fight that occurred between dee dee ramone and johnny thunders. i was literally in the middle of that.
but i digress….
for months, joey stopped coming to scrap bar.
in the spring of ‘88, Limelight’s Sunday “Rock’n’Roll Church” featured Joey Ramone’s Mother’s Day Show, starring Joey Ramone’s Mom.
i can’t recall who led me to the area at stage left, (maybe it was Fran again?), but i found myself in a small area with Joey, his mother Charlotte and a small crowd of friends, common to both of us.
i thought i had been set-up and maybe i was, but with two grown men (pretty-much) and one mom, we behaved after a few choppy words and a threat from his mom who pick-up on us, immediately.
“behave, you two,” she ordered and we did.
i introduced myself and wished her a happy mother’s day and wished them luck with the show.
joey and i had let it go. it felt good. it felt right.
a year later, some time in 1989, scrap bar got involved in the first Sting-inspired/promoted, “Save the Rain Forest Fundraiser” that got us caught up with a celebrity pool tournament at a chic restaurant/pool-parlor on broadway around 20th street and a concert at a new venue called KAOS that had just opened on the west side, also in the 20’s. i would end up beaten unconscious in front of that place, for any “karma” fans out there. that’s another story as well.
during this time, one of the organizers asked me if i could ask any music people who frequented scrap to help out with the album.
all i did was aim debbie harry at joey or vice/versa and they did something wonderful.
we hung out for an extended period only one more time. it was at his apartment on third avenue. a small group?—?maybe myself and another friend or two went to his place instead of after-hours. our conversation that night involved old music?—?standards, louis jordan, billie, louis armstrong and bing crosby. i remember this because i dialed a crosby maniac i knew and put joey on with him and they had a pleasant conversation. their chief topic may have been joe franklin. they were both friendly with him.
we were cordial. hellos at ritz shows (uptown), acknowledging one another on the street. that sort of thing.
i moved to georgia to build another scrap bar, was gone for two years and when i returned it was over, for the most part.
so was my drinking. my last bottle (stoli) was in scrap bar and yes, that’s another story.
a year or so later, i moved a block and a half from him, but at best, “hello,” was a nod or wave.
i didn’t go out much and was starting a new warehouse business, first in hoboken, NJ, then bushwick, brooklyn.
on april 15th, 2001 i was driving in manhattan’s upper east side when i heard of his passing.
i do not know why, but i began to cry, which is fine, but was unable to stop for hours.
i cancelled the appointment i had and just drove; through to brooklyn, then across the verrazano bridge to staten island and still, i could not stop crying, so i just kept on driving. i don’t know.
maybe mortality punched me in the head that day and joey delivered it. maybe now, we’re even.
it took about fourteen years to say it….or is it 29?
me and scrap bar thank you.