New York's A Go Go and Everything Tastes Nice.
STORY BY Howie Pyro
Published: July 2, 2013
My week in NY started like so many others...my buddy Jimmy (the boy wonder) picked me up at the airport & we went out to his place. I had my work cut out for me as I flew in for a big event at The Bowery Electric on Bowery & Joey Ramone Place, owned/run by my former/current/forever bandmate Jesse Malin. Jesse & his team hired me to do an installation for the new upstairs of the bar/venue. They wanted something with flyers for old shows & I came up with doing a tribute to that neighborhood, my old stomping grounds. I made a list of all the lower east side clubs (and related) that I could think of and designed a map of lower Manhattan with all the club names & locations noted and started going through massive flyer collections of mine & Bryan Ray Turcotte, with whom I did the award winning book Punk Is Dead, Punk Is Everything. It's a gorgeous coffee table book stuffed with old punk flyers, tickets, buttons, arm bands, set lists, matchbooks, etc. Most from my collection.
This book is a follow up to the huge award winning book Fucked Up And Photocopied (both from Ginko Press). My first thought was call Arturo, as he & The Ramones are the main common thread in our friendship as Jimmy worked for The Ramones for a long time, brought in by his good buddy Arturo Vega. We both called/texted at the same time to bombard him in a goofy way. He told Jimmy that he has been having weird pains that kept moving all over his body, from his chest to his arm to his back, etc. and he sent me this text.
This was very unlike Arturo, a veritable work horse, super fit mountain climbing underground art institution. Arturo created The Ramones logo for/with them, did all their merch, imagery, backdrops, live show lighting and so much more. He was their first supporter he was more a part of the band then so many later members of The Ramones, and he was my friend. One of my oldest friends as we met 37 years ago, before many of my current friends, lovers & work partners were born. Arturo truly shaped the look of punk graphics. The Ramones headquarters were Arturo's loft right there around the corner from CBGB & now The Bowery Electric. East 2nd Street is called Joey Ramone Place because that is where Arturo's loft is. He lived there (and so did The Ramones, early on when they were broke) from the mid 70s until his untimely death from cancer last month. I cannot state enough just how much Arturo gave to/meant to/influenced generations of punk & Rock N Roll kids all over the world. He traveled with the Ramones & did their lights & backdrops at all but 2 of their live shows...ever. He was a truly good friend & he will be missed by me greatly & by the world, deeply. For Arturo to not come a half a block to see me was bizarre but I was busy & just hoped he rested up for his art opening coming up. The last thing I ever expected is that I would never see him again. About a week after I left New York, Arturo went into the hospital and never left. I'm still in shock & the reality that I will never see this amazing man ever again is just now sinking in to my dismay. Woah.
We decided since the whole city was in a punk frenzy due to the big opening of the Punk exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that we should go check it out before we hit the real (some anti, some in favor of) downtown exhibits. The Met was bizarre & astonishing as you can read in this accompanying blog on here.
We then hit the punk photo exhibit at Book Marc, Marc Jacobs west village book shop. I was pretty surprised that 80% of the small amount of (amazing) photos were in the window forcing an impromptu street corner gathering the kind I have not experienced since those days & featuring all the faces from those days in attendance. It went from an annoyance very quickly to a nostalgic joy. I saw people I run into & some I haven't seen in decades & it was amazing! Among the throng of people out there were Debbie Harry, Paul Zone, Leee Black Childers, Bob Gruen, Bobby Grossman, Godlis, Stephanie Chernikowski, Danny Fields, Roberta Bayley (who put it together), Richard Hell, Marcia Resnick, Richard Manitoba & family, Michael Alago, Shao-Lin and so many more.
This was amazing and again we were hoping Arturo would show up, but no go. The event at Bowery Electric was insanely attended and got a bit cramped & scary like a zombie movie from my position at the DJ booth. I actually had a little panic attack (and I thrive on chaos) due to the insanity of flashbulbs & arms & lips being thrusted at me. I had Richard Manitoba lead singer of The Dictators as my guest DJ for an hour & he, when not choosing the hits, shoved people out of the way & made jokes & we had a good time & I started feeling my old rotten self again!
The last action packed day included stopping by at Norton Records Brooklyn headquarters and checking in with Billy Miller and Miriam Linna in the greatest Rock N Roll fantasy land on earth. Then we headed into "the city" to visit the punk exhibit "What Are You Looking At?" at Resurrection Vintage where they pulled out, from their storage, possibly the biggest collection in the world of actual punk couture clothes & other ephemera much of which is (or used to be) mine on display. A super cool display done by those who are in the know at the coolest & realest high end vintage store in the world (check their New York & Los Angeles locations or check http://www.resurrectionvintage.com.
Last but not least I ended up as I usually do, deejaying for (usually with) my fave DJ on earth Jonathan Toubin who is literally back from the grave & ruling harder than ever at his over the top insane weekly dance club (where I DJ when in NY) called Shaking All Over Under Sideways Down at Home Sweet Home on Christie street. Happy to greet all star visitors including the afore mentioned Billy and Miriam, Miriam's old roommate Lydia Lunch, Jesse Malin, super record collector Vince Brnicevic, LA clubmaster Joaquin Reyna-Donaldson, SF DJ Paul Costuros and many others. Also check out Mr. Toubin's wild Soul Clap & Dance Contest which he tours all over the world with. It is truly a thrill and a pleasure to DJ to a packed hot sweaty room of people that want to dance, know how and have to be kicked out at 4 AM. New York has still got it if ya know where to look.
R.I.P. Arturo Vega 1947-2013
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