I’m entering into the “I remember when” phase of life. Sigh. I remember going to The Roxy to roller disco, bowling after midnight at Bowlmor on University Place, pining away that I missed seeing Blondie at the Palladium and standing at the red velvet ropes dressed like Grace Jones outside of Studio 54. I remember going to The Bottom Line to see Warren Zevon, The Fillmore East to hear Tom Waits, being too scared to go to CBGB. I have great memories of achieving my space age look by dying my hair indigo and going shopping at Fiorucci’s, Canal Jeans, Love Saves the Day and Trash and Vaudeville. In those days I had friends who partied way too hard their own good and spent countless hours at the All Crafts Center on St Marks Place, across the street from T&V where they could hit a 12 step meeting for any kind of addiction in the spectrum. There was even an addiction free ballroom for clean disco dancing, many of my friends partied safely there, but I think it was a little complicated for the sex addicts. All but a few of these iconic shrines to my formative years as a disco queen- gone! No trace of the Roxy is left; The Bottom Line and Palladium swallowed up by NYU (the Palladium a DORM, oh the humanity!)
The All Crafts Center was gutted, added to and transformed into retail and apartments. The bathroom at CBGB has been recreated and memorialized in a museum (?!!) Fiorucci’s just a sweet fond memory (its originator died last year) Love Saves the Day gone, thankfully before the building blew up last year by a gas leak. Canal Jeans closed in 2002 and sold off their inventory in a space behind a Target on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. The last straw was reading in last Monday’s NY Times that Trash and Vaudeville was moving. When I first saw the headline as I sat down with my cup of coffee my heart gave a lurch, but reading on it was moving from 41 St Mark’s Place to 96 East 7th Street. PHEW! Moving I can deal with. Closing I can’t take.
Trash and Vaudeville (T&V) was where, in 1979, I went and bought 2 pencil skirt suits circa 1950’s and a pair of killer black silk stiletto heels that I could use as a weapon then use to climb a chain link fence to make my getaway. Those pencil skirt suits of light weight wool, 1 navy and 1 charcoal grey, and those shoes, spent a summer on me in Milan and went to the Venice Biennale in 1980, and were on my body for any job interview I had when I got back and then in continuous use when I was a receptionist all through college until they literally fell apart. Sadly those stilettos (that I once stepped right out of one after the other as they got stuck in a sidewalk grate in Milan causing my companions to fall to the ground and roll in laughter) completely fell apart in the mid 1990’s. I should have buried them or had some sort of ceremony, how thoughtless of me. I remember going in T&V as a fresh faced, prep school educated, hay seed from Jersey, terrified I would get shooed out or worse assaulted, tattooed, pierced and tossed down the stairs for not being punk enough to be there. I lusted after the motorcycle jackets and pointy black boots that could take out an eye with a well placed kick. But oh those stilettos, they fit like they were hand made for my feet. Ten bucks and they were mine. The man in the accompanying picture in the Times article, identified as manager Jimmy Webb, looks exactly the same as the first day I entered the shop, maybe just a tad older. All punkers looked prematurely aged back then. It was part of the “look,” like they had been around the block a few hundred times while the rest of us were all just white bread and milque toast living under rocks.
I still haunt St Marks Place and all the various hoods that were my stomping ground in the late ’70’s to mid ’80’s. A few places still have a faint whiff of the vibe I remember, mainly by being populated by young people, the age I was when it was my back yard. Gone is the grit, the grime, the crime, the ever present dog crap, the sour smell of a City abandoned by politicians, rotting from neglect. But rather than being cleaned and polished and touched up and given back to the masses, the City has become scrubbed a little too clean- sanitized and generalized within an inch of its life to attract tourists who want to see a version of it that never existed and billionaires looking for places they’ll never visit to park their money until the coast clears and they are distanced from the illegal ways they earned it. I sound like my Grandmother. Ah me.
On the bright side, T&V is still here and so is The Public Theater, once a rough and tumble performance space held together by duct tape and baling wire with bathrooms rivaling those of CBGB’s now transformed into a beautiful complex for theater, cabaret and dining spaces, but still retaining its edgy, alternative, experimental vibe. I got a membership there and will hang onto it and all my memories of that great vibrant creative era known as the 80’s for dear life. I also still have my gold lame Capezio jazz shoes (they’re still around too!) that I bought on sale at Beau Brummel in 1980 (was on West Broadway, now on Broome St!) Still fit like a glove and are soft as butter and make it so easy to dance and slide and twirl just like when we did under the disco ball all those years ago.