The CBGB irony

Gawkers at CBGB.

Gawkers at CBGB.

Earlier tonight, the New York Dolls returned to their roots on NYC’s Bowery to celebrate the release of their reunion album ‘Cause I Sez So.

They played a private show (broadcast live on Sirius XM satellite radio’s Faction channel) at the John Varvatos boutique at 315 Bowery. And I don’t quite know how to feel about that. The address may sound familiar to some of you. It’s the longtime address of CBGB’s, a place that the Dolls frequented their first time around, in the Seventies.

John Varvatos's boutique replaced the legendary club.

John Varvatos's boutique replaced the legendary club.

Let me explain. Hilly Kristal opened CBGB in December 1973. It quickly became home to many of NYC’s most amazing punk and punk-influenced bands, nurturing the Ramones, the Patti Smith Group, Blondie, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Television and the New York Dolls.

In October 2006, after a battle with the landlord over rent increases in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, Kristal closed CBGB. And the final concert, by Patti Smith, was broadcast by Sirius satellite radio.

After that, the property sat empty for 18 months, mocking passersby. Then Varvatos opened his shop there.

So consider this: CBGB, a club where the Dolls often played, couldn’t survive.  It was replaced by an upscale clothing boutique, whose fashions would have been rejected by most of the Dolls’ original fan — even if they could have afforded them.

So now, things have come full circle: the clothing boutique is hosting the Dolls in concert. Isn’t it ironic?

I don’t mean for a second to pass judgment. Or even to suggest that CBGB should have somehow been preserved. That battle was fought, and lost, by others more dedicated than I to the memory of what the crusty club once was.

That’s life in  Manhattan, after all, where almost nothing lasts but the memories. And, unlike the physical objects themselves, the memories can last forever and belong to anyone who wants to hold onto them.

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