New York Ghosts of Christmas Past

I just got back from New York where I spent an incredible time spending – you can’t really avoid it in the Big Apple – it’s so expensive and you feel obliged to tip anything that moves. I guess I’ll be paying this one off on plastic for some time but I think it was worth it. While there, I undertook two pilgrimages – one to The Dakota apartment block where John Lennon was gunned down in the street

Outside the Dakota, New York, Christmas Day

on Dec 8th  in 1980 – (Like all of the those flashbulb memories, I vividly remember when I heard the news). I went on Christmas morning- no presents to unwrap and the streets were empty. The security guard outside the exclusive building, huddled in his little copper booth, was not in a particularly festive mood – I guess he gets asked the same dumb question all the time and after all, he was sitting freezing on Christmas morning outside a block of some of the most sumptuous real estate that only the seriously-rich can afford. So I snapped my shot of the spot, and then headed over across the road to a corner of central park now known forever as “Strawberry Fields.”

The Mosaic Shrine in Strawberry Fields

The “Imagine” mosaic in tribute of Lennon has now become a tourist attraction and has taken on something of a shrine-type status. I don’t believe in ghosts but it is surprising how easily one’s thoughts turn to imagining Lennon strolling around the park having trodden the very same paths. I guess that’s what fame and adulation creates. New York has always been jammed packed with the famous, but only a few of those of personal significance conjure of the ghosts of Christmas past.

What Was is No Longer

So it was off to 315 Bowery street down near the Village to what was once, the hottest music venue in town, CBGBs. This is where The Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Blondie and just about every band that was part of my youth got started. Its heyday was in the the late 70’s and early eighties but it survived up until about 2 years ago when it finally closed down and became an extremely trendy John Varvatos boutique.

CBGBs Today is the now a branch of John Varvatos

Part of the Original CBGB

To their credit, or business savvy, they have maintained the punk interior, replete with memorabilia and a stage set-up with full drum kit and  guitars just daring you to pogo around the shop. They have kept the toilet area almost completely unaltered. I dread to think what went on there…

Anyway, I was never here in its heyday and probably just as well as I guess the transformation from a punk haven into an up market mens boutique would be difficult to swallow. So what did I do? Did I sneak a quick gob on the floor? Are you kidding?? Varvatos had a sale going and I managed to pick up a tidy jacket that was half price. I can hear Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee turning in their graves.


Filed under General Thoughts

8 responses to “New York Ghosts of Christmas Past

  1. podblack

    I kind of felt rather sad when I visited there and discovered what they did to the ‘origin of USA punk’. However, the ‘Imagine’ mural was just as gorgeous as I thought it would be… although, it was surrounded by flowers when I saw it, since I went during autumn. 🙂

  2. Bruce,
    So glad that your trip to NYC was enjoyable. I have been there several times but have never made it to the Dakota even though I would love to go.

    Don’t beat yourself up for grabbinb the bargain at Varvatos. After all, fashion statements of all kinds were a staple of punk.

  3. Steve Page

    Some nice pics there, Bruce. I’ve never been to NY, although it is on my list of “things to do before my ticker packs up”. Have a very happy and prosperous 2010!

  4. brucehood

    Thanks Steve,
    I have a whole bunch of exciting plans for this year and I also think even years are better for me… oops slipped up there!

  5. Holy Cow – you were in my neighborhood except I live at the north end of Central Park where real estate used to be affordable on account of the crack dealers.

    So – was CBGB filled with the vibe of dead punks? You write stuff about how people invest the belongings of the dead with mystical significance, don’t you?

  6. brucehood

    Oh Man… I can’t believe I missed you.. I was wandering around wondering what to do next on Christmas day.. Still you live in an amazing city..
    CBGBs didn’t really do it for me but then I am not that essentialist. Still I love NY

  7. I am looking for pictures of CBGBs circa 1984 for a documentary on The Replacements. What year was the picture in this article taken? If you have anything like the aforementioned please let me know. It would be an enourmous help tot he project.

    Thank you so much.



  8. brucehood

    Hi Katie,
    The last photos circa 1984 was harvested from Google images but there must be enough out there. Just place a call out to a blog that has a big NY following and I am sure you will be swamped. Why not try my friend Frank Jump who has been photographing NY for years
    If he doesn’t have any then I am sure he will know who does.

    Have just put out a Twitter search on your behalf

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