Posts Tagged ‘John Gruen’

“The affluent set invades the East Village”

December 7, 2011

So read the headline from a New York Times article. Was it from 2002? 1996? 1988?

It actually dates to November 1964, and the piece chronicles a familiar story: how the artists and writers who moved to the neighborhood when it was rundown and unsafe resented the onslaught of rich uptowners who came to live there—or just slum it for the night.

“The uptown rich, who popularized Small’s Paradise in Harlem and the Peppermint Lounge in Midtown, have discovered the East Village nightspots,” explained the Times.

“‘First there were the artists,’ [Stanley] Tolkin said.” Tolkin was the owner of Stanley’s, on Avenue B and 12th Street, a hangout for painters, musicians, and poets.

“‘Then there were the teachers and writers, and little by little, we had everyone—advertising men, doctors who live in walk-up tenements, lawyers just starting out, construction workers.'”

“‘They all seem to work at something during the day,’ Tolkin said. ‘But at night, they change their clothes and become Beatniks.'”

The owner of Slug’s, another Bohemian bar on East Third Street, had this to say about the uptowners:

“‘They’re bored, and they have no other place to go. It has to become a fashionable place. It always happens to places like this. I’m going to raise my prices then.'”

[Fred W. McDarrah photos from The New Bohemia, by John Gruen, published in 1965]

The hippest hangout in the 1960s East Village

August 24, 2011

You know how everyone always complains that a once-cool bar or club has been ruined because it’s been discovered by bridge-and-tunnel types?

The same gripes were repeated in the mid-1960s about the Dom (above, in 1966, photo by Fred W. McDarrah).

Occupying the former Polish National Home at 19-25 St. Marks Place, it was once the burgeoning East Village’s hippest nightspot—run by Stanley Tolkin, proprieter of Beat hangout Stanley’s bar on Avenue B and 12th Street.

When exactly it opened depends on what book or article you read, but it seems to have hit maximum hipness in the mid-1960s. The Dom apparently wasn’t one space but an upstairs dance club/performance art area plus a downstairs bar/restaurant.

But by the time this grumbling review came out in 1965’s The Inside Guide to Greenwich Village, the place was over, invaded by “another element.”

The Dom disappeared sometime in 1967, when the space became the Balloon Farm, then the Electric Circus, next a community center/rehab facility, and over the years a succession of other short-lived bars and cafes.

Strictly Kosher: the Peace Eye Bookstore

August 14, 2008

In 1965, the Peace Eye Bookstore opened in a former kosher meat market in the East Village; a map printed in John Gruen’s The New Bohemia has it at Tenth Street and Avenue C.

It became a cultural center for the peace-and-love crowd as well as the headquarters for the Fugs, a folk-rock group that played nearby venues like the Astor Playhouse on Lafayette Street and toured nationally.

Later references to the Peace Eye place it on Avenue A; maybe the kosher meat market didn’t work out and they relocated.

In any event, John Gruen describes them this way: “But the Fugs!!!! They are the one authentic group of singers that has emerged from the New Bohemia, and when their voices are lifted in song . . . well, those old four-letter words never had it so good, and that old rock-and-roll beat was never so gaudily sounded.”

“The New Bohemia”

April 17, 2008

I found this gem at a rummage sale in New Jersey two decades ago. Written in 1966 by John Gruen, a former art and music critic for the New York Herald Tribune, it’s a fascinating snapshot of the creative scene and the energy it fed on in the newly coined East Village. From the intro:

“Walking on St. Marks Place on a weekend night, you become aware of a rhythm. It has an imperceptible underground beat and you feel it increasing as the night wears on. The rhythm of the Combine Generation is taking over. It can take you to a bottle-party in a $15 a month loft (records by Bob Dylan only), to an underground poetry reading, to a wild ‘happening,’ to a way-out theatrical production. It can lead you to encounters with dope addicts, free-love cultists, Swedenborgians, or white chicks looking for noble savages.”

Yep, it’s all for real—not a trace of sarcasm or a thinly veiled putdown from cover to cover. It’s refreshing.

One of the best things about the book is the map marking circa-1966 venues that are for the most part long gone. Stanley’s Bar on Avenue B and East 12th? Nope. Ratner’s on Second Avenue and East Sixth? Finito. (Click to enlarge):