Before CBGB & OMFUG
Before Hilly Kristal (1931(2)-2007) (“father of Punk”) opened the legendary CBGB & OMFUG (Country Bluegrass Blues & Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers) in New York’s sleazy Bowery (which has since been gentrified beyond recognition), he was a music entrepreneur in other musical realms. He managed the Village Vanguard, co-founded the Rheingold Central Park Music Festival, ran a jazz bar on West 9th Street and then opened Hilly’s a neighborhood bar on West 13th Street and Hilly’s On The Bowery (both bars failed).
Hilly’s on 13th street was my “Cheers” when I was in my early 20s. There was no live music (that I recall), a limited food menu, some great bartenders, waitresses and lots of my friends who worked on Underground newspapers. Screw’s HQ and the NY Review of Sex were right around the corner on 14th street and The East Village Other had moved to East 12th Street.
A few of my colleague/friends from EVO decided since we hung out at Hilly’s so often, they would pay him back for his hospitality by producing Hilly’s Gazette. Playwright Lynda Crawford and D.A. Latimer edited and wrote the stories under pseudonyms (Crawford was Lucy Lushful), a few anonymous illustrations and strips were contributed and I did the layouts.
Recently, I found a copy of the irregular (and possibly the only) issue. In all the Kristal-CBGB lore, this part of his professional life has been forgotten. I recall Hilly invited us all down to the CBGB space, thinking we’d start hanging out there. “No way,” I told him, “this is a disgusting dump.” So much for my talent for predicting New York’s hot spots and future historical monuments (of course thanks to the above-mentioned gentrification CBGB is now a high-priced clothing boutique, but its still an NYC landmark).