View Full Version : RIP Hilly Kristal (founder of CBGB's)

08-29-2007, 11:56 AM
(This was taken from a Bouncing Souls bulletin)

Club owner died of complications from lung cancer on Tuesday.
By Gil Kaufman, with additional reporting by Chris Harris
Hilly Kristal, the founder of legendary New York punk rock venue CBGB, died on Tuesday from complications from lung cancer at the age of 75.
Kristal, who opened the now-defunct venue in 1973 in the then-gritty Bowery neighborhood in Manhattan, is credited with helping to launch the mid-'70s punk revolution with his championing of bands such as the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Television and Patti Smith. Following a final show in October of 2006, Kristal had discussed plans to take the venue to Las Vegas (see 'CBGB Owner Relocating Club Urinals Included To Vegas This Spring').
CBGB, which opened in December 1973, was officially called CBGB & OMFUG, which stood for 'Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers.' But it was the decision by the gruff, bespectacled and bearded Kristal to offer a residency to a then-obscure rock band called Television in March of 1974 that helped kick open the door for a raft of bands that would spark the punk-rock movement across the globe.
Intent on showcasing bands playing original music, Kristal offered his stage to thousands upon thousands of young acts over its three-decade-long run. A fixture at the ramshackle club's front door, Kristal ran the club for all 33 years, overseeing its growth from punk's incubator to a tourist attraction albeit one with legendarily putrid bathrooms and poster-caked walls whose iconic logo can be seen on T-shirts all over the world.
According to his son, Mark Dana Kristal, Hilly 'was suffering' a great deal during the final weeks of his life. 'I think he thought he was going to get better, but he didn't. I just wanted him to be in less pain,' he said.
As for his father's legacy, 'He already has recognition for helping people with music,' Mark said.
At a time when many experimental New York musicians didn't have a club to call their own, Kristal provided a kind of incubator that helped the bands find their sound, according to Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, a longtime friend of Kristal's who used to live across the street from the club.
'He provided this place to play for a lot of disaffected musicians, and he did that by having an open-door policy,' Kaye told MTV News.'The only real thing that was important for CBGB was that you played original music. If you did, he was willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and the time to figure out what the music was.'
Kaye experienced that policy first-hand as a member of Smith's group, which played a seven-week, two-show-a-night residency at the club in the spring of 1975. Kaye said the residency was key in helping the band to 'settle into' its musical style. 'It's the kind of environment that musicians need, like [New York's] Greenwich Village folk scene in the 1960s, or 52nd Street in the 1940s when bebop was taking shape. Those times had venues where people could see who they are.'
Even after the golden era of punk had faded, Kaye praised Kristal for keeping that open-door policy over the next 30-plus years, inviting a variety of acts to play and inviting them back if they could draw a crowd. 'I saw such varieties of music in that club,' Kaye recalled. 'Sometimes you forget, in terms of the mythology, how great a place it was to see music. It had a great stage, a great sound system ... and he was always there, at the front desk, seven days a week, rain or shine, watching the [crowds] come in. He was a great New York character. He was family.'
Though the venue was shuttered last year after a bitter, protracted battle with the owner of the building that housed the club (see 'CBGB Owner, Landlord Reach Accord: Club To Close On Halloween '06'), it closed with a flurry of farewell gigs (see 'Flea Jams With Patti Smith, Punks Weep At CBGB's Last-Ever Show'). A press release announcing Kristal's death said there are currently plans to open new CBGB clubs 'in several locations.'
Kristal exhaustively documented the club's layout before its closing, with an eye toward reopening it (see 'CBGB's Last Hours').
A private memorial service is planned, with a public memorial to be held at a later date.