Segarini: The Art Of Touring 8 – No wonder there are so many cabs in NYC…
Part 7 can be found here
Artist sketch: A New York Car Thief …or Nacho Libre.
Less than 8 hours in New York, and we’re down a truck, a car, a pantload of expensive gear, and I seem to be missing my Official Forceps Roach Clip.
Now I’m mad.
Turns out MacDonald swiped, (he says borrowed), my roach clip, but the Ryder had apparently become part of the artificial reef being constructed at the bottom of the East River, and the Vista Cruiser was now bright blue, sporting chrome reverse wheels, and being driven by someone named Brother D, Paco, or Bobby “Mumbles” Scaloppini.
Now, some people have told me that at one point in the late ’60’s and early 70’s, the East River was polluted enough to walk across. A body of water that contained more Goodyear, Firestone, and Dunlop product than the Akron, Ohio tire fire, (open year ’round, including holidays!), not to mention concrete shoe’d mobsters, rubber boots, used needles, missing socks, Jimmy Hoffa, the remains of Godzilla and King Kong, and the occasional airplane fuselage, crates of prohibition-era liquor, and burlap sacks full of kittens.
The worst part of this was the burden put upon our manager, John, and the band’s complete nonchalance about the whole nightmare he was going through.
Roxy was a rock and roll band. We played music, did drugs, and drank too much. We had no idea where the money came from, nor felt a shred of responsibility, except to show up on time, play our asses off, and chat up waitresses in bars.
It was truly, the Golden Age Of Rock.
I kid, of course.
The fact is, we were very much upset about the run of shit luck we were wading through, but as any rock band can tell you, this sort of crap comes with the territory. From cancelled gigs, (one band I know drove through a snow storm from Montreal to some little town in New Brunswick to play a Friday and Saturday night, only to find a smoking, smoldering, debris-filled hole where the club had been, when they got there), and club manager rip-offs, to bad bookings, (tonight at Ardell’s Ass Kickin’ Homophobic Cowboy Rodeo Roadhouse, the Village People!), worse routing, (Tuesday, New York, Wednesday, San Diego, Thursday, Boston), and trips to Free Clinics from Modesto to White Plains, to sitting in a cold bath tub butt naked, pouring peroxide over your pubes and praying the little bastards die before you get home to your girlfriend.
And yet, there wasn’t a male over the age of 16 that didn’t want to be a Rock Star. Clearly, we were not the sharpest knives in the drawer.
After the Vista Cruiser went the way of Amelia Earhart, John sucked it up, filled out yet another report for the NYPD, and secured another Vista Cruiser from Hertz. At that point, I think he went back to the hotel, had a beverage or two with the giant cockroach that lived in his room, put a pillow over his head, and tried to go to sleep.
He woke us up at 11:00 am the next morning, as on top of it as ever…
Meanwhile, the band got spruced up in our finest rock star duds, hailed a cab in front of the Chelsea and headed for Bleecker Street, and a bar where nobody knew your name, unless you were in a British rock band, Jimi Hendrix, or a local groupie who could lick her own eyebrows.
In the cab, I realized that we were all wearing Pierre Cardin cologne. We smelled like a bunch of Mid-West record promoters heading for a strip joint.
Nobody’s: Gateway to alcoholism.
Nobody’s was actually named ‘Nobody’s Bar’, but everybody just called it Nobody’s. It was a nondescript façade on Bleecker, just a single door with a display window on either side, and no signage that I can remember, although I’m sure it must have had some.
Inside, it was dark enough so that it took a few minutes for your eyes to adjust before the room, and its occupants, came into focus.
I don’t think I was ever in Nobody’s when at least a third of the people in there weren’t musicians, or famous for one thing or another. The other two thirds were comprised of groupies, upscale gutter lovers, (old saying: “Everything happens in the Penthouses and the gutters. Nothing happens in the middle”), and very hip kids from Jersey. The Jersey crowd were always dressed to kill, the women sexy and insanely friendly, the guys, known to the visiting rock stars, would become part of their entourages when they were in New York, and they were the best source of drugs, parties, and introductions to the hottest local babes. One guy I met there, Ritchie Imprescia, is still a good friend to this day. It was Ritchie that took me to see Bruce Springsteen and the E street band for the first time, in a gymnasium at a West Orange, New Jersey high school, long before Newsweek and Time magazine crowned him, ‘The future of rock and roll’, and he also turned me on to Yes and Roundabout in an empty mansion in Jersey he and his friends ‘liberated’ one weekend.
The head bartender was an Asian guy named Charlie Chin. Even he was famous, having been in a great band called Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys. You can check him, and them, out here. Charlie’s the…Asian guy.
Charlie was the first person I actually met at Nobody’s. Our waitress came back with our first round and told me that the bartender wanted to speak to me. Okay…but why would he want to speak to me?
Turns out, we looked like a rock band, but he didn’t recognize us…so…he asked me who we were, where we were from, and why were we in New York. I told him, he introduced himself, we shook hands, he poured both of us a shot of Cuervo on the house, and I went back to our table feeling a little more rock star-ish than I had felt since the Bobby Sherman gig in Toronto, back in what now seemed like a year ago.
New York bars serve liquor until 4 in the morning. We got to Nobody’s a little after midnight, and people were pouring through the door after we got there. Like Montreal, everybody goes out late. We were lucky to get a table.
Interlude: A little background on Nobody’s…
To give you an idea of what this place was like all the time, here are a couple of anecdotes I found on a blog on the net, posted by some guy named ‘Lizzard’. I couldn’t find any contact information, so Dude, I hope you forgive me. I’ll buy you a drink the next time I’m in NYC.
Anecdote excerpt, the first:
During the warm months the scene would famously spill out onto Bleecker Street. I remember sitting on a car outside Nobody’s one warm August night, all fueled up, watching the non stop parade of Village characters flitter by. I was 21 years old and ready for anything. Well almost anything. This older Jewish looking guy with a beard comes up and starts talking me up. He was just a bit too friendly for being a total stranger so I quickly guessed what his story was. We would usually tolerate the homos who would come sniffing around, for many times they were a good source for music connections or invites to cool parties. So this guy says something about Howl and asked me if I wanted to go howl with him or something. I didn’t of course but it wasn’t until later that I found out that it was the poet Allen Ginsburg, one of the last beatniks, an original Village People.
Anecdote excerpt the second:
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zepplin, who were holding court in the back of Nobodys, suddenly pour out onto the street with their entourage. Robert and Jimmy are hanging on the sidewalk, surveying which babes would be allowed to climb into their waiting limo. Everybody is having a great time soaking in the energy of the moment. Right outside was a street doo-wop trio doing an acapella thing. Robert jumps into the middle of these guys, and joins them for a few verses of some Motown song. After a few minutes of this impromptu street concert, a bigger crowd gathers and spills into the street, traffic comes to a halt, horns start blowing, and finally a cop has to come and reluctantly break it up. Robert and Jimmy hop into their limo with their groupies and are gone. All this at four in the morning. Nobodys. What a bar.
…and we continue:
By 1 am, we are working on round 4…or 5…and feeling no pain whatsoever. The place is jammed, everyone talking at once, a lot of laughter, and, when the music stopped while Charlie changed the LP’s, sporadic pockets of musicians would sing from their tables to much applause and hooting. And then…suddenly, spreading from the front of the club through the room like a shadow from a hot air balloon, an eerie hush fell over the assembled musos. Everyone looked towards the front door, and, recognizing the new arrivals, went right back to drinking, talking, laughing, and having a great time. Good Lord, this was the hippest place I think I had ever been in. Nobody bothered anybody. It was like a big family reunion, only all the women were your hot cousin Betty, and all the guys were your happy, funny, drunk uncle Frank.
The new folks worked their way through the crowded room towards the very exclusive back area, and I could see a table and chairs being brought out of a storage room somewhere and being squeezed in between a couple of other tables. Everyone made room. Nobody bitched or caused a problem.
So I’m pretty plowed and not wearing my glasses, so all I really know about these guys is that two of them are maybe 5′9″ or so, and the rest of them are roughly the size of Snap, Crackle, and Pop. I wait until they sit down before I pipe up.
” Who are those guys?” I ask.
“Those guys”, Randy says, “are the Small Faces…no….The Faces.”
“Cool”, I manage, impressed, but getting too drunk to really care who they are. It could have been the Queen of England being carried into the club by Paul Lynde and the Pips, and I don’t think I would have reacted any differently. I was now my happy, drunk, Uncle Frank.
Another round arrives.
“Wow. Their faces really are small. They’re really small!” I decide to go introduce myself, you know, one rock star to another. I stand up. My chair goes over backwards. I get a smattering of applause from the table behind me.
I walk up to the bar and order some shots for the Faces table, and a moment later, I’m weaving my way through the tables, a waitress bearing a tray full of shots in tow, and arrive at my destination. As the waitress sets the drinks down, one of the faces stands up, asks my name, and introduces me to everyone. They all smile, say thanks, and we do the shot.
I turn to walk away, and a Face says, “Siddown, Mate…let’s ‘ave a pint”, and pours me a beer from one of the pitchers on the table.
For the next two hours or so, I drink with these guys, but just talked with the little fella that I had met first, Ian McLagan. I have never seen anyone that could drink that much and not end up face down on the floor with a pool of vomit circling his head like a halo. I began to wonder if he was peeing under the table, all over everybody’s snake skin, Cuban heeled, boots. I dare not look.
I’m not sure how much we drank that night, but I do remember that Ian was having 2 or 3 for every one that I had. His uncanny capacity was so wondrous, that contemplating it actually sobered me up. He was bright, and witty, and charming the entire time. Un-fucking-believable.
I never saw Ian again, but I ran into Rod Stewart and Ron Wood a couple of times in the mid and late ’70’s. Never got to know any of them, but I never will forget that first night at Nobody’s. I still miss that bar.
Sometime in the early ’70’s someone either threw a small, homemade bomb, or a HUGE cherry bomb through one of the display windows, blew the door off the hinges, shattered the glass in both windows, and, although no one was seriously hurt, changed Nobody’s enough that it closed shortly thereafter and never reopened.
At 4:30 am, we headed back to the Chelsea with a few new friends, and continued to party until well past sunrise. Before I went to bed, I walked down to the Deli on the corner and got a pint of freshly squeezed orange juice and a jar of Cara Mia artichoke hearts. While I was at the check out, I noticed a Village Voice and turned to the club listings. Not only was there an ad for our newly released album, but there, at the top of the page, was a good sized mention of our gig. We were playing one of the great clubs in North America, and there it was in black and white:
The Bitter End Presents
From Los Angeles
Elektra Recording Artists
With Special Guest
Mickey Newberry? Who the hell is Mickey Newbury?
Next: Another Sunday Serial starts in 7 days….
Segarini’s regular column appears here every Monday
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Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.