Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Marathon! (half) and Coney Island High-Jinx

I am running a half-marathon in Anchorage, Alaska in June. It is a fundraiser for blood cancer research. If you are so inclined to support this masochistic adventure please click here. ANY amount will help (seriously, if you have 5 bucks to spare, donate it! It really helps. Really. No, REALLY.). If I know you personally, then I am sure I will hit you up again in the future. I am sure I will post more on my training adventures as time goes on.

Post #9 (?) of my 30 Day Challenge:

I Worked at the Nightclub Coney Island High:

My friend Chris mentioned the fact that I used to work at Coney Island High in his blog yesterday, so I figured now would be a good time to talk about those years. Working at Coney was awesome. Next to my job at UCB, I would say it was the best job I ever had. Besides the great money and the amazing bands, it was owned by my friends Jesse Malin and Lindsay Anderson, and managed by my friend Raffaele, formerly of the band the Cycle Sluts from Hell. They hired their friends and people from the local rock scene and it really was, for the most part, one large insane dysfunctional family.

A bunch of us had worked at the Scrap Bar, another infamous nightspot, which had closed down the year before, so Jesse hired Raph to manage who in turn hired me and her sister (my roommate at the time) to bartend. I don't know if I ever had a regular shift -- I think I just worked when they needed someone -- at the time I worked in about a zillion different bars and also temped etc. This was when St. Mark's really was the epitomy of the East Village. Back then there were no Quiznos or Gaps -- the building next door (which used to be the Electric Circus in the 70s) was a rehab that seemed to spew forth a nonstop deluge of AA participants on to the streets. The street was a cacophony of drunkards and tourists, a sort of bizarro Times Square for the disenfranchised. I will talk more about the loss of the East Village in some other post, but the point is that Coney was much more in the center of things at the time then something on St. Mark's would be today.

The greatest bands played Coney Island High: Joey Ramone, who was Jesse's good friend, held his annual birthday bash there and the club generally provided a showcase for a lot of the mainstays of the NY punk/hardcore rock scene (Murphy's Law), NY rock legends and old school bands (Sylvain, Jayne County, The Dictators), visiting rock royalty (Toy Dolls) and those reuniting for one last hurrah (Missing Persons). Not to mention of course all of the local up and coming bands that played almost every night of the week.

Probably one of my personal highlights was during one of Joey's birthday bashes-- he brought up Scott Asheton from the Stooges and Wayne Kramer of the MC-5 and they did a set together singing some stooges, and I think, "Kick Out the Jams". This may mean nothing to 90 percent of you, but aficionados of the 70s rock/punk scene will understand what an amazing moment that was.

There were great dance parties there as well. I seem to remember a ton of go-go dancers on the bar over the years. CIH definitely had an anything goes vibe: lots of cute gay boys and drag queens, mixed with long hair rockers, skinheads, fashionistas, bikers, and drug dealers. We had a swing night called Ivan's Drive-In which was a lot of fun and I went dancing every Thursday at Beavher after they moved from Don Hill's (currently the only great nightclub left in NYC). I remember Ivan was datiing Marisa Tomei and she would come and sit behind the bar while he made drinks. She had just won an Oscar so that was a pretty interesting dichotomy.

There were some crazy behind the scenes moments there. Once one of the manager/part-owners staged a weird coup d'etat where he barricaded himself in the offices and wouldn't come out for three days. I don't remember how it got settled or exactly what his demands were (it had something to do with control of the club), but that seemed like a pretty extreme way to settle one's differences.

After a while the city seeemed hellbent on gettting us shut down. I think I only worked there occasionally at that point, but I recall being there one night on a Saturday around midnight -- Raph and Jessie were throwing a new party and it was hopping, when upwards of thirty uniformed firemen came in, ordered the lights up, the music off, and the bartender to stop serving drinks while they checked every light bulb, fire exit, etc. in the place which took all thirty of them a full hour and a half to do. People often think the claims of Giuliani's nightclub harrassment is exaggerated, but this was proof of the extremes they were willing to go. If you can't have a nightclub on St. Mark's Place, which even today is no picnic, where can you have it?

I eventually stopped working there while I was in acting school -- late nights were impossible, and was sad to see its demise in 2001. The constant harrassment and the changing neighborhood were too much for the club to take. The building has been torn down and condos have been erected where CIH once stood. Jesse Malin went on to own Niagara and become a rock star, Raphael is Patricia Field's right hand woman and still plays with the reunited Cycle Sluts, Lindsay went off to live in Europe and recently got married. Most of us from that scene still see each other around. I will say that for much of that time I really didn't know what I wanted to do with myself, and my main aim was to go out and have fun each night, probably get drunk, and work enough to pay the rent and go to a hangover brunch. After a few years this gets pretty vacuous, but for a few years it was a lot of fun to have no higher ambition then to hang out with my friends at my home away from home, Coney Island High.

(Fun Fact: Lindsay was briefly a teacher at my high school when she was 21 and I was 17. Who knew she would latear be my boss? At the time I hung out a lot with my friend Kurt, who was a member of the Radicts and the LES Stitches, and whom Lindsay would later marry. And divorce.)

This has been a rambling post, and I wish I had a better memory of those alcohol-soaked years. If I think of more interesting stuff, I will post it down the road.

6 Comments:

Blogger Eliza said...

Murphy's Law! NYHC!
When I first moved here, and was making $200 a week (before taxes) I used to walk past Coney Island High and wish I had the extra $10 to go see a show there. By the time I did, it was gone. One of my only NYC regrets is that I never got to see a show there.
I am again jealous of your crazy life!

1:52 PM  
Blogger Rachael Mason said...

Eliza, I still see Jimmy Gestapo around and attend the occasional Murphy's Law show...I will take you next time!

8:12 PM  
Blogger Betsy said...

oh my god. i was at that TRAGIC missing persons show. i went w/my friend anthony trance who had just been hired by CIH to book shows there one night a week or something. there were probably less than 20 people there and i don't even think anyone was actually there to see missing persons (except us).

i remember at one point between songs, everyone in the bar was talking and not paying attention to the band at ALL and dale bozzio said from the stage "c'mon guys. gimme a break."

it broke my heart. nobody cared.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Marielena said...

The night I lost my virginity I went to Coney Island High.
I was also there the night it closed! I walked up the block with my friends to see my ex boyfiend's band play and there he is sitting on the curb all dejected with the band and all their equipment. All he could say was "They closed it. They closed it and no one told us."
Rough night. Later, we all went to that burrito place near 8th and Waverly Place. What was it called? Sammy's?
The band played Spiral too.
I bet you served me cokes with extra lemon back in the day.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Hi Rachael,

Do you know how I can get in touch with Kurt Radict? I want to talk to him about any Radicts Videos and/or LES Stitches he may have.

Brian McLane
President and CEO
www.iprogram.tv

8:09 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Helios Creed blew my mind and eardrums at Coney Island High. God that show was intense.

CIH is sorely missed.

4:48 PM  

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