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Monday, December 12, 2005


For ages, people have asked me, "Did you know Johnny Thunders?" The answer is yes. Stories. You want stories? I have a few.

I first met Thunders when he played a solo gig at the Whisky A Go Go after the New York Dolls broke up. Walter Lure was in his band. I don't remember who else played with him, and I only took pictures of Johnny and Walter. When he called in to advance the show, Johnny asked if the club could advance him $500 to ship his amps. Nobody was born yesterday...."No, Johnny...we have an account at S.I.R. Just tell us what kind of backline you need and it will be there."

We were not the only people who tried to prevent cold hard cash from landing into his hands. When Stiv and I were in New York in the Summer of 1981, we attended Johnny's birthday party on July 15 somewhere on the Lower East Side, or "Alphabet City" as it was known back then...when cab drivers wouldn't go further east than First Avenue... because Alphabet City was a notorious drug dealing neighborhood rife with turf wars between vigilant and gun-happy dealers. I don't know why I thought it was Johnny's 30th birthday - unless like my family does, the Genzale's celebrate you entering a certain year. So, when Johnny entered his 30th year, his mom gave him nothing more significant and substantial for that special chronological marker than socks and underwear...stuff you cannot hock for drug money. She even said that.

Back then, Johnny lived in his car, a souped up, tricked out vintage Cadillac. I don't think it ran. I think it was Johnny's abode. It had a nifty Lower East Side address, so it was perfect for Thunders.

It was going back to the hotel - the rock n roll Gramercy Park Hotel - after Johnny's birthday party that I saw my first ever up close and personal gun action. Walking down East 7th Street, between Avenues C and D, a man was gunned down by another. Junkies or drug dealers or both. No one seemed to be concerned.

These days, that block of East 7th Street is downright swank. Actor and monologist, John Leguizamo even owns a building on that very corner...a building some crazy punk type friends of mine used to squat in. He paid a bit of cash for it and his presence helped change the face of the neighborhood. Poor people and the indigenous Puerto Ricans and other immigrant types (some of them cute little old Polish ladies who have lived there since the early part of the 20th century) can no longer afford to live there. Me included.

This is but one memory of Johnny Thunders. He's the one who sang that "you can't put your arms around a memory," but I will share mine with you.

This image of Johnny made its exhibition premier this past Friday night at the Feral Gallery in Milwaukee.

In the future, there will be stories of Johnny (some of them include Stiv) from London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles...

1 comment:

tescosuicide said...

That was an excellent story - BTW, do you ever get the galleries around Philly?

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