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The Bar Project: Voices from an Artist's Community

by Francie Lyshak

 

Francie Lyshak Bette Bourne Evan Lurie Joe Vojtko
Lavinia Coop Steven Harvey John Lurie Tony Nunziata
Ray Dobbins Gary Indiana Larry Mitchell Bill Rice
  Allen Frame Richard Morrison  

Brad Ellis

Musician, Songwriter

 

 

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Audio clip from the interview above.

 

 

Click here to link to a YouTube video of Brad's band, Alda Reserve

FL:  This interview is about the community of artists at The Bar on Second Avenue and your recollections about it and its effect on you.

BE:  Maybe I’d better go back a little first.  I moved into New York after graduating from college.  I had this illusion, delusion, whatever you want to call it, that I was going to do a rock band—even though I’d never come close to ever being in one.  I had been forced to take piano lessons when I was a kid and always hated them, so I’d just wait till the house was empty and fool around with my own stuff.

FL:  How old were you when you moved to New York?

BE:  I was 23.  My father’s first cousin Virginia, who was an artist and a commie (and therefore not like the rest of the family) and had a loft at Lafayette and Spring in the very early days of SoHo, invited me to come and stay with her “a while” and it just kept going.  I lived with her for the first 15 months I was here in New York.  1977 was an explosive year for me:   All of a sudden it seemed to me that everybody I had met here, no matter from what “scene,” knew each other and I knew all of these intersecting groups of people.

In September of 1977 I put an ad in the Village Voice for a guitar player.  I had never done anything like this and had hardly ever played anything of mine for anybody.  I was living right off the Bowery at 5 Prince Street (and just two blocks south of CBGB’s).  That very week the ad went in I went to this art opening at the Andrew Crispo [later infamous] Gallery up at 57th Street.  It was an opening for Chris Makos, a photographer from the Warhol/Interview crowd who I did not know personally. I walked in there and there was this guy who was a photographer from the Interview crowd.  I never had time to say hi to all the people I knew!  I had no idea that I knew that many people.  I must have known 80 or more people at this big, crowded scene of a place.  It didn’t seem to matter if I’d met them at an art opening, or the Gotham Book Mart signing parties, at a sex place, or at CBGBs.  It just didn’t matter—they were all just there.

Also in that same week I met painter Carl Apfelschnitt with whom I started a relationship which would span 14 years.  At the time he lived on Great Jones Street, just three blocks up, between Lafayette and Bowery.  He was in this great building, 30 Great Jones Street, which had windows on all four sides because it had parking lots on each side.  The building was taken down illegally a few years ago by the parking lot people.  They did it in about five days, and evidently they were fined for this.  All of a sudden, about four years ago I noticed this when I was walking by.

Anyway, I went through a period when Carl and I were not getting along; we had a stormy relationship but there was no getting rid of each other, if you know what I mean.  I mean that in a good way.  I spent three weeks in the Chelsea Hotel and finally got a roommate share at 90 East Third Street, just west of First Avenue.  It was a “duplex,” but it sure gave a new meaning to the word:  duplex and dump both start with the same two letters and I found they were quite alike!

I knew The Bar pretty well before I ever moved near it.  I liked it a lot because it was where I seemed to find “my kind of people” and many were very attractive.  I moved to Third Street in 1983 in the winter and was there about 2 ½ years.  This was at about the zenith of what I’ll call the “East Village Scene”—all the grafitti artists were there.  And people were opening galleries all over the place.  It was hip to be there.  What I wish people now could understand is that in those days getting by on the cheap was the cool thing to do.  The cool thing to do was to get in free, get free drinks, tickets, and get into the VIP rooms at the clubs and all that.  I couldn’t fathom how later on it got to be where you would ostentatiously try to show off how much money you were spending!  To me that makes no sense and just exposes you as an idiot as far as I’m concerned.

I guess I did feel pretty glamorous at the time.  I’d actually put a band together and got a record deal in fairly quick time.  It was my band.  We were called Alda Reserve.  We played Max’s and CBGB’s.  We got signed by Seymour Stein at Sire Records.  We had a typically sad history under contract.  We recorded one album that was barely released and a second one that was never released at all.  It was a long drama.  Our manager was not the ex-junkie he claimed to be, and so forth and so on.  I realize now that I am hardly alone in having one of these stories.

Of course, my place at Third Street was only a block and a half away from The Bar.  It was my place to go to, I even call it my “alma mater.”  What was great about The Bar is that you would just go in there and see who you knew.  A lot of creative people hung out there—writers, painters, theater people, music people.  I also loved the scruffy aspect of it, even though there were fashion boys there with everyone else.  It was the only bar I ever knew that, when the lights went on at quarter of four—last call—you weren’t in a panic that you hadn’t picked up anybody.  You just kept talking to your friends.  It was also a great place to stop off when you were done at Area or one of the clubs of the period.  I really liked [the late] Arthur Weinstein and his wife Colleen.  They had several clubs over time, one of which was The Jefferson on 14th Street, which was a really fun place to go.  And I had “carte blanche” there because Arthur had a guilty conscience about never paying us for a gig we did for him, plus we just liked each other—a typical New York story, I guess.

I liked the rebellious scruffiness, the fact that The Bar people were creative and that you weren’t necessarily there to pick up people, even though most of the people that have most attracted me are just that type.  I think there is something about beauty and attraction.  My thought on the subject is:  “When all the cards are on the table, there’s never a full deck.”  In other words, the most beautiful people have something essential that is unknown to them, something they are not aware of transmitting.  When you know everything you’re putting out, then you know too much and you’re much too on top of yourself for me.  And you’re probably shallow, which is a turn-off for me.  The really captivating ones are not so self-aware of their beauty, and believe me, there were many of them animals at The Bar, and those people became some of the best “encounters” I’ve ever had.

I know I was introduced to Bill Rice any number of times, although he never seemed to really remember me the next time.  I don’t think we ever had what I would call a real conversation.  We were always in the middle of a group of people.  Some of my acquaintances knew Peter Hujar, the photographer, who was there a lot.  The person you know that I wound up knowing the best, though we certainly have never been BFFs, is Gary Indiana.  Anyway, every third or fourth drink was free, if they liked you.  Plus the drinks were the cheapest I knew of to begin with.  So you could go to the clubs and come back to The Bar for a nightcap and just see who was there.  It was just so nice.

FL:  It was a social scene as much as anything else?

BE:  It was many things.  I guess that what I ultimately liked is that it was a real melting pot. I always feel the most comfortable in a melting pot.  There were a few straight people in there.  I don’t like neighborhoods that are too white, too gay, too anything.  I like it when everybody’s all over the place.  For the East Village that was true.  When the Boy Bar opened on St. Mark’s, I remember a friend of mine saying it was a “tad too Hellenic” for him.  There was a pretense to many of these places, but somehow The Bar remained open to anyone.  It’s why I like baseball most of the professional sports:  It’s an “everyman” game.  The Bar wasn’t just gay, but it was not necessarily a pickup place or where you had to have any particular look or “scene.”  You could walk in from anywhere and you were fine; you didn’t have to worry about being underdressed of overdressed or anything like that.

I really could just go in to see who was there that I knew and just talk to them for a while.  I think I’m pretty typical of a lot of New Yorkers in that one has many, many acquaintances—even though most people you are not calling every day or planning to go to the movies or anything.  I’ve had many, many, many acquaintances of that sort, who I would just see maybe at Club 57, art openings, the Anvil, Gotham Book Mart, Fiorucci parties, whatever.  The social diagram at that time was so terrific, the intersection of the groups that one knew was so varied.  In retrospect I think I deliberately did not want to be with just one group.  Even though I was a musician, I tended to enjoy non-musician events more.  And I think that was all about having no vested interest there; I could just have fun without any pressure.  I liked art openings or fashion parties, or whatever.  I’m a misfit as a musician anyway, ‘cause I was never into that “sweaty-dude-bar” thing.  It doesn’t interest me to be in a stinky dressing room with a bunch of beer and graffiti.  I don’t mind the beer and the graffiti, I just didn’t need it.

FL:  Could you talk to me a little bit about this community that you’re drawn to?  It’s a multi-faceted community.  There is a diverse group of people at The Bar.  How did this community affect you as a creative person?

BE:  I suppose maybe it’s hard to separate the milieu from one’s personal feelings.  I loved The Bar for the fact that it really did have creative people there.  They could be more-or-less unabashed about whatever they were into.  I met people there who wrote plays.  They weren’t famous.  Nobody cared.  It’s sort of how I feel about some of the college reunions I’ve been to.  This is what I loved about that period of time and that period in my own life as well:  Nobody really cared—as long as you were interesting.  That was the key.  If you were rich or poor, who cares!  Everybody here wants to be successful, I know.  But I felt “recognized” there, even if people didn’t know what I was into.  Most people didn’t know I had a band even.  But The Bar was this place where my personality as a creative, gay, whatever, adventurous person could just BE—and expect to run into like-minded people.  What I find daunting when I’m not in New York or when I’m not in a melting pot is that so many of the things that occupy my mind are not even much thought about by others.  Like “the arts.”  I hate to say it that way ‘cause it sounds so arcane and high-falootin’.  I’ll just find myself in places where some of the main subjects in the notebook in my mind aren’t even subjects in theirs.  They don’t think the way I do about movies, or music, or about social issues the way I do.  I avoid almost at all costs talking politics with them, it’s the perfect way to ruin everyone’s day.

I seemed to notice that nights of major holidays were particularly “on” at the gay bars, Thanksgiving night, for instance.  This is because those who had to go and see their families had had enough of it and needed to roll around in the mud a little, like Piglet (in Winnie the Pooh) after his bath—just to feel our kind of normal again, back in our element.  That’s how I felt about The Bar, it was my element.

Of course there was no cover at The Bar, you didn’t have to worry about spending money.  I think that two main things that really damaged New York City (and it was truly a disaster) was the ascent of needing so much money just to be here and the ascent of HIV and AIDS.  The virus was all but ignored by the politicos and by the mind-set of the country for a long time.  This was extremely alienating, especially in those early years of the ‘80s.

FL:  Could you talk a little bit about that, because I certainly know at The Bar, that concern was hovering in the air for a long time.  It affected a lot of people there.

BE:  Of course!  And I’m one of them.  When the rumors started to come around, I remember reading little articles about “gay cancer” and this mysterious phenomenon.  Nobody knew what it was.  I’m no sci-fi fan, but that was the feeling in those first years.  I’d think, “Oh, come on, this can’t be a big deal.  I don’t believe in science fiction, and all this dire stuff can’t really be for real.”  Then people I knew started getting it and dying.  Even though I wasn’t a close friend, I spent a very interesting evening the night of the East Village New Wave Vaudeville Show with Klaus Nomi, who had stolen the show.  This odd-looking fellow just kind of blew everyone’s mind.  I think it was 1983.  He got onstage and sang like a diva.  That night I wound up talking to him for a couple of hours.  I really liked him, and told him I hoped he’s stick to that diva thing, which was somehow outlandish and childlike at the same time.  Yet he became the first demi-monde celebrity I knew who succumbed. 

What was so weird about the whole AIDS thing was that it just kept creeping closer and closer.  I would think to myself, “It can’t get much worse than this!”  But it was like being in a bad David Cronenberg movie.  If you didn’t see someone for a while you were afraid to ask, afraid to call.  “How can I find out if Pedro is okay?”  But it just got scarier and scarier, taking not only acquaintances, not only friends, but finally even the people you just couldn’t live without—including Carl, with whom I had had such a long relationship.  He died in 1990.

What was weird for me while the whole AIDS thing was going on, that I’d been through the ringer with the music business; when we found out that our second album wasn’t going to be released, and after we broke up with our manager, I was exhausted to the point where I just had to “let all the water out of the tub,” as it were.  Our guitar player, who was terrific, wanted to just keep going.  He wanted to use this ill fortune as an excuse to make changes in the band and go on to something else.  But I just couldn’t do it, and having no momentum in my life just as all this health crisis was happening was devastating.  So much for my brilliant career, at least for then.  But the “then” went on for over a decade.

And unfortunately (?) for me, the people I knew best who got AIDS got sick in a sequence, so I went through a long string of consecutive care-giving from about 1986-1996 or longer.  Some of these people were not necessarily AIDS victims, but also family members and close friends who were stricken with something else that was going to kill them.  But AIDS was truly horrifying:  If you went to Beth Israel, whichever hospital, you’d go up and maybe see more than one person.  “Oh, they’re over in Linsky?”, something like that.  It was freaky.  My good friend John died in 1989, my most significant other, Carl Apfelschnitt, in 1990, Alene Lee (lung cancer) in 1991, Bob DeNiro, Sr. (prostate cancer) in 1993, my father (thyroid cancer) in 1996, and finally my mentor, Virginia Admiral in 2000; those are some of the main ones.

I’d say to myself, “Why are you doing all this?  You should be doing your band thing.  You should be doing your life.”  I had to keep after myself about all of this.  Was I using all of this to avoid living my own life?”  Carl spent eight months in a hospital, then hospice, in Philadelphia.  I was able to serendipitously rent a freezing basement in a house nearby (the nearest hotel was over $100 a night and over a mile away, and his family certainly wasn’t going to put me up).   I constantly had to ask myself, “Do you really love these people enough to be so involved?”  In retrospect I truly think I did; I regret nothing except that all of it really happened.

But during this time I was also hitting the bottle whenever I could without even really realizing it, but taking care of people limited the degree to which I could be “out of it.”  You really can’t be drunk and go to the ICU at a hospital; you just can’t.  So that limited my drinking but also helped turn me into a binge drinker.  I just couldn’t go out, I was very sad, and I was more traumatized that I was even aware of at the time.

This is kind of private but I’m going to tell you anyway.  I did take care of Bob DeNiro, Sr. for a number of months when he was sick with prostate cancer.  He asked me to, importunately.  He never could really admit that he was seriously ill, but I knew that he was.  I think maybe he knew deep down that his days were limited.  Again, I asked myself why I was doing this instead of my life.  I would spend evenings with him, make dinner, etc., officially from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., though this would consume much more time than that.  I would give him his last Talwin of the night, get him to bed, kiss him on the forehead and say, “I love you Bob, have a good night.”  But what struck me was, “Am I really the person to be doing this?”  This man’s son is about as successful as a person can be, and I’m there with his father looking at this giant, expensive orchid next to the bed that says “Get Well.”   I’m not trying to complain, but the whole thing seemed odd—here I am, the one with no momentum, now just taking care of other people and not myself?

FL:  Your making a beautiful point here, Brad.  AIDS sucked the life out of a lot of people.  Lots of people, if they didn’t have it themselves, they had friends, they had lovers, they had relatives who were ill.  Who’s going to take care of these people?  I know a lot of guys who were gay and their families wouldn’t deal with them because they were gay.  Also, I hear that you are talking about the costs to relationships that come with ambition and success.  At the same time you are talking about the rewards and costs that come with caring for someone who is ill.

BE:  I’ll tell you a really strange karmic story.  Carl Apfelschnitt had a collector who had a house on St. John in the Caribbean.  In about 1982 or so, she said, “If you guys can get to my place on St. John, you’re welcome to use it for these particular weeks.”  So we went, and at the end of a hiking trail we met this guy who was an attorney in D.C. and was there camping with another attorney friend.  We invited them to come to our place for showers (they had no hot water at the camp).  We made dinner together one night.  Carl and I were only there for nine days, but after we met the Robert and Steve, we kept running into each other.  I kept up with the first guy we’d met on the hiking trail during the coming years.  When I told him that Carl was sick in Philadelphia, he asked, “What hospital is he in?”  I said, “You wouldn’t know it, it’s sort of in the ‘burbs.  It’s called Lankenau.”  He said, “Well, my parents live right near Lankenau and their basement is for rent for around $300 a month.”  It turned out to be this freezing basement, but I wound up renting the place.  It was only about a ten-minute walk to the hospital and the only way I could possibly have stayed around so much—it turned into eight months.  The nearest hotel was over a mile away and was $110 a night, which clearly I could not have done.  I was freelance proofreading at law firms at the time and also doing some copy-editing.  I sort of disappeared from New York to be with Carl.  Fortunately for me I was the tenant of my commie cousin Virginia, so I could play a little with the timing of my rent.  She was a great landlord that way, we could be flexible.

I’m talking about my father’s first cousin, Virginia Admiral, Bob Sr.’s ex-wife and the mother of the famous DeNiro.  She was an artist and had met Bob Sr. when they were both studying with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown in the early ‘40s.  They were both fascinating to talk to and two of the most unforgettable characters I have met, and that’s out of many.  She was a painter, but wound up more of a painter manqué, I guess.  She had a child to take care of.  She started a typesetting business in the Village.  That’s what kept her afloat for many years, until finally she became one of SoHo’s true pioneers in the late ’60s.  She knew this guy George Machunis, from an art movement called Flux.  They would walk around SoHo way before it was even known as SoHo, and look at buildings.  By the time I moved in with her she was at Lafayette and Spring (where the Spring Street Natural Restaurant is now).  She had more-or-less turned over her first loft (on West Broadway between Houston and Prince) to her ex-husband Bob.  In those early days, especially when it was not yet really “legal” to live there, you don’t want to know how cheap these places were—but you had to “organize” other artists to buy a building.

So, I moved from New Jersey to Spring and Lafayette the week of Halloween of 1975.  Back then, when I would tell people that I was staying in SoHo, people in Manhattan didn’t even know what that meant.  SoHo was still pretty empty.  There was the Spring Street Bar, the Broome Street Bar, the Holly Solomon Gallery, just a few other galleries and a lot of near-empty buildings.  By night it was a combination of scary, interesting, and exciting all at the same time.  Whoever you ran into was going to be worth your attention in one way or another, and I don’t scare easy.  It was a lot of fun.

But it was very fortuitous that I was able to rent that place in Philadelphia when Carl was sick.  Carl’s family there was not particularly warm to me, and I think they did what a lot of families did:  They used the friends and lovers to do all the care-giving, the legwork, the dirty work; then they would shut you out when is was over.  Nice for them that they had Brad at the real hospital so they could stay at home and watch General Hospital.  After he died I received virtually none of the artwork Carl wanted me to have.  Because the family can’t possess the person in life, they want to possess him in death.  They think this is okay in some perverted way, though I think there’s a lot of guilt in this, whether they’re consciously aware of it or not.  Thank god for the life I’ve lived that included The Bar.  I kid with people when the ask me what I “do.”  I just say I’m a “lowlife lay-about,” but it took a little courage to be the lowlife lay-about that I have been.

FL:  I think you started talking about money and success and recognition and how that is such a big goal for so many people in Manhattan now.  That was not the culture back then.  Although, of course, as artists we wanted notice.

BE:  No, I think that was the culture then.  The Bar was an estuary of all that stuff.  It’s different now in the sense that the whole money thing is so hard-core.  I have a niece that lived on Second Street between Avenue B and Avenue C for about six months.  Her neighbor down the street had her own TV show.  When I lived in the East Village (and when The Bar was at its prime), if you had a TV show you lived on the Upper East Side or something like that.  Unfortunately you really have to have a lot of money to move here now.  It’s not the same thing.  When Virginia and Bob would go up to Provincetown in the early to mid-40s to study with Hofmann, they would just leave whatever twenty-dollar-a-month loft they were living in, LaGuardia Place or whatever, and find another one when they got back.  Loft living was not really legal then, but they didn’t care.  They would go to friends for a hotplate or whatever.  I lived a little like that for several of my earlier years here.  Carl and I were at Bowery and Grand in the early ‘80s; we were also in court with the landlord (like so many other loft dwellers).  But we had a little hotplate, and I would make this one-burner dish I called “bohemian chili.”  I’d go over to the Pioneer Supermarket and get the kidney beans, add chili powder, ketchup, and a little tomato paste if we had some.  Sometimes we had one or two “homeless” friends staying with us and that chili dish could get us through.  It was like that reggae song of the time, “Pass the Dutchie.” 

So the accessibility of this city is not there now without the money, it seems.  I know things have changed and expanded a great deal.  The Internet and all of that cyber/digital stuff has made it not matter quite so much if you’re in a certain “place” or not.  But is that really true?  If the medium is the message, experience has become different for younger people now.  What’s so great about New York is that it’s so “streety.”  The street activity was the best cheap thrill of all—you walked everywhere and saw all of these things for free.  You’d run into people.  People don’t get to have that now.  It’s too bad.  I’m living now in this neighborhood downtown.  Thank god for Virginia because she’s a lot of the reason I have this.  If I had to find a place to live now, I couldn’t do it.  My situation feels like some kind of karmic gift, I don’t know how else to put it.  I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t found and actually been able to buy this place that Virginia helped to “nudge” me into in 1993.  You could still do it if you were lucky because of that real estate dip in the early ‘90s.  But that kind of thing sure isn’t here now and I don’t know if or when it ever will be, maybe we need a dirty bomb or an asteroid or something.  Or, as a friend of mine said, “a little Detroit.”

FL:  The reason I’m reaching out to people [who frequented] at The Bar is because I had an amazing experience there myself.  I’ve done another interview.  You are my second interview.  What’s very moving for me is that I’m sensing that, although everyone’s story is totally different, there are some commonalities.  The commonality that I’m picking up is that there was something about the community at The Bar that was very exciting.  It wasn’t just about sex.  Everyone, when they are twenty, is just mating.  It wasn’t that kind of thing alone.  It was the intellect and the artistic minds that you could encounter all around you at The Bar.  The other thing that I’m noticing is that when AIDS came along, something happened.  People got flattened in one way or another.

BE:  On your first point, what was great about The Bar was that it had truly creative people there but you never had to worry about waxing intellectual or arty or anything.  It was a bar, after all, but you could make of it whatever you wanted.  About what you also said is I think that many of the people that didn’t die from AIDS had to quit using drugs and figure out a way to make money or something.  So many people were not making money.  Of the ones that survived, many are not here anyway because who can afford to live here?

FL:  Right, they got booted out.  But some of us were fortunate enough to find a way to stay.

BE:  I remember all the years of those loft regulations and the lawsuits.  Carl and I were in court about our place at Grand and Bowery.  A lot of people I know are only here because of all those lawsuits, loft laws, rent stabilization, the A.I.R. (Artist In Residence) rules that came along.  Of course things didn’t go their way for many people who lived in lofts, and that could be a disaster.  I hate to say it—but it’s always been true—speculators use the creative people to find the cool places, let them do the groundwork, just like the families of people with AIDS.  They let the creative people do the grunt work and then they try to move in and take over.

FL:  Then it’s all about money!  People seize what they can.

BE:  Yes, it’s kind of horrifying to me.  The meat-packing district, around 14th St. and Gansevoort, how fast that went from nothing!  Within six months it turned into a set for Sex and the City, for people with money and Euro-trash.  It’s fancy!

FL:  I want to get back to one question.  What would have become of us if we didn’t have that community of other artists?

BE:  I was lucky to have my cousin and mentor Virginia; she was a die-hard creative type.   What I loved about her is that as soon as I moved in with her, life made sense to me.  It wasn’t about “did you brush your teeth?”, or “please” and “thank you,” or “lovely weather we’re having.”  It was more like “do whatever you need to do to get by and do your creative stuff.”  It’s said that nobody achieves that much totally on their own.  I think that’s true.  Luckily I had  some kind of support from the very beginning in this city.  I was lonely for a while, but I was encouraged.  Energy builds energy, sloth breeds sloth.  That’s why that opening at the Crispo Gallery in 1977 was so eye-opening to me.  I thought, “Whoa, look at this!”  It felt almost like it was my own personal debutante ball.  I realized that there were all of these intersecting groups you could be in, whatever you wanted.  I didn’t want to cling too much to any one group.  There were the gay poets, the fashion boys, the theater people, the graffiti artists, almost everything you could think of.  Maybe I was scared to be too involved with any one group; but knowing lots of people in these intersecting Venn diagrams was fascinating.  I recently asked my young nephew about this kind of feeling.  He didn’t know how to answer, but he is only 20.  I was 23 before I even moved in with Virginia.  And after a while I really felt that I was living in my time here.  I guess I was young and nubile at a good time to be young and nubile in this place.  The Bar was a very nice place to be that, too, plus to have a creative personality. YOU FELT YOU HAD ACCESS TO JUST ABOUT ANYTHING; THINGS COULD LEAD ANYWHERE; THE POSSIBILITIES WERE ENDLESS. I remember walking along Second Avenue with a friend of mine during that period, and I ran into so many people I knew that she said, "What, Brad, are you the mayor of the East Village or something?" At that time it seemed like I knew just about everybody.

I’ve seen old clips of the Johnny Carson show, and it’s weird to remember that he used to have guests who just happened to be in L.A.  It wasn’t all set up by publicity agents.  It wasn’t “Whoozie Whoozie is on, they must have a new movie,” or “they must have a new album,” like it is now.  Back then there were just these often incongruous mixes of people, like Frank Zappa and Bette Davis on the same show—and actually talking to each other, not just to the host and not just about promoting themselves.  Now each “guest” moves over and the next “guest” comes out to show their movie clip.  Everything is so calculated now. 

Of course, there is all this fracturing of media going on now.  The center of the culture has become much harder to define because it is so fractured.  There are so many worlds of music, worlds of video, worlds of everything online and through other media.  I know I’m older now, but when Jeopardy! has questions about recent music hits, I just have no idea.  There is less and less of a public hearth to sit around and observe “culture.”  Things are more cyber, more isolated, more splintered.  In contrast, The Bar was a place where everyone seemed to know the culture they were in.  There was also accessibility into all these different areas.  So yes, it was a gay bar; yes, it was a place to meet people for sexual encounters.  And as I said, some of the very most attractive people I ever came across I met in there.  But the really great thing about it was that it was a melting pot, inside of a larger melting pot.

FL:  Yes, that’s it, Brad.  That’s it, you got it.
       Is there anyone else you’d like to mention?

BE:  I can’t say I really know Gary Indiana that well, but I have had some very cordial conversations with him.  I had never read anything of his until well after The Bar’s heyday.  The first book I read was his novel based on Fassbinder.  And you know how you can be wary of seeing something by or something involving a friend?  You’re under pressure to like it and say nice things?  Well, I didn’t just like this book, I loved it.  And now I’ve read about everything of his I can get my hands on.  Lo and behold, Gary’s a really terrific writer!

FL:  He’s an incredibly smart and interesting human being.

BE:  And he was very good to Carl.  There was a benefit for Carl at Annie Plumb’s gallery in SoHo in early 1990 while he was still in the hospital in Philadelphia.  Among other performers, Gary did a reading and he was good.  He is a shining example of a member of a community of interesting and truly talented people that I am so happy to know and to have known.  I would never have been able to participate in all of this if I hadn’t been able to be inside of melting pots within melting pots.  It just doesn’t happen otherwise.  It’s too bad that so many people have no idea that such a thing was ever here, and even in full bloom.  I’m sure the younger generation will find something, somewhere, for themselves.  Francie, let’s realize that there is always something good happening somewhere.  But what was so wonderful then is you could walk there, and you’d run into other people and things on the way there.  I think to myself, “If I ever left New York City, even now with all of its problems, the show that I just happened to go to last night would have been the event of the season somewhere else.”  Here, it’s just Tuesday night; that’s what I love.  I don’t go out at all like I used to, I used to be out all the time.  But even if I don’t make use of the place all of the time, I like being in this city.  It’s a front row seat to so much.

FL:  Also, the people you are sitting next to in the audience are pretty amazing people.  We’re here partly for the culture.  Also, just like when we were at The Bar, we are here for the community.  It’s the people.

BE:  Yes, and I can’t stay too long away from them.