Friday, June 24, 2005


First, a few more stray snippets I've lately encountered about the Scene. While flying to Vancouver last week I managed to finish Clinton Heylin's All Yesterday's Parties: The Velvet Underground In Print, 1966-1971 (Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2005), a cool compendium of vintage articles and adverts about the VU. It includes an ad for a solo engagement by Nico at the Scene: "The moongoddess Nico will conduct services nightly at Steve Paul's The Scene...leading you in all your splendor with her liturgical chants. October 23-30. Dancing for the body and soul also available before and after the services. Steve Paul's The Scene, 301 W. 46th Street, JU2-5760." The year isn't given, but I'll assume it was 1967.

Elsewhere in the book is a 1970 interview with Sterling Morrison (which can be read in its entirety here); when asked if he's been to the Scene lately, he replies:

It's closed. The Mafia was beating people up. They were having these incredible fights, thugs coming in. So Steve Paul just shut it down. That was going on at Arthur's too. The liquor laws work in such a way that if you have a trouble spot your liquor license can be revoked. So organized crime comes in and says, I want a piece of the action, and they say, no, you can't have it. So they just start these giant fights there. And the clubs lose their license. That's what happened at Arthur's. The Mafia people will even beat themselves up just so the police will come. That's what happened at the Scene.

Apparently the Scene actually opened in 1964, not '65 as I'd originally thought--this fellow recalls playing there in the fall of '64 with a band called the Outsiders. And via the Leftbankism yahoogroup, I recently learned that the Banke's Tom Finn was married to a woman named Margaret who had worked as the Scene's manager for a year or so. This info was culled from a Daily News "Night Owl Reporter" column dated August 10, 1971; the main topic of that day's column was ice cream parlors, and the Finns were then running one called Big Brother in the Orwell House apartment building (get it?) at 86th and Central Park West.

As for Vancouver--we went there because at last year's CNE I won free airfare for two to any Canadian destination on WestJet Airlines, and I figured we'd get the most out of the prize if we took the longest flight possible. I've heard the city described as the L.A. of Canada, but it reminded me more of San Francisco--it's on a peninsula after all (at least in the downtown core), with hilly terrain, a somewhat chilly climate, many miles of waterfront, some Victorian architecture remaining between the ultra-modern skyscrapers, a Chinatown (which we regrettably didn't get the chance to visit), and quite a hippie heritage. We explored the latter at the Vancouver Museum's psyched-out "You Say You Want a Revolution" exhibit--it was set up to resemble a hippie pad, and chock-full of all sorts of artifacts/info/sound clips/videos on the local scene. It even had some posters from the Retinal Circus club (including one for a VU gig!), which I later learned was located on Davie Street just a few blocks from our hotel. The museum also featured a gallery on the '50s in Vancouver (when neon lights and wacky nightclubs like the Cave abounded downtown), and on the history of the city's local skateboarding subculture. Other highlights:
  • A spectacular but grueling power-walk along the waterfront and in Stanley Park.

  • More power-walks in the downtown area.

  • Eating some of the best Thai food of our lives at the Thai House on Hamilton Street.

  • Shopping for records at Red Cat (check out the site's collages featuring store mascot Buddy--not to be missed!) and Neptoon.

  • Riding the bizarro, futuristic Skytrain (completely computer-operated--no drivers!) .

  • Lunch at the White Spot with our friend Kim, who's currently living in Vancouver but hopefully will soon be living in Seattle with our other buddy Efram.

  • A delightful afternoon with the legendary Nardwuar the Human Serviette. Rocky knows him from way back. I was a little intimidated about meeting him, 'cause I get real nervous around famous folks I admire, but he was totally kind, down-to-earth, and easy to talk to. He's a lot more mild-mannered in person than in his on-mic persona, but he's just as inquisitive in normal conversation--asked me a lot of questions about CBGBs, for example. He informed us that the Howard Johnson's we were staying at had previously been known as the Hotel California, and it had once housed a rock club called the Cruel Elephant--Hole had their first Vancouver gig there, and as such that's where he first encountered Courtney Love. He pointed out other landmarks on the drive out to UBC, where he had us sit in on his CITR radio show!!! He had an interview scheduled with Melissa Auf Der Maur, but the rest of the time he was riffing back & forth with us and allowing us to pick out records and promote our meager projects (occasional Dementia 13 d.j.-ing, Rocky's recent Misty Lane article on Satan and the D-Men, and this bloody blog!). I don't think I've ever felt so honored in all my life. Afterwards he took us to 4th Avenue in Kitsilano, where we shopped at Zulu Records and ate Mexican at Las Margaritas.

We were so beat from sightseeing that we didn't go to any shows, even though we were within walking distance of places like the Railway Club. But it didn't matter--we were totally happy with what we managed to pack in during the day. I'd highly recommend a visit to this largely lovely city--just take a reverse cue from Cookie Kwan and stay off the east side.

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