12.11.10

If That Toilet Lid Could Talk : RIP Manhattan Bar Often Populated By Trendy People You’d Fucking Hate

Posted in History's Not Happening, New York, New York at 5:00 pm by

It was reported earlier this week that Ludlow Street’s venerable Max Fish was closing at the end of January, as owner Uli Rimkus was facing rather excessive demands for a rent increase somewhat reflective of the neighborhood’s currently glitzy status.  Full disclosure time : I briefly rented a small apartment from Rimkus situated on the 2nd floor above the bar….and not-so-briefly did extensive damage to my brain cells and liver on the ground floor during the early 1990′s.

People often complain about Max Fish paying host to hordes of tourists, rich kids, bridge & tunnel types, lame scenesters, etc….and the same complaints were voiced, repeatedly, in 1992, too. I’ve not spent enough time there recently (occasional visits aside) to comment w/ authority about contemporary Max Fish, but for a longish stretch,the bar was an epicenter for much of the L.E.S.’ arts/alcoholism scene. Quality humans worked there, and much of the clientele was a-ok, too. If you could stand a noise rock version of “Cheers” (the likes of Michael Duane, Harry Druzd and Carlo McCormack had far more wisdom to impart than George Wendt), it was an ok place to squander a paycheck. Many friendships were made by the Fish pinball machines, jukebox, or, uh, unisex bathrooms.  Nearly as many friendships ended, too.   I’ll never forget the retarded 3am arguments over slights real or imagined, the ridiculous characters from the block (or around the world) that would stagger thru in the days long before anyone knew or cared who the Strokes were.  Though Max Fish’s patrons certainly knew who Bob Dylan was the December night he stood in the doorway for what seemed like an eternity before opting for another bar.  And while Max Fish wasn’t a music venue per se (the adjoining Pink Pony did, however, host  performances for a while), there were a few semi-historic exceptions to the rule, including a monumentally loud Bailter Space show and a Workdogs w/ Jon Spencer performance in 1999 that featured the unlikely visage of Genesis P. Orridge making like Bob Colby several feet away from the band.

Nostalgia sucks, as do old fuckers telling you things were cooler or smarter back in the old days.  They weren’t.   That said, back in the pre Todd P.-era, Ludlow St. was very much the HQ for an undefined, very loud music/social scene, and Rimkus and her colleagues deserve much credit for their hospitality and lending some sense of community, however loose, to a rather chaotic period.

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