Don Hill

Whenever someone famous or very popular dies there is a rush of people jumping on the stage to shout, “I knew them the most/best/longest!” I don’t want to do that here, I didn’t know him the most, or the best, or the longest. But I would be remiss if I didn’t blog about this lovely man who died yesterday.

For those of you who didn’t know him, there’s an article here:
I knew Don for about 25 years. I wasn’t his closest friend; we didn’t talk on the phone regularly or get together for dinner, but he was a friend and I loved him. 

I met Don at the Cat Club, which he managed, in the 80’s. He was always friendly and generous with the beer, and he had a first hand seat to watch the Cycle Sluts form, perform, get loaded, pick up countless rock dudes, fight like cats, get a record deal, and break up. One night I freaked out on my constantly cheating boyfriend and smashed some glasses and caused a general ruckus. Don didn’t get angry over my behavior, he just talked me down and told me it wasn’t worth it. No matter what maelstrom was spinning around him, he was even and solid, a comforting presence. Years later he would joke about “that time you beat up your boyfriend at the Cat Club”. He would always say, “That guy was a jerk anyway.” And then he would laugh and order us more shots of tequila.
During the 90’s another equally wonderful friend, Michael Schmidt, created a new party called Squeezebox, and he enlisted me to go-go dance. The party was held every Friday night at Don Hill’s. Don was “one of us” and a fair and honest club-owner, without the gigantic ego that usually comes with that title, so it was a natural choice of venue.

I shook my half-naked ass every other week in his club for years. Here’s a visual for you:

I know, always the lady… During breaks I would do a quick shot with him and we’d marvel at whatever was going on around us. It was such a fun, fantastic, groundbreaking party and he gave the promoters free rein and enjoyed the circus as much as anybody.  I spent so much time around him in my underwear, as did many of us at Squeezebox, and I never once felt naked. He always made me feel comfortable and appreciated, he was a safe space in the crowd. 

When Jesse Malin and I broke up after a long relationship, some people chose the Jesse side of the fence, even though it was an amicable split and we remained close. Jesse is famous so you know how that goes: he received the wedding invites and I did not. Don was always a bit closer to Jesse, they were both club-owners, both guys, they simply had more in common. But Don never made me feel any less loved. He invited me to anything he was doing and rolled out the red carpet upon my arrival. He was so natural and easy about the whole thing that the idea of sides and loyalties never came into play.

In the 2000’s, well after Squeezebox ended, I would show up at his club to see shows and would inevitably spend the entire night at the end of the bar with him, drinking tequila and gossiping like a couple of old ladies. He was very fun to gossip with and I couldn’t help but park myself next to him whenever possible.
Recently after things were getting pretty slow at the club, Don acquired new partners, and they turned the joint into the kind of place I hate, full of rich-parented social brats and models and everyone so busy taking pictures of themselves in front of the band that they don’t even notice the music. Prior to the changeover Don confided in me that it was happening, and I was flattered that he took me into his confidence and happy that he had found a means to continue. I never questioned his decision or loyalty to the “old school”. A man has to eat, and it was the right thing to do for his business. Crappy hipster blogs crowed about this “finally happening” venue, it stuck in the craw but if it brought the crowds, then more power to him. He was no dummy and his presence ensured that it was still the coolest club in town.
One of Don’s partners is the kind of guy who will shove you out of the way to get to someone he thinks is more important. His name is Nur, so I call him Nurdemort (an homage to Harry Potter, for you non-Potter fans).Every single time I’ve visited the club since he arrived he has spilled alcohol on me in his rush to grope the nearest model or Jagger offspring. He has never once noticed that he has elbowed me, poured beer on me, or stepped on my feet. Don would always cluck a bit as I sputtered angrily, hand over some napkins, wave at the bartender to get me another drink, and pull up a stool for me as far out of the fray as possible. And there I would sit next to him once again, until it was time to go.

Last night a friend let me know about Don’s death right before we left the house for a gig that Drew had at Lit. I called Jesse and left him the sad message, and then threw on something slutty and ran out for the night. I found myself crying hot tears as I watched Drew play, but was glad to be out anyway. It seemed appropriate. Many people went to Don Hill’s afterward for a farewell toast, but the idea of walking into that room and not seeing him seemed far too painful at such an early stage in the game. It is still too new for me to completely grasp that I will never get to spend another night drinking and shit-talking with him.

This morning I woke up and cried it out for a while, as I’m sure many of his friends did. We lost a dear, decent, kind, fun, wonderful, generous, honest, beautiful man. It is the end of an era for New York nightlife as well. He was a gift to our city and I’m proud and grateful to have known him.

Skewed to the Skeptical

Okay, so I changed the look of the blog and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Comments are welcome.

While doing some rearranging on the page, I happened to notice that all the google ads at the bottom, which intuit from blog text, are for detox or rehabs. This is perhaps not the best of signs for me, although I do think it’s kind of funny. It has dawned that maybe I should stop writing about my party moments all the time, since I’m not actually out as often as it may appear, but then, whatevs, it is what it is and my mom is used to reading my silliness by now.

And so, rehab ads be damned, and because many of my tens of readers seem to like the going out blogs, I thought I’d give you a state of the union address on the social tip.

Last week found me at Don Hill’s for one of Drew’s gigs. His band played with Mick Jagger’s son’s band; I have been told he is a very nice kid, although he was recently lambasted in this somewhat entertaining article. I have listed numerous complaints in here about the “scene” in New York City that Drew often finds himself gigging in, which in my mind consists of spoiled dilettantes, vacant models, pointless coke-fiends, and gross guys who chase the models, none of whom give a shit about the music that is played around them. So I’m never really super excited about these kinds of events, although they’re good for the band and Drew is very good at keeping me feeling safe and at being “in it but not of it”.  I am also fully aware of the fact that I am of a different age and mindset than the target audience, and thus my opinion is automatically skewed to the skeptical, and not one that they would, or indeed should care about.

But, I do like Don Hill’s as Don has been a friend for 20 years and I know that I can always sit with him and gossip at the end of the bar while the shenanigans rage on around me. I call it the old people’s corner and I know I’m going to be relatively happy when he’s there.

Drew is an extremely talented drummer and I like to watch him play, and I also like his current band, so I did go up front to watch. And this is what went on in my brain:

“Wow, this is a new song, I like it. I have to remember to ask what it’s called…Hey, that girl standing in front of me looks like Dyan Cannon. She’s adorable, I love her big hair. God, could her legs get any longer? Just what New York needs, another model…I’m sure she has absolutely no idea who Dyan Cannon is….Ouch, gross guy! Stop shoving me to get to baby Dyan!…Oh look, there’s Lizzie Jagger, she’s cute too…Wow…hmm…there is a lot of self-congratulating going on in that bunch. It’s like the popular table in high school, only skinnier. No one is even looking at the band…Oh, and that’s charming, Lizzie is “headbanging” by flipping her super long hair into the faces of lesser mortals. Boy, that is really obnoxious…Aaand there, we go, gross guy just knocked my beer out of my hand in an attempt to grope baby Dyan. All right, running back to Don now…”

I lasted all of 5 minutes and then spent the rest of the night in the corner, where I belong, swilling free tequila and bitching about the kids today. Sometimes I worry that this will be the way it is to my dying day. I’ll be 90 years old with my eyebrows drawn on crooked and a plastic flower in my dyed black hair with inch long gray roots, shouting about the lack of subculture today and pointing at my empty glass while winking at the frightened bartender.

A few days later the lovely Cid and I got on one of those fabulously cheap Chinese buses and headed to Philly to visit Kim Montenegro and to see my former bandmates Vas and Loopy play in their current band Hanzel und Gretyl. When we got to Kim’s beautiful home, she promptly poured copious amounts of red wine and we retired along with her friend Alexandra to her backyard for a mini girlie barbeque. We drank, pigged out and danced to the Black Crowes while the fireflies blinked around us. This is so much more my speed and happiness these days.

We did pull it together to make it to the club, where HUG put on a hugely entertaining show. For those of you who are unfamiliar, they are an industrial metal band who sing their songs in their own brand of German. They have a great sense of humor, Loopy wears a helmet and goggles and races around the stage and the shows are scary, funny and loud. My current favorite tune is Bavarian Bierhaus Blood.

The crowd was a funny mishmosh of gothy types, hardcore HUG metal fans, and weirdly what I think were a couple of prostitutes, and everyone was pretty chipper and friendly. We met a lot of random people and when Kim saw a girl at the bar get her credit card refused, she paid for her drinks. The girl was very sweet and grateful, and told Kim she loved her jeans (Kim has a denim line called MOTOR) but that they’re too expensive. So of course, I, being the most obnoxious person on the planet when drunk (except for maybe Lizzie Jagger and her hair), launch into a conversation that goes like this:

ME: You are adorable, and you have a really cute figure.
ME: But those jeans you’re wearing right now are awful. Really, they’re just horrendous.
BLINDSIDED GIRL: Oh God, are they?
ME: Yes. They look cheap and they don’t do your great ass any favors. You need to stop wasting money on cheap jeans, and buy one good pair and just wear them constantly.
SUFFERING GIRL (wailing): But I can’t afford Kim’s jeans! I need a sugar daddy!
ME: No, goddamnit, you don’t need a man, you just need a good pair of jeans. Stop looking so sad. C’mon, I’ll buy you another drink.

I have no idea what her name is, yet I’ve probably scarred her for life. Yay, Mary! And while this fashion assault is going on, there’s a man next to me in a full Nazi uniform, complete with hat held under his arm in proper uniform style, trying to get me to take a picture of him with Vas and his girlfriend, who is also in a form of Nazi regalia, although hers was completely done in shiny vinyl and she had those ridiculous white goth contact lens in her eyes. The downside, apparently, to playing really heavy music with German lyrics is that you get the occasional fan in offensive ensemble.

And that is my report from the frontlines. The rest of the weekend was pretty mellow, we got up the next day and brunched with HUG, dragged Loopy shopping and into one of our favorite Philly clothing stores called DELICIOUS (where I spent money that I don’t have on a top that I don’t need), and then Cid and I caught a ride back to NYC with them, which was, along with the backyard girl time, a highlight for me. I have to admit openly that I am mellowing, and lately just want to be with a few good friends in a backyard or on a road trip, rather than in a crowded club with people spilling shit on me. I’m not out of the game completely, but it looks like I’m leaning towards some version of addled adulthood. How did this happen? I blame Lizzie Jagger.

PS. Lizzie, if you have a google alert set for your name, I apologize for outing your bad headbanging, and, as they say on your side of the ocean, am really just taking the piss. I still think you’re really cute.

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