Hilly interviewed me when I was a super young kid and applying as a cocktail waitress at CBGB's, which I answered from an ad in the Village Voice. I had only been in NY for a few months at that point and desperately needed money besides the temp job I had. College wasn't even an option for me yet, not until years later. This is the time when the Voice would come out on Wednesday (only paper issues, of course) and us ambitious people would wait in line at Cooper Square in front of the the Voice street box for the secret early Tuesday evening delivery! We'd grab one and flip to the classified, looking quickly for apartments or jobs or whatever and head straight to the nearest payphone, which also had a line. Anyway, thats how I got that job.
Never would I have believed then how much that job would affect my life, or in a million years, how long I would stay there. He allowed us to make schedules that worked for our art or music and was suspicious of anyone who worked there who didn't openly have a bigger plan for themselves. In fact, those folks faded out or were eventually fired.
Yes, I saw thousands of bands in those years. With 4-5 bands per night, I could honestly say I saw thousands of bands per year? Truthfully, no one can digest that much music. And I hate to look back and say I zoned out on a lot of good shows or didn't pay attention to the up and comers. It was like whacking your way through a jungle in Vietnam, all those bands. And audition night? It was almost survival instinct to drown out bands. I bartended all the Sunday Hardcore Matinee shows for the last 5 years too. Thats when I noticed my right ear (the one that faces the stage when I'm behind the bar) has significantly more hearing loss than my left ear. And of course the older we get, the more we do things healthy for ourselves like wearing earplugs. But try telling yourself to wear earplugs when you're in your 20's!
Anyway, I've said this about Hilly before and I'll say it again. He is true punk rock in the way that he is not judgmental, hired and booked on instinct, and created a family out of people of all ages and misfortunes. He'd give total creeps a chance. He encouraged me to be part of the art shows Cb's Gallery and was fully supportive and encouraging about education. I'll never forget how his eyes and face lit up when I told him I applied to transfer to Columbia for Art History...and they miraculously let me in. I told him I couldn't believe it either, did I read this shit right? He was very proud of that and of the other bartender who had just started attending Juilliard in her 30's. He talked about it to strangers! He also reviewed my very first show with my first band The Chickletts (he said something like "well now, that wasn't so bad now was it. Better than the Ramones' first show.") Umm, thats not saying much but I get what he means. We had A LOT of work to do. After a few years of playing he decided he really loved my drumming. I'll never forget how he told me my improvement and feel behind the kit was so great. I hang on those compliments daily. He was at my wedding. And he gave me more shifts when I was in a divorce. (This was all in one year by the way). I never told him what a soft spoken pillar of strength he was to me and I wish I had, but in the end it would've just embarrassed him to get that kind of praise. But I hope he knows he was a surrogate father figure to me and he deserves all the credit in the world.
Also, I think he'd be tickled at the idea of Alan Rickman playing him in the upcoming movie. I mean, I am!
Lots of love to Hilly Kristal, owner of CBGB's. RIP. Love and miss you.