Iggy Pop Tours the East Village in 1993

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Ah, the East Village. I remember it well. I moved there in 1991, to an apartment on Seventh Street between avenues B and C. Back then, the East Village was “edgy,” but Alphabet City was over the edge. Two buildings over, one tenement was a shell. Across the street was a squat where the anarchists ran their pirate radio station. Out in front of my building, the local heroin dealers staked out their claim. But it was fine for a kid from Detroit, within easy walking distance of the East Village’s wonderful bars and clubs, including the International, Mona’s, the Holiday Cocktail Lounge, 7A, the Pyramid Club, Mars Bar, Joe’s, the Wonder Bar, the Blue & Gold, the Grassroots, Downtown Beirut and many more. It was full of homeless people, drunks, druggies, prostitutes, addicts and low-lifes as well as activists, artists, students and a variety of very interesting people. It was like the neighborhood you moved to if you wanted to escape the tyranny of the status quo.

And then gentrification happened. Soon, the outsider murals came down, the rents went up, the community gardens grew luxury high-rises instead of vegetables, and, one by one, the great bars of the day closed down. Much like the rest of New York, it became a kind of Singapore Disneyland version of what it once was.

We wouldn’t have ruminated over it so heavily today, except that the website devoted to East Village aficionados, EV Grieve, has uncovered a video tour of the neighborhood conducted in 1993 by none other than Iggy Pop. Seeing a hometown guy offer a tour of classic East Village before the tidal wave of money swept it away is awesome and heartbreaking.

I couldn’t offer a better response to this video than that of the guy I shared a railroad apartment with (along with about four or five other former Antioch students) in 1993, Benjamin Fasching-Gray: “People say, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone, but I knew what we had there. Nowadays, you can’t even smoke a cigarette on the sidewalk, let alone play saxophone or blast salsa from a boombox.”

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