A superb way to make a buck is to pull something out of the trash and then sell it at Sotheby’s for $30,000.
That’s what CBGB’s former manager, Drew Bushong, did when he found the legendary club’s awning languishing in a box in a dumpster.
As he told Sotheby’s, improbably:
It was my day off and I was drunk at Mars Bar, the beautiful, nasty dive bar that was nearby. I think it was about 2004. I walked over to CB’s to see if anyone was around and there was this box in the dumpsters outside. I had seen it before above Hilly’s desk for a year or so. I remember thinking, ‘Why is this in the trash?’ I woke up the next morning – shoes on, I was rather hung over – and the box with the awning in it was sitting in my bed. I learned later that it was in Hilly’s office because one of the interns was supposed to put stamps on it to send to the Cleveland Hall of Fame and it just never got there. I’ve had it under my bed ever since.
A classic Sotheby’s tale, if there ever was one. This, of course, isn’t the awning hung on the club’s exterior during its halcyon days, when it sheltered the likes of the Ramones and Blondie and Television. This awning was from latter-day CBGB, the incoming John Varvatos store already hovering off stage left like a culture-draining vampire bat.
No one knows for sure what became of the original. Rumor holds it was stolen by the punk outfit JFA (Jodie Foster’s Army). The third, now in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, hung for three years until CBGB closed forever in 2006. This awning was the second, and hung from around 1988 to 2003.
But according to Gothamist, the second awning — the $30,000 awning — was removed because it was disgusting. Too disgusting for CBGB’s, which housed a bathroom best known for its baroque palimpsest of vomit and urine and graffiti. As the club’s former booker, Brendan Rafferty, told the website:
Sometime around 2000, the second awning was taken down and replaced after being badly damaged. It was, obviously, not unusual for bands to graffiti their names on the awning. But, one band, The Toilet Boys, painted their name across the awning in ridiculously large letters. They were never booked again.”
In addition to the distracting eyesore of their name plastered across the awning, in the months that followed, someone tore a piece out of the fringe of the awning… and in a very short amount of time, that small tear turned into a large section being ripped off, as people tore pieces off over time.
So Hilly [Kristal] replaced the second damaged awning with a third one. That third one stayed up until the day we closed.
Paying $30,000 for an awning is not punk.