“I was part of the cocky Hermès-tie invasion of the West Village. At the peak of the dot-com craze, I moved to New York and leased a loft on Leroy Street at the Printing House, which was practically a frat house for Wall Streeters. My annual rent could buy a small condo in Texas, but the place was spacious. My first night, I gave my bike a spin around the living room—I had arrived.”
I am honored to be included in Greenwich Village Stories, a collection of memories and love letters, an upholding effort by a group of remarkable artists, even though my arriving to the neighborhood was part of a new breed and inflation: “West Village harbored a mishmash of different species and formed a battleground of sorts for MBAs like me and subletting artists,” I argue in my essay. Yet there is always hope. The more stories I read, the more my feelings about my contribution, to the book and my hood, evolve: From new-kid-on-the-block shame to confused and potentially creative curiosity–“Out of frustration, one day I yelled “Get a life!” at the tour guide helping tourists take pictures of where Sex and the City was shot. That act of West Village disobedience made me start writing.”
“What was so special about this “West Village”?” Malcolm Gladwell asked, when all he knew about New York was “from Martin Scorsese movies.” He is one of the authors along with John Guare, Thomas Meehan, Lou Reed, Wynton Marsalis, Patricia Clarkson, and many more (matched by photographs by Allen Ginsberg, Rudy Burckhardt, Berenice Abbott). The anthology of personal writings reveals how the Village stimulated and changed these creative animals. But the neighborhood changed, too. With West Village one-bedrooms pushing $5,000, how many young artists can afford to live here now? Suddenly preservation of recent cultural history is important. With Greenwich Village Stories, GVSHP and Rizzoli are doing that.
I will not share Amazon’s link to Greenwich Village Stories…New Yorkers, how about a walk to the Three Lives Bookstore on West Tenth Street? Buy the book and cross the street for a drink at Julius. There, enjoy a couple of essays under stills from Boys in the Band, Next Stop: Greenwich Village, and Love is Strange—all with scenes in the bar. That includes you too, Goldman boys; you know who you are…
Photo by Shelley Seccombe (Back Flip Pier Bank Street 1979)
Greenwich Village Stories
EDITED BY JUDITH STONEHILL
IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE GREENWICH VILLAGE SOCIETY FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION
A love letter to Greenwich Village, written by artists, writers, musicians, restaurateurs, and other neighborhood habitués who each share a favorite memory of this beloved place.
The sixty stories in this collection of Village memories are exuberant, poignant, original, and vivid—perfectly capturing the essence of the Village. Every corner of the Village is represented in the book: recollections of jazz clubs and existentialism on Bleecker Street, rock music at St. Mark’s Place, folk singers in Washington Square Park. There are stories of Hans Hofmann teaching modern art on 8th Street and Lotte Lenya performing in The Threepenny Opera on Christopher Street. Decades later, Brooke Shields muses on renovating a brownstone and finding history behind its walls; and Mario Batali lyrically describes a Sunday morning walk through the food markets of Bleecker Street.
The stories are complemented by a wide range of photographs by iconic figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Rudy Burckhardt, Berenice Abbott, Saul Leiter, Ruth Orkin, and Weegee. Paintings depict elegant red-brick facades and raffish Hudson River piers, now restored; theater posters spotlight Karen Finley and John Leguizamo. This is a book for those who are already beguiled by the Village as well as those just discovering this fabled place.
The sixty writers include Jonathan Adler, Mario Batali, Graydon Carter, John Guare, Donna Karan, Ed Koch, Fran Lebowitz, John Leguizamo, Wynton Marsalis, Isaac Mizrahi, Lou Reed, Mimi Sheraton, Brooke Shields, and Calvin Trillin, among others.
Judith Stonehill is the author of New York’s Unique and Unexpected Places, Greenwich Village, and Brooklyn. She was the co-owner of the New York Bound bookshop.