For Kathy Kirkpatrick, the owner of the Life Café, it was a moment she had resisted. During nearly all of the show’s run, she had done little more to capitalize on the cafe’s appearance in the show than to put up a poster signed by the cast . . .
“We thought if we did anything it would look like we were exploiting the show, and that’s not what we are about,” Ms. Kirkpatrick said.
But times have changed — and so have the needs of fans, who began to take menus as souvenirs. Since the play announced in March that it was closing, the cafe has begun to sell “Rent” memorabilia, designing a line of T-shirts, buttons, hats and tote bags and displaying journals in which fans can memorialize how the play has touched them.
In today’s East Village, expensive glass-fronted condominiums abut rows of hip Mexican and Asian restaurants, and the anti-materialistic, bohemian spirit immortalized in “Rent” can be difficult to see.
Gone are the days when the Life Café could stay afloat selling 50-cent bowls of vegetarian chili cooked over a Coleman burner, as it did in 1981, when it opened in a dilapidated storefront on East 10th Street and Avenue B, surrounded by abandoned buildings and shuttered storefronts.
The rent Life Café pays is now “well over $9,000 a month,” said John Sunderland, Ms. Kirkpatrick’s husband, and may double when the lease comes up for renewal in June.
So when “Rent’s” public relations firm asked whether the Life Café would host a video contest and party to mark the end of the show, Ms. Kirkpatrick said yes. “It’s hard to continue on in the way we have over the years without taking some hard, tough decisions to move forward. You do have to be creative in order to survive,” she said.
Here is the list of the winners and their videos. I'm not sure of any of these Rent fans were winners (oh, the third clip was a winner). . .here's their entry via YouTube: