Thursday, July 9, 2009

Remembering Babyland: "We all want to go back to the womb, and here we are"

Speaking of NoTell Motel... I was looking for some background on the bar and came across an article from the Times dated June 26, 1994, titled "Set 'Em Up in Crib No. 2, Captain Kangaroo." It was about NoTell owner Deb Parker's new (at the time) hipstery/rather insufferable Babyland on Avenue A near Fifth Street. Used to be a mom-and-pop infant shop called Ben's Babyland. Anyway, brought back a few memories (not all pleasant)...

To the article!

The boys in the white crib looked comfortable enough, sitting together on the edge of the mattress pad, separated by a huge, dirty pink teddy bear. One was sucking on a bottle (filled, incidentally, with a vodka tonic), and the other was silently mowing down an ice cream sundae.

The crib was surrounded by other big boys and girls, most of them in their 20's, who were sitting in undersized chairs and drinking cocktails or quietly reading "Danny the Dinosaur" or "Goodnight Moon."


Babyland appears to be inspired by Roald Dahl, its walls covered with childhood record-album covers and every corner filled with old toys: stuffed animals, supposed-to-be-sweet-but-actually-spooky-looking clowns, the Playskool barn with the mooing door, plastic letter magnets and dog-eared books. Naked Barbie dolls spin out of control on top of a ventilator, and a plastic baby-doll face has been plastered on a blender.


Bar owners in the East Village face the special challenge of courting coolness by offering a hip, novel theme while still remaining cheap...

Childhood nostalgia is indeed a fashion statement, and the summer streets are full of women in little-girl dresses and sneakers, or T-shirts with Josie and the Pussycats decals ironed on to the front. It makes sense that the East Village corners of cool would capitalize on childhood comfort zones: Limbo, a cafe on Avenue B, serves up nonalcoholic treats to the many who pour in to play board games. Babyland will soon offer Twister and pinball in the basement.


"We are all really babies, so this theme is great," said Sonja Patillo, a production coordinator who dragged two friends from Texas to the bar on Tuesday night.
[A]s Jack Dawe, 25, pointed out: "We all want to go back to the womb, and here we are."

There's another article on Parker in the Sept. 7, 1997, Times.


lvv said...

Sounds like the Superdive of its day.

(and for the record, I am NOT a baby! shut up Sonja Patillo)

WB said...

Did this really happen?

This was the first thing I read after waking up this morning, and it left me horribly disoriented.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it existed. I went there. It was funny. I think it's predecessor was Beulah Land.

Here are other places you would think were funny:

Le Boycut
Hawaii 5-0

Anonymous said...

its, goddamit

Anonymous said...

tired of all the false reports on the hoopla that surrounded Babyland the night Johnny Depp poked his mug in.
Here's what has been said so far...
"Back then,...Some crazy stuff went down.
Like the Johnny Depp Babyland fight..
here's what we recall...
...a classic EV bar fight."
- Cityrag 6/04
"Johnny Depp vs. Babyland
When a drunk at the LES bar Babyland pulled out his man-stuff and told Johnny Depp to [we paraphrase] “Fellate me, please,” the L Magazine 8/06
and finally dear readers, here's what I recall...
Jerry the Pipefitter (from New Jersey) and I were listlessly having drinks at Babyland on Avenue A. Not much of an evening as I remember just the usual crew. The front part of Babyland was a little cafe shoppe selling cake, coffee, ice cream etc., (a little oasis from the drinkin' throng)
Into the doorway steps Johnny Depp, Jonathan Shaw and other leather/tattoo/East Village guys. They just pause there, surveying the scene...I elbow Jerry (who's head keeps drooping) and say,"Hey,Jerry,....lookit...."
He pauses and blearily turns on his barstool, eyes up the situation, and without word, without warning or further adieu, unzips his fly, removes his shlong and flapped it a few times in Johnny's direction saying, "Whaddya think of that Johnny, huh? Whaddya think of that?" and starts giggling maniacally.The guys that were clearly with Shaw, rushed into Jerry, pinning him to the bar.They were throwing roundhouses and jabs to poor Jerry's shaven head.Some of Jerry's buddy's and Babyland/No-Tell regulars swarmed in on the attackers.... and indeed, in the ensuing chaos, rocking horses were thrown, also fully loaded cake displays from the afore mentioned cafe, building blocks, spinning tops, baby bottles...I jumped up onto the bar and pulled the string for the main fluorescent lights to come on. Naked light. Folks ran for the dark like bugs. All the while Mr. Depp was safely escorted downstairs to the rear entrance.
End. I'm sorry there was violence involved, but Jerry's delivery was spot on and non-plussed. He took it too far and that's the result. Too far,.. but in my book, still very,very funny.
God Bless You Jerry wherever you are.- Todd Deal 2009

Michael Powers said...

I really loved Babyland and was sorry to see it close. I started to photograph every inch of the inside of the place, it was so fascinating, but never got around to it. I particularly remember a height-measuring ruler in one spot with a sinister clown's face and the query, "How high am I?" above it. I'd love to see some pictures of the place. You could sit in a crib amidst grungy toys to order, shaking a rattler, or hang at the bar. The band "Bloody Stooling Anus" used to play in the basement. My only problem with the place was that it didn't serve Guinness.