"I got to know Ray first by becoming addicted to his frozen yogurt, then later by setting him up with Internet access," Oakey says. "I've never seen anyone take such joy in the access to the world the Web provides.
"When he told me about his troubles making rent, I started thinking about what how iconic he is ... and how having some T-shirts around to sell to his late night following would give him another revenue stream."
Now, in another fund-raising effort for Ray's, Oakey and Matt Rosen teamed up to incorporate the Save Ray's image and launch a line of Save Ray's clothing and accessories at Cafe Press. There are more than 80 items for sale. (Including the Save Ray's "classic thong.")
Rosen, who moderates the East Village Neighborhoodr blog, says Ray gets 100 percent of the "markup" on each item sold. (So, if a T-shirt has a wholesale/base cost of $8, and is sold for $12, Ray gets $4.) As Rosen notes, the benefit of using CafePress is that neither Ray or anybody else has to put up any money up front to purchase the inventory and then worry about selling it afterward. CafePress sends out checks once sales reach a certain amount.
"I'll just keep track and hand Ray the money as it comes in," Rosen says. "Hopefully this really takes off. Aside from the fund-raising aspects, it's a neat way for people to show their support."
There will be several of the clothing items available for purchase tonight at the benefit.
As for tonight, Rev. Billy and the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir will be one of the many groups performing. I asked Rev. Billy why Ray's is important to the East Village. He responded, via e-mail:
A healthy neighborhood feels good, it's funky, it's real and it's love! Our neighborhoods are not for sale: we must protect local shops like Ray's, which allow us to encounter each other and share and create stories with each other in a community!