By James Maher
Name: Richard “Handsome Dick” Manitoba and son Jake, 10
Occupation: Lead Singer, The Dictators NYC, Owner of Manitoba’s bar, DJ, Sirius XM Radio Inc.
Location: Felix Millan Little League, East River Park
Time: 1 pm on Saturday, Aug. 10
I grew up in the Bronx. I’m an Eastern European Jew and my grandparents came over and settled around here, but they moved up to the Bronx when the Bronx was like Westchester. They wanted to get out of here because this was all tenements back in the old days. I started hanging out down here when I was 15 years old, around 1969. I’ve been living here since the mid-80s. I was always drawn to this neighborhood. Me and my friends went down to the Fillmore East to see concerts; I came down to comic book stores to buy Robert Crumb comics, the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.
I saw The Stooges — I saw Iggy when he got booed off the stage cutting his chest open at the Electric Circus ... I saw The Who, The Kinks for $5. We went to the Schaefer Music Festival at Central Park, I saw Ike and Tina Turner and the Ikettes and the Beach Boys, all for $3. That was what it was like growing up in New York. Everybody came to New York, so every weekend me and my friends would be like, where do you want to go? Who do you want to see?
This was the living theater, it was bohemia, it was the edge and we were all very attracted to the culture and the history and the history comes from the the Beat Generation, into the Hippies. I was sort of stuck between. For example, I’d go see The New York Dolls at The Mercer Arts Center and then I’d go see the Grateful Dead a few days later. I didn’t care — I liked both of them. Then a point came where CBGB opened up and we started playing this place called the Coventry in Queens, which was a famous club on Queens Boulevard. We used to see Joey Ramone before there was a band called the Ramones.
The Dictators were in that little space where The Dolls were breaking up. MC5 and the Stooges were kind of burning themselves out. And then along comes this band The Dictators. We weren’t there before Television or Patti Smith, but we were the first band from that little scene to get a record out in 1975 — Go Girl Crazy! So what happened was we made three albums, we broke up, we made reunion shows.
In the 90s, it was like we became sort of bigger stars than we ever were. You see, the generation right after your generation has to sort of distance themselves from you to be cool. You can’t say, “Oh yeah, this is cool.” It’s natural for a generation to distance themselves, but then the next generation comes in and now books have been written and mystiques have been developed. I’ve got a week of shows in the Midwest coming up, three weeks of shows in Spain and maybe a week in the West Coast in the spring. If I can do 30 to 40 shows a year, I’m able to scratch the rock-and- roll itch. I’ve got that in me.
I opened the bar 15 years ago. I was working at 2A on the corner of 2nd and A, and after five years of bartending I wanted more, so I got investors together and opened up Manitoba’s. And I’m a sober guy for almost 30 years. To me I look at the bar as a clubhouse. It’s Richie’s rock and roll clubhouse, that I get to do as long as I can be a good enough businessman to pay my bills and get everybody paid. I get to keep this great culture alive that seems to be dying all around me, replaced by hookah bars and hip hop.
Jake just pitched a complete game — a 10-3 win. It’s the best two out of three, so if they win one more they win the championship. The whole team jumped on him. I picked him up in the air. Three little Spanish girls, like 9,10,11 came over to him and said, “Come here, you’re cute.” He came running over and said, “Dad, those girls said I’m cute!” He was excited. Then they came by the game today to watch him play. When you can throw a baseball, chicks dig it.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.