Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Out and About in the East Village

In this weekly feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village.

By James Maher
Name: Parker Dulany
Occupation: Musician, Singer in Certain General, Painter
Location: St. Mark's Place at Avenue A
Time: 4:15 p.m. on Monday, March 7

I moved to the city right after school to be a painter, and I ended up being in a band. I moved right here. It was pretty exciting and pretty scary. I came in 1979. I’ve lived right here, appropriately enough in the building [that has] the hot dog that says Eat Me.

I had an art opening almost immediately, about a week or two after I got here. I was lucky enough to be given a chance to show with Club 57, which is that little church [at 57] St. Mark's Place. Ann Magnuson ran it. She gave me my first chance. I didn’t know it, but I had landed… it was sort of like the elite downtown people, with Keith Haring and Jean Michel-Basquiat. I just happened to be one of the people in the show.

I didn’t really know how good my fortune was. That led to being in a lot of openings all over the place. My work is pretty expressionistic. It kind of didn’t fit at all with what they were doing. I mean, they liked it and everything like that. They kind of looked at my stuff and they didn’t know what to make of it.

Then about a year later, I ended up being in a band called Certain General. I had never sang before the band, and now we’ve been around for 30-something years. We made it quite big in Europe, and so we’re going over in about a month.

My ex-girlfriend used to live ... on Avenue B. So in 1981, we would all go and walk across the roofs on Avenue B and climb into the abandoned building, which is now the luxury Christodora House. We would climb the rubble to the roof and nude sunbathe above the apocalypse, with the bridges, World Trade Center, Tompkins Square and the Empire State Building at our naked feet, sort of "Bonfire of the Vanities" shit, listen to the Clash or Spandau Ballet on a beatbox. It was very decadent.

The safest street in the East Village was Seventh between Avenue B and C, because that was heroin strip and there were lookouts everywhere. Anyone came down that street, they were on you. The dealers didn't want any trouble. We didn't do dope, but we rehearsed at Tu Casa, a legendary studio that was on B and 6th.

One time, my guitarist [in Certain General] ran into the studio and said he had been mugged, and both of his guitars had been taken. Everyone fanned out, alerted the locals and ran around the neighborhood. We eventually found the culprits. The guitars were so heavy that the [thieves] couldn't run fast enough to get away and were pooped and sat down. They weren't strong enough, because they were — two teenage girls. I think one of the girls had a knife, but Jesus — teenage girls! Oh my God, it was fucking funny. We give the guitarist shit to this day. We didn't even call the cops it was so embarrassing.

I was just walking through the Park to listen to those kids singing and it was reminding me. I played in Tompkins Square, with the biggest concert ever. It was in 1981 maybe, and it was called Avenue B - the Place to Be, and it was us and the Bush Tetras, and a bunch of other bands. There used to be a bandshell over there. It was a more formal stage. I really liked that. It was a big crowd. It’s on video. It was pretty cool, I have to admit.

I think I’ve always been about just making something. I just can’t be bored, and I’d rather make something than buy something. It was the whole DIY, do it yourself — everything was do it yourself. We just wanted to make something, that’s all.

James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.


Anonymous said...

great interview and photo! jeez, his description of lounging above the apocalypse with his mates, listening to spandau or clash on a boombox, is my dream! looking forward to checking out his art and band!

Michael Ivan said...

And here I am with Downtown 81 sitting in my netflix queue and this guy was living the movie. Too cool. Killer baritone voice as well.

Anonymous said...

I went to college with Parker. He was cool then. He is cool now.

Anonymous said...

Konk also played Ave B is the place to be.

Anonymous said...

Cool guy.

Scooby said...

Beautiful. What a fortunate guy to have lived his life this way. I'm sure there were struggles but in the end - lucky to live a real life (yes - a life I would like to live) in a very real time. Good for you, Parker! Enjoy the tour....

Deb said...

Good going Parker ! You are a great artist! I moved into the neighborhood in 1977. I also came out of Club 57 and also had a band, Tina Peel then The Fuzztones, then Das Furlines. I was recently told there is going to be a Club 57 Exhibition at MOMA in Spring 2017. They already have a start since the refrigerator door that Keith painted on is in their possession. As we see our neighborhood vanishing, our "Bohemia Lost", we still have some denizens who are firmly holding on to our art and music here in Alphabet City and the EV. Although we are like ghosts or old souls we still support each other in our endeavours. So, so many memories like yours. xo Deb O'Nair

DrGecko said...

Great interview. I think that 7th St between B and C was cocaine, though, not heroin. (I used to live there but was not a customer.) The heroin was more down Ave B around 2nd St.

Anonymous said...

Another jewel among the rubble of our previously singular hood. Love these interviews!

Marlo Blue said...

Oh yeah - I kind of remember. Great read,thanks.

thegaycurmudgeon said...

Great interview. I came across this looking for info on the Club 57 exhibit at MOMA. A Certain General! Wow! THERE'S a brain cell that hasn't fired in 35 years! But I probably saw them at Mudd Club or somewhere. I also lived on 7th between B and C.

chris boas said...

Parker and Certain General were one of my favorite bands from that period ('82) I actually booked them at my club LOVE in Philly a number of times. Very cool people. So cool that they graciously trusted me to send them the balance of their guarantee payment when I booked them against some other huge show in town and very few folks could make it. I sent them the late payment and they wrote a song about LOVE and the people that worked there.
That album is one of my favorite possessions. Thanks Parker and Certain General.