By James Maher
Name: Delphine Blue
Occupation: Radio Host, DJ, Pilates Instructor
Location: St. Mark's Place between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue
Date: Thursday, Feb. 2 at 1:45 pm
I’m from Queens — Fresh Meadows. My dad had a store on Avenue C and 5th Street in the 1960s called Sol’s Hardware. I would go there sometimes when I was very young. I remember we walked out of the store one day and there was a guy wearing a fez and I was like, ‘Dad, what’s that,’ and he was like, ‘That’s a beatnik.’
He had that store for awhile but that was when the Lower East Side was dangerous. People were getting shot and killed and my mom told him, ‘You have to sell that store or I’m going to be a widow.’ Around that time there were some homeless guys who were going into various hardware stores on the Lower East Side and buying wood alcohol. It was cheaper than going to a liquor store and some of them died. They were alcoholics and drinking this stuff and dying in the street.
So the FBI started to investigate it and they asked one of the homeless people where they bought it and they pointed to my father’s store. At the time my grandfather was minding the store and they arrested him on the spot and charged him with murder and he was on the 6 o'clock news. He wasn’t charged with murder ultimately, but they kept this investigation on for years and years. When I was a little kid they used to come to my house, handcuff my father, and take him away to question him.
They left my father’s business unattended on the Lower East Side when they arrested my grandfather and we had the lawsuit against the city that they kept pushing back to try to get us to drop it, and we didn’t. And then we finally won and we had a huge award — and then the city reduced it to like $900.
I started coming to the East Village around the late 1970s. My best friend and I moved into a studio apartment at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. It was tiny and it was totally fine — we were as happy as could be. We started going to all the clubs then, down to the Mudd Club, Club 57, Max’s Kansas City to see Blondie and CBGBs to see Patti Smith.
The club scene was so creative and a melding of all these different things and all these different kinds of music. It was everything together. It seemed like everybody was doing something related to the arts or fashion or being in a band. You could get by and you could live. You could live creatively and everybody you knew was doing that.
The best thing about the East Village then was that there were gazillions of shops down here. There were loads of vintage stores where you could get great clothes. Many of the shops didn’t open till 5 or 6 in the afternoon and stayed open till midnight. Nighttime was when all the cool shops would open, so you would go hang out in the shops and record stores and then go to a club. I would describe it like a festival. That’s what it felt like. Didn’t get going till noon. The streets were deserted till noon. You could eat any kind of food, really good food for really cheap and buy anything you wanted anytime of the day or night, and be surrounded by creative people.
I was aspiring to be a ballet dancer. That was my dream. I went to ballet classes every day. Then a little bit of rock n’ roll life collided with that. They didn’t mix very well and rock n’ roll won. And you kind of have to be touched by the gods to be a ballet dancer, and I wasn’t going to get where I wanted to go, but I could have still had a dance career.
I started DJing at the Sheraton Hotel on 53rd Street and 7th Avenue. They had a dinner club and they only hired girls. We were supposed to be playing disco music and they were teaching me how to mix. It’s not that I had a prejudice toward the music, I liked it, I liked to go out dancing, but I tried to play some rock songs and I got fired.
Next week Delphine talks about her DJ career that took her from WLIR to WBAI to Little Water Radio.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.