Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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: Rineke
Occupation: Retired, 'Many Things'
Location: East Houston
Time: 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 11

I’m from Amsterdam. I moved to the city in 1991. Love brought me. I married my husband on New Year's Eve that year and we’re still married. Originally he’s from Philadelphia and he lived here.

He lived on 11th Street, next to an empty building that used to be The Ritz. Then Webster Hall opened. Things changed. The main ballroom, the techno was next to our kitchen. When they were really having a party the things that hold your pots on my stove would [vibrate]. When you sat on the toilet you could feel the vibrations in the water pipes.

If you can’t fight them, join them. So I went to work there as a receptionist. There were so many interesting people, weird people, wonderful people, but it was clear we needed to move because I couldn’t live like that. We had friends who wanted to buy something instead of paying rent, so I looked for a year and a half until we found something that we could afford and that was this house.

We bought it in 1994. It was an interesting period of time. My husband and the other person had [9-5] jobs, so they went to work. My husband was sometimes terrorized when he went to work because he had to wear a suit. But for women people were polite and respectful.

I came home once and I [noticed] a cleaver leaning against the front door. I thought, ‘that’s weird. I know if you have a fish head that’s not so good news if you find that.’ So I called the police and asked, ‘What does it mean if you find a cleaver leaning against your home?’ They asked me, ‘Do you want to be connected to lost and found?’ ‘No, I just want to find out if it means anything.’ ‘Oh, well hold on to it for a week because it might be evidence. If we don’t come back to you, just throw it away.’ The first year was full of these weird things.

I worked at the Amato Opera, but it’s closed now. It was funny because I was teaching arts and my husband retired. I wanted to do something and I discovered only then that there was this opera theater and they needed help in the costume department. I always made the costumes for school plays and we did Shakespeare. They said that I could come and help.

So the first season I did things and little projects and after the first season, the owner Anthony Amato asked, ‘Can you take over the costume department?’ I was scared to hell. When I started I didn’t like opera that much, but he changed that. When you’re exposed to something so intensely, you either run away or you develop a love for it. I worked until they closed in 2009.

Anthony was 89, I think, when he actually closed. He hoped his family could take over but it went different from what he imagined. There was nobody who really… it was impossible. He did everything, the auditions, the rehearsals, kept an eye on the finances, the scheduling, plus he would do the lights. He would install a new show every five weeks. He would direct; he was really amazing. Nobody can do that.

He wanted to help educate young singers. He was like a platform for young singers to experience and do a full opera. The big opera houses — you only get a chance when you are already there, but how do you get the experience? And sometimes people made it big and would happily come back to him and do a role, do a whole opera just for fun. That was a wonderful period.

Anthony was a short man, slightly taller than I am, but he was grand in everything he was doing. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with somebody like that. It was such an inspiration. He was very old. Who still works from early morning to late at night with all the things he was doing? He had a passion.

The funny thing is that everybody wants a long life but nobody wants to grow old. He was an old man but he kept doing what he wanted to do. He just went for it. That was inspiring to see that you don’t have to become a boring person. His energy… I’m jealous.

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


Former East Villager said...

Miss Rineke, if you're reading this, I remember you. (I
used to sing at Amato.) It was 'Magic Flute' and you were fitting the Queen of the Night in her costume. It was stunning.

You worked very hard, we all did. Tony was an inspiration. I recently saw the Met's broadcast of Cav and Pag and thought Tony's was superior.

Thank you for the memories.

Also... do you remember the Dutch store on Second Avenue?

Gojira said...

I miss Amato. I still have the t-shirt I won during one performance, that reads "Good Things Come in Small Packages". Such a treasure, so sorry it could not stay. What a city New York was, that could support things like this. Thank you for the memories, Ms. Rineke.

Elle Sturm said...

This was a wonderful interview, thank your for this. The bolded statements made me chuckle as well.

Anonymous said...

Ha! She's all monitored up.
Fitbit AND Apple Watch.

Anonymous said...

@7:20am: By "Dutch store" do you mean the long-gone chocolate store on 2nd just south of Gem Spa? Its name was "Chocolada" or something like that?

Scuba Diva said...

The "Dutch store" was Chocolada (with a backward "R" for the first "A") and they as well as their successor "Wowsville" apparently had some deal with the rent—at least, it must have been a reasonable rent in both cases, or stores like that couldn't survive.

Former East Villager said...

@8:56 PM

Yes! And thank you, and Scuba Diva--I never knew that store actually had a name.

I wandered in there one day and subsequently got addicted to Brinta, which I ate every morning for breakfast until the store closed. I also learned the right way to eat Stroopwafels there too.

Anonymous said...

@Scuba Diva: I have no idea what they were paying in rent, but that was at least 20 years ago for Chocolada. Rents were not that high in the area then (and imported chocolate was still an exotic item, esp. in these environs!). I spent a lot of $$ in that store!

Rineke said...

Hi all, thanks for your comments. My very first NYC job was at Chokolada. Grew up with Brinta. It turned to edible concrete, if left sitting in the bowl. As a child I always wondered if it did the same in your belly. Hope you are still singing, Former East Villager.

Former East Villager said...

Dear Rineke and Gojira,

I'll be visiting NYC next week. If you like, I can bring photos, ephemera and stories from my time at Amato (early 90s). Maybe you might enjoy.

Dear Rineka, I'm not singing anymore, although my voice is still fine. There just isn't a Maestro Amato to instill the love and pride and stagecraft in my life anymore. I was kind of wrecked when Sally Amato passed, but Maestro kept me going.

If so, please e-mail (no spaces)

Pollyinwaiting at gmail dot com.