The Seventies: Adopt an Attitude of Anomie
A Day in the 70s
Old-school punk, dance-till-dawn decadence, and conceptual- art galleries that are actually still in Soho.
To really get a sense of the decade, take a day off and adopt an attitude of anomie; it’s the seventies, so you should be unemployed, anyway; half an hour with Rockstar Games’ new video game, The Warriors, will get you feeling good and alienated. For sonic fidelity, pick up a vintage Weltron turntable (Gimme Gimme Records; 212-475-2955) to spin the newly hip experimental disco of The World of Arthur Russell (Other Music; 212-477-8150), or listen to The Slider, just reissued from T. Rex. If you need more reminders of the era’s cultural richness, watch the brand-new DVD set God Save the Queen: A Punk Rock Anthology. Since you’ve got nothing but time, visit two survivors from Soho’s art-studio past: Walter de Maria’s Earth Room, which has withstood the malling of the neighborhood since 1977, and the Judd Foundation’s Conceptual installations at 101 Spring Street (212-219-2747 for an appointment). Refuel at Fanelli’s (212-226-9412) where artists used to eat when there was nothing else around. And since you’re only pretending to be scraping by, buy a work by iconic color-photography pioneer William Eggleston; some are still priced in the mid four-figures (Cheim & Read; 212-242-7727). As long as you’re spending money, primp a little bit in preparation for a night out. The big names of the seventies (Blass, Halston) have been picked over, but there are still treasures to be found, like the rare stash of pristine Famolare wave-patterned platforms, at Pegasus & Proper (718-782-2842). Codie at Hotel Venus (212-966-4066) does Debbie Harry’s hair, and she’ll flip yours into a Blondie-do, too. Opium, the scandalous fragrance whose druggy 1977 ad campaign touched off the first wave of heroin-chic hysteria, is still selling (Saks Fifth Avenue; 212-753-4000). Spray generously, to keep people out of your dancing space during AllDisco’s regular Saturday gig at Capone’s (718-599-4044). As the sun comes up on your way home, stop for an egg cream at Gem Spa on Second Avenue (212-995-1866), where the New York Dolls shot their first album cover.
Living the Life
Last year, Jimmy Webb’s Christmas card was a photo of him and Steven Tyler hugging. “That’s punk rock,” Webb says. “The togetherness. The 48-year-old boy in tiger pants.” The boy got off the bus from upstate New York in 1974 and ran wild at Studio 54 and CBGB. Once, he asked Andy Warhol to sign a tab of acid. “It was one with the wizard-hat Mickey Mouse from Fantasia. I was like, ‘Holy shit!’ ”
Decades later, Webb’s look has barely changed (though his nightlife has gotten quieter). His entire wardrobe is from Agatha, from which he buys skinny leather pants—he just bought a $3,000 pair in silver with lightning bolts—and Trash and Vaudeville, where he works and gets his T-shirts and shoes: pink-and-white George Coxes, Converse high-tops, and glittery Creepers. He speaks softly, in a hybrid vocabulary that’s half-English, half-rock-ballad-verse. “The seventies were a big cry for love and acceptance, but there was freedom to be you,” he says. The punk-rock fuck-you of that era, as he calls it, has eroded, “but it will not disappear. I will always represent it.”
Webb’s windowless, subterranean lair is a shrine to his heroes. The ceiling is smeared in glitter; the walls are pink, “the ultimate punk color—the New York Dolls, man.” Green-and-pink strings of lights pay homage to the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks cover. The bedroom is wall-to-wall with photos of Steven Tyler, Sid Vicious, Mick Jagger, and especially Webb’s beloved Iggy Pop—he even has a photo-booth shot of his hero. Many of the pictures are originals by rock portraitists Mick Rock and Bob Gruen. (Rock has a Soho Grand show, but Webb missed the opening—“I was sprinkling pink stars on Iggy’s manager’s grave.”)
There are Farrah Fawcett candles, disco balls, an autographed Iron Maiden lunchbox, and Johnny Thunders’s old rosary—just talking about it makes Webb weep. “I’m saving up for a big Debbie Harry photo,” he says, standing beneath a JOEY RAMONE PLACE sign. “Every day, she’ll cover me with kisses, baby, cover me with love. It’s going to be awesome.”
What’s Hot Now
In the late nineties, when the twentieth-century-furniture market was heating up, “you couldn’t give away Paul Evans furniture,” says James Zemaitis, director of Sotheby’s twentieth-century-design department. Now Evans’s Brutalist designs are heating up; in June, the auction house sold an armoire for $84,000, and one Evans piece recently went for over $100,000. He’s an acquired taste, though; “really, one piece is enough,” says Zemaitis. (Available at Phurniture; 212-575-2925.)