Photos by Bob Krasner
Singer Deborah Harry and photographer Roberta Bayley at the opening of “Just Chaos” at Bookmarc earlier this month. Bayley was wearing a T-shirt with her vintage image of Harry.
BY BOB KRASNER |“Forget about the Met show — this is where it’s at,” Monte A. Melnick, former tour manager of the Ramones, firmly stated. He was speaking of the May 9 opening of “Just Chaos,” a photo show by some of the major documentarians of punk rock at Marc Jacobs’s hip literary emporium, Bookmarc, at 400 Bleecker St., at W. 11th St.
Conceived and curated by noted photographer Roberta Bayley, the modest exhibit is meant to be an addendum to the Metropolitan Museum’s “PUNK — Chaos to Couture” show, which concentrates on the influence of punk on fashion, and in which photos of New York rockers are not a priority. Bayley, who photographed the first Ramones album cover, put together a group of 13 artists, including herself, whose love of the music led them to document a brand-new scene that seemingly had little commercial potential.
David Godlis, who just goes by Godlis, was one who found himself at the epicenter, C.B.G.B., “just to hear good music.” After a few weeks, he realized that he wanted to record, in the available-light style of Brassai, the scene on the street outside the legendary dive that gave birth to punk. After three years and a whole lot of film, he produced a body of work and became friends with many of the others who were covering the scene. Most of the participants in the show turned out to celebrate alongside some of their subjects, including Richard Hell and Deborah Harry.
Bob Gruen, left, and Godlis, who documented the punk scene with their photography, caught up at the opening. The image on the “Just Chaos” show poster/invite, behind them, was a shot by Godlis.
“It’s like a high school reunion,” said Godlis.
The energy of the attendees was palpable as East Village scene makers such as filmmaker Amos Poe, music industry legend Danny Fields (also a photographer in the show) and The Dictators’ Handsome Dick Manitoba rounded out an upbeat and colorful crowd that was dressed mostly in black. The mélange of photogs, fans, celebs and gawkers spilled out of the store, onto the sidewalk and into the street, leading to a warning from the local mounted police.
The store has taken the opportunity to stock its shelves with a wide variety of books on the subject, including attendee John Holmstrom’s new book, “Best of Punk Magazine,” Bryan Ray Turcotte’s “Punk Is Dead” and Richard Hell’s new autobiography, as well as rare ephemera and out-of-print titles, such as “Making Tracks — The Rise of Blondie.”
As much fun as it is to look back, however, nostalgia — as one might expect from the survivors of the punk aesthetic — is not at the top of the list. Not many wished to return to the New York of the late 1970s, although photographer Marcia Resnick said that she missed “the audacity, the immediacy and the conversation” of the times.
Amos Poe, director/producer of “The Blank Generation,” about the early days of punk, got ready to split.
Bayley, however, doesn’t harbor any desire to go back.
“I don’t long for those times,” she said. “I’m 63 and I have no desire to be poor.”
Leee Black Childers, a photographer who became manager for the Heartbreakers and later, Iggy Pop, is content to sit at his computer listening to Ethel Waters. Does he miss anything about the punk years? Well, maybe a few things, he said: “Being young, getting high and getting laid.”