Rock ‘n’ roll tour guide Ron Colinear
Ron Colinear’s walks on the wild side
By David Callicott
Do you know which friends met on the stoop of the St. Mark’s building that Led Zeppelin photographed for the cover of Physical Graffiti? Can you identify which 4th Street apartment Madonna lived in when she first came to New York? And have you heard the story about shock-rocker G.G. Allin, who ran out of an East Village concert covered in his excrement and tried to hail a cab?
If not, Bobby Pinn can tell you. Pinn (born Ron Colinear), is the leader of Rock Junket: New York City’s Original Rock ’N’ Roll Tour. Six years ago, Colinear started offering guided excursions to different neighborhoods, sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of each area’s definitive place in music history. The West Village tour pays homage to Hendrix and Dylan; a Beatles-specific tour explores Uptown; a Union Square foray visits some of the venues Andy Warhol put on the map; and the East Village walk is a behind-the-scenes look at the birthplace, and graveyard, of punk.
It is no surprise then, that Colinear, a diehard fan of the Ramones and New York Dolls, both of whom rose to stardom out of the East Village, favors this neighborhood tour the most. “I love the neighborhood and the bands,” Colinear told me over a post-tour beer at Swift on East 4th. “There’s so much history within 2 blocks.”
Two hours earlier I had joined Colinear as he led a group of four a young couple from Brooklyn and their sister and niece from Boston through the East Village. Although I knew a few of the obvious landmarks, Colinear pointed out many more. But it wasn’t the famous, or infamous, addresses that made the safari so interesting; it was the stories behind them. Among other tales, Colinear recounted the history of the Joe Strummer mural on 7th Street and Avenue A; the enigmatic fate of Warhol’s experimental performance art venue, The Dom; and at what point the East Village got its name and why. Suddenly, buildings I had walked by every day had acquired much deeper significance.
Which is to say that Colinear had achieved his goal. He claims his mission is not just to show his customers a good time (which he does with ease) but to also raise the awareness of rock and roll’s history in a city he believes undervalues its musical heritage. Not enough is being done to commemorate important sites, let alone preserve them, he says.
“CBGB’s should never have had to shut down,” said Colinear. “It’s a shame the city doesn’t protect more of these landmarks.”
Colinear, who describes his age as “older than Jack White, but younger than Barry White,” has worked in the music business in some form or fashion for most of his life. In his hometown Pittsburgh, he was an AM disc jockey and voice-over artist throughout the ’80s. When he moved to New York in 1990, he took a job at Tower Records before becoming a warehouse grunt with a record distribution company. He moved out of the warehouse and into sales before long, coordinating business trips with out-of-town concerts he wanted to see.
Six years ago he started guiding his tours as a hobby, mostly booking private tours for corporate clients on weekends. Last year he decided he could turn the Rock Junket into a full-time job and took a leap of faith. Now he’s living on his own terms: waking up late, guiding his tours, then spending the rest of the day in museums and parks.
“It’s a different kind of hectic pace,” Colinear says. “Every day I have to make something happen for myself.” To that end, he has designed and created a rock n’ roll board game that will be in stores next year. He has also just finished writing a book about New York music that he intends to self-publish.
While Colinear isn’t a rocker “I play a little guitar, but not much and not well”he looks like one. He spikes his bleach blonde hair and adorns himself with multiple earrings and colorful tattoos. His right arm is an ode to the Big Apple, inked with iconic images like the New York Dolls’ cowgirl, the Empire State & Chrysler Buildings, and the Yankees logo. The left arm reveals more of his personality: nautical stars that help “find the way back”; a black cat, for him a symbol of punk; and a pair of dice, his one vice.
Like his heroes Richard Hell and Sid Vicious, Colinear works under a stage name: Bobby Pinn, inspired by the safety pins those artists made famous. As the Rock Junket grows, Colinear plans on hiring tattooed “Pinn-Up Girls” to lead tours. But for now, he can handle the business by himself. “I guide anywhere from two to twenty people a day. But even if one person calls, I’ll take them on a solo tour. It might be that they only get to New York once, and I want to show them some rock ’n roll.”
For more info on Colinear’s tours, visit rockjunket.com or call 212-209-3370.