On it’s final night of operation (at least as the unique and wonderfully dingy place it has been for the past ten years) the Bowery Poetry Club on Bowery and 1st Street, a long-time haven for the starving artists of lower Manhattan, expressed its perfect weirdness in more ways than one.
As an elderly man headed from the bar, drink in hand, donning nothing but his birthday suit and a “What are you looking at?” expression, the people scattered around the venue were unfazed.
We turned to the couple next to us – a petite woman with a pixie cut and a man in a fedora – and blurted, “Is that guy always just naked? And no one cares?”
“He’s just around,” said the guy nonchalantly. He gave a half-eye-roll, half-smirk and continued, “There’s a lot of crazy stuff here.”
Oh, we could tell.
First open for business in 2002, the BPC (or BoPo as it is fondly known among regulars) has served more than its initial purpose of a café/bar/small performance venue over the years.
“This place has been my home. I consider it my home because of the people who are here,” said Mr. Symphonics Shawn Randall, who has been frequenting and performing at the club for nine years.
Owner Bob Holmanwas absent from the farewell event. Puppeteer and former employee of the club Kaylie Cummins told The Observer that he was in Wales pursuing a project. How important can this be if the owner isn’t at his own club’s final night? we wondered.
“No, we understand,” Ms. Cummins assured us, “Bob has projects. You know, we all have other projects, other places…” She trailed off with a dazed look, only to once again lock eyes with us and say, more assuredly than ever, “But this is home.”
The evening’s host Sean T. Hanratty addressed the audience with the classic, “How’s everyone doing tonight?” An audience member shouted, “Clinically depressed!”
The feeling was unanimous among attendees.
“Now I’m gonna have to go back to the Port Authority men’s room and hang out there,” said club’s legendary and vulgarly outspoken performer, Angry Bob, in his farewell address.
The club is not closing, but it is undergoing renovations and will reopen in the fall under the same owner as a higher-end restaurant and jazz venue.
“Once again, money has trumped art,” Angry Bob seethed.
Ms. Cummins explained that Holman plans to rent the club out to Duane Park, a burlesque jazz club in TriBeCa, two nights a week, and to the Bowery Arts and Science LTD, a non-profit organization that produces the club’s programs, for another two nights.
She, as well as the more than seventy people in attendance last night, only hope that Mr. Holman will continue to host the same gigs that the club has seen for the past ten years the other nights of the week. Only time will tell.
Attendees surmised that the conglomerate of poets who call the BPC home will most likely move to places like the Nuyorican Poets Café, The Moth, 45 Bleecker St., or just “hit the street mic.”
The club’s legacy will no doubt live on, as artists such as Moonshine and the Giggle Fits, Fiona Apple, and Taylor Mali have graced the stage over the years.
Although the fate of the club hangs in abeyance, employees noted that they support and love Mr. Holman in his endeavors.
“It’ll be very different,” one former employee told us. “There will definitely be no more naked people walking around.”
That’s one thing we’re not too upset about.
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