“Walls” Builds a Bridge Back in Time to The Bottom Line
The famed Bottom Line Cabaret was a Greenwich Village music mecca from 1974 to its closing in 2004, a 30-year run that was both remarkable and unparalleled, especially given New York City’s rich cultural history. The Schimmel Center at Pace University hosted If Walls Could Talk, a high-powered multimedia tribute to the legendary venue on October 13 and 14, put together by Bottom Line co-owner Allan Pepper. This special event was hosted by Paul Shaffer, conceived by Melanie Mintz and curated by Paul Guzzone, Danny Kapilian and Jessica Weitz.
Gregg Bendian was the musical director for the production that featured 21 songs performed by musicians who had played them at The Bottom Line and who also shared with the audience some stories of their memorable experiences. Darlene Love told of the night David Letterman showed up and told her that “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” was the greatest Christmas song he ever heard. Terre Roche spoke of her waitress days at Gerde’s Folk City and Jimmy Vivino talked about his first shows there with Uncle Floyd.
Tender moments abounded during this very special stroll down memory lane, evoking Ellie Greenwich’s “Leader of the Pack,” historic runs, and some of the ads for shows at the club, which were updated for rear-screen projection, with DJ Bobby Jay providing narration.
Love, Roche, Vivino, Will Lee, Nona Hendryx, Ula Hedwig, Curtis King, Willie Nile, The Uptown Horns, David Bromberg, drummer Clint de Ganon, Sean Altman and The Groove Barbers (formerly Rockapella) all gave stellar, high-energy performances during each of their sets. Altman’s “Phantom Foreskin” brought some lighter moments.
Musical highlights included a nod to Bette Midler’s Harlettes, with Hedwig and King doing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”; Love’s “Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home” and Hendryx’s “Lady Marmalade.” Nile’s “Les Champs Elysees” brought attendees to their feet, as did Bromberg, with his rocking version of “Sharon” and a guitar-riff laden “Statesboro Blues” in a duet with Vivino, masterfully playing the dobro.
The entire cast brought the crowd to its feet during “River Deep Mountain High,” the finale on this very special night full of shining stars and treasured memories.
Brooklyn Roads spoke to Allan Pepper about his Brooklyn connection, telling us that both he and co-founder Stanley Snadowski grew up in our borough, adding that “Stanley was born in Brooklyn…we went to public school together. I lived on Avenue C, two blocks away from Ocean Parkway and Stanley lived on Ocean Parkway.” As far as Brooklyn being an influence on his career choice, Pepper told Brooklyn Roads that he was “happy to see the resurgence,” noting also that “I went to Erasmus High School and there were a lot of talented people there.”
On how the If Walls Could Talk shows came about, Pepper told Brooklyn Roads that “I had been working on the idea of an oral history. I wanted to tell the story…the biography of the night club…and I wanted to tell it from the standpoint of the artists who performed at the club, the staff that worked at the club, the fans who came to the club and the people that did business at the club.” Paul Guzzone (Bacon Brothers), who was on staff at Pace, had approached Pepper to see if he wanted to do a series of Bottom Line nights there. On getting Paul Shaffer to host and perform, Pepper said, “Shaffer seemed to be perfect, because he’s so steeped in musical history.”