Ron Ardito's Tribute To Hilly Kristal

Ronnie posted a beautiful tribute to Hilly Kristal on the CBGB website. Hilly was like a father to him. Ronnie along with his wife Marsha were our soul connection to CBGB'S through the years. A LONG STORY Where I came from, in 1972-73, there were two things. There was disco and there were cover bands. We were the latter. Oh, we were artists all right, writing our own stuff & we thought it pretty original, but, we had to settle for playing covers in topless bars & local booze joints just to get onstage and work on our chops. It was a dead scene.That is until a friend handed us a copy of “Piss Factory”. Overwhelmed, we found out when & where she was playing, got down there, got in and got a table. Everyone said it was a real seedy place. To me, it was a fucking palace. It was the first time in my life I experienced awe. After that show, I was trembling. A friend had come along with us. We started screaming at him, Novick!, there’s the owner! Go over to him, say you’re our manager & get us a gig!. He did. What was totally mind blowing was you had to play your original stuff. No covers. Heaven. We had found the fucking promised land. I was 19 and we never played a cover tune again. So we became regulars, gigging 4 night weekends every 6 to 8 weeks. That big burly guy with the gleam in his eye took a liking to us, took us under his wing and began booking us all over. Jersey, Boston, Hartford, Providence. By late '76 we were living the dream. In late '77, The Man With The Beard informs us we have a deal with a major label. Anyone who has been through that knows the feeling. Anyone who hasn’t, can’t. We begin making records for this label. We have some decent success, nothing to brag about in terms of the big time, but life is/was fantastic for a while. In hindsight, I could list the million reasons of what went wrong. Pointless. I think he was more depressed than we were. We toil on for a couple years to no avail & things fall apart. I take some freelance work to stay alive, but, things dry up and I can’t afford a f*cking pack of smokes. So I call him up and ask for a job. “Cmon down”, he says. I don’t know how many tweeters I blew in those NS-10’s learning to mix the live shows recorded on that 2 inch 16 track machine, but, he didn’t seem to mind that much. I got it down very well thank you. 9 years I worked for him. The man with the most eclectic taste in music that ever lived provided a venue for each and every one of those acts that came in droves. With or without actual talent, the deluge was unreal, myself mixing 50 or so bands a week & there were 4 of us working 7 nights a week & Sunday afternoon matinees. The weekday afternoons were reserved for recording sessions for acts that he, or any of the staff for that matter, thought were exceptional. He even started his own label to get them exposure. What can you say about him? He made dreams come true for thousands, and let millions know it. Selflessly. In ’95 I was gone for being a hopeless alchy, & went away to lick my wounds. I get picked up from the gutter by a very old friend, fall in love & get married. Start writing & playing again. She facilitates the old gang getting back together, &, take a guess where we wind up playing. Our old producer hears about it and says lets make another record. Unreal! Our bearded friend enthusiastically lets us use his club to record the basic tracks, plus giving us gigs throughout the insane 3 years it takes to make it. In ‘05 we get the news that he’s ill, but is doing all right and is preceding with business as usual. I see him a bunch of times. A little worse for the wear, but that gleam is the same as ever. New plans, new ideas in the works. Same as it ever was. The new bullshit with the landlord didn’t faze me much at first. I’d been around this place for over 30 years and there was always bullshit with the landlord. This time, though, it was different. Money, greed and power were taking over. The worst neighborhood in the City, the place where you stepped over a passed-out wino with your guitar, almost not noticing, had suddenly become expensive & chic real estate. Despite the publicity, outcries and rallies, the writing on the wall was clear. Money always wins. We hear the date. October 15, 2006. A public execution. Then I hear who’s playing. I freeze & start to sob. The last--same as the first--33 years ago. It just didn’t seem real to me. I see him before that show. I see the sadness & despair in his eyes. He has lost his home. The Pricks threw him out on the street and left him for dead. In the twilight, there’s a vigil. Silence while they pull down the canapé that seemingly hung there forever. Go home now. Didn’t take too long, did it, after they threw him out. So that’s that--and the era is finished. None can carry the torch. They can use the symbol, but they can’t remotely make it what it was. So, this is my goodbye to my mentor, my boss, and above all, friend. You changed my life. I carry your spirit with me forever. Ron Ardito – The Shirts _________________________________________________________________________

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