The stories of Lou Reed’s encounters with the Bowies and Bangses of the world are the stuff of legend, but more than anything, his passing yesterday made clear just how many everyday New Yorkers treasured their random, often wordless encounters with him at East Village restaurants, movie theaters, and on the street (yep, despite his 1980s Honda scooter commercial, he often did settle for walking).
Heck, we still remember the night he was leaving Joe’s Pizza as we were walking in (of course, we were too cowardly to approach him and instead snapped a silly photo of his getaway vehicle). Here now are some of the recollections that popped up on our Twitter and Facebook feeds yesterday and today. Some of these moments are more interesting than others — because, hey, not every Lou Reed story can involve Nico popping a squat. We’ll add more as they come, and feel free to add your own in the comments.
Jeff Gordinier on Facebook: A few weeks ago I was browsing through the poetry section in a downtown bookstore in New York City when I noticed another person nearby. (You’re often by yourself in the poetry section.) I looked up and for a second or two I found myself locking eyes with Lou Reed. The guy looked frail, and I managed to keep myself from saying anything stupid, for once. In fact, I didn’t say anything at all, probably because I was afraid of annoying a guy whose intolerance of foolish intrusion was legendary. But I could have said, “Hey, Mr. Reed, thanks so much, your music is a big reason why I’m wandering around in the poetry section of a New York City bookstore in the first place.” Anyway, he and I just nodded at each other and that was it; a very New York moment. I’m still glad I didn’t say anything, although I’ve been going back to his music over and over and over for the past 30 years or so, and I still remember when a friend first told me that the Velvet Underground could save your life. It wasn’t an exaggeration.
Mary-Louise Price Foss on Facebook: One of my fave NYC moments happened when I was working at Joe’s Pub. On a sold out night for an Antony and the Johnsons show, the venue was packed to the gills from bar to stage, and I had just seated the quite large Boy George and his even larger entourage in the only table reserved for artist guests. With the show starting in less than 5 mins, in walks Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson with no reservation and no place to stand. I tried to keep the stars out of my eyes and timidly asked if he was supposed to be sitting with Boy George. His response, a very grumpy one, “I don’t know where the fuck I’m supposed to sit, I just wanna sit down!” This is prob the first and only time I got excited about someone cursing at me. Ol’ Lou and Laurie did indeed squeeze in with George and his comrades like one big happy sardine family.
George David, Twitter: Once literally ran into lou reed, he just looked at me and said, “watch it.” it was pretty cool. RIP
Helen Rosner on Facebook: I’d just moved to New York and was having a beyond-sophisticated dinner with my uncle at Aquagrill. In a certain moment, I was so elated that I looked upward with joy (or maybe I was over-enthusiastically slurping an oyster? Killing my drink? Time will never tell) and slammed the back of my head into the back of the head of the guy at the table behind us, who—of course—was Lou Reed. He glared at me. I’ve never been happier.
Kevin Dreyfuss, Twitter: Once I was walking out of my apt in Little Italy, bumped into Lou Reed by accident, and he muttered “asshole.” That’s all I got
Kev West, Facebook: When I met you in 1997 at St. Mark’s Church Poetry Reading. I sneaked into the private party being held there afterwards. There you were, alone, clad in a black leather jacket, leaning up against wall near doorway. I hesitated to intrude on your privacy. So, I slowly approached you in a daze. I had a bit of tremble in my voice and I said to you, “Life took me a long journey to be here and too finally meet you after so much inspiration you’ve provided me on the way. Thank you, Lou.” And, you took me gently by the hand pulled me in closely, I could feel the stumbles on cheek, your curly black hair brushed against the side of my face and you softly spoke in my ear, “Thank you, I’m happy you finally made it too.” with a warm wise smile of sincerity. With the greatest respect, I left you alone to your thoughts afterwards. I stumble out the door and off into the darkness of night. Thank You, Lou, Good Journey My Mentor.”
Naomi Harris, Twitter: I sat next to him at Peaches Christ Superstar 2 yrs ago. He slept through the whole thing.
Anthony Civorelli on Instagram: I met Lou reed in a corner deli on Thompson st. about 12 or 13 years ago. It was the first time I was really star struck and at a loss for words. I wish I had thought of something cool to say or just tell him how perfect his Revolver record was, instead I stood staring at him like an idiot till he said “hey man how’s it goin” we spoke for a minute and he bought his Marlboros and split. My “perfect day ” tattoo from @the_grime is still one of my favorites.
Leslie Stein, Twitter: Once I went to see a 9pm showing of an old Peckinpah film and Lou Reed sat next to me. He fell asleep and started snoring really loud.
Laurie Gwen Shapiro, via email: I was picking my daughter up form acting class last year in the Playwrights Horizon building on Lafayette and ever Thursday at 4 pm Lou Reed was getting in the elevator. I saw him on the dot maybe 10-12 times. Eventually we developed a nodding relationship. I started to bring people with me at 4, my husband, and my screenwriting partner, and sure enough Lou would show up. I think he was working on a production. I really was bummed the day he didn’t show up in the elevator.
Jada Yuan linked back to her 2008 article about sitting next to him at Macbeth at BAM: By sometime in the middle of the first act, we looked over to find his eyes closed. Soon, he was out, his chin resting gently on his chest, until he woke with a start at the arrival of Banquo’s ghost. He did not snore. After an intermission spent communing with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Reed gained a second wind. He sat upright and attentive for the entire second half and even gave a reluctant standing O at the end.
Jeffrey Weston, Twitter: I met lou reed a couple times when i worked at gotham book mart. he just grunted at me. i didn’t mind.
Dan Zelinski, Facebook: I went to Tower Records downtown in 1984 when Lou Reed was there signing copies of New Sensations. I had every Velvet Underground and Lou Reed record I owned including a test pressing of the last 7 inch the Velvets released. All tucked in a messenger bag I had. Tower would not let me pull out any of these records. When I got to Lou I pointed out that Tower did not carry most of his back catalog and that they would not let me have him sign anything but New Sensations. “Really! Well fuck them” He then proceeded to tell them if I liked his music enough to buy them he was going to sign every one of them.
Julia S, Twitter: I met Lou Reed once, backstage at Carnegie Hall. He told me @dasracist was “awesome.” That was a cool moment. He was a cool dude.
Hannah Archambault on Impose: On Halloween in 2009 I was working at Candle, and Lou came in pretty late, around 9:30. I ordered him the appetizer (flax chips on the side!) and juice he got every time as he walked in the door, and then walked him and the rest of his party up to a booth in the corner where he wouldn’t be gawked at too much. As we were on our way up my boss, Benay, asked “so what did you do today, Lou?” He turned around on the stairs, and looked right at me and said, straight faced as usual, “I was at the Halloween parade”.
Tom Watson, Twitter: Met Lou Reed once at the bar at Max’s Kansas City. He was not sober, and cursed out this callow bridge & tunnel kid. Didn’t matter! #worship
Devin Gaffney, Twitter: My friend ran into Lou Reed in the west village and exclaimed “You’re Lou Reed!” – his response was just “Yes, I am.” Coolest ever.
Amy Pitter, Twitter: I sat next to Lou & Laurie at the Union Square movie theater in 2001 (seeing 15 Minutes. It was bad.) I locked eyes with him and he looked grumpy, perusual. Spent the entire time freaking out + trying not to bump into him. He seemed to enjoy the movie.