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Alone At Last : Slip Into a Booth and Prepare to Be Seduced

(Film still via "Alone at Last", Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong)

(Film still via “Alone at Last”, Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong)

“At that time in New York things were really wild,” Emily Armstrong recalled of the ’70s punk scene. She and her partner, Pat Ivers, are old school East Village types– they truly lived the Downtown era, and lucky for us they documented over 100 shows at CBGBs, filming bands like DNA and unbelievable moments like Iggy Pop covering Frank Sinatra for their weekly TV show, Nightclubbing. After NYU’s Fales Library acquired their archive for the Downtown Collection, thousands of the duo’s film reels were digitized and, for a time, were part of a weekly column at B+B.

Alone at Last emerged out of that archival effort and now, after more than 30 years since the artists last saw them, the 1981 black-and-white vignettes featuring 52 people who were prompted to seduce the viewer, will be shown at Howl! Happening. The video series captures the last breath of the freewheeling ’70s Downtown scene right before AIDS hit. “People who have seen it feel that it’s a very interesting depiction of that culture, that moment, because it was truly a moment. Soon after it was shot, people realized what AIDS was. So having a lot of sex for pleasure was completely redefined: having a lot of open sex was suicide. Things really changed, really fast.”

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Nightclubbing | Blitz Benefit, 1978

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

Video contains explicit language, but you already knew that.

Village Voice ad.

The East Village was a very different and much more dangerous place in 1978. But it was still a shock to everyone on the Downtown scene when Johnny Blitz, the Dead Boys’ drummer, was stabbed in a fight on Second Avenue. Street violence isn’t quite what it was in those days, but one thing hasn’t changed: the problem of musicians and medical insurance, or the lack thereof. To help meet Blitz’s mounting medical bills, the CBGB community rallied with a four-day event, the Blitz Benefit (please, don’t call it “Punk Woodstock”). With a t-shirt created by the Ramones’ design guru, Arturo Vega, and more than 30 bands performing, it was a heartfelt outpouring of help and money for one of our own.

Billy Blitz, Johnny’s brother, recalled being just a teenager when his brother was stabbed. “I was in Cleveland so it was all new to me,” he said. “When I got to New York for the benefit, Stiv Bators [lead singer of the Dead Boys] and Tish Bellomo picked me up. They were shooting moons out the car window on the way to the club. I couldn’t believe it!” More →

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Nightclubbing | A Night at CBGBs

Nightclubbing | A Night at CBGBs

The Local is pleased to launch a regular column in which Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong sift through their voluminous archive of punk-era concert footage as it becomes part of the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library. They’ll share their favorite stories and clips along the way.

The Nightclubbing archive.

The Nightclubbing archive.

Pat: On a hot sticky night in July, 1975, I began videotaping punk bands at CBGBs. It was during the CBGB Rock Festival of Unrecorded Bands, with 40 groups that formed the core of the nascent music scene downtown. I was part of Metropolis Video, a video collective of eight, most of whom worked at MCTV’s public access department. That first night, we shot Blondie (still doing some covers, like the Velvets, Femme Fatale), the Talking Heads on their third or fourth gig out of RISD, and the Heartbreakers, a downtown super group with Richard Hell, who had just left Television, and Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan of the Dolls. It was their first Manhattan date. It was exciting and we shot now and then for about a year but the center would not hold and the collective dissolved.

Luckily, I met Emily Armstrong and after a night seeing Patti Smith at CBs, she agreed to work with me and a new partnership was formed. Our first band was the Dead Boys in 1977 and we continued for the next four years, often at CBs but also at other clubs like Max’s, Hurrah’s, Mudd Club, and Danceteria.

Emily: Now 32 years later, N.Y.U.’s Fales Library is making everything new again. The Downtown Collection is preserving and restoring the Nightclubbing archive of nearly 100 musical performances, 20-plus interviews, video art projects and more. It will be available for scholars (yes!) to rifle through and enjoy. I hope they do – I know I did. More →