Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Hellish Time On Astor Place

Last night I saw Richard Hell give a reading of a few short chapters from his new book "Godlike" at Barnes & Noble on Astor Place.

As one of the godfathers of Punk and New Wave, Hell has always been an interesting figure to me. As a kid, I played the Richard Hell & The Voidoids album "Blank Generation" to death. The fact that he was a founding member of both Television and The Heartbreakers made him even cooler to me. To top it off, he was actually married for a short while to one of my New Wave crushes, Patty Smyth of Scandal. Though he's always been more or less a fixture in one scene or another in NYC, I'd never actually seen him in action, so I took the opportunity to catch this reading.

Book readings by authors with a bit of celebrity in NYC are kind of weird events, as the audience is usually roughly made up of half people interested in hearing an author read his work, and half people looking for something to do for free. There seemed to be even more people in attendance from that second category because of the crazy muggy and rainy weather outside, and one of those wackjobs sat next to me during the reading.

I knew I was in for it when she asked me just as Hell was announced to the audience, "Am I supposed to know who this guy is?". I thought for a second on what the correct response to that question was, and then just shrugged my shoulder at her. As Hell read a couple selections, this nutty woman audibly muttered one thing or another after every pause that Hell took. Stuff like "hmmmm", "yessss", "uh-huh", "oh", and "right" if she were agreeing with the quotes or actions of these fictional characters we were hearing being read.

Then, when the Q&A came, she raised her hand with the first question..."These characters you wrote are gay. Why?". Hell looked a bit taken aback, but then gave a reasonable and well thought out response, not knowing that had he responded with any answer at all, the lady would have been satsified.

The rest of the discussion was pretty interesting, and he even fielded a few questions about his musical career, although he claims to pretty much have left his music life behind him, with a soon-to-be-released Rhino retrospecive CD being the grand finale.

As a good fanboy should, I got in the shortish line to get my copy of the book signed, and talked with him a bit about a great exchange I found on the internet chronicling his calling an interviewer out for a crummy piece written about him and his book. I also slipped him my treasured copy of Blank Generation to sign.

Here's a photo of the action...just assume every other person in the crowd that you see there is goofy.

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