Entries in Bill's Gay Ninetie's (2)

Monday
Jul162012

Aza and The Bar Exam With Elliot Paul

I first met Elliot Paul on the 359th night of my bar crawl. My 365 bars co-pilot, Al Rizo suggested I go to Bill's Gay Nineties piano bar and so I dutifully complied. I had never been there and I was hooked after being in there for less than three minutes. Bill's was the real deal. It opened as a speakeasy in 1924 and by the time I got there in 2010, it looked as if time had stood still in there. And off to the right of the well-worn bar, playing the piano and singing, making the crowd laugh and sing along, was Elliot Paul. I took his photo and we chatted a little bit and I did my bar crawl thing and came home. Fast forward to the next year and my next blogMarty After Dark. I had heard there was a chance that Bill's might be closing, so I decided to stop by and see what was what. It had been just about a year to the date that I had been there on the bar crawl. I was hoping Elliot would be playing, but was certain he'd never remember me. Like I said, it had been a year and you can imagine all the people he meets while doing his piano gig. I walked in through the swinging saloon doors, our eyes met and he stopped playing and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, Marty, the world famous bar crawler is in the house!" I couldn't believe it!

As most of you know, sadly Bill's Gay Nineties closed last year due to the fact of an idiotic landlord pushing them out the door. Barbara, the owner and daughter of O.B. Bart who purchased Bill's in 1965, is going to re-open in another location and is hard at work making that happen. In the meantime Elliot had a gig at a bar on the Upper East Side called Aza. Sadly that place closed last Saturday (leading one of Elliot's friends to ask, "Do you think it's you, Elliot?) but I stopped in last Tuesday to catch his final show there. I've been wanting to do another "Bar Exam," since I did the one with Paul Scanlon a while back and thought Elliot would be the perfect guy to interview for the second one. Below are some pictures from last Tuesday with Elliot and some surprise guests. Beneath that is the "Bar Exam." Enjoy!

Here we are at a familiar spot, the Union Square subway station, down we go.

Standing room only and more than one person hasn't deodorized correctly. Sheesh!

And through the magic of the internet you're spared a long and smelly ride to the Upper East Side.

Here's the place, the Aza Wine Bar.

Let's go inside and check it out.

I'm early as usual, so there's plenty of seats at the bar, let's go snag one.

And no sooner do I sit down than Katie, the lovely and friendly bartender serves me up an ice-cold beer.

There's a row of tables to dine at opposite the bar.

Original art hangs on the walls above the tables.

A long shot of the highly polished bar from the other end.

And there's the piano, waiting for Elliot.

Here's the schedule for the last week of entertainers at the bar.

And when I return to the bar, who do I find but my friends and frequent guest stars here at TWM, Shawn Chittle and the Duncester.

And check this out, here's Elliot with Harriet to his left and on the right is Barbara, the owner of Bill's Gay Nineties! What a reunion! Barbara told me she's had a rough time of it since her landlord booted her out, but she's looking for a new location for Bill's and she's retained the bar, the jockeys and all the original memorabilia from Bill's. Hopefully the new Bill's will be up and running soon, stay tuned!

And here's Elliot in action at the piano.

Elliot's always a crowd pleaser and tonight is no exception.

On the way out it was nice to see the tip jar overflowing. Great to see Elliot and Barbara, meet Harriet and thanks to Shawn and the Duncester for coming out as well. I look forward to seeing Elliot playing in the new Bill's Gay Nineties when it reopens at the new location!

The Bar Exam With Elliot Paul

TWM: Hi Elliot, how's it going?

Elliot: Hi Marty, I can't complain and if I did no one would listen.

TWM: Where are you originally from, or are you a native New Yorker?

Elliot: I'm originally from Boston, West Roxbury to be exact. West Roxbury is to Boston What Queens is to New York City.

TWM: When did you move to New York?

Elliot: I moved to New York City in the middle '60's, right after getting out of the army.

TWM: Do you refer to yourself as a "piano man," or did the Billy Joel song kill that for you?

Elliot: I'm an "entertainer." I play piano, sing, goof around and kid with the crowd…whatever makes them laugh and be happy.

TWM: When was your very first gig and do you remember the first song you played in public for money or tips?

Elliot: My first piano gig in New York City was at Donohue's on Columbus and 85th St. The place is long gone, but I'm still around! I remember the first song, it was, Ain't Misbehaving" by Fats Waller.

TWM: What year was that?

Elliot: I started playing in piano bars (Donohue's) in 1983, after a  very successful (joke) acting career.

TWM: Name dropping time, who are some of the more famous people that have been in the crowd when you've been playing?

Elliot: Off the top of my head…Ed Harris, Carol Kane, Gena Rowlands, Jimmy Fallon, Mark Sanchez, Phil Mushnick, Jerry Capece and Nick Cassavetes. There's more, but that seems like enough name dropping for now.

TWM: Oh come on, no time for modesty now!

Elliot: Okay, but I want your readers to know you forced me into this! In 2002 Frank Gorshin was starring in "Say Goodnight, Gracie" on Broadway and he stopped in to Bill's. I sang a few old songs which knocked him over. We chatted later and he invited me to the show, afterwards we went to Sardi's, what a couple of days that was! Jackie Mason started coming in to Bill's about a year ago. He lives in the neighborhood and loved Bill's. Michael Weatherly from the TV show, NCIS, was a long time customer at Bill's and he loves piano bars, he's a musician too.

TWM: How do you handle hecklers?

Elliot: Believe it or not, I've never had a heckler!

TWM: Do you have a set list or do you just wing it?

Elliot: I usually wing it. I'll scan the crowd for age, try to gauge the mood of the room and then just start singing and playing the piano and see what happens.

TWM: Name a few songs that people would be surprised to hear.

Elliot: Anything by Amy Winehouse, Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga…there's a lot of them.  Sometimes I make up songs on the spot using snippets of conversation from the crowd.

TWM: Is there a song or songs that you feel you have to play that you don't really care for?

Elliot: I like all songs and I just put my own spin and style to them.

TWM: Who's been the biggest influence on you in your life and career?

Elliot: The two biggest influences are my wife, Eileen, she's the one who encouraged me to start singing and my step daughter, Nicole, she turned me on to Amy Winehouse, and many other great singers. And also anyone who's making a living in the entertainment business, it's a lot tougher than it seems.

TWM: What, in your opinion makes piano bars special, Elliot?

Elliot: Piano bars thrive everywhere. A specific percentage of folks love real live music, in particular a singer pounding away at a piano. Folks from all over the world come to New York City to enjoy piano bars. They want their songs in real time, with all the goofing around, drinking and sing-alongs. That's why we all loved Bill's.

TWM: What's the best way to get hold of you if someone wants to offer you a gig?

Elliot: Probably email, my younger friends say I need to get on Facebook, so maybe I will in the future.

TWM: What song would you play to close us out of this Bar Exam?

Elliot: "One For My Baby."

TWM: Perfect, thanks Elliot!

Further reading: TWM, Bill's Website and Jeremiah's Vanishing New York.

We're drinking my friend, to the end,
Of a brief episode,
Make it one for my baby,
And one more for the road.

Surprise link, click on it…I dare you!

--------------------------------------

Cash Mob At St. Mark's Books This Saturday!

There's another Cash Mob for St. Mark's books being organized by Jeremiah Moss. It's this Saturday at 3PM and then drinks for those that want them at Bar 82. Check out all the details here: Cash Mob At St. Mark's Bookshop.

Wednesday
Feb292012

My Last Supper At Bill's Gay Nineties

I haven’t been to Bill’s Gay Nineties on TWM yet and decided I should go soon. Rumors started swirling last year that Bill’s is going to be bought out by restauranteur John DeLucie, whom I and many others fear would wreck the joint if he takes it over. On February 10th, Lost City reported that they’ve heard it’s a done deal. I’ve heard the same thing from various people and decided I better get in there before this happens. I’ve never eaten in Bill’s and I’m meeting my friends, The Duncester and Shawn Chittle there tonight for what could very well be a last supper at Bill’s Gay Nineties. The Duncester was inspired by my Mad Men tour and said he’s wearing a suit tonight. Not to be outdone, Shawn and I decided to dress up as well. Hey, if this is a last supper, may as well go out in style and with a smile!

Here we are, Bill's Gay Nineties, it's always like a trip back in time walking in here.

And it's through the swinging saloon doors we go, into Bill's.

And as usual the bar is packed, but I see a small opening so I'm going to grab it.

And here's Tom the bartender. Tom confirmed the sad news that the nights for Bill's in this location are numbered. The last day it's open is March 24th. It seems that the landlord isn't going to renew the lease and someone else is going to take over. The landlord hasn't revealed who this someone else is, but all bets are on John DeLucie, even though it's been denied in the press. My question is why would the landlord deny Bill's lease when they pack them in nightly...

I mean check it out and this is a Tuesday night! The good news is that Tom told me that they're moving the whole operation somewhere nearby. Stay tuned for details! In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my last night at Bill's.

And here's a blast from my 365 past, it's Marc who was bartending the night I came in for the 365 bar crawl! Great to see him again!

I love the vintage boxing photos on the wall's in here.

And the framed original Broadway playbills are classic as well.

Okay, Shawn and the Duncester should be here any minute, so time to move to our table in the back.

And here we are, The Three Amigos! From the left: The Duncester, Yours Fooly and Shawn Chittle. Shawn broke out a tuxedo for the evening, he doesn't fuck around!

Chittle...Shawn Chittle, shaken, not stirred!

And here's Bill's piano man, Elliot Paul with the Duncester.

Here's our charming and lovely waitress Maureen, who's worked at Bill's for years.

And the food arrives! The Duncester got the cheeseburger and fries.

Shawn got the filet...

And I got the crab cakes. The food was delicious, our compliments to the chef!

And Elliot starts the first song of the evening. He has an impressive song list that ranges from The Rolling Stones, to Billy Joel to Frank Sinatra and everyone in between. A great and talented piano man!

And at the end of the evening, we were lucky to be joined at our table by Bill's proprietress Barbara Bart. Barbara's run this place since her father passed away in 1979. She told us that there will be a new Bill's in the future, not far from this location. Look for updates here and on Bill's website. The good news is that Barbara owns all the memorabilia and antiques in Bill's and they and the staff will be transported to the new location. I can't wait for opening night!

And as the empty's stack up, time to call it a night at Bill's. Thanks To Barbara, Tom, Marc, Elliot, Rich, Shawn and The Duncester for a great last night at Bill's. I look forward to many more at the new location!

Bill's Gay Nineties

Further Reading: Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, Village Voice and Eater NY.

Well it's all right, everything'll work out fine,
Well it's all right, we're going to the end of the line.

Surprise link, click on it...I dare you!

---------------------------------------------

Bonus Photos by Shawn Chittle!

Shawn sent in some photos he took last night and here they are. Great shots, Shawn! Thanks for sending them and for hanging out last night!

Bonus Linkage!

My friend Gidget is tweaking her blog and yesterday posted a story about how she met and became friends with legendary radio personality, Rodney Bingenheimer. I’ve bugged her for a long time to write this and she did a great job, check it out here:
Gidget Bates Crap She Spews.

And don’t forget to tune in to “The Secret Weapon” on Woody Radio. DJ Gidget hosts the show and “Boris” picks the tunes, it’s a great show and you’ll hear music that you’ve probably never heard and will want to hear over and over!