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Arts and Entertainment

Talking Music and Bathrooms at the 'CBGB' Red Carpet Premiere

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LAist was on the red carpet Tuesday night at the ArcLight Hollywood for the L.A. premiere of CBGB, a film about the famous—and infamous—New York nightclub founded in 1973 by the late Hilly Kristal (portrayed by Alan Rickman in the Randall Miller-directed film). Known as the birthplace of American punk and new wave, for more than 30 years CBGB and Kristal helped launch the careers of many musicians, from the Ramones to Blondie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Television, The Dead Boys and many others.

At the premiere, which was a mix of Hollywood star power and living music history, we had a chance to ask Kristal’s daughter, Lisa Kristal Burgman (portrayed by Ashley Greene in the film) about her favorite musicians that played the hallowed club’s stage: “Oh that’s not fair. I’ve seen too many and they’d be insulted,” she said.

But when pressed for a few notable shows, Burgman rattled off a who’s who of rock legends: “Memorable ones include the three-week stand of the Tom Tom Club, which were Tina and Chris [Weymouth and Franz, of The Talking Heads]. I loved every show that so many bands played—Talking Heads, Shirts, Laughing Dogs, Tough Darts, John Cale, Patti Smith...I missed the Police...don’t ask me how…[country singer] Alan Jackson...Poly Styrene and X-ray Spex (‘She was this tiny little thing...I have a picture of her and my dad, a photograph I took. She was something else.’”)

She continued, “There are so many and I know I am leaving people out. The Dead Boys drove me crazy—yes—a lot of those antics [in the movie] were real, but they were just a great band. And there were so many that never got anywhere. Orchestra Luna was a band that did rock’n’roll with a story. Long before they were doing it on Broadway, they were doing it on the CBGB stage.”

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And of course, we had to ask about the film’s re-creation of those CBGB bathrooms, which were notoriously nasty. Burgman, however, was quick to defend the club’s cleaning habits: “The bathrooms were cleaned every single morning, scrubbed down every single morning....We had wonderful guys at different time periods scouring it. And then you get your customers in, and it was destroyed every night. So when they talk about the bathrooms, mirrors being down, bathroom doors missing, it was our customers that did it. We put it back up, and they took it down again.”

Also along the red carpet, we caught a few of the movie’s stars and club regulars to ask them—in the spirit of the film—about their favorite live music venues or shows. Here’s what they had to say:

  • John Holmstrom, cartoonist, writer and founding editor of Punk Magazine (portrayed in the movie by Josh Zuckerman) talked about his favorite concert at CBGB: “There was a double bill that went from a Thursday to a Sunday. It was the Dead Boys and The Damned. The Damned were the first punk band from England and The Dead Boys were the most punk in New York. These guys competed with each other. They would heckle each other, throw garbage at each other during the shows...there was competition. They both wanted to be the best. There was no winner because they were both so great. But it got so intense that The Dead Boys even broke into The Damned’s hotel room and screwed with their stuff. Hardcore.”
  • Actor Julian Acosta described playing “the greatest guitar hero in punk rock history” Johnny Ramone as “an honor, a responsibility and a hell of a lot of fun.” Though he doesn’t see a lot of live music these days, when he does, you might catch him at El Cid. And he said one of his favorite concerts was a recent one: “I just watched Jail Guitar Doors at the Ford Theater. Wayne Kramer and the MC 5, Jackson Browne and…[Tom] Morelllo...he was out of control.”
  • We asked Malin Akerman (Deborah Harry in the film) about her favorite live music venue in L.A. “I would have to say Sayers Club is great.”
  • The great Estelle Harris, who plays Hilly Kristal’s mom (and primary funding source) Bertha, said she’s not much of a club goer, but loves classical music: “I was raised on the classics...Rachmaninoff, Gershwin…I think Rachmaninoff is one of my favorites.”
  • Richard De Klerk (who plays CBGB's sound engineer Taxi) named his favorite concert without missing a beat. “Mutemath at the Nokia...I think it was last year.”
  • We then asked noted music devotee Stana Katic (who plays record producer and rocker Genya Ravan) about her favorite L.A. concerts and venues: “I don’t have one. I have a ton,” she said. “I saw Jack White at the Wiltern. I just saw XX down at the Hollywood Bowl. The Troubadour...the Roxy. And I just saw the opera Carmen at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.”
  • Newcomer Keene McRae, who plays a very young Sting, told us that he’s not much of a club goer, but remembers a memorable concert: “I went to Bonnaroo one year...I’m more of a mellow person, and I really loved Ben Harper.”
  • Actor Darin Heams (one of the biker boys Bert) didn’t hesitate when we asked for his favorite concert: “Bruce Springsteen at the Forum.”
  • Dominic Bogart, who plays one of the Dead Boys, didn’t hesitate in naming his top concert: “I saw Guns N’ Roses in Dayton, Ohio, back in 1991. The Lose Your Illusion Tour—that was my biggest best, and most favorite show I ever saw. [It was] at the Nutter Center at Wright State [University].”
  • Tennessean Jared Carter (who has perfected David Byrne’s stare) said that his favorite clubs were in Nashville: “the Exit/In, 12th & Porter and the Ryman Auditorium, of course, is legendary.”
  • Justin Bartha (who plays Stiv Bators) told us his favorite L.A. music venue just as he was jetting out early to make a play rehearsal: “The Greek Theater is pretty beautiful.”
  • Katherine Dubois, who appears in a couple of brief, but memorable scenes (with whipped cream) in the film, grew up in a political family in D.C., so her fav venue is close to home: “The 9:30 club in Washington is probably one of the most iconic.”
  • And finally, when we asked CBGB music supervisor Brad Rosenberger—responsible for securing rights for all the great songs used in the film—about his live music venue choice in L.A., and we were a little surprised by his answer. “It’s got to be someplace small. You know what? I’ll just say the Pasadena Civic Auditorium because I live in Pasadena."

CBGB will have an exclusive showing on Oct. 4 at all ArcLight locations, with a limited run in Hollywood through Oct. 8. Also on Oct. 4, director Randall Miller and a few cast members do a Q&A at 7:30 pm in Hollywood. The film opens nationwide on Oct. 11.