2007_08_arts_hilly.jpgJust as we were looking over amNewYork's story on CBGB, sad news has come in. Hilly Kristal, who opened the club in 1973, died yesterday. Battling cancer for some time, the 75 year old had quite the last year -- seeing many celebrate his legendary club upon its closing last October.

Kristal, also a singer/songwriter, opened the club while it was only $600/month to rent out and he had visions of showcasing country, bluegrass and blues bands. We all know the history of the now vacant venue, and it's hard to separate the man from it. So what's going on with Kristal's former haunt these days? It's been gutted and "walls plastered with yellowing flyers and holes in the floor where the bar and stage once stood" are all that remain. Apparently the air inside still reeks of its rock n' roll past (mold, stale beer, cigarettes). In spite of that, the space will rent for around $200 per square foot - a far cry from what it rented for 34 years ago. So far there have been inquiries from art galleries, retail shops and high end companies, but no takers yet. As for the former tenant, there were talks of reopening the venue in another (lower rent) city, but will Kristal's death mean that CBGB is officially gone, too?

A private memorial service is planned. A public memorial will be held at a later date. Contributions in Hilly's honor may be made in his name to the American Cancer Society or to the Hilly Kristal Foundation for Musicians and Artists (168 Second Avenue, PMB 207, New York, NY 10003). Expect to see some fresh flowers (and maybe even graffiti eulogies) outside of the former CBGB.

Photo of Hilly Kristal by Spencer Drate.