First published December 17, 2003
After months of negotiations and uncertainty, it appears the show will no longer go on at The Bottom Line, after a Civil Court judge recently ordered the eviction of the renowned cabaret for non-payment of back rent— almost $200,000 — to its landlord, New York University. The curtain will, therefore, fall for the last time at the 400-seat club in Greenwich Village after nearly thirty years of presenting an eclectic blend of music.
|Bottom Line @ West 4th and Mercer |
streets was a musical mecca for 30 years
Co-owner Allan Pepper recently admitted the club has faced financial hard times the last several years due to the national economic slump and a decline in business after 9/11.
For those unfamiliar with or who’ve never patronized the small club, it has presented some of the most notable and upcoming names in pop music and jazz since it opened its doors in February 1974 with a show that included a jam session featuring Stevie Wonder, Dr. John, Charles Mingus, Johnny Winter, Mick Jagger, Carly Simon and Bette Midler. Among the diverse mix of artists who have performed there are Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Tony Bennett, Billy Joel, Jimmy Webb, Hall & Oates, Dire Straits and The Police. The latter two were those British bands first New York City appearances, which I attended.
In the summer of 1975, when an emerging rock and roller named Bruce Springsteen performed ten sold-out shows, it literally put The Bottom Line on the night-scene map and forecast what has become one of the most successful careers in pop music. Springsteen has said that those shows are among the most memorable in his career.
|Marquee promoting Springsteen's |
10-show gig in summer of 1975
The native New Jersey rocker was among the club’s supporters, including a satellite radio network and media executive Mel Karmazin, who recently pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep The Bottom Line from going under, to no avail, as NYU was not open to a deal practical to the club’s owners.
Outdoor stadiums and indoor arenas are designed for sports, not music concerts. Consequently, when veteran rock and roll bands, like the Rolling Stones or Eagles, tour they opt for venues where they can earn the most money by attracting the most fans. The sound, however, is often disappointing, despite modern technical innovations.
When I saw two Springsteen shows at Giants Stadium last summer and two more at Shea Stadium in October, the sound was audible and adequate, but lacked the predictable intimacy of a club. In a setting like The Bottom Line, many seats are up close and personal.
I’ve seen dozens of shows at The Bottom Line, but none in the past decade. Actually, I’ve only been to a handful of concerts in that period, principally because there are few acts I want to see and I refuse to pay ticket prices that now exceed $150 for most classic rock bands. Nevertheless, if I had the opportunity to see a performer at a venue like The Bottom Line, I’d try my best to secure tickets.
As its 30th anniversary approaches, it would be fitting to see The Bottom Line reopen at another Manhattan location to continue its perennial role presenting a wide-range of entertainment.
While it is not afforded the formal status, The Bottom Line is, nonetheless, a landmark for hundreds of performers, as well as thousands of music and comedy fans, who’ve seen scores of up-and-coming and veteran entertainers up close and personal.
The club’s owners and supporters hoped the university would work out a sensible arrangement to keep the cabaret open. But, NYU is only interested in supplementing its real estate portfolio to enhance its bottom line, thereby bringing down the curtain for the 30-year run of the once trendy Bottom Line.