When I was a younger man, NYC was personified by the iconic Twin Towers, and by Times Square, which was NYC’s one-stop shop for heroin, hookers, and tourists pretending they weren’t there to buy heroin and hookers.
Now, the Twin Towers are dust in the air, and Times Square is the kind of sanitized place where families can still be attacked and threatened by a guy in a bad smelling, unlicensed, Elmo costume on their way to and from a Disney store.
So, our icons are different.
Now, NY is famous for celebrities such as Pizza Rat (the giant Rat who steals entire slices of pizza on the NY subway), and Pants Leg Rat (the giant Rat who runs up the pants leg of sleeping NY subway passengers to eventually appear on their shoulders, ensuring a lifetime of PTSD therapy for some lucky riders). To give a sense of scale, both famed subway rats can be best described, in size, as “Leonardo DiCaprio” .
While NYC staples — like urine smell, and immense, unprovoked, anger are still a large part of who we are here, things have changed. Sure, we still avoid “making eye contact” or ever saying “hello” or “good morning” to our fellow New Yorkers, so as not to be hit over the head with a cinderblock, and people still drive cars here the same way Justin Bieber & Kanye West* make music, in a hurtful, psychotic, way that’s destined to hurt, maim, and kill many of the unsuspecting. (*Ed Note: The sole exception is West’s “Golddigger”, or, as it’s more commonly known by its alternate title: “Kanye’s one and only good song, thanks to Ray Charles & Jamie Foxx”)
We still hear the angry voices:
- a guy yells out “I’M WALKING HERE” in a classic NY accent, while laying on the sidewalk in his own vomit,
- or “GO BACK TO JERSEY, YOU BUM!” Whenever we see Chris Christie.
But, a voice that’s been here since way before I was even ALIVE has been silenced for all upcoming eternity. — THE VILLAGE VOICE.
To call “The Voice” a NY paper would be disingenuous. It was THE NY PAPER. Every city has a newspaper as staid and reliable as the NY Daily News or as embarrassingly psychotic as the NY Post. The Village Voice WAS N.Y.C. — for every painter, musician, photographer, actor/actress, comedian, sculptor, fashion designer, and anyone artistic.
If you wanted to see who was playing at rock clubs such as CBGS (closed), Max’s Kansas City (closed), the Red Door (closed), the Ritz (closed), L’Amour (closed), the Palladium (closed), the Lion’s Den (closed), or the Bottom Line (closed) you would check The Village Voice (closed).
If you were looking for an apartment* you would check The Village Voice. (*apartments in NY usually range in size between an average hamster cage and a gerbil cage, depending on budget).
If you were looking to join or form a band, you would check The Village Voice.
For example for you fellow *KISS fans (*a group of people who are somehow, through much hypnosis and solemn meditation, are able to forget everything KISS had ever done after 1977) — Peter Criss joined KISS through a famous Village Voice ad that said: “Drummer willing to do anything to make it, and by “anything”, I mean: being psychotic, punching hotel and wait staff, punching fellow band members, doing more drugs than Columbia, and bumming everyone out!”
Whereas KISS’ Ace Frehley answered a Village Voice ad that said “Wanted guitarist with flash and ability, who can drink twice his own body-weight in alcohol until his sweat becomes 110% proof and highly flammable, to join band that uses TONS of pyrotechnics!”.
Point is, without the Village Voice there would be no KISS, and that may cause many of you to say “IN THAT CASE, I’M GLAD IT’S GONE!” but there are other NY bands, such as “The Ramones” who also used “The Voice” to complete or replace their line up.
Also, the Village Voice was “the Voice” of an entire community that sprang up in Greenwich Village. Of course, I mean Clog Dancers. BUT besides them, ANOTHER community sprang up in Greenwich Village, the GAY community. This was back when being gay wasn’t “en vogue” to the point where gay people were mostly known as people who’d be chased or hit with bats and bricks. And yet, in the pages of The Voice, the words were there for all of us. Black or white, gay or straight, whatever your identity, religion, skin color, or heritage, the Voice belonged to you equally as a New Yorker. AND IT WAS FREE! You didn't have to pay to read the Village Voice. It was like a given right as a New Yorker to have free and unrestricted access to its articles.
It wasn’t ALWAYS free -The Voice was founded as a nickel weekly in 1955 by three New Yorkers, Dan Wolf, Edwin Fancher and the great Norman Mailer. And yet, even back when the Village Voice was something you had to pay for, the words within were free of hatred, hostility, and exclusion.
It stings of irony that just as NY has FINALLY decided to not completely ruin a New Yorker’s entire life and future job opportunities by arresting us for small amounts of marijuana, that it happened the same week The Village Voice folded — a paper who had a significant number of readers who were pot users.
On almost any given corner in NYC, there were distinctive red kiosks, where one could acquire the latest Village Voice every Wednesday. Now they’ll soon be gone, like the phone booths that used to line our streets (the removal of which is why we no longer have Superman because there’s nowhere left for him to change clothes).
Peter D. Barbey, the Village Voice’s very last owner said:
“This is a sad day for The Village Voice and for millions of readers… As the first modern alternative newspaper, it literally defined a new genre of publishing”.
The paper gave a start to Pulitzer Prize winners critic Hilton Als and novelist Colson Whitehead, while investigative reporter Wayne Barrett, took aim at New York developers and politicians for nearly 40 years, and his work on Donald J. Trump (better known as Dotard J. Treason-Face) has become a resource for reporters covering him today, as well as for the Mueller investigation and the various law agencies who frown when Trump does immensely illegal things in loud, insanely overt ways.
(L-R) 1. Fred Trump shows off the latest KKK Fashions,
2. Andy Warhol famously designs Donald Trump’s hairstyle, and
3. A statue of one of the many woman who have accused Trump of sexual assault.
It gave a home to reporters Jack Newfield and James Ridgeway, and the music critics Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Ellen Willis and Greg Tate. It featured Michael Musto’s column for more than 30 years and Nat Hentoff‘s for nearly 40.
So, to have a personal memorial to this fallen part of New York’s history, this reporter left his natural habitat in South Brooklyn, travelled to Manhattan -Greenwich Village specifically, and lit up a joint in a toast, by a now abandoned and empty Village Voice kiosk, knowing he’d get a ticket at worst in lieu of being placed into handcuffs and taken in, and then… not realizing I was too close to the entrance of the Subway, Marijuana Rat suddenly ran up to me and stole my JOINT!
Written By Steven W. Rouach, in loving memory to The Village Voice (1955–2018. RIP)