“Every night there was a different group at CBGB – it became like a second home” – Bettie Ringma.
New York club CBGB was where such lustrous acts as The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Planets, Living Colour, The Voidoids, Devo, Misfits, Television, Patti Smith Group, New York Dolls, The Dead Boys, The Dictators, The Cramps, and Joan Jett came to hang out and be inspired. For a few years CBGB was the epicenter of the rock ‘n’ roll world.
Bettie Ringma was there when it happened. We’ve seen her work before on Flashbak. Partnered with fellow conceptual artist Marc H. Miller, the duo documented Amsterdam nightlife through Polaroids in 1979 and 1980, achieving their aim of “focusing on human psychology and incorporating the actions of people”, inviting us to look at faces around us in a creative and original narrative.
Former singer Hilly Kristal opened his club at 315 Bowery in 1973. CBGB was an acronym, standing for Country, Bluegrass, Blues. But punk was the hit. In Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s oral history of punk Please Kill Me, Hilly wanted to know what kinda music Television played. They answered with a question (via):
‘”Well, what does ‘CBGB-OMFUG’ stand for?”
He said, “Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers.”
So we said, “Oh yeah, we play a little of that, a little rock, a little country, a little blues, a little bluegrass…”
And Hilly said, “Oh, okay, maybe…”
Our first photograph of Bettie with the movers and shakers at CBGB was taken during our very first visit to the club in late 1976. Standing alone by the bar was one of Bettie’s favorite performers, the poet-rocker Patti Smith. At home at CBGB and a wee bit tipsy, Patti was more than happy to oblige our request for a picture with Bettie. Soon we were CBGB regulars, checking out the different bands and slowly adding to our collection of pictures. Although the buzz about CBGB was growing, the place was still a neighborhood bar where future rock legends were just as likely to be hanging out and drinking by the pinball machine as performing on stage. In addition to the musicians, there were music writers, fashion designers, commercial photographers, as well as a small group of artists like us who were part of the Soho and Tribeca art scene. As our “Paparazzi Self-Portraits” morphed into “Bettie Visits CBGB,” we saw our photographs as a reflection of the new aesthetic emerging at CBGB, a contradictory mix of high and low culture energized by fun and humor, the lure of fame and fortune, and a cynical appreciation of the power of a good hype.
All photographs: Marc H Miller And Bettie Ringma, courtesy Of 98 Bowery
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