The Commentator
Volume 62 Issue 11


[Special Section:  ISRAEL AT 50]


The Bitter End

by Senya Maler

In the vintage heart of Bleeker Street, crowded between the younger, louder usurpers to the throne, stands the club that started it all, the stage Greenwich Village was built around. A classic and a legend; The Bitter End.

The same heavy wooden doors that were first opened in 1962 by original owner Fred Weintraub now wear a small brass tablet bestowed upon them by the City of New York in July of '92 proclaiming The Bitter End as an official historic landmark. Since the club's inception, the red brick walls and hallowed stage have launched the careers of countless rock legends. The names of the young amateur musicians and comedians that were once penciled into the Bitter Endís Tuesday night showcases include Frank Zappa, Neil Diamond, Woody Allen, Carly Simon, Pete Seeger, Bill Cosby, Nina Simone, George Carlin, Joni Mitchell, Peter Paul and Mary, and Janis Joplin, only to name a few. Two projects are currently in the works to commemorate the history of the Bitter End. The first, a major book, will be on the market by mid-summer, and the other a television program with live footage of these early concerts will air on VH-1Ďs Story Tellers next winter.

In 1968, Paul Colby became the manager and booking agent of the Bitter End before succeeding Fred Weintraub as owner in 1974. However, Paulís name was noted on the music scene long before he took the reins of the club. Emerging onto the scene as a song plugger for Benny Goodman, Colby went onto work with Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington. Aside from his musical talents, Paul was also known as a prolific painter and designer, and is the founder of the renowned award winning, Colby Furniture Co. There Colby produced acclaimed original pieces for such clientele as Miles Davis and Tony Bennet. During his 24 years of ownership, Paul piloted his club through every contemporary musical and social wave in America, establishing a hip basement bistro into a mainstay in the cultural lifestyle of Greenwich Village and New York City.

My last visit to The Bitter End featured a five-man funk cover band that called themselves Man Made Band. Their use of two bass guitarists gave some funk classics by artists like George Clinton and ELO a kind of raw edge, that when coupled with the atmosphere produced a pretty solid effect. The crowd consisting of many tourists seemed a little cold at first, but became mellower as the set went on. The bar is well stocked, albeit with a fairly weak beer menu, but the service seemed to be unstable at best. Reservations are not necessary even for large parties and there usually isnít a cover charge or drink minimum.

In a Ď95 interview when Paul Colby was asked to defend his quote "The best play at the best" he answered, "while it is true that some, like Bob Dylan, will probably not come again; and some, like Harry Chapin and Tim Hardin tragically can never come again, the Bitter End is still in Greenwich Village, waiting for that next star to light up the sky."

147 Bleeker Str. (between Thomson and LaGuardia), A,C,E,B,D,F,Q trains to W. 4th Str.

For information call: (212) 673-7030