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Peter Landau - Drummer: The Swamp Goblyns

The Dive
Dateline: New Year's Eve, sometime in the early '80s. (Those looking for specifics, for unbiased truth or even a semblance of certainty are advised to look elsewhere.) It was a time of great creative upheaval and expressions in New York City, none of which can be found in the following reminiscence.


    After naming ourselves after drinks from the cocktail menu a Wolf's Delicatessen on Sixth Avenue and 57th Street, my party was well fueled on my father's credit and ready for the Dive, but first we crashed a hotel party to get further fueled. There was a considerable spread of food and a bathtub full of iced champagne, but that wasn't good enough for us.
    While choking down a bottle of bubbly, I noticed a phone mounted beside the toilet. I strongly suggested that someone call room service and order us a magnum of bourbon.
    Jaime was a big, intimidating young man with a receding hairline and bugged eyes suggesting a thyroid condition. Though never violent, the threat of violence implicit in his bulk and bad behavior could be exploited for fun and profit.

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    The fun was with my first band, the Swamp Goblyns, who premiered at the Dive and later caused a lot of punks to scratch their skinheads at a CBGB's Hardcore Matinee where we opened for our friends Reagan Youth. (A doorman took an unscientific poll of attendees to discern if they were there to see the Swamp Goblyns, and if so why.)
    Jaime was the master of ceremonies and dancing boy for the Swamp Goblyns. We used to dress him up as the primitive Kir, which is really a cocktail of creme de cassis and white wine. We pronounced it as the less sophisticated Ker, emphasis on the "er." Kir would stomp around the stage during our sets with a giant paper mache` goblet of booze or a huge eye painted over his naked chest.
    Kir for profit was dressed in street clothes when room service answered his call with our bottle of booze.
    At the time, I was attending Parson's School of Design and used to wait for my morning studio class to begin while downing a 40-ounce Ballentine on the corner of 13th Street and Fifth Avenue. A classmate told me she'd never seen a larger bottle of booze, but then she never saw a magnum of bourbon.

Photos courtesy Sindi Benezra

    After passing the ill-begotten hooch to Lynne (lead singer for the Swamp Goblyns, or Bloody Mary by the lexicon of libations), Jean (Pink Lady, a concoction of gin, lemon juice, a dash of grenadine and an egg white, a name that suited her frothy charms) and her sexually ambiguous and cadaverous friend from Chicago that I remember only as Rob Roy (scotch, sweet vermouth, bitters to taste and a maraschino cherry), we hardly made a dent - in the bottle that is, not our sobriety, which was fully dented, dinged, cracked and crashed by this point.
    Our gracious host, an acquaintance of a soon-to-be ex-friend, was appalled by our transgression and quite firmly told us to leave. "Take the bottle with you," he said in self-righteous disgust, showing us the door.
    It was midnight as the elevator carried us down to the street. Pink Lady brought in the New Year by puking on the elevator carpet. The doors opened, we spilled out. It was time for the Dive. 
    It was not really a dive, like the Holland Bar in the Holland Welfare Hotel on 42nd Street. It was a club, but it felt like a clubhouse. We knew the reactionary bands that played '60s garage punk on its small stage. We knew the audiences that danced in their retro-fashions to those bands. We were that audience: then we became one of those bands.
    My old girlfiend Liz danced on a raised platform stage right of the bands in a mini-dress, her long hair hanging down over her face. She won the Halloween Costume Contest at the Dive by dressing as she always did. We all tried to look mod, but I looked like a mess. My mop of hair dyed black. My aviator glasses slipping down my long nose. My green polka dot, women's hip-hugger pants sliding down my "fag hips," as Grandma called them.
    I was dressed in festive polyester as we pulled up to the Dive. There were two black women outside, which was unusual. The club wasn't segregated, but for all intents and purposes it might as well have been. The '60s garage punk revival was predominantly white and Jewish.
    These girls were niether, but they were drunk, which was the price of entry (though high was legal tender as well). One was so drunk, she solicited sex from every man and woman loitering outside the club to the embarrassment of her slightly less soused mate.
    Music was coming out from the front doors of the Dive. It was hot and crowded inside. The Cheepskates or the Outta' Place or one of the perennial house bands was playing. It was cold outside, but I had a magnum of bourbon barely hidden inside my overcoat to keep me warm. It wasn't the first time I snuck alcohol into the club, but this was my boldest attempt. I looked pregnant and guilty.
    I was ushered into the club without question.
    Was this the night I met Willie, who would become the bassist in my next band with Lynne, Da Willys? No, that was another time, after a Swamp Goblyns gig, where Willie expressed his appreciation at our lack of musical skills by handing us torn blotters of LSD from his sweaty palm.
    Willie ended up staying at my apartment on West 19th Street, keeping the icebox packed with cold beer and the turntable spinning with vinyl from Midnight Records. That, however, is another story. This story concludes with a mind-altering experience far more abrasive than the strongest dose of acid.
    Making my way through the celebratory crowd, I noticed that Kir was not with us. I looked down the neck of the magnum that I had been passing around like communion, half expecting to see him floating in the dregs of the bourbon. He was not there. He was nowhere in the club.
    Pink Lady and I went outside to look for him. We didn't have to look far. Kir was just beyond the entrance of the Dive, under the awning. He was half sprawled on the sidewalk and half fallen in the gutter. He was on top of the black girl.
    They weren't making love, though Kir's bare ass was pumping suggestively into the hopefully warm and certainly inviting crotch of his drunken conquest. They were making something but what that something was, was frankly too much for my mind to process.
    It wasn't that I was drunk, though I was very drunk. I blame the brain, which is a lazy organ that uses mental shorthand to draw order from the chaos of nature. The brain in essence categorizes the familiar - from a door to a sunset - so that we may recognize it quickly and easily rather then repeatedly try and assemble the buzz of atoms that make up our world into something that makes sense.
    When I walked out from the familiar Dive to the familiar street my brain was programmed to see the familiar concrete and taxicabs, buildings and pedestrians, but not an intimate sexual act between a man and a woman. Perhaps if I was used to stumbling upon rape scenes, or if I opened the door of a brothel, such a sight might have been familiar and therefore register. Here, in this context, it scrambled my mind.
    I saw Kir pumping his primitive lust into this drunken vessel, but my brain responded to the data sent to it by my wide-open eyes with static. I mechanically turned around and walked back into the Dive with its swirling psychedelic sights and sounds, far more reasonable to my short-circuiting gray matter.
    Now Pink Lady was missing. It was as if reality was being systematically erased and I would eventually find myself alone in a white padded cell (that, too, is another story).
    Grabbing the reigns of my bucking consciousness, I forced myself back outside to confront the breakdown of my senses. Kir was still riding his smashed plaything and Pink Lady had joined them. She leaned beside the copulating couple and suggested in a quiet and calm voice that they move to the adjacent parking lot.
    Pink Lady and I returned to the Dive and the soothing balm of bourbon, while Kir continued his carnal ravishing in reletive seclusion. Pink Lady earned my respect for her ability to act coolly under pressure, while I acknowledged my youth and inexperience in the ways of debauchery.
    The night played out well for Lynne and myself. I recovered from my mental breakdown and we followed the Outta' Place's Michael Chandler to some after-party where the magnum of bourbon was finally laid to rest.
    (I first met Chandler at the Dive, drinking at the bar one afternoon. He knew we would become friends because I had long bangs that covered my pied eyes.)
    Rob Roy got alcohol poisoning and Pink Lady had to rush him to the hospital. Her altruism blanched under the harsh florescent lights of a pre-dawn emergency room.
    Kir was mugged on his way home. He woke up the next morning with his wallet and camera gone, his face discolored with bruises and a vague discomfort between his legs.
    The Dive lasted a couple more New Years before taking a final dive.
    And who am I? They called me Manhattan, which is like a Rob Roy, only with bourbon instead of scotch and without the need for triage. 

PETER LANDAU on Facebook

Charles Billy Harmon - Dive patron

MICHAEL CHANDLER - Singer: Outta' Place, The Raunch Hands

BLAIR BUSCARENO - Editor: The Teen Scene

The Secret Service

The Bohemian Bedrocks

DAVID JOHN HERRERA - Guitarist, Vocalist: The Cheepskates

Paul Martin - Guitarist: The Vipers

JOHN FAY - Guitarist, Vocalist: The Tryfles, Stinky and the Skunks

JORDAN TARLOW - Guitarist: The Outta' Place, Fuzztones

MICHAEL STARK - Bassist: The House Pets, Stinky and the Skunks. Editor: Trashbeat

Jeff Cuyubamba - Photographer