Grieve recently reported on the story behind the closure of the original Two Boots on Avenue A, adding that he was "curious what will happen to the illustrations." I was curious, too, so I asked JVNY reader Julie Wilson--the artist who created this signage and the "Two Boots look." I interviewed her and here's what she told me.
photo: my flickr
In 1985, artist, illustrator, and former East Villager Julie Wilson worked for co-owner Phil Hartman as a dishwasher at the Great Jones Cafe. “He gave me my first sign-painting job there--to paint the menu on the wall.” A few years later, Phil with his wife and co-owner, Doris Kornish, asked Julie to design the signs for their new pizza place.
“They knew my style and wanted that! They gave me an overview of what their new restaurant was about--pizza, Italy, Louisiana, fun, family, there would be a jukebox, etc. So I came up with some sketches and voila!”
The original facade included windows painted with a pair of boots, later replaced by Italian and Louisianan flags:
photo: julie wilson, 1987
Using "one shot enamel sign paint," Julie hand-painted the signs for the original location on Avenue A, “and then the sign for the slice place they opened across the street a couple of years later.” She also recreated the Avenue A panels for the Two Boots in Brooklyn.
photo: my flickr
In 1990, The New Yorker wrote a Talk of the Town about Doris and Phil, their life on East 10th St., going back to 1979, and the Two Boots on Avenue A. They described the well-known bar, decorated with objects “mummified” in polyester resin, and the jukebox, which included the Sex Pistols and neighborhood bands like The World Famous Blue Jays. Today, the partners have split. Their Pioneer Theater shut down, the Two Boots video space is for rent, and the original Avenue A location is closed.
Julie’s sign panels, she recently heard, will be going to the Two Boots in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
photo: julie wilson, brooklyn studio, 1989
In 1996, the Times described Two Boots as harbinger of a “creeping civility along Avenue A, and the changes over the last year that some in the neighborhood welcome and others decry as an evil incursion of gentrification”--an incursion that eventually helped push them out of the neighborhood in an all-too common ironic twist. So I asked Julie if she thought the Two Boots empire hastened the gentrification of the East Village.
She told me, “It was a great day when Two Boots first opened. It was a welcome addition to a not very restaurant heavy East Village. I had already been priced out two years before, so gentrification was happening and Two Boots had nothing to do with it. It really is the natural order of things that people who live somewhere and dig in their heels would want to create the places that they want to go.”
To see more of Julie Wilson's art and vintage East Village photos, check out her: