Back in October, I wrote about how the portrait of Joe Gould has gone missing from the Minetta Tavern, ever since Keith McNally took over the place. I noted how a commenter to Greenwich Village Daily Photo discovered that the painting is now "collecting dust in the owner's 'private collection.'"
That commenter, video-game designer Dave Gilbert, recently wrote me an email about how the Minetta, Gould, and Joseph Mitchell have become players in a series of video games that he created. I asked Dave a few questions.
What roles do Gould and Mitchell play in your videogame?
They play roles in two of my games. There are three games in the Blackwell series--Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, and Blackwell Convergence. Mitchell plays a part in the second game (Unbound), which takes place in the early 70s. The main characters are investigating two unusual deaths, and it turns out the victims are people Mitchell had written about. You can go to Mitchell’s office at the New Yorker and speak to him about them. The conspiracy behind these deaths (and the curse that caused them) is further explained in the third game (Convergence), which takes place in the present day. It ties into the strange mystery surrounding Mitchell and why he stopped writing for thirty years.
digital Minetta Tavern
What attracted you to the old Minetta Tavern and the portrait of Joe Gould?
For some reason, I found it fascinating. The image of this emaciated man, wandering the streets and scribbling away in composition notebooks, chatting away with intellectuals and writers, so on the pulse of everything but still very much an outsider. I learned about his relationship with Joseph Mitchell and the fascination increased tenfold. I actually made an appointment with the NYU library to read portions of the oral history (and yes, it’s just as boring and banal as the reports claim).
I still can’t explain why it resonates with me so much. Maybe it’s because Gould and Mitchell were so “old” New York. A type of New York that you don’t get anymore. A type of New York that I was born too late to see and never will. That’s part of what attracted me to the Minetta Tavern. A way to feel connected to that time. I’d go in there and look up at that portrait and get mega inspired.
What do you think of the new Minetta?
I’m the type of guy who likes to drink in quiet, relaxed places. They are hard to find, but the Minetta used to be one of them. Despite being on MacDougal, you didn’t get a lot of the NYU crowd there during the week and so it became my default place to go when I wanted to meet friends for drinks. It was quiet and relaxed, but you could find people to talk to if you wished. A far cry from “On the Wagon” next door, which is always loud and rowdy and not my kind of place. Ironically, I suppose what made it so great was also why it had to be sold. That neighborhood is ridiculously expensive and they just couldn’t pack the people in.
As for the new Minetta, I don’t feel comfortable there. When it reopened, I walked in wearing my t-shirt and jeans and I felt really, really out of place. The missing Joe Gould portrait was only a small part of it. The bouncers, the Gucci and Prada clientele, the loud inane chatter. It just wasn’t my Minetta anymore. And that’s fine, I suppose. For the Minetta, it was either change or die, and at least I can LOOK at the place, even if I don’t want to enter it.
the ghosts of Mitchell and Gould at a diner
There's a lot of discussion these days about digital media vs. print media. And here you are, paying homage to two men of print--Gould and Mitchell--in a digital format. Do you think the two can co-exist, or are they naturally at odds?
The way media is consumed and created is changing rapidly. Joe Gould’s oral history is almost like a personal blog. I always say that if Joe Gould were alive today he would have probably jumped on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagon like a shot.