Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pussycat Fallout

After the news broke here last week, thanks to a JVNY reader, that the Fat Black Pussycat sign was painted over, the mainstream media has followed up with lots of choice quotes from the owner of the building who did the painting.

He doesn't really say why it was painted now, after 50 years of leaving it alone, after telling the Times in 1999, "We have no intention of covering it up,'' but he does say a lot about his feelings on landmarking, the Village, and memories of the Pussycat. A selection...


After photo from JVNY tipster

From the Wall Street Journal:

“The Pussycat represented the worst of what the Village was,” said Bob Engelhardt, 84 years old, who has owned the building since the theater closed in 1963. “When you wanted to get drugs, get into fights and get with underage girls the Pussycat was where you went.”

“The Village was never about rules,” Engelhardt said. “Making someone ask for permission before painting a building is the exact opposite of what made the Village what it was.”


From the Times' City Room:

“Why don’t we just take the whole world and set it in concrete?” asked Panchito's owner. “That would save everything.”

“The Village was freedom, it wasn’t a concreted-over straitjacket,” he said.

“I’ve lived in the village since ’51,” he said. “The Fat Black Pussycat in my opinion was a cesspool. You could barely see anybody because of the smoke, and you couldn’t talk to anybody because half of the people you wanted to talk to wanted to sell you narcotics.”


From NBC-NY:

Engelhardt said painting over the sign was his own right and was not meant to stir neighborhood controversy. "It had nothing to do with the Pussycat, as such," he said. "It didn't go with the building. We are not landmarked and hopefully never will be."

"You went to the Pussycat if you wanted to smoke pot, buy drugs, get in a fight...or if you wanted to pick up underage girls," he said.


from the Daily Mail:

"There are buildings that are worth preserving. Ninety per cent of what's in the Village isn't."

"The Village was freedom. The Village was not rules and regulations set in concrete. It destroys everything the Village was always famous for."


Channel 7 News:

Said Englehardt, to preserve this part of the Village "would put a straitjacket on the entire area, allowing the PC police and taste Nazis to run everything."




In conclusion, after all the hubbub, one thing we can say: At least the sign was painted over by a true Village character.

24 comments:

Ellen Fagan said...

Point taken. Still don't agree with him, necessarily; even dicey, quirky, smoky history is something to behold in these days of controlled, spiffy blahness. But he sure is a one-off Village character, that's for sure! His words did soften the blow a bit for me.

Anonymous said...

Odd that the mainstream media picked up on this particular issue, whiel the wholesale slaughter of our history that has gone on these past 20 years. I am certainly too young to have gone to the FBPC (and I am in my 50s) so he may in fact be right about it. At any rate this is just the painting over of a fading sign, since the club itself has been closed since before most people were born, it isn't that big a loss. Compared to the carnage chronicled on this and other blogs, and ignored in the press, it's pretty insignificant.

John M said...

By his description, it sounds like he was in there, maybe once, somebody asked him to buy pot, and an underage girl told him to piss off. And he's carried the resentment around for 50-plus years, only letting it out when he's old and getting senile, with his back against the wall for being such a douchebag. My guess is, he's lived in the Village since '51 but was never part of the scene he wanted to be part of because he's too straightlaced and boring.

And what Anonymous said, too.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

The two or three times I went on that street there was always a fight going on. And the girls in the place were an imitation of the whores I could get on 3rd Ave between 12th & 14th Streets. School girls made out to look the hookers. Boring.

Kevin Lee Allen said...

I, for one, will never spend another dime in Panchito's, until and unless it gets a new owner.

SpragueD said...

Honestly, how many of us eat at Panchitos? It's a hang for tourists and the visiting parents of NYU students. I kinda' like his hard-assed take on The Old Days. And I agree with others who said there are bigger challenges (such as NYU's relentless growth).

Jeremiah Moss said...

i have to say, i kind of like the hard-ass guy, too. it's not like some cupcake shop or Marc Jacobs store moved in and painted it. i wish he hadn't painted it, but if someone had to, maybe having it be some cranky old Villager is a not bad way to go.

Anonymous said...

Complete overreaction from everyone involved. We should not be complaining about the loss of a sign, we should be complaining about the loss of places like the Fat Black Pussycat. Who cares about the sign? If a Starbucks moved to that spot and kept the sign, would it be ok?

Honestly, there is little left in this city that is worth saving. What we need to preserve is the old school NYC attitude, not some sign. Go visit your re-ensembled CBGB in Vegas whenever it opens.

Blayze said...

It does suck, and I don't understand why he'd opt to paint over it but so be it. He's not tearing down the building or selling out to a bank branch.

We'll probably all be freaking out when Panchito's starts facing financial struggles and we'll all be clamoring for it's survival, even though it's just bad Mexican food and shoddy margaritas helmed by a crankpot.

Anonymous said...

Englehardt states so incorrectly, "
"There are buildings that are worth preserving. Ninety per cent of what's in the Village isn't."

Hey, wake up! You got it backwards! Ninety per cent of the Village IS landmarked.
This codger must be losing it.

ShatteredMonocle said...

I do like the term "taste Nazis".

julie wilson said...

Wow! I love that old crank! He's hilarious! You should go talk to him and get more stories of the "old" village out of him!!

Little Earthquake said...

I find it funny that he says the Village is all about freedom and not rules, then rails against the FBPC for being a den of drugs, prostitution, and fistfights.

Overall I think the sign holds very little residual meaning. This is not on par with losing the Cooper Square building.

Ken Mac said...

Brooks' Lost City reported the news first, copping from Ephemeral NY on May 30. Credit where credit due....

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Ken. i got the story direct from a reader. cred to Brooks and Ephemeral.

W said...

Just a note. I sent the story to Emphemeral NY and Jeremiahs Vanishing NY at the same time on May 26th. JVNY picked the story up after I photographed the sign. JVNY immediately ran with it with my picture. I believe Lost City may have actually broke the story a couple of hours before, but without a current picture.

Glad to see that the story been picked up.

W

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks W. glad the news got out, too. your tip has traveled a long way!

Anonymous said...

Hey here's a little Village character for you: Let's boycott the fucker's shop. His freedom to cover it up, our freedom to tell him to go fuck himself.

Bob Fingerman said...

I am sorry to see that little bit of history slathered in garish red paint. And Englehardt's description of the Fat Black Pussycat as being a "cesspool" kind of fits Panchito's, too.

This is such a great blog, even if almost every post depresses me.

Ken Mac said...

Too bad there was a story to get out. It just keeps coming. The march towards nothingness.

Slr said...

how did i miss that place? the pussy cat. i passed it all the time but never went in. the mexican resturant still looks like the old village. this guy sounds bitter but this is not as bad as it could be. speaking of bob dylan, does he still have his house in the w. village?

Michael Simmons said...

As I wrote in the comments section in the Times article, this isn't just about a sign. The reason the preservationists and others -- like me -- are so overly sensitive is that the business interests have destroyed the soul of the Village and Manhattan in general -- something I don't have to remind Jeremiah's readers. That's why we get apoplectic over things like old signs. I don't expect Engelhardt to understand and there is something endearing about the old curmudgeon. But as others have pointed out, the only thing Panchito's has given the world is the absolute worst nachos I've ever had the misfortune of trying to eat. I went there years ago with a friend from Texas who knows decent Tex-Mex food and he was horrified. Cheese Whiz on Tostitos. And I ain't no foodie!

Anonymous said...

now that he has all that nice, bright red clean space, he can write: Overpriced Margaritas made with cheap-ass tequila and sour mix.

Anonymous said...

..Yes the signage isn't the most significant loss to the Village as a whole. But it's a very significant loss to Minetta Street. That one small block has a fascinating history.

Greenwich Village history walking tours would often stop at the FBPC sign. It was a natural stopping point to talk about the area when it was called Little Africa. The FBPC was in integral part of the story of the Street. I suppose the Sex In The City tours won this round.

In this era of faux old timey McNally-ization of places and neighborhoods, the FBPC sign represented something authentic. As subtle and "insignificant" as it was, it added to the patina of the neighborhood. As anyone who watches the Antiques Roadshow knows, you shouldn't polish the brass, just maintain it and leave it alone.

W