(pic culled from EV Grieve – finally, the Lower East Side has establishments where blue blazers are as welcome as shredded tees)
Seeing as I left Lower Manhattan at the end of 1998, I’m hardly the best person to make any observations about how that part of the borough has changed, progressed, regressed, etc. Certainly, I’ve got my opinions, but a couple of trips to NYC per month these days is hardly basis for me to weigh in on the city’s cultural, social and economic changes with anything approaching a firm footing.
All of that said, I did spend 15 years downtown, during which time I’m not sure I ever got the impression the Lower East Side’s most easily-picked on persons…were the well off. To some degree, that’s the argument advanced by the New York Times Magazine’s Hugo Lindgren (“The Last Gasps Of The East Village”), who seems to regard his tales of hanging out at an Upper Crust show at Brownies as some sort of crucial collision of yacht club vs. the demi monde. When it comes to downtown history lessons, Legs McNeil and John Holstrom need not look over their shoulders.
Lindgren describes in somewhat excruciating detail, a physical altercation between a female pal from his social circle and “a stern redhead dressed in the Brownies uniform of shredded T-shirt and jeans”, or if you prefer, “the Courtney Love auxiliary riot grrrl versus the Westport lacrosse captain, a John Hughes movie come to life”.
If you’re wondering how Avenue A might’ve evolved since these heady days of 1996, Lindgren smugly sums it up ;
I like to remember the events of that evening as proof that the essence of the old East Village — a parochial distaste for any whiff of privilege — was not completely extinct by the time I got there. It is now. You can walk into pretty much any bar in New York wearing a blue blazer and boat shoes, and nobody cares. Lacrosse captains play in punk bands, and riot grrrls live in Murray Hill. This is obviously for the good, because tribal hostilities tend to be stupid. But they also make for some memorable clashes.
The author seems relieved the East Village no longer exudes “a parochial distaste for any whiff of privilege”. Translation : the weird/poor/arty are largely outnumbered and/or shoved out, therefor Lord Snot and his pals have the bars to themselves. BIG IMPROVEMENT.
Whatever problems the East Village had in the ’70’s, and ’80’s and ’90’s, prejudice against the wealthy wasn’t very high on the list. It would be interesting to see a list of EV denizens whose careers or social lives were ruined by the stigma of being rich. I have a suspicion you wouldn’t need more than a post-it note.
“Tribal hostilities tend to be stupid”. As opposed to say, bogus persecution complexes.