Friday, December 5, 2008

Ruth Polsky (12/5/56 - 9/7/86)

Ze Records' Michael Zilkha, Ruth Polsky
23rd St, NYC
photo: ht
Today would have been Ruth Polsky's 52nd birthday. I met Ruth when she came to London to see if I could help her get The Psychedelic Furs to play Hurrah, a club she booked in NYC. I made the necessary introductions and it wasn’t too long before they were playing ‘Sister Europe’ to David Bowie, myself and a house full of curious Anglophiles.
Richard Butler, David Bowie
Hurrah, NYC '80

photographer: Ebet Roberts

Ruth was a big fan of the period’s non-mainstream music and bands like Simple Minds, New Order, The Smiths, The Birthday Party, The Sisters Of Mercy, The Slits and Echo & The Bunnymen can all thank her for being the first person to bring them to the States. After Hurrah, in the early 80s she moved on to Danceteria and, with Jim Fouratt, Rudolf and Dianne Brill, made it NYC's liveliest, and most creative nightspot. The man with the 'list', sweet Haoui Montaug, would greet you with a smile and the first thing I'd do upon entering was turn right, into the room where the bands would play. Ruth's booking policy made everything worth a look, so I'd take a spot at the bar, order a drink and give whoever was playing 3 songs (or 2 drinks) to make their point. It was there I first saw 10,000 Maniacs at Ruth's insistence (and also on the recommendation of my friend Eric Maché, who had seen them in Buffalo). It only took a couple of minutes to find me up front, mesmerized by Natalie Merchant's extraordinary stage presence and Rob Buck's liquid guitar-playing.
Natalie Merchant
, NY, 1983

photo: ht

If nothing was happening downstairs, one floor up was where DJs like Mark Kamins, Anita Sarko, Johnny Dynell and Bill Bahlman would spin all the latest discs. I remember 'dancing' past a supremely confident and stylin' lass on my way to give Bill a Leisure Process advance 12" only to find out her name was Madonna and that she was a regular and Kamins' girlfriend. She was not tall (in stature) but she had huge presence. There were bars on all floors and sometimes I'd just park myself at the bar, drink a few, listen to the latest records and watch the dancers.
The 3rd floor featured a video lounge that ran experimental video (a developing art-form) and bizarre porn. I remember staring at the televisions once - careful, I nearly typed TVs - trying to figure out exactly what was going on and suddenly realizing I was seeing my first fisting tape (male). Had to wash away the image with copious screwdrivers with Suicide's Alan Vega, a regular 3rd floor customer who lived a few blocks away at the Gramercy Hotel.
(unknown couple), Alan Vega, Diane Brill, ht
3rd floor, Danceteria
photo: Herbert Schultz
German Cosmopolitan December 1984

In the summer, the club’s owner Rudolf opened up the roof to lucky invitees and on Wednesday nights, Haoui presented his freaky 'No Etiendes' variety show, where Madonna made her live debut. There were often strange art events happening. Underground film-maker Nick Zedd 'premiered' his 'Geek Maggot Bingo' (to most people's disappointment) and somehow Chris Isaak even had a residency at Danceteria.
One of Ruth’s favourite bands was Joy Division and she worked very hard to put their first US tour together only to have it canceled when singer Ian Curtis hanged himself the night before they were due to leave for America. She wasn’t only a fan of British bands though and in 1984 started managing NYC’s Certain General, whose compilation 'Invisible New York' was released last year. For those who might be interested, their history is admirably recounted by Kris Needs here
Ruth enjoyed photography, and one of her favourite people was Andrew Eldritch from the Sisters Of Mercy. Andrew used a photo she took inside their debut album, First And Last And Always.
The Sisters Of Mercy
publicity photo by
: Ruth Polsky

and she took this one, backstage, after a show in London -
Andrew Eldritch, ht
photo: Ruth Polsky

Tragically, Ruth was killed on September 7th 1986 outside another club, Limelight, when a taxi jumped the kerb and pinned her to the wall while she was waiting to enter the venue to see Certain General play. Ruth was a lovely, kind, funny, generous and nurturing woman. At this time of year, I always think about the ways she encouraged and helped musicians. She enriched many of their lives and her presence and influence is still greatly missed.
Robert Maché (The Swinging Madisons), Stephen Israel, Ruth Polsky, Eugenie Deserio & Steven Alexander (Model Citizens/The Dance)
23rd St, NYC
photo: ht

David Johansen, Anne Deon, John Anthony, Jo-Ellen (top), Ruth
23rd St, NYC

photo: ht