Lucky Strikes, Grandmaster Flash, and Unlucky Beba Shutters
“One usually has to go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature.” I’ve used that line from the movie Arthur too many times and on too many dames. Surprisingly, it always delivers a laugh, and getting them to laugh at me was always most of my rap. Without good looks, cash, or savoir faire, I had to go for the belly buster to get a date. Tonight I will be in a bowling alley, Lucky Strike Lanes, DJing from 10-11 for Noel Ashman’s birthday gala. Don’t panic, there will be real DJs on hand, including Damon Dash Jr. and a man whose rap is, he just about invented it: Grandmaster Flash. Now purists will speak of Kool Herc, or Grandmaster Flowers as the “for real” innovators, but for me it was Flash who showed the world what could be done. He may not have invented scratching, looping, mixing, and all the tricks, but he was one of the earliest pioneers of the techniques. Flash DJed for me over the years holding down, I think it was Friday nights, for eons. He gave life to the main room at Life. Watching him work up close was always a thrill. He has great hands and instincts and an obsessive drive to give the crowd a good time. I hope he comes early to catch my set and laugh at me. (No homo).
A matter that is not so funny is the closing of the restaurant Beba on Spring street. After 2 months of floundering around, with bad service, and mediocre flounder the disagreeable pack that ran the joint finally agreed on one thing: to cut their loses and move on. Places are unsuccessful for many reasons, but rarely has one place featured so many. Undercapitalized from the start, the team (or should it be described as a herd) of owners spent most days just trying to get out of each other’s way. I know a lot about the place, as my firm designed it. Despite our protestations and pleas, the place was never allowed to look the way we envisioned it, as other opinions often got in the way. The result was a place that had many nice elements that often didn’t compliment each other. The food was never consistent. In tasting after tasting, objections were made but fell on deaf—and very dumb—ears. The place never embraced the neighborhood by hiring locals, and never bothered to try to understand the Soho crowd and its desires. I disliked my experience working with the operators so much that I had refused to walk down Spring Street since mid-May. The biggest problem was the arrogance. The arrogance that told them that their way was the only way. The arrogance that didn’t allow failure to be a consideration. The arrogance that mediocre service, mediocre mentality, and an uninspired menu from uptown, could work without adjustment on Spring Street. I got involved as a favor to my friends Chris Willard and Richie Romero, who were 2 of the countless partners. They got hurt because there is nothing worse in hospitality than having partners that you really can’t work with.
The good operators worry about every detail and relish insight from other professionals and colleagues. The other day I had a half-hour conversation with Noah Tepperberg, who is preparing Lavo for its opening. Even though this man’s track record is unblemished, he still seeks advice and opinions. Beba suffered a fast demise, and deservedly so. Some will say the space is cursed, as Beba was built on the bones of the ill fated F.R.O.G. There is nothing wrong with the space. It’s location near Balthazar, La Esquina, Café Select, and a dozen more highly successful places, is fine. Shoppers are everywhere. The locals eat out nearly every night. Someone should grab this joint and make a go of it.