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Famed rock club CBGB gets new life

By Jane Cohen & Bob Grossweiner

CBGB, the legendary New York City rock club known for launching the careers of the Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, Television, the B-52's and Talking Heads, is making a comeback under a new ownership team. The revival is headed by James Blueweiss and Robert Williams, partners in the newly formed CBGB Holdings based in New York. The new team also includes members of founder Hilly Kristal's immediate family, long-time employees and music industry advisors that have a history with the club.

The iconic club, founded by Kristal in 1973, opened as CBGB & OMFUG (Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gourmandizers) and closed on Halloween 2006 after a lengthy rental dispute. Its last shows in October featured Patti Smith and Blondie's Debbie Harry.

"This is an awesome responsibility, and we are pleased to have arranged for CBGB to be a featured exhibit at the new Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex officially opening this week in New York City," said Williams in a statement. "It honors the club's place in Rock & Roll History and preserves important artifacts for all to enjoy."

Lisa Kristal, the founder's daughter added, "I believe that my dad would have been very proud of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's new CBGB exhibit, especially the display of the men's urinal."

According to Blueweiss, who worked closely with Kristal during the club's last year, "Everyone knows Hilly wanted to re-open CBGB's in Vegas so we are meeting potential developers and partners there as well as exploring options in a select handful of other entertainment capitals. The company also plans to revamp [the club's official Web site] into an online destination and community built around 360 degrees of CBGB, the place to discover cutting edge music, meet friends, share music news, and celebrate the club's past with a CBGB-type Wikipedia that will invite everyone who experienced the club to tell their story."

CBGB will hit the road with the Vans Warped Tour next summer as an interactive traveling exhibit with integrated media, mobile, and Internet linkages. "We wanted CBGB on the tour to help us celebrate our 15th year," said tour founder Kevin Lyman, who was a big fan of the club. "Kids who never got the chance to go to CBGB's will get to see and experience first hand how so many of their favorite bands of today were influenced by the bands that played within those sacred walls. CBGB's is an iconic property and one that we intend to introduce to a generation that would have been there if they could have."

Long time CBGB employee, Louise Staley, is now in charge of mining the vast vault of live CBGB performances taped over three decades. In October, MVD released "Living Colour -- CBGB OMFUG Masters: August 19, 2005 The Bowery Collection." It will be the eighth live performance CD in the series.

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