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I moved to NYC in 1993 and even though I wasn't into motorcycles at the time I was hanging out at a place called the Sidewalk Cafe on Avenue A and 6th street in the East Village... I didnt know the guys at 6th Street specials at the time but one of their group owned another bar I "lived" at closer to my apartment called Motorcity Bar. He owned a BSA bobber... I thought it was cool and thats what eventually led me to the Britbike addiction I have now ...
I digress. The same year I moved to NYC the britbike world was flourishing and it did and still does collide with the art scene. The 6th Street crew went to Sidewalk Cafe so much that the owner commissioned an up and coming artist to paint a billboard size sign of my now friends on their bikes. Nearly 30 years later the building was remodeled and a new restaurant took the place of the Cafe . The bar side was turned into its own separate store. The build was covered in scaffolding for two years while this was happening and when I looked the last time , months and months ago, the billboard was still on the building...
A few days ago I was hanging out at 6th Street Specials talking to Hugh and talking motorcycle as we usually do , and an old friend of his walks in the door named Stevie . A few words to catch up after years of not seeing each other since this guy had moved to California to pursue acting and music or some shit like that... Finally he gets to the reason he came by . The Sidewalk Cafe billboard had been taken down. He had no idea any of this was even going on and since his bike from back in the day was featured in the painting he had skin in the game.
Very excitedly he told Hugh that the supervisor of the construction crew said Stevie could take the artwork before they threw it away.... Lucky timing I suppose. Stevie wanted Hugh to get the billboard and keep it... Well the thing is massive and considering the size of most NYC apartment I don't blame Hugh for declining. Stevie looked so dejected.... I felt sorry for him.... I just stood there and kept my mouth shut. Then his eyes lifted off the floor again and he said "do you know anyone with a pickup truck? "... That was my cue ... I spoke up and said "I not only have the truck but I have a barn to hang it in, and I am available tomorrow !! "
8AM sharp I rolled up with my truck ready to go. Stevie was already there in front of the building looking up at the rooftop and half way through his coffee. We waited for the supervisor for half an hour but when he didn't show and the door was locked Stevie decided to climb the fire escape to the roof where the art was supposed to be. He found it, sussed out how much of it was there. I backed my truck up over the curb and down the sidewalk so I was next to the fire escape ladder and within a stretching reach of the lower level roof. By now the supervisor is standing behind me watching over our little project of saving a bit of LES history... Slowly each piece came down over the edge and I carefully stacked them in my truck... 8 sheets of plywood in total covered in painted canvas that has been out in all sorts of weather for nearly 30 years.... Probably every tourist in the world that has ever been to the East Village since 93 has a picture of it in its glory... Its a bit rough now but I like it even more so .. I need to cover it with varnish or something to stop the paint flaking and preserve it but I wont repaint it or restore it other then that... It will look awesome in the barn ...
And on the truck today . Leaving NYC to go to its new home
These are the actual front of the menu hanging on the wall in 6th Street Specials
An article about it
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A great thing to have...and an interesting story...It looks like the artist might have got some inspiration from Dave Mann for the 'chop' pictures....When you think back you realise how much things have changed....Ian
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A great story, and well done for rescuing that artwork, it would have been a tragedy for it to have been destroyed.
Great story Wade, cheers.