Goodbye Fillmore East; Hello Apartment Building
Oct. 27, 1995
NEW YORK (AP) _ Jimi Hendrix rocked it. Janis Joplin rolled it. Now, a demolition crew is wrecking it.
The Fillmore East, rock impresario Bill Graham's legendary concert hall where such acts as The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead played, is being demolished to make way for an apartment building.
``I'm raising the white flag,'' said Bob Herman, who had spent the last three years trying to save the Fillmore and turn it into a music and video production house. ``It hurts like hell to lose, but it's a dead issue at this point.''
What killed Herman's hopes? A lack of money.
Despite talks with a variety of big names and big companies about renovating the dilapidated Lower East Side site, nobody was willing to write the check that would save the old rock 'n' roll venue.
``The angel I was waiting for just never showed up,'' Herman said Thursday.
One of the building's walls is already coming down, with the roof coming off next week. Demolition should be completed in a month. Construction on the new building, with its 76 apartments, will take about 14 months, said Alan Bell, the owner of the property.
Bell gave Herman every opportunity to find a new owner for the Fillmore, even after the demolition began in early August. The developer and the dreamer were kindred spirits of a sort; both had seen shows at the Fillmore during its brief run from 1968 to 1971.
Although open as a rock venue just three years, the Fillmore achieved fame as THE place to play on the East Coast. The Allman Brothers, Derek and the Dominos and Hendrix all recorded classic live albums there.
A typical bill might feature Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the Steve Miller Blues Band and the Miles Davis Quintet, all done before a demanding audience that paid $5.50 for the best of its 2,600 seats.
Herman, 39, a South Orange, N.J., rock aficionado, quit his video industry job last year to chase potential Fillmore benefactors full time. He asked such figures as David Geffen and Martin Scorsese about investing $12 million to $15 million.
None opened their wallets, said the denim-clad Herman, a master of musical minutiae who can recite old Fillmore bills from memory. (Bell remembers seeing Joplin and John Mayall at the venue.)
The site, its marble front boarded over and scarred with graffiti, has been vacant since a gay dance club closed in 1987. When its new residents arrive in 1997, the lone reminder of the hall will be a simple curbside sign reading, ``Fillmore East, 105 Second Avenue.''
``You just have to realize it's over,'' Herman said with a sigh, ``and move on.''