Hilly Kristal died on August 28, 2007, at the age of 75, he was an American club owner and musician, who went on to found CBGB, a small venue in lower Manhattan that launched famous rock/punk acts like Television, Talking Heads, Blondie and Patti Smith.
Born in New York, New York in September 23, 1931, but his family moved to Hightstown, New Jersey when he was an infant.
In 1966 he and Ron Delsener co-founded the Central Park Music Festival, sponsored by Rheingold beer, by 1968, Delsener had changed beer sponsors to Schaefer and Kristal was no longer involved.
The festival took place every year until 1976 in Central Park and featured superstars from all music genres, including The Who, Miles Davis, Chuck Berry, Bob Marley, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, Frank Zappa, Ray Charles, Patti LaBelle, Ike & Tina Turner, Fleetwood Mac, The Allman Brothers, Slade, Kris Kristofferson, Curtis Mayfield, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith and The Doors.
CBGB became famous not only for its performances, with Hilly Kristal maintaining that all acts had to do original material, but also for its décor, known for its heavily stickered, graffiti walls and cringe-worthy lavatories.
Kristal, who didn’t always care for the music from some of the acts he booked, nevertheless was renowned for giving artists a platform outside mainstream musical conventions.
After closing CBGB, Kristal packed up much of the club’s furniture, equipment and decor and placed it in a Brooklyn storage unit.
If he had lived to open another, he planned on making it look as much as possible like the original — tight walls adorned with a cacophony of bumper stickers and concert announcements, a mini lounge area, and the tiniest of stages. In the meantime, he auctioned off artifacts on eBay that didn’t make the cut.
An 11″ x 15″ emergency light box decorated with stickers sold for $310. A 12″ x 13.5″ framed section of CBGB’s graffitied wall sold for $493.
During his decades at CBGB and in this rare interview, Kristal proved that he may not have been the keenest when it came to legal battles or money woes, but he tried, even when his club was taken away from him, to live up to what that “OMFUG” stands for in CBGB’s formal name: “Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers.”
Kristal defined a gormandizer as a voracious eater of music.
In 2005, Mr. Kristal became embroiled in a real-estate battle with the club’s landlord, the Bowery Residents’ Committee, a non-profit group that aids homeless people.
The committee said that CBGB owed $75,000 in unpaid rent increases.
Mr. Kristal, disputing that claim, fought the landlord in court and in the news media for months, enlisting the help of celebrities like David Byrne of Talking Heads and Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band and “The Sopranos.”