Recap: Friday Night Farewell at Billy’s Antiques on the Bowery

Posted on: March 13th, 2012 at 11:25 am by

The end is here. If Saturday afternoon was the funeral for Billy’s Antiques at 76 East Houston, then Friday night was the grand eulogy. The following recap of the festivities was written by the newest Bowery Boogie contributor, Nahal Nazer.

Friday night marked the penultimate farewell gathering for Billy’s Antiques and Props, as one of the last standing landmarks of old New York prepared to dismantle its tent the next day. Shop owner extraordinaire Billy Leroy, former proprietor Tony Goldman, and the filmmakers behind Dirty Old Town put on the event as a tip of the hat to one of NYC’s most eccentric establishments. Patrons and friends crowded the vacant tent to enjoy a final night beneath its mystical tarps, with a full bill of local musicians and speakers. And of course, kegs of brew.

Emblematic of feelings surrounding the establishment’s final breath, the evening made for a bittersweet celebration. The lineup presented a diverse mix of sounds, including performances by Kelley Swindall, The Naked Heroes, and headlining band The Virgins. But it was during Lorraine Leckie and Her Demons that raw emotions in response to the shop’s closing came to light. Leckie, Billy’s wife and shop matriarch, began by jeering the audience to “go shop at Crate-and-Barrel,” a gibe aimed at the neighborhood’s increasing reliance on chain stores and high-end boutiques. Following a set of dark and quirky tunes, the songstreess tenderly choked up amidst her final song, a ballad dedicated to Billy and their love that blossomed in the very streets where their shop once stood.

Between the music, speakers chronicled the Bowery legacy with tales of vanished flophouses and gritty characters, reveling nostalgically in the neighborhood’s colorful past. During a mini Q&A, Billy even shared secrets such as the number of people who had died inside the shop over its notorious 25-year residency: a conceivable two. The intimacy of the evening dissolved as the night progressed and the kegs tapped, but not all sentimentality was lost as guests bid farewell to Leroy’s past and welcomed his future as star of a new Travel Channel series.

Walking home through downtown, it occurred to me how common a tale akin to Leroy’s has become; steadfast members of the community finding themselves marginalized as the neighborhood strays from its roots. One can only hope that the greats of this community who relied so heavily on the history of these streets can evolve with them into the future, as Leroy has.

Recent Stories

Entrance to the Lowline on Delancey St.
11 Things You Need to Know about the Lowline’s $83M Underground Park

City officials announced their full support of the $83 million Lowline project back in July, some five years after its conception. The backing came as the bureacracy created a dog-and-pony show to try and elicit proposals for the 60,000 square-foot vacant trolley terminal beneath Delancey Street. The Lowline was the only proposal (naturally), and now […]

bruce-springsteen-born-to-run-book-2016-billboard-1240
Bruce Springsteen will be at the Union Square Barnes & Noble Next Week for ‘Born to Run’ Book Signing

Bruce Springsteen last week announced a fall book tour to promote his forthcoming memoir, Born to Run. The nine-date outing commences – not surprisingly – at a Barnes & Noble in his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey on September 27. The day of release. The Boss then heads to Union Square the next day, and […]

pietro-nolita
After 14 Years of Cafe El Portal, Pink ‘Pietro Nolita’ Takes Over at 174 Elizabeth Street

With one longtime restaurant gone, another takes its place at 174 Elizabeth Street. The much-loved Cafe El Portal on Elizabeth Street quietly closed its doors back in May. Chef-owner Gloria Arteaga decided to end operations after fourteen years on the block. (It opened shortly after 9/11.) Unlike the gas issues that forced closure in 2015, […]

Grandmaster Flash by Janette Beckman
Revisiting the ‘Rebel Cultures’ Photographed by Janette Beckman [RECAP]

Our regular readers know that we love to cover the early punk, new wave and hip hop music scenes in New York City. Most people who were around during the early days, were also obsessed with the bands coming out of the UK. This reporter remembers going to East Village record stores (remember when there […]

125rivington-sale
Slumlord Castellan Snatches 125 Rivington Street for $9.8M

Why is it that, in the year 2016, the Lower East Side continues to attract real estate speculators with terrible track records? The latest to jump in on the fun is Castellan Real Estate Partners, a hedge-fund-backed investment group that just purchased 125 Rivington Street. According to public records, the five-story walkup (east of Essex) traded […]