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