"Go Nightclubbing" With Emily and Pat
Exclusive Interview by Shirrel Rhoades
Ever wish you could hop into your time machine and go nightclubbing during the heyday of Punk music? You know, back when those unforgettable icons like Richard Hell, The Cramps, the Dead Boys, and Iggy Pop were redefining music to their own rebellious sensibilities.
Yes, I’ll bet you were probably a bit rebellious in those days too.
Well, you’re in luck even if you don’t have a time machine and you’ve long outgrown your Mohawk hairdo. Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong -- the pair that The New York Times called "The Lewis and Clark of Rock Video" -- have unveiled eight vintage films that take you into the New York City club scene during the heyday of Punk.
These archivists have titled these films "Go Nightclubbing -- A Modern Punk History." And it’s having an unprecedented US cinema premiere right here at the Tropic Cinema in Key West.
Running four nights in a row -- March 9, 10, 11, and 12 -- this musical extravaganza is guaranteed to blow the lid off.
The gala opening will take place on that first Monday, a 6:30 p.m. champagne reception followed by two 1-hour films, "Interviews" and "Greatest Hits."
Every night thereafter will feature two 1-hour films along with an in-person dialogue between the filmmakers and audience.
"We’re pleased to host this first-ever showing in a movie theater," says Matthew Helmerich, executive director of the Tropic. He heard about the films when Pat and Michael Winship, head of the Writers Guild of America, East, were in town for the Key West Film Festival.
These days Pat and Emily like to call themselves archivists. But they started off as two music fanatics with a video camera. The pair met back in the ‘70s when both were interns at Manhattan Cable, a public access channel in New York City. Pat was an editor; Emily did scheduling, dealing with such notorious characters as Ugly George. But the girls shared a love of music.
Emily went clubbing from an early age, catching acts like Jimi Hendrix, back when he was fronting for Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, but in the early ‘70s music disappointed her. Then she met Pat who took her to the club she had been going to: CBGB.
"It was like hallelujah!" Emily recalls that moment.
Next thing you know, they were doing the club scene -- CBGB, Danceteria, the Mud Club. They starting videotaping the acts, lugging in portable reel-to-reel video equipment that actually belonged to Manhattan Cable.
"We had a key," Emily laughs. "We’d sneak the equipment out, go to the clubs, return it at four o’clock in the morning, catch an hour’s sleep, then show up for work."
Pat remembers their first night filming at CBGB. Owner Hilly Kristal told them to get good footage. "This group’s really going to go places," he predicted. Only together a few months at the time, Blondie was performing.
Later hosting a TV show called "Nightclubbing," they taped such great punkers as Iggy Pop, The Gogos and Dead Kennedys. "We fell in love with the Dead Boys and followed them from club to club," says Emily. In all -- from 1977 to 1980 -- they collected over 90 bands on videotape.
Why bother videotaping all these acts? "It was a very small scene in the very beginning," says Pat. "A time when there was just no line between audience and performer. You’d be having a beer at the bar with a guy, then he would get up on the stage and play. Everybody did something. I couldn’t really play an instrument and I was too shy to sing, so Emily and I brought a camera."
Having designed the Video Lounge at an illegal four-floor nightclub known as Danceteria, they got arrested along with the performers. "We were taken downtown in a paddy wagon," Emily says ruefully. That night the club was robbed and their personal equipment stolen along with everything else. That’s when they stopped.
"The punk era was a fleeting moment. I thought it was historic, but I didn’t have a plan," says Pat. "Videotaping it was like capturing lightning in a bottle."
Not long ago, New York University arranged with Emily and Pat to digitize their historic videos. That gave the one-time club kids -- "I’m now a proud 63 with gray hair," says Emily -- a chance to clean out the reels of videotapes stored in their crowded Manhattan closets and edit them into this series of films.
So mark your calendar to go nightclubbing with Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong. It may stir up some memories of the punk world of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Or create some new memories.