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Memories of the Lakeside

May 3, 2012 | by

To East Villagers of a certain age, it came as a blow: after sixteen short years on Avenue B, the Lakeside Lounge has closed. For many of us, that bar was like our living room. I don't mean that my friends and I spent a lot of time there—I mean it was a lot like our apartments. The Steve Keene acrylics on the walls, the mismatched bench and tables, the overflowing ashtrays. The fug.

The great advantage of the Lakeside over one’s living room was the music. This isn’t the place to talk about jukeboxes in general, much less the work of art in the age of digital reproduction, but that jukebox was a big deal. I remember making a special trip to the Lakeside one night, alone, in the snow, just to hear “Sitting on Top of the World” as performed by the Mississippi Sheiks.

I also remember stopping there for a beer by candlelight the night of the blackout. It was strange to sit there in the silence. Every other night the place was full of music. I never saw Iggy Pop or Dee Dee Ramone at the Lakeside, but I did hear Jason Morphew and the Reachers play whenever they came to town. It was there I first heard that verse, from Geoff Reacher’s “Paranoia Is Fame,” worthy of the Louvin Brothers:


Slowly my mind opens more and more

And when I’m dead it will be a beautiful flower

Blooming, choking out the weeds

Photosynthesizing starlight in the garden’s darkest hour

The other great attraction of the Lakeside was its photo booth. That machine took magically good photos, photos for the photo averse, as, for example, the poet Frederick Seidel (shown here with my sister, Anna O’Sullivan). One of the pictures was so unflattering, so off-putting, so deeply dour, that Seidel put it on the cover of his collection Ooga-Booga.

9 COMMENTS

9 Comments

  1. mary lee | May 3, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I’ve always wanted to make a family christmas card photo there, and now it’s too late!

  2. john | May 3, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    What exactly is being depicted on its sign? This has long bothered me.

  3. Lorin Stein | May 3, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    This from my cousin’s boyfriend, who took my cousin there on their first date:

    “The Lakes depicted on the sign (as asked on your blog comments) are from Lake Genva, Wisconsin, where I believe Roscoe, co-owner and record producing hero, is from…”

  4. john | May 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Thanks!

  5. Nicole Rudick | May 4, 2012 at 8:34 am

    We were die-hard Brooklynites, but the Lakeside was my favorite Manhattan bar. Once, somehow, my friend Brad ended up with Steve Keene’s portrait of Dave Berman. I think maps with lakes on them will forever make me think of the Lakeside.

  6. Thessaly | May 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I loved that photo booth. This is quite sad.

  7. Van | May 5, 2012 at 9:21 am

    The shape on the sign is the shape of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

  8. Roscoe | May 5, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks much Lorin.

  9. Dawn Hladek | May 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    My husband, then boyfriend and I had our first kiss in that photo booth. He later proposed in that photo booth over ten years ago. Two kids later I am so sad to see it go.

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