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Karen’s Quirky Style: Wishing I remembered CBGB

BY KAREN REMPEL | I first heard about CBGB at a party in high school in Burnaby, British Columbia. My friends were playing the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” and somehow I parsed the word CBGB’s, though it took decades to learn about the Mudd Club.

I’m sure all native New Yorkers know that CBGB is the birthplace of punk, though the Brits might disagree. Historians say punk began in New York City between 1974 and 1976, and in the U.K. the movement coalesced around the Sex Pistols in 1976. Other claims abound. A bartender in London told me that punk started in Peru in the ’60s. But let’s go with NYC.

Hilly Kristal opened CBGB in 1973. The awning said CBGB OMFUG, which stood for Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers (music gluttons). Hilly gave everyone a chance. The young bands that showed up spawned a creative movement of social protest and experimentation in music: punk, new wave, glam punk and more.

The Ramones played their first gig at CBGB, and Blondie, Talking Heads, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, New York Dolls, Television and many other musical icons launched there, too. It was a glorious time for music. Oh, how I wish I’d been there!

Luckily for me, my Uncle Dwayne was a true gormandizer, and for Christmas 1978 he gave my sister and me 10 albums, including the Eagles “Their Greatest Hits,” Blondie “Parallel Lines,” Fleetwood Mac “Rumors” and the Runaways’ “Queens of Noise.” I was 13 years old and obsessively pored over every detail of Deborah Harry’s white dress and Candies shoes, while trying to understand the lyrics of “Heart of Glass,” which was a little beyond my ken.

Punk clothing is made of hard, spiky materials cobbled together by low-budget punkanistas — leather, vinyl, PVC, zippers, studs, safety pins, slashed clothing, holes in jeans and stockings.

In honor of CBGB’s role in unleashing a musical torrent on the world, I put together a punk outfit more inspired by the Ramones (zippered biker jackets) and Wendy O. Williams (black electrical tape) than Blondie.

But when we went to do the shoot, we discovered a life-sized mural of the album cover for “Parallel Lines,” with names of its songs and a Blondie concert ticket. Do I hear photo-op! Yes, and a strange realization of that 13-year-old’s fantasies.

I never dreamed I’d be in New York one day doing a photoshoot in front of a mural of this album. At 13, I couldn’t possibly imagine what life would bring. Maybe at midlife the endless possibilities have narrowed a little, but I like to think the unknown still waits around the corner.

For more fun Philip Maier photos, including the Blondie “Parallel Lines” CBGB mural, go to

Style Notes

⦁ Black leather biker jacket with silver zippers. All Leather 99, 51 W. Eighth St.

YRU black glitter 5-inch platform high-tops. Trash and Vaudeville, 96 E. Seventh St.

⦁ Slashed Lust by Teensy Weensy leatherette halter top with cut-out bra and silver studs. Fetishwear trade show, Vancouver, BC.

⦁ Zip It vinyl micromini skirt with front zipper and silver loops. Purple Passion, 211 W. 20th St.

⦁ Tractor ball-bearing pendant and choker of antique chrome links. Made by the author. Chrome choker from Pippin Vintage Jewelry, 112 W. 17th St.

⦁ Red garter belt and stockings. Pink Pussycat Boutique, 167 W. Fourth St.


  1. Lew Lew November 3, 2021

    Love those red hose and platforms. Unfortunately,
    I was lost in New Jersey during the heyday of CBGB.

  2. Karen Rempel Karen Rempel November 2, 2021

    Dear George, How cool that you performed at CBGB’s!! And you’ve solved the mystery of platform shoes, to boot! Ewwww….

  3. George George November 1, 2021

    I performed at CBGB’s a couple of times–’79-80. Once as a backup singer, and once with my own band. The owner liked us (which was important) but we never returned. It was vital that one wear boots because the bathroom was a wet, absolutely disgusting mess. Come to think of it, perhaps that bathroom was how boots and platform shoes became popular.

  4. Lisa Lisa November 1, 2021

    Happy Birthday!! Looks like loads of fun!

  5. Maria Maria November 1, 2021

    Terrific photo!

  6. Janet Janet November 1, 2021

    Such fun!


  7. JEFF JEFF November 1, 2021

    Steady on those platforms!

  8. Pat Duffy Pat Duffy November 1, 2021

    Love how you are keeping the history of iconic Downtown venues! I lived Downtown in the 70s/80s and would go with my friends to CBGBs. Back at that time, no one realized what a mythic status the place would one day have — it was a place to hear the new “punk” and get cheap drinks! Little did we know history was being made! Thanks for capturing it, Karen, with your keen ear and eye for the “look” of the era.

  9. Suzanne Suzanne October 31, 2021

    ANoTHeRrrrrrrrrrrr grrrrEAT onE!!!-🎃👻💀💀💫✴🐈-
    hopE EvErythInG iS fIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinE!!!!


  10. Ash Ash October 31, 2021

    It is quirky for sure.

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