Monday, September 27, 2010

Josh's Lost New York: Don Normal of 42nd St. (Part 1)

A few folks, over the years, have requested more pictures of Don Normal. He lived on the 3rd to 7th floors of 115 W. 42nd Street, between Fun City Books and Holiday Hostesses, during the late 1970s. Several floors had caved in, from which Don was able to construct a cavernous habitat, complete with a full stage for our band to rehearse. We did a few gigs in the downtown punk clubs, a music scene I never related to.

He named the band Bitch, and then Don Normal and the Ear Regulars. The drummer, Don’s brother, looked exactly like Lurch of the Addams Family, if Lurch had been a midget. I remember quitting the band after Normal designed a space suit he wanted me to wear onstage. Similar requests were made of me through a succession of (what I refer to as) “Failure Rock” bands I played guitar for in the 1970s. Each provided a heartbreaking defeat in their quest for 1970s rock stardom.

Normal’s song, “Hot A Lot,” included here, actually had a good opening verse:

I’d like to say that
I like your shoes and
I like the way that they
Stick to the bottom of you



Don Normal was from a small town in Canada, where needless to say, he didn’t fit in. But he did fit in on 42nd Street, the only place where we both fit. Last I saw Don Normal, he was working at the Empire Diner on 9th Avenue in the early 1980s. I haven’t seen him since. So this is my message in a bottle—wishing him fond regards, wherever, if ever, he is.

Photos by the great Regent Sound engineer, Vince McGarry








© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman, Vince McGarry

Josh's piece on Don Normal, "The Human Being of 42nd Street," can be found in his collection When Sex Was Dirty.

21 comments:

  1. That's a rush of late 1970s! Regent Sound? I remember being in there around 1979 when Doc and Joel were recording the T-Birds with Roomful Horn section. Must have been a gas to record there. Is the Empire Diner you refer to, down in the 30s, on a corner? If so, was there at last once a week for the hot soup in 78-79.

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  2. Normal never recorded at Regent Sound by any means. But I did work there from '74-'76, right out of high school. The Empire Diner was a faux deco hamburger joint on 9th Ave., might have been on 30 something St.

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  3. Don Normal is alive and well. I've known him for 15 years and see him all the time.

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    1. Please -put him in touch with me if you are still in touch with him - Scott Sobol on Facebook.

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  4. @ Anonymous--Please send Don my regards, and pass along this post.

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  5. You "message in a bottle" floated to shore.

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  6. Yes, our Donnie is doing fine. Alive, and still kicking in his silver clogs. What a treat to see him in his prime; so handsome! Thank you for posting this. He is truly an artist and a legend in the making!

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  7. It,s lurch and yes Don is fine and well

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  8. I just saw him at Lincoln Diner in Maspeth NY. Still the same beard.

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  9. I met him when he lived in the Chelsea. I just saw him last week on the corner of West 11th & West 4th while I was having lunch at Tartine.....he must have something he's doing around here cuz it's like the tenth time in the past month I've seen him in the Village.

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  10. I used to play guitar in Bitch, I think in 1978 or 77. We played CBGB and maybe Max's. Not sure.

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  11. I met Don in the early 90's when he was transforming someone's townhouse on the west end of Christopher St. into a mahogany and marble mosaic wonderland. He would stop in for drinks at the Dugout after working on the project. The last time I saw him was at the end of that decade, in the Village, after I moved to Baltimore. He told me "Call me, I give good phone". I didn't, because I don't. I'm glad to hear he's doing fine and still kicking in his silver clogs.

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  12. Don is great ! In 1980 he helped me move my large metal sculptures out of The School of Visual Arts sculpture garage and drove them in his van up to my parents house in Westchester. I've known him for years. I probably first met him in a Night Club or Bitch Performance around 1978-1979 ? He let us crash in his "Pad" a few times, after a late nights. He is a very good artist and carpenter (I remember his groovy homemade shower) he was always interesting and (dare I say) "such a nice person", I haven't seen him in many years. So many stories "Don't get me started" ! Don, if you see this give me a call (you know who this is).

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  13. I suddenly thought of Don and wondered where he was...a google search came up with ONE article. How precious and perfect to find him here with ex-pal Josh Alan.

    Warmest regards to Don if you see him. He gave me a purple belt made of plumbing hardware and rubber tubing. Gorgeous! You can see me wearing the belt in Ivan Galietti's film, Romanhatten".

    I hero worshipped Don Normal. I met him when I was a 15 year old runaway hot off the bus.
    I thought he was the coolest guy in the world - not only for his dashing and always handmade fashion - but for his construction skills and unshakable self- confidence!

    Xoxoxoxoxoxo
    don was very close to my dear friend, the much missed Larry Shox of Shox Lumania.

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  14. It was fun to play with Don and the band and stay at his place on 42nd st. Loved the way the tele sounded through his SVT.

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  15. Unforgettable Don with a plastic faucet extending his ear lobe, screws with bolts protruding from his black horn rimmed glasses and the Yosemite Sam facial hairs. I cashed his checks at Union Chelsea National Bank and later worked with him for a short stint at the Empire Diner. If you read this Don, I am the short southern blond who gave you a clergy shirt and collar. So glad to know you are alive and kicking, in gold clogs no less.
    Cheers wild man!

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  16. I remember him around Chelsea & Chelsea Hotel when I lived there,78-83 also I believe he had a storefront place on Crosby St.

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  17. I was the first drummer for Bitch. I lived for a time with Don and the wonderful percussionist - who's name I've forgotten - in the summer of 1975 in a burned-out loft over a liquor store by the corner of 23rd St. and 11th Ave. I've always wondered what became of Don. He was shamelessly original and a beautiful human being. Anyone know if Don is still with us, still in NYC, etc? It seems it'd be hard to hide his presence in any city anywhere... Scott Sobol

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  18. I played drums for an early incarnation of Bitch with Don and an amazing percussionist; I was fresh out of high school. We stayed in a burned out loft over a liquor store by the Terminal Hotel at the corner of 23rd St. & 11th Ave... some wild times and fond memories but I was still too young to handle that environment. It was obvious Don was a true original and a great artist - I was inspired by him and have always missed him...

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  19. I went to high school with Don in London Ontario and stole his green and brown reversible sweater, because, he wore it for 4 year. He moved to Toronto before I moved there, then, he moved t New York City a few years after I moves there. I remember going to many Bitch rehersals and gigs in CBGB's and Max's Kansas City.I haven't seen him for years, but, still consider him my best friend.

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  20. Don was our handyman at the Empire Diner! I've been trying to Google him for a few years now, unsuccessfully! Glad to find this. If anyone sees him, tell him to look for me on facebook! I have some great photos to share with him from the early 80's
    Would also love to contact his brother George! :) Also a great guy.

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