Life Cafe Blog

Posts Tagged ‘John Sunderland’

REMEMBERING YOU THIS HOLIDAY SEASON. SEASON’S GREETINGS!

ENJOY A FEW SCENES OF THE OLD DAYS AT LIFE CAFE AT THIS TIME OF YEAR . . . .

Shamus the Christmas Elf at Life Cafe 983

Celebratory Drink at Life Cafe 983

Mark at Life Cafe 983 at Christmas

A real good Christmas Party at Life Cafe 983

Shamus and Kathy at Life Cafe 983 for Christmas

Seasonal Pick, Menu Picture Riddle by John Sunderland

Santas at East Village Life Cafe

Kathy Life and Chris Baker at Life Cafe 983

Christmas Brunch at East Village Life Cafe

Torello and Nada at East Village Life Cafe

At the East Village Life Cafe at Christmas Time

Life Cafe East Village Staff at Christmas

Patrick McDonald photo shoot at Life Cafe East Village

Christmas Lights, Life Cafe East Village

Life Cafe 983 at Christmas from outside

CHEERS! At Life Cafe 983 Bushwick, Brooklyn

East Village Life Cafe 1995

A Bushwick, Brooklyn Snowman


Jonathan Larson Bench Donated to Adelphi University

July 18, 2012

This is the first installment of “Life Cafe New York On Tour”.

The Jonathan Larson Bench is lifted into the Adelphi Univ. truck

It was a special day today. The Jonathan Larson Bench left Life Cafe for good.

Three strong, young men from Adelphi University came to the now closed Life Cafe 983 in Bushwick Brooklyn and removed the Jonathan Larson Bench where it stood temporarily after it left the East Village Life Cafe in September 2011. With the closing of the Bushwick Life the end of June, it was time to find a permanent home elsewhere for it. So I emailed Al Larson, Jonathan’s father, to see if he had any suggestions.

Al and Julie Larson with Kathy Life and John Sunderland at the Finale B Video Contest at Life Cafe right after the dedication of the mahogany bench (where Jonathan wrote RENT) as the “Jonathan Larson Bench”.

He certainly did. We first contacted New York Theater Workshop, home of the original production of RENT and very close to the original Life Cafe. Unfortunately, as much as they would have liked to have it, they simply had no room. Next Al hooked me up with Robert Scott, President of Adelphi University in Garden City, New York on Long Island. Jonathan attended Adelphi on a four-year scholarship as an acting Academic major. Bob was delighted with my offer and didn’t hesitate to accept. Fortunately, he arranged immediate pick-up as the owners of the new business at 983 Flushing Avenue wanted it moved by Thursday when they were to begin renovations. Again, the Universe has provided.

Adelphi University helpers pick up Life Cafe artifacts

Along with the Bench I donated a 4′ x 6′ wall panel I preserved from Life Cafe, two other Life Magazine collaged panels, the wooden “Thank You Jonathan” plaque hand-carved for me by Jonathan’s uncle Gene and a large panel from the original RENT stage set at the Nederlander Theatre given to me by a friend in the theater design business.

Pieces of Life Cafe history

Wall Panel from original Life Cafe

Panel from original RENT production at Nederlander Theatre

I felt a heaviness in my heart as I watched the boys lift the bench into the truck. It felt like a big part of my life was being taken away. But it was heart-lifting to think of its new home at Jonathan’s alma mater. When I think of how many more people will see the Bench and get a sense of Jonathan’s life and work, I am elated. My hope is there will be a re-creation of a corner of Life Cafe where Jonathan sat and drank tea while researching and writing RENT. Moving the bench to Adelphi to their new Theater complex is the right thing to do. I’m grateful that Bob was eager to give the Bench a new home.

Kathy Kirkpatrick ponders Life’s changes

There hasn’t been time to make definitive plans, but Bob Scott and I are in regular contact. Jonathan Martin, Director of Education and Public Awareness for the National Marfan Foundation in Port Washington, New York, is thrilled with the Bench’s new home. We discussed a January or February 2013 event which would coincide with the original off-Broadway opening anniversary, the anniversary of Jonathan’s death AND his birthday. And February is National Marfan Awareness Month. Sadly, Jonathan Larson is a perfect example of why early diagnosis is critical.

Thank You Jonathan plaque hand-carved by Gene Larson. The original plaque hung back stage at the Nederlander Theatre where each cast member touched it before going on stage.

We’ll keep you posted here as I report on LIFE CAFE NEW YORK ON TOUR. Next installment: COLD SOUP IN HOT NEW HAMPSHIRE – WATERMELON GAZPACHO. Check back in to get the recipe and the story.

Photographs of moving Life Cafe artifacts by John Sunderland



LIFE CAFÉ 983 BUSHWICK TO CLOSE JUNE 30, 2012

 June 24, 2012

Nine months ago I had to close the original East Village Life Café. Today I am very sorry and sad to finally announce that I have to throw in my tea towel and close my second venue, Life Café 983 in Bushwick on June 30. A new café/bar will open immediately thereafter under a new name. I shall take a break from the restaurant business for the time being.

 I know it’s hard to believe. After 30 years, in September 2011 I had to close my East Village café because I could no longer carry the huge business losses caused by the two warring landlords who fought over structural repairs to their property.

And a few months later the landlord of my thriving Bushwick café told me that he was not going to extend my lease.

That was the same landlord who in 2001 invited me to open a cafe in the building he just bought on Flushing Avenue. At the time, Bushwick looked like a post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland, with nowhere for existing and incoming artists and loft dwellers to eat or drink. He told me the incoming residents desperately needed a watering hole. He said having a café close to his buildings would attract the kind of tenants he wanted. It was the East Village story all over again and I saw it. Except profit wasn’t my motive. Rather, it was another chance to do what I seem to be naturally compelled to do: create a sense of home and connect the neighborhood folks together, offer a safe haven with comforting food and good drink at reasonable prices.

I’m very glad to say that in the end it worked. Yes, it was risky and definitely a struggle the first several years. But eventually Life became a second home for locals and newcomers alike and became the heart of the community much as the East Village Life Café had done in the early 80s. I have met many fine folk throughout the years and have watched as their lives unfolded along with the Café’s. And it was good.

I’ve finally come to terms with the events of the last year. My husband John and I have gotten over our disbelief, anger and sadness at losing both places in one year. We see it now as the Universe giving us a less than gentle nudge into semi-retirement. We’re looking forward to some “Adventures Before Dementia.”

About the new operation, I understand the new owners will make every effort to carry on the spirit of Life. They said, why change something that obviously works, that people like and want. They said they’d make some upgrades that are due and there will be new additions to the menu. And they recognize it’s important not to tamper with the special ambience of Life. In that sense, their intention is for Life Café to live on in spirit, if not in name.

All things come to an end in Life. I leave having created something unique, a bohemian legacy. John and I are now in our sixties and ready for a little R and R, to have a little more time doing the other things we’ve wanted to do.

My experiences during the last 30 years of Life are cause for celebration in the closing of both cafes. Running and owning my cafes has been more than a job. It’s been like having an extended family of staff, patrons and friends. We have made legions of them over the years. Life Café has always been about the relationship between the staff and patrons. A café is more than a place to eat and drink. It’s where special relationships are fostered and melded through conversation, laughter and camaraderie. That’s what a good café is. It’s far more than food and drink. It’s about human connection.

I would like to thank the hundreds of staff members for helping me give something great and unique to the city of New York and the hamlet of Bushwick. But the roll call is too long and no name is greater or lesser than another, for each and every one has played their unique part. But, let me tell you, the guys in the kitchen are the heart and bones of the Café. Any staff member will concur. Hector, who has run the Bushwick kitchen since before it opened and who worked for me at the East Village Café as well for years before, has been particularly exceptional. He has been the kitchen’s foundation. He never missed a beat and has been ever reliable and always amiable. On his strong back Life 983 found its feet and prospered. He and his staff have been the inspiration of the Café. There are more memories than can be mentioned here and many relationships built over time. I will miss you all and will never forget you. Life Café has always had a lot of love about it, and that I shall always have with me.

Please stop by in the next week to check out John’s Life Café Menu Picture Riddle art installation. It is the final one. We have a catalogue on premises and he’s offering the limited edition of originals at very special reduced prices. There will not be any more produced. He would like to leave as many pieces he possibly can with our friends in the Life community.

A last thought before I go; I didn’t make time for a family of my own. Instead, I made time for you. Thank you all for being a part of my family and thank you for allowing me to be a part of yours.

Much peace and love,

Kathy Life


Life Cafe on BBC Radio York

Listen to a fun interview on BBC Radio. While Kathy Life and John Sunderland were visiting beautiful North Yorkshire in England for a wedding and several of the English family’s birthdays, the iconic Dr. Rock invited Kathy Life and John Sunderland as guests on his popular Sunday night rock radio program, May 6, 2012 at the BBC Radio studios in York. You can still hear the interview streaming via this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/stations/york until Sunday, May 13th.

Between bits of  history about the East Village Life Cafe, Dr. Rock plays selections from a list of special rock hits that Kathy linked to her tale of Life Cafe. And hear a bit of “the great” John Sunderland’s legacy as the original designer of the Jorvik Viking Centre in (old) York in the UK.


Julia Sinelnikova at Life Cafe 983

THE VIEW FROM THE BAR

Julia Sinelnikova

Life Café Bushwick, Artist of the Month

December 2011

John Sunderland

I have been fortunate in my life to live in some beautiful places, and then I came to Bushwick; which to my mind has to be one of the ugliest places on the planet, why else would the artists of the street try to paint it out?

And here this month we have someone who sees beauty where, in daylight at least I see only the beast.

 

I have been in two minds about Julia’s show.  To be honest I think the exhibition on the right hand side of the wall, is truly worthy of comment, but not so the three large paintings on the left, which don’t appear to belong in the company of the rest.

 

Sunsets and reflected light from natural and unnatural sources transform Bushwick from dusk to dawn; then it becomes a place of mystery, Chirico shadows and possible threat. But high on the rooftops above the streets the greatest show on earth is still playing.

Rather than go for the obvious iconic view of Manhattan set against a flame red sky, Julia looks closer and sees beauty in the momentary passing of light above the shadow blocks of Bushwick, and reminds us that nature gives us a fresh start every morning and wipes the slate clean every night.

 

It’s not easy to capture fleeting moments, and equally it takes a special skill to capture fleeting moods as the artist does so well with her interiors, where she shows us glimpses of transitory loft-life. We may want to know more but we never shall.

 

The one piece that really does it for me in this show is, “On the Brink”. This is a painting you could live with, it would always draw you to it; there would always be questions, never a dull moment. It could be a canvas that in the end could drive you mad.

Julia has captured here two people standing together, their naked feet in the moving water. That’s all we know, apart from the delicious fact that this is a moment set to pass and unfold. Quite how- we shall have to wait and see. Time for another glass!

 


A ROOM WITH A PEW

A ROOM WITH A PEW

 

Jonathan Larson Bench-East Village

By John Sunderland

 

Regulars to Life Café Bushwick may notice that there’s an elephant in the room, in the shape, well not of an actual elephant, but a large, wooden well-worn pew.  On it is an inscribed brass plate, which reads, “The Jonathan Larson Bench”.

 

So what’s the point of mentioning this, after all, we don’t write about bar stools, though several are still warm with amazing stories. No, we mention the arrival of the bench from our original East Village Café because we’re closed there at the moment. The building has to have remedial structural work done and whatever it is they will do and whenever they do it, we want the bench to be safe from harm.

 

Jonathan Larson Bench

Kath’s first husband, David, brought the bench from their hometown in Michigan to the original café in the East Village in 1982. It sat there in the exact same place until yesterday, October 26, 2011, during which time it was host to God knows how many geniuses and dreamers, lovers and dribblers. Then, awakened from it’s cozy rest, it was jumped on, pulled outside and U-Hauled over the Willy B Bridge and into the sweating, straining arms of our unfortunate staff who, man and woman, handled it into the café, much to the surprise of the customers, who were temporarily moved and piled into a corner, whilst the bench was placed in its new home.

 

Jonathan Larson's Bench in its new home

So, why the effort? Because the bench to many people is a quasi-sacred object. It was where Jonathan Larson, creator of the Broadway musical hit RENT, sat with his friends whilst crafting the show.

 

Life Café in the East Village was at the epicenter of the world that he describes in RENT and duly gets its place immortalized in the production as the café where the

characters meet and perform the showstopper, “La Vie Boehme”.

 

So that’s the story.  Sit on it, move your bum back and forth; there’s just a chance the bench sparks genius!

 


The Beer Dude is Back Behind the Bar

Hi, this is Andy. You remember, The Beer Dude of Life Cafe 983. For years, I’ve been researching, choosing, ordering, serving, drinking, writing about and, last but not least, talking about the beers I love to serve here. I talked so much about beer that John Sunderland (our artist-in-residence and infamous creator of our Menu Picture Riddles) sketched me as I really am – a pint of beer with a nice frothy head. From that moment on, I became The Beer Dude.

Just over a year ago, Mark, my co-manager and “partner in crime” at Life 983, went over to the East Village Life Cafe to help out. My hands became full of managing other things far away from the bar. Well, Mark is happily back and I’m back where, I have to admit, I am most happy to be – running your ears off with ramblings about different varieties of hops, which kinds of yeasts leave the most desirable residual sugars, the way adding rye to an IPA recipe can … yeah, well, I can go on running. I’ll get into more of that in the next postings. I can’t help it – it’s the stuff I love.

I look forward to telling you about the exciting developments with the beer line-up we’re looking to introduce as well as some fun enhancements we’re planning with the rest of the boozies. Like, we’ve got a Scotch event coming up Saturday night, October 22nd. Before then, I’ll be writing about the character of each of the four new Scotches we’ll have in house so you’ll be better prepared to savor their differences.

Come on by to meet me and try the samples. I look forward to seeing you here on October 22nd. And before you get here, tune in to my blog for talk about Scotch.


EAST VILLAGE LIFE CAFE LATE SUMMER DEALS

Starts Friday September 8 till it’s over
Mondays — $5 Margarita Madness, $2 Taquitos at the bar All Day
Tuesdays — $10 pitchers of Yuengling All Day
Wednesdays – $2 off all glasses of wine 7pm – 10 pm
Thursdays — $2 Tacos (beef or chicken) and $6 Twisted Tumblers
Fridays – $5 PBR + well shot and 50 cent Wings at the bar 7pm – 10 pm
Saturdays & Sundays – ½ price bottle of Wine with purchase of 2 Entrees 5pm–11 pm

HAPPY HOURS
7 days with complimentary chips and salsa at the bar
4 – 7 pm and 10pm – midnight

WEEKLY DINNER SPECIALS ARE BACK
New every Friday. Come on in and enjoy some of your old favorites.

Dog Walks Man by John Sunderland


Chalk Talk – Menu Picture Riddle

I thought this was as surreal as you can get, an Abacus with eggs?

Easy does it with the sums!


OVER THE BAR at Life Café

An occasional series about extraordinary people and their work.

An illuminating encounter with PRANA.

By Life Café’s resident artist, John Sunderland

Chris Klapper and Patrick Gallagher are regulars at Life Café Bushwick.They’ve lived in and around Bushwick for sixteen years and as Chris says “been artists all our lives”. Having shown collaboratively many times, their next joint piece is called “Symphony in D Minor”, an interactive video and sound installation to be exhibited in the Skybox at 2424 studios, Philadelphia, PA.

PRANA, Chris’s recent highly engaging installation, supported by the Brooklyn Arts Council has been a major draw at The Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn over the last two months. Having been voted ‘best in show’, its run ends April 24th.

As I discovered recently, the experience of visiting it (and that’s what it felt like- a visit) is something that stays with you afterwards.

About eight feet high and twenty-five feet long, the piece is large but not so that you can’t view it as a whole. Illuminated from an invisible source, thousands of white spheres glow in clusters, against a black background, dimming independently in soft pulses. This gives the whole piece the impression of a breathing light. But its more than a relic from a sixties sci-fi flick!

Though PRANA dominated the centers’ ground floor, as I came in from the bright street the subtle impact was not immediately evident. But then as my eyes adjusted, it reached out and touched me, drawing me to it like an oracle in a Brooklyn Delphi.

PRANA’S power of attraction connects through a deeply felt impression that there’s a non-human presence in the room, something organic, strange and alien, not disturbing or frightening, but definitely something alive.

As I came closer, it felt like I was having an encounter with something elemental, something from a different realm. Closer still and it appeared to react to my presence, pulsing quicker in the area directly in front of me, as though it was nervous or challenged, and any moment might shoot off like an alien spaceship or a nervous ghost. There were two other people standing there in front, and PRANA was reacting to them too.

To me, the memorable power of the installation was the anamorphic impression that not only did it have life; it had emotions too! This suspension of disbelief is the magic of Chris’ original and wonderful piece.

As I write, sadly in a few days the benign alien presence that is PRANA will depart this planet on its continuing mission- to encounter and communicate with other life forms on other worlds.