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« March 29th, 2010—Bar 78 | Main | March 27th, 2010—Bar 76 »

March 28th, 2010—Bar 77

Day 77—Saturday, March 27th
Tom and Jerry’s a.k.a. 288 Bar (Originally scheduled for Mars Bar.)

Okay, another reader has sent in a generous donation! Fat Al, who lives right here in NYC sent in 20 bucks, via the PayPal donation button. Fat Al has a cool blog called, The Half Empty Glass. Check it out here: The Half Empty Glass. Thanks Fat Al, and since you’re right here in the city, let me know if you want to have a beer at your favorite bar sometime.

Okay, today I’m going to meet a writer, editor, author, podcaster and a guy who wrote nice things about myself and my magazine fishwrap back in the day, John Strausbaugh. I haven’t seen John in over a decade and we decided to meet at a bar. And this led me to start a new series that will run occasionally here called, The 365 Bars Occasional Interview At A Bar...Where Else, You Knucklehead You!

We’ve decided to meet at the legendary Mars Bar on the Lower East Side and now, by the magic of the internet, we will soon be fllying to Mars!

Here's the Mars bar, a graffitied, booze-riddled clubhouse on the Lower East Side. Sadly, I found out that you need permission to take photos inside from the owner. The bartender was very nice about it though, took my card and said the owner would be in touch with me this week and maybe we could do it the following Saturday. I hope so, you gotta see the inside of this joint! Stay tuned. John and I then decided to meet at a bar called Tom and Jerry's just a couple blocks away.

And here we are at Tom and Jerry's a.k.a. 288 Bar.

Saturday is fun day...I agree...

But I don't think this guy does.

The bar's pretty full with people relaxing on a Saturday afternoon.

There's a large collection of Tom and Jerry china behind the bar.

Kathy and Norman were seated at the end of the bar and we traded stories about the blackout of 2003 Sept. 11th and Miles Davies. They're from Staten Island and encouraged me to bring the bar crawl out there, which I will have to do soon!

Seated next to me at the bar was Sara, a future writer of romance novels.

Local artwork hangs on the back wall of the bar.

The Fabulous Four. Do I have to spell it out? C-H-E-E-S-E-A-N-D-O-N-I-O-N-S.


Here's the lovely and hospitable owner, Jo.

I fetch a couple of drinks from the friendly bartender, Yvonne as I think I see someone lurking at a back table.

It's John Strausbaugh! Time to beging the maiden interview!

The 365 Bars Occasional Interview At a Bar...Where Else, You Knucklehead You!

John Strausbaugh is a journalist and cultural commentator based in New York City. His previous books have examined the history of recreational drug use (The Drug User: Documents 1840-1960, co-edited with Donald Blaise, 1990), the intersection of politics and popular culture in the White House (Alone With the President, 1992), the priesthood that spreads the gospel of Elvisism (E: Reflections on the Birth of the Elvis Faith, 1995) and Rock and Roll's infidelity to the youth culture that created it (Rock 'Til You Drop: The Decline From Rebellion to Nostalgia, 2001), which was declared “the definitive word on the senescent Rolling Stones” by The New York Times. Rock Til You Drop established Strausbaugh as a favorite on American and British radio and television talk shows.

Strausbaugh's next book (
Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture, 2006), explored race relations in popular culture, including the pervasive and long-lasting impact of black-face performance in rock and roll, hip-hop, advertising, “gangsta-lit” and contemporary Hollywood film-making. The book firmly established Strausbaugh as a writer of erudite, engaging and penetrating social commentary. His vivid writing style and candid treatment of controversial subject matter were exemplified in Sissy Nation: How America Became a Culture of Wimps & Stoopits (2008). He's recently set up a website that marries his fiction writing with original artwork. You can find out and read more about John at his websites, located here:

John Strausbaugh
Fiction by John Strausbaugh

John was a big champion of my writing and of my magazine fishwrap and other projects through the years when he was the editor of NY Press and I always appreciated it. I always say that fun flies when you're having time and it's been well over a decade that John and I have talked in person. So we arranged to meet and I decided to have him be the inaugural interview for the 365 Bars Occasional Interview. And so, over drinks at Tom and Jerry's, here we go!

Hi John, long time no see, it's been over a decade, how are you doing?

Good, except for being over a decade older.

We're both in our fifties now, how the fuck did that happen?

Young feller, I'm inching up toward 60. And I have no clue.

Do you remember the first bar you ever got served in?

Sort of. I was a kid, and my dad took me and my brother into this place at the seashore called The Paddock. It was a long time ago and you could still bring kids into bars without being charged with child abuse. I remember the bartender was very nice. He made us ginger ales with cherries and plastic mermaid swizzle sticks in them and we felt cool and sophisticated as hell.

Let's hear one of your craziest bar moments in or out of New York City.

Oh man there are so many. I got arrested once after being thrown out of a fake Irish pub for yelling at a really, really lousy fake Irish singer. I basically don't drink anymore, but I still get touchy about bad, fake music.

What is your favorite bar, past or present in New York City and why?

I think there are a lot of great bars in this city. When NYPress was in the Puck Building for the first half of the 90s we were nightly regulars at Milano's,  and I had a lot of fascinating conversations in there with all sorts of barflies. Then Jo, the girltender there whom we all were in love with, opened this place, 288 (aka Tom & Jerry's), and I love that it's still here and thriving. Some friends and I used to go to Double Happiness in Chinatown early on Fridays, where another favorite girltender, Heather, worked. We went early because it got packed with douchebags later. Then it changed hands and we stopped going there. Those are some of the downtown ones, but I've been in lots of good ones all over the place.

Do you go out and hang in bars these days?

No. My barfly days are basically over. If you aren't drinking there's really no reason to be in them.

You were doing a video series for the New York Times, is that still going on and what is/was it all about?

It was called Weekend Explorer, and I did them for about a year, 2007 into 2008. I went to I think 12 different neighborhoods around the city, plus one trip up the Hudson, and did their histories. I wrote an article, then we did the video, and I also wrote and recorded an audio podcast. Did Hell's Kitchen, the East Village, Brooklyn Heights, the Lincoln Center area which was formerly known as San Juan Hill, lowest Manhattan, did a Weegee tour and a Barnum tour, etc. etc. I think a lot of it can be found on the Times website. For me the subtext, and once in a while the overt text, of them all was to deplore how New York erases and forgets so much great history, especially I think over the last  15 years or so as the mayors and developers have been practising what I've called a kind of benign ethnic cleansing in Manhattan, scrubbing everything clean, knocking everything down and throwing all the weirdos out to make it family- and tourist-friendly. I understand why they've done that, but I pretty much hate that they've done that. They've ruined a lot of what made Manhattan absolutely unique and special to make it more like Cleveland-by-the-Sea. I'm not knocking Cleveland specifically, but if I wanted to live in Cleveland I'd move there.

Do you ever miss the days of NY Press and what do you think of it today?

Sure, I loved NYPress. We rocked it hard for several years. It was a lot of fun... Today? It still exists? Get out.

Your book, Rock Til You Drop caused a lot of commotion when it came out in 2001. People either seemed to love it or were outraged by it. I thought it was great and I loved the chapter names like, "Up Against the Wall, Mother Hubbard" and "Steel Wheelchairs." Pete Townshend of the Who wrote an angry letter about your book to the London paper, The Sunday Observer. That had to be a combination of a weird and great thing all at once, what was it like reading that?

Hate mail from Pete Townshend—I was so proud. He put an even longer, angrier version on his website. He claimed to be objecting to my term "colostomy rock" and said he'd like to pour the contents of a colostomy bag over my head. He also said that my book would not keep him from rockin' on, maaan. I never thought it would. Then again, I never thought I'd see Half-a-Who do the Super Bowl halftime extravanganza. Mortifying. Pete should have listened to me after all.

You've written a lot of books, do you have a favorite, or is that like picking a favorite child?

The favorite child thing is a cliche, but it's a cliche because it's true. Each book has been different from the others and totally absorbing to me at the time. I like a couple of them better than the others but I would never tell them that because I wouldn't want any of them to get complexes.

Where do you think the future of magazines and newspapers is headed now that pretty much everything can be read online?

Straight into the ashcan of history, I'm afraid. Look at how they're all struggling. Time and Newsweek look like Gristede's circulars. The problem isn't just that the Internet made everything free, it's that the Internet has taught us how to get our news and gossip and movie reviews and so on in different ways. People don't need to see it all aggregated in a single publication anymore -- we graze the Internet and do our own aggregating. I don't know how print papers and magazines can change that back -- and they clearly don't either.

What advice would you give a young writer these days?

Run away. I'm serious. It's a terrible way to make a living. It's very hard on the self-esteem and the liver. Do something useful and rewarding with your life. Become a structural engineer and start repairing all those bridges and highways that are about to collapse.

You have a fiction website that you update fairly frequently, did you ever think ten years ago you'd have a website and would be writing online?

Ten years ago things I wrote for print also went online, so I'm used to that aspect of it. But no, I never planned to have a website. Actually, I have two that are linked to each other. The one's about my books, and I was talked into doing it. But it's beautifully designed and works really well, so I decided I like it fine. The fiction one I just started last fall, as a kind of archive for my older fiction and a place to put the new stuff, since book publishing is also going down the tubes and unless you're writing fiction about vampires, warlocks or the Templars they're not going to be of much use to you. I also help edit and write for a site called The Truth Barrier. So I'm like web savvy as hell now.

What are you working on now?

I do a lot of ghostwriting and collaborative writing and am doing one of those books now. I'm writing the fiction. I still write for the Times several times a year.

For me, one of the perks of writing is meeting new people and sharing thoughts, ideas and stories with them. You've met a shitload of people in your travels, famous and non-famous. I know this is tough, but is there one or two that you were amazed you met and they lived up to your expectations?

Hey, I could write a book. There have been way too many. A lot of them have been older folks, people who have done and lived and thought and experienced so much they're living libraries. Not just writers and artists and intellectuals and such, though a lot of them have been, and not just famous types, though some of them have been. I guess some of my faves have been the relatively unsung hero types, like the late Lionel Ziprin, an extraordinary Lower East Side figure. I sat with him a bunch of times and wrote two long articles about him in the Press and only began to scratch the surface of his remarkable mind and life. But there have been lots. There are so very many interesting people in the world, I don't get why journalists keep interviewing such a tiny handful of famous types over and over again, especially since so many of them are utterly uninteresting knotheads.

Both of us wrote stories when Rolling Stone turned thirty back in 1997. Do you still read it?

Does anyone? It was already nearly totally irrelevant in 1997.

Tom Petty had a great quote that went something like, "Like my band or not, at least we paid dues. Now you can go on a game show and become a rock star overnight." What are your thoughts on the music scene now?

As I said I'm bucking 60 so my opinion about contemporary popular music is as irrelevant as Rolling Stone's. The larger point about that quote for me is that we seem to have reached an apotheosis of celebutard culture in the last few years, in which literally everybody and anybody can be a star now for absofuckinglutely no reason and with precisely no talent. Then again, Tom Petty always struck me as just a pretty good Bob Dylan impersonator, and look how well he did.

Okay, John, great seeing you, we'll have to do this again in a decade or so!


This bar is named after the cocktail Tom and Jerry not the famous cat and mouse duo...I would guess. I didn’t think to ask when I was there, I was too busy enjoying the laid back atmosphere on a Saturday afternoon. The bartender was friendly, the mahogany bar is long and inviting and the atmosphere changes as you turn your head. On one side of the spacious bar, stuffed animal heads stare back at you longingly for a sip of your cocktail. Turn towards the back and enjoy local art on display over an entire wall. Mosey up front and you can gaze at a wooden painting of the Fabs. And behind the bar is a giant collection of Tom and Jerry crockery including china bowls and cups. The bartender was nice and quick with a drink, the owner was downright hospitable and friendly locals were at the bar sharing stories from Miles Davies sightings to romance novels to September 11th memories.

There’s a happy hour here from 5pm to 7pm Monday through Friday. There’s a decent selection of bottled and draft beers including Corona, Budweiser, Red Stripe and Duvel in bottles. On tap some of the choices include, Harp, Hoegaarden, Guinness and Leffe Blanc. Some of Tom and Jerry’s specialty cocktails include the Bee Stinger, Cucumber Limeade and their classic Bloody Mary. There’s an internet jukebox available and plasma TV’s hang overhead.

Come to think of it, maybe the bar is named after these guys...naaaahhh!

Tom and Jerry’s a.k.a. 288 Bar
288 Elizabeth St (@ Houston St.)

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Reader Comments (20)

Cool Bar , I like Animal Heads on The Wall , get drunk enough start to talk to them !!!
The interview was great Too !!!
TO : Marty & John Strausbaugh !!!!

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJHwang

Yep cool Bar but.... Argh! I hate Animal Heads on the Wall !!
Hmmm, I should offer to Jason a millipede head to hang up in his kitchen wall and see if he talk to it when he's drinking beer at 1:30pm !! (MOUHAHAHA) But.... in according with the reaction he got when he saw my (small, very small) millipede friend at home, I'm not sure!! haha ;)

Jonh looks younger!!
Great interview and TO Marty & John Strausbaugh !

Keep it Up ZioumZioum , it will be our head on my wall !!!

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJHwang


March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJHwang

Great "Playboy-like" Interview Marty!
Glad you and John were able to spend a few hours
sitting around bullshitting and catching up.
Time indeed flies.
The Mars Bar can wait for now.
This was a good read.

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter"Boris"

I remember John Straughsbaugh from the NY Press days, cool to see what he's up to now! Cool beans and I like the bar and the people in it.

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert NYC

P.S. Loved the S&G/Tom and Jerry reference at the end! LMFAO!

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert NYC

I'm going to have to check out John's work sometime, Marty, after this August 15Th I'll be on the far side of 50 and on the down slope towards 60, and the dumbing down of American society is an issue for me too. A disturbing and depressing one at that.

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJaws the Cabbie

interesting bloke John.... classic comments on Tom Petty being a pretty good Bob Dylan impersonator & 1/2 a Who doing the 1/2 time superbowl!!!...goodonya Johnno!!!

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfitzy

as for the heads on the wall... i was asked by a couple of locals last oct in a South Dakota pub to go pheasant & deer hunting, i politely declined & told them i wasnt into that...when they replied by saying they thought aussies had more balls than that..... so i kindly offered to take them out to my property Downunder & take them Razorback hunting...when i told them THEIR balls would be in their mouths if they missed the head shot from 50m, & pray you are quick on the reload otherwise these pigs & their tusks would rip them apart & kill them in a heart beat...they went pale when i googled "Dog Eating Razorback in Western Australia"...
"NO thanks Fitzy!!! you aussies are crazy!!!" was their last comment....

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfitzy

Hey Marty, you've got a great blog and I'm happy to do my small part to support your project.

I'm happy for the mention in this particular post because I'm a fan of Tom & Jerry's, which is an excellent, relaxed, and I guess adult bar. But I really have always loved Mars Bar (particularly when I was actually young), so I hope you get to do a post on that one.

Anyway, enjoy, and keep up the great work.



March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFat Al

Thanks again for the generous donation, Fat Al! I love your blog, very cool!

March 28, 2010 | Registered Commenter365 Beers

Love John even more for his take on Tom Petty!
But then again I also hate dylan.. just Tom a little more than bob LOL....
but at least now I know why:)

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGidget

Cool bar! I especially like all the artwork. Great interview too! John seems like a really interesting (and observant) guy. I wish I could've experienced New York back when it was really New York. But, you know, maybe with this economic depression, I mean recession, the old New York'll make a comeback! I'll keep my fingers crossed. No offense to any trustafarians out there.

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBiff

LOL @ Fitzy !!!! Great story! haha :D

Great idea doing the interview. It was quite interesting and I adore characters like that; Totally jaded but can't resist the passion that still lives inside them.

I have to agree with him about the newspapers and on line news and articles. But at the other end of the spectrum, I am a new writer and am quite grateful that stuff like that is available.

Thanks for entertaining me Marty.

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGina

Yo, Fitzy, I believe you 100% about the razorbacks. When I was in the army, I was stationed in Germany with a Lance missile unit. We'd have these NATO field exercises where we'd go out in the woods, set up the missile, take down the missile, and the west German Army would come up on us and play army with us and we'd run around in the Bavarian woods yelling "Bang bang..yer dead" and having a great old time. But there were wild boars in those woods, and from time to time they would pose a serious threat. Because of this, someone would always smuggle out some live ammo for our M16's in case one of them came for our asses. They really were dangerous. One time one of those porcine fuckers went after someone I knew, and he blew it away with the five rounds of live ammo he'd brought with his '16 set on rock and roll (full auto). Some buds we knew back on post smuggled us out a case of German beer and we had us a pig roast out there in the woods. Yum!

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJaws the Cabbie

What a great interview, I truly enjoyed it, Thank youso very much for posting it.

The bar looked pretty cool too with friendly people and cold beer.

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTiki Bar Susie

whenever I see the names Tom and Jerry paired together I can ONLY think of the cartoon! And that was a TERRIFIC interview with John Strausbaugh!

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermeleah rebeccah

Wowwwww...I wish I could have all the tom & jerry collection!!!

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermotorised wheelchairs

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