By Anthony Paradiso
The Bitter End club at 147 Bleecker Street, in the heart of the Village, has survived the test of time. Many stars, like Joan Rivers, Richie Havens, and even a guy named Bob Dylan, have come out of the club since its 1961 opening. There is no doubt that the Village scene has changed since its “Golden Age” in the 1960s and early 1970s, but the club is still standing and continues putting on shows for aspiring musicians and comedians. I sat down with Bitter End owner, Paul Rizzo, to discuss this iconic club’s rich history and current status.
The [Bitter End] was opened…by Fred Weintraub and his manager, Paul Colby. It was home to many musicians, including Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, and comedians like Billy Crystal.” Visitors can view a beautiful mural painted above the bar with the faces of Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal, Joan Rivers, and other celebrities that performed at the club.
Back in the 1960s, [The Bitter End] used to be one of the bigger rooms, which is funny if you think about it now. People like…Joni Mitchell and Cheech and Chong used to perform here.” Because of its intimate setting, the club can’t draw the big name talent like it used to, but Rizzo refuses to change that unique ambiance.
Keeping with tradition, there is an “Open Mic” every Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Rizzo wants to continue that. If you are looking to start out in this business what better place than the Bitter End? The “Open Mic” session is free and open to everyone who shows up looking to be a singer or a comedian.
We do ‘Jam Sessions’…on Sundays and Mondays [for aspiring musicians]. Richie Cannata, [who] used to play with Billy Joel, does a Monday night jam,” said Rizzo. “We still get people to play who are studio quality. The jams are late-night [sessions] where you get [famous singers like] the Beach Boys, Gavin DeGraw, or Neil Diamond to drop in unexpectedly.”
Rizzo stressed that aspiring musicians and comedians can attend the “Jam Sessions” to experience playing with quality musicians. A Sunday or Monday night jam is $10.00.
The Bitter End has been the heartbeat of the Village for five decades and is still going strong. Rizzo says that he has no intention of leaving. That’s good news for folks who want to see an iconic club from the 1960s still putting out music seven days a week.
I don’t have any televisions. I don’t play sports. I don’t do anything that’s not going on stage,” concluded Rizzo.
Check out Anthony Paradiso’s video interview with Bitter End owner, Paul Rizzo. In it, the two discuss the club’s origins, its current programming/vibe, and some big names that continue to stop in.