Hilly Kristal, whose iconic club CBGB was the epicenter of American punk rock, died yesterday at 75 after a battle with lung cancer. The New York venue—fully titled CBGB & OMFUG, or "Country, Bluegrass and Blues & Other Music For Uplifting Gourmandisers"—showcased the Ramones, the Talking Heads and Patti Smith before it closed down last year in a dispute over rent.
Kristal "was our champion and in those days, there were very few," said Smith, a regular at the Bowery venue after its 1973 opening. The club's logo found a home on clothing, and its apparel store, CBGB Fashions, lives on a few blocks away. "Everywhere you travel around the world, you saw somebody wearing a CBGB T-shirt," one regular said.