I’ll never forget Hal Willner bringing Lou by the construction site of the new Knitting Factory in Tribeca in the fall of 1993. I was both nervous and excited to be giving a tour of our upgraded venue to a musician I had many records and was so important to the history of music. Somehow, I convinced him to play a show there soon after opening–which we overly packed the joint. After that, over the next 6 years he played many special shows at the Knit. During that run, we started drinking a lot of Pinot Noir together, in particular, Domain Drouhin which was supplied by the photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders who was shooting much of Lou’s life around then. We did several big Pinot dinners at Montrachet which was just around the corner with the band after several of those shows.
One of my favorite memories was Lou calling me and saying he wants to bring Vaclav Havel to John Zorn’s Masada show. He knew the space, and asked to take the upstairs balcony which held about 50 people and set up a little food and drink, as he was “hosting” his friend. A few hours before the show we got another call from the office of Madeline Albright, the current United States Secretary of State expressing interest to join the President of the Czech Republic at the concert. Next thing you know, lots of different secret service folk show up. Lots of buzz and Lou and Vaclav arrive. We go upstairs, about five of us and 8 large Czech guys-his security detail. Show starts, Masada is killin’ it. Then the Secretary of State shows up, lots of noisy commotion, more secret service, some formalities happen between he heads of state and Zorn stops the show. He looks up at us, the entire room goes quiet and looks up at the balcony and he says, “shut the fuck up”. All the secret service folk where about to draw their weapons, Havel and Albright stopped talking, and Lou, who was standing with me of to the side, looked at me and we both started laughing very quietly. He put his arm around me to shield both our laughter and also not have Zorn get madder at us. It was a highlight of my life. The band continued and everyone was quiet. Lou had a smirk and twinkle in his eye for the rest of the night and we had a new bond. (There was a piece with Zorn’s quote in the Rolling Stone Magazine the next month, need to find it.)
Almost as good was the night Sarah and I went to Lou and Laurie’s Apartment for dinner. We were very excited to get invited over, just us. We brought a magnum of the Domain Drouhin 1994 which I had secured just in time, and totally ironically, Lou had done the exact same (and there are not that many 1.5l magnums of this stuff out there). Now 3 liters of wine is doable to drink by 4 adults in an evening certainly, but Sarah was pregnant with our twins, but not showing or telling anyone yet, so our deal was she would secretly give me her wine glass throughout the evening and I would trade my empty one without them noticing…. After the first bottle and not yet eating, I had essentially one bottle in me and was getting loopy. Then we decided to not eat there and bring the second magnum to the Spotted Pig around the corner from their house. In there, it was harder to sneak Sarah’s full glass to me empty, but we did somehow. Laurie didn’t drink at our same pace and finally in some moment of inhibition, after a few years of being pretty close, I finally had the drinker nerve to ask about some stories from the Velvet Underground. I had always wanted to be cool and not ask, but it finally came out. He was a great sport and told me some things; unfortunately, I can’t remember much detail or the rest of the night…
Lou participated in six of my Downtown Seders, including this past March when he certainly seemed weak getting up the stage. But once he started reading his poem, the energy, humor and genius that he was came out loud and clear. I am grateful to having had connected with this special man. Rest in Peace Lou!, love Michael