The Stooges for Chrysler: “a blue collar attitude in a white collar world”

I like that the Stooges are making some money, I guess, but I don’t know how I feel about their song No Fun being co-opted by the man to sell luxury cars.

Here’s how Chrysler positions the ad on YouTube:

John Varvatos’s blue-collar spirit pushes him late into the night, with Detroit-based rock music serving as his fuel. He is a man who hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

I had to look up John Varvatos. According to his site, he’s an “award winning menswear designer.” He was also apparently born in Detroit, which explains his presence in Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” campaign.

And, here’s the funny part. His up-scale boutique in New York stands in the space that, until a few years ago, was home to the seminal punk rock club CBGB… In his defense, it’s not like he personally drove CBGB out of business, but I still think it looks odd for a guy – especially one who claims to be influenced so heavily by bands like The Stooges – to start selling $165 t-shirts in what could be considered the most important rock and roll landmark this side of Sun Studios. At any rate, I thought that the irony was worth noting.

Here’s a clip from a 2008 article in the New York Times:

…A section of wall from CBGB covered in band fliers has been preserved under glass, and in keeping with Mr. Varvatos’s image as a rock ’n’ roll designer — his models include Iggy Pop and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden — the store is decorated with rock memorabilia and also sells vintage vinyl records and audio equipment.

“The whole purpose of coming here was to retain part of the history,” Mr. Varvatos said in an interview, as bands sound-checked before the show, “so that anybody can walk in off the street and experience part of what was here”…

Some CBGB regulars were there on Thursday in support of the store, like Dick Manitoba of the Dictators (who sang “Kick Out the Jams”) and Arturo Vega, the longtime creative director of the Ramones, who showed up in a crisp white Varvatos shirt. (He said he paid for it.)

But not everyone is happy about the new tenant. On the sidewalk outside a handful of protesters complained about the effects of gentrification on the city’s music scene. Rebecca Moore, a musician who is one of the founders of Take It to the Bridge, an activist group that organized the demonstration, sparred loudly with Mr. Vega. Saying that Lower Manhattan is becoming “a playground for rich people,” she shouted: “Forty-thousand-dollar-a-month rents, $1,600 jackets and $800 pants are closing music spaces in New York.”

Smiling, Mr. Vega responded: “When you are good at what you do, money comes, people. Work hard and you’ll be able to afford.”

A chorus of boos drowned him out…

That seemed to be the consensus among the musicians on Thursday. “I’d rather see this than a Dunkin’ Donuts or a Starbucks,” said Jesse Malin of D Generation.

Clem Burke of Blondie added: “It’s better than if it was a Starbucks or a bank. This keeps some of the spirit of the place alive.”

Ernie Fritz, who is making a documentary about CBGB, expressed the ambivalence and perplexity many old-timers feel about the arrival of a luxury retailer whose shoes probably cost more than the Ramones’ full wardrobe of ripped jeans.

“I wanted this to be a Duane Reade,” he said, “because that’s a clear enemy”…

I’m not sure what the point of this post is. I guess I’m happy that at least The Stooges are getting paid for their contribution. That’s more than can be said for all the kids in the 70’s who helped build the scene that could, all these years later, be appropriated and monetized by the likes of Varvatos. With that said, though, I guess it is slightly better that CBGB became a high-end boutique selling “men’s fragrances” than, say, a Starbucks.

Speaking of their men’s fragrances, I like how this one is described:

“An assertive and powerful fragrance with refreshing citrus essences of bergamot and Chinotto orange are spiked with the uniqueness of Ceylonese cinnamon, offering a new take on masculinity.”

Because nothing says masculinity like Ceylonese cinnamon.

And I’m probably the only one who would find this interesting – and maybe it only happened because I’d been searching for information about Varvatos previously – but I just noticed that a pop-up ad for the Varvatos store came up in YouTube a few minutes ago, when I was watching some 1977 footage of the Dead Boys at CBGB. I wonder if it’s possible that Varvatos paid to have his ads come up whenever anyone watches a video tagged with “CBGB.” It woudn’t surprise me.

And let me just say, with all due respect to the advertising folks advising Chrysler, there’s nothing blue collar about $200 t-shirts and the scent of Ceylonese cinnamon.

I find all of this depressing.


This entry was posted in Art and Culture, Media, Pop Culture, Rants, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Emma
    Posted May 23, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    It’s a nice car, also expensive. If you can afford a new Chrysler 300 you can afford a $200. T-shirt.

  2. Walt
    Posted May 23, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    It pissed me off that the Stooges are doing what they want to do with their own song.

  3. DefNot
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    That is the perfect commercial for Bourgieous Bohemianism.

  4. Knox
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    But everyone needs a thneed.

  5. Edward
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Nothing against the Stooges, but it sucks to have your youth commoditized and sold back to you.

  6. Ez
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Pop stars—and most stars, for that matter—have always tended to be capitalists. In fact, there’s a case to be made for the fact that the most “rebellious” of them all (read: the most attention-needing) are indeed the ones most covetous of wealth and fame, no matter how many tattoos or drug addictions.

  7. K2
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    His Converse sneakers are only $125!

  8. Mr. X
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    The Dead Boys play for free on YouTube. YouTube makes money. Shareholders get rich. A John Varvatos ad plays over the malnourished frame of Stiv Baters, sending people to a site where they can by $200 tshirts, thereby keeping the corporation that displaced CBGBs alive. The landlord, according to the article, is making $40,000 a month from them. Everyone gets rich but the poor dope who gave his life for his art. Sucker.

  9. Dan R.
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    He should sell t-shirts with actual blue collars for $200.

  10. Posted May 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    It could have been worse. Iggy could have become a judge on American Idol.

  11. Murcury
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    @Mark: There is no respect due to a company that we bailed out *twice*, makes a shitty product, AND had a hand in destroying the city they’re hanging that ‘blue collar’ pedigree on. I’m glad Iggy is getting paid, but I’m more likely to take a Carnival Cruise than to buy one of those wheeled shitboxes.

One Trackback

  1. By CBGB on August 8, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    […] And thus history was made… Now, of course, Hilly is dead, as are many of the people who helped make CBGB infamous, and the bar itself is now an upscale clothing store, where you can buy $165 t-shirts. […]

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