Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is there life after Mars?

As the sad news travels around the neighborhood that Mars Bar will be 'temporarily' closing, my heart sinks.  Nothing here 'temporarily' closes for two years and, even if this were true, Mars would return in name only, stripped of its iconic graffiti-covered walls and devil-may-care atmosphere. 

Mars Bar at Mid-day II

Mars was the original inspiration for this blog.  Since I first laid eyes on the place, I was fascinated.  My original intent was to create a film, along with a collection of photographic profiles and stories of the bar as well as its patrons.  That proved to be a task well-beyond my capabilities at the time, so I've spent the years collecting my notes until the time felt right.


Unfortunately, that time may be sooner than later.  I've always known the end of days would come during my lifetime, but never wanted to face it.  So, here we are and I don't know exactly what to say except I'm devastated.

You will get a different Mars story out of every person who has ever experienced it.  One thing that is common to all is that it's a place like no other.  It possesses a strange attraction:  I was immediately drawn to it's frantic energy, wildness, violence, hilarity, vulgarity, uniqueness, freakishness and it's unequivocal acceptance.  It's the place where everybody knows your name and no one gives a damn.

Halloween 2010

There have been times when I worried I'd be sucked too far into the insanity that is Mars.  As it attracts, it also repels.  When trying to describe the place to anyone who has never been, the descriptions tend to be terribly off-puttng:  dirty, disgusting, violent, crazy, smelly, LOUD, obnoxious, scary, gross...sticky.  At the same time, it can feel as cozy and pleasant as a second home:  friendly, welcoming, amusing, a vacation from the stresses of reality.  I admit my first few visits were to blow off steam.  I wanted to go some place where I could angrily stew and no one would bother me.  Boy, was I wrong.  Not only was I bothered but the folks around me insisted I get happy and did everything possible to make me smile.

Sunday afternoon in Mars

The people I've met in Mars have varied greatly - some have been absolutely awful and terrifying, but the majority have become good friends and all of them are unforgettable.  There have been times when I needed company or amusement, so I've gone into Mars to sit and let the entertainment roll right in.  It never fails to turn any dull day/night into something worthy of its own screenplay. 

I will definitely write more in the coming weeks and months, as this whole experience settles in my mind.  I imagine there will be a flurry of photos, essays, blog posts, articles and videos from many people as I know so many are upset and want to share their own stories.

One fellow Mars fan is AWKWORD, who created the video below.  As he says,
In the spirit of preservation and cultural appreciation, this summer, I, an East Village-based emcee and activist known as AWKWORD, elected to film the music video for my revolutionary anthem "The People's Champ" at Mars Bar. The song being rallying call for a People's Revolution, it seemed fitting to film its accompanying video at a landmark known for its open-door policy for people of all ilks (except maybe Wall Streeters and corrupt cops/politicians)
 During the filming a few months ago, as I rapped before the cameras, with political Mars Bar art being created behind us and a luxury condo complex staring down from across the street, I despairingly presaged a near-future East Village in which ALL the Mars Bars, thrift shops and moms-and-pops are closed... And, unfortunately, it appears my fears may come to fruition.

Direct YouTube link here.

Parting shot:

Mural at Mars Bar

This 2005 mural reads:  "If you make it in NYC, you made it."


Related post:  Roy


  1. please keep the Mars tribute going here--you're the one who can do it. wonderful stuff. thanks for posting it.

  2. Thanks for the great post. Here's my tribute to Mars Bar:

  3. I agree with Jeremiah, keep documenting till Mars is gone, the photos are wonderful and will be nice to look at after the final, graffiti-filled, dusty curtain closes on the joint.

  4. Great coverage Goggla..I must say I have passed by all the Dive Bars in the hood numerous times and have never been in any except The Mars Bar. I went to photograph an art exhibit and found the "regulars" nice and welcoming. The art was great. I think there is a new art show about to open,am I right?

  5. @Melanie - there's a new art show going up right now! It's a good atmosphere - calm, friendly entertainment. If you can't make it today, there should be another show in about a month.