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July  29

Where Have All The Diners Gone?

For the last few weeks, signs on the door had mentioned that Willie's Diner was simply closed for renovation. This looks like something more, especially since there was a major renovation about 10 years ago. Will devoted fans from Glen Ridge and Bloomfield make the switch to the Nevada? Is another Dunkin Donuts planning to infiltrate? Stay tuned...(Photo by Paul Zalewski)

July 29, 2005 in Brand New | Permalink


Lots of Bloomfield Forum chatter here

Posted by: Chris | Jul 29, 2005 12:43:02 PM

My four-year-old son told me yesterday, "Willies is broken!"

Hope they're coming back....

Posted by: patrick | Jul 29, 2005 12:49:58 PM

It's interesting how, given the camera angle, Willie's looks as if it's situated on a large plaza. Whereas we know it's not, and that it utterly lacks its own parking, which doubtless has to play a role in whatever succeeeds the diner.

It was great, as other posters have and probaly will note. A place to conjure up the spirit of Edward Hopper in a way The Nevada can never aspire to. Anytime after about 7PM in there, it always seemed to me to be about 1AM.

Posted by: cathar | Jul 29, 2005 1:08:15 PM

A great stop after hanging out at the now-defunct Dirt Club.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Jul 29, 2005 1:29:04 PM

Nothing in the Independent Press about it? All we had to do was look out the window for a great view of their dumpster. Imagine if I had a digital camera and a blog back then! Anyway, if we knew they were shutting down (August is probably the best time to do it) we would have stocked up on their cheesecake!

Posted by: Anthony Buccino | Jul 29, 2005 1:59:55 PM

Willie's did have its own parking... down by the library parking lot.

There's no way the Nevada will ever be our replacement. The food is exactly like you can get anywhere else, it's the service that is SO HORRIBLE that it's crossed off our list forever.

Luckily, the Nutley Diner is back to normal after staying open through renovation so we can go there for taylor ham and pancakes. Yippee!!!

Posted by: Bloomfield Alice | Jul 29, 2005 2:01:03 PM

boy do i miss the dirt club.........

Posted by: cstarling | Jul 29, 2005 2:04:37 PM

"boy do i miss the dirt club........."

Me, too!! And there's been nothing else like it since. Now they want to close down CBGB's in Manhattan, too! All due to a greedy landlord, what else?

Posted by: Miss Martta | Jul 29, 2005 2:37:33 PM

fill me in on the dirt club! when was it around? where? what was it? sounds interesting.

Posted by: efs | Jul 29, 2005 2:57:48 PM

I'm sure Cathar can help em otu here as well.

The Dirt was a non-descript (from the outside anyway) building on Orange Street in Bloomfield that housed one of the best punk rock clubs in NJ. NOT to be confused with a club for posers, as was Hitsville in Passaic. A lot of punkers who made it famous played at The Dirt: Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys, Talking Heads, The Jitterz, The Products.....those are the ones that come to mind right now. Johnny Dirt, the owner, was a great guy in that he gave a lot of just-starting-out bands stage time, when other clubs would not.
He would also book acts, like G.G. Allin, that no one else would touch.

It was always very dark inside and at one point, he had an artist paint black light murals on the walls.

Before it went punk, the club was a go-go bar (I think back in the mid-70s?), then a it just had the go-go thing during lunch time. It was under a different name then, too, I believe.

Some of my best memories are from The Dirt.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Jul 29, 2005 3:07:56 PM


This site says it all!

Posted by: Miss Martta | Jul 29, 2005 3:18:49 PM

in the late 70's early eighties- down by dodd street--run by johnny "Dirt" and his Blondie look alike wife , who at this moment, name escapes me--so many punk-new wave bands played there--

-it truely was a hole in the wall- but a bar and booths (they eventually took boths out) -dance floor-NYC came to Bloomfield-

-and we did the eighties thing drink-fall down-drink some more and dance, dance, dance with the likes of Johnny Thunder-Lenny Smith--local bands--Jonathan Richman and the Modern lovers (of the "Something About Mary" fame -

and kick ass dj too -(Sex Pistols, Clash, B-52's)

-ah yes and the occassional slam dance-

-oh and the cast of characters----

-----thanks miss martha u made me smile

Posted by: cstarling | Jul 29, 2005 3:19:30 PM

I saw Jonathan Richman, there, too! I almost forgot about him. I fell in love the first time I heard him do "Roadrunner" and my fave, "Hospital."

One other thing: for $1 you could buy tiny "Dirt bags," little clumps of dirt wrapped up in black fabric with rhe word DIRT painted on it in dayglo colors. Complete with safety pin so you could wear it!

Plus Johnny had jars of dirt from all over the world lining the back wall of the bar. In fact, when patrons would go on vacation, they would bring back dirt from their various destinations.

BTW, Johnny's wife was name Mernie, or something like that. And she did resemble Debbie Harry.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Jul 29, 2005 3:27:25 PM

I will bow to Miss Martta's recollections of the Dirt Club (walleroo, read NOTHING into this).

It was, I think looking back, a 3-4 year period in the late 70's. "Johnny Dirt" was a character. Usually drunk whenever I bounced into him. Very friendly, no businessman, I used to wonder how the bands got paid until someone else reminded me they were generally even more out of it than he was. He also ran, once or twice, "Dirtstock" along the Passaic RIver in Belleville somewhere. And he collected vials of dirt from interesting places. I once gave him one from Stonehenge and he seemed genuinely touched.

There also used to be, round that time, a bar around the corner right on Bloomfield Ave, that had live country music. Once Eddie Rabbitt, passing through (he grew up in East Orange) on tour, jammed with the house band at the time, Cliff Cherokee (yes, he was a genuine Cherokee) and the Tomahawks. One of those band members, who had a beer route as his day job, in fact told me that when making deliveries he'd sometimes find last night's band sleeping on the floor of the Dirt Club.

"Come play at the Dirt Club, it's good clean fun!" was one of Johnny Dirt's ad taglines. Another was "The Dirt Club is all natural!" "There's a lot you can do with this name," he always said. Nice guy, fundamentally a great saloonkeeper trying to act less than his chronological age via band muscle tees and studded wristbands.

In addition to the bands cited above, I recall Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers at the Dirt Club once or twice, and also Greg Kihn around the time he had a huge hit with "Jeopardy." It wasn't the Diva Lounge, in other words.

But I don't know about "best memories," Miss Martta. More like, it was of the times.......

Posted by: cathar | Jul 29, 2005 3:35:15 PM

"It wasn't the Diva Lounge, in other words."

Thank Gawd for that!


Posted by: Miss Martta | Jul 29, 2005 3:38:52 PM

Was it the 80's? Good grief! Shows how much time I wasted back then, years worth. Oh well. I bow to everyone else's memories here.

But the crowd wasn't "tough" kids, let's get that straight. It wasn't someplace hopeless like the bitter blocks of Manchester or Glasgow in the UK. More likely, come closing time and the post-club visit to Willie's, they returned to suburban comfort in towns like Glen Ridge and Montclair and washed the gel out of their faux spikes rather than catch hell from their parents for staining the pillowcases the next morning.

There is something vastly silly about being a crowd in NJ that mouths along to the Sex Pistols singing "No future....no future for you" and sports t-shirts touting The Damned and Kill Van Kull & the Pollutants in other words. Silly but fun as long as you keep it all in context.

Posted by: cathar | Jul 29, 2005 3:46:26 PM

Actually, Miss Martta, I've always sort of liked disco. There's something about people bathing before going out and wearing clean clothes that appeals mightily to me.

Ditto for country music, by the bye. Just like Merle sings, "When you're runnin' down my country, hoss, you're walkin' on the fightin' side of me." Hence my of my politicized postings.

Posted by: cathar | Jul 29, 2005 3:49:05 PM

"There's something about people bathing before going out and wearing clean clothes that appeals mightily to me."

LOL, I agree, Cathar, but even when I was a punker, my clothes and person were always clean, despite my spiked hair and harlot eyeliner.

But I would rather have root canal than listen to that disco dreck they refer to as music. And how could you stand the disco people?

Now C/W, THAT I can understand. Ever been to the C/W club out on 78 (exit 40, I believe)?

Posted by: Miss Martta | Jul 29, 2005 3:59:54 PM

Yes cathar! I knew you liked disco when you mentioned "Shake Your Groove Thing."

And I don't think you want to "bow" if walleroo is around...:)

Posted by: Liz | Jul 29, 2005 4:11:04 PM

You mean the Colorado Cafe, in Watchung? Yes, I've been a few times (and even know how to two-step).

Such are market realities, however, that even there they only "go country" two nights a week now, I believe. It's tough with no radio station in the area playing the music, either for clubs to advertise on or with which to whip up interest for the music. From everything I hear, few clubs of any sort truly thrive lately.

But disco dreck? By everything that's holy, including the complete non-Kiss musical output of Casablanca Records, I beg to differ. Even the Rolling Stones did a many-minutes remix of one of their songs for club play. Even Barbra Streisand did (though in her case, yes, "Enough is Enough" after about 4 minutes). It's mindless and not worth listening to at home, I freely admit. But in a club or the car...

And I'm sure you were a neat punk indeed. No doubts there. As for self, the only black t-shirts I wear are for Harley dealerships or custom bike shops.

Posted by: cathar | Jul 29, 2005 4:18:04 PM

By way of apology and explanation to both Liz and Miss Martta, there are times when the recordings of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir led by Paul Hillier (which is actually what I play most at home, along with Kenny Vance and Dwight Yoakam) just don't satisfy. You did indeed find me out there. My soul is dappled with a sequin or two.

I also used to get paid for covering clubs, to be fair, too. And I eagerly await the return to this area, ladies, of a club with the truly eclectic booking policy of either the old Joint in the Woods in Parsippany or Club Bene in Morganville. But it ain't gonna happen, I fear.

Dance on, nonetheless, and enjoy the coming weekend.

Posted by: cathar | Jul 29, 2005 4:34:55 PM

I'm with you Cathar -- Giorgio Moroder, Alex R. Constantinos...Donna Summer Lve & More

Posted by: Liz | Jul 29, 2005 5:00:17 PM

thanks for the info! it's pretty cool to see some punk fans on good old Baristanet. :)

Posted by: efs | Jul 29, 2005 5:27:22 PM

Miss Martta said: "NOT to be confused with a club for posers, as was Hitsville in Passaic."

Hey, watch it Missy. :) I grew up in Passaic and this was one of my stomping grounds...where I enjoyed watching Robbie Watson & The Speedometers...tho I ain't no punk. I prefer to call myself, "a rocker". :D

And my husband's band (noone notable enough to mention) played The Dirt Club once.

My problem with the probable demise of Willie's is since I live on Liberty, I've given it as a landmark with directions to my house. Otherwise, I prefer The Nevada.

Posted by: Surrounded | Jul 29, 2005 8:00:45 PM

P.S. Thanks for that link Miss M. I didn't realize The Smithereens were a Dirt house band. I actually voted for one of them (whose name escapes me) for senate a few years back.

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