Venue notes: Benny's, Richmond VA

Small punk bar just off the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. Former regular Leo Simonetta writes in 2006 that the place was ultimately "knocked down in VCU's expansion. It might have held 100-150 people if the fire marshal was not paying attention.... It closed as a music venue (I think it was a restaurant for a little while) and then stood empty for a couple of years. But it certainly was closed by the mid to late 1980s and knocked down in the early 1990s."

Owner Benny Waldbauer reminisces in 2006:
      Yes the building was demolished to make room for a VCU building. It looks sort of Egyptian to me. Cool looking.... Legal seating capacity was 51! On more than one occasion, I had 300 paying customers. Paying customers! You know the joke about how many people it takes to put on a punk show....

As far as the Hüsker Dü show, I only remember having our picture taken in the middle of the empty club. Don't have the pic, only the memory.

Some of the more famous/infamous shows or visits would include 10,000 Maniacs... I believe it was their first show outside of NYC. Richard Hell played a Halloween show with a guitarist from Motorhead (if memory serves). Iggy Pop, Clem Burke, and Carlos Alomar came to an after hours Halloween party.

Some random memories:
  • The telephone booth inside
  • Dirt Woman jumping out of my birthday cake
  • The fucking Bad Brains
  • Mikey Rod giving me the stage
  • There was, what eventually became a murder there....before I bought the place
  • "You smell like a Nazi."
  • The break-ins
  • Rats on a stick
  • Johnson's Burger Bar
  • Jada's bowling ball
  • The "Benny-fits" for Throttle magazine, one with a 2-hour version of "Louie Louie."
  • My Great Dane, Jada, was there a lot. I miss her.
  • The goldfish-eating piranhas.
It amazes me sometimes when people refer to Benny's as something special in their lives. Makes me feel good. For instance, I was introduced to the drummer for a local band about a month ago, and he asked, "Are you THE Benny?" 20-some years ago...whew!

One-time bouncer "Z" writes in Dec 2006 to provide another perspective:
      Benny's runs way high on my emotional attachment meter.

I was a 'bouncer' there for a time... we had some good times. At one point we were told that the owners had skipped town and that no one was getting paid. As I recall we the 'employees' kept the place open as long as we could. We paid ourselves from the door till.

The vinyl on the floors was cracked all to hell, and the bathrooms were the punkest ever... with an inch or so of urine/water on the floor: we put down a wooden pallet to keep patrons out of the wet.

I think the bathrooms and the hallway were painted black. Very hard to find your way.

The basement was a great place to do norty stuff. I took my girlfriend down there to make out. The pool table in the back, ditto.

We made a habit of confiscating or cutting off ties... that was the rule. Anyone in a tie was not allowed unless they gave it to me or let me cut it. Often we were very short of employees (hell, we didn't get paid, so we worked mostly for the glory of it)... and so the bands would help out. The Circle Jerks were great bartenders.

GBH put on a great show, as did the Dead Kennedys... that was the very best show ever, with some serious stage diving. Black Flag... well who knew Henry was going to get so famous? It sort of bored me. We liked the DKs and CJs better.

Quite often when there was no show punks would congregate there anyway reminiscing about the previous or upcoming show. It was par for the course that when we closed the bar we'd go to the swingset across the street in the park and stay there fighting and having fun.

Rock-a-Benny's was a weekly show that ended before I got there. By the time I started working it was hell in a handbasket, pure punk joy.

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