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
Some random memories:
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!
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."
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
My Great Dane, Jada, was there a lot. I miss her.
The goldfish-eating piranhas.
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
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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