Rest In Peace, Johnny Dirt

Johnny called me up last year and said he was coming back to New Jersey to do some business and would like to drop by to see me. I said “sure thing, Johnny.” Mr. Dirt and I go back a long ways. It seems like eons ago when we first became friends in Bloomfield. I always liked John because he was never pretentious and never afraid to say exactly what was on his mind. He shot straight from the hip—a real no bullshit kinda guy.

We all know his story. He wrapped himself up in the post-punk new wave music scene in the 1980s, and successfully made The Dirt Club the center of attention for what was happening on the NJ music scene. He invited every freak, experimental artist, punker, glammer and bored suburban youth to join in the mayhem. He was courageous and many times took a lot of shit for it. But he was having fun while it lasted. He created a persona that was truly unique. I often told him he was one of the top 10 people that I met during my life, that I will always remember him as being a real original.

When John got back to Bloomfield, I told him that I wanted to take a few photos of him at the property where the Dirt Club once stood. He still had a distain for the township of Bloomfield. In the end days of the club, the town more or less told him they didn’t want the elements that the club attracted, and after legal hassles and fire codes and everything else they could throw on him, he gave it up. The town thought a better idea was to put up a parking lot. The building was razed and to this day, it remains just a landfill. Just dirt, so to speak.

As we’re standing there looking over the dirt lot that held so many memories for the thousands of bands and performers that had passed through its doors, John said something eerily prophetic as he picks up an old black t-shirt and a woman’s shoe that was sticking out of the soil:

“From ashes to ashes and dirt to dirt, no matter who you are, someday you’re going to be in the Big Dirt Club right here. And they call that six-feet under. When you’re in The Dirt Club, this is the proper shirt to wear. And after about 20 years, this is what your bones will look like (shaking the dirt out of the shoe). You will all be part of Dirtology of the past.”

So long Johnny, it’s been great to know you.