Monday, March 12, 2012

In Loving Memory, Billy's Antiques

Billy Leroy
Clayton Patterson, a personal hero.

Originally called Lot 76, the tent near Bowery and Houston has stood for almost 30 years selling items that run the spectrum from ‘antique’ to ‘second-hand’ to ‘junk.’ The always-entertaining Billy Leroy took over the operation 2003 and his personality and flair have made him something of a downtown celebrity. If you are unfamiliar I suggest you check out this little profile on Billy’s here. I found a few little treasures there over the years but beyond ‘buying and selling’ Billy’s also served as a gathering place for local characters and misfits. It was always a treat to walk past (through?) the place and see who was there and what new bizarre thing they’d set out front.

The closing marks a sad but seemingly inevitable day for a neighborhood that continues to march toward Manhattan assimilation.  Billy himself even prophetically dramatized the shop’s tenuous survival in the film ‘Dirty Old Town’ just last year. Though unsurprising, it was still disappointing when it was announced last week that they’d be closing the doors flaps forever.

Rather than simply walk away, Billy decided a more fitting end would have the tent carried away, literally, by pall bearers in a mock funeral held to honor the store’s passing. On Friday night the empty tent hosted a wake and invited the neighborhood to come by to pay final respects. The usual carnival like atmosphere of Billy’s pervaded the event, with eulogies and speeches interspersed between bands playing.  I stopped by early just to wish Billy well and was lucky to be there while he delivered an emotional and grateful speech thanking everyone for their support.

In his words “You all look like you bought something, so you can stay.”

Pics and video of the funeral procession are available via Bowery Boogie here.