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Rippers Sets Sail Again After Sandy

Like the Peach Pit, The Max, and Cheers, the perfect hangout spot with good friends, the right soundtrack, and decent chow may be as fictional as the places we’ve created in our collective cultural imagination. Rippers, a burger shack on the boardwalk at Rockaway Beach, aspires to be that kind of chimerical destination: a spot whose vibe is all hoots, high-fives, and the occasional beer bong.

Rippers—named after the Jersey-style deep-fried hot dog, the ripper—is a joint venture between Bushwick pizzeria Roberta’s and Williamsburg butcher shop the Meat Hook. It is not a restaurant in the standard conception of the word but a beachfront concession stand with a juice counter, a fast-food-format menu, a bare-bones bar, and picnic tables. The space has a surfer’s swagger and a wild and frenetic aesthetic, as if Lisa Frank might pop out from dry storage in a Day-Glo bikini to pound tallboys while The Ramones hammer away on the soundsystem overhead. Behind the counter, there is Rippers swag for purchase: beach towels printed with “Titties and Beer,” stickers, garish T-shirts—everything says, “Life’s a party, you’re at the beach, brah!”

Rippers, like most of the surrounding homes and businesses, was decimated by Hurricane Sandy. A month after their first summer, the storm tore away the boardwalk that anchored the restaurant, dropped the floor out from under the kitchen, and buried appliances in sand. The walk-in refrigerator was looted, and a dead cat was found lodged between the floorboards. Ripper’s future looked grim. General manager Dominic Boero says he thought, “There’s no way we are going to be able to repair by next season.” But in the race to rebuild, the city came through. “They were still pouring concrete the morning of our opening day,” Boero says. With a fresh coat of neon paint and wooden slats erected to filter out the sun, Rippers is one of the few stands in operation amid blocks of eroded beach. On a sunny day, expect a line halfway to the moon.

The food, parties, and live music ensure a rotating cast of hotties, weirdos, and hangers-on. There are local teenagers sweeping the floors, cooks from the city looking for a seasonal break from demanding restaurant jobs, and Brooklyn hipsters heading to the beach. Old-timers from the public housing across the street sit on benches and compare tattoos with youngsters. Dominican families relax and share fries. And what could be a perfunctory concession stand serving dry pucks on bad buns that taste passable because you’re 50 feet from the beach actually offers great food.

Using a nimble mix of chefly technique and cutting the right corners, the kitchen hits the mark quickly enough that the masses don’t get sunstroke waiting for their food. The ketchup is Heinz and the crinkle-cut pickles come in plastic tubs, but the hot sauce is homemade, and the veggie burger ($7.50)—a deep-fried falafel-esque patty of black beans, red quinoa, parsley, and onion—is actually something you want to eat. Hot dogs ($4) are made by the Meat Hook and have a hot, garlicky snap. Instead of twice-frying potatoes to achieve crunch (or using pre-cut frozen industrial fries), the cooks dredge freshly cut, skin-on spuds in flour, heavily seasoned with black pepper, paprika, and salt, drop them into hot oil, and fry to firm. The fries ($4) are stippled and salty, even better cloaked in cheese sauce, and, when it’s available, a chunky orange chili, burning with warm spice.

The Rippers flattop—dented, slanted, and seasoned with the melting grease of a million hamburgers—sears the beef. The patties sizzle and spurt; they’re flipped once to solidify a browned crust, then topped with American cheese that wilts over the burger, covering it like a yellow shawl. Slipped on a Martin’s potato bun with pickles, shredded iceberg lettuce, and special sauce, the cheeseburger ($7.50) is compact but juicy, a five-bite wonder. The hard body ($10)—double meat, double cheese—is double pleasure.

There are fitting specials: chili cheese nachos, breakfast burritos, and whole porgies deep-fried to order and served with cabbage slaw. There is no liquor license, just beer, tall cans of Budweiser, Bud Light, and Narragansett, with Six Point on tap and boxed wine served in plastic cups. It’s-It ice cream sandwiches and a tart frozen yogurt satisfy any sweet tooth. The sun beats down, Danzig blasts from the speakers, the beer is very cold. Have another burger; you can wash the drippings off in the surf.

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Melissa Auf der Maur

A film, a comic, other assorted media accoutrements: Out of Our Minds, Melissa Auf der Maur’s second and long-time-coming 2010 solo album, came with everything but a rebate for Shake Weights. An ambitious if largely hook-free alchemy of ’90s alt posturing, Viking barbarism, and Danzig guest shots, the album nevertheless established former Hole bassist “MAdM” (natch) as a strong artist for a new age of dream metal nerds. She is your queen. Note that animal sacrifices are prohibited at Highline Ballroom. With the Shining Twins and Leah Siegel.

Thu., March 3, 8 p.m., 2011

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2010’s Best Comics and Graphic Novels

We’re sorry, but 2010 has been a dreary slog (Tea Party, anyone?), which is reflected in just about every graphic narrative that moved us this year. But we won’t let darkness visible obscure the intense artistry found in our picks of 2010’s best comics and other illustrated provocations.

For starters, we now know what 1930s anti-Nazi collagist John Heartfield would have done with the physiognomies of Hitler and Goebbels if only he’d had Photoshop. In Repuglicans (Boom Studios, 128 pp., $14.99), Pete Von Sholly brings every right-wing potentate from Newt to Sarah to undead life with bloated, pustular flesh, frothing fangs, black-oil eyes, and other colorful grotesqueries. Steve Tatham’s pithy commentary confirms that the policies of these demagogues are every bit as monstrous as their portraits.

Even more horrifying, Danzig Baldaev’s Drawings From the Gulag (Fuel, 240 pp., $32.95) documents the phantasmagorical evil of the Soviet prison system. Female “enemies of the people” were thrown into cells to be gang-raped by thieves and murderers; children of imprisoned dissidents were given a “ticket to a happy childhood”—a euphemism for a bullet to the head. One prisoner lamented that “a human being survives by his ability to forget,” but Baldaev (1925–2005), who served as a camp guard and risked his own freedom to create these unflinching, painstakingly crosshatched scenes, knew that forgetting only allows such horrors to be repeated.

The Sinister Truth: MK Ultra (Pop Industries, 102 pp., $11.95) exposes our own government’s nefarious experiments with mind control and the CIA’s 638 different plots to kill Castro (and you thought it was only exploding cigars). Jason Ciaccia’s tale of LSD-crazed assassins would seem ridiculously hyperbolic if it weren’t derived from the CIA’s own files. With nods to Grosz, Bacon, and Steadman, Aaron Norhanian’s fervid ink drawings propel this witty hybrid of underground comix and the History channel right over the top.

Another aspect of America’s id gets probed in The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read! (Abrams, 304 pp., $29.95). Jim Trombetta’s exuberant prose posits that postwar visions of atomic Armageddon, combined with rebellion against the era’s social constipation, inspired paroxysms of four-color mayhem. Bluenoses all around the country held comic books up as examples not only of why Johnny couldn’t read but also why he was out raping, robbing, and killing. Copious color reproductions highlight the lucid lunacy of Basil Wolverton, the proto-psychedelia of L.B. Cole, and other inspired craftsmen of the macabre.

By 1955, Congressional pressure had driven horror comics out of business, but in less than a decade Creepy and Eerie magazines resurrected the genre like some reanimated corpse seeking revenge on its own murderer. Darkhorse’s striking reprints (currently at 13 hardcover volumes, $49.95 each) reveal such industry giants as Gene Colan, Russ Heath, Jerry Grandenetti, and Alex Toth using ink wash, crosshatching, and swathes of Zip-a-tone to lend their murderers and monsters convincing presence. These always entertaining, occasionally brilliant stories — see Archie Goodwin and Steve Ditko’s kaleidoscopic time shifts in “Collector’s Edition” (Creepy Vol. 2) — gain force from the lithe black-and-white layouts.

Meanwhile, contemporary horror keeps coming at us like a zombie tsunami. Julia Gfrörer’s Flesh and Bone (Sparkplug, 40 pp., $6) features ardent line drawings of wan figures that might have escaped from an Elizabeth Peyton painting. This unearthly collision of witchcraft, gruesome love, and pathetic death dissipates into a truly poignant climax.

Equally absorbing, Charles Burns’s X’ed Out (Pantheon, 56 pp., $19.95) takes his obsession with the mating habits of teenagers to otherworldly planes. Burns allies luxuriant brushwork with an inspired palette that illuminates boho parties and mutant dystopias with equal conviction.

King of the Flies: 1. Hallorave (Fantagraphics, 64 pp., $18.99) manages to combine dystopia and partying in one particularly morose suburban nabe. Artist Pascal “Mezzo” Mesenburg’s crisp scenes of druggy costume soirées and bowling-alley liaisons deftly complement writer Michel Pirus’s slyly interlocking tales of depraved jollies in suburbia.

No one, however, can transform the workaday into existentially bleak page-turners like Chris Ware. His tales of myopic relationships and enervated dreams shimmer with eloquent graphics, precisely tuned dialogue, and perfect-pitch body language. In Lint, Acme Novelty Library Vol. 20 (Drawn & Quarterly, 72 pp., $23.95), we see parents’ faces slowly come into focus through their baby’s eyes, watch the young Jordan Lint grow into an adult-scaled world, then follow his punctured ambitions and bumptious middle-aged affairs to the moment when everything contracts back down to that first dot of consciousness. Astonishing.

Also dazzling, Dirty Baby (Prestel, 160 pp., $125.00) begins with Ed Ruscha’s paintings of blurrily silhouetted sailing ships and foreboding tract homes overlaid with white bars implying censored phrases. Each of these mysterious images is counterpointed by David Breskin’s witty poetry (derived from such Ruscha titles as “Be Cautious Else We Be Bangin’ on You”). Rather than explicate the pictures, the poems seek to metaphorically fill the blank areas with fresh interpretations. Nels Cline’s clashing musical harmonies (included on four inset audio CDs) further stitch poetry and canvas together into a mordantly funny, amorphously beautiful genre Frankenstein.

But if you’re looking for the current gold standard in straight-up comic-book artistry, Darwyn Cooke is your man. The Outfit (IDW, 160 pp., $24.99), like last year’s The Hunter, sets one of Donald Westlake’s crime thrillers against Rat Pack–era backdrops, where antihero Parker wages a profitable war on syndicate bosses who want him dead. Westlake’s cynical characterizations — a thrill-seeking society girl pouts when a would-be hitman confesses before he can be tortured — merge with Cooke’s diverse layouts and visceral figures to keep the plot burning rubber from wire to wire.

DC Comics Superman Vs Muhammad Ali

Neal Adams set equally high standards in the 1960s and ’70s with masterful renditions of characters as disparate as Jerry Lewis, Deadman, and Batman. In 1978, Adams, along with the virtuoso writer Denny O’Neil,  yanked out all the stops to portray that era’s most incandescent personality in Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. DC has reprinted the original oversize comic in a lavish facsimile edition (80 pp., $39.99) that provides a nostalgic respite from our current national malaise. The plot opens in the ghetto as the Champ plays hoops with a multiracial gaggle of kids, but it’s not long before an alien armada arrives to lay waste to Earth. Things get progressively wiggier as Supes and The Greatest take their lumps in the ring against the humongous invaders; Adams’s hyperkinetic action sequences are barely contained by the page margins. The book closes on a poster-size spread as the two heroes shake hands after truth, justice, and superior fisticuffs have straightened those freakin’ aliens right out.

So maybe there’s hope for the American way, after all.

¶ Web Extra!

And here are a few online bonus items to round out our admittedly idiosyncratic baker’s dozen of the year’s best:

Simon and Schuster’s new “Pulp History” line digs into America’s seamy past, with Devil Dog (160 pp., $19.99). U.S. Marine Smedley Darlington Butler (1881-1940) fought bravely against Germans, Chinese, Nicaraguans, and anyone else he was pointed at before writing an exposé entitled “War Is a Racket.” David Talbot chronicles Butler’s shift from self-described “muscle man for Big Business” to supporter (and, by some accounts, savior) of Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, while comix luminary Spain Rodriguez provides flamboyant illustrations to complement archival photographs, period posters, and news clippings.

Amping up tropes from The Stand, The Road Warrior, and other post-apocalyptic jaunts, Jeff Lemire’s ongoing Sweet Tooth (Vertigo, vol. 1, 128 pp., $9.99, vol. 2, 144 pp., $12.99) envisions a ravaged world populated by roving gangs tracking down hybrid human-animal babies in order to determine the cause of a global plague. Gus is a sweet-tempered, doe-eyed tyke with antlers growing from his head; when his religious-fanatic father dies, Gus travels with a former NHL brawler who, in exchange for his dead wife’s corpse, trades the kid to a militia performing experiments on the new breed of children. Lemire’s disheveled line work, somber palette, and angular black silhouettes keep this surprisingly touching story entirely believable.

While set in the here and now, A God Somewhere (Wildstorm, 200 pp., $24.99) climaxes with apocalyptic slaughter, as tales of gods generally do. John Arcudi’s grim narrative of delivery-man Eric Forster’s accidental ascent to omnipotence is bolstered by Peter Snejbjerg’s expressionist violence and overt visual references to such classical compositions as Michelangelo’s Christ the Judge, from the Sistine Chapel. Families, generals, and presidents suffer as Forster’s good intentions are outstripped by the power his ego can’t contain. His dearest friend, wishing that the chain of events leading to widespread carnage had somehow been different, finally despairs, “There is no ‘if.’ There is only ‘is.’ ”

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Danzig+Gorgeous Frankenstein

While he may no longer be the 5’3”-tall throbbing bicep he was in the “Mother” video 17 years ago, metal legend Glenn Danzig has retained the mighty and mournful bellow that defined his glory days. His band Danzig’s latest, “Deth Red Sabaoth” (out Tuesday), is also the group’s strongest since that time, but that also has something to do with its current lineup, which includes members of like-thinkers Type O Negative, Prong, and Ministry. Wait and see tonight if these heavy hitters can pull off the tender “Thirteen,” which got prime placement in The Hangover. With Gorgeous Frankenstein and Seventh Void.

Fri., June 18, 7:30 p.m., 2010

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Another Robert Pollard Record?!?

It’s September 2027, and you’re authoring a program for the 96-hour “Robert Pollard Flying Party Marathon,” to be held next month in celebration of what would have been Our Hallowed Bob’s 70th birthday. An arduous undertaking: Having spent the last year living, eating, imbibing, and excreting the many and sundry by-products of Guided by Voices, Lexo and the Leapers, the Soft Rock Renegades, and so forth, you’re up for it. Your concerns are tactical, with an eye to placating the armed and ornery Postal Blowfish contingent, limiting the size and expense of the guide itself, and maximizing concession-stand purchases of all-beef franks and Budweiser. Which recordings demand breathless appreciations (e.g., Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department, Bee Thousand, his mid-1990s Matador output)? Which bear highlighting for select nuggets (e.g., Isolation Drills and Universal Truths & Cycles)? Which selections could simply be listed unceremoniously (e.g., Suitcase, Airport 5 in general, Normal Happiness)?

You reach an impasse at the one-two solo punch of Coast to Coast Carpet of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions, released in October 2007. The former is stolid but unremarkable, while the latter, though intriguingly rough-and-tumble, is a more accessible shadow of earlier Pollard diversions wherein the erstwhile Fading Captain seemed to cast aside watery-domestic for some harder stuff, à la Kid Marine and Waved Out, about which you’ve already been overly effusive in your praise. Yet there are glad girls skinny-dipping in the bath water. Carpet coughs up the faux-chippy, McCarthyesque “Nicely Now” and the autumnal shrug-chuggery of “Miles Under the Skin,” its pretty, sunny strum gripped by droning keyboards that one could mistake for strings. But Decisions is where the real action almost is: “The Killers” doles out reverse-negative blare props to Brandon Flowers and Ernest Hemingway, joined by the starched-note paranoia of “Don’t Trust Anybody,” the mid-tempo gang-chant “Here Comes Garcia,” and the buff, bludgeoned strut of “Butcher Man,” which Danzig totally should’ve covered before that fatal bench-pressing incident in ’09. So Carpet‘s just another title on the list, Decisions rates a coupla begrudging sentences, and hey, only 29 discs left to go!

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Behind the Bar

The lovely and inimitable Tanya Dias, a 33-year-old bartender at neighborhood spot Reif’s Tavern, talks with us about the “bitter little man” that is Danzig, customers who are family, and one of the best Christmas gifts she ever received—her sock puppet.

So you’re from Boston? Yeah, back and forth for 18 years. I used to sleep in that park [gesturing to Tompkins Square] when I was a teenager. I never ran away, [just went to New York for a while]. There used to be a bar on the corner, Alcatraz. That was still Tent City, before they closed off the park to the homeless . . . The F train was a pretty long train to sleep on, just pass out in the first car.

I had a friend who was with me for a little while, April. We used to sleep on a roof of these guys we knew, like seven of them to a tiny apartment on Mott Street. We had great tans. We’d go to these parties, and then jump in the shower real quick. I used to steal toothpaste.

As a teenager, I used to spend a lot of time in bars. I knew a lot about my music history, so I was telling a guy, “Yeah, I remember when Hendrix died.” I wasn’t even born then. That’s how I used to get into the Scrap Bar, on MacDougal Street.

What was Scrap Bar like? It was a heavy metal paradise. I could get as fucked up as I wanted, it was great. A lot of metal bands would hang out there. I met Metallica in there, Danzig, Joey Ramone.

My roommate’s a big fan of Danzig. He’s a dick.

What is Reif’s like? Most of our business comes from our regulars. One guy’s been a regular since the ’50s. Bobby. We have one guy, he’s does a lot of Shakespearean plays; we call him “Shakey.” Almost all of our regulars were at the [owner’s] wedding: Shakey, Too Tall— who I realized, I don’t even know his real name. I fought really hard to try to figure out what kind of music Too Tall likes so I can play it.

So you tailor what you play to the customers?
Yeah. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling some woman I had Willie Nelson in my iPod. She made me play “You are Always on My Mind.” I downloaded it in case someone wanted to hear it, and then when the day came I wanted to kill myself.
I had one guy who jumped on the bar the other day because I was playing “Ride Like the Wind” by Kristopher Kross.

Such a corny song. It’s not a corny song! C’mon, Michael McDonald does backup.

Who’s your favorite customer? That’s like choosing a favorite tattoo.

When did you get your first tattoo? I was 17. Got it around the corner in some guy’s living room. He had to keep stop tattooing me to throw up.

Did you have anything to numb it when you got it? Life. Ha.

Is it hard being around so much alcohol now when you don’t drink yourself? In my first year [after I stopped drinking] it was uncomfortable because I knew I had to be sober, so I was a secretary at an art-handling company. But secretarial work is the most soul-sucking profession.

No, for me, liquor doesn’t equal a good time. [When I was drinking] I worked in extremes. It was either the best night, or the worst and I wanted to kill something.

What certain behavior do bartenders hate? When people shout out your name. The bar I work at is not a long bar. No matter where I’m standing, I’m NEAR you.

Flicking money at the bartenders just shows how much you look down on them. Or being called “Yo.” Oh, and don’t ever touch the bartender. This guy on St. Patrick’s Day, nice guy but too drunk . . . He kept grabbing my arm to kiss my hand, and tried to grab my hat, but just pulled my head forward instead . . . I told him, “Don’t EVER put a finger on me AGAIN. I’m not hear for your fuckin’ amusement.”

Do people ever say rude stuff? This guy, he figured I guess cause I don’t drink, I don’t get high, and I’m vegan, his response was, “Well, do ya fuck?”

Have you ever told someone off? Look at me. Do you think I’ve ever told anyone off?

How do you get rid of customers diplomatically? Instead of letting people scream and bark at me, I’ll just turn the music up. Of course, I’ll apologize ahead of time [to the others].

What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten for Christmas? The thing I’ve used the most is a pink Paul Frank sock monkey. I sleep with a blue one and the pink one.

I fell asleep last night with my slippers on, bunny slippers that say “Everybody’s a dick.” At some point, I lost the monkey, and I woke up this morning curled up with a fucking bunny slipper.

Do you decorate for the holidays? Like crazy. I downloaded the Chipmunks’ Christmas, when my friend was elfing. I made this list of requirements to be my elf: You can’t be allergic to cats or turtles, cause I have a cat and turtle. Well, obviously, no one’s allergic to turtles. You aren’t allowed to say “fine” or “whatever.” You had to wear whatever I wanted you to wear. And be nimble and spry.

What was one of your best Christmases? My boyfriend’s parents have really brought back Christmas the way I knew it as a child.

His parents really threw me off, because they’re all about Christmas. They showered me with gifts. I kept having to take bathroom breaks to cry. Because of my heavily tattooed and pierced appearance, I don’t expect parents or even some adults to really look past that.

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Listings

This nondescript geek came in search of a musical haven and found it at this no-frills bar with modest tables and photos of Danzig, Dio, and Peter Criss on one wall. With “Where Is My Mind?” as background music, co-owner Kelly Comstock, bartender Carlos, and I were discussing whether a Pixies reunion tour would end with Frank Black telling Kim Deal she “would fucking die.” Once your lips stop burning from Carlos’s mean Bloody Mary (made from scratch, $5), anyone’ll shoot the shit over whatever’s playing. The B-side special (a can of Rheingold—the new Pabst—and a shot of whiskey, $5) wets the tongue and warms the belly, encouraging sing-alongs to the jukebox’s canon of glam rock and punk (the Clash, Black Sabbath, Love and Rockets, Bad Brains, Fugazi, and more!). The pool table, the Who’s Tommy pinball machine, and 3 to 8 p.m. happy hour (two-for-one drinks or a $4 baby Bud with tequila shot) raise the comfort level. Outside, I overheard someone yell, “You’re an ‘Orgasm Addict’! like a Buzzcock” and dropped eaves on a guy explaining how “Shake It Up” changed his life. I knew I had found my people.


bars@villagevoice.com

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Boy Toys

As anyone who has ever wandered into a guitar store especially knows, boys love their toys. Watch the acne-plagued teenager’s eyes close and lips part as he grasps a Fender Strat in his grubby mitts; see the bulge in his pants rise as he twiddles some knobs and leans into the wah-wah pedal. Witness 30-year-old “DJ Breath Weapon,” who still lives with his parents, take command of the sampler, showing it who’s Daddy now.

So it isn’t at all surprising that Matt Mahaffey (a/k/a Self) recorded his new album using only toy instruments. What’s surprising is his claim that it hasn’t been done before—surely Frank Zappa, Beck, or even John Cage must’ve pondered the possibilities of ripping a mean Mattel See & Say solo. At certain points during Gizmodgery, it seems like the entire history of recorded music has been leading up to this album, as if it was only a natural progression from the Les Paul to the Hasbro Musi-Link. Edgard Varèse experimenting with early musique concrète, Trent Reznor manhandling a bank of synthesizers, Mahaffey holed up in a Murfreesboro, Tennessee, studio with a gazillion plastic noisemakers—what’s the difference?

“Trunk Fulla Amps” samples Danzig, ELO, Lenny Kravitz, and Queen (no lie), while “ILoveToLoveYourLoveMyLove” is a doo-wop parody. The cover of the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” takes falsettos and keyboard hooks from early-’80s Prince. “Ordinaire” sounds enough like a modern-rock hit to call Matchbox 20’s instrumentation into question. But Gizmodgery‘s best song is easily “Pattycake,” a funky romp through the pleasures of being a kid. Its “Miss Lucy Had a Steamboat” interpolation is the greatest musical use of a playground chant since, uh, “Country Grammar.” Which only proves that, at its heart, rock and roll is little more than child’s play.