Posted in music | venues on March 31, 2011

Don Hill (photo by Julian Ungano)
Don Hill
Don Hill

As tweeted by Moby (see above) and many other notable club veterans, and confirmed to me via a call to Don Hill's who said there is a memorial tonight (3/31) at the club (toast at midnight), nightclub owner and legend Don Hill has sadly passed away. Though details are scarce at the moment, some on Twitter are saying he was "found dead in his apartment" "this morning". Update: someone seemingly in the know says: "He passed away at the hospital. Not in his apartment. It was this evening around 7, not this morning." And Bebe Buell adds (in reaction to the last minute midnight toast), "Don's actual memorial will be the biggest coming together of all the people he has helped+supported-those of us who loved him+knew him well." Stay tuned for more info.

Murray Hill calls it the end of an era. Miss Guy says he was the nicest person in nightlife. Justine D agrees. I didn't know him personally, but I always liked seeing him hanging around his club that shared his name. He opened Don Hill's in the early 90's and before that managed the East Village's Cat Club (David Bowie & Peter Frampton played there in 1987). "American Hardcore" author Steven Blush (who also worked at Don Hill's) once wrote...

" I booked [GG Allen] at the Cat Club. His most infamous part of the show is to shit on the stage and throw it at the crowd and got thrown out. I got written up in the Village Voice for the show that I had put on. The irony, of course, is that the manager of the Cat Club was Don Hill and I couldn't work any more at that club after that but we always remained friendly....

...Don Hill is the best club owner in New York. After the Cat Club, when that closed, a couple of years later, Don did what he was supposed to do, which was own his own club. Don has the support of the whole club community of the local neighborhood which is unheard of for clubs. The clubs got a great reputation. Sometimes I wish we were bigger and trashier, but then we wouldn't be Don Hill's."

Cat Club
Don Hills

As posted back in August 2010 when it was announced that Don Hill's was closing for renovations, Steve Lewis wrote...Don Hill

"Don Hill's was born in April 1993 to much flag waving, fanfare and hoopla. The Smithereens set the tone that night and it has since become a virtual rock and roll hall of fame. Don has booked the joint, hired staff, run day to day and night to night operations, he's answered the phones and I suspect that on some nights he swept out the joint. He will now be joined by superheroes Nur Khan and Paul Sevigny. They will come in with mad skills, new energy and cash to redux the place. They will merge with Don to create more of the same but even better."
Since re-opening with the new partners on board, the club has in fact been the scene of many high profile and hard to get into events, most notably a fashion week show by Iggy Pop. According to Nur Khan, they also "had LCD Soundsystem booked," but "there were complications with production and stage size so we were unable to do the gig." There were rumors this week that the Strokes would do a show there before or after their sold out gig at MSG (I haven't been able to prove those rumors though, or the show fell through).

R.I.P. Don Hill (both of them)

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Comments (79)

always a class act. RIP

Posted by Anonymous | March 31, 2011 11:34 PM

Unbelievably sad news.

Posted by Dan | March 31, 2011 11:35 PM

RIP Don.

Posted by Anonymous | March 31, 2011 11:44 PM

He was a complete and total sweetheart.

Posted by Anonymous | March 31, 2011 11:46 PM

april fools muthafucka!

Posted by Anonymous | March 31, 2011 11:49 PM

What's up ppl Don is fine hanging around with us and he is expecting to play for him but Marky or tommy hurry up !


Don Hills R.I.P.

Posted by Joey Ramone | March 31, 2011 11:56 PM

i call dibs on his lcd tickets

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 12:19 AM

Rest well old friend...you will be missed.

Posted by Raethoven | April 1, 2011 12:29 AM

had a blast everytime i went there...so sad he will be missed!

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 12:32 AM

When you think of a New Yorker… you think of Don Hill. RIP.

Posted by Jake Fogelnest | April 1, 2011 12:37 AM

Damn, dude was an NYC legend...a total gentleman.

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 12:40 AM

Don was always a gracious and sweet man. Probably the nicest rock and roll club owner I ever came across. A sad day for the NYC music scene.

Posted by Tony Harnell | April 1, 2011 12:42 AM

I will miss him so much. Nicest person ever.

Posted by Lorenzo Aragona | April 1, 2011 1:05 AM

a true gentleman and icon of the industry... a very sad day indeed.

Posted by dve | April 1, 2011 1:14 AM

He passed away at the hospital. Not in his apartment. It was this evening around 7, not this morning.

Posted by LMNYC | April 1, 2011 1:17 AM

used to love Squeezebox

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 1:41 AM

we th living salute you!
all hail th victorious dead!
xo

Posted by mick | April 1, 2011 1:42 AM

RIP DON HILL...a true nyc legend, mentor & friend. we will forever remember ur kindness, generosity, humor, support & above all our many late night adventures spent at spring and greenwich. From toronto we raise a glass 2 u and all the incredible ways you've touched our lifes! The 3 of us met as teenagers @ Don Hills! no other singular person has had as much an impact on us as a group...this is heart breaking...

Posted by The Misshapes | April 1, 2011 1:43 AM

He helped me find a gig for swing bands & rockabilly too in the early 90's.
He created that neighborhood and was the only good thing left in that 'hood (along with the Ear Inn).
he is missed.

Posted by eddie morris | April 1, 2011 2:15 AM

RIP DON HILL.
I went to his club for the first time in 2005 fot the MISSHAPES and i thought he was the cooles guy ever.

Posted by HAROLD M | April 1, 2011 4:29 AM

he was so cool

Posted by jco | April 1, 2011 4:59 AM

Did all of you know him personally?

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 8:51 AM

so many great nights at Don Hill's and Don was always around. Nice guy! RIP!

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 9:07 AM

The nicest guy in showbusiness.RIP
He would always introduce himself to a new act and buy them a drink,get to know them he really cared.

Posted by anonamous | April 1, 2011 9:13 AM

I have no idea who this guy is, but many of you are very respectful of his memory. So, respect.

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 9:15 AM

So many amazing memories from the Tis Was parties there dancing till 4 am..This drink's for you Don!

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 9:32 AM

RIP! Condolences to friends, family and aquaintances

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 9:43 AM

RIP Don Hill. He will be missed. Tiswas and Squeezebox kept the NYC rock nightlife kicking through some mighty dark times.

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 9:55 AM

Kept class in a scumbag setting. RIP

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 10:27 AM

I'm dying to go to Don Hill's.

Posted by Too Soon | April 1, 2011 11:01 AM

I will miss him. He ran a great club for Pop bands and death metal. RIP

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 11:52 AM

don was my best friend for 40 years. we go back to 1971 when we both worked at gimbles in advertising. don had a night gig at the original kenny's castaways on 84 street. eventually they changed location down to bleeker street where don was the manager. the music was so good in the late 70's,ie, berne, willie, steve, and bridget. don was my best man at my wedding in 1981. don went on to manage the cat club in the 90's and eventually set out to do what he was born to do, manage his own club which bared his name. don was more to me than best friend, he was family to my wife pat and i. all the weekends we shared down the jersey shore. the world is a sorry place without my friend. RIP don. anthony

Posted by anthony | April 1, 2011 12:06 PM

Don was a true gentleman. He was rock n roll. He was the heart of NYC nightlife. He will be missed.

Posted by F | April 1, 2011 1:08 PM

Truly the end of an era, one of the last outposts of downtown rock'n'roll fun

Posted by Napoleon Nikolai Zivkovic | April 1, 2011 1:16 PM

Don was a wonderful man and was always supportive of my endeavors. We had many great times. He will be missed.

Posted by Mike D. | April 1, 2011 1:21 PM

Don was a super person full of fun. I had many great times with him at Kenny's and down at the Jersey Shore during the late 70's and over the years. His humor was infectious, his kindness was overwhelming. The world has lost a pure soul. RIP Don.

Posted by Dominick | April 1, 2011 2:21 PM

Between the Cat Club and opening his own club, Don co-managed a band that was signed to RCA and recorded an album that was never released. That's when I met him. He was always a gentleman in business dealings, and many years after the band was dropped from RCA, he still remembered me and made me feel at home when I went to his club.

Posted by Anon | April 1, 2011 2:49 PM

A wonderful friend and employer, and one of the people who made NYC great. I will miss him terribly. R.I.P., Don.

Posted by Tara G. Warrior | April 1, 2011 3:25 PM

So many, many memories of Don, his many kindnesses and so many nights on one side or another of his varied stages. Funny, I bumped into him about a year ago at COurthouse (I was dealing w/ jury duty, he with something else) and we laughed--I said, I've known you at least (probably well over) 30 years, and I've never seen you in daylight! He told me not to be scared : ) We will miss you.

Posted by Deborah Frost | April 1, 2011 3:43 PM

Don Hill RIP
True gentleman. We are devastated.
We are better people to have known him.
Love you Don!!!
And will miss you forever. Xxxxoooooxxxxoooo

Posted by Amalia | April 1, 2011 5:19 PM

Don was very generous & kind, When i first started in the music Biz back in the late 80's and early 90's we would hold record Release parties at the Cat Club all the time.. Don was always working around stuff for us so that we could have the best time slots or night of the week etc.. He truly loved the music biz and the scene. we shared lot's of long conversations about music and the biz.. We kept in touch when he was back at Kenny castaway's in between the Cat Club and opening Don Hills.. When i bought & opened My first bar (Bar-Coastal in 2000) and told Don he was great, once again taking the time to tell me about the biz , what to expect what, how to deal with the city, staffing, all the little in and out's of the biz that you never really know or understand until you have been in it a while. and i gotta tell ya... he was right about all of it!! I owe him my gratitude and will surely miss running into him from time to time and shootin the breeze.. RIP Don!!

Posted by Jason Catlin | April 1, 2011 6:31 PM

Gonna miss Don. He was a genuine sweetheart, had a huge classy heart, and was committed to that very specifically New York City brand of rock and roll, old school style. One more bit of the fading real NYC lost, and we're poorer for it. Embarrassing as this is he busted me doing coke off a table in his joint, just pulled me aside and said in a very gentle way "Hey man, you're in here all the time and I dig you, so I'll just make like I didn't see that." He never mentioned the incident again, but always had a kind word. Luckily I cleaned up my act, the downside of which being that I stopped going out so I rarely saw folks like Don! Love + strength to his close friends and family.

Posted by Nathan Larson | April 1, 2011 6:51 PM

When I first moved to NYC, I was all wide-eyed at the wonder of the music scene. I went to the Cat Club, and nearly lived in Kenny's Castaways. I dreamed one day of having a music club. I wanted to be like Don and Pat. He put so much great music in my ears! Thank you, Don, for your influence and care. My heart goes out to my old friends on Bleecker Street tonight. I wish I was still in NYC with you all.
In sincere sympathy, Karen

Posted by Karen | April 1, 2011 8:21 PM

I was a Don Hill's Tiswas frequenter back in the early 2000s. Thanks Mr. Hill for such a opening a spot that features in so many great memories.

Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2011 8:38 PM

Don Hill was one of the sweetest people I have ever known. He was generous with his time, and truly cared about today's youth. I had the privilege of knowing him over the years. He would invite my students in and give them tours of the club captivating the college kids with events and the historical significance of his club. He went out of his way for people. I was always a pleasure to run into him at the ear greeting everyone in his quiet elegant way. New York was a better place because of him. He will be terribly missed....

Posted by Gina Miccinilli | April 1, 2011 9:38 PM

Bebe Buell is such a shameless opportunist self-promoter. It's obvious the reason she talked shit about Don Hill's memorial is because she wasn't there. She will do her best to use any other memorials or tribute gigs to promote her pathetic attempts at becoming a singer no matter whose names she has to try and ride on.

Posted by Lisa | April 1, 2011 10:34 PM

This is not the time or place to talk shit about other people.
There were some people at the club last night but most only just found out that he was gone today or very late yesterday evening.
I did not think anyone talked shit about the gathering. Bebe is right. It was not his memorial. It was a regular club night and most of us who came to pay our respect left after an hour.
I just happened on the whole thing because I ran into someone going there.
With all due respect, how many of us can go to a club and hang out when they are so upset or grieving. There were plenty of folks there who didn't know Don as well as a lot of the folks who weren't there.
I'm gonna stick up for Bebe here. She and Don were very close friends.
I think most of us know that.
It is not the time or place to attack another person. This is a tribute to a great man. A man that was so kind to everyone. He bought me more shots that I could drink more than I can count.
RIP Don Hill. You were our friend. I will miss you.

Posted by Liz Lizzie Z. | April 1, 2011 11:09 PM

I was taken back at my first visit thete since the re opening. The place looks the same, which is a good thing, but it doesn't seem like anyone had put a dime in there. A vibe of greed was felt in the air and the crowd was made of dumb millenials. Not a rock'n'roll joint anymore.

Posted by bathroom patron | April 1, 2011 11:40 PM

We send our heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of legendary club owner Mr. Don Hill. Don was a friend and a major supporter of the NYCHFF since it's inception. It is with much sadness and grief that we say goodbye to such a kind hearted gentlemen. A true legend in the NYC club scene, he was among the last of his kind, and NYC will not be the same without him. Safe trip my friend, you will be missed!

Posted by The New York City Horror Film Festival | April 2, 2011 12:24 AM

A few months back when Don recently sold the club I had stop in in hopes of seeing him there just to say hi after so many years. Sometimes being a New Yorker we can live right down the street and it can suddenly be years before you realize Hey I wonder how Don is. His club was always happening with something or another, but who wants to get caught up with that especially when you are caught up in your own nonsense. Knowing that chances might be slim I went in anyway. I'm glad I did. There he was standing at the far end of the Bar with a broom in his hand and giving some orders to the bar backs as they were getting ready to open another night. He and his puppy dog eyes with a little smile on his face shouted it's been a while what took you so long. What can one say, any response would sound dumb, so I just shrugged my shoulders. We sat down for few moments and he offered me a drink, he was always hospitable that way. I declined the drink. We reminisce for a while and had a few laughs about times and old friends and the many episodes we shared. That guy never forgets a thing!

It was many years since working for him. He used to booked and managed the Cat Club. For 4 years straight I DJ every Sat night in the mid eighties engaging in some of the craziest parties ever. He always manage to keep the party at level where we all had Max. fun without getting ugly as many places get sometimes. In a business were success and being a nice person are a very rare commodity he was that shining beacon. I sure that all the others that knew him feel as I do. It would be difficult to find a person who didn't like him and if you did they certainly would be suspect. He was one of my favorite people ever to work with and for. I'm very sorry he is gone and I will personally miss him.
I'll have that drink now. To you DON ! One of the Greats!

Posted by Walter Vee | April 2, 2011 12:33 AM

Don was a rock star... I had the pleasure of working with him several times during my first job in NYC, paper mag days mid 90's... CLASS ACT. Kind. Generous. Always looked you straight in the eye. In terms of his several weeklies that affected nightlife culture (and each party was awesome and unique in it's own way) --- my era was soul kitchen! I made some of my best friends and memories there growing up in this city.. having said that, I still went to this day. Here's to holdin' it down 18 years, Don! (toasting a shot to you now!)

Posted by Jauretsi | April 2, 2011 1:16 AM

Don helped my band Eva & Her Virgins find a home in the music scene and we will miss him. I will always remember him in my path in music...

Posted by emily powers | April 2, 2011 4:11 AM

RIP, I think Don Hill treated every single person with the utmost respect and sincere interest and concern... He hasn't changed a bit since the 80s where every Wed. meant the Cat Club... I don't go out much anymore, but I could stop by and it was like it was 20 years ago. Just found out, and it really hit me... try to keep in touch with old friends, we're not around forever! Thank you Mr. Hill, for so many fun nights!

Posted by sydney | April 2, 2011 10:01 AM

ive been coming to this site for 10 years daily and this is the most respectful thread of comments ive ever seen on here. that in itself is a tribute to the man.

Posted by Anonymous | April 2, 2011 11:48 AM

^^ true true. He gave us a place to see great bands that didnt smell like hummus farts.

Posted by Anonymous | April 2, 2011 1:05 PM

Nooo :( Why why why

Posted by Anonymous | April 2, 2011 3:59 PM

I knew Don personally for over 20 years. I played The Cat Club so many times and actually met the mother of my children there where she hosted. He was always calm, cool and generous. Very sad to hear of his passing.

Posted by Scott Wozniak | April 2, 2011 6:03 PM

Bye bye, Don.

Posted by Nancy | April 3, 2011 5:42 AM

Whenever a bunch of us L'Amour "The Rock Capitol of Brooklyn" employees went to The Cat Club, Don always treated us with respect. Many years later, Don offered me an opportunity to do some shows on Wednesdays at his namesake club. Although I could not accept the offer at the time, Don was very gracious in doing so, and I will always remember his philosophy of working together instead of against each other in the industry. Don, you will be missed.

Posted by DJ Alex Kayne | April 3, 2011 3:39 PM

You know you're getting old when the only thing that gets you out of the house is the funeral of someone who you loved and/or respected.

It's been a long time since I was part of the scene but Don Hill was someone I'd move my butt for anytime. He always showed me respect and leaves me with nothing but good things to say about him.

RIP, Don... the stories you and Hilly will have to share will certainly be worth waiting for. Blessings always to those who share in the mourning of this quiet legend.

Posted by Melissa Mermaid | April 3, 2011 6:09 PM

As Club owners he was very good people

Posted by Anonymous | April 3, 2011 10:34 PM

I love and miss Don, and I know this is not the forum for this, but I agree with this comment:

"Bebe Buell is such a shameless opportunist self-promoter..." I was trying to feel bad for her loss, but couldn't get past her statements which all basically read like this: "I knew Don longer and better than any of you" and "only my memorial is the real memorial"...

RIP Don

Posted by Anonymous | April 3, 2011 11:25 PM

I will miss Don Hill

:(

Posted by Anonymous | April 4, 2011 11:54 AM

RIP Don Hill

Posted by Anonymous | April 4, 2011 9:37 PM

Don Hill is a legend RIP

Posted by Anonymous | April 4, 2011 11:53 PM

I wish I could say I knew Don the longest and the best but I was only lucky enough to have known him for about 30 years. I would give anything to have had more. My sympathy is with his family- brother, sister... those that had a lifetime of his coolness.
He was a decent man- generous and truly respectful and nice to everyone.
I think I can speak for most who had the great pleasure of knowing him- he was the reason why a lot of us would pop into the bar just to say hello- just to see his face or have a chat and a shot. He loved to give advice and listen. A wonderful, attentive listener. Always there to lend an ear or cheer you up if you were feeling blue.
When I turned 50 in 2003, Don drove all the way to Maine- where I had a house at the time- to surprise me at my birthday party along with a few other friends from NYC. He got to know my family and always asked after my mother.
He has known my daughter since she was four years old.
So yes, I am very freaked out and sad beyond words that he is gone.
As far as "memorials" go, I hope that as many people as possible pay tribute to this wonderful man. I don't think there could ever be too many tributes to Don. I have no idea how this notion was created that I would judge a gathering because I am supporitve of any show of love and affection for this dear man. This legendary spirit who gave more than he took.
Some friends found comfort in coming together at the club two hours after Don passed away on Thursday night- to toast him. To raise their glasses in his honor.
Everyone grieves differently. Some were confused and not sure what they were hearing. Sometimes the comfort of others makes the shock of such a horrible event more barable. I do understand that.
I'm just happy that there will be an official service this week where I can say my goodbyes to one of the sweetest people I've ever known. I couldn't pull myself together to be at the toast at the club. I was unable to stop crying or compose myself. It has taken four days. I am so sorry if anyone misunderstood my feelings about a formal memorial. But it is important that there is one. It's certainly not a diss on anyone elses version of a memorial, goodbye or tribute. Many of my closest friends attended that "toast"-exting me the entire time as we all cried and asked "how", "why", "where"???
But it's important so that people like Michael Schmidt who are flying in from LA will have the chance to pay their respects. Don had many people who loved him and some of them did not learn of his passing until the following day. When I found out shortly after he died Thursday night, I was unable to breath, speak or move. Shock consumed me. I'm still gutted.
I have no sword to bare. Only my heavy heart. Don Hill was my friend. He was a friend to us all. A good friend to many. A mentor, brother and even sometimes a father. A great man who deserves only the best in his next journey.
RIP now, dear Don.

Posted by Bebe Buell | April 5, 2011 12:01 AM

thanx for many good times..fly free
R.I.P

Posted by RON BLOODSUCKER | April 5, 2011 12:11 AM

Don Hill was a great man. He lived for music. I will miss him.
RIP

Posted by Anonymous | April 5, 2011 10:19 PM

I will miss Don Hill. RIP

Posted by Anonymous | April 6, 2011 9:10 AM

Don Hills is a great venue.

Posted by Anonymous | April 6, 2011 10:03 AM

Don Hill showed us how to live and love music the way he did. He was a great man and I'll miss him forever.

Posted by Anonymous | April 6, 2011 11:23 AM

I miss Don so much. I'm glad I got to play Don Hills. It was one of the best shows I've ever played.

RIP DON HILL

Posted by Anonymous | April 6, 2011 12:33 PM

I miss Don Hill :(

Posted by Anonymous | April 6, 2011 1:04 PM

Wow, Bebe. That was so nice what you wrote here. Thanks you. Don loved you so much and the joy I saw on his face at your gig at the bar in Feb. was for reals. He was like a proud papa. It makes me sick that "you know who" is coming in and pretending to be someone else (Lisa) just to attack you. That is so wrong and he's the one who looks bad. No one but him would do this on a blog honoring Don.
Know that we know. I love you. Don loved you. We all love you so just keep being you.
You have given us all so much comfort and I for one know for certain that Don would appreciate all of your kind words.
Love from another Jersey boy,
Robbie

Posted by Robbie | April 7, 2011 2:11 PM

I can remember being very nervous about calling booking agents in NYC when I first got my band off the ground (1993)I was in total shock when I called Don Hill's and Don himself answered the phone I told him I was from Ireland and he gave me a prime time slot we were always friendly from that moment on, an era gone by. I will truly miss Don and the old Don Hill's

Posted by Kevin B. Lynch | April 9, 2011 3:09 PM

I had the pleasure of working with Don at the Cat Club, Kenny's and the early years of Don Hill's. I was a sound engineer back in the 90s. He was a good man to know and work with. Always up front and ready to give a chance.

You are a legend Don.. You will be missed and not forgottoned.

R.I.P.

Erick

Posted by Erick Grau | April 11, 2011 10:34 AM

I have a bunch of oil paintings that were hanging on the walls of his bedroom,can anyone tell me anything they may know about these unsigned paintings i believe he did.I also have a byrds poster at the fillmore,signed by singer roger to don hill,as well as 25 pages of a screenplay co written by don hill.

Posted by maltesefrank213@aol.com | July 3, 2011 1:02 AM

The nicest guy in showbusiness.RIP
He would always introduce himself to a new act and buy them a drink,get to know them he really cared.

Posted by Catherinexfj | October 31, 2012 2:27 PM

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