A Vigil on the Bowery: ‘Who’s Hilly?’

"It's a sad day," said a tall man in shades with shaggy gray hair, brandishing two orange candlesticks and a big black magic marker.

He scrawled something indiscernible on the shuttered storefront at 315 Bowery shortly after 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

More legible: "RIP HILLY WE'LL MISS YOU," among other graffiti, was spray painted in large letters across the shutters. Flowers and lit candles were arranged along the sidewalk.

A small group of guys wielding notebooks and cameras loitered nearby, presumably awaiting comment from passers-by — some of whom hadn't the foggiest idea what was going on.

"Who's Hilly?" asked one curious observer in a white knit cap and red soccer jersey. "Did he sing in a band or something?"

Not exactly. Hilly Kristal, 75, founder of the former punk-rock mecca CBGB, died Tuesday after a long battle with lung cancer. He was preceded in death by his hallowed club on the Bowery, which closed last year after a long battle with the landlord. (The vacant retail space is now available at a mere $200 per square foot annually.)

The legacy lives on just a few blocks north, albeit in slightly less deafening fashion.

A large flatscreen TV in the window of the CBGB t-shirt and assessories shop on St. Marks played footage of the seminal punk outfit Bad Brains performing its song "How Low Can A Punk Get" — a fitting tune, given the day's grim news — at a moderate volume. Also fittingly, the store was a virtual ghost town, despite advertised sales with some items priced as low as $9.95.

Any uptick in sales today? "Not really," a cashier reported. "Most people don't even know what happened."

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