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The Bitter End Mourns Longtime Owner Paul Colby

By Danielle Tcholakian | February 17, 2014 5:50pm
 Paul Colby, the longtime owner of the landmark music venue The Bitter End, died on Feb. 13, 2014. He was 96.
Paul Colby, the longtime owner of the landmark music venue The Bitter End, died on Feb. 13, 2014. He was 96.
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The Bitter End

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Paul Colby, longtime owner of Village venue The Bitter End, has died at the age of 96, the venue announced on social media.

Colby ran the music venue at 147 Bleecker St. for more than 40 years, drawing everyone from Bob Dylan to Taylor Swift, while also hosting comedians including Woody Allen and Jon Stewart.

"Paul was sharp, witty and happy until the end," The Bitter End said on its Facebook page, informing hundreds of distraught fans that Colby had died last Thursday. "Paul will never be forgotten as his legacy will live on Bleecker Street."

The Facebook post referred to Colby, a military veteran, as The Bitter End's "colonel."

Colby, a native New Yorker who grew up on the Lower East Side, managed the venue starting in the mid-1960s, Rizzo said, and took over as owner in 1971, said Paul Rizzo, one of Colby's business partners.

Colby's 70 years in the entertainment industry began as a "song plugger," promoting music for Benny Goodman, Irving Berlin, Guy Lombardo, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra, before Sinatra brought him on as his personal assistant.

He spent about 15 years away from the music industry starting in 1950, putting to use the skills he picked up studying art and design at Textile High School with an interior design company he named Colby Associates. He didn't stray too far from the music scene, however: His furniture design customers included Tony Bennett and Miles Davis.

He was brought on as The Bitter End's manager in 1965, and then for half a century was "the driving force" that brought in top musicians to play in front of The Bitter End's iconic red brick wall, Rizzo said.

The Bitter End team is working on a memorial event for Colby, with performances by some of the legendary artists he brought to the space during his career. A date has not yet been set.

Watch Paul Colby discuss some of his classic show posters in this video: