He was hardly as visible as his ever-present partner Allan Pepper at New York’s historic Bottom Line showcase club, but co-owner Stanley Snadowsky, who had long lived in Las Vegas and died there Monday at 70 of diabetic complications, remained inextricably bound to Pepper in one of the most durable and enduring duos in the music business.
“He was surrounded by family and knew he was loved,” says Pepper, “and one of his favorite albums, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell, was on repeat play.”
But Meat Loaf was just one of hundreds of acts of all music genres who found fame on the Bottom Line stage. During its existence from 1974 to 2004, the Greenwich Village club was host to everyone from Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel to Dolly Parton, Miles Davis, Tito Puente, Joan Baez, Dizzy Gillespie, Lou Reed, Harry Chapin, Jane Siberry, The Turtles, Prince, The Cars, The Police, David Johansen, Laura Nyro, Elvis Costello and Suzanne Vega—to name just a few of the thousands of other musicians and comedians who performed there.
A criminal and entertainment lawyer, Snadowsky first met Pepper in the first grade, in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood, “but we didn’t form a relationship until third grade!” Pepper reflects. “It was a magic bond: We were really close friends and business partners from our early twenties on, and experienced every rite of passage you can think about together, from deaths in the family to happy occasions of weddings and births and great successes in business and problems in business--every station one could think about that two people can face. He was my oldest friend.”
They stayed partners until the day he died.
“I don’t remember a day of my life without him,” says Pepper. “He always said that the reason we worked so well together was that we had a very healthy respect for each other’s strengths and weaknesses: He knew where I needed help and I knew where he needed it, and we respected that.”
On Snadowsky’s side, the strength was in business.
“I never knew anyone smarter,” continues Pepper. “He had this unique Solomon-like gift in knowing how to make a deal, and he always came to a situation prepared to make a deal. But he always felt that a deal didn’t work unless it was good for both sides: If one side had an advantage over the other side, it wasn’t a good deal--even if that person was his client. He heard me say over and over to him that nobody could negotiate better.”
He illustrates: “The Tubes were playing New York for the first time and their agent called and asked us to extend the stage. Stanley listened very patiently and said, ‘We can do this, but you’ll have to pay for the tickets that we’re knocking out to extend the stage.’ They said okay, and Stanley said, ‘You’ll also have to pay for the food and liquor we’re losing for every one of those seats!’”
Snadowsky, Pepper added, “had a great mind. If you were in an argument with Stanley and bought the first premise he laid down, you were done! But he had a very generous heart.”
Singer-songwriter Christine Lavin, who was a Bottom Line regular as a performer and patron, recalls how special it was working with the owners.
“We always worked on a handshake [for] an agreed amount of pay, but if the show drew better than expected they'd always pay more than agreed to,” she says. “I always knew that if my agent had insisted on a signed contract they would have done that, but they would never have paid a little more, the way they did with a handshake. It was very old school, and I liked that.”
The Roches’ Suzzy Roche, whose classic Christmas album with the group We Three Kings came out of their annual holiday shows at the club, likewise credits Snadowsky and Pepper for giving “so many of us a home in music.”
“The Bottom Line was historic,” she says. “The first time we played at the Bottom Line, it felt like we had made the big time! We went on to play there for years--it was our New York City home--and there would have been no Roches Christmas show if it weren't for Allan and Stanley taking a chance on the show. Those were way before the days when anyone had a Christmas show or explored the idea of songwriters writing Christmas songs. Of course the idea caught on and now people all over the country have holiday shows in their own communities. That's a wonderful thing!”