Detroit in the 70’s was a city was in a downward music spiral. All the historic ballrooms were now gone and very few original bands were getting signed to record contracts or getting local radio airplay. If you were not Bob Seger and Ted Nugent your band would not get any airplay at all. Bookies Club 870, changed that… Bookies was started in the aging gay supper club, Frank Gagen’s, on McNichols just west of Woodward on the edge of decomposing Highland Park, seemed an unlikely place to become ground zero for the Detroit New Wave awakening and the new home for Detroit’s punk rock scene. But early in 1978, the visionary band the Sillies decided to start Detroit club, with acts like CBGB in NY. Just before they were about to play there, Don Was (later of Was/NotWas) and a partner made a deal with the owner to do a couple of shows… Soon weekday shows by such Detroit bands as the Traitors and Coldcock jump-started a new scene. Later other “Local” bands like The Romantics, Sonic Rendezvous (with Scott Morgan and Fred Smith), Destroy All Monsters (Ron Asheton of The Stooges and Mike Davis of The MC5), Wayne Kramer, and The Sillies themselves made Bookie’s their second home.
Soon national touring acts like the Dead Boys, Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers, and countless others, helped Bookies’ earn a place on the tour itinerary of top punk rock acts of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The Police did their first Midwest show there, as did Ultravox, The Damned, John Cale (of The Velvet Underground), Johnny Thunders (NY Dolls). Even David Bowie and his band came by after doing a big arena show, as did Elvis Costello, Blondie, and many other major stars. J. Geils even did a surprise performance at Bookie’s one night after selling out Pine Knob for three consecutive nights.
After a short resurgence in the late ’80s, the club burned to the ground in 1989, leaving a parking lot in its space.