By Nick Christophers
If you want to delve deep into underground New York, look no further than ELLIS studio/gallery in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn. Owner/artist David Craig Ellis is an interesting character who has been to hell and back somehow still survives. They say creative types can be passionate about expressing themselves the way they see fit and David does just that and some say perhaps sometimes a bit too much.
As a troubled child, at the tender age of seven, David vandalized a lighthouse, carving his name into the windowsill with a switchblade. At nine, he set a classroom ablaze and soon after, formed a gang that killed the fish belonging to his eighth grade teacher. Before long, high and drunk, at thirteen, he ruined a friend’s bar mitzvah, formed a punk rock band and left home. It’s all been downhill from there.
NICK: How do you explain your knack of causing trouble at a young age?
“In my youth I was desperate for attention but I didn’t want people to notice me for who I really was. So, I became a class clown, creating havoc and put up a facade to make others think I was cool or tough or whatever. I would hang out in a pool hall called the Broken Cue, drink and smoke pot under the staircase. But I also got away with a lot. I had a knack for not getting caught. Even after I started a fire in the school, they were nice to me at the police station, handed me a guitar as I cried.”
NICK: Your cartoon The DoobDude – did you bring that back to life in your current work?
“Fueled by my artistic side in public school I created ‘The Doob Dude’ then took it to another level at Vincent Massey Secondary school in the school paper. I still have all those papers. Unbelievable that they weren’t lost in the fires and the floods over the years… At the time, it was almost a reflection of my personality.” Ya, Those characters still appear sometimes.”
NICK: Do you recall the band you toured with in Canada?
“After High School at eighteen I toured with a rock band called Paris, across Canada. We were a cover band that had an agent who booked us at hotel bars in small towns. This was a tour of endless partying. We would pack into a U-Haul truck with some of the members having to sit in the back with the equipment where it was pitch black and every few hours we would switch. One of the guys had Tourettes Syndrome along with many other ailments and I would usually ride locked up in the back of the truck with him.”
NICK: How did you manage to elude Kaplan’s allegation?
“Years ago I became the personal assistant to mob associate Barry Kaplan, while I was working at the Stendhal Gallery – the gallery owner made the introduction. They called him ‘the drug dealer to the stars’, he had a connection with a pharmacy where he could get anything. But Kaplan accused me of stealing a large amount of money from him and he supposedly put out a contract on me. He claimed it was best to kill someone after ten years so there would be no connection. He spoke in code. His last words to me were: “You better get yourself a bystanders ticket.”
NICK: How did you manage to bounce back and open The Satellite Lounge?
“I opened a club in Brooklyn with Rob Sacher (owner of the Luna Lounge), The Satellite Lounge, which did very well. The Satellite Lounge was rated number one place to play pinball every year in the Village Voice.” We sold it to the guy who came in 2nd every year.
NICK: Would you say your drawings are a reflection of your life experiences?
“Ya, they depict everything from my early years to the current time. I do most drawings in the morning which can take just a few minutes or a little more. Technically I complete 364 drawings a year.
At night I paint. But the drawings give me an immediate satisfaction which I love, it’s an easy way to get a lot of thoughts out, clear my head.
NICK: What makes Doing Lines With David Craig Ellis Vol 3 different than the previous titles?
“Nothing really. The thousands of sketches going into this series are all in a random order. There could be one there from elementary school next to one I did last week.”
NICK: You were involved with a pizzeria with the late Vinny Vella, correct?
“Yes, I was heavily involved in a Pizzeria in Brooklyn with tough guy actor Vinny Vella (RIP). Unfortunately, an issue arose between Vinny and I and we parted ways- It was fairly messy for years but was resolved just before he passed away. Thank God we made amends before he died. He was a great friend for many years before that war. Good man and good actor.”
NICK: Where does DCE go from here? What is your next evil plan?
“Just keep on creating, keep on rocking.”