Photo by Janet Dunn

William Griffiths

William (Bill) Griffiths was instrumental in helping his friend John Harrod begin Eastern Market’s Saturday morning craft markets in 1980. In 2004 they teamed to sponsor the weekly tango lessons in the Market’s North Hall that continue to this day.

In this interview with Susan Eubank, Bill recounts a career that began as a creative writing teacher and street vendor selling imported Ecuadorian sweaters and evolved to help create one of the most successful craft markets in the country. Two decades later, the innovative program of tango instruction brought some of the world’s greatest dancers and teachers to Eastern Market. His account takes us through the Eastern Market fire, portrays many of the market vendors that became fixtures in the Capitol Hill community, and paints an affectionate portrait of a national landmark that, on tango nights, he saw as “a 21st Century version of a Brassai photograph of an impressionist painting"

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Interview Date
December 9, 2019
Susan Eubank
David MacKinnon and Betsy Barnett
Elizabeth Lewis

Full Directory

Interview with William Griffiths[BMcM1]
Interview Date: December 9, 2019
Interviewer: Susan Eubank
Transcriber: David MacKinnon & Betsy Barnett
Editor: Elizabeth Lewis

photo by Janet Dunn

This interview transcript is the property of the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

EUBANK: This is Susan Eubank. I’m interviewing William, Bill, Griffiths for the Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project. It’s December 9th, 2019. We are meeting at Bill’s house at 834 Sligo Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland. Well, hello Bill.
GRIFFITHS: Hi Susan, how are you doing? Pleasure to be interviewed. Always love to talk about Eastern Market and especially love to talk about Market 5 Gallery. I’ve had many adventures at Eastern Market over the years.
EUBANK: Your name came up in a couple of different places. With John Harrod and the Market 5 Gallery, and Tom Rall with the flea market, and also with the tango in the North Hall. Hopefully we’ll be able to speak about both of these today. Why don’t you tell us how you became involved with Eastern Market from the very beginning.
GRIFFITHS: Being Irish I always have to back up and get a running start. I was in grad school in Maryland [University of Maryland, College Park], newly married — married my first date from many years ago. We had a kid on the way actually. I knew I had to make some money because I wasn’t making it money-wise in grad school. I had gone to Ecuador [to see a friend and start up a business] and was importing sweaters and scarves and wall hangings and what not. I was hiring old students of mine from creative writing. I was teaching at Maryland and setting them up on campus. I was also trying to expand, because I needed to make more money than that. I was trying to work the streets in DC as a vendor. I knew people who were vending, and they had been telling me how great things were on the streets down there. Most of them were working around Connecticut [Avenue, NW] and K [Street, NW] in those days. In fact, Angie, from Blue Iris [Flowers] was on Connecticut and K with Ike, Isaiah. They were selling jewelry in those days before they switched to flowers.
EUBANK: This was early 80s?
GRIFFITHS: This was probably 1980, maybe ’79, ’80, something like that. Probably ’80. I wasn’t making the money that they were talking about that they had made. Although they knew things were down from what it had been, they were still making more than me. I was running like three or four corners at a time. I had spot watchers and what not. But I needed to make some more money. Two friends of mine, both interesting, eclectic people who didn’t even know each other, had said, “You know, Bill, you ought to try Eastern Market.” I didn’t even know where Eastern Market was. So, I went down. In those days I wouldn’t ever call myself a super brave person, but I was at a point in my life where I was walking in certain directions where I had no idea where I was going and I was just trying to do it as boldly as I could because I needed cash. I had a baby. [laughter] Children do that to you, right? So, I set up on the row.
EUBANK: At Eastern Market.
GRIFFITHS: At Eastern Market.
EUBANK: This was when you could literally roll a bowling ball down the farmer’s market and there was nobody there, right?
GRIFFITHS: There were people down at the farmer’s market, but there were only two other [Market 5] vendors.
EUBANK: This was on Saturday or Sunday?
GRIFFITHS: This was Saturday. [The] Sunday [market] was long from being created.
EUBANK: Yeah that was a blue law, blue law times.
GRIFFITHS: This was 1980. 1981. I’m not sure. It was the fall. Ma Brown was there. She beat me to it. She was selling doughnuts at the time. There was a Thai woman. I should know her name. We always would give each other gracious hellos since. She was there then selling egg rolls. She split for a number of years and came back and sold jewelry. I think she’s still selling jewelry there now. I can’t remember her name and shame on me.
EUBANK: I think I know who you are talking about too.
GRIFFITHS: She’s a sweetheart. [Her name is Malien Lane] So I was at the corner of the building, the northeast corner of North Hall. I was right at that corner selling.
EUBANK: This is before it had been bricked in? That northern side is now bricked in.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, this was before [the northside] patio was [completely] bricked in. But we were outside obviously. The farmers didn’t quite know what to make of it and they didn’t like it too much. I was selling sweaters and I was doing pretty well.
EUBANK: Did you talk to Harrod about—
GRIFFITHS: I did, yeah.
EUBANK: You did have interaction with him at those early—
GRIFFITHS: I did. The first time I was there, he might not have even been there that day. I don’t really remember if I talked to Harrod that day or not. I probably talked to him. I think I paid him five bucks or ten bucks.
EUBANK: Was it sort of a free-for-all? You show up and you pay your five bucks or you just show up and you start selling?
GRIFFITHS: Well, you know, street vendors just show up and start selling. [laughter] [In those days of the business] I used to pull my Grand Prix, my wife’s Grand Prix Pontiac — it looked like we had just rolled in from Mexico — we’d pull up right in front of the Maryland Student Union and just set tables out and start selling like we owned the world. We did that for two years.
I probably may have talked to Harrod, I probably did. I certainly did in the first couple of weeks.
EUBANK: What kind of people were shopping there?
GRIFFITHS: Capitol Hill was good for me because it was well-traveled, as in well-traveled people. It was an opened-minded, intelligent and imaginative crowd. That was what I needed because I didn’t want to have to spend millions of hours doing missionary work explaining to people what hand knit sweaters were with lanolin and burrs in them. They understood right away what was going on.
EUBANK: But that was sort of new, that was a new concept, importing. Now you see it at the flea markets, it’s prevalent. But at that time, it wasn’t, was it?
GRIFFITHS: You just reminded me, I remember the first time I got the idea to do that and I was walking downtown with a crazy girlfriend of mine, probably ’78 or something like that, ’79 I guess. Yeah, ’79. I saw somebody selling a green Guatemalan shirt with a bird on it, had four pockets on it. I thought that would be cool to go to Guatemala and come back and sell those shirts. I could make money doing that — I wasn’t a businessman at all, I hadn’t put together that fact — you’d go overseas, buy cheap, come back and sell dear, you know. I caught on. There’s always the law of compensation at work with flawed stuff and sending you the wrong stuff. But I had gone to Ecuador and set up families in Otavalo and Peguche and Ibarra who were knitting and weaving for me. I had a bunch of people who were making it just for me.
EUBANK: You had a direct line.
EUBANK: So, you came to Eastern Market at the advice of a couple of friends that told you to try it out.
GRIFFITHS: And I set up on that corner, but the wind kept blowing leaves that were catching in my sweaters, right? So, the next year when I came back, I only went up through Christmas. It was like you might as well [have] been selling in the north pole if you stayed after Christmas because it was just abandoned. It’s like Cape Cod in the winter. I came back next fall, maybe even the summer. I probably came back in the summer.
But at some point I said to Harrod — I must have had some sort of hustler chip in me that I didn’t know about at the time — “So how about if I moved down the wall to the very first spot near Tommy Glasgow’s Market Lunch picnic tables? And let me pay you a little extra to have that be my spot all the time.” I was looking at Harrod. I didn’t know Harrod well in those days. We became dear, dear friends over the years, but I didn’t know him that well in those days. I saw a light bulb go off, I swear to God, I saw a light bulb go off in John Harrod’s eyes when I said that. [laughter] He said, “So, how much?” I said, “Whatever.” I think it went from five dollars to ten dollars. He was an incredibly generous, magnanimous man. I wish people ran this country like he ran that market because he gave everybody a chance to start their business and everybody got their start because of him.
EUBANK: What was happening inside the North Hall at that point? Were there any vendors in there?
GRIFFITHS: No, no he had his gallery going. I wish I could remember these guys. I loved some of these people. There was a guy, a black gentleman named Alex Madison, I used to give him fingerless gloves and he’d do murals around town, I mean way off the ground. He would do jazz murals of Duke Ellington. I gave him a Charlie Parker postcard [and he did a mural of it]. I used to sell postcards too down there.
EUBANK: He was exhibiting in the gallery at that point.
GRIFFITHS: He was doing murals, so he was there, [but he was a friend of John’s who hung out and helped out]. But he [Harrod] had kids — When Harrod started the market — John told me these stories. Don’t hold me to the exact details. I know them. I know them deep down. I knew them. I have records of what he told me. But basically, he started with a dollar a month rent, I think, from a humanities grant thing or something. I think when he got there, it was abandoned parking meters covered in slime or something. It was just in awful shape. It was the joke that he took that market over, inside. It was the joke and he cleaned it up. His people, working for him, friends and just people he put the touch on, I don’t know if they wired that place or what. I don’t want to get anybody in trouble. They built the partitions and they built the stage and they built all that stuff basically on their own dime. He would do jewelry making classes for the kids down at Pyle [Hine Junior High School as the correction is made later in the interview]. I can’t remember, I think they came to him first and then I think he’d go to them. He always had shows going on in the gallery. A lot of times it might be kids’ work or just be local people. He used to call it the poor man’s Kennedy Center.
EUBANK: That’s interesting.
GRIFFITHS: As times heated up I told him we should probably change it to the Common Man’s Kennedy Center. I think it was the principal — it was two teachers at any rate who carried weight at Pyle who said, “John, you’re so good” — I’m getting ahead of myself here — said, “John you’re so good at fundraising and making money, can you help us?” And he helped them start their flea market. He didn’t take his money from them. He let them keep it. He was often accused of taking the money and running from them. He never did. He was always very generous. He let them keep that money. He ended up losing control of that down the line.
To get back to how the line of craft vendors started, the second year I came I was selling down at the number one spot and I brought three people directly with me because the Greater Washington Board of Trade had tried to kick us off the street. As my wife was pregnant with our kid, I needed the money that I still hoped I could make street vending. And I made some, but I had to be in a billion places to make enough to really make it worth my while.
We started a labor union in my apartment living room. Me and another guy named Joel Goldberger. In the next week we had twelve of us, [including Will Connor]. That was July 13th 1982 because my daughter was born that day. It was a birth at a birthing center.
My wife was in the bedroom with my one-day old child. She has never forgiven me and I don’t blame her for having a twelve-person vending meeting in the living room while she was—
EUBANK: While she was in labor?
GRIFFITHS: She had had the kid, but you need some love and affection, you know. I’ve tried ever since to tell her you can’t get a hold of vendors and tell them not to come because they’re on the street like at four in the morning. I could have turned them away at the door, I guess. In the long run, that week we had twelve. Then within six weeks we had seven hundred people. We were in The New York Times. We were on Canadian Broadcasting. I had the great, good fortune of tearing apart Peggy Wall [of the Greater Washington Board of Trade] on Saturday Magazine with Warren Corbett hosting it, because we had dumpster dived in the dumpster of the Greater Washington Board of Trade trash and we found stuff that Mayor Barry — he had a guy running the vendor thing to get us off the street, I can’t remember his name, Ellis something or other — but they had worked it out with the Greater Washington Board of Trade and weren’t telling us what. They were going to push it through Christmas Eve, New Year’s, January second. [Barry called me in for a meeting the Thursday before the Tuesday primary because all the vendors were talking against his task force. I brought in Joel Goldberger, a guy named Hodge who was a Black Muslim, another black man named, I believe, Madonna, and a Korean vendor, just to show we represented a rainbow coalition. At one point I jumped up with the meeting minutes we’d gotten from the dumpster dive and stood behind Barry and pointed out the dates he — and I point to his task force head guy named Ellis — and the Board of Trade were planning to push this through — as if the mayor had no inkling of what was going on. Shortly thereafter, the task force was dissolved and there was basically vending on the street almost everywhere twenty-four hours per day — which is not what we wanted either. And truthfully, kicking street vendors off the street completely, which is what the Board of Trade was advocating was not the kind of move Barry was fond of making, so we probably just gave him his opportunity to pull the plug.]
EUBANK: Was Harrod involved in any of this?
GRIFFITHS: No, he wasn’t, but my point with that is all the people that were involved with that seven hundred-person union [started to hear about Eastern Market]. So, when I went to Eastern Market, [I invited three street vending friends, especially, who had helped me start the union. Regarding] the union, I pulled three different factions together, [but most of them would not have qualified for either “handmade,” or simply crafts. So, although I sooner than later invited about twenty more to help fill out the market, I had to dissuade many more.]
EUBANK: You knew a lot of people to pull over there.
GRIFFITHS: I had pulled from three different factions. I had pulled Black Muslims, Koreans, black Hare Krishnas, believe it or not, and just regular white guys, white kids from the suburbs.
EUBANK: Did you work with Tom Rall?
GRIFFITHS: I never worked with Tom Rall, but Tom Rall hadn’t shown up yet.
EUBANK: Yes, okay. This is before Rall even came on the scene?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah. So, these guys followed me. So, the next year—
EUBANK: You had all these vendors that came over to Eastern Market.
GRIFFITHS: So, in ’82, yeah, in ’82, we’re against the wall and I had the number one spot. Tommy and I always got along [then]. Tommy, you know, I think he liked me less—
EUBANK: You mean Tommy Glasgow?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. At the end, Tommy lived right down Sligo from me, we found out years later [that’s the street I grew up on and still lived on with my wife and kids]. I can’t remember, I think our kids played together one day or something. But I used to take the chains on Tommy’s picnic table and push them as far — if you look at the brick wall of North Hall, the exterior brick wall where North Hall ends, where Cluss did it in 1904 or something like that — he did it after the Center Hall and the South Hall right? [Cluss finished Eastern Market in 1873 and that section became known as the South Hall. In 1908, the city added two halls contracted by Snowden Ashford to the South Hall.] — there’s a gutter that comes down. It’s not terra cotta, it’s probably steel, might be terra cotta.
EUBANK: Copper?
GRIFFITHS: Might be copper. It comes down from the roof. Then there’s the corner of the building and it goes in about eight or ten inches and then that’s Center Hall. Right where that was, was the end of Harrod’s property. Tommy of course ran a good thing [with his Market Lunch], and Tommy was a businessman. Tommy would have his picnic tables right up there [to the edge of Market 5 property]. So, I’d take the chain, because Tommy was inside busy, and I’d push his table as far away from me as I could get it. It was a long chain because he was being lazy. So, the people would come and shop at my stand while they were standing in Tommy’s spot because suddenly space was at a premium [from having everything become so popular].
EUBANK: And this was still the early 80s.
GRIFFITHS: This is ’82, as early as ’82. So, I’d push it, and people would stand on his property and buy from me. [laughter] [One of] the three other people that I brought in was Will Conner. Will’s father made jewelry and leather in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was T.K. Conner, and I’d use his credit card machine [makes sound of sliding machine], right, because I didn’t have a credit card machine. My stuff you’d buy from Andean Trading and it would come out T.K. Conner on the receipt. I‘d have to call people and explain that it wasn’t a hustle or anything. He was one.
The Christians who were in a [red] one-ton truck selling wicker were the other, were a second group, and then there was a guy who sold alpaca named Stu [Freeman]. Stu and I ended up going head-to-head. I believe Stu thought that because I was in grad school I was just going to do this until I got out of grad school and then I’d go off and teach somewhere. But I ended up making enough money — I was making pretty good money once I hit Eastern [Market] — so I stayed in the business. Got me a retail store. Got me this house and stuff. So, Stu would go to war with me. And that becomes a big—
EUBANK: Because you guys were selling similar products?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah. But those guys insisted that we rotate.
EUBANK: What, spots?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. So, the one through four spots would start to rotate. Then Lynne who was selling, you know, like different stuff on a single table was by the door in a fifth spot.
EUBANK: Was she selling the folk dolls and stuff?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And Lynne [Holland, importer of contemporary folk art] — bless her heart — in the early days Lynne would get up from her table and just walk. She was more about talking to people. I think later on she got to be selling and stuff when I think she probably needed money more. So, she was there. So, it was like five people including Lynne all in that one space from the door [down to Tommy’s picnic tables]. I wasn’t real happy about that but I remember, I said, “Well, you know” — in the end we’d gone through the whole labor union thing — I said, “I don’t want to be the fly in the ointment. So, okay, we’ll rotate.”
EUBANK: So, you were egalitarian, you’ll share your—
GRIFFITHS: I did, I did because I wanted the whole thing — I wanted dense shopping retail there. Meanwhile, Paul Rodbell who’s selling Guatemalan stuff is showing up. While he’s also wholesaling me Guatemalan antique stuff.
Al Sacharov showed up, He had just come out with a book called The Redhead Book. He’d been on The Today Show. He was selling under a sign that said, “Meet the Author.” [laughter] I remember once, I was just walking by. Al was such a character. I remember a woman was saying, “I don’t want to buy your book. Why would I want to buy your book? I’m not even a redhead.” He goes, “Oh, that would mean you’d have to be a whale to read Moby Dick.” [laughter]
Nick and Sylvia. Nick was a psychology teacher at Maryland. He never liked to let people know he was a university professor. He felt somewhat embarrassed that he was street vending. But he and Sylvia, his wife — she was beautiful and he was handsome. They staked out [North Carolina Avenue] on the sidewalk on the corner. They took [the Market 5 vending area] from just against the wall — they took it all the way out. They sold antique glass jewelry and stuff. They did well. They used to sell also on Connecticut and K [Streets NW].
[After Connecticut and K slowed down,] we all moved over to 19th and L [Streets NW]. In fact, Angie [Brunson] of Blue Iris started at Connecticut and K and she was back in the day when people were making money. She was on the street a couple of years before I was. She and Isiah were. I always called him Ike. I think it’s Isiah. She’s still broken-hearted about losing him. He was just this big man, strong. He’d be carrying these buckets of water because they changed from jewelry to flowers. That’s when they really made it was on the street at Connecticut. Then they moved to Eastern Market when everybody was moving.
EUBANK: She was outside?
GRIFFITHS: She was outside up at the corner too. So, Nick and Sylvia started to stake out that corner. They had a lot of competition. People who were wholesaling to me, in fact, the Lozanos from Bolivia, were selling the alpaca. But all the people who were my wholesalers would see what I was doing money wise and they wanted to sell there too. That’s kind of the South American Indian way. If you show them somewhere, shame on you. They’re going to sell there. Even my Ecuadorian connection showed up. [From Ecuador!]
EUBANK: What was Seventh Street like then?
GRIFFITHS: It was a little more down at the heels. A little rougher. A little rough around the edges. In fact, our spaces — I used to be right up against Will, the jeweler, you know — what ended up happening the second year — Will the jeweler and the wicker people just stayed where they were and only Stu and I switched, which I really didn’t like because he’s the guy who’s picking a fight with me on the street. [laughter] But we were doing really well. Harrod always would say if I walked back into the office sometimes and there was new people there, he’d say, “Bill, tell them how much you made your first day.” I‘d say, “Twelve dollars.” And he’d say, “There, and what did you make last week?” I said, “Two thousand, twenty-two hundred or something.” So, he’d say, “You just have to give it time.”
In those days we were setting up bigger and bigger, pushing for every inch. At the end of the day — you ask how was it in those days — at the end of the day I would send across the street [to the liquor store]. It took me two hours to unload in the morning. We’d get there at six in the morning and I’d pull out at dark. I’d make every penny I could. I’d send for like two six-packs of beer and I’d get John a [pint] of Napoleon brandy and we’d have a party there in the dark as I pulled down. I had a crowd of people around me because you had Pennsylvania Avenue, you had Maryland Avenue, you had all these venues that were heading right out of town into PG [Prince George’s] county. It was really easy in those days to stick someone up and run. I had a couple grand in cash on me most of the time. That’s how we would do it at night. We got to be dear friends with the farmers. Booker, [a distinguished black gentleman], was always right across from me selling the bread. Booker was a trip. Booker knew everything. We’d make up questions for Booker too.
EUBANK: Well, was he from West Virginia?
GRIFFITHS: Booker was from around here. Booker was a retired government worker. He was very educated. His wife was Gloria—
EUBANK: They were farmers?
GRIFFITHS: No, no. He made bread. The farmers weren’t farmers. A lot of them weren’t farmers. They’d buy at the Fifth Street [wholesale] market above Florida Avenue and come down. Not all of them but some of them. We’d say to Booker like, “Booker, how many holes in a standard horseshoe?” “[Nine],” he’d say. “How do take the slime out of okra?” He goes … I forget what he’d say. [laughter] He had an answer for everything.
EUBANK: Do you ever see these people? Have you seen these people since?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. Booker died. His wife died. Booker had diabetes I think, pretty sure. There was a guy named Kenny from Winchester and his wife Mary. They ended up getting divorced. They turned me on to a woman who traveled with me and sold with me because she needed money. Her husband had a brain tumor and so she needed money desperately like I did when I started. She was good. Her son would sometimes come. We’d work like Super Sunday in Philly, [a half a million people in five hours,] and her son would come, and he was really good. We worked festivals from Carolina to Vermont, and college campuses from Carolina to Vermont to Ohio.
EUBANK: In the off-season when you weren’t at the market?
GRIFFITHS: All school season. We cracked that whole scene. A buddy of mine, David Elder, was another guy [who came to Eastern Market]. He and I hit the road together. He sold jewelry and I sold clothing, postcards, tee shirts, Ecuadorian stuff, Guatemalan stuff, Kenya bags. I sold more Kenya bags! The two biggest Kenya bag dealers in town [were] Sam Safo from Ghana and Stanley Kuria who was a Kikuyu. They’d sell me Kenya bags. When they’d get their deliveries at Dulles Airport they’d call me down, and I’d go look at their storage bin. I’d be climbing on like 5,000 Kenya bags. I’d be looking for the ones with like seven rungs of sisal [measured by the width of my finger]. I’d pick out the classics, the great bags. I remember Stanley Kuria left me a message on my phone, first time I bought from him. I had money in those days because I was making money, so I was buying like 2,000 bucks’ worth of Kenya bags, making his day, right? And the phone message was, “This is a message for Mr. Bill and you Mrs. Bill. This is Stanley Kuria, K-U-R-I-A, wishing for you Mr. Bill and you Mrs. Bill to have suc-cess with the Kenya bags.” [laughter]
EUBANK: Interesting people, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: So, David Elder was there. We’d hit the road and we’d do all these colleges. We cracked the college scene with a Rand McNally and a Barron’s Guide to Colleges. We’d work the richest schools and the biggest schools. At one point I had an Econoline van going one direction. And I bought the Christians’ one-ton truck. We called it Big Red and I’d be going another direction with David. Sometimes we’d roll off the road on a late Friday night a couple times. One time coming from Ohio Wesleyan, we had bad gas, water in our gas. We rolled in at 6:30 in the morning, no sleep, and just set up at Eastern Market and started selling.
EUBANK: What are some of the clients you sold to, some of the people you were selling to, what were they like? The most interesting or the type of people that were shopping there then because it was —  Capitol Hill was just starting to come back. The riots had really — The neighborhood had taken a hit and the late 70s and early 80s was just really starting to come back.
GRIFFITHS: There was a guy, probably five-seven with kind of moppy goldish brown hair and predictably he had a golden retriever with kind of moppy golden hair. He’d always come with his dog. He knew a lot about everything. I think he worked for the government. I think he probably traveled, and you would never know it. He liked what we were doing. He’d buy stuff. [Sam Schoenbaum, the world’s authority on Shakespeare at the time — he taught me at Maryland — he’d stop by and chat. He was a scholar, but he liked real life too. He loved the market. Once, by invitation, we went to his apartment on The Hill after a Folger play, and he opened the door with a thin stylish cigar in his mouth and said, “We’ve got a new world champion!” That’s the night Leon Spinks split decisioned Muhammad Ali for the crown. He made those cigars look so good teaching the three of us in his class, he got me smoking again after quitting for a year.] There was a guy and his wife, and he’d show up. He was a spiffier dresser, but sort of a sportier dresser, maybe a ski jacket on or something. He would disappear for a while and come back and tell me stories where he’d be in Buenos Aries. This was still at the end of the trouble. This would be ’83. Or maybe it would be afterwards and he’d be telling me about it too. He’d be talking about, “We’d be driving into these factories with armed guards, with grease guns on our side, you know, going past.” You know. So that was like that. There was a woman who was elderly, and she would buy stuff from me every week. One time, she had so much stuff she’d bought that day [from all the different vendors] — I didn’t know what she was doing with it — I gave her a ride home and when I looked in her place, she was a hoarder.
EUBANK: There on the Hill?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. I felt a little bad about it.
EUBANK: You were feeding her habit.
GRIFFITHS: I felt a little bad about it. But as Will Connor’s right-hand man, Greg [Hamilton], once said to me — I can’t remember his last name, he was a good guy — he said to me after I skipped a street sale at another place, he said, “Bill, why’d you let that guy go, I saw him pull out the money?” I said, “He told me it was his rent money.” I said [to the guy], “Never spend your rent money.” He [Greg] goes, “Bill, if he doesn’t give it to you, he’s going to give it to somebody else.” Sure enough. I looked down the way and he was buying a black [light inspired] rug from somebody else. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but I did keep that in mind. There were those people. A lot of regulars. I can’t really remember right now.
EUBANK: How long did you sell? How many years were you there?
GRIFFITHS: I sold every single Saturday from 1981 on, every single Saturday through 1994. When I was not there in the summer when I’d go away to Cape Cod, I started to have my best friend and his family sell. He had six kids in seven years. They were hustlers. [laughter] He was a hustler. He worked for HOC. He was second in charge for HOC for putting deals together and for mortgages and stuff. He would work deals [for HOC] with people. They’d give him everything in these deals.
GRIFFITHS: Housing Opportunities Commission. My point is he was a hell of a salesman. We knew each other in kindergarten. I waited to bring him on board because I knew he’d want some money for what he did. He and his family ended up running Eastern Market for me from 1990 to 1994. Eastern Market got me this house and it got me the retail store in Takoma Park. The retail store in Takoma Park was rolling.
EUBANK: What was the name of your retail store again?
GRIFFITHS: Then, it was Andean Trading Company. At that point I was buying in New York [as well]. I was buying so big that the people who I looked up to when I was first getting into the business, like Chuck Gleeson at Todo Mundo in Annapolis for instance — he’d buy six of one dress and I’d buy like 200 because I knew the store in Takoma Park was initially just going to be warehouse.
EUBANK: A distribution center?
GRIFFITHS: Just a warehouse and I could sell at all the campuses and I could sell it at Eastern Market. From ’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, ’91, ’92 in Takoma Park it was the glory days. Everybody would slum in Takoma Park. Then ’92 Christmas recession, it stuck around in Takoma Park retail longer, ’93, ’94. We had to get out of town, so we became a Federal Realty Investment Trust property and moved to Gaithersburg [under the name Uncommon Threads], but we wanted to get to Congressional Mall, [or Bethesda Row] in Bethesda.
EUBANK: So, in ’94 the family stopped selling—
GRIFFITHS: I stopped because I was making so much—
EUBANK: With your store?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah and stuff I was sending down was starting to get sun-faded like the shirts on hangers. At one point in our heyday down there one of the guys, a Montgomery County friend of mine, needed some money. He was a little down on his luck. He put together a gigantic PVC [polyvinyl chloride pipe] structure for me that ran about as tall as that—
EUBANK: For your booth?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, for my booth. It was to fit exactly inside the booth. We’d carry it down on top of Big Red, bungeed down. All the racks were bungeed. We looked crazy pulling in. We worked festivals in Newark, Delaware [and other places] like that. People didn’t know what the thing [was], you know, we’d put up. Suddenly it’s like four hundred sweaters on hangers [coming out of tall cardboard boxes]. We’d just pop them [onto the rack], sweaters [already] on hangers.
EUBANK: So, you were sort of the model of that vendor down there because they let them do that now.
GRIFFITHS: We were the first people to get a tent down there and stuff. [First to have a plexiglass mirror. First to have a dressing room. We used to have people take clothes behind stage, but that was kind of creepy changing there, so we got this red striped dressing room that looked like something you’d see at the beach in the 1890s.] But this PVC thing was just like—
EUBANK: In the ten, fifteen years that you were down there, what were the changes that you saw? Your revenue I guess went up, right?
GRIFFITHS: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. What happened was people started to cannibalize each other.
EUBANK: Infighting?
GRIFFITHS: Just people selling the same stuff — like tango these days when people are putting on seven things a night and stuff. So that was going on and wholesalers were showing up and sort of undercutting you when they needed the money with what you had to sell their stuff for. It was okay in South America, in Bolivia in La Paz or Sorata, or in Peru it was okay to do it. But that’s not how you do business in America; if you’re going to wholesale somebody something, you don’t retail right next to them and undersell them. That was going on.
Also, I remember because I knew so many people from the union that we started and stuff, Harrod would ask me how should we do the definitions of craft? You didn’t want them too tight because I wasn’t making my stuff. So, you want to sell handcrafts, you don’t have to make them, just like some of the farmers, like I said, weren’t [growing their food]. So, kind of turn the blind eye a little bit. When the city was coming after him — there were people coming after John Harrod all the time to shut him down because his — from the get-go — because he was a large, black man with vision who had the spirit of a lion. There were people, white people, and some richer blacks, but mainly all these white people—
EUBANK: That was Barry’s administration.
GRIFFITHS: Marion Barry, yeah. Yeah, Barry was doing it. Walter Washington started it.
EUBANK: But they were behind, they supported Harrod, right?
GRIFFITHS: They were, but then Barry was such a shrewd politician that I remember there was a time, one of the first big pushes to turn the market into sort of a Faneuil Hall [Boston], Barry seemed to be pushing it. I don’t think he really was because everybody who knew Marion Barry knew where his heart was. It was in Southeast. That’s why those people always put him back in office and whatnot. He seemed to be the figurehead for it at the time. I had coined the phrase down there, “Bring it up to code and leave it alone.” I had talked to Chuck Burger when he was still running Provisions [former store across Seventh Street from Eastern Market], so that would have been the years when this was happening. Chuck said to me, “It’s not going to happen.” I said, “That’s good but why do you say it? “Because they’ve made no provision for parking. You always have to account for the parking.” But they wanted to gut the whole thing and create balconies inside and all that different stuff. That was going on. People were always after John.
EUBANK: So, during that movement there was pressure. Well, Harrod had made the market into a feasible enterprise whereas before that it had just been a storage facility.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. He had. John would step out of that east door on Seventh Street looking out on the farmer’s market and he’d stand — I gave him a 19th Century Spanish military poncho like the Otavaleños [an Andean native people skilled in textiles and business] gave me as a present. I gave him one as a present. I’d give them to people like Ohio State Buckeyes on your helmet. Everybody that worked for me had one of those. They were about four pounds. They were great. Harrod would come out and stand in the doorway [in one] and just gaze [kinglike]. He was business, but John was always fair. Even when he really liked me, would ask my advice, he was always fair [meaning he’d arbitrate in favor of a competitor instead of me if he thought the person was right.] He was always fair. There’s another story I could tell you, but always fair. I can’t tell you how many times — I told you the deal that I got the number one spot and between us we’re rotating. Then Stu and I were fighting over rotating and stuff, and I’ll tell you a funny story about that in a minute.
They always accused John of embezzlement. John never embezzled anything. In fact, John for much of his life was living in his mother’s basement after he was divorced from his wife. Do you know what she cited for the grounds for divorce? It wasn’t another woman. It was Market 5 Gallery.
EUBANK: He was an artist. I think he saw himself that way, didn’t he?
GRIFFITHS: No, no. He saw himself as an impresario doing a beautiful thing. He was a civil rights worker. He had stories of Stokely Carmichael and him and stuff like that. He was a Southeast D.C. kid who played [college] football in Iowa, who grew up in Southeast and got into Bob Dylan. In fact, Harrod had a great story; I haven’t thought of this in years. Harrod loved women. Harrod loved women. I’m not saying he was a womanizer at all. I don’t know. But he loved women. He had a girlfriend. She took him down during — what’s the summer they called it in the South when they were signing everybody up? I can’t remember.
EUBANK: What, for voting rights?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah, ’64 I think it was. Whatever it was. [It was known as Freedom Summer.] When everybody was down there. It might have been the same year that the two white kids and the black kid were shot. Harrod was down there with a beautiful girl in Georgia and she got arrested. He was going to go bail her out. He said they’d actually broken up as being lovers, but he just loved her so much he was with her because he found her — he was just really attracted to her still, her spirit and stuff.
He said, “I need a ride into town.” And they said, “We just got back from town, man.” They said, “You ought to ask the white dude with the motorcycle over there, the motorcycle. He’s going into town.” Harrod asked the guy. It’s fucking Bob Dylan. He rides on the back of Bob Dylan’s motorcycle in Georgia, to whatever town it was. And he’s telling — when he realizes it’s Bob Dylan on his Triumph — he says, “I listen to your albums.” So Harrod, from being a Southeast kid, his mind was always open. Even when people came after him, he dealt with them magnanimously. I mean I watched this. People talk a lot of trash about John Harrod who had it in for him for no good reason. The dude was magnanimous. I knew people who were after him. I knew people from [studying the] depositions and stuff.
EUBANK: Why? Why were they after him?
GRIFFITHS: They wanted to shut him down and they wanted to take control of that space [he grew so beautifully].
EUBANK: Yeah, they wanted control of it.
GRIFFITHS: And you know why? I think of Carl Jung when he went to talk to the Navajos, and they talked about the restless look in the white man’s eye. They didn’t know what they wanted to do with that space. They just knew that they thought they could do something better and have more of a right to it than this black man with vision. And one of the first ways they’d come after him was, “Why are you on the sidewalk? You don’t have the right to take over the sidewalk on a Saturday.” Meanwhile every café — and Tunnicliff’s, every café in the city was starting to take over sidewalks. But it was a blindness they had. It was a blindness they had.
So, Harrod was great. So Harrod would come out like that, as things started to fill out and started to wrap around the corner to the north side of the wall and started to take over the north plaza. He had a raised area with trees and stuff that people would set up on. And stand at the foot of the tree, this high off the ground and stuff.
I don’t know what year Tom Rall came on board, but Tom Rall came on pretty early because I remember he came up with a British woman and an American guy who had traveled through Peru and stuff like that. They kind of had the Johnny Appleseed desperado thing [going]. He was a nice guy. She had an edge to her. And she was a Brit, like I said. She was selling Otavaleños sweaters too. She always wanted me to bring my price up so she could compete with me. I said, “I’ve been here for like five years before you. I like you but I wish you wouldn’t … ” I remember once they came up and they were in the Rall crew. They came up early. They were all from down [Interstate] 81. It was right around Woodstock or Mt. Jackson. I forget exactly. It was down 81. They had to travel a good ways to get here.
I remember one year they came and it was Christmas time. We’d been pushing so hard for months on the college scene and even people down there — everybody was just pushing so hard. I think it was like the weekend before Christmas; but I think Christmas was probably mid-week or something. Might even have been a day or two off. And they had coca leaves from Peru and they were passing them out to everybody down the line. [laughter] Because in those days if Harrod said, “Bill, we need everybody to vote this way,” I could walk down the line and just say, “We’re voting this way on this, this, and this.” And everybody would just vote that way. It was beautiful.
EUBANK: Vote on what?
GRIFFITHS: Whatever. This is how we’re going to define this or this is what we’re going to do here.
EUBANK: You mean vote in city elections?
GRIFFITHS: No, no, no. Just in terms of whatever it happened to be. For the way rules were going to be [applied to the craft line], or if the city was coming after us, [or if DOT were coming that day to write parking tickets on us all]. A million different things. The point was everybody was just like — you just walk down [the way and everyone is], “Okay, we got it.” Everybody was working together in the early days. Much like tango [in DC in the early days]. Anyway, they had this thing you could put in your mouth with the coca leaves that would somehow ignite it or whatever. Not ignite it but would set it going to where it would keep you awake. They would say the Indians would always be chewing this stuff. As you walked down the line that Saturday before Christmas everybody looked like they were chewing gum and they were chewing gum all day. [laughter] I’m sure some people [didn’t get that activating ingredient and] were saying, “I’m not getting anything out of this.” But they kept trying. They were so tired. Those people sold antiques. I still have one of their antiques in the basement. It looks like a little pirate chest I got from those guys.
So, Rall struck his own deal.
EUBANK: With Harrod?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. Saturdays became quite the success. Now Harrod had a vision to open things up on Sunday because everything on Seventh Street was shut on Sunday. And he did.
EUBANK: Was he the one who opened that door of the Sunday [market]?
GRIFFITHS: Absolutely. He did it through Rall. Rall used to have his auctions [inside Market 5] on Saturday. Before Rall had his auctions, there was a guy named Ibrahim, who had done time in Lorton [Reformatory, former prison in Lorton, Virginia], who would play the flute. He would play the Antonio Jobim song “Summer Nights.” You’d be against that wall in the summer and it would be like a Dutch oven. It would be like a hundred degrees baking on the outside. Inside it was even worse. But this beautiful Jobim song would just come wafting out the window. There was a jazz group they had. I don’t remember if was Buck Hill on sax. Don’t hold me to that because I think I might have got that mixed up. Or it might have been Buck Hill. It was a good quartet. They played jazz. At some point Rall came Saturdays and he would do his stuff. Then they switched him to Sunday. He’d do the auction.
EUBANK: Now was it Harrod who switched him to Sundays?
GRIFFITHS: Well, they’d open up Sunday as well as Saturday. But Rall started coming on Sunday. I don’t know why, and he could tell you. I would guess maybe it was just crazy competition and crazy on Saturday with getting stuff in there because it was so crowded. I tell you, as I got closer to Eastern Market [around 6:30 every Saturday morning] my foot would go down harder and harder on my accelerator pedal because I needed to get that parking space to back up [in] so I could unload right at my space. I didn’t want to be carrying two hours’ worth of stuff, you know, all the way down the block.
Here’s a funny story. One other way they’d come at John was they’d get the parking police to come after him and write tickets. But the farmers didn’t like that either because they’d hit the farmers too and they’d get pissed off. I don’t remember how this happened. But I remember somehow I ended up — they were writing on the front tag, I think, the tickets on the front tag so you couldn’t see them. Farmers too had people watching. Then you’d get lazy and they wouldn’t come for two months and then they’d catch you. Then you’d have watchers, people keeping an eye.
I remember I put a dead tag on [the] front of my white Econoline van. I remember as I was heading up to some of the colleges with an old student of mine who was working with me for that season. We get pulled over right north of Baltimore. I started to get out of the van. This is at the point where, you know, I have talked my way out of so many parking tickets, I’m in the hall of fame. I could tell you stories you wouldn’t believe. My number one rule was get out and talk to the cop before his gets his ticket book out because once he puts pen to ticket book, it’s over, right? But, I start to get out and my buddy Scott says, “Bill, you probably don’t want to get out, man. They don’t like you to get out anymore.” I said, “I got to get out,” And [he] goes, “Why?” I said, “Because I have a different tag on the front than I do on the back.” [laughter] That’s the only way I remembered that [tag was still on in front] —because they’d been writing tickets on us. We were playing it fast and loose in those days.
So, Rall started coming on Sundays. Vendors started showing up and John was trying to talk people into supporting Rall. John, when he needed money — Why did he need money? Why? Was he going to Vegas and blowing all this and embezzling it and all this? — No. John was charging us ten bucks, fifteen bucks, twenty bucks. When he needed money for cash flow, he’d say, “You know, Bill” — he’d call me in — he’d say, “Bill, let’s do a deal for the next four months.” And I’d say — Hey, If I ever did a movie I’d have Forest Whitaker play John Harrod. In fact, I’m writing a screenplay about Eastern Market and that’s who I’d love to get. But I’m never going to finish it, probably — But he says, he says, “[I] can even get you an even better deal.” I say, “John, you don’t need to give us a better deal. You got to look out for yourself.” While I’d be saying that, somebody would show up new and they’d say, “I don’t know if I can [make money here] … ” And John would say, “I’ll let you work free today and see how you [do].” That was John Harrod.
The people coming after him used that, that beautiful aspect of him, not only against him but [they]would lie and say he was embezzling money. I’ll tell you why I know this, because years later after I started the tango thing, and Eastern Market Management — whatever it was, I think they were out of Bethesda, I can’t remember the exact name of the group. I think the guy’s name was Cook, the hands-on guy. I called the comptroller because they were saying — The Hill Rag, and Jean-Keith Fagon, who I knew from tango at Leon Harris’ [tango lessons] at 1250 New Jersey Avenue, he was out to get John too. I could never understand that. I remember once they sent a reporter over to talk to us. This was during tango, so I’m jumping ahead.
EUBANK: So, this is the 90s?
GRIFFITHS: No, [because the Eastern Market Management deal is while I ran the tango there, which puts it after June 2004. Up to and] after the fire [which was in 2007]. This might be 2007 [right after the fire, maybe, but while Market 5 is still open]? I’m jumping ahead. This is just about people coming after John. I had called the Bethesda comptroller. Everybody was dealing with the front person who wanted to get John, who was in cahoots with different people on the Hill. I called the comptroller. Nobody ever thought to do that.
EUBANK: The comptroller of the Market?
GRIFFITHS: No, of the Market management thing that was running it after the fire, right? I said, “I’m calling on behalf of Market 5. I just want to know how much — You know, there’s a wide disparity [in] claims of what people say Market 5 owes you. I want to make sure we can get a handle on it so we can make sure it’s straight, you know.” The guy stayed with me on the phone for like a half hour. [He’s the comptroller, and he doesn’t know about the Byzantine infighting at Eastern Market, he’s a nice guy just doing his job.] But they were claiming in print that John was in arrears $45,000 and was embezzling the money. They were accusing him of that.
EUBANK: When you talked about writing John’s position papers, is that what you meant?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, I was writing that, yeah, yeah. I was talking to Tommy Wells. [Dan Tangherlini of the D.C. government. Donald Temple, John’s Lawyer.] I was talking to all kinds of people. The guy says, “Yeah, no. He doesn’t owe $45,000. He doesn’t owe any more than $1500. In fact, we might owe him money.”
And Fagon is in the meantime — We were pretty, not good friends, but we got along, chummy, talking just as you would with somebody you’re dancing next to, you know, at Leon’s. But when I did Eastern, he’d start ragging on Harrod. I’d say, “You know he’s my friend.” And Fagon would keep ragging on him. Fagon would start to tell me about how many CDs in his collection and he wouldn’t drink a bottle of wine that didn’t cost less than $100. I was getting really bored with his boorishness. But he sent a guy, a Hill Rag guy [Peter Waldron] came over to interview me and I told him everything the comptroller said. We talked for two hours. For an hour and a half we talked about [what the comptroller said], the final half hour we talked about me and how exotic tango was. When that article came out, they still claimed John Harrod was embezzling money, owed $45,000. But then they spent 75 percent of the article on tango. Never budged off what they [always] said, [even] when I told them [about my conversation with the Eastern Market Management’s comptroller]. I gave them the guy’s name and everything else so they could call to corroborate it, right? They put a picture in [the story too]. It wasn’t even of John Harrod. It was of Charlie, another heavy black man who did all of John’s work there putting out the chairs and everything. [I never saw Fagon after that but I always wanted to ask him what was up with showing the picture of Charlie and saying it was John. I was pretty disgusted about the whole thing and next time I did see Fagon, who’s Jamaican I think, I wanted to ask him if all black people looked alike to him. But I never got the chance. But I always thought that was poor form — especially for a Capitol Hill newspaper.]
EUBANK: Why don’t we use this as segue into the tango.
EUBANK: It seems like you’re getting into the turf of the time frame when you would have been involved with North Hall and the tango.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. Let me just wind up by saying this. John Harrod, by opening things on Sunday, not only had one of the most successful craft markets anywhere in the United States on Saturday. It had started to spread down the street. We’re talking years later now into the 90s, but it was starting to work, be run at Pyle. I think it’s Pyle, right?
EUBANK: Hine. You’re talking about Hine. You’re talking about Hine [former Hine Junior High School at Pennsylvania Avenue between Seventh and Eighth Streets SE, now a mixed-use redevelopment].
GRIFFITHS: Was it Hine?
GRIFFITHS: Hine, Hine.
EUBANK: Princess Wittaker, I think is was Princess Wittaker [Princess Whitfield] was the principal.
GRIFFITHS: She might be the one who loved John.
EUBANK: She was. Or, I don’t know, actually Rall dealt with her but I imagine there was probably some overlap there.
GRIFFITHS: They stole that from John. In opening things up on Sunday, not only was John not embezzling and not only did John have as much right to take over the sidewalk as any of the restaurants on Capitol Hill, John created a scene down there on a Saturday and Sunday that raised all those people’s revenues without changing the beautiful, funky, fragile ecosystem that had taken over a hundred years to form on Eastern Market. He had the black churches — he had all those things that were being pushed out with gentrification into PG County [Prince George’s County]. He was still supporting all that with the Gallery and all of that stuff.
EUBANK: You said he was teaching kids?
GRIFFITHS: Teaching kids at Hine before they got pushed over to Kentucky Avenue. He’d have things. I think Ted Kennedy had a dinner there. [See the Overbeck interview with John Harrod for affirmation of this.]
EUBANK: There’s a legend. I don’t know [if] that’s true.
GRIFFITHS: He told me.
EUBANK: Oh, he did?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Another way they tried to shut John down was they’d send ABC Liquor [Alcoholic Beverage Control Board]. Those people would change, who run [it]. I won’t name names now, but I know who they were. You know who you are. They’d send people over, sometimes underage people to try and drink. I know even when I started tango — I’ll jump back to tango in a minute — they’d come in, and then they took my driver’s license, you know, like, “Do you have a license for this?” and all that stuff. They shut down a wedding. They made a wedding stop.
EUBANK: Who did?
GRIFFITHS: [John used to tell the story of how] ABC liquor made a wedding stop [at Market 5] so he could not make his money doing that, right? Yet they’d never give him — as we all know, there was no air-conditioning, heat or running water in that building. [They’d promise it to him on occasion but never deliver, and they used that as the reason to shut down that wedding and the like because you needed running water and stuff to be up to code, and you had to be up to code to have wine. But he had been grandfathered in for years and allowed to hold such events for the very reason the space should have been brought up to code. It was spiteful. And then the head of ABC would step down and be on one of the Eastern Market community groups that wanted, you know to make Eastern Market Great Again. And another one of them would then head up ABC. I know this happened at least a couple times. That’s all I can say. And these guys saw themselves as pillars of the Eastern Market neighborhood establishment. Righteously so. But as John would always say, the people never put up with all their plans over the years when it would come to a vote — until the fire. That’s what ultimately necessitated the change]. And he still made it go.
So, my final point, my ostensible final point, about the Market in the early days, Saturdays and Sundays: John not only was not embezzling, John had created a cash cow for everybody there that not only made them more money, but raised the property values for that whole area without gentrifying it. Without gentrifying it.
EUBANK: Without sacrificing the general—
GRIFFITHS: The integrity of the people of all races, colors, and creeds who were there. It’s the real estate people that were buying the stuff up as early as the 60s, like Steve Cymrot.
EUBANK: After the riots.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. People like that were buying it up and stuff. That’s a whole other story. The whole [Old Naval Hospital] carriage house thing with [Hal] Gordon [president of the Community Action Group]. The [federal] earmarks [and the new politicos from Louisiana] and all that. Whole other story. It was real politics of windows, behind windows, behind windows. Who was the final—
EUBANK: I love that you know all this stuff.
GRIFFITHS: A story for another day. Don’t even get—
EUBANK: As one of the first vendors, you know, you nurtured that seed that John planted so you deserve a place in the lexicon as well.
GRIFFITHS: I’ll tell you something and please, whoever hears this or reads it, take this in the spirit I’m telling it. John’s spirit was so magnanimous. He started it. He was 99 [percent]. Just because I brought some of those people and because I came with tango later — and he loved the tango. We can talk about that in a minute. John said to me as he was dying — and that’s after they beat him. They beat him. They put him in an early grave. He put himself in too with drinking and stuff. But they beat him. He said after he lost control, he said, “Bill, what we ought to do one of these” — it hurt him to say this, I’m sure, because he hated to lose control of that to the city again, and there’s whole other stories about that — he says, “Bill, one of these Saturdays you and me ought to get a couple of these chairs and one of those bottles of red wine of yours and we ought to just sit out on the north patio and look at what we created.”
EUBANK: Aw, that’s beautiful.
GRIFFITHS: It was him that did it, but he included you. This is how John worked. He’d tell a Marion Barry story. He’d say [when] Carol Ann …
EUBANK: Kane? Betty Ann Kane?
GRIFFITHS: [No, actually I mean Carol Schwartz] — when she would be running against Barry — Barry was magnanimous too. He [John Harrod] said, “Barry would get in. She would ride in the same limo as him to speak at a certain venue. He’d go in and speak and he’d come out the back door, and he’d [say, “Okay, you’re up. Then they’d] drive around. She’d get out. She’d walk in and then she’d lambast him. And she’d come out and get in and they’d drive away.” He was taking care of her. It was like, magnanimous. There’s a lot of good stories I’m leaving. There’s one hilarious story I can tell you later.
EUBANK: Do you mean about Harrod or about the politics behind it?
GRIFFITHS: I’ll tell you one more funny story about the way things were then I’ll jump to tango. Towards the end [of my time at Eastern Market] with my buddy who’s working off money I loaned him to buy a car — the guy who built the big PVC structure — we’re fighting with Stu all the time —on the streets at Dupont Circle and Eastern Market — and we’re killing still, we’re killing still. It was just the right time for me in my life. I don’t know what it was, but it was just my time to roll for whatever reason and it was not Stu’s time. Stu knew it and I knew it. Stu was always getting us for like moving into Will’s spot a little bit. He was trying to control us with all these inches and stuff. And the rotating and stuff. Stu quit showing up for like maybe eight weeks or so. But I kept track. When I got there one day, he’s in the number one spot. I said, “Stu, you’re in the number three spot today.” He goes, “What? No, I’m in the number one spot.” I said, “No, you’re in the number three spot.” [He says] “I haven’t been here in two months.” I said, “Well, nevertheless it’s your day to be in the number three spot. I’ve been keeping track.” So, I made him pull down everything and leave. [Because] he was in my face on the street. So, there was a David Letterman thing. Do you remember Rupert Jee on [The] David Letterman [Show], the Asian guy that ran the deli down below?
EUBANK: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: And he’d put on a hat, he’d have an earpiece, and he’d have a camera [in the hat no one could see]. And Rupert Jee would talk to people and say, “Where you from?” You’d say, “Cape Cod.” He’d go, “I’m from Cape Cod.” “What part?” “Brewster.” “I’m from Brewster!” He’d get it down until he’s like living across the street from you. Then David Letterman would really start going crazy on the people.
So, I make Stu move over two spots this day. And Stu’s going crazy man. I knew Stu was in Nam [Vietnam War] but I thought he had a desk job. It turns out he didn’t. He was in the field. But Stu’s going [off]. My buddy Mac is right behind me. Mac is hilarious and sharp and his own worst enemy. So, Stu [says], “Griffiths, you manipulate people, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re evil.” And Mac’s whispering in my ear, “You’re not evil. You’re just an agent in the conspiracy of evil.” And I’m saying, “I’m not evil Stu. I’m just an agent in the conspiracy of evil.” He’d go [sniffing sound]. And I’d say, “Stu go ahead. Hit me. Hit me Stu. If you want, take a shot.” I could see him like — he could have put me out probably as it turns out. He storms in and talks to Harrod. And this is another good Harrod story about how fair John is. John at that point loved me, man, we were dear friends. John comes out without Stu and says, “Man, what are you doing to my brother in there? He’s about ready to have a conniption fit.” I said, “Hey, he didn’t show up for two months, I moved him over.” He goes, “Well, we’re going to settle this once and for all. We’re going to draw straws for that spot. We’re drawing straws. And once whoever gets it, we’re going to put down markers for how big you can go and not beyond.” So, Stu comes out and John’s got the three straws, right. I knew if I drew the straw I’d lose. So, I said, “Stu, you go ahead and draw man.” And Stu drew the short straw! [laughter] So we won, right? It drove him crazy.
Meanwhile, I had made friends with Reverend Miles who was also across from us. I had made friends with Regi and Rick Miner. Regi ended up working for me for years and became like Floyd Mayweather and Riddick Bowe’s bodyguard. [Bodyguard to lots of NBA stars and entertainers.] He worked in my retail store with me [too]. He worked on the road with me, three years. Anyway, Regi’s there and all this, [but he’s] with the Reverend Miles, [who’s been selling on the farmers’ line forever] and stuff [which is how I met him in the first place]. Anyway, Stu sets up. So, the next week we show up, right? We got the boxes slightly out of [the way]. You have to set up. You can’t put the boxes in your space because then you got to set the space up. So, you’re outside [the lines of the assigned space]. We say, “Stu, Stu, Stu. The boxes are outside the space but just for a moment while we set the space up.” We drive him crazy with that, right?
Three days later, Regi and me and Will Connor, the jeweler, we went to Hechinger’s [former hardware store]. We created a cardboard stencil and we got a steel bristle brush and we got paint. We came down there and we had lookouts at either end of the block, and we erased the white paint [Harrod had put down right after we drew straws that Saturday]. I gave myself two and a half extra feet into Will’s. He said, “I’m cool with that.” Then he gave himself a little bit into Stu’s. Then Lynne would always set up [a little] into Stu’s and stuff. What ended up happening — nobody ever caught on. I told John maybe years later. But, meanwhile, Wayne, who’s taken Regi’s job in the meantime for the Reverend Miles, Wayne’s saying, “Bill, you know … ” But he’s coming to me because Regi, we’re like brothers. He’s saying, “Bill, vendors are complaining my flowers—” It’s spring — “My flowers are going into their space.” I said, “Wayne, you’re a farmer. The Glasgows held this space in the 50s and 60s. The farmers have a right to this space. You push those flowers out even further.” So, we [squeezed Stu from each side, and we had Wayne squeeze him from the front to the point he couldn’t figure out how to set up his spot except] with his table against the wall. About three weeks later he quit coming. So, we moved Stu out of there.
EUBANK: Squeezed him out.
GRIFFITHS: So, tango. I quit [vending at Eastern] in ’94
EUBANK: Oh, so, the vending. You quit because you got the retail store up in—
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. Everything was rolling. We were making money, man. We were the darling of — I mean, every week in City Paper we were running a fifth of a page, bottom right corner. It was a lot of time.
EUBANK: So, you got — so, Eastern Market launched you.
GRIFFITHS: Oh, it launched me. Yeah. And we [often] had a full-page ad on the back [of the City Paper.] Our ad campaign, which we did — our first successful shoot [was] at Eastern Market. Amr Mounib, who had been one of the slave-like interns for the French version of Elle magazine, you know, they get like twelve interns and work them to death [he was our photographer]. He was really talented, and he suggested, “I know a place where we should shoot the ads that you want. We should go to Eastern Market.” And he didn’t know that—
EUBANK: Oh, wow, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: We were walking down the way past Davey [who] used to be there with his mother all the time. [Reference is to David Morgal and his mother Louise Morgal.] They’d sell eggs and stuff out of a truck. They were from Virginia or West Virginia or somewhere. We were walking down the way and he sees they’ve got the camera and stuff, he goes, “Bill, you want some pigeons in your shot because I can get Vivian, a pigeon.” He knows the frigging pigeons by now. “I can get Vivian to sit on my shoulder if I just put a few crumbs up there.” [Interviewer laughs] So, we did a very successful shoot. I’ve got them all at school right now. I could show you. [They] were shot with my daughter and my brother-in-law, [who] looked like Harrison Ford, [as two of our models and we had two pros. One came down from Philly, and the other was Isabella Rossellini’s godchild, I believe].
EUBANK: And this was in the 90s?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. This is the late 80s.
EUBANK: Oh, well, so, you were doing your shop and the Eastern Market.
GRIFFITHS: Shop started in ’87 in Takoma Park.
EUBANK: So, you were doing the Eastern Market and the shop.
GRIFFITHS: And killing at the shop, yeah.
EUBANK: Uh-huh, yeah, okay.
GRIFFITHS: We’d come back from the Eastern Market and unload and, you know, and stuff, and …
EUBANK: Now, were you tango dancing before …
GRIFFITHS: No, I started tangoing in 2000.
EUBANK: And when did it come to the North Hall [of Eastern Market]?
GRIFFITHS: June [24], 2004.
EUBANK: And, so, how did you make that happen?
GRIFFITHS: So, from 1994 to 2004, I bailed on Eastern because I wasn’t making the money. And I was making money elsewhere. And my stuff was just getting sun faded and stuff, you know. So, I was with my comedian brother-in-law, his family, coming in from Sacramento. It was spring break and I was taking them to the Eastern Market. And he says, “Do you still know people there?” And I said, “Oh, yeah. I still know people.” [Interviewer laughs] And we were walking down the way, I was, like, saying hi to everybody and we walk into Harrod’s office. And he goes, “Whoa.” And he says … I mean I won’t say what he said, but it was really complimentary, you know.
GRIFFITHS: And then he says to somebody in there, “Tell them how much you made your first day.” I said, “$12.” He said, “There you go,” you know. John always had a couple of people there who were really down on their luck. He would kind of take care of them, but he was tough on them. He’d get them to go get cigarettes for him. He’d get them to go get a [Hennessey] for him. And he always smoked Benson & Hedges, which I thought was interesting, you know. [Interviewer laughs] And he called them squirrels. I thought what a perfect name. He wasn’t looking down on them, that was his description.
EUBANK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: He wouldn’t say it to them, but he didn’t care if he did. He was tough on them, but he took care of them. So, anyway, a couple of the squirrels were in there and this couple, vendors, who were setting up a gig. You know, they were new and stuff and …
EUBANK: So, this is when you went there in 2000.
EUBANK: And you took your brother-in-law …
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah, [and his family and] my wife …
EUBANK: He was visiting from out of town.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
EUBANK: And what was happening in the North Hall then, when you were visiting him?
GRIFFITHS: Oh, everybody, people were selling the hell out of stuff.
EUBANK: Yeah. So, all the vendors—
GRIFFITHS: It had long since moved inside. As soon as Tom Rall moved to Sunday, John just filled it inside, too. Yeah. And on rainy days it worked inside. Because you’d be out in the rain. There was one season, I can’t tell you what year it was, but there was one season where it rained something like twenty-one out of twenty-three Saturdays. But, because I was selling Kenya bags, I just put clear plastic over them, and I made tons of money. [It was really a charmed life I was living at that time.]
GRIFFITHS: And I’ll tell you one other thing. Jams, right? Jams — surf baggies and shorties and Hawaiian shirts. I had the best Hawaiian shirt selection for five states, probably. [Interview laughs] I had just all, I had them from everywhere. I was buying in New York all the time, at the trade shows, you know. People would see me coming [not knowing and I’d just sit down]. The first time I did WeBeBop [a women’s brand of clothing] I wrote a $25,000 order, you know, and stuff. And, so, I took everything off my table except Jams. You can see I’m selling all kinds of different stuff. And for a whole season I just did Jams. I had the Mexican blankets down [for tablecloths] and I’d take suntan lotion and I’d put it on the table so you could smell the beach.
EUBANK: Get the smell.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it would be like little girls saying “Jams,” you know. And mothers would be saying, “No, they’re right here. Let me buy them for you.” [Interviewer laughs] How many times did mothers push it on their daughters, you know or something? So, we were killing, we were killing. But everybody inside, you know, didn’t do as well usually, but they did — at least on a rainy day they could stick it out. Or even on a super cold day, no heat, but still it would block the wind. Sometimes, you would get a wind tunnel there. So, anyway, in 2004 I show up and Harrod asks what I’m doing. I say, “Well, the store is, you know—” We’re out in — we moved our store in ’95. We moved from Takoma Park to Gaithersburg. And he said, “So, okay, well, , that’s cool, what else you doing?’ I said, “Well, I’m teaching high school still, and all that.” I’m teaching high school. I wasn’t teaching high school when I left. I started teaching high school in 1998. And I’m [still] teaching high school.
And as an afterthought, I said, “Wait a second, you know, one thing I’m doing is I’ve gotten into dancing. I do tango.” I said, “In fact, my wife and I, budget-wise we’re losing about two hundred bucks a month. And, so, I’ve been thinking of what could I do with tango to make some money? Do something with something I love, you know.” And I was thinking I could go to the source and come back, buy cheap and sell dear. But I’m thinking, people just copy it if it’s CDs. I don’t want to get into clothing anymore because, you know, your profits hang on hangers instead of money in your pocket. You don’t want that.
GRIFFITHS: And I said, “You know, honestly, the one thing people like for tango is to dance. They want to dance.” I could have put out the best [tango] clothing in the world with like Raymond [Ercoli out of Philly] and people like that. I could have sold the most beautiful — but I didn’t want to get into that, you know. And, so, I said, “I’m thinking of putting on a tango dance.” He said, “Do it here.”
Now, at that time, in this living room [where this interview is], there’s a bunch [of people taking tango lessons] — I started at Leon Harris’, another John Harrod type character.
GRIFFITHS: Humble, quiet about things, did nothing but help launch tango in this town along with Betty, over on Harrison Street, you know. Joe Petrisko, too. A couple of other people I don’t know who had Saturday gigs. One was a husband and wife team who showed up at Eastern once. And I didn’t know who they were and Ruth [Kubishen, who helped Leon for years, and then helped me at Eastern Market] told me who they were. I think Viviana Levinson was there that night and she told me who they were. I didn’t even know them. And there was another woman, sort of a, you know, a little flashier person I think, who moved to Florida, who put on a good one. And maybe went to New York even and did one, I forget. But, basically, those were the people who started it [tango in Washington].
EUBANK: And there were other milongas—
GRIFFITHS: In those days, Leon was Tuesday, Wednesday night. There was a Saturday gig and everybody went to that thing, you know. Everybody went to the same gig.
EUBANK: Right.
GRIFFITHS: There was one gig a week on Saturday and everybody did the same thing.
EUBANK: For tango, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, everybody did Leon and this and this. And it wasn’t until like 2001 or so that I was moving out of Leon’s, you know, in the sense that steps and stuff. And I wanted to — I knew it wasn’t just a basic eight where you had to do those same eight steps, you know. You could — I’d see people—
EUBANK: You’d embellish.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, I’d see Tango Bar [a film]. I’d see them doing different things, or The Tango Lesson. He wasn’t just dancing like that, you know. [Interviewer laughs] I think The Tango Lesson [a film] is what put tango on the map again, with the Pablo Veron thing. And the Fabian Salas and Gustavo Naveira thing. And, so—
EUBANK: So, it was that meeting with Harrod who said “Do it here” that gave you the idea.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. But what I was going to say was — And then Anne-Sophie was doing B A [Restaurant Tango] Lounge with Eduardo Fernandez, who was like a lion there, you know. And he had like a woman on either side of him and stuff. He looked like — you know, who’s [Guido in 8?]? Marcello Mastroianni [he] looked like. And, you know, Diversité with Moussa Toure, right across the Church Street Alley there from B A Lounge [also on 14th Street].
EUBANK: Yes, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: And they were both going at the same time and everybody got along, you know. So, everything is going on the same days but it’s just starting to change a little bit. Like you got two things on the same corner [like vending].
EUBANK: It started to get more venues, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Anne-Sophie [Ville] — I remember my dance partner in those days [my chiropractor who got me into tango], we stopped after Leon’s to check out [Anne-Sophie at] B A Lounge and stuff — and, so, my wife started to get into it a little bit [too]. But she didn’t like the scene. She liked to dance. Like a lot of people, she liked to dance, but she didn’t want to dance with a lot of men she didn’t know.
EUBANK: Yeah, that’s the thing about tango. Yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, you know. And, so, I’m thinking I can do it [put on a weekly tango dance]. I didn’t want to step on Leon’s toes. I didn’t want to — I couldn’t do it Saturday. I didn’t want to do it Sunday because I taught high school, you know. You had to get up the next day. And that left, like, Monday and Thursday, and I think Monday might have been [taken]. I don’t know if that was Diversité [nightclub] or not. That might have been Diversité.
EUBANK: I don’t know.
GRIFFITHS: I can’t remember. But, for whatever reason, I chose Thursday because the Levinsons [Viviana and Isidoro] were doing lessons that night and that was it. And although I got to be pretty good friends with Vivi and Izzy over the years from working with them, you know the truth is they were the odd man out in that. Stepping on them was the least hurtful of anybody I could step on at that point, because they were doing their lessons somewhere else. And, so, John says, “Let’s start it this week, this weekend.” I said “No, I’ve got to get a dance floor,” because Moussa, Diversité, had already moved to CocoCabana [in Hyattsville]. And I was talking to Cynthia Schoeppel and Irwin Singer, right?
GRIFFITHS: You know, Irwin’s wife is with QuinTango, and he and Cynthia are very dear friends and stuff. And they said, “You know, if you open this you’ve got to get a dance floor because you can’t dance on Eastern Market’s floor. I know that the floor. It’s concrete, and it’s going to wreck women’s shoes and their knees.” I said okay. So, John wants me to start it that very week and I say, “No, I need to get a dance floor.”
EUBANK: A wooden dance floor.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. And, so, I get online and I hustle it up and I find this $7,000, 16-by-24-foot maple dance floor [and] I bartered them down to $4,400 because the finish is irregular and they’re not even sure where, you know. They delivered it to [our] driveway, and somehow they drop it in the mud in the rain on a big pallet, and somehow my wife and her friend — who would do yard work and pull stumps out, you know, attach them to the bumper of her car — figured out how to move it on two-by-fours into the garage. Twelve hundred pounds.
EUBANK: Oh, wow, they saved it.
GRIFFITHS: I have no idea how they did it. Twelve hundred-pound dance floor. Not counting the cart that it went on. So, April is when I see John. June [24th] we do the trial balloon, right? And we load the dance floor stuff into my Ford Econoline van. And, now, Eastern Market has no running water. So, you have to bring box after box after box of Trader Joe’s gallons of water.
EUBANK: Oh, gee.
GRIFFITHS: And I skipped something. Before I decided to do this, some people that I met at Anne-Sophie’s, the B A Lounge, a couple of the guys were getting — one was Tuan Tran and he was dancing with Heifa O’Neill at the time. Six couples of us got along. I was dancing with Donna Cernik at the time, [now] Donna Hudson. One of the guys was an ex-Navy Seal who actually went into kind of like a monastery type thing when he got out to decompress, you know, and turned me on to a Carl Jung video. A very interesting guy. And he [Rick] and his wife [Ellen] ultimately moved to Recoleta [a neighborhood in Buenos Aires]. They said to me, “Instead of going to all these workshops where they tell you what they’re going to do and it keeps changing all the time, why don’t we get together, hire a teacher, bring them to our place, and tell them what we want to do?” Which reminded me of the vending, when I put together the union and a cartel of people that would work festivals together and set up together.
GRIFFITHS: And we worked the road together and we worked Eastern [Market] together, you know. And I said, ‘I’ve always believed in the cartel. That’s a great idea.” So, I just said, “My place, Saturday afternoon. We’ll bring in Joe Petrisko, we’ll do close embrace [in my living room]. It’s a five mover — the TV, the sectional sofa, the coffee table, the wood, and something else.” We had a 110-pound dog named Leo who was the best dog in the world, you know. He was Golden Retriever and Black Lab and Rottweiler. And the best of all [those] things. We put him in the back of the Dodge Caravan. And we’d have two hours of class.
EUBANK: So, this is the group that you ended up bringing to Eastern Market.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, I had cash flow. I didn’t have money. I thought I had more money than I did, but I always had cash flow. So, I’m putting out like five bottles of nice wine, six bottles. I’m putting out different assorted nuts and things and cut up apple and stuff. We’ll learn these moves for two hours and then that puts us 2:00 to 4:00 P.M. From 4:00 to 6:00 nobody’s going anywhere. Everybody starts drinking and eating, and then for [the next] two hours we integrate everything we’ve learned. Six couples in that living room. So, we learned to dance in a tight spot.
EUBANK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Petrisko loved it. He was very generous about it. He just wanted twenty bucks from each [couple]. We said, “No, we’ll pay you $200.” So, I told him after a while, I said, “I’m going to open up a gig at Eastern Market.” To a person, except for Donna — Joe, everybody — said, “Can’t be done. Somebody tried some other dance there. Can’t be done.” Donna said, “I believe you can do it.”
And one of the women, Joe’s partner — Joe always liked petite women who were — She was beautiful. I can’t remember her name right now. Karen, I think. She said, “I don’t know if it will work or not, Bill, but I’ll help you if you need my help.” So, nobody thinks you can. Other people are saying it can’t be done either, you know. Everybody.
So, we load this [dance floor, CD player, food, water, wine, cups, paper towels, trays, etc.] in the van. I don’t get my buddy Patrick whose family was taking over for me down at Eastern, then ’90 to ’94. But I take his son Marty.
EUBANK: Oh, his son.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, because Patrick is my age. I’m looking for a young guy, and Marty’s training to be a firefighter. He’s in great shape. He’s in Gymkhana at Maryland and stuff like that. And you’ve got to put down this floor, you know. So, Marty and I go down this first night.
EUBANK: This is in ’04?
GRIFFITHS: This is June 24, 2004. We go down. We’ve never set this floor up. It’s a tongue and groove thing, you know. We set the thing up, takes us like five hours. Later we can do it in twenty minutes. But it takes us hours. Maybe three hours, I don’t know. But we’re on the phone [1aughs] with the—
EUBANK: Yeah, how do you do this?
GRIFFITHS: —people asking how to do this thing, you know. And we get it together and, so, what do I put out? The reason I’ve told you about stuff here, what do I put out? I put out eight cut up Gala apples, two Golden pineapples—
EUBANK: Well, you know, I remember that.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. Two pineapples, right? Two trays of strawberries. The 70% dark chocolate, Trader Joe’s, broken up into chunks, right? And sometimes truffles if it was not warm weather when they’d melt. Then we’d have a Brie cheese, couple of Bries, and we’d have a Dubliner or some other kind of cheese and stuff. And then we’d have the rice crackers and we’d have two cases of Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s, the Merlot or Cab, but mainly Merlot. [Interviewer laughs] And I’ll say this to the world, the reason dance gigs at bars and restaurants don’t work is because dancers don’t buy drinks too much. There’s a couple of people who’ll buy $45 worth and there’s a couple who’ll buy one drink. And, of course, if you give them a ticket they’ll spend it, you know. But people don’t do what the bar needs for you to do. It’s not bringing business in for them for the most part,. And there’s a couple of people who’ll have a dinner there, but it’s not enough really to make it happen. It just isn’t. But when you give them a ticket they’ll use it and when you [laughs] put out two cases of Two Buck Chuck, they’ll go crazy. [Both laugh] And I’d find—I had the Dixie cups and stuff—and I’d find, you know, half a glass of this [everywhere]. And it would just be wine. And it would be these tremendous messes at the end of every night, right? And what do you clean it up with? There’s no running water, you know.
EUBANK: No water.
GRIFFITHS: And, so — but that’s how the Tango started.
EUBANK: We would go across the street to Tunnicliff’s [Tavern] to use the bathroom.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. They had the Jiffy John inside [North Hall], but that was pretty crazy. The men would use it but not the women. Who knows what happened at the back of the stage, you know? I know a couple of things that happened [but] I certainly can’t bring up names with that. But we brought people in the north door in those days and we had, in the hot weather, we had the east Seventh Street door open but we’d have it blocked off. Running street vending I really learned how to control spaces, you know.
EUBANK: And deal with it.
GRIFFITHS: Yes. So, [like in the vending days] instead of running twenty-four [straight] feet of table, you’d run eight, eight, eight, [shaped like a slanted H,] you know. And that’s twenty-four feet of table you could control.
GRIFFITHS: Stuff like that. And you’d learn how to control your space. So, we were pretty good at that. You know we wanted a door that people [could] get out in case there was a fire, heaven forbid. But we also didn’t want people sneaking in. And we didn’t want just the feeling of people coming and going and wondering if they’re sneaking in because [that’s] probably the worst thought to put you in a bad mood at the gig where you want to be, you know, happy and stuff. So, when we opened it that first Thursday night …
EUBANK: And when was it?
GRIFFITHS: June 24, 2004. I had no idea who was going to show up, no idea. I had my four hours or five hours of stuff on CDs. I’d never DJ’d before, you know. I had the speakers, John’s system, which was always getting messed with by people, and to figure out that system of his was crazy. There was only one guy, a crazy kid on the Hill, who could do it. He’d [John] bring him in every three weeks and redo everything, you know. [Interviewer laughs] So, we set it up and we start. And, like, the first 12 people who show up are women and they’re sitting — Remember John would have Charlie set up all the chairs.
EUBANK: Yeah, all the chairs around, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: And the floor was painted red and there was the 16 x 24 maple dance floor. And it turned out that the red concrete around the floor became its own lane. So, you had a lane inside on the floor, you had a lane on the outside of the wood floor, and on the concrete floor you had a lane, you know. So, you ended up having three pretty discernible lanes.
GRIFFITHS: And, ironically, you know, Cynthia and Irwin who told me I needed a dance floor, they always danced on the concrete. I always would give them a hard time about it. “What? A $4,400 dance floor and you’re dancing on the concrete?” So, we’re going. The first people to show up, twelve women. And, so, I just started dancing one song, one woman, one song [one woman] — I said, “Okay, well, I don’t know how this is going to [go].” And eighty people showed up that night, eighty people.
EUBANK: The first time, huh?
GRIFFITHS: The first time.
GRIFFITHS: Eighty people showed up.
EUBANK: Now, how’d you advertise?
GRIFFITHS: I don’t remember. Probably Capital Tangueros [website, newsletter], probably, you know. And word of mouth.
EUBANK: Yeah. Within the tango community.
GRIFFITHS: And it was a very focused community. So, [clears throat] Murat [Erdemsel] showed up. Murat showed up. Valeria Solomonoff showed up [with him], right? We knew of each other; we’d run into each other. I’d congratulated him once after a performance he did at the [National] Building Museum and I’d run into him at the airport once when I invited him to my [fiftieth] birthday party [2002]. Great party, three hundred people, tango dance floor at the top of the Mill Building with Anne-Sophie, Leon running the lessons, and Anne-Sophie bringing tons of people. Seventy people up there in like—
EUBANK: Where was this?
GRIFFITHS: This is at Adelphi Mill [Prince George’s County, Maryland]. And, like two hundred people down below, two hundred thirty people down below dancing to rock and roll and Motown and funk. And everybody cooked the food. We had rented crystal and china, had great wine and kegs of beer and stuff. So, anyway, I had invited him to it. And he didn’t know me, you know. And I was with a crazy woman who came into town, people came from around the country for this thing. And she’d come down from Taunton, Mass[achusetts]. And she was acting crazy to Murat, so he really didn’t know what to make of me at that point, right? But he shows up because it’s — You know, he used to go to Leon’s and leave his card. I love Murat, but he—
EUBANK: I don’t know him.
GRIFFITHS: Oh, you don’t know of Murat? He’s one of the best — do you know who he is?
EUBANK: No. I think I’ve heard his name. How do you spell it?
EUBANK: Uh-huh, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: He’s one of the best dancers in the world. And he’s been teaching everywhere and stuff. But he was dancing with a Russian woman in those days and I can’t remember — Valeria Skolnikov or something like that [her name is Valeria Solomonoff]. So, he shows up [indecipherable]. He says “Do you mind if Valerie and I perform?” I think that’s who it was. Because I had a lot of stuff going on, you know. And my wife was with me this time. She was helping. And I said, “No, that would be great.” So, meanwhile, across town, Carina Losano — do you know her?
EUBANK: No. You know, I don’t know the names like you do.
GRIFFITHS: Well, these are people I want to get on here. So, Vivi and Izzy, Viviana Levinson and Isidoro Levinson, who learned at Leon’s but were from Buenos Aires, right? And they would go back and they’d bring dancers up. They brought Carina Losano and Pablo Fontana. You know Pablo, right? Pablo’s Practica and all that stuff. Okay. So, they brought them up to teach. And I—
EUBANK: Who’s “they”? “They” brought them up.
GRIFFITHS: Vivi and Izzy brought Carina and Pablo.
EUBANK: Up. Okay.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, they brought them up, right? And, so, Carina — and they’d been up for a while, you know — and meanwhile, they’d broken up as a romantic couple. I remember I took a lesson from her early on, back when Vivi and Izzy lived out Route 29, Olive Branch Road or something like that. And, after the lesson, Carina and I — I remember I gave her a screenplay of Pulp Fiction. I just wanted her to look at it and she thought it was a gift. And I said, “Okay, well, there that goes!” And we walk out, and Pablo pulls up in a silver sports car. Not lovers anymore, but he’s showing her his new sports car. He’s so proud of it, because he died in a sports car, right?
EUBANK: Oh, I didn’t know that.
GRIFFITHS: Well, Anne-Sophie and he [later] were partners, right?
GRIFFITHS: And Anne-Sophie died and then he died 49 days later, right? Yeah. So, anyway, I say it because she’s [Carina Losano] putting on a show with Colombian dancers and Katya Merezhinsky and some local people plus Carina and stuff — they’re putting on a show, the history of tango, in a New York Avenue warehouse. And it’s getting a lot of press, you know.
EUBANK: And this is ’04 still?
GRIFFITHS: This is the week and it’s the very night of June 24, 2004.
EUBANK: Oh, what good karma.
GRIFFITHS: And, so, Jean-Keith Fagon shows up. And he’s been tipping a little bit at that gig, the show, right? [Interviewer laughs] And he’s coming up and Murat is performing. And Fagon is saying to me, because he’s black, right? He’s Jamaican. And he says, “You know, Bill, tango is African. Tango is black,” you know. And he’s looking at Murat dancing and he’s saying, “Why are they dancing? Why are they putting on a show? Tango is African.”. He then, as Murat and his partner are finishing their performance, he is talking to them out loud and he’s going, “This is bullshit, mon. This is bullshit.” And he goes and starts to threaten and pick a fight with Murat. Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep the CDs straight.
EUBANK: This is your opening night.
GRIFFITHS: Opening night we almost have a tango knife fight going on. I’m loving [it]—
EUBANK: How perfectly appropriate.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. But I’m pretty hard core in those days and Marty is strong as shit, I’m not worried about anybody doing any — and, you know, there’s a thing. And I go “What’s up?” And I separate them and stuff. And, you know, Keith Fagon, “Grrrrrr, that’s bullshit.” Then he walks away. And Murat comes up and he says, “Bill, he threatened me. Call the police.” I said, “No, I’m not going to call the police.” He goes, “He threatened me.” I said “That’s okay. We’ll take care of you.” You know. He goes, “You think you can take [care of] him?” And I say, “Yeah, no problem. Everything will be fine, man. Just relax.” And everybody relaxed. So, that was the first night.
EUBANK: That was the first night!
GRIFFITHS: Katya was there. A bunch of the people, apparently, I didn’t even know it, a bunch of the people from the — at least Katya. Maybe it was just Katya and maybe Carina. I don’t remember, but after that everything kind of, you know — [laughter] But I remember that was a Thursday. Monday, I get a call from Katya, who I had never met before, and you know Katya, right? Merezhinsky?
EUBANK: No, I’m going to have to write down these names.
GRIFFITHS: Okay. I can get you —And Katya had danced in that show [the show Carina choreographed in the New York Avenue warehouse]. And Katya is very good. And she was running a —What’s her Tuesday night gig?
EUBANK: Over at—
GRIFFITHS: On M Street. Oh, it’s Ozio [Rooftop]. Ozio. She was running [something then and after a series of venues now she’s running] Ozio. She’s run a lot of different things. Anyway, she calls me on Monday and says “Bill, are you going to put this on next Thursday?” And I said, “No, I’m going out of town for vacation.” You know. And she goes, “Aw, come on.” I said, “No, no, no. We’re going to start it up September 2nd.” And, so, September 2, 2004, is when we started …
EUBANK: The first Thursday.
GRIFFITHS: That was Thursday. June 24th was a Thursday, too.
EUBANK: Oh, well, you didn’t continue it though.
GRIFFITHS: No, that was the trial balloon. And, then, I knew I was going out of town to Cape Cod. I was going for two months in those days because people who worked at my retail store called Uncommon Threads — they just ran the store [while we were away].
[problems with microphone caused short delay]
GRIFFITHS: So, anyway, that was the first night. So, then we start showing up — I’m back in August, I think. I’m going to [Club] CocoCabana because it’s pretty close to me, you know. And I always loved Moussa [Toure]. And I think Flavia, who married Pablo [Fontana], I think she bartended at Diversité. I think she’s bartending at CocoCabana at the time, before they got married. And I’m sitting and I’m talking to people and there’s this woman up from Buenos Aires. And she’s a very sharp dresser. And she’s got a little bit of an edge to her. And her name ends up being Gabriela Carone. I don’t know if she performs that night or not. But, I take, again, not knowing what I’m doing, just taking a chance …
EUBANK: Make it up as you go, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. I asked her if she wanted to teach lessons because I needed to differentiate Eastern Market from everybody else, right? So, you know what? I brought a few people in like Joe Petrisko, and paid him and I paid one other person, I think.
EUBANK: Okay. Spell Petrisko’s name.
GRIFFITHS: And Katya is K-A-T-Y-A M-E-R-[ezhinsky]. [Laughs] I’ll look that one up for you. But, Carina Losano, C-A-R-I-N-A L-O-S-A-N-O. Anyway, so, I see her, and I want to differentiate myself. And, so, she goes, “I’ll do it,” you know. She started Princeton Tango Club and stuff like that. I didn’t know that. She says, “Bill, you stick with me. Together, you watch, we’ll create this scene. You won’t believe it,” she says.
EUBANK: And this is Gabriela?
GRIFFITHS: Gabriela Carone, yeah. Now, we ended up — I ended up having problems with her, but she was good. And her method was this: charge people five bucks. She gets all that for the lesson. Hour lesson or whatever. And she taught classics, she had a PhD. She taught classics. But I’ll tell you what this woman had. She had a couple of things. She was a hell of a businesswoman, but she had a memory that would not quit. And right away, somehow, she started drawing. I mean, [around town] beginner dance classes were like ten people. She started drawing about fifty, fifty-five people, and the word got out immediately. And other people from other venues started coming to see what the fuck’s going on at Eastern Market, man.
EUBANK: And this is in September?
GRIFFITHS: This is in late September, maybe early October. Probably, yeah. Basically, right at the start. After Joe did a couple and stuff like that. And she’s doing her thing, man, and she’s doing five bucks and these classes are just ballooning and she knows everybody. And she’s doing it old style, men on this side, women on this side. Here’s the step, you know. “Charles, Charles, come here, Charles. You dance with me now. Show me.” And she’d call you out [smiling] to dance with her, but she never made you not want to come back, right? And, in fact, you know, if you came in late, she’d [grin and] say, “Ah, Susan, Susan, where have you been? You’re so late.” And she’d say, “Charles, you keep practicing. Susan, come here.” She’d get you to sign her mailing list. Well, I wanted the mailing list, because whoever controls the mailing list controls the gig, right? I knew that from my store. [Interviewer laughs] That’s where we started to knock heads. She was controlling all the information, too, now.
EUBANK: And she wasn’t sharing it with you?
GRIFFITHS: No. And I would say no, man, you know? And we’d try and keep the list, too, but she was so good at doing all that stuff that we weren’t getting a lot of the names. So, she did that for about three months. And she put it on the map, right? And I had had it by the end over mailing lists and — I forget what it was, but there was something to do with credit cards. And, I tell you, Julia Elena had a problem with her, too, the very same kind of problem. [On her last night I gave her a big bouquet of roses on behalf of the class because they didn’t know about the business end of things, and they loved her, so that’s how it ended.]
EUBANK: Is she still around? Is she still in the area?
GRIFFITHS: No, no, she left right after this. She tried to come back. I said, “I don’t think so,” you know. But, I think she worked in Denver, too. But for some reason, there was credit cards involved at some point, and she wanted me to pay her to cash [for the] checks [some people paid with]. I’d pay her cash and I’d take the checks. And it’s like, “You’re getting the mailing list, you’re getting the cash, I’m paying the checks,” you know. It’s like this is too much. [Interviewer laughs] But, it put us on the map, man. It put us on the map. And, so, that’s how it started. And, then, we started bringing in — then I did something I’ve done a lot. And in one way it’s a good move and in another way, it always comes back to bite you in the long run. People were paying dance teachers in this town not too much money. Just like with Petrisko [at my house before]. He said twenty bucks a couple, you know. We said, “Whatever it was, we said $200.” And, so, with teachers, I started paying them $100—
EUBANK: A flat fee.
GRIFFITHS: I started paying them a one hundred to two hundred bucks a clip [instead of the going rate of fifty bucks or so]. That’s it, you know. You come in and we started getting immediately the best tango dancers in the world who were coming.
EUBANK: Because they could count on a certain amount.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. And they’d come in and they’d teach a beginner and an advanced class, right? One woman — and, again, I forget her name [Melina Brufman] and I shouldn’t and I’ll remember it tomorrow — but she was doing a tango performance thing that was well received by the arts, by the TV stations, even the staff at GW [George Washington University], part of which she’s dancing tango topless and stuff. Not for that, but it’s just a very expressionistic, you know, kind of Martha Graham stuff.
EUBANK: Right, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: But, it’s tango. I almost thought of her name. But, anyway, and then the Colombian dancers who were working with Katya [and Carina at that New York Avenue gig], they’re showing up, you know. And they’re back in town sponsored this time by Julia Schiptsova, who’s now getting into the business, because they liked the show and stuff that they did in the New York Avenue warehouse. And, right at that time, it started. And Anne-Sophie would always come down. And she was with Isaac Oboka at that time. And then Sharna ended up with Isaac. So, there was a little of that going on. [Interviewer laughs] And then I talked Murat into moving down from New York. He was here, moved to New York, where he was making his name, you know. And I talked Ney Melo into coming down, Ney and Jennifer [Brat]. Ney and Jennifer broke up the very first day they were here, and she went back. And, so, I never quite got Ney [to move here], but Murat moved here, moved back to D.C. Now, Murat Erdemsel, who I love, but he never does anything he doesn’t want to do, he sees way down the line and he sees with scope. He was an artist before he was a tango dancer and he’d do murals. He’s done murals in D.C. He supported himself as a young man—
EUBANK: Are you talking about Murat?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, on his art. How many artists support themselves on their art? He was doing that before he decided to stop that and go into tango. And, I mean, you can YouTube Murat Erdemsel. I mean, he’s in Europe all the time now.
EUBANK: So, you got all these tango dancers to come into Eastern Market.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, [all these world class dancers are showing up]. And it was a beautiful scene, man. People said, “Oh, I haven’t seen you since Buenos Aires, like three years ago. How are you doing?” and stuff.
EUBANK: Yeah. That’s really cool, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: And so many people are here. We’re running between a hundred twenty-five and two hundred people, because everybody’s coming to the same gig, you know. I’d say Jake’s [Spatz] running about — or me too [later on] — but I’m just saying right now if you’re there [at Eastern Market], you know, Jake’s probably running like eighty to one hundred-twenty. Something like that, you know. And it’s not just because there’s other stuff going on on Thursday, it’s because there’s [lots of tango] stuff going on every day of the week.
EUBANK: Yeah, right.
GRIFFITHS: And people do their thing. When we started Eastern, I wanted it to not be close embrace. I didn’t want it to be open embrace. I wanted it to be like in the Shakespearean comedies, this moonlit break in the woods where the lovers chase each other. And, you know, it didn’t matter what kind of tango you did. It was not cliquish. People wouldn’t shut you down for dancing this way or that way. Any kind of dancing you wanted to do on the floor, as long as you stayed in the line and danced was okay here. And Eastern got the name for being the most un-cliquish place. Now, Katya has taken me to task over the years for it being cold and cliquish.
EUBANK: Well, cold was when you had to wear the mittens.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, of course, yeah, yeah. It’s 16º out, people would. I was in long underwear.
EUBANK: I mean, I do remember those cold nights, you know.
GRIFFITHS: I remember once coming from Back-To-School Night where — two Thursdays a year, in September and February, I had to do Back-To-School Night, right?
GRIFFITHS: Where, for my magazine, I had to raise, like, $3,500 each night selling magazines, you know. It was like a surgical strike, a Marine surgical strike thing. And I remember walking in about ten o’clock at night, the north door, and one of my favorite teachers we had there, Javier Rochwarger, Buenos Aires, right? I called him El Lavador, El Limpador. He was the cleaner. I called him the Winston Wolfe of tango, right. He’d come in and clean up your messy tango, right, from, like, Pulp Fiction. And I’d spend like hours every Wednesday putting out these Constant Contact [email service provider] email letters, with videos and all this. I used to say, “All the tango news that’s fit to print,” you know.
EUBANK: Well, I think we were on your list.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. So, you saw it.
EUBANK: You’re not still doing that.
GRIFFITHS: No. I don’t have them anymore because, I mean, it just goes into that ether sphere, you know. I don’t know where they are now. I guess if, maybe, if I went to Constant Contact they could get it for me again. I don’t know. I wouldn’t count on that. But I’d put all this work in, and I’d write all these people’s bios and, you know, all the people bringing people through town. “Bill, can you write their bio?” and stuff. And I might see their bios showing up if I was in a different town. I’d see—
EUBANK: The same one you wrote.
GRIFFITHS: They’re stealing the bios, yeah. And, so, I’m putting in, like, five hours there [on Wednesday nights], you know. And, then, every Thursday, I’d get up at 5:30 and go teach high school. I’d get off at 2:10 P.M. in those days. I would then go to Snider’s supermarket and buy the fruit, all that stuff, come back, and have my sons — now I had my sons working with me, not just Marty — so, my oldest son Dylan and my younger son Brendan and Marty, Patrick’s son, who started with me. Now there’s three of us because there is just a lot of work. And we’re carrying all this stuff in and putting down a floor and stuff. And, you know, as soon as we’d get there, as soon as we’d finish the floor, lessons would start: first, beginner, [then] advanced. Oh, and then we’d go to 2:00 A.M. in the morning.
EUBANK: I knew you did.
GRIFFITHS: So, I remember a couple of nights I’d be at the Full Kee [restaurant] in Chinatown. I remember one night I was at the Full Kee in Chinatown with my son Dylan, my son Brendan, with Marty Maier, with Sharna [Fabiano], with Isaac Oboca, with Nora, who helped Sharna start Tango Mercurio, with her future husband, you know, the Russian guy [Dima]. And, you know, we’re sitting there and it’s 3:15 in the morning and I’ve got to get up at 5:30 A.M. and I’m thinking, “Am I really doing this?”
EUBANK: That’s the world of tango, though. It goes into the night.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, but I was getting up at 5:30 in the morning and I was getting—
EUBANK: Yeah, I don’t know how you do that. They don’t do that in South America.
GRIFFITHS: No. I was getting two hours of sleep, you know. Plus, I was putting in all these other hours, right? And I was making the money in the early days, that 200 bucks, I was making it. But, then, I started to realize that people take all my beginner classes with really great teachers teaching it — I mean, I think, like, something like ten of the original fourteen people or whatever, or something like that, of Forever Tango [Broadway show] showed up unannounced [different times], asking to perform for free, right? So, people would perform for free. That was cool. I wasn’t paying them in those days. It wasn’t until later I was paying people to perform. But — I forgot what I was going to say. But, anyway. Can we take a second?
GRIFFITHS: I’m going to get a cup of coffee. Are you running out of time?
EUBANK: Well, no, but, I mean, you know, we probably want to take it to its conclusion with the Eastern Market Tango and—
EUBANK: Yeah. So, we have a good picture of the startup, which sounds like it came busting out of the gates with all the right people.
GRIFFITHS: It was great. And Jake showed up from New York. He was from here but he—
EUBANK: So, when did Jake show up?
GRIFFITHS: 2004, I think, maybe 2005.
EUBANK: Yeah, so he was at the beginning, because, I mean, when we went Jake was the teacher.
GRIFFITHS: He wasn’t there right away. And he was a friend of Kathy Gelleher, I think her name was. Kathy, and she was a sweetheart. She was a big woman but, man, she was a graceful dancer, man. And she would like — she considered herself — She’d be the hostess of Eastern Market if we wanted her to be, you know. And, I remember early on Jake’s putting duct tape on his tennis shoes and all this stuff. Murat was grooming him a little bit to be a teacher and stuff. They saw that Jake—
EUBANK: So, did you bring Jake in or did Murat bring him in?
EUBANK: And how’d you connect with him?
GRIFFITHS: Well, Jake was Jake and, you know, I was running Eastern and Jake was friendly.
EUBANK: And he showed up. Yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. Because a couple of things happened. One, we were teaching beginners and advanced with the great teachers. Different styles, lots of just different — like kind of a shotgun effect, you know, where you could kind of pick what you liked and stuff. It wasn’t anything to follow all the time though because it was different. It might be Murat, it might be Diego O’Campo from Paris. Who knew what it was going to be? Javier Rochwarger, open embrace, Joe Petrisko, close embrace.
EUBANK: Uh-huh, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Linda and Mehmet, close embrace, you know. And, so, Gabriel Missé [open embrace,].. But what happened was people would finish beginners — you know how they say, beginners think they’re intermediates, intermediates think they’re advanced, and advanced are happy to take a beginners’ class. And, so, I was losing people after beginners and they were starting to leave and go across town to where “real” tango dancers danced or something like that. Or to learn the next step, you know. I mean, we were the big tent already in D.C. And I think Eastern probably still is the big tent.
EUBANK: I think it is, too.
GRIFFITHS: And, so, I realized I had to keep the people there. And, so, I asked Jake would he teach an intermediate class. And initially Jake would teach it up on the stage, which was just a treacherous undertaking, [laughs] because at that point there were holes in the stage. Jake knew where to tell people not to step and everything. It was crazy, you know. And, so, like you said — I might come in at 10:00 P.M. those two nights a year due to Back to School Night, late, and I’d see Javier Rochwarger and Cynthia Schoeppel glide by in a tango trance in two-and-a-half pound sweaters and chullos and scarves and, you know, probably long underwear and stuff. And they’d be doing that on the stage, too, for the intermediate. And, so, intermediate would run simultaneously with advanced. And we kept everybody then.
But I want to say this: We had so many world-class dancers, probably from 2005 to 2007. It was so high tide for Eastern Market and tango in general in D.C. And at Eastern — Eastern was spearheading so much of it. I’m not saying it was the best teachers every night back then, you know. Carina was a great teacher herself and all. [As were Anne-Sophie, and Sharna Fabiano.] Vivi and Izzy were doing — But it was happening at Eastern. And we would start to put linoleum out on that front patio, especially after the salt from a bad winter killed those trees. They took out the curbs in the middle [of the north patio,] in other words, you know. The raised part. And, so, we’d hang Japanese lanterns in the trees around the edge and we put linoleum down and we put tea lights in paper bags all around the linoleum. And we’d move a few of these little tables Harrod had, thick wooden tables, and people carried their glasses of wine out, you know.
EUBANK: To make it more of a scene.
GRIFFITHS: Oh, man, it would be like eight world class dancers there. I mean I might count Murat and Anne-Sophie, you know, or maybe Sharna as three of them. But there’d be four, two from Buenos Aires and two from Colombia or two from Paris. And they’d say, “I’ve never met you but it’s so good to meet.” And it was—
EUBANK: Yeah, it’s so sweet.
GRIFFITHS: Just this melting pot of spirit.
EUBANK: It really is cool, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: And I remember once, everybody is sitting out there with tea lights on the tables, tea lights around the linoleum floor, people dancing inside, people dancing outside, Japanese lanterns in the trees around, and—
EUBANK: And it’s such an international dance.
GRIFFITHS: I remember Murat saying to Anne-Sophie, I think, “Let’s dance.” And they’re dancing beautifully. Murat is a beautiful dancer. If I was to explain Eastern Market in one description, it’s this: It was like a 21st century version of a Brassai photograph of an Impressionist painting. Brassai was the eye of Paris, hung out with Henry Miller. He did, like, all the steps, the Parisian bridges at night with the gas lamps and the steps going down. [And I’m thinking of him photographing everyone in Manet’s Dance at le Moulin de la Galette. That was the feeling at Eastern Market in those days with tango.] And the [Brassai] couple kissing in the corner [of the French café] and all that stuff.
EUBANK: Yes, right, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: And I say this because I remember when Murat went to dance with Anne-Sophie and everybody’s sitting at these tables — and I think Ney was there that night, too. Everybody was just talking. And Ney says, “And Pugliese” — I forget, Pablo [or Mingo], whoever [Osvaldo] Pugliese’s [the great tango composer and orchestra leader] son or son-in-law was [who danced], whatever — [Ney] says, “He’d dance this [part of the song this] way,” and [he] would get up and do it.
And then Murat would take Anne-Sophie and do it the way another great tango dancer would do it. And then this car pulls up, a cab pulls up on Seventh Street at the red light and they’re going to turn left on North Carolina. And I see this window go down in the back and this woman’s looking at Murat and Anne-Sophie and a couple of other people hit the floor, too. But they’re just dancing beautifully. And you can hear the music and the lanterns and the people sitting at tables with wine and stuff. And the light changes green and the cab starts to slowly take off and I see her. She taps the cab guy on the shoulder and says “Stop. Wait.” And she waited at a green light …
EUBANK: To watch.
GRIFFITHS: For thirty seconds or so and then said, “Okay, go ahead, go.” And that was Eastern Market.
EUBANK: Well, I can tell you that’s how we got pulled in. We saw what was going on in there and we wanted to be part of it. I mean we weren’t so much tango dancers as we saw what was going on and it was so beautiful. And we were really lured, you know, it was very alluring.
GRIFFITHS: It was alluring. That’s a beautiful word for it. And, at Christmas time, all the Christmas trees [overnight on the farmers’ line], and you hear the music, and the lights, the honey lights, the honey quality of the lights coming out, you know. And in the summer. And the teachers who would come up from Buenos Aires, they loved the grandeur of its decrepitude.
EUBANK: Yeah. That’s a nice way to put it.
GRIFFITHS: They would start to bust John for the ABC, like I said before, right? So, we had to take the wine, and then we started running it out of his office. [Interviewer laughs] And, so, [if] you wanted to drink wine, you’d go back to John’s office. [Everyone called it the Speakeasy.] John would say to me, “Bill, I want to thank you.” He’s thanking me. He said, “I want to thank you, man. I just love talking to everybody [who’d come back and talk to him drinking wine in his office]. Not just the beautiful women, although I love them, [Interviewer laughs] but everybody.” I’m out talking to Jake and all the — ” And he’s in the office with all his sweethearts. Like Letecia. He would have loved to, you know, make time with Letecia. But he loved it. [And was always the gentleman.] And it brought, after his heart attack, [his] massive heart attack — that’s a whole other story. And he really loved that.
EUBANK: Do you remember the day of the fire?
GRIFFITHS: I do, I do. I’ll say one last thing. We talked about the winter where you’d be dancing in long johns. Well, in the summer, it’d be like 95º at night, right? I had these big Grainger fans. One day I was coming from school and, not only did I have to get everything at Snider’s and cut up everything, I knew people were going to go crazy in heat down there. It was probably 100 º that day. So, I stopped at Grainger at the District line, two blocks away [from my house in Silver Spring], and I bought two of these. I’ve [still] got one in the basement. You know, those big black fans with the fans like this.
GRIFFITHS: And we’d set one up at the north door and one going out the east door to get the circulation. Then I had two smaller ones we set in the corners, and people just started doing circles in the corners until they cooled off and then they’d keep going, right? And this one woman pulled up. [Laughs] One woman pulled up in, I think, an SUV. She was like from Bethesda or Potomac or somewhere, and she was coming up. And she sees the fan, and she says to Marty Maier — the fan’s outside pulling in the 85-degree, you know, “cool” air. And she says [shocked], “Don’t you have air conditioning?” And Marty looks at her, says “Lady, we don’t even have running water.” And she kind of [says] “Ooh gla,” [Laughs] So, anyway.
EUBANK: Yeah, like I say, I do remember going across the street to Tunnicliff’s to use the bathroom.
GRIFFITHS: You know, they learned to love us for that because we brought a lot of business to Tunnicliff’s.
EUBANK: Yeah, because you ended up buying a drink while you were over there. Yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. So, anyway, so things go on, and I wake up at 6:30 in the morning on April — on May 1st, I think. Shoot. I swore I’d never forget this.
EUBANK: I think it was an April date. You’re talking about the fire?
EUBANK: Yeah, I think it was an April date.
GRIFFITHS: April 30th was it? Or [May] 1st? [It was April 30, 2007.] Something like that. It was 12:56 in the morning, I remember that. I got the fire report. I studied it. I never got the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives] report, you know. But, here’s what happened. So, I get the call at 6:30 in the morning [from Donna Cernik], and I call Harrod right away. And he says, “Yeah, I know, I know.”
EUBANK: What day of the week was it? Do you remember that?
GRIFFITHS: Monday. Because it was dark. The Market’s dark. It was fucking arson. It was arson, no doubt about it. I think murder was involved.
GRIFFITHS: I can’t prove this, but I think Joel Ramos, [age] 29, street person, who they caught setting a fire October 16th, 2007 — [Gerald] Pennington and [Greg] Bowden, the Fire Investigative Unit arson guys who had the highest conviction rate for arson in D.C. and two of the highest rates in the country — they caught him behind Marty’s [American Bar and Grill, 527 Eighth Street SE] down on Eighth Street starting a fire, right? So, again, don’t hold me to this. I used to know this inside out, but I think there was something like 17 fires from April 30th to —
EUBANK: During that period of time?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah. But the fire report says — and you can see redacted stuff, you know — 12:56 [A.M.] it was already rolling on the inside. People saw it on the inside as well, right outside Canales Deli. So, anyway, I’ll stop there on that because that can get me into nothing but trouble.
So, Harrod says — I don’t know if he tells me then or if he calls me later — but all day at work at Walter Johnson High School I’m getting emails from people. From Marcin, who’s in Poland, from people in Korea, from people all around the fucking world, man. And they’re saying, “I’m shocked and horrified.” It must have been six people at least who said that, out of — I probably got like twenty-five emails from out of the country, you know. But, sooner than later, I hear that at 3:00 or 3:30 in the afternoon, there’s going to be an emergency community meeting at Tunnicliff’s. Did you ever see Deadwood [television series]?
GRIFFITHS: Okay. So, I get down there — [earlier] I say [to Harrod at 6:30 A.M.] I’ve got to get to school. I get out at ten after two. I can’t get down there until maybe right at 3:00 P.M. when they’re going to have it, you know. So, I said “Save me a spot.” I tell Marty Maier to save me a spot, I tell Harrod to save me a spot. Because at this point, Harrod and I are like this, right? And I get down there and I walk right to the center of the table because Harrod’s Harrod, right? And they’ve got me set up with a Bass Ale. John’s got his Hennessey. Marty’s got a Bass Ale, right? They’ve put all those square tables of Tunnicliff’s so they’ve run them from the back to the front and every major film crew from all the stations — Channel 9, Channel — [they] were all there.
EUBANK: All there.
GRIFFITHS: And it’s like Al Swearengen’s saloon in Deadwood. [Laughs] It’s like everybody’s drinking, you know. People have got scotch, people have got — white wine, all the women got white wine. And it starts. And, at the end, I raised the first question.
EUBANK: [Laughing] That’s hysterical.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. Oh, it was great. But what happened was they cut John’s electricity too, [even though Market 5 was not damaged] — because they kept trying to get rid of John for years and they accused him of so many things. But John kept all his receipts in a shoebox basically. And, so, he always had confidence that he could prove whatever he needed to prove. He just needed somebody to help him go through it—
EUBANK: Put it together, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: And he’d get people in the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] who would say, “No, that’s not right” [regarding their accusations he owed back taxes] [accusations from] whoever was, some friend of somebody at the IRS of somebody on the Hill who was coming after John. He said, “No, that’s not right. Ask for me.” And John would lose the guy’s name, which would drive me crazy. I’d say, “John, you had a guy in the IRS who was helping you,” you know. But he would beat it anyway. Because, you know what? He had an angel on his shoulder. He just stepped off the cliff and the angels caught him because he was always a beautiful person with everybody. And he learned to be that way, he learned to be that way with the people.
EUBANK: So, this scene of the day after the fire, he’s sitting there.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. He’s sitting there. Now, I remember at one point, you know, [we’re standing on Seventh Street and] I say, “My dance floor’s in there.” And Harrod looks at me and he says, “My whole life is in there.” And they wouldn’t let us in. And, finally, they let Harrod and some others of us in, and already the cheese guy [South Hall vendor] is saying, “Why don’t we just use North Hall to put all of the construction stuff in?” They’re trying to take his spot already with that. And, after John’s letting them use the North Hall, then they cut his wiring because North Hall was not damaged because it used to be bricked off.
EUBANK: Yeah, the two sides, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. The providential irony of the whole thing was that if, if, if, somebody started that fire to finally get the rehab that, you know, those sorts of minds thought that building needed and could never quite get because — it was like a series of different calendars there [regarding everyone’s leases]. They could never get Harrod on their calendar [schedule] to get rid of him. They thought they got rid of him at one point [some few years before the fire] and they were taking over his control and taking the rents themselves from the vendors and putting them in an escrow account, right?
EUBANK: Uh-huh. I didn’t —
GRIFFITHS: And then Donald Temple, [Harrod’s] lawyer who [taught Adrian Fenty in law school] — he was a good lawyer, too. He trained — anyway it doesn’t matter. He beat them coming off the ropes. He beat them and they got everything reversed. But when they thought they’d beat Harrod, they were videotaping themselves drinking champagne on the north plaza, dancing, you know. They once described themselves to Harrod — they’d stopped him at a red light — They’d come out of some local meeting and they were calling themselves the Market Nazis. I don’t know if they were taking — it was somewhat of a humorous thing — I don’t know if they were spinning off of the Soup Nazi [character] from Seinfeld or what. [But it was all these community group people who said this to Harrod who was stopped at a red light with his window down — people who only represented, arguably, a small wealthier part of the community.]
EUBANK: Yeah. So, back to actually the day that they had the hearing.
GRIFFITHS: Of course, the South Hall got hit worse and they were worried. And, so, they were talking about where you can go for insurance and all this stuff, you know. So, we leave. People talk afterwards, different people talk. I don’t think the mayor was there, but the mayor’s right-hand man who had done Metro stuff—I can’t remember his name. A real can-do person. [It was city administrator Dan Tangherlini.]
GRIFFITHS: And we were trying to get to him through Kathleen Golden from tango and stuff because they [she and her husband Terry] knew him from fundraising for Clinton. But, at any rate, so they talked mostly South Hall stuff. Tommy Glasgow in Center Hall and the pottery people in Center Hall upstairs, they just got smoked out, you know. And John had nothing wrong, nothing wrong.
EUBANK: Yeah. The North Hall was—
GRIFFITHS: No. But they cut his electricity because all electricity got cut. So, that fire for the whole week, right? I mean, it’s still flaming while this meeting’s going on.
EUBANK: Still smoldering, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: No, it’s flaming. These little things would pop up and flame. And everybody’s sitting at Tunnicliff’s and outdoor cafes and they’re watching it and it’s almost as if, this is a terrible thing to say, but there was a sense that this is our 9/11. I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but it's almost like we’re watching our tragedy right now. [That was the vibe I picked up anyway.] And they’re watching the firemen and clapping as they come, as if it’s the West Side firemen coming down in NYC. And it was a good thing to clap. Firemen going in to use the bathroom and stuff. But, [Dennis Rubin] was an Atlanta Fire Chief who came in and was Acting Fire — he was just new.
GRIFFITHS: He claimed, while it was still smoldering, that it was electrical. Six-thirty in the morning, Donna Cernik, who told me, said, “What do you think caused it, Bill?” I said, “Fifty-fifty, electric or arson.” Because [of] the wiring there and stuff.
EUBANK: It’s old wiring, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It could have been. But you don’t say it’s electric while it’s still flaming up and still smoldering.
EUBANK: Until you’ve actually investigated, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. And somebody told me later — I did not see this myself — somebody said they had a little thing where you could walk in the south door, off C Street, and they gave a little lecture or something. This might not be true, but I heard this, and I don’t remember to what extent. But I think somebody would talk to you about, you know, the dangers of electrical fires or something. And they’re still not in there. They’re still not clearing the place out, right? But, anyway, what ended up happening that week was I talked to — I can’t remember who I talked to. I think I talked to the person — I wish I could remember his name. Donald Temple had been the mentor for Fenty. He talked to whoever the mayor was [Adrian Fenty] and this guy had run Metro [Tangherlini], like I said, and really run it sharply and was the right-hand man for the mayor.
They hooked John back up. I said, “Hook him back up,” because, you know—
EUBANK: Oh, well, that’s good. You know I was wondering what happened. Yeah, okay.
GRIFFITHS: They hooked him back up, but they hooked him back up with such thin, low-grade wiring that it were running hot and they only gave him one outlet. And, so, the fire’s on a Monday, 12:56 in the morning, right? Called in at one-something. Or maybe 12:56 it’s called in. It’s dark the next day. Hmmm. You know, nobody’s going to be there to get killed. And we’re ready to go on Thursday. And, so, the [tango] thing I have is that Thursday, and I’ve got people. I’ve got the pottery guy. Again, I can’t think of his name. He had the plywood floor that they’d always put up at the summer marathons and stuff [Sam Austell out of Baltimore].
GRIFFITHS: That they’d screw together. He set up a plywood floor outside, Mark Longerbeam out of Baltimore was doing [extra] speakers outside. I had all the major people —Tino — Constantino Bastidas and Susan Reynolds, Pablo [Fontana] and Anne-Sophie, Viviana and Isidoro Levinson, as well as Claudio Fortes and Diana Sánchez who were teaching for me at Eastern at the time. I was in the car with Anne-Sophie one time, we were coming back from George Mason [University] watching Tango Argentina, the show, and she gets the call that Pablo wants to be her dance partner. And she was just giggling with delight, like a little girl, man. [Interviewer laughs] She couldn’t believe — and that was the start of their thing, man. They danced. Vivi and Izzy—
EUBANK: Was that Thursday after the fire?
GRIFFITHS: No, Anne-Sophie getting that phone call, that was before that, but just they’re [all] dancing [at the Thursday gig after the fire with these others], you know. And Vivi and Izzy are dancing.
EUBANK: So, that Thursday after the fire you actually had the tango.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. I think Claudio and Dianna, who I love — they’re back in Mar del Plata with three kids now, but they were Vivi and Izzy people. But I was really tight with them. I’d take them to see Leonard Cohen and shit like that. They danced that night too, I think. Along with Anne-Sophie and Pablo, and Tino and Susan. And it’s all on film. We got it all on film, right? You know, we thought all the news teams would show up. They didn’t show up, but there were cameras there interviewing me, like, “What’s going on?” We’re saying, “We’re here.” “We will come back from this.” Sympathy to everyone at the South Hall” but, you know—
EUBANK: “But, we’re still standing.”
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. So, that was Thursday. But Harrod is stuck with running all this tango stuff on one outlet and I’m afraid we’re going to have another fire, right? And I’m saying, you know, “They put in worse stuff than what was there when they cut the electrical.” [Interviewer laughs]
So, one last story about the fire, okay? As they were going to swear in this new chief — I think his name was something Conner. [Rubin] He was out of Atlanta, you know, whatever his name was. I think his last name was Conner. And he didn’t last. So, they got fire people from Jersey [and other places], I think, or whatever, you know, one of those things. They’re all sitting on the stage, right? Harrod has had Charlie do the floor, set up the seats — [Fenty administered the oath of office to Rubin on June 8, 2007, at a ceremony in North Hall attended by 250 people.]
EUBANK: Fix it all up.
GRIFFITHS: He’s got the sound system. The kid, the crazy kid’s come in and fixed the sound system and stuff. They have pumped in thousands of dollars of air conditioning that day because it’s in May [June 8, 2007], now, I think, right? It’s just a week later or something like that. And they’re all on stage congratulating each other and people are making speeches and they’re calling them fire hats instead of helmets or whatever, helmets instead of hats, whatever. And, they’re basically doing all the signs and stuff. And somebody comes in and they’ve got the bagpipes and the swords or something drawn and stuff. And, after this whole show, they all go over to Tunnicliff’s, where it’s air conditioned, to have the reception.
GRIFFITHS: And they leave John’s joint, right? So, I see Tommy Wells [City Councilmember for Ward 6] and I want to grab Tommy Wells and get him to do the right wiring in there. And he’s on the phone, so I wait and wait around the corner. He’s in front of the east door. I’m at the northeast corner and I wait and wait. And when he gets off the phone, I make it look like I just walked around the corner. [Interviewer laughs]
I said, “Tommy, can I buttonhole you for just a minute?” He goes, “Sure.” I said, “Can we get the right wiring in here because I’m afraid there is going to be another fire?” You know, because of rubble. And he goes, “There’s not going to be any new wiring in here while John Harrod’s here.” And I said, “Really.” I said, “Why do you keep holding the whole community hostage for whatever this thing is people have against John Harrod, which I don’t even agree with? But why do you keep holding everything—” He says, “John’s not a team player.” And I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “John used to have a constituency. He’s lost it. And he won’t be running this forever. We’re not doing any changes while John’s here.” And I said, “And, so, [how] is this because he’s not a team player?” I said, “You know what, Tommy? Team player? John has washed this floor, repainted this floor, set up the chairs. He’s had his kid come in, fixed the sound system. He set up the chairs on the stage. He’s watched you pump in thousands of dollars of air conditioning while people are still fanning themselves, saying, ‘Oh, I’m so hot in here,’” you know. I said, “Your guy goes in and, without saying anything, takes control of the sound system and messes it up again. And then when everybody leaves, nobody in the whole deal acknowledged John Harrod, acknowledged Market 5 putting this on, acknowledged that they were using the space—"
EUBANK: Yeah, they never said anything.
GRIFFITHS: “Or thanked him.” I said, “So, who’s not a team player, Tommy? [It seems John is the only team player, here.]” And Tommy says, “You just don’t understand.” And he left me.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. The point is about Harrod. Harrod did that, you know. I mean, Tommy did other stuff that was good and stuff, you know. Man, I’m not trying to hang Tommy out to dry.
EUBANK: No, I get this. It’s more about Harrod than about …
GRIFFITHS: It’s about Harrod. That’s what Harrod did while he suffered that magnanimously. He suffered that quietly and magnanimously, you know.
EUBANK: Well, so, how long did tango continue?
GRIFFITHS: Well, we started to understand that the way they were going to get Harrod out of there was they were sooner or later going to have to pull up the flooring, to put in the sub-electrical and plumbing and stuff. We stayed in there forever. And, if you look at the DVD I’ll give you, from that night after the fire, and then I have other videos. I’ve got a million dance DVDs nobody’s seen before, you know.
EUBANK: [Laughing] Yes.
GRIFFITHS: But, they finally — when they dug up the floor, we had to go. But, talk about archaeological — you sit in that place, like in John’s alcove, you know, in the old days — And you could look up at the corner and you could see where the stucco would —sometimes it would fall on your head, right? — but you could see where it would fall down and then you could see the brick behind. It was like watching archaeology, you know. It was like stucco, brick, you know. Okay.
EUBANK: So, they’ve pulled up your floor?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. They busted up the concrete floor. But [inside] — at one point everything was just gutted inside. All John’s stuff was out and everything. So, we moved the gig to McGinty’s Pub up in Silver Spring for about a year [or more]. And then we moved back on July 2, 2010, or whenever it was. And, interestingly — no, I won’t say it. [Laughs] Uh, yeah. A story for a separate day. So, that’s the story.
EUBANK: So, when you came back in, you were still the head of — you still made—
GRIFFITHS: Oh, yeah, yeah.
EUBANK: You were still really running it.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. But, it was very — you know a twenty-two, twenty-three million-dollar rehab but it had lost its soul, its heart and soul and funk, because it was all shiny, bright, and new, with hard gleaming surfaces, you know. And, so, then John was still there but — I’m sorry. As we were heading into that period, John — everybody thought I was on John’s board of directors. But he never put me on his board of directors, even though I was making a lot of the decisions with him. He wanted me to try and become the Market Master they were calling for. So, I put together a team of me; Mike McElroy, who was an accountant and tangoed; a French chef, classically trained chef; and I got the woman who ran the Baltimore Farmers’ Market under Highway 83 up there, [until she realized it was a conflict of interest like I had warned her it might be from the start]. We put together our team and came up with our plan, right?
EUBANK: For the market?
EUBANK: For the whole market, not just North Hall.
GRIFFITHS: Right, right, yeah. So, I was in the running for Market Master, right? And I was going to keep teaching and run that. And we had a great plan, man, we had a great plan. We were going to have ATM machines. We were going to have a website where every vendor had a profile. And every vendor would take emails. And, if you ever were in business where you had to take an email, maybe you were with antiques, you had to make sure somebody wrote it clearly or if one thing you couldn’t read was wrong, you missed the email. Right?
EUBANK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
GRIFFITHS: Not only that, it keeps coming back as daemon mailer and stuff, driving you crazy. So, as a way of finessing people into wanting to capture a really accurate mailing list, they’d have control of their mailing list, but it would also go into the group mailing list. And, so, they could run each week a special on the website for their profile and who they were, where they came from, and what was special. The French chef, we were going to have cooking lessons and all that stuff. We were going to have organic farmers coming in on C Street on Wednesdays so that you didn’t lose the Saturday people to go buy their organic stuff at Whole Foods during the week and lose them. Just like my intermediate tango class. You don’t want to lose people, right?
GRIFFITHS: And the French chef had a hundred people he knew. And he was lining them up, right? We couldn’t push — nor did we want to — we couldn’t push any of the South Hall people out, you know Nor did we want to. And we couldn’t shorten their spots.
EUBANK: This is all part of your proposal.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah. We were going to just squeeze enough to put one space in [South Hall] that would change every day, every day. And one day of the week would be organic fruits and vegetables, organic seafood, organic dairy, organic this—
EUBANK: So, now, did you present this?
GRIFFITHS: Oh, yeah. [We made it to] third best and final offer. I should have been suspicious when it became second-best and final, because, you know as Father Guido Sarducci [a comic fictional character from Saturday Night Live] says, “Forever and ever, but I think the first forever sort of takes care of it,” right? I think [in] the “second and third best and final offer,” the first “final” kind of takes care of it. [Interviewer laughs] So, it was us and I forget the guy’s name. He was an artist with a beard and he had ties with Zenith Gallery and stuff and whatnot. He was an okay guy. We went head-to-head all the way to third best and final offer.
EUBANK: Now this is for the whole — it’s not just for the North Hall, so the whole thing.
GRIFFITHS: Everything, everything.
EUBANK: Yeah. For Market Master.
GRIFFITHS: Oh, we were going to have Moroccan stews and carts set up outside. And it was our idea in front of the swimming pool to set up food vendors, you know. And a bunch of the stuff we wanted to do, they did.
EUBANK: Is happening now.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We were going to have cooking lessons and—
EUBANK: And, so, with the reopening of the Eastern Market, Harrod was still in place.
EUBANK: See, I didn’t realize that. I thought that—
GRIFFITHS: I don’t remember if he was at that … No, he wasn’t at that point.
EUBANK: Yeah, okay.
GRIFFITHS: No, he wasn’t. He was out by that point.
EUBANK: So, who did you report, who did you deal—
GRIFFITHS: Barry Margeson. And, you know, OPM [Office of Personnel Management] became something [else]. You have to take that. [phone]
EUBANK: Well, no, I don’t have to take it. But it’s probably — I think we’re—
GRIFFITHS: We’re there.
EUBANK: We’re probably good, yeah.
EUBANK: Well, so, anyway, so now Jake’s first. So, you’re not running it [tango] now.
GRIFFITHS: No. May 16th 2013 [was my last day]. Coming down the home stretch we had Chicho Frumboli and Juana Sepulveda there, you know, performing [who I think are as good as anyone in the world]. We had Javier Antar and Kara Wenham. [For the final handful of years we had probably my favorite teacher, Maxi Gluzman, from Buenos Aires.]
EUBANK: Well, I’ll have to get a list of all the people that performed.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We had The Best. We had Gabriel Missé and Analía Centurión. We had the best of the best in the world there coming down the home stretch. And May 16th, I just cut it because I was burned, you know. I was burned.
EUBANK: What year?
EUBANK: So, May 16, 2013?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah. And, so, Jake took over.
EUBANK: And, so, Jake’s taken over since then.
GRIFFITHS: And they’ve done a great job [Jake Spatz and Dasha Khripkova].
EUBANK: Well, I know they just celebrated tango’s 15-year anniversary at Eastern Market.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, yeah. I went down for one of those days to say a couple of words, but—
EUBANK: Yeah. Well, you know, thanks. You have been an intriguing interview. [Interviewee laughs] I mean, really, the amount of history that you have around Eastern Market and really around Washington is really remarkable.
GRIFFITHS: And there’s even more stories. [Both laugh]
EUBANK: And I can turn off the recorder to hear them.
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, there you go.