In Memoriam: George Porfiris

by delarue

Plenty of guys would have sold their souls to be George Porfiris. A founding member of infamous noiserock band the Heroine Sheiks, Porfiris toured nationally with that group: a tough gig, to say the least. But Porfiris was tough. Queens Greek tough. As a performer, menace was his stock in trade. the sneer, the effortlessly slinky snakecharmer basslines and the gritty don’t-mess-with-me expression. Offstage, he was anything but menacing. In a demimonde filled with snakes and damaged personalities, Porfiris was a genuinely warmhearted, solid guy, beloved across the Lower East Side even as it shrank and turned into a tourist trap. And now he’s gone. The funeral was this evening.

Porfiris was perennially curious, skeptical to the nth degree, well read, historically and politically knowledgeable. He took pride in his Greek heritage and his ancestry in the underground there, battling tyrants. For Porfiris, socialism wasn’t a tag he wore to fit in with his punk rock friends: it was a lifestyle. If he had much of anything – and there were periods where he pretty much didn’t – he would share it if he thought you needed it. His generosity extended to his schemes: he was always cooking up something, and was always glad to cut a friend in, whether or not it might lead to something profitable. If it didn’t, he’d move on: there was always a gig to book, a show to play, a shift to work. Energy was something Porfiris always had in reserve when everybody else was done for the night. When closing time rolled around at Lotus, or Max Fish, or Bar B, Porfiris was just getting started.

His passion for life drew people to him. And he worked that too. Porfiris loved women and women couldn’t resist the cat-ate-the-canary persona…and the unselfconscious warmth that came out when he knew that somebody was having a hard time or couldn’t cope. And he was honest to the core: even if everybody was half in the bag, himself included, when a deal was made, Porfiris would remember what the terms were, and would honor them, even when other people didn’t. And that happened a lot.

Porifirs’ greatest achievements weren’t with the Heroine Sheiks. He’s best represented by his own band, Porfirio, an underrated, sardonic late zeros project that blended the best of the early 90s New York gutter rock scene with a surprisingly artsy circus rock edge amd a noisy side that echoed the punk rock he grew up with. He also played with Five Dollar Priest and the Black Furs.

As Willie Nelson put it, the night life is a hard life, and George Porfiris lived harder in his four-plus decades than most people would in a thousand years. He joked about his high blood pressure. There was a health scare last year, but that didn’t stop him. He’d still be found in the wee hours outside the club, having a smoke, firing off machinegun one-liners and observations on whatever injustice he’d just witnessed, from close up or further away. Maybe that defiance and refusal to back down to anything is what kept him going as far as he did, a true New York original who’ll never be replaced. Condolences to his family and many, many friends.