Goodnight Mr. Lewis: Will Fleet Week Save Us From Ourselves?

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Photos via Fine Young Man productions

The drone of the tattoo gun was a sexy background music to polite conversation. Hipsters, tastemakers and painted ladies enjoyed wonderful concoctions of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, while cute sailor boys mingled. One young lad wearing the whitest uniform ever designed turned to the older mariner and lamented, “Chief, I’d love to get a tattoo, but I live with my mother when I’m done.” The older seaman barked at him, saying, “Get it where she won’t see it,” and headed toward the free BBQ.

It was Fleet Week at its best as “The City That Never Sleeps” embraced seaman from all over the world. An old joke wonders about how long Popeye and Bluto have been at sea. It must have been a long time, it goes, because they immediately get it on with a no holds bar fight over what has to be the ugliest gal in the world, Olive Oyl.

At The Sailor Jerry Home Base, open until the 29th, there were no fisticuffs as the boys in white were on their best behavior. They called all the women, “Ma’am,” and all the men, “Sir,” as they hobnobbed with the likes of Rock Photographer Mick Rock, and artists Buff Monster and Hanksy. The free BBQ from Daisy Mays, haircuts from Frank’s Chop Shop and tattoos from Three Kings were provided to thank them for their service.


You see, Sailor Jerry was a real dude—Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins was in the Navy back in the day before he took the art of tattooing to a different level. I wear his tattoo flash all over my body. It grounds me in old world values and speaks of a time when honor was more important than life itself. Now good ol’ Norman wasn’t what these days we might consider a “perfect” guy. His political views put him a bit to the right of Attila the Hun, but he sure created some classic tattoos. I got one yesterday, a sparrow, which in the old days meant I had traveled 5,000 nautical miles. I may not have done that, but I have been lost at sea and shipwrecked a few times without leaving this island.

As we walked down the streets of the sanitized Times Square it hit me how NYC has changed. Years ago, the sailors would have flocked to the center of our universe looking for love in all the wrong places. Now they just ogle and politely smile. All the politeness is so confusing to me. My daily regime is polka dotted with rudeness and bitter arguments, as this election year seems to have turned us all against each other . Lifelong friends fight over candidate’s shortcomings, as political leanings turn into seemingly religious arguments. On the dating sites I occasionally peruse looking for love in all the wrong places, potential hookups want to know in advance if you stand with this guy or that gal. I can’t imagine, imagining any of the candidates in the bedroom. The campaigns have made all of us idiots in the eyes of those with opposing views. Facebook is a battleground.

Fleet Week and all the polite warriors that have been washed up on our shores have brought us a different set of rules of engagement. Some of us may disagree with the politics of Navies and the military, but there is little argument that these boys and girls in white are standing tall for all of us.

This Sunday everybody’s favorite bad boy from The Walking Dead, Daryl himself, Norman Reedus, will ride up on a custom built Sailor Jerry Harley and make a guest appearance to toast to the troops for all their hard work at the Sailor Jerry Block Party, featuring Cage the Elephant at Hudson River Park’s Pier 84, 12 Avenue and 44th Street. Mr. Reedus will be showing love to the visiting swabbies. I suggest we all bury the hatchets and show them love, too. (Tickets available, here)

Goodnight Mr. Lewis: Death Mask Murderer Up For Parole, Clubdom Gasps

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Photo via Newsday

The parole hearing of the convicted murderer 31 years into his 25 years to life sentence went relatively unnoticed. On February 23, 1985 Bernard LeGeros tortured to death club goer, model and aspiring fashion designer Eigil Dag Vesti in what was sensationalized as the “Death Mask Murder.”

The leather S&M mask preserved the face of the burnt and animal eaten corpse, allowing for identification in a pre-DNA world. It was the murder of the decade until a year later when the murder of Jennifer Levin in Central Park by Robert Chambers, the so-called “Preppy Murder” eclipsed it. Bernard LeGeros was not alone, but he was the only person convicted of the crime. “One Percenter,” Andrew Crispo was accused of masterminding the crime. The investigation led police into the S&M clubs that thrived in the old Meatpacking District. It opened up their eyes to a culture and society thriving underground, sometimes literally. Places like the Mineshaft where Eigel was picked up, catered to patrons that put themselves at risk as a way of life. The death of Eigel was still a shock.

Limelight VIP host Fred Rothbell-Mista was a target for Andrew Crispo and his lapdog Bernard LeGeros. Fred recounted to me, many years ago, how they tried to seduce him into leaving with them that evening. Drugs and sex were the bait, but Fred said he just didn’t feel comfortable. His gut told him it wasn’t right and he decided to find his action elsewhere. He told me he came close. Rumors of the death chilled the hot crowd. Some said his heart was cut out while he was still alive, while others said a large sex toy was still lodged in the corpse. Andrew Crispo’s drug-fueled forays into S&M had become legendary and now there was a body. They couldn’t pin it on the art mogul, but over the years other charges stuck. There was a threat to his lawyer to kidnap her child, there were other beatings, a tax rap. He did go to jail, but not the 30 years prosecutors wanted. He got out many years ago, while Bernard stayed locked away.

Years after the crime, I was in a 7th Avenue restaurant featuring a Chelsea crowd. It was a scene place and the scene at the bar was loud and cruisey. I was in mid-sentence when a communal gasp followed by the loud whispers stopped me cold: “It’s Andrew Crispo.” Every head turned, every conversation stopped. Joy turned into stone, as the guy that got away was shown a table. It was that kind of impact the murder had on nightlife—hard to pick up someone at a bar having heard of Eigels fate.

But death was no stranger to nightlfe. It was a war with casualties counted just like any
war. It was measured in deaths, wounded or missing in action. Drugs, AIDS and a crime ridden NYC had taken a massive toll. A creative generation was wiped out. Where are the Haring’s, the Warhol’s, the Basquiat’s today? The mean streets of New York bubbled out that vibrant art scene, as well as new genres of music like punk, hip-hop and house that had only percolated in the deep underground.

Those who were there remember the early to mid ’80s as a sort of golden age for club life. It had a speedy numbness like a Cocaine rush. Looking back at that time, old school patrons talk of how mixed the clubs were with celebrities and Euro-trash hobnobbing with skateboard punks, artists and the fashion set. Clubs had become inclusive as even the most exclusive ones looked to curate a smorgasbord of tastes, styles and classes. Gays hung out with straights, rich with poor, Blacks with whites, all in the same room. Transgender people used any bathroom they wanted to and nobody complained. New drugs replaced, or at least cooperated, with old drugs. Looking back, it looks like heaven, but really wasn’t. Part of the problem was the party never ended and nobody was keeping track of the cost.

After hours clubs, some as big as today’s mega clubs, flourished on weekends. During the week, there were countless regular hours places to go to and smaller joints that went till noon. Mondays were great and Tuesdays amazing. Many went out every night. Many enjoyed sex, drugs, alcohol and sleepless nights that merged seamlessly with annoying days. Sunglasses were part of a night crawler’s ensemble, as much as dancing shoes and condoms. Clubs were often located in seedy neighborhoods where nobody would complain. The local entrepreneurs scored big time by selling whatever was wanted—drugs, women, late night sandwiches—to the stumbling masses. Bad decisions went with distractions. We all made them, but Eigel paid the price.

Bernard ultimately stopped the party. He was Jack the Ripper, a subconscious demon, a pause to think in that mindless moment when the drugs, music and urges didn’t want to. The parole hearing has been postponed until November. When I saw his face on my computer the other day, I sensed the breath of that demon once again and worried that he will soon walk among us.

Goodnight Mr. Lewis: When a Club Closes, We All Suffer

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Photo via Verboten

The closing of Brooklyn dance club Verboten has many in an “I told you” mode. The place was shuttered, according to a sign on the door, for failure to pay taxes, but allegations that run the gamut from fraud to sexual harassment have been leveled. Although legal eagles got the place open last Saturday night, it isn’t clear whether Verboten will soon be closed for good, reopened under new management or miraculously weather this storm.

Some seemed happy to see this joint go, but I felt bad for the staff who may be forced to look for work. A nightclub supports many people: bartenders, waitrons, managers, busboys, security, coat checkers, receptionists, door folk, public relations and promotional persons, DJs and cleaning crews all trying to pay rent, buy food, support boutiques and other businesses. There are also suppliers of booze, lemons and limes, soda and mixers. There are glassware purveyors and garbage picker uppers who now make less money. Then there are cab drivers, local deli’s supplying Altoids and before and after snacks and beers, diners, people who put up posters, graphic designers, uber drivers all suffering—the list is endless. A large nightclub like Verboten is a shot in the arm of the local economy. Oh, I forgot the government collects taxes on everything above, although some people are saying Verboten wasn’t paying those. (Update: Verboten Co-owner Jen Schiffer has been arrested).

Working in nightlife can be a double-edged sword. There is cash money, a stimulating environment and night hours that allow artists, actors and such to have day jobs. The club gigs pay the bills, while castings, rehearsals and all sorts of real world stuff occupy the days. In a perfect world, a thespian or student can work a Friday and Saturday night shift, maybe another during the week and pay their way to a bright future. The list of famous people who had bar, restaurant or nightlife gigs is long. Everyone from Dustin Hoffman to Bruce Willis, Debbie Harry to Keith Haring have served food or swill with a smile. Vin Deisel was a bouncer.

The players, below, balance their creative careers with nightlife jobs. Without clubs to pay their bills many would not be able to blossom in the arts. Could a Broadway or a New York film industry flourish without the talent pool working elsewhere? Here are four nightlife legends trying to become legendary performers.


Wass Stevens

Strategic Group Partner Wass Stevens, the bon vivant doorman at such ultra exclusive clubs like Avenue, Marquee and many more says, “Working in nightlife is the perfect job for those pursuing a career in the arts. It keeps your days free to audition, take classes, and rehearse. It’s generally ‘freelance,’ so if you book a gig, you can take the time off without too much of a hassle. For me as an actor, working the door is like one long improvisation. And because you interact with people from all walks of life—in the span of 15 minutes tonight, for example, I talked to my favorite homeless guy Julio, an Oscar winner (with whom I’ve worked several times) several gazillionaires, two of my students, several of NY’s finest, my pal who plays for the New York Rangers, and other assorted nightcrawler—it takes any intimidation factor out of the acting equation.  Seeing huge stars, directors [and] producers staggering out intoxicated, or chasing hotties that I see on a daily basis and barely notice, levels the playing field really fast. And, if you take [it] seriously [and] treat it as a job, it can. Nightlife gives you a degree of financial security most ‘part-time’ jobs cannot give. And let’s not forget, for the most part its pretty fucking fun.”

Wass still hangs onto his door gig despite big and small screen success with increasingly larger roles in vehicles like The Wrestler, Brooklyn’s Finest, The Family Man, Public Morals, World Trade Center and more.

Michael Cavadias is a DJ, actor, writer and a director. He juggles his nightlife career amid credits for Wonder Boys, Girls, Difficult People and the upcoming Katie Holmes short, All We Had. For what seems like 500 Million Years he has performed Claywoman about a 500 Million Year old extra terrestrial. Recently he combined his day job with his night job by performing Claywoman at Bushwick’s House of Yes, where Girls star Jemima Kirke interviewed his character. He also wrote and directed The Joanne Holiday Show. By all accounts his career has been successful, but he makes ends meet with his DJ gigs at The Ace Hotel, Metropolitan Bar and his really fun new party HUMP at Rumpus Room every other Wednesday, which was created by Shoshana Fisher and Paul Iacono, who’s also an actor.

“Working in nightlife has allowed me the flexibility to take acting jobs, go on auditions, make my own work and survive in the city at the same time while also being able to DJ as another creative outlet,” Cavadias said. “It’s a balance between the sometimes unpredictable nature of both nightlife and film, TV [and] performance work, and the flexibility to be able to pursue the things I’m passionate about. “


Heather Litteer

Heather Litteer has and continues to pursue her life as a performer with money she makes in the nightlife industry. She told me she has done about every job you can think of, from barkeep to dancer. Many know her as Jessica Rabbit, a persona I once described in BlackBook:  “She comes off as a girl who can do anything—and might, if you ask right.” Others will recall her as the “ass to ass girl” in Darren Aronofsky’s  Requiem for a Dream. Typecast as a woman of ill repute or a druggie, she took advice from her mother, who said, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” This led to her first solo show, “Lemonade,” which will premiere at La Mama April 15.

Without nightlife to support her, Heather may not be able to pursue her dreams in NYC.


Fabrizio Brienza

Fabrizio Brienza is a rather tall, handsome, impeccably dressed presence at chic spots around town. He says he stumbled into nightlife while pursing a career as a model and actor. He can be seen in catalogs, commercials and campaigns, such as Johnnie Walker Blue Label. His acting has him rubbing elbows with superstars in flicks like Adjustment Bureau, Duplicity, A Walk Among the Tombstones, as well as television, like Law and Order SVU and Days of Our Lives. He has been here for 11 years, “longer than he has been in any one place before.” He opens that velvet rope as he seeks “meatier roles” that will take him to the next level.

Nightlife is a dream job for many, as you make money and hang with the wonderful, the rich, the famous, the it persons, the next wave. You listen to great music and can often sleep in. These are some of the thousands of faces trying to make it in this impossible, but possible town. When a club closes the consequences ripple through our culture.

Goodnight Mr. Lewis: Ben Rowland’s ‘Big Picture New York’ Takes Us Way Back

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Photos via Big Picture

Many years ago I worked for club mogul David Marvisi, a nice enough fellow once you got past his gruff exterior. He owned Spa, as well as the mega club Exit, which has since become Terminal 5. David was very good at making money because, as you know, some people get into the club business for that stuff.

Spa was a hit and David was generous to all that worked there. Every so often he’d stick his head into my office and proclaim, ‘Lewis, Lugars!’ and I’d stop whatever I was doing and head to Peter Lugar’s for the best steak in town with this larger-than-life character. He’d even get me a take-home steak for my pet Chihuahua. After our meal we’d drive around Williamsburg in his Bentley du-jour before the neighborhood became gentrified. David had a stable of them in lots of colors, and the kids would all swarm toward us as we drove slow, wondering who it was driving in that big car—who was living their dreams. Now, those same blocks are occupied by people chasing a different dream.


I came into B-Burg about 6 years ago, a Hipster-come-lately to the art crowd that had come 5 or 7 years before. The original gentrifiers looked down at newbies like me. They had lived among the Bentley gawkers and old-school Italians in cheap-ass harmony until a wave of new kids created the massive change that has now swept through Bushwick and Greenpoint, as well. Those that could pay the ever increasing rents defined the hoods, while those that couldn’t moved away. Now it’s all baby carriages, big buck boutiques and new high rises. Even a recent arrival like me hardly recognizes large tracks of the promised land. Change is inevitable, constant and always complained about.

At Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop, you can chat up locals and stately regulars about what it was like 30, 40 or 50 years ago in the hood and they’ll tell you all about the changes that have reshaped NYC’s cultural identity. Tourists and cool kids listen to stories about houses that date back to the beginning and how streets were named. Every week, the past is torn down and the future put up.

While nostalgia is potent, grounding us in a rose-tinted past that seems better than it probably was, changes to the hood have been profound. For centuries, it’s been the constant out with the old, in with the new. Now as the pace of change has been quickened—condos reaching for the stars and providing slick homes for the next wave—there is a new site that takes you deeper into history. Successful photographer Ben Rowland’s Big Picture NY provides a glimpse of old New York, before the rise of trendy restaurants and dive bars—heck, even before the L Train.

Ben, a key player and creative consultant for Bang On! NYC, has a keen understanding about the ever-evolving relationship between culture and neighborhood. In the past, he’s photographed everyone from Obama to Jay-Z for major clients like Rolling Stone and Milk Studios; he also works in real estate.

Williamsburg Bridge Plaza Brooklyn NY-thelong goodbye

A self-proclaimed “Big nerd for old pictures,” Ben has accumulated a large collection of hi-res images that he’s now sharing with the world online. He’s decided not to include any text saying “from an existential perspective, I wanted to keep it an imagery site and not an historical site.” While they say a picture is worth a thousand words, a thousand wasn’t enough to satisfy some, the Big Picture’s Facebook provides lengthy descriptions for those who’re curious. He’s even VR-optimizing these images.

Ben’s project takes us away from our troubles to show us a distant world that seems gentle. Obviously we know our past was anything but, though looking back at these big pictures, zooming in on faces and building facades is a sweet addiction. I want more. Someday when I’m very old and my beloved hood is all glass and concrete, I’ll be sitting there at Peter Pan having a Red Velvet (still $1.10) and I hope somebody will ask me about the good old days. However, I suspect that won’t happen as the Internet will render me obsolete.

Goodnight Mr. Lewis: Uncle Steve’s Vanishing New York, ‘Vinyl’ Sucks

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Photo via Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York

Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York is a brilliant site, which lets me and many others not only know about the closing of New York institutions, but their significance to the fabric of our city. Jeremiah covered the closing of St. Marks mainstay, Trash and Vaudeville, with their usual aplomb. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, New York is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution? There was a time I couldn’t think of living anyplace else. New York, well Manhattan, has been hosed down, scrubbed, de-liced and perfumed—cleansed of the grit that once made it special. The city that never sleeps has become a bedroom community.

For the last couple of months I’ve been living in Philadelphia. I do come up to the Big Apple a few times every week for meetings. On a recent trip up, my significant other offered, “This town isn’t what it used to be,” and she was right. As mom and pop businesses lose their leases and national chains take over those spaces, Manhattan offers little but high rents, traffic and people I would never want to sleep with.

The closing of Patricia Fields and exile of Trash and Vaudeville are the latest in the agonizing death of a culture by a thousand pin pricks. Both boutiques remained true to their schools, providing their own signature style until the very end; both were places to gather, chat up the like-minded, absorb the influences of stylish staff that could hardly be imagined elsewhere. They were clubhouses, destinations, places to desperately search for that big outfit for that big date. Trash has just moved around the corner to 7th Street and those who need it will find the skinny jeans, band tees, Doc Martens and rock, goth or punk accessories. St. Marks hasn’t been what it was for a long time; St. Marks Bookstore recently closed, Sounds, the last record store, as well. The Sockman, Kims video and Andy’s Chee-Pees are as dead as Love Saves the Day, Natasha, Repeat Performance, Manic Panic and so many others.

In 1983 I produced “The East Village Look,” a fashion show at the great Danceteria. The exploding neighborhood of boutiques, art galleries and cool bars attracted the rock stars and hipsters. Now with Trash closing, everyone who participated is shuttered, online or sanitized. Back in the day was amazing; I spent the wee hours in clubs of questionable ethics and at dawn or noon, I’d dodge the junkies and my compatriots already rolled, while sleeping it off on stoops. We lived questionable lives, had dangerous sex, paid the price. We were to live fast and die young. Many kept this bargain.

For eons, St. Marks was the go-to spot to pick up go-go girls or boys shopping for spandex or making their hair stand up straight. It was a 24-hour walk of shame in a world where clubs were still open, as yuppie-scum were eating their lunches. Boy Bar, Coney Island High, Club 82, The Nursery, Brownies and a dozen more joints did their part as did the Saint, a mega club that helped define queer NYC nightlife. Everything and everyone was near and willing to exchange spit. It was cheap, it was fast and it was fun. Its sound, its music still makes us squirm, poured out of its pores from a hundred dives.

I stopped at Gem Spa the other day to get an egg cream and pretzel stick, not because I was thirsty, but to take a breath—maybe a look at the bar across the street where Mick Jagger and Keith once smoked cigarettes outside and inside and cruised the local talent. There’s still some familiar spots left in what once was the center of it all: B&H Dairy, St. Marks Comics, Rays on Avenue A and, of course, Gem Spa, but the crowd has changed and I can’t imagine running into Iggy on St, Marks and of course Joey and Dee Dee Ramone are long gone. I bet and I guess I hope that none of the hookers are still working the St. Marks Hotel. I actually never went, but it was somehow comforting to know they were there.

None of this bothers me as life does go on until it doesn’t. What bothers me is Vinyl, the HBO show that supposedly shows us what it was like back in the day, is just so awful—a rewrite of my romantic past. My significant other offered, “It’s after all only a TV show,” but for me it isn’t just a TV show, it’s my soul. You can knock down the stores and bars, destroy the vibe and make the whole fuckin’ town a mall, but to portray it all in Vinyl’s very small, very inaccurate box is blasphemy. Gem Spa’s egg creams, chocolate of course, are all that’s left that you can roll around in your mouth and appreciate that which was before.

Goodnight Mr. Lewis: House of Yes and Closing L Train May Keep Brooklyn Cool

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Photography: Audrey Penven

Nightlife at its best is a love fest—a place where even birds with broken wings can soar. Back in the day, cultures collided in the best places in town, artists, performers, dancers and even clowns were all celebrated. There were thriving places where envelopes were pushed, edges redefined. Drag queens could make a pretty penny dancing on bars, affirming to the Wall Streeters and bridge and tunnel sets in attendance that they, indeed, were hanging in a super hip place. Today, or tonight, there are very few places where drag queens dance on bars. The segregation of cultures is more profound in nightlife than maybe in society as a whole. There are those who live to challenge this theory. It was and still is Susanne Bartsch, Johnny, Chi Chi, the Mother Crew and others still thriving in the cracks and yes, there is the House of Yes: a place for smiles, laughter and eureka moments—for shock and awe. HOY is a place to belong—a place to say yes.

The Brooklyn nexus of Williamsburg/Greenpoint/Bushwick, a creative cauldron for all that goes bump in the night, is under attack. Real estate developers seeking that cauldron of gold at the end of that creative rainbow have put up a continuous string of dormitories for slaves pushing the wayward types farther away from the L train and connections to the Manhattan money stream. The hipster sprawl has attracted those who live to swarm around the creative light that starving artists and musicians have developed. Their credit cards have encouraged Duane Reades and mainstream boutiques to open and thrive. It is a D-Day level beachhead that has nearly transformed Nirvana into Pleasantville. Yet all is not lost as House of Yes and other stalwarts exploit the yuppie bucks and employ the star struck, bringing joy to the world.

DSC07712Photography: Audrey Penven

On a typical Saturday night, Manhattanites with tourists in tow command the lifeline of the Brooklyn creative cauldron: the L Train. Over the last decade or so, the Bridge and Tunnel types, with real jobs and real credit have migrated from the outer boroughs and now live the Manhattan dream. Like frenzied Salmon, they now swim upstream to mate in the old, forever changed hoods. A few years ago, most got off at Bedford Avenue, but now the hoards go three, even five stops, inland looking for that good time. Their money supports the clubs, bars and boutiques that pay the rent of the artistes, but it also dilutes the Gene pool—a Catch 22.

Suddenly, a new hope may have come in the form of disaster. At some table of suits, it was determined that the L train must be shut down for repairs—some say for a year, but other reports whisper of three or more. The inconvenience of it all just may save the hood from eating itself. The starving artists know how to survive such troubles; they’ll ride their bikes in a foot of snow, run to work or take three trains. The newbie crowd, the non-creatives that panic if their lattes are made with whole milk, might decide to opt out for Long Island City or Hoboken, which I hear are both very nice.

I ate at Forrest Point, Bushwick among my brethren and thought the end of civilization as I know it may not be nigh. It was mid afternoon when Kae Burke, one of the founders and partners at The House of Yes, and old friend Eric Schmalenberger, a HOY board member, house curator and performer, gave me the 2 cent tour. It all started with the bathrooms, each a work of art, each a vision of how things should be. I was showed stages, back rooms, go-go cages and Boardwalk Empire relics. My head spun, I decided this was it—a place I could hang my hat, a place where moments could occur, where talented people could push their limits, and therefore a community’s. Kae told me how a shoe company might want to promote their product, tap into the scene-maker crowd that’s attending rather regularly. She said if such a thing must be done, HOY would produce it, mimicking a giant shoe coming down on her. I laughed and I seldom laugh in Manhattan anymore unless Johnny Dynell or Chi Chi Valenti are doing something. HOY was reminding me of Mother, the seminal Meatpacking joint where everything was everything, so I asked Kae to tell BlackBook about what she calls “our accidental nightclub.”

She wrote me a book, which I’ve edited down, so you can absorb her energy:

“House of Yes has become so much more than we ever anticipated. Some things in life are planned. Sometimes with a project, you have a whole projection of what you’re doing and how it will make money and succeed and an exit strategy and how you’ll make it all happen. House of Yes, throughout the years, just kind of happened. Organically, magically, one of those weird destiny things.

[House of Yes Co-Founder Anya Sapozhnikova] and I started making art together, playing out-of-tune instruments in cold garages, smoking weed in parking lots and drawing all night. We made art together, drawing, painting [and] sewing all night. It’s that creative love feeling—the feeling that someone gets you, the feeling that they see your potential, they will support your terrible brilliant ideas and think you’re awesome no matter what. We had that connection that multiplies the good things exponentially—the kind of love that keeps reflecting back and forth, the kind that makes you feel good about yourself because the person you love, loves you back and vice versa. With that kind of love, anything is possible. That is why House of Yes is possible. We made stuff. We were broke and didn’t care. We were resourceful. We were in fashion school, but it was more of pain in the ass as it got in the way of exploration, creation and going out.
Anya has always been a natural leader—the best at bringing people together. They follow her radiance wherever it takes them. That is why House of Yes exists. Because she leads with force, power and light. As much of a leader as I am, I have to say, I follow her [and] support her. It takes us to great places together. She leads parades [and] creates grand spectacles at huge illegal warehouse parties in Brooklyn. We still do weird art together, but now we do it with more people and all over the place. Now it’s a performance.
DSC07035Photography: Audrey Penven
 Part of the magic of the House of Yes has been in that collective need for something to succeed. People feel included. We’ve always been very open about it belonging to all, [and] especially in this early phase, we were open to collaborating with anyone and that is how the weird, wild and wonderful things happened. People feel included and therefore invested. They want it to work. They want to help. It’s not just for House of Yes, it’s for them. It’s the reflection—the love that keeps going.
People saw that what we had created was special. Everyone is always trying to be special, but when you try too hard and plan and brand and strategize for your target market, the result is completely contrived and it wreaks of bullshit and desperation. We didn’t try to be special, we didn’t have time to think about that, we would just make things and try things and rehearse and perform and do it again and again. We made performances, parties and art, and it all kind of worked together. We didn’t waste time ‘trying’ things, we would just do them and then adjust our decisions based on the consequences. It usually worked out.
 By the age of 26, we were old enough to freak out a little when we lost the second House of Yes. At this point, it was our home, our everything, our resource for making. After the devastation and sobbing, it became clear that we’d built something that didn’t need walls. Love doesn’t need walls. Real family, the kind you make, the kind that makes you, doesn’t need a house [or] have a home. I know it’s cheesy, but it’s so true. We had our people. They found us and loved us, warts and all.
People have come and gone from the House of Yes world, sometimes by chance and sometimes by choice. Anya and I have always stuck by each other, and it’s a power beyond love. It’s commitment. I have to admit that I have wanted to quit. We weren’t convinced about the third round. There was a beautiful freedom that came with losing the space and we tasted it. It tasted good to be free of the massive responsibilities of running an illegal venue, but we kept looking because we knew it wasn’t the end, even if we fantasized.
DSC06999 Photography: Audrey Penven
In previous installations of HOY, people followed us. We built it [and] they came.  To some extent, with the third, we followed the people. They wanted it. Everyone kept saying. ‘It’s okay, we’ll find a bigger better place. We have to do this.’ We followed them [and] they were right. Our crew, our family, our friends had the radiance, the hope and energy to remind us that yes, there was more. We believed in them, in ourselves, in the reflection and the need to succeed. House of Yes had to live on.
It’s a weird thing that happens when you make something bigger than yourself, bigger than you had planned. (Not that we had a plan). It’s terrifying and beautiful and the most exhilarating thing in the world to stand back and say, ‘Holy, shit, what have I done? What have we done?’ That’s how I feel now. We didn’t do it alone. People cared. This wouldn’t have happened if the community didn’t need it, didn’t want it, didn’t crave it and demand that it happen.
The current space is its own beautiful creature. Anya and I are 29 and we’re more and more in love with each other, with the space. Our family gets bigger, our art gets better, our lives get brighter. There aren’t enough hours in the day and there is still never enough money it seems. We never meant to make a nightclub, we just wanted to make art. I seriously can’t believe what we’ve created, but I know why we created it.
Because this city needs a place where things can happen that aren’t about tricking people into spending their money. We all need a place where we can go meet interesting people, where we can be surprised and where we can surprise ourselves—where we can grow and give, a place where you can give a shit about the space you’re in. We’ve let people put themselves into House of Yes. We let people help us build, we included them in the legend and it has filled every little crack and corner of the space with love. Because love is service. Love is selfless. People pour their time and money into House of Yes because they feel like it is theirs, like it was made for them, and should be made with them. They are right. We made it together, we made it for everyone.
DSC07145 Photography: Audrey Penven
[With] most nightclubs, you don’t care who the owner is, or who made the art on the wall, or who the go-go dancer is. I feel like House of Yes lets people care because we never present as a ‘brand,’ we present ourselves as humans who created a space for fellow humans. Maybe that’s all House of Yes is: a place for humans [or maybe] a gift for humans.
For me personally, House of Yes is a place for me to discover myself. I’m still working on developing as an artist, as a woman, as a good human and creator—as a leader, a believer in myself. It’s a life-long journey.
It is hard to balance the stress and management, the art and love. Luckily, I have the best partners in the world that remind me constantly what the struggle is for, reminding me that it’s worth it, reminding me that I am the same genius that I was when making art all night in highschool, the same creator from the basement days, the same leader I always was and will continue to be. Even when I’m tired, I can remember it’s okay to be inspired. Just let it happen. It’s always worked for us that way.”

Eric added:

“The first time I walked into House of Yes  I had no idea what it was and I was mad as hell that something so incredible existed and I wasn’t involved. When I was in college, I remember describing my perfect life as being a member of a group of artists, spectacle makers, performance artists, camp queens, and fearless creators who collaborated to make things that were thrilling, outlandish and beautiful, and there I was in the middle of it.  About a year later, I was cast in my first House of Yes production. From that point on, I was hooked and found myself braver and more excited with each challenge.  I always joke that it’s called ‘House of Yes,’ not, ‘House of Maybe,’ and I find myself saying, ‘Yes,’ to the unexpected here all the time.

I think that’s one of the reasons I love this space and this community. It encourages the unexpected and the surprising to take place, and it encourages the risk taking and the trust to take that risk. This whole community and club are built on that trust. Two weeks ago, I walked into the club before a variety show and was told by Kae and Anya that they had an idea involving me for an act that night where I’d be chased up the wall sculpture above the bar by crazed sexy clown girls, attached onto a zip line and then flown high above the audiences heads in my daring escape. For a circus space, I am very much a ground performer, but I trusted my friends and that night I found myself about 17 feet above the heads of a thrilled audience (while wearing sequins of course). Each day is an adventure; each day is bringing in new artists, creators, nightlife innovators and fun makers to join in that adventure. What more could a boy ask for?”

House of Yes is one of the reasons to live in NYC, putting up with L train closings, the high rents and all that Jazz . Go there ASAP, it’s the best place in town.

Did Trump Learn to Debate at Cocktail Parties, Bars and Nightclubs?

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Donald Trump seems poised to win the Republican nomination and then face either a candidate that a lot of people dislike, or a candidate who is old, Jewish, divorced and a Socialist. The Donald could win.

Back in the day I would sometimes see Donald out and about at clubs and charity events. He was always well-dressed and polite, Everyone I know who knew him has nice things to say about him. I read stories of him hanging at Le Club with power broker Roy Cohen and other boites with the rich and famous. There are stories of him at Studio 54 hobnobbing with the best. When contacted while vacationing in Peru, Studio V.I.P. hostess Carmen D’Alessio offered me an emphatic, “No comment.” Most of the usual (and unusual) club folks, who surely were hosting parties that Trump visited refused to comment—mind you, these are the types who would sacrifice helpless animals for a photo-op or quote.

A doorman told me of Trump’s refusal to shake his hand, politely bowing instead; a bottle host told of how they got ready for the “Big D,” sometimes whisking female companions in and out of secret doors. A club manager told me, “For a guy in his position, he was out quite a lot.”  Regardless, he said “he always found him to be straight-laced and polite.” Between Marla Maples, Ivanna and the rest, Mr. Trump was seen in Miami’s Chaos, and in New York, China Club, Studio 54 and a dozen other important joints.

So, did Trump’s clubbing days teach him how to speak to the people? While political pundits scratch their heads over the impossible surge of candidate Donald Trump, it seems to me rather simple. Donald talks to the people like one speaks to folks at a bar. Simple, emphatic statements without too much need for facts or follow-up win the night.  In this manner of speaking, he has connected with the public. A regular guy wouldn’t want to have a drink in a bar with Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. Hillary and Bernie wouldn’t be any fun. Those folks seem far removed from the language of the hoi polloi. The billionaire through a steady stream of bar-like banter has become the populist candidate. The Donald once proudly declared:

“I could stand in the middle of  5th Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

If candidate Trump made this statement at the neighborhood bar, few would doubt this and many would buy another round.

He might say something like this:

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our representatives can figure out whats going on […] We have no choice, we have no choice.”

The crowd would gulp their Jameson’s and repeat, “ No choice, no choice!” They’d all hug and glance at the game on the TV screen until some guy with a hat that says “Vet” on it might choose to bring up life in the trenches. Trump might dodge that bullet with a quip about war hero Senator John McCain,

“He’s not a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

Some would spit out their beer in glee and order yet another round. The lot at the bar is working class and talk would inevitably turn to making ends meet, and who to blame for it. All eyes turn to Trump, who might define a culprit by saying something like:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

The bar crowd might cheer and demand, “What the hell would you do about it?”

He’d respond: ”I will build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

The crowd around him would be in a frenzy with the sound on the game lowered so all could hear. Only the bartender would be busy pouring swill to the unwashed masses. Trump, having their full attention, might continue with:

“In the Middle East, we have people chopping the heads off Christians, we have people chopping the heads off many other people. We have things that we have never seen before—as a group, we have never seen before, what’s happening right now. The medieval times—I mean, we studied medieval times—not since medieval times have people seen what’s going on. I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

All would nod in agreement, Isis is bad. Lighter conversation is called for and the chatter would head to women. Trump might offer a tried and true line about Carly Fiorina:

‘Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that the face of our next president?”

No one could imagine to wanting to hang with that face. Feeling the love, Trump might add:

“It’s very hard for them to attack me on looks because I’m so good looking.”

And without skipping a beat:

“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me, consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

The woman bashing has them by the balls, so with a couple of winks and a nod he repeats a winner about Megyn Kelly:

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her, wherever.”

Candidate Trump gets most votes at most bars these days. He will continue to win at the polls and maybe the election, as well, because he talks to the average Joe in a tone that Joe understands. He doesn’t make it too complicated.

“I would get China to make that guy (Kim Jong Un) disappear in one form or another very quickly.”

That’s his answer. It’s a simple, bang, bang, and the North Korean problem is solved and he didn’t even get his toupee mussed.

Another famous television personality, Groucho Marx, once famously offered the following thoughts:

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies,” and, “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

Groucho is long gone, but damn wouldn’t he have made a great running mate.

Chatting With Sex Club DJ Uri Dalal

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Uri Dalal by Charles Gonzales. Courtesy of Uri Dalal.

DJs work in many alternative situations. Besides the path to riches and fame in NY and Vegas hotspots, DJs find work as wedding DJs or DJs for kids parties. Some specialize in corporate events making squares smile and wiggle a little bit.  Some do cruises. Some do strip clubs, where songs have to be timed to 3 minutes, and they use a mic to get Tiffany or Jazzy to get ready to get on stage. Some do sex clubs. Uri Dalal is a solid DJ. He DJs at a sex party and other places, but it’s the sex club part that got you this far. Okay, get all the shock and awes out of the way…OMG!, OMG!, OMG!  I caught up with Uri and asked him about how he got there and what he does.

How did you get into the business?

I’ve always been in love with music. My family owned Music Factory, one of the first DJ specialty shops. I grew up on Disco and Dance music. I am a musician. I learned to play the drums when I was five. I was also very into Punk Rock growing up. I love music and I love playing it even more. What I hated was being in bands. 

I remember I decided to check out something new one night and I ended up stepping on to the Tunnel dance floor for the first time in 1988. Todd Terry’s ‘Back 2 The Beat’ came on, and the place just exploded, and I mean exploded. I had never seen anything like it. I fell in love. The club kids of the moment introduced me to this Synth pop band that needed a drummer and next thing you know we were on stage at Limelight for opening night at Disco 2000. I kind of never looked back and have been involved with the scene and it’s development in one form or another ever since. I’m still doing it today as a DJ. 

How do you feel about what’s going on in the dance music scene at the moment?

What is going on these days! “House” the Broadway Musical is next up, right? I’m still trying to figure out what it is about this music that frat boys suddenly are relating to, when before they didn’t like that it never stopped because they didn’t know when to stop dancing.

I’ve been in love with this music almost since it’s inception. I have so many amazing dance floor stories and heard so many DJs do amazing things over the years. I will hold a torch for House music and its original message of inclusion of any and all that want to be down until the end of time.

For almost 20 years I’ve been dancing my ass off or spinning my ass off at various parties. There was something about being a part of that secret group! Something about knowing you were at the epicenter of all that was cutting edge in music and fashion and art. There was something very Punk and DIY about it to me. Something about Madonna coming and learning the latest dance moves from our group. The music was like a blank canvas and aside from the standard ‘four on the floor’ repetitive drum pattern, that was the only rule anyone needed to follow.

I didn’t get into this business to make a million dollars. I got into this business because I loved the music so much and the release I would get from dancing with a group of people all night, the connection I would feel with these people was the most amazing thing I had ever known. Words can’t describe what it’s like to look out on to a dance floor and see all the heads and bodies moving together in unison. It’s one thing to get everybody dancing, but if you can get them all in the same zone that’s the real challenge. That’s where the reward is greater than any amount of money. It’s just so much fun. 

I love that and want to share that feeling with others. I want to connect with other people. There is or should I say was a great sense of community to that, but it was wonderful because it was a community of individuals who’s one thing in common was this incredible music! I got into this business because I love this music so much I had no choice but to be a part of it. The fact that I could make a decent living doing it was a bonus. If you have talent it should come easily to you. When you are an artist and you’re hearing new music you can’t help but hear the twenty other songs or ideas you could mix it with or mash it up with.

You could go out seven nights a week back then. There was always something new and exciting to check out in NYC. That was at the beginning – of my tale at least – and it lasted all the way up to the late 90’s after Twilo closed. That might as well have been a different planet. 

I think there is a problem in the dance music scene and basically the entire scene is the problem. We’ve all arrived at the point where the overall vibe is that anybody could do this, and anybody starts doing it, and it the quality becomes a bit diluted. This happens to every great music scene, doesn’t it.

It happened in the 60’s with Hippies, it happened with Punk Rock and just like dance music it took 30 years for actually sink in, it happened with Hip Hop. The difference is that dance music has survived this kind of popularity once before. None of the others survived like we have, and I look forward to eventually diving back into the depths. I think the scene is getting bigger and bigger – but I mean fatter, not necessarily smarter. It’s definitely not about music any more. 

That’s when you get your Paris Hiltons headlining events. You think the guy under the table in that video producing her tracks is going to worry about being true to the music or the scene? He knows that he’s going to make 1.7 million a gig too if he cranks out some more of the same mindless drivel for the masses. That’s when you get guys throwing cakes around or jumping up and down making heart symbols. I mean they have to do something to distract people from the fact that the music is terrible and once the listeners figure that out, the jig is up! It’s only a matter of time, so they’re trying to rake it in before they’re all found out. I think Paris Hilton is the best DJ out right now. At least with that you know it’s a joke.

I think the name of the genre is misleading because even though I get the electric reference and I get the music reference, I don’t really see anyone dancing. It’s like a rock concert isn’t it? Except it’s like lip-syncing, it’s all pre-recorded and there’s three guys in the booth talking to each other about the Ferrari they just bought with the ten zillion dollars they made last week, occasionally looking at the audience or pretending to tweak the mixer that isn’t even on. These guys aren’t superstars. They’re just there to take a piece of the pie. It’s a total bunch of shit and once people wake up they’re all fucked. 

As a result today DJing has become stylistically different. There are different circumstances to work under. You can’t develop a vibe or a motif musically or try to tell a story, now you’ve got a million people jumping on your head in the DJ booth – which probably explains the need for pre-recorded material – there is no time to concentrate on or develop a vibe – you have to connect punch after punch, because the attention span is nil. If the hook isn’t within the first few seconds your set is over. 

I find this very tiresome and stressful and unrewarding. I’ve realized the knowledge of the genre and its history is non-existent. I’m developing an event called ‘The Know-Nothing Party’ based on educating those that actually do love the music and want to learn about it. 

Today you’ve got to deal with ‘Promoters’ that have the nerve to ask you how many people you can pull in before they work with you – isn’t that their job? I want to know how many people you’re bringing! Then after you help them build a night they’re trying to replace you with a model/DJ with big breast implants. Come on. 

I mean, promoters are not the reason people go clubbing. Promoters are not the reason people love dance music. You can bet your ass Promoters did not get into this business because they love the music so much they had to be a part of it any way they could. Promoters didn’t get into this business for a sense of community and to connect with like-minded people for the time of their lives. Promoters get into the business to take people’s money and quickly. They don’t care about the scene or the genre. They just want to make as much as they can and bounce. 

I mean can you think of a more useless person to dance music? You’ve got the DJ who is trying to bring everyone together through music and you’ve got the promoters who are trying to be separate from everyone in the VIP room. But today the VIP is packed and the club is empty.

I realized I am not the guy to fit that mold. I never wanted to be that guy. I am not the DJ that will deliver watered down bullshit for the masses. I don’t want to see some chick in Day-Glo workout gear with football eye black on her face wearing short shorts and Chewbacca boots. I don’t want to hear some fucking frat boy talking about a DJs set. 

People don’t go out to dance any more really but they’re all dancing. They don’t go out to do drugs or get drunk, but that’s what they’re all doing. They all are there doing everything except for the one thing that they are all there striving to do. That’s why everybody is rubbing each other, and pretending to hump each other. This is what is different about my parties. 

I’m going to tell you a secret. What sets me apart from everybody else is that people come to my parties and fuck. Really fuck. They fuck for me. 

There is no ‘Fuck Me I’m Famous’ message necessary at my parties because for me they actually do it. My audience actually fucks at my parties. Famous or not. 

No one else can say that. I’m the DJ that people actually have sex to. I’m the DJ people fuck for. Now that is something worth talking about. At my parties you can’t get in unless you’re prepared to have sex. From now on when I play at a club, I don’t care if people are dancing; I’m there to play music so they can fuck. 

I got sick of playing bullshit music to get people to dance, and since nobody dances any more anyway I decided fuck these festivals. I’m trying to bring some integrity back to the scene. Who else can say that? I spent 20 years doing this for the music, not the money. I could have easily followed the wannabes and models and bottles people but I wasn’t going to suck anyone’s cock or start throwing cakes around acting like an asshole. Fuck that. I want an audience that is gonna be into the music that will force me to better myself as an artist week after week, and now I’ve got it. I’m doing this for the greater good of the dance community, of which I am a life long member, not just some flash in the pan.

20 years after I started spinning professionally I’ve had so many experiences that have brought me to this point that I feel I’m more relevant than ever. Talk about evoking an emotional response from your audience! And In 20 years after people stop throwing cakes and shaving the sides of their heads I’ll still be here doing things my way, instead of trying to please those who are here to please themselves by taking your money. I’m catering to the same people but I’m giving them something to do. Our events aren’t segregated either, they’re a real tossed salad, which I think is the best kind of audience. You know, sometimes it’s better to show up to a bad party uninvited and make it great, than to spend an hour trying to get into the VIP to hang with a bunch of asshole reality stars or people that have no business being at your favorite nightclub to begin with. I mean really, who are those people that they should have a special section? You want to be special? Come blow someone at my party. 

I’ll play the big events if they’re presented to me but honestly I could care less. I want to do what’s unexpected. My next event was chosen for that very purpose. The Undead A Go-Go takes place Sunday September 28th at Bocca di Bacco in Chelsea. There’s a cover but if you use my secret password ‘Bela Lugosi’ you’ll get in for free all night. We are having sexy undead go-go boys and girls, and a record release party for my friend Jerico of the Angels who will perform his new songs all kinds of craziness that night, including a witch’s ritual before midnight via Skype. Killer sound system and room for whatever else. Check it out HERE.

Good Mondays: The National Arts Club Presents Charles James ‘Beneath The Dress’

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Coming this Monday, September 29, a certain fashionable and fabulous set will all be agog over The National Arts Club presentation of Charles James, “Beneath The Dress.” Fashion Week may be over here, but for many, it is a 24/7, 365 thing. This celebration and exhibition of Charles James work will surely bring out the finery. I was sent these comments about Mr. James. Dianne B. Bernhard, Director, Office of Fine Arts, The National Arts Club comments: 

“Valuing structure and clarity above all, made James one of the greatest haute courtiers of the last century. Charles James: Beneath the Dress uncovers his strengths as a fashion designer, but equally reveals James’ extraordinary talents as a visionary and an artist.” 

Publicist, bon vivant, man about town and all around good sort R. Couri Hay said, “James told me, ‘It’s always been about the dress not me’,” adding, “Charles James was a rebel and an artist who never doubted himself or his work.”

This is a week long exhibition of never before displayed Charles Lamb fashion and erotic drawings from  the private collection of R. Couri Hay. The press release informs that Mr James was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his dressmaking technique. Bill Cunningham described him as “the Einstein of fashion”. He is known as Americas greatest courtier. Cristobal Balenciaga referred to James as “the worlds best and only dressmaker. It goes on and on with names like Vreeland and other fashion gods peppered all over the story. National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, September 29 to October 5 from 11AM till 5PM.