Jewel Thais-Williams Looks Back on Catch One & Her Black Queer Legacy

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It was the dawn of disco in LA, and they were outcasts. When black people and queer people were turned away from the city’s nightlife, Jewel Thais-Williams found her calling.

For over 40 years, Catch One offered a place of acceptance for those who needed it most. Once dubbed the Studio 54 of the west coast, Thais-Williams’s establishment became a pillar for a community. From early days of harassment by local police to a time of despair during the AIDS crisis, it persevered for decades. Although its doors are closed, its legacy and that of Thais-Williams lives on through the many lives they impacted.

It’s the subjects of C. Fitz’s newest documentary, Jewel’s Catch One. For six years, Fitz befriended this amazing woman to tell her inspiring story. Now in the wake of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the importance of queer spaces is as relevant as ever.

We caught up with Fitz and Thais-Williams ahead of the New York premiere of Jewel’s Catch One at HBO’s Urbanworld Film Festival to talk about adversity, opportunity, and legacy.

BlackBook: When did you first discover Catch One?

C. Fitz: I discovered it in 2010. I was doing a piece on Jewel because she was being honored at a charity, and I donated my services as a director to do a two to three-minute piece on her. Within the first day of meeting her in April 2010, I said to her that we needed to do a documentary on her life. The more that I researched it over the years, the thousands of people that I met and the lives she touched, I knew that it was the right decision. How could such a life and all the work that she has done go without having some sort of documentation? Like starting the Minority AIDS Project and helping her community, it was an amazing journey, and the hardest thing was letting some of the stories go.

What was the nightlife scene like before you opened Catch One?

Jewel Thais-Williams: I’m not an expert on that because I didn’t go out that much. But I do know what pretty much existed then and why a need was created for the Catch to come about. There were mostly small neighborhood bars in the downtown areas. We definitely had to stay under the radar of the homophobic community that existed in those days. It was predominately guys at nightclubs around those times. Women had their separate club or two but they were definitely short lived. Their socializing pretty much generated around house parties and more intimate settings. When I opened Jewel’s Room in 1973, which was a precursor to the Catch, it was the beginning of the disco era. The couple of big disco clubs that existed did not allow people of color or women to attend. So this was a chance for us to have a club in our neighborhood that was more or less comparable to anything you would find in other neighborhoods. We had the lights, we had the sound, we had the people, the clientele. Some gays and lesbians went to straight clubs and we acted like straight people while we were there. When we opened and people found out this was a club opened by a lesbian, they came.

Photo courtesy of Jewel Thais-Williams

Photo courtesy of Jewel Thais-Williams

You said you didn’t go out much before. How did you come to the decision to open the Catch?

JTW: Truth be told, I knew there was a void. When I researched, I knew it would be successful. Prior to this point, I’d owned a women’s clothing store, a boutique where we did alterations and things like that. Back in ’70 and ’71, there was this big recession and it cut deeply into the economy. Traditionally, when there is a strain on funds in a household, people stop buying and spending money on themselves. So I wanted a business that was recession proof basically…. There was a bar up for sale that was right across the street from the grocery store I worked at at the time, and a lot of the customers complained that they weren’t welcome there. So I had the fleeting thought that maybe one day I’d own that bar, and everybody and anybody would be able to come. I used to pick up the LA Times and look at business opportunities in nightclubs and bars, and the last day I looked at one, an ad said that Diana’s Club—which became Jewel’s Room—was for sale. It was going to be a supper club but eventually it became a place that people could come and feel accepted, and then we opened the upstairs ballroom and started dancing.

You persevered through so much with Catch One. Was there ever a time that you wanted to give up?

JTW: No, not for that reason. The only time I was ready to give up was on my own personal journey. Other than that, it was about going when I was ready to go. And I wasn’t ready because the need was there. When the AIDS crisis came along, another purpose was added. From that, the Minority AIDS Project came out of the Unity Fellowship of Christ Church. And later, Rue’s House was born, which was a home for children with AIDS. What the Catch afforded me personally was the ability to do all these other service things I wanted to do. If that wasn’t there, I couldn’t do what was in my heart, which was to serve the community.

Photo by C. Fitz

Photo by C. Fitz

What do you hope this story can do for young black people, queer people, and women?

CF: We’re very happy that it took six years because I think it’s coming out at a really important time for us, for audiences, for LGBT people, for black people, for white people, for everyone in the wake of Orlando happening. The Pulse could have been the Catch. The Catch could have been the Pulse any given night in those 42 years. And we really hope that Jewel’s life and her perseverance through a lot of hate and how she stood up to it time and time again, year after year, is a model for future generations and how they can be inspired to be like Jewel and to do something with their life on their corner of the world.

JTW: The legacy I’d like to leave is kind of two-fold. First, never underestimate the power of one person’s desire to make a change and better their community. One leads to others. Many people came in and started organizations taking on the AIDS crisis and homophobia. I could not have done what I did without the involvement of others. The second part, there is an African proverb that says, “If the elders are lost, then the adults are lost. And if the adults are lost, then the children are lost.” So I feel personally that it’s come upon me and other of us elders. I have to be there. The elders are the ones that have to keep things together.

Jewel’s Catch One screens October 8-9 at the BFI London Film Festival. Watch the trailer below:

The Ham Yard Hotel Guide to London’s Soho

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Above image: Simon Brown

To understand London’s Soho, you have to think of it as a sort of strange and wonderful mashup of theatre district, louche sex parlours, and iconoclastically trendy nightlife. And as with all of Central London these days, some, naturally, fear the loss of the latter 2/3 to gentrification.

It’s also home to our current fave sleep in the capital, the Ham Yard Hotel – from these faultless purveyors of recherché style, Firmdale (Designer-proprietor Kit Kemp’s new book, Every Room Tells a Story, came out late last year). Nestled around a courtyard just off buzzing Rupert Street, it was conceived as a sort of urbane hamlet – its on-site Ham Yard Village features such cultivated shops as Brummells of London, Bloomsbury Flowers and Anabela Chan. There’s also an Eyewear Concierge, a Press Juice Bar, a cinema, a fantabulous basement bowling alley, and the cleverly monikered Soholistic Spa. Fancifully stylish rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, with the best looking out over the twinkling lights of the hotel’s courtyard.

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Images by Simon Brown 

As with so many Firmdale Hotels, the most pulsing energy can be found in the eponymous bar and restaurant – which winds out through two natty lounge areas during afternoon tea and into the courtyard when weather allows. And you can always count on something smart, fun and zeitgeisty going on, like the rooftop event Inside The Hive, on October 10th.

And though you genuinely may not want to leave the hotel, BlackBook and Ham Yard here share some of our fave spots in its resolutely groovy neighborhood.

 

VEERASWAMY

Perched dramatically above Regent Street, this is the oldest – dating to 1926 – Indian restaurant in the capital (and sister to Mayfair’s Chutney Mary). Amidst the stunning, Maharajah inspired décor – indeed, this is a London date night spot, par excellence – classical dishes are reinvented in startlingly modern ways. To wit, the crab & ginger soup, green herb paneer tikka, Tandoori roan, Kerala prawn curry, and Hyderabadi lamb biryani. Thematic cocktails like the 1926 and the Bombay Blush only serve to add to the dazzle.

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SOCIAL EATING HOUSE

Chef Jason Atherton has taken New York by storm with his Clocktower restaurant at the EDITION hotel. But his Social Eating House remains a London hotspot, with sharing jars and an 8-course tasting menu. Pop upstairs to the Blind Pig for a smart post-prandial tipple.

DEAN STREET TOWNHOUSE

A Soho House production. Draws a parade of celebs – Kylie, Gwyneth, Rita Ora – for buzzy brunch and Brit/Continental classics (old spot pork belly, confit duck leg) at dinner. Great for propping up at the bar for a bloody mary and a side of endlessly entertaining people watching.

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THE DUCK & RICE

Sister restaurant to hotshot chef Alan Yau’s Yauatcha right next door, the Duck & Rice is a hip pub downstairs (beer cocktails, anyone?) and a sort of avant Chinese gastropub upstairs. Trendy dim sum fiends flock to it.

ARCHER STREET BAR

Just down the block from the Ham Yard, the Archer is an urbane spot for sophisticated cocktailing. And come holiday time, its seasonal basement lounge Piste will be done up like a Swiss après-ski lodge, complete with vintage skis, fireplace, and themed tipples like the Avalanche.

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RONNIE SCOTT’S 

Still the most sophisticated European style jazz club in the capital. Everyone from Ella to Nina to Hendrix to Cassandra Wilson has graced its stage. Don your best threads for a supremely cool night out.

SISTER RAY RECORDS

One of the last great indie record shops – and a promised land for vinyl heads. The essence of Soho.

VINTAGE MAGAZINE SHOP

The shambolically cool Vintage Magazine shop sells just that: a head spinning collection of retro mags, plus posters, art prints, and cheeky t-shirts. Be prepared to spend hours.

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Why 21 Greenpoint Will be the Buzziest Place in Brooklyn This Fall

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The Brooklyn “thing” has spread so far in so many directions as to even have made Bushwick into something of a fine dining destination (Faro, Mominette, Blanca). But this autumn, the liveliest buzz will be back in that reliable hipster stronghold of Greenpoint. Indeed, the former River Styx space has been smartly transformed into the more edifyingly monikered 21 Greenpoint.

The story? All around impresario of fun Homer Murray and partner Sydney Silver have just subtlely remade the bi-level space (vintage wallpaper, candlelit bar, intimate “dining nooks”) and brought in Brooklyn Magazine “30 Under 30” chef Sean Telo (formerly of Williamsburg’s Extra Fancy), with a focus on small plates and an intentional sharing culture – meant to cultivate something of a party atmosphere. Telo is serious about local-sourcing, and so ingredients will come from a plethora of New York area purveyors, the likes of Catskill Provisions, Hudson Valley Cattle Company, and Ronnybrook Farm Dairy.

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Murray says of Telo, “He’s exceptionally talented and can elevate the most unassuming of ingredients to create spectacular dishes.”

Coming for dinner? Bring friends and get a few orders of steak tartare on roasted marrow bone, as well as the Hudson Valley foie fried rice for the table. Need a drink? The apple brandy based Honorable Judge is a fall classic in the making; and the intriguingly titled Smokin’ Peaches combines mezcal, tequila, peach, lime and, well, habañero shrub.

Expect a sort of anti-glam celeb factor here, as well. Murray’s father is actually beloved actor Bill – who soft opened the place last weekend by getting behind the bar and pouring drinks for the punters. Regular sightings are likely.

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Images by Gabi Porter

Bill Murray Will Get You Drunk in Brooklyn This Weekend

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Bill Murray is pouring drinks this weekend in Brooklyn. The comedic actor and national treasure is bartending at 21 Greenpoint, a new restaurant in the former location of River Styx. The upscale eatery, owned by Syd Silver and Bill’s son, Homer Murray opens this weekend, serving locally sourced shared dishes.

Papa Murray will be behind the bar Friday and Saturday, starting at 7PM. He’ll be serving up some specialty cocktails by beverage director Sean McClure of Le Bernardin and Dirty French.

GOODNIGHT MR. LEWIS: ‘Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig’ PIcked Up by Netflix

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Word comes that Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig has been picked up by Netflix. This is great news for writer, director Ramon Fernandez and producer Lisa Brubaker. The movie will now be seen by the masses who may be exposed for the first time to a period of nightlife that is looked back at as either wonderful or horrible or both. I enjoyed the movie. It has a different feel than the 2011 documentary “Limelight” from Billy Corbin, Alfred Spellman and Jen Gatien. Jen is of course the daughter of the movie’s focus, Peter Gatien, and I felt the film was a very fair and accurate portrayal of the life and times of the enigmatic club king. I have been told that Peter wasn’t happy with the project and was hoping for something that showed him in a more favorable light. I think he got off lucky.

Glory Daze is very Alig-centric and that is always problematic. I still talk with Michael at least once a week. I often hate him, but I always calm down and embrace my life long friend after apologies are exchanged. I am as wrong at least as often as Mike. He remains a passionate player nowadays involved in multiple book, art, TV and magazine projects. He is a bit unstable but after 17 years in prison it amazes me how well adjusted he is. Glory Daze was screened for the people who were interviewed in it. Many of them saw for the first time a bigger picture and heard the opinions of others who experienced those days.

The mega clubs of that era had multiple dance floors, Dj’s, and crowds of all types. The rooms were dark with distracting , pulsating lights, fashion statements and the antics of the fabulous. The clubs were designed to be alternative universes to the real or day world. One person’s experience of a single night out would be entirely different from another person. Looking back, most memories are obscured by drugs and scandals. After 20 years it seems impossible to have a consensus. Here are the views of Glory Daze from the players involved.

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                               Michael Alig

“I love the footage of old New York, the graffiti bombed subway cars, the abandoned buildings, the garbage cans burning on the streets. That was the NYC I arrived at in 1984 and it was nostalgic for me. Plus it put the whole story into context, how the club kids came into the world in this post-disco apocalypse: the death of Andy Warhol, the looming AIDS crisis. The club kids were really a reaction to all that and this is the first film to show that side of the story.

I think Glory Daze is fair. No one is all good or all bad. Everyone is a little of both. There are scenes in the documentary that make me cringe – I was such a spoiled brat! It’s a wonder I had any friends! There are things I am incredibly proud of, the way the club kid scene gave so many disenfranchised people a sense of home, family.

I can’t believe there is even a question in peoples’ minds whether or not I am sorry for what I’ve done. Some wonder why I don’t say ‘I’m sorry’ more often. I just think those words are so trite. No mere words can make up for what I’ve done. In fact I feel they trivialize the crime. I believe in karma, and I have a lot of atoning to do in this next phase of my life. Acts of kindness, altruism. Helping others. Getting back to the roots of the original club kid movement. Actions, after all, speak more loudly than words; but yes I am very sorry for all the harm I have caused, It embarrasses me that I could do such a thing and cause so much pain. Nothing I’ve ever done.or will ever do will make up for my actions 20 years ago.”

                       Ramon Fernandez (Writer/Director)

“The picture was very much the peeling of an onion for me. The more interviews I gathered and the more research we did the further the abyss stared back. Just a trove of information. The interesting thing about documentaries, especially ones with such volatile characters, is that they write themselves; and I’m pretty much tagging along with the audience. When I started I had an idea of what the film would be, but by the end it had really taken a life of its own.

New York of the 90s really represents a special time and place for me. A place where there were huge dance floors that acted as a great equalizer. It wasn’t about making money, though money was made. It was about your contribution to the room. Period. It transcended race, sexual orientation and economic class. Once it went away, the city never fully recovered. I wanted to remind the audience of that era with all of its decay and danger, but also just how fucking fun it was. I framed it through the experience of the one guy who truly personally changed the zeitgeist for a moment. In all of its glory and tragedy.”

                       Lisa Brubaker (Producer)

“As this piece is a contemporary documentary, we were pretty much just along for the ride.  I had pretty much read every book and article I could get my hands on while producing the film, and thus had a pretty good idea of what had happened with regards to Michael’s crime, which was confirmed throughout the interviews.  The fact that it would take him another 4 years to get released after his initial parole date was…unplanned, and extended the life of the project way beyond what I could ever have imagined.  We had, from the outset, intended on letting the story write itself, not influencing what happened in any way, skewing shots, or painting any type of inaccurate picture of sainthood or otherwise.  I think we were able to accomplish that goal.

I was drawn into nightlife personally and professionally like a month to the flame, a true club-rat at heart.  Unfortunately I moved back to NYC in 2001, so I missed the Limelight, Tunnel, et al in their pure unadulterated forms. Michael, and Angel’s murder, are quite polarizing subjects – Did he fulfill his debt to society? Can one ever? – and we put a lot of effort into telling all sides of the entire story; or more accurately, letting the story tell itself.  Making this movie allowed me to peer through a window into the past, and to allow the audience to do the same.  To experience just a snippet of a fascinating, spectacular explosion.”

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                    Victor P. Corona, a sociologist now at NYU

“Ramon and Lisa created an extremely thorough and visually dazzling record of New York’s nightlife history. It’s a fascinating film that anyone who loves a New York dancefloor should see right away. I heard great feedback from friends all around the country and now they’re anxious to come to the city.”

                     R. Couri Hay, publicist

Glory Daze is an insightful, but scary flashback to drug-filled nights that lead to an inexplicable tragedy. In his heyday, Michael Alig was the most talented person in nightlife. I hope his self-destructive story serves as a warning to everyone that sees this film and goes out after midnight.”

                    Victor Dinaire, DJ / Producer [did the original music for the film]

Glory Daze took me right back to my favorite club era,  of The Limelight and The Tunnel.  The story is accurate and lays out the chain of events that ultimately led to the infamous murder of Angel.  It was an honor to be involved with this project.”

                     Ernie Glam

“It’s not easy documenting a scene that was incredibly fun and zany, but that also served as a stage for scary drug abuse and the horrible death of my friend Angel Melendez. Glory Daze captures the charisma of many people involved in the New York City club scene while depicting Michael Alig’s journey from a charming and inspired party promoter to a depraved junkie. Michael is a longtime friend, so I had a front-row seat to his tragedy. I recommend it because it’s accurate, and it also made me laugh and cry.”

                    Johnny DynelL, DJ/ Club Legend

“At the time people asked ‘how could such a grizzly murder happen in our world?’ This film, while showing the colorful glamour of the Club Kids, explains how.

                   Gerald McMahon – Michael’s defense attorney

“Whatever you say or think about Michael Alig, he is a one-of-a-kind. And this film captures that.”

                   Kenny Kenny, former Limelight Doorperson/ Club Legend

“It’s not up to me to forgive or not. I have already. No one seemed concerned with Angel’s parents. We were friends with people who were worse than Angel, it’s just that they had more charm and charm is always forgiven even in hideous crimes. It isn’t up to us, it’s up to Michael to heal himself and up to Angel’s family to heal. The thing with Michael, it’s an obstacle in his way, being famous, and he keeps thinking of ways to move past it.

Netflix will cut it down to about 90 minutes. This will please many. For me, I couldn’t get enough, which probably shows I hung around a bit too long back in the day. Some poet said  ‘you can’t go home again.’ Well Ramon Fernandez proved that wrong.”

THE NEXT MUST VISIT (Foodie – Culture – Tech) CITY: Pittsburgh

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It’s virtually inevitable. As the likes of New York and LA continue to price out creative types, the artists, musicians, tech innovators are simply setting up shop elsewhere. Pittsburgh is one of those places, and its all the buzz right now.

Of course, nothing says “hot destination” quite like the opening of an Ace Hotel – and the City of Bridges got just that late in 2015. But perhaps nothing truly defines its new creative edge like the Thrival Innovation + Music Festival, which kicks off September 20th.

With a fall season that will focus attention on the city like never before, here are eight great reasons why Pittsburgh (and Thrival) should be on your travel and cultural radar / agenda.

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Ace Hotel Pittsburgh
UBER AND FACEBOOK have set up major offices in Pittsburgh, and it’s become a hotbed of innovation – high-profile startup incubators/accelerators include Thrill Mill, Beauty Shoppe, AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear. Fittingly, President Obama will visit the city for the White House Frontiers Conference on October 13.
THRIVAL INNOVATION + MUSIC FESTIVAL (September 20-24) will feature three days of visionary, interdisciplinary programming, addressing topics such as virtual reality, public education and the building of art communities – followed by a brilliantly curated music program, which will bring together the likes of CHVRCHES, Chainsmokers, Thievery Corporation, Sir The Baptist, Hudson Mohawke and Ty Dolla $ign.

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The local VOODOO BREWERY is considered one of the best in the world. Sample some at Thrival.
ZAGAT voted Pittsburgh (not New York, not Chicago) America’s #1 Food City. Eater‘s current hot list includes the Peruvian restaurant Streets on Carson, the vegan Apteka, and the Levantine B52. The Ace Hotel’s restaurant Whitfield is also not to be missed, for its New American eats and buzzy scene.

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Dinner at Whitfield
THE MUSIC SCENE. Rapper Mac Miller’s debut album went to #1 in 2011, and he’s been a force ever since, even running his own label REMember. And electro popper Daya had a Top 20 US hit with “Hide Away.” Her debut album, Sit Still, Look Pretty, will be released in October. Catch her, as well as other Pittsburgh acts Bastard Bearded Irishmen, Meeting of Important People and Brooke Annibale, all appearing at Thrival.
Pittsburgh has seen an INDIE FASHION/STREETWEAR boom, with local labels like Daily Bread and 412 having become favorites of punks, skaters and hip-hoppers, and Knotzland purveying hip, “artisan” bowties.

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It’s a PLACE FOR YOUNG ARTISTS. Unlike New York, Pittsburgh actively cultivates and nurtures its burgeoning art talent. To wit, non-profit Radiant Hall provides top notch studio space (and runs the Studio Dinner Series), while BOOM! Concepts is a thriving creative workspace/community center.
With so many HISTORIC/INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS, the city has taken to innovative architectural re-purposing. The Ace Hotel is actually housed in a century-old former YMCA, and The Mattress Factory contemporary art museum is, in fact, in a former mattress factory.

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The Mattress Factory

EXCLUSIVE: The Ai Fiori Guide To Late Night Wine Drinking

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When Baudelaire wrote, “It is the hour to escape being the martyred slaves of time, to be ceaselessly drunk on wine, on poetry, or on virtue, as you wish,” he, being Baudelaire, may have just as well meant 10am. But wine does, certainly, take on different meanings and characteristics when indulged at differing hours of the day and night.

To that end, Michael White’s Michelin-starred Ai Fiori at the plush Langham Place, New York Fifth Avenue hotel has launched a Late Night Wine Lovers program at its Bar Fiori. That certain wines are specially priced after 9pm is nice touch – but it’s not why you should go. Rather, the bar cultivates a particular later in the evening feeling, transforming from a place where the international business and culture cognoscenti meet for sophisticated cocktails into a dark, very European feeling hideaway for romantic assignations or quiet conversation.

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Hoping to uncork the mysteries of a tarda notte bevendo vino, we turned to Ai Fiori Wine Director Colin Thoreen for some expert guidance.

“Wine may be the best facilitator of conversation, ever,” he relates. “It’s historic, artistic, and something everyone can discuss and ponder. As we work later now, treating ourselves to late night wine can be a fulfilling reward, especially when the wine is of exceptional quality.”

Here are six of his recommends from the exalted Ai Fiori wine list, and what to pair them with.

 

Meursault, “Les Tessons”, Pierre Morey 2012

Pair With: Lobster Vellutata
Our vellutata is a rich full bodied dish. The Meursault has the power and richness to cut through the richness of the food, but not lose its integrity of flavors.

Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva “Mirum”, La Monacesca, Marche

Pair With: Fluke Crudo
The fluke crudo is a light, racy, and delicate dish. It requires a wine with bright acidity but soft enough that it does not overtake the delicate flavors.

Bar Fiori Verdicchio

 

“Tignanello”, Antinori 2012

Pair With: Vitello (veal chop)
This classic full-bodied red is the perfect complement the richness of veal. The wine is not over-extracted and thus enhances the flavors.

Haut-Médoc, Château Sociando-Mallet 

Pair WIth: Agnello (signature lamb chops)
This is a classic Bordeaux with notes of tobacco, green olive, and bittersweet chocolate, which elevates the dense flavors of lamb and foie gras. This is a wine that would be the potato to the steak or lamb as you would have it.

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Brunello di Montalcino, Collemattoni 2008

Pair With: Charcuterie Plate
Nothing is better with cured meats than an aged Brunello, with its hints of leather, grilled meat and peppercorns

Moët & Chandon, Brut “Dom Pérignon”, Épernay  2002

Champagne goes with everything, of course.

Bar Fiori Dom Perignon

Eliot Glazer is Giving “Haunting Renditions” of “Mambo No. 5”

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Illustration by Hilton Dresden

Eliot Glazer makes people cry singing Kesha medleys.

The comedian, writer, and musician hosts a musical event, “Haunting Renditions,” every couple months at The Bell House, in Brooklyn, and in the latest installment of his hit revue, he’ll be joined by his sister Ilana, of “Broad City” fame, and Jon Glaser, a comedian friend (“Girls,” “Late Night With Conan O’Brien”) with a last name of the same pronunciation, to put on a very special edition of “Renditions”: the “All Glazer Edition.”

“One of my favorite things is when people come up to me after the show, and we’ve performed a song that’s super dumb, but we’ve orchestrated it to sound melodramatic, and my singing hopefully elevates it to that place where it does make you feel different.”

“Haunting Renditions” loosely follows the mission of making “bad songs good”: they take campy, Now-stalgia (“just before the current zeitgeist”) and arrange it in gorgeous, fresh, ballad-y compositions.

“We put together a whole library that runs the gamut – there’s songs by Dave Matthews Band, we do “Mambo No. 5,” we do George Michael… there’s at least 25 songs in the canon.”

Glazer’s from Long Island, where he grew up performing and goofing around with his sister, listening to music intended more for adults than awkward tweens: Erykah Badu, Steely Dan, Billy Joel… all while explaining to his peers his avid admiration of the “shitty rock bands” of the time – think Nickelback-era ripped jeans and splatter-paint album covers.

He attended NYU, first on a scholarship to pursue classical opera, until he decided he’d rather pursue a career in television and comedy.

“Classical music is such a high art, and such a niche thing, and I realized I really didn’t have any interest in making music my whole life in a professional capacity. I like doing it in an extracurricular way. But I didn’t foresee that it would become my live performance calling card. But it has, and I’m glad.”

Soon after graduating, Glazer began taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade, alongside his sister and their future collaborator, Abbi Jacobson (“Broad City”). As a sibling duo, the Glazers started a sketch show, “High School Talent Show,” ingratiating themselves into the worlds of New York stand up, sketch, and improv. Along with Jacobson and three or four of their friends, they also formed an improv team, performing in basements and dive bars around the city.

“I started heading on a more standup route – we both did standup, but different niches, in a way. We were both doing digital web series and creating digital content. And from there Ilana and Abbi met Amy, and that’s how “Broad City” came about. And sort of parallel to that I started writing for a show called ‘Younger.’”

Now bicoastal, Glazer’s got a packed plate of creative outlets: in addition to “Younger,” he’s a writer on “New Girl” and currently working with Will Arnett on a half-hour pilot for Comedy Central, as yet untitled.

“The idea is that it’s a sort of gay “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Sort of an irreverent, actually funny version of “Looking” that I hope will have broad appeal, because it’s not about a gay guy, it’s about a guy who happens to be gay. And a botched wedding proposal that turns his world upside down.”

Glazer also produces the web series “Eliot’s Sketchpad” – if you’ve never seen it, begin by watching this hilarious video about gay dogs. He’s also slated to perform standup at the Hell Yes Fest in New Orleans this October.

With such a wide array of talents honed over his already illustrious career, Glazer hopes to bring visibility of queer persons to a more wide-reaching audience.

“I think my overall thing is that there’s something very powerful in using your gifts or talents or skill set as something that comes before your sexuality, but your sexuality is also you. When we use our talents, it empowers minorities, because it helps us to realize that we’re not just one thing, we’re a dynamic, fully-rounded person. And I think that writing about that, or writing about something else, or performing about that or something else, is the reason that empowers someone else to realize that they aren’t just gay, they can be whatever they want.”

Visibility has become especially important in light of the current national situation, which troubles Glazer immensely.

“I do feel like we are living a nightmare right now, and I can’t believe, and I’m so upset by, the idea that in 2016 watching a game show host be a heartbeat away from the presidency just by unifying people through pure racism, and bigotry, misogyny, ethnocentrism, provincialism… seeing this game show host reveal the worst qualities that Americans have is so deeply upsetting to me that it’s actually hard to talk about. The idea that Trump is a legitimate political candidate, with no past political experience to back him up, and is a heartbeat away from the presidency, is just terrifying. If he wins even 1% of the vote on election day, I think that’s a real shame.”

“Haunting Renditions” comes to the Bell House in Brooklyn this Saturday, the 17th, at 9 PM.

GOODNIGHT MR. LEWIS: NYC Nightlife Reunions & Openings + The 10 Greatest Clubs of All Time

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In the next few weeks there will be reunion type parties for, in my humble opinion, three of the top ten clubs of all time (see list at end of article). There will be a Mudd Club “Era” event tonight, September 12, at the Roxy Hotel. The event will be hosted by legendary Mudd madman Steve Mass and dapper doorman Richard Boch. The affair’s proceeds will be donated to ADIFF Parsons Designer of the Year 2016. A killer line-up of DJ’s include Fab Five Freddy, Delphine Blue, Ivan Baker, Lenny Kaye, Michael Holman, David Azarch and Pat Price. Mudd was all things to the smart set in the late 70’s early 80’s, the  Downtown, artsy alternative to Studio 54.

On September 25th,  yet another Nell’s reunion will return to its old space now currently operating as Up&Down; the guest-list-only event will have all the usual suspects on hand. The original club opened in 1986, and although it devolved from its original fabulousness, it lived on until 2004. Legend has it that Cher was once turned away.

Palladium, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager’s mega club which was later redone by Peter Gatien, will be revisited on September 22 at Analog Club, Brooklyn. I was Director of the club a few times, and  will be DJing this event along with Freddy Bastone and Rob Leslie. Palladium was the much anticipated sequel to Steve and Ian’s Studio 54 – they opened it after they cashed in their get out of jail free card. In clubs size can matter, and Palladium was able to outspend all competitors in the pre bottle service universe.

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VNYL image by Oleg March

Although Palladium was a hit before the paint dried, most great clubs open with only high hopes and the egos of their owners. Two current openings have piqued my interest. The VNYL, which opened in the old Nevada Smiths spot on lower 3rd Avenue last week, leads off the fall season. James Morrissey is the owner, Entourage actor Adrian Grenier is Music Director, and I hear that Webster Hall GM Gerard McNamee is also involved (and its interior was decorated by Sarah Abdallah from Functional Creative Design). With multiple floors and a great location to go with experienced operators I think it will excel. The other, Quality Branded‘s Squares, will open on east 26th between Park and Madison on September 21st (though it has been hosting NY Fashion Week parties already). Promising “no blaring hip hop or obnoxious pop music” it should be The  Campbell Apartment or the Metropolitan Club meets an 80s video game, meets a 2016 bottle service club. Promoter type but all around good guy Jonas Young-Borra is all giggly enthusiastic about the project.

I thought it was a good time to revisit the top 10 clubs of all time, which changes from time to time as reunions skew my opinion, bringing back memories and stirring long-numbed brain cells. The Fall 2016 Uncle Steve list is as follows, in order but somewhat interchangeable:

1) Studio 54, 2) Area, 3) The World, 4) Max’s Kansas City, 5) Paradise Garage, 6) Mudd Club, 7) Danceteria, 8) Nells, 9) Palladium, 10) Mother

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Above image: Squares