Can’t Miss: Mara Wilson’s ‘What Are You Afraid Of?’ Storytelling Night

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Last night in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York, former child star-turned-author Mara Wilson hosted a hilarious, educational, and at moments extremely vulnerable night of storytelling about her and her comic friends’ deepest fears.

“What Are You Afraid Of?” takes places at Q.E.D. in Astoria monthly and explores the most deep-seated, unexpected fears of some of Gotham’s funniest stand-ups in a warm, friendly atmosphere that invites audience participation and sometimes results in the giveaway of free vegan brownies.

Thursday’s installment of the series saw The Chris Gethard Show’s Jo Firestone as a particular standout – her deeply frightening, laugh-out-loud outrageous recollection of her flirtation with a chess player recently released from prison had us gasping for air and also grimacing in horror.

Other guests included Will Miles, also of Gethard, who shared a fear of not knowing the end date of something – relationships, jobs, road trips – and learning to cope with the unplanned abyss that is post-grad life.

Lyssa Mandel, host of Q.E.D.’s The Bitch Seat, also performed, recalling a list of fears that included everything from “fear of all the smart people deciding not to have babies” to “fear of cutting my eyeball.”

Wilson’s fears included earthquakes, lobsters, getting too high, and most everything else, it turns out. Her fact-filled, goofy rapport with the audience made the night a true pleasure to attend. Wilson, who as a child had starring roles in films like Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire, will release her first full-length memoir in September, titled Where Am I Now?

Pre order the book here.

Check out “What Are You Afraid Of?”‘s event page here. It takes place every third Thursday of the month.

Celebs Gather, Stevie Wonder Performs for onePULSE Orlando Benefit at NeueHouse Hollywood

Stevie Wonder
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“Gay bars are therapy for people who can’t afford therapy.”

The Nation Executive Editor Richard Kim wrote those words in June, after the terrible mass shooting that left 49 patrons dead at Orlando nightclub Pulse. “[They are] temples for people who lost their religion, or whose religion lost them; vacations for people who can’t go on vacation; homes for folk without families; sanctuaries against aggression.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti

Lance Bass

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti repeated those poignant words this past Friday night as he stood in front of a star-studded crowd at Hollywood’s NeueHouse. The evening was a benefit for the onePulse Foundation, an organization providing assistance to victims of the Orlando massacre, and hoping to turn Pulse into a permanent memorial site.

Between speeches, video footage displayed photographs of each of the 49 victims and offered a glimpse into their life stories. We learned about couples, friends and students whose lives were cut short on that dreadful June night: a gay cruise coordinator, a dance instructor, a hair salon owner, a man who stood between the shooter and his friend Mary, the mother of a newborn baby.

NeueHouse provided a magnificent backdrop for guests to sip cocktails, reminisce about loved ones, and write cards to the victims’ families. Celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner, Torrey DeVitto, Arielle Kebbel, Peter Mensah, Matt Bomer and JC Chasez walked the purple “red” carpet, and shared sentiments of compassion and support. And even though the night was shrouded in sadness,“We are all one” resurfaced again and again as a hopeful, unifying message.

Mayor Garcetti was joined by several others who gave heartfelt speeches: Lance Bass, Grammy-winner, and Pulse owner Barbara Poma. Hillary Clinton even made an appearance in a recorded video, where she assured the room that as President, she would fight for the acceptance and safety of everyone, no matter how or whom they loved. Singer-songwriter LP played to a hushed crowd, followed by Jesse J, and a live streaming of Melissa Etheridge. Finally, guests were treated to an incredible surprise, as Stevie Wonder took to the stage, performing a song written in response to Orlando titled, “Where is Our Love Story?”.

Arielle Kebbel, Breeda Wool


As the show came to a close, DJs pumped music into NeueHouse’s Lucille Ball Auditorium, encouraging attendees to commemorate Pulse and its fallen angels in the most appropriate fashion: by dancing the night away. All proceeds raised from the event, of course, will benefit the onePULSE Foundation.

NeueHouse, with venues in New York, Hollywood and opening later this year London, has become a galvanizing force for the greater creative community. Hosting art, music, literary, fashion and cultural events with such distinguished special guests as Moby, Meg Ryan, Salman Rushdie and Arianna Huffington, and providing innovative work / networking spaces, they’ve veritably conceived the new model of private club as a cultivator of contemporary media lifestyles.


Images by BFA

‘American Horror Story’ Comes to Universal Studios

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While American Horror Story fans sift through the puzzle that is the series of false trailers for season six, a new attraction is coming to Universal Studios. This year’s Halloween Horror Nights will take inspiration from Ryan Murphy’s FX brainchild.

A maze at the multi-night event will include familiar characters and scenes from three different seasons. The ghostly residents of “Murder House” join the freaks of “Freak Show” and the countess of “Hotel” to offer a horrifying experience. The maze opens September 16 at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort.

Esperanza Spalding Announces Tour of the Americas

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Fans of the jazzy, modern-day Joni Mitchell rejoice! Earlier this year, Esperanza Spalding released the awesome new album Emily’s D+Evolution, which has already garnered critical acclaim and made it onto Vulture’s Best Albums of 2016 so far. Now, Pitchfork reports, the singer will be touring both North and South America to promote her new music.

Find her North American tour dates below, and get tickets here:

08-13 Richmond, VA – Richmond Jazz Festival
09-03 High Point, NC – John Coltrane Int Jazz & Blues Festival
09-16 Santiago, Chile – Teatro Cariola
09-18 Lima, Peru – Museo de Arte Contemporaneo
09-19 Bogota, Colombia – Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo
09-21 Sao Paulo, Brazil – Cine Joia
09-23 Buenos Aires, Argentina – Teatro Gran Rivadavia
09-29 Augusta, GA – Westobou Festival
09-30 Macon, GA – Cox Capitol Theatre
10-01 Nashville, TN – 3rd & Lindsley
10-02 Nashville, TN – 3rd & Lindsley
10-05 Charlotte, NC – McGlohon Theater
10-07 Pittsburgh, PA – August Wilson Center for African American Culture
10-08 Morristown, NJ – Mayo Performing Arts Center
10-09 Annapolis, MD – Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts
10-11 Wilmington, DE – World Café Live at The Queen
10-14 Burlington, VT – Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
10-16 Ithaca, NY – State Theater
10-18 Philadelphia, PA – Theater of Living Arts
10-20 Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel
10-21 Louisville, KY – Bomhard Theater
10-23 Kent, OH – The Kent Stage
10-24 Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall Ballroom
10-25 Iowa City, IA – Englert Civic Theater
10-27 Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall
10-28 Eau Claire, WI – Eau Claire Regional Arts Center & State Theatre
10-30 Madison, WI – Shannon Hall

Listen to Spalding’s “One,” off of her latest record, below.

WATCH: Glamorous New Short Film From Singing Legend Angela McCluskey

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Born in Glasgow but finding fame with LA’s Wild Colonials in the 90s, Angela McCluskey has remained close to our hearts ever since. She’s also been the favorite collaborator of so many monumental talents, lending her ethereal vocals to everyone from Paul Oakenfold to Cyndi Lauper, from Kendrick Lamar to Azealia Banks. And scoring a worldwide hit with Telepopmusik in the form of 2001’s “Breathe.”

Her newest project is The Roxy Sessions, which will be released on September 9. It is so-titled, since Angela actually holed up in New York’s Roxy Hotel in Tribeca until recording was completed; her co-songwriter and producer was Kiran Shahani (Bitter:sweet, Supreme Beings of Leisure.)

Appropriately, the hotel threw her a raucous, sexy and utterly unforgettable release party in its fabulously decadent basement nightclub The Django Room; the crowd was like a who’s who of Downtown NYC cool. But for those who missed it, we’ve got this dazzling new short film titled after the first single “You and Me,” which captures all the glorious glamour and mayhem of the evening.


Pussy Riot, Ja Rule Electrify the 2016 Hamptons Watermill Benefit

Nadya Tolokonnikova
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Image by Zach Hilty for BFA

If anyone knows how to throw an unforgettable Hamptons bash, it’s Robert Wilson. On Saturday night he and the Watermill Center celebrated its 23rd birthday and raised over $2 million with its annual summer benefit to support the center’s year round artist in residency program.

The dress code called for a “colorful disruption” and drew luminaries from the worlds of art, fashion and philanthropy, such as Tory Burch, Anne Hearst & Jay McInerney, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Polina Proshkina, Michaela de Pury and Jill Stuart. Though rumors of a Kanye West appearance amounted to nothing, the controversial art and live performances did not disappoint this year. As the Watermill Center is known for its avant-garde artistic proclivities, this year’s theme was FADA – The House of Madness, which was a futuristic rendition of the dada movement laced with timely Orwellian political overtones. And during the cocktail hour guests were able to walk through a dreamlike candlelit bamboo forest.

23rd Annual Watermill Center: 2016 Summer Benefit

Image by Ryan Kobane for BFA

Ja Rule

Image by Zach Hilty for BFA

Other highlights included Make American Great Again, a performance by the Russian feminist-punk protest group Pussy Riot, a reactionary piece inspired obviously by Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, as well as John Margarita’s One ton tank
a poured concrete vessel filled with water and a man wearing a black speedo held down by weights. For the first time, the Watermill Center collaborated with artist collective Bruce High Quality Foundation University, to present As We Lay Dying–a variety of works and performances interspersed throughout the center’s 8.5 acres, that were a reflection on coming to terms with the contemporary world through personal, political and aesthetic perspectives.

During dinner, guests enjoyed a performance by Norwegian artist Tori Wrånes; and the party extended into the wee hours with DJ Mia Moretti at the turntables, interrupted only by a surprise performance by Ja Rule.

23rd Annual Watermill Center: 2016 Summer Benefit

Image by Ryan Kobane for BFA


Jamaica in the UAE! Serge Becker’s Miss Lily’s Opens in Dubai

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Surely it seems not the likeliest of pairings: the gleaming UAE capital of flash cash and the retro Caribbean charms of NYC’s Miss Lily’s. But Serge Becker’s perpetual Soho hotspot has just leapt a couple of continents over to find a third home in Dubai’s rather plush Sheraton Grand Hotel.

The prolific Becker, whose New York legends have included the perpetually hip Cafe Select and La Esquina, opened the original Miss Lily’s on W. Houston Street in 2011 (it expanded later to a second Easr Village location), and its cool mix of authentic eats – we can never get enough of the World Famous Jerk Chicken – and old-skool Kingston stylee have made it pretty much a non-stop aaa-list destination. Indeed, on a given night you might catch Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Robert Pattinson and FKA Twigs, Heidi Klum or Rihanna diving into a tasty oxtail stew or West Indian curry.

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Miss Lily's Dubai food

The new Miss Lily’s DXB, we are thrilled to report, has not been given over to Emirates glitz. Rather, Creative Director Becker has conjured the same groovily ramshackle, retro-punk Jamaica flavor that makes the original the only reasonable alternative to actually hopping a flight to Sangster International.

As for the grub, it’s all here: the salt cod fritters, the jerk split lobster, the Body Good Salad, the chili king crab to share…and, of course, the Baked Jamaica for dessert.

UAE top rankin’.

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A Superlative Añejo Guide to the Most Extraordinary Tequilas

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Mezcal has been the quinoa of the booze world  these last few years, with too many goofily suspendered bartending types waxing overly rhapsodic on its particular qualities. But tequila, technically a type of mezcal (N.B. the former originates from Jalisco, the latter from Oaxaca), still reigns in the American imagination.


National Tequila Day is this Sunday, July 24. And while the summer swelter might have you bending to the temptation of slushy frozen Lime-a-Ritas, we encourage you to take the higher road to agave enlightenment. And to guide you through the serious stuff, we conferred with DJ Brown, spirits guru at Añejo in Hell’s Kitchen. Along with its equally sexy Tribeca outpost, they’ve become go-to destinations for NYC’s more discriminating connoisseurs of fine Mexican spirits (not to mention the amazing eats). Indeed, the Village Voice voted their margarita as the absolute best in all of New York. Seriously.

And so with July 24 just two days away, here is BlackBook and Añejo‘s five step guide to tequila nirvana.


Casa Noble Single Barrel Joven

102 proof and aged for 6 weeks in French Oak Barrels. While Casa Noble is widely known, their Single Barrel Joven is a bit more obscure. Stone fruits and warm, sweet vanilla make this tequila best served neat, with its smooth finish.

Fortaleza Reposado

Aged in American Oak for 8 months and served in hand blown glass bottles, this tequila looks great on the shelf and makes a fantastic margarita. A mix of cinnamon and vanilla balance well against fresh squeezed lime and agave, and gives the margarita a perfect smooth and full mouth feel.




Ocho Plata 2015 “La Rivera”

Each year the Ocho batch is produced with agave from one field and is labeled as such. This low land tequila is full bodied and tastes of sweet cooked agave and ripe fruit mixed with pepper and a hint of smoke. Preferred on the rocks or in a Paloma.

Artenom 1146

An Añejo with a complex blend of varying ages and barrels. Starting with French oak and ending 4 years later in American oak, 1146 is deep in color and complexity. Upfront caramel, raisin, oak, and almond set the stage for the herbaceous finish of white pepper, jalapeno, ginger and oregano, all the while wrapped in the warm spiciness typical of an Añejo tequila. 



Tapatio Excelencia Gran Reserva Extra Anejo

Aged 4 years in French and American Oak, Excelencia is the “after dinner” tequila. The rich, oaky body and blend of earth, oak, brown sugar and chocolate make this the perfect for sipping, to pair with or have as dessert.


It’s Bastille Day! Raise a Glass of Something ‘Rich’

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Our “Special Relationship” with Britain has been befuddled by Brexit. And in the coming weeks the chattering classes with be focused squarely on Cleveland and Philadelphia.

But just for one day this week, it’s time to break out the Je Suis Francaise t-shirts and brush up on the proper pronunciation of “guillotine” (ɡēəˌtēn, if you weren’t quite sure). Indeed, tomorrow, July 14, is Bastille Day, the annual fete that causes so many New Yorkers to temporarily question their patriotic allegiances. And we couldn’t think of anyone we’d rather spend it with (excepting, perhaps, Audrey Tautou) than those cunning curators of joie de vivre over at Veuve Clicquot.

They’ve just launched a revolution of their own, with the très égalité Clicquot Rich, meant (l’horreur!) to actually be mingled, mixed and served over ice. Should you be hosting, may we recommend stocking up on basil, ginger, grapefruit rind, roasted pineapple, basil, tea and cucumber? But we’ll be found all afternoon and evening sipping and quoting Voltaire at some of our favorite NYC hotel bars.

Best of all? The Clicquot Rich bottle glows in the dark…perhaps as a beacon of revolutionary freedom?

Where To Sip “Rich” on Bastille Day

Mr Purple NYC

Mr. Purple at Hotel Indigo

Just for Bastille Day, pretend it’s actually called Monsieur Violet.

The New York EDITION

Ian Schrager’s Madison Square celeb-magnet has a decidedly British soul, but its Fraternité Francaise will be on full display on the 14th.

The Roof at The Viceroy

If you strain a little, you can see all the way to Marseille from the Viceroy’s glorious rooftop lounge.