Dining with the Stars: Sondre Lerche’s Brooklyn Banquette

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After years of touring and intercontinental migration, singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche has finally settled down in Brooklyn, savoring old friends, a new album and a mellower lease on the high life. “We love it here,” says Lerche, motioning to his backyard. “We have parties outside, even on freezing cold days.” Thankfully, this warm late summer night promises no such thing. The 27-year-old singer-songwriter, dressed comfortably in electric-blue pants and a loose linen shirt, reclines while his slight wife, Mona, fusses over their patio table, arranging tea lights and fixing watermelon cocktails and artichoke appetizers for her guests. She makes certain not to muss her Dolce & Gabbana separates, vintage apron and silvery freshwater pearls. “My wife is a great cook,” says Lerche, smiling. “But she’s a fantastic entertainer.”

imageClick here to listen free to Sondre Lerche’s “Heartbeat Radio.”

The young couple moved from Norway to Manhattan four years ago, got married and started entertaining. Mona, a gregarious actress and model, made fast friends and began hosting dinners for her newfound pals, complete with Norwegian specialties and original drinks. Last February, when the duo traded their cramped West Village apartment for a spacious Brooklyn home, they took their soirées up a notch. “I have Mona to thank for our circle of friends,” Sondre says, amid the lively guests. “It’s like I’ve borrowed them — though I’d like to think they’re mine, too, because they’re all really great people.”

“The people make the party,” says Mona, as those very party people — including a United Nations peace officer and an independent filmmaker — gratefully swill cocktails. Lerche pipes in: “I’d like to host a very random party with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald — who were both nuts — and George Lazenby, who played James Bond only once because he grew a big head. He fascinates me. He’s actually the subject of one of my songs, ‘Like Lazenby.’”

That track appears on Sondre’s new album, Heartbeat Radio, the first he made independently — with help from Joe Chiccarelli, the producer of hit albums for the White Stripes, the Shins and U2. “I had done the major label thing for so long,” says Lerche of his decision to break free. “I needed to do this for myself.” The result is a polished record featuring Sondre’s captivating lyrics unwinding over whimsical instrumentation. Not only is he proud of the album, but it’s also helped him enjoy a more balanced life. “When I was with the label, I was used to working and touring all the time and I wasn’t very social,” Lerche says as his friends empty the last bottle of the evening. “I’ve learned to balance work and play, but tonight was mostly about play.”

Photo by Victoria Will. Styling by Bryan Levandowski. Hair/Makeup Kumi Craig. Photographer’s Assistant: Nigel Gregory. Stylist’s Assistant: Wilson Mathews III. On Mona: Bustier and Skirt by Dolce & Gabbana, Necklace by Express. On Sondre: Shirt by John Varvatos, Jeans by 1921, Tie by Diesel.

We Like to Watch: Kellan Lutz of ‘New Moon’

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When Kellan Lutz found himself locked in a death grip with a diaper-clad baby chimpanzee on a photo shoot, he knew he had stumbled into the right business. “He was pretty strong, but I still came out victorious,” says the 24-year-old actor, best known for playing Emmett Cullen, the bulky big brother to Robert Pattinson’s Edward, in the much-obsessed-over Twilight films.

In order to get into fighting shape for the combat-heavy Eclipse, the third film in the series, Lutz spent much of the summer getting his body into full beat-down mode. The aspiring action hero even tussled with the movie’s producers over performing his own stunts. “I want to be the guy who actually gets shot and gets his leg broken but keeps on fighting,” Lutz insists. “I want that to be my face on the screen.” (Lutz admits that his character in next year’s A Nightmare On Elm Street remake won’t keep fighting—it’s hard to make it past Freddy Krueger alive.)

But lest audiences think Lutz is all brawn and no brains, they should know that he reads his beloved Kindle between takes. They should also know he gave up a scholarship in chemical engineering to pursue a lucrative modeling career—only to give up his modeling career to pursue an even more lucrative film career. If it gets more lucrative, watch out: Lutz compiles potential inventions in a notebook and cautions, madscientist-style, “If I had millions of dollars I could do something with chemical compounds, some really intense stuff.”

image Shirt by Theory Jeans by H&M.

Photography by Hellin Kay. Styling by Jodi Leesley. Grooming: Cori Bardo @ Celestine. Location Bardot, Los Angeles. Shirt by Theory Jeans by H&M.

This Is Our House: The Resurgence of New York’s Voguing Balls

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The culture of the gay Harlem houses — the birthplace of “voguing” — goes back as far as the 19th century. In the beginning, the gatherings that took place there were a matter of survival; by the late 1970s, they were established sanctuaries, providing family — and safety in numbers — to homeless street hustlers, pier queens, addicts and other lost souls. The houses took names like LaBeija, Chanel and St. Laurent, imitating the fashion houses they idolized. And they threw elaborate balls — flamboyant 10-hour affairs, where voguing was pioneered, with the houses competing for prestige (and sometimes cash).

image Jose Xtravaganza

Among the most famous and enduring is the House of Xtravaganza, which hosts its massive “Moda” ball this November in New York. Its members take names that are also inherited titles: Hector, Carmen, Jose, Q, Davari. “The original Hector Xtravaganza came up with the house name,” says the current Hector and house grandfather. “It’s very us — extravagant kids in the streets, trying to make it.”

image Hector Xtravaganza (Grandfather of the House of Xtravaganza)

Voguing broke into pop culture in 1990 with the debut of Madonna’s black-and-white “Vogue” video, which was choreographed by Jose Xtravaganza. When he was introduced to the pop princess at an audition he saw “this woman sitting on top of a speaker, with a long trench coat and all of her hair under a newspaper boy’s hat. Very stylish. She said to me, ‘I heard you’re the shit. I heard you’re the one who can do this vogue thing, and I wanna see.’” And thus the House of Xtravaganza inspired the first of the Material Girl’s manly reinventions.

image Carmen Xtravaganza

House mother Carmen Xtravaganza (who I personally watched grow from a precocious brat into a beacon of responsibility) helps new members find themselves and make the transition into the transgender lifestyle. “I see them as they are, and how I was at their age, and how I struggled to become the person that I am — though they have it so much easier now.”

image Q Xtravaganza

So what’s the philosophy of the House of Xtravaganza? According to Jose it’s a simple command for perpetual readiness: “To come done.”

Photography by Victoria Will. Special thanks to Greg Brier and Amalia.

The Black List: Emily Mortimer

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In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming thriller Shutter Island, Emily Mortimer runs away with the show as an on-the-lam patient who breaks down opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. Though she starred in David Mamet’s Redbelt last year, the English actress is just now earning her black belt in bitchery, by kicking around her 10 least-favorite things.

1. Integrity. 2. Men in shorts. 3. Most animals. 4. Sports. 5. The sound of my husband clipping his toenails. 6. English people with American accents. 7. Cell phone service in Manhattan. 8. How awful my boobs are when I’m pregnant. 9. The upper circle of the theater as I think about throwing myself off while watching nightmare performances. 10. Bugaboo strollers.

Photo by Laura Hynd

Champagne Supernova: Wine Tasting with Mr Hudson

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Who better to sample fermented grapes at Gordon’s, London’s oldest wine bar, than the man behind Straight No Chaser? Raise a glass to musician Mr Hudson, Kanye’s newest protégé. Ben Hudson, the Birmingham-born frontman for Mr Hudson, has earned the right to relax with a glass (or eight) of wine. In the past year, he appeared on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s latest records, traveled the world as part of West’s crew (“He’s like the Kofi Annan of pop,” Hudson says of his friend and mentor) and saw his smash single — the glorious, West-assisted “Supernova” — climb to the top of the U.K. charts. Still, Hudson isn’t yet ready to toast his good fortune. “As an Englishman,” he says, “I’m allergic to bombast. It’s up to the people at home to decide if I’ll be playing at Wembley in 10 years, or if I’ll be back on the dole.”

The people will decide this month, when Hudson releases his second album, Straight No Chaser. In the calm before the publicity storm, the towheaded breakthrough artist brings his dry, British sense of humor and sommelier skills to the table, whetting his palate with a few fine wines.

Touraine Sauvignon 2007 (France) Hemingway once compared connoisseurs of wine to connoisseurs of bullfighting, saying that someone who has watched bullfights for decades gets bored by anything that’s less than spectacular. This one is dry and clean — it tastes of rocks!

Palo Alto Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2008 (Chile) Green and fresh. We’ve left France for South America, I see. I’m used to jumping around. I was living a very modest existence above a pub in north London, staring out my window at grimy, old Camden, when I’d get an email from Kanye and his crew saying, “Come to Hawaii!”

Willowglen Semillon Chardonnay 2007 (Australia) Is Chardonnay out of fashion? The problem is, I forget whatever I learn about wine the night I drink it. I do love the buttery taste this has. It’s sharp in a friendly way — like a bread knife.

Thierry and Guy Fat Bastard Pinot Noir 2008 (France) I’m getting chocolate and smoke, and I’m also getting drunk.

Rioja Siglo 1881 (Spain) This is delicious — very round and full. They seem to be quite macho, Spanish wines. Speaking of macho, I once tried to wear this shiny, pink blazer, and Kanye was just like, “Hell, no.” I’m normally quite sober in my attire, but he says I dress like a homeless person.

Andes Peaks Carmenére 2008 (Chile) Power. Late nights. Burnt wood. Charcoal. Bitterness. I can imagine this with a lamb stew.

Grover La Réserve Nandi Hills Bangalore 2006 (India) This isn’t a punch in the face, like other big reds.

Hazy View Chenin Blanc 2008 (South Africa) This one is sharp and crisp, with a touch of warmth — it’s almost spicy. Maybe that’s because I’ve had quite a few glasses, and I’m not in a clear headspace. To be honest, I’m not in the same headspace as when I wrote Straight No Chaser three months ago. Whereas that was a grim time for me personally, I’ve now got a single that’s number two on the charts. So if I made an album today, it would probably be some kind of Champagne-fueled party record.

Photography by Hamish Brown. Hudson photographed at Gordon’s Wine Bar, London. Grooming by Luca @ Terrie Tanka Management

The Stars of ‘New York, I Love You’ on Big Apple Voyeurism

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Four stars from this month’s ensemble film New York, I Love You , a romantic paean to the city that never sleeps, tell us they watch when no one’s looking.

● During the holidays, I love walking around the West Village at night. The brownstones are all lit from within, and through the windows you can see families and friends putting up decorations, having cocktail parties. There are lives and histories behind every door. —Eva Amurri

● After spending all night on a cold rooftop in Brooklyn, filming my final scene [in director Natalie Portman’s segment of the film], I ate a very late breakfast at Bubby’s in Tribeca. Watching the other patrons — individuals and couples — made me reflect on the common New York feelings of detachment and inclusion. — Jacinda Barrett

● Central Park in early summer is about as voyeuristic as it gets. I love seeing new couples — and old ones — enjoying one another. I love the exhibitionism. I love watching the animals communicating. Their energy gives me a buzz. –Maggie Q

Have you ever felt like you were being watched? Yes, constantly. I’m in therapy for this.

Have you ever witnessed something you shouldn’t have? 2 Girls 1 Cup.

Describe your best Rear Window moment. I once masturbated while thinking of Raymond Burr.

When has your privacy been most invaded? My mother once walked in on me masturbating while thinking of Raymond Burr.

When have you most invaded someone else’s? Sorry, but I don’t answer questions about my personal life. — Justin Bartha

Top: Justin Bartha and Eva Amurri on the set of New York, I Love You.

Bend It Like Bentham: Jeffrey Slonim on Surveillance

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In his Panopticon writings from 1787, philosopher Jeremy Bentham described a prison with a column serving as an all-seeing eye at its center. Inmates lived in constant fear, aware of the possibility that they were being watched at all times—that, as George Orwell wrote of Big Brother in his prescient 1984, “Every sound… was overheard and except in darkness, every moment scrutinized.”

In the era of iPhones, digital cameras, Twitter and security devices with face-recognition capabilities, the threat of constant surveillance from a single set of eyes seems almost quaint. There are 30 million security cameras currently operating in the United States. The average American is recorded by them more than 200 times a day. In response to decades of IRA attacks and the 7/7 terrorist bombings, the United Kingdom installed more than four million CCTV cameras, with the artificial intelligence to follow “panic running,” in cities throughout the country.

Big Brother has his eyes on all of us these days—no one more so than celebrities, who have to contend both with the now pervasive privacy violations and the insatiable paparazzi. “We had some freak in our backyard taking pictures of the house,” mentions a rightfully paranoid Foo Fighter Dave Grohl. “I saw a car in the driveway. The tinted window was down a little and I thought, What the fuck! The guy could have blown my head off. I didn’t know what was going on, and then I realized it was a camera. And then he said, ‘Do you mind if I get some better shots of you?’”

“In Malibu, they fly over our house in a helicopter. And if we’re outside, they circle,” says Mira Sorvino, speaking of the unstoppable lensmen. “I was with my grandmother after she had a pacemaker put in, driving back from Cedars Sinai, and this photographer started following us in the car and taking pictures as I was driving,” recalls a horrified Milla Jovovich. Alan Cumming was once confronted by a fan with a phone cam in a loo. “I had my pants up,” he says. “But it wasn’t nice.” Director John Waters agrees, noting dolefully, “Aren’t cell phones the bane of everyone’s existence?”

Christoph Waltz, the Austrian actor whose riveting, charismatic performance as SS Colonel Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds has serious Oscar buzz, describes himself as a “great supporter of privacy.” He points out that during WWII, “It was all manpower, with individuals watching over other individuals. But with the technical development over the past 50 or 60 years, it’s machines watching over individuals.”

image

Those machines are more powerful than ever. Mike Heller, a lawyer and founder of Talent Resources, a company that negotiates celebrity appearances and endorsements (and a near-constant companion of Lindsay Lohan when she appears in public), says that celebrities “never know when someone is watching. Someone can take a picture and it can appear on the Internet, traveling the globe in less than two seconds.”

Even the faltering economy hasn’t slowed the stalkerazzi, who have developed the look of hungry hunters. “I was just followed through the West Village,” says actress Jennifer Esposito. “It’s really weird… I mean, it’s me. You’re not making any money from these pictures. Why would you do this?”

In 1984—the year, not the Orwell novel—German director Michael Klier created Der Riese, or The Giant, a feature film created entirely from actual security footage. In the haunting opening scene, set to a classical score, darting images of a plane landing become as mysterious and misty-transcendent as a Turner canvas. The overwhelming viewpoint of Der Riese is the untouchable height of the cameras, a nod to the title. They are a giant peering down, belittling our very existence.

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And yet, some of us favor this type of scrutiny—at least some of the time. Seventy-one percent of Americans approve of increased security cameras. “As much as people say, ‘I don’t want surveillance,’” says Dan Abrams, chief legal analyst for NBC and founder of Mediaite.com, “the minute any crime occurs, people say, ‘Where are the surveillance cameras?’ Even though people want to believe that they don’t want surveillance cameras, in reality, most of the time they do.” In fact, Noah Tepperberg, owner of New York nightclubs Avenue and Marquee and Tao in Las Vegas, adds, “Especially in nightclubs and restaurants, where people are drinking, having the ability to go to the videotapes can be helpful.”

Though not necessarily for security reasons. In London, there is one camera for every 14 people, but, on average, 1,000 cameras catch just one crime. “All the surveillance cameras never helped me recover a thing,” sniffs designer Zac Posen. And one of the benefits of cameras that allows Tepperberg to “see every inch of the venue, including the entrance doors, exit doors, liquor rooms,” is unexpected. “One gossip column called to check if a certain celebrity was cheating on his girlfriend, as a witness had indicated,” he says. “We went to the tapes to set the record straight.”

And that’s the perceived appeal of the camera—it doesn’t lie (allegedly, anyway). It’s also what motivates art photographer Yasmine Chatila’s work: shots taken through apartment windows with the identities of the occupants and window exteriors altered to prevent legal action. “I think the best way to truly see human nature is when it is not self-conscious,” she mentioned in a recent interview. “Even a reality show cannot capture it, since people on the show inevitably are aware of the camera.”

Theoretically, besides providing prurient enjoyment for voyeurs, security cameras can’t harm you—if you’re not doing anything wrong. “I’m not doing any shady shit, so I don’t have nothing to worry about,” says DJ Cassidy.

“People should become their own watcher,” says music mogul Russell Simmons, who takes a Zen approach to the dilemma. “It’s a simple spiritual idea. Don’t do things you wouldn’t want everyone to see. In the end, the most damaging thing is when you catch yourself.”

[Photos by Yasmine Chatila: The Bachelor, Wall Street, Friday 11:34PM, The Bathroom Girl, City Hall, Wednesday 5:36PM and The Smoking Guy, Hell’s Kitchen, Monday 8:49PM]

Eye of the Beholder: Visionaries Share Their Takes on Surveillance

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We tapped four visionaries — Juergen Teller, The Raveonettes, Jennifer Lynch, and James Jean — for their takes on surveillance. The works of art they created are, well, out of sight.

Above: Juergen Teller “Ed with camera, Il Pellicano,” 2009. Teller’s exhibition, Juergen Teller, Paradis, is on display at New York’s Lehmann Maupin gallery until October 17, 2009.

image The Raveonettes “The Eyes Have It,” 2009. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo will release their fourth studio album, In and Out of Control, this month.

image Jennifer Lynch “Put Your Stuff In The Drawers And Watch This,” 2009. Lynch’s second feature film, Surveillance, was released in 2008. She is currently at work on Hisss.

image James Jean “Sasha Grey Twice,” 2008. Jean’s latest book, PR V3: The Hallowed Seam, was released last month by AdHouse Books.

Ryan Adams & Yoko Ono: What Lies Beneath

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In a world of trash heaps and disposable art, digital-only records and flashback culture, it’s comforting to know that we still walk among mythic artists. Yoko Ono is one of those artists. Her observations are so direct, so simple and so devoid of bullshit that they constantly remind me to reevaluate my perceptions. Her art reduces; it is a solvent for over-thinking. The proof of this is that, for the past 10 years, I’ve opened Grapefruit—her influential, heart- and mind-altering conceptual art book—whenever I start a new project. This has been a busy year for the 76-year-old legend. She re-formed the Plastic Ono Band with help from her son, Sean Lennon, and released Between My Head and the Sky, an album of powerful, modern music that startles one minute and soothes the next. Her voice, erotic and ghostly, tangles with the album’s reflective instrumentation. Listen for rhythms that recall ticking clocks, piano chords lilting in a far-off room and the soft purr of rainfall.

I’ve been captivated by this record because it’s very dreamlike. Do your dreams inform a lot of your compositions? Yoko Ono: It’s not specific like that. I just let my spirit or soul roll around and the music is the result of that.

I love the piano parts of the record. I got very emotional the first few times I heard them. That’s Sean. They are so beautiful, so incredible.

Sean was my neighbor in New York. He seems like he was such a prodigy. Was he a precocious child? He made himself, by himself. John and I never wanted to push him into music, so I was prepared that he might become an archaeologist or something. John didn’t even want to tell him that he was a Beatle. Sean found out from someone else. One day, he even asked John, “Were you a Beatle?” But he was always there when I recorded something. I think it started when John and I did Double Fantasy, and John would say that Sean should come. After John’s passing, Sean was always there at my recordings. And he experienced it—he remembers that I used this instrument or that instrument. Later, when Sean was in his twenties, I found out that he knew all of the Beatles’ songs, all of John’s songs and all of my songs—every lyric.

Your father played piano, too, didn’t he? I grew up in a very musical environment. My father was always playing piano. He would make me sing some songs and he’d accompany me. But he was not just a piano player—he was always listening to incredible music. I studied music from when I was about four or five years old. I was put into a school that teaches early music education, where I was taught perfect pitch and harmony. Music has always been a part of me.

It’s nice to hear you and Sean working together on this album. I didn’t think it was going to be great because they usually say, “Oh, a mother and son recording together—that should be very difficult.” But when Sean said, “Mommy, let’s do this record,” I said okay. There were some difficulties—little, tiny things—but the experience actually helped us to deepen our understanding of each other and the music we were making. I didn’t know that he was so good at music, actually. I was surprised.

When I used to play music with him just for fun, he was never really assertive about his ideas. He is very sensitive and very careful. That’s the difference between his dad and him, in a way. His dad was more arrogant. Sean is just as complex as John, but he has a kind of sensitivity that makes him not arrogant. While we were recording, I remember watching Sean and thinking, “Is that my son in there?” Whenever I’m talking to him—I can’t help it—he’s still my 5-year-old son. He’ll say, “I’m not 5 years old anymore, mommy,” and I’m like okay, whatever. But this time around, he made a big jump into becoming a very experienced and talented musician. That helped this record, in a different way than I ever could have imagined.

Are you guys going to do some shows together? We did a show in London at the Royal Festival Hall. There was this big crowd, like 2,000 people—ugh, we were all very nervous. But it went very well.

Did your nerves subside once you got out there to play the gig? I’m one of those people who gets very nervous. It’s very easy to agree to perform a year before a big concert, but when it gets to be like a week before, I always think, Why did I say yes?

Do you have any rituals that you do before you play a concert? I always change my shoes three times, because it calms me down. Nothing calms me down. I just try to drink sparkling water and then when I get on the stage I forget about the fact that I was nervous—it’s strange that way. But before that, it’s terrible.

Are there any new bands that you like? I don’t listen to too many new songs because—and I’m sure you’re like this, too—when you’re a singer-songwriter listening to other people’s music you think, “Well, they shouldn’t have done that in the intro, it’s a bit too loud and the mixing isn’t good. Why did they master it that way? I would never have done it so flat!” I’m very critical.

It’s the same as a chef walking into someone else’s kitchen. For relaxation, I listen to old Indian music. It’s so beautiful and just keeps going on and on. I listen to John’s music sometimes because I’ve had to, for business reasons.

I’d like to ask about your sunglasses. Do they make you feel less shy? Well, I used to wear sunglasses when John was still around, but after his passing I wore them because I wanted to hide a little bit. And then it became a very practical thing, say, if I’m in a press conference where there are so many people flashing lights to take photos.

YOKO’S FAVORITE PEOPLE WATCHING SPOT: DA SILVANO, NEW YORK CITY

Photography by Cleo Sullivan. Styling by Michel Onofrio. Hair by Frankie Foye @ Photo Op Management. Makeup by Jim Crawford for Shu Uemura. Photgrapher’s Assistant: Olivia Malone. Location: Hudson Studios.