Fashion Week Brings Alacran Mezcal, a Willyburg band, and the Cocktail Bodega

Share Button

With every Tom, Dick, and Harry meeting up with every Betty, Veronica, and Sally to attend Fashion Week events in every club, bar, lounge, restaurant, or alley – the city is in a frenzy. Cabs are impossible to get, and fashion victims seeking out lattes have overrun my favorite coffee shops. I tried watching the Democratic convention for escapist purposes, as I decided long ago who I was voting for. My friend DJ Cassidy is DJing it. Now that’s a big gig. I saw him just a minute ago at Noah Tepperberg’s birthday bash and noticed that somehow his head can still fit into his trademark, seasonal boater (that’s a hat). The Democratic convention is some gig. I can’t complain, as my agency 4AM has me all over the place spewing out my brand of rock and roll. Tomorrow I will DJ at Empire Hotel Rooftop and next week at door-God/actor Wass Steven’s birthday at Avenue, and lots more. It’s so much fun.

They had me out at The Montauk Beach House for the Labor Day Weekend Monday pool party. I played classic surf music and end-of-summer fare while my friends sunbathed by the glorious pool. TMBH is wonderful. We stayed over and the rooms were luscious. I want back.

I attended the super hush-hush private performance by Gary Clark Jr. at The Electric Room. Nur Khan always delivers superb surprises for Fashion Week. Gary is a big deal and Nur was gushing all about him. I love The Electric Room and will attend again real soon for the super, hush-hush performance by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club which is coming up but I can’t tell you about. The Electric Room holds a couple hundred people, and seeing this kind of talent in such an intimate setting is amazing.

Obligations took me far away from the opening of Lil Charlie’s, the sweet spot underneath Ken & Cook. Artan and Karim gave me the $2-dollar tour last week and I was so impressed. They made the place more comfortable than its Travertine incarnation. It looks great and seems to be larger somehow than before. Little Charlie’s Clam Bar was for years the home of the locals of Little Italy. The gentrified neighborhood has lost its charms and has been replaced with high-end boutiques, salons, and restaurants. The use of the name in this context raised my eyebrow, but there isn’t anybody around anymore to understand why. So be it. I think the place is going to be a big hit and I’m going back next week.

I also missed the opening/friends and family of Cocktail Bodega on the corner of Stanton and Chrystie. This opening needs a lot of ink and I’m running out of room today, so I will revisit. I’ll just say it adds considerable light and charm to what was a very dark corner. That little area is becoming hot with The Box sill going strong, and Bantam and other venues developing their brands; I think we all will be spending more time nearby.

I will be at the Alacran Mezcal launch party at the Hotel Americano tonight. Alacran is all over Fashion Week and behind the events at The Out. In a very short time, Arty Dozortov and his team has established the Alacran brand. As avid readers know, I don’t drink…well, I do drink about twice a year, whenever I have sex, and nowadays I’ve forsaken the jamo for Alacran. It’s delicious.

Sunday I will check out Chris Anthony’s shindig at The Grand Victory. Chris was prominent in the nightlife world before he grew up. He has formed a small record label, Jump Ramp Records, and his first project is The Boogie Rock Boy’s, a Willyburg rock/blues/funk act. He has just wrapped their debut LP, a three-track album coming out in vinyl and digital, and this Sunday, in  live audio. The album release will be celebrated along with a couple of other noted local sounds…Delano Groove, Jawaad and Kiva, and DJ Prince Polo.  There’s going to be a BBQ and I’m going to be there. 

The Launch of the New & Enhanced Thefuture.fm: Founder/CEO David Stein Speaks

Share Button

I am completely weak from Fashion Week pressures and some new tattoos…plus, I’m moving a little to the left of Brooklyn, toward Bushwick. Today I’m going to chat about Thefuture.fm which is "a patent-pending fingerprinting and rights tracking technology, which is the first ever turn-key solution to the legal monetization of DJ mixes, podcasts and mix tapes.” Are you still with me?

David Stein, who you used to hang out with the smart set at my smart clubs and even some smarter ones, is the founder and CEO of this internet radio platform. According to the press release, David founded Thefuture.fm "in an effort to allow festival-goers and club kids to relive the experiences created by the world’s best DJs on a daily basis, while discovering emerging music along the way. His passion to help DJs legally promote and monetize their music came when he realized the monumental challenges and setbacks of rights flow for mixed audio." You still here?

He used to book talent atthose smart clubs, and has a unique grasp on who’s-who and what’s hot. Now he’s gone digital. In April he launched an iPhone app, which is “the first to solve the industry’s long-standing copyright issue associated with mixed audio,” by accurately identifying the content of mixed audio. Thefuture.fm’s will also experience a complete overhaul of their platform, making it easy for users to revisit mega DJ performances, club events, and learn about future performances by their favorite DJ/performer. At launch, subscriptions will be free, with near-term plans for revenue streams in premium mobile and brand-supported offerings. Over 5000 DJs will participate.

I caught up with David Stein awhile back and asked him all about it.

Is this basically Pandora with really great DJs?
Thefuture.fm is basically internet radio, curated by the best DJs in the world. And we enable DJs to upload their mixed tapes to the platform and let their fans access them and listen to them via the platform on the web and via mobile on our iPhone application. It’s sort of the first-ever legal kind of entity to allow for this to happen. Really, the core of our business is that we’re a music technology business; we’re focused around this concept of how do we legally, scale-ably, and effectively monetize and extract value out of long-format music content? If you know the history of a mixed tape and the DJ industry, you know there’s never really been a solution in terms of how to compensate the individual artist and copyright holders whose music is being used and played by DJs. So we exist to solve that problem. And we create technology, IP tools, around that concept. It’s really the core of why thefuture.fm is able to be a legal internet radio that is curated by these mixed tapes.

The first, and really the basis of that business, is a technology and a concept that we created called Mix Scan. Mix Scan is a fingerprinting and rights core management tool specifically around long-format contract – mixed tapes, podcasts, live streams – that DJs make and play. Like Shazam on steroids. The way that it works is a DJ will upload a mix tape to our platform and we’ll run it through our algorithm of our software and we’ll pull as much metadata as we can so we’ll learn every artist, song, sample, song length – we know when one song ends and when one song begins. We timestamp that music file and create a unique set of metadata for the entire media file. That enables us to accurately cross reference against our analytics so we know every time within our eco system, our platform, each song gets played. Then we automate the report, these entities that exist to pay out to copyright holders. SoASCAP, BMI, etc… so that’s really the basis of how we operate a legal internet radio. We’ve been sort of operating as a free service while we build out our monetization models and we’re soon going to be launching pretty revolutionary ways where DJs can, for the first time ever, legally make money off of their mixes and podcasts. Who are some of the DJs that you’re involved with?
We represent music from 8,000 different DJs across all genres: From Bounce FX and DJ Scribble to your Mel Debarge and Cassidy, to your Dead Mau5, Tiesto, Skrillex. It’s all-encompassing. And it’s everything – rock, hip hop, dance…

So a person gets on and they have a choice, like Pandora, of different genres of music?
Yes, the platform is two-fold so you can get on the platform and get featured content that’s exclusive to the platform across all the genres. Or you can type in any DJ that you know you want to hear and we’ll give you all of their mixed tapes within their own profile. Or you can type in a song or an artist that isn’t a DJ and we’ll give you mixes that have those songs in them.

Are we going to see this in stores, trendy boutiques, hotel lobbies? Or in individual homes?
Well, the service and the platform is built for personal use, but people who aren’t supposed to be using it use it for whatever reasons they want. Eventually we hope to roll out services that are specific for business services, music-filing, those sorts of things.

Are you doing profiles on your DJs or feature DJs, stories about these guys, who they are, and why they’re important as well?
There are unique cases where we’ll cover DJs on our blog, but primarily it’s just the content. It’s mixes that you can’t really find anywhere else up on one platform. And it’s a combination of us allowing DJs to upload content themselves and then us partnering with different venues, nightclubs, and festivals and acquiring that content and then featuring it on the home page.

You used the word upload. Are you going to be able to download? If I hear something that’s pretty amazing and I want to be able to feel that DJ Thursday night, am I going to be able to download it?

There’s no downloading on the platform yet. It’s a streaming-only service and we abide by these rules that have been set in place by the copyright law that enables us to be a compliant web factor, and that means that we’re restricted to streaming only. It’s the only way that we can really quantify the function of the actual tracks within mixes.

But companies like Amazon and iTunes would love for you to link to them. Is that something you do?
Yes, so because we know what songs are in the mixes, there’s a pretty great discovery component to it. You’re able to learn and discover new music from your favorite DJ and you can see what songs you’re listening to. 

Now all these DJs, including me, have management. If I’m listening to Mel Debarge, which you mentioned before as one of yours, does it refer you to his management? If someone’s saying “Wow, I’m listening to this at my home but I want him to play at my Christmas party, this guy is unbelievable,” is there added value like that?
Yes, there’s absolutely added value in that regard. We’re not looking to be a middleman and block interaction. You can put, as a DJ, any contact information you like. But on the back end, we get requests from different brands, different platforms, different websites, blogs, Eater, Curb, TechCrunch, to name a few, that we work with really closely in booking DJs that are on our platform – the right DJ for their event. And all we do is facilitate an introduction. It’s part of that added value we bring to the DJs that we work with what’s on our platform.Is there a comment, for instance, of your clients? Can they rate a mix and say this one’s great, this one’s 94%, this one’s 70%?
There’s no percentage, but there is a “like” mechanism. We’re very against, “Oh, we don’t like this mix.” If you like it you click the “like” or “favorite” button. There’s mixes with hundreds of thousands of favorites on them.

How many people do you think it’s gonna reach? Give me some numbers and goals.
So we’ve been operating and have gained a pretty substantial user base solely on the love of the DJ and their bands. We were primarily working within this context of the DJ and the brand and the different magazines and entities that have visibility on our profile as our evangelists. They promote themselves to their fans via our platform and then we show love back by promoting them via our own page.

Theoretically, if someone likes Mel Debarge as an example again, they come in and listen to what Mel Debarge has posted on your site, and while they’re there, they’re exposed to other DJs.

How do you put these DJs in categories, so that Mel is near, let’s say, Cassidy or far away from Steve Lewis so that the person coming in can see things that are similar?
It’s categorized by genre but specific to the individual mix, not the DJ.

There’s a great difference between DJ Tiesto and, let’s say, Frankie Knuckles.
100 percent.

So how does a person find exactly what they’re interested in, without having to randomly explore?
At the highest level, the mixes are tagged by specific genres that are pretty broad in scope. All the sub-genres of house music, EDM, sub-genres of hip-hop, sub-genres of rock. On a more granular level, if you’re looking to hear specific songs or specific sounds within a genre – a search for rock ‘n’ roll, for example – you could type in Prince or “Bohemian Rhapsody” and you would get mixes that have those types of songs in them.

Four Years Later: Remembering Michael Jackson Tonight and Forever

Share Button

Yesterday, the streets were filled with people with pride and I was proud to live in a city that has traveled so far since I was a youth. Sure there’s a long road ahead, but yesterday the past I grew up in seemed as long ago as Howdy Doody. I was happy that W.i.P. got reopened for Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny’s Gay Pride party. It will be interesting to see if W.i.P. stays open. I wish I had made it to the Mermaid and Gay pride parades but, alas, I was torn to many other elsewhere’s and must do’s. I did manage to get to the roof of the Standard with interior design icon Karen Daroff and her son Robert. Although it was dead summer and "the" crowd wasn’t supposed to be around, we found wonder in this wonderful place. I texted the manager Emily Rieman after, thanking her for her and the entire staffs’ brilliant hospitality. I told her Le Bain was an "oasis of classy fun in a world of soccer-hooligan saloons.”

Earlier in the evening we caught Lady Rizo’s act over at The Darby. It was classic songs sung with intelligence and grace over coffee, dessert, and some Beau Joie Champagne. We glad-handed all the unusual suspects before hoofing it west to Andre Balaz’ anything-but-standard oasis, dodging desperate suburban youth being hustled by bottle hosts at the joints along the way.

Tonight, after BINGO at the Bowery Poetry Club and after the Inked Magazine soiree at Lit Lounge, me and mine will head over to The Darby for The Fourth Annual Remember The Time Michael Jackson Tribute.

On the night of the day Michael Jackson died, we all headed to the clubs for some sort of reconciliation and grasp on the situation. Some use the expression "it will all come clear with the light of day" and I guess for many things light works, but for some concepts only the dark will help. Many tried to find answers by looking at the bottom of newly-emptied shot glasses…others in the eyes or chatter of friends or strangers. I got an education from DJ Cassidy at 1OAK. Tonight he’ll do it again, offering a barrage of Michael and I won’t miss it.

The day after Michael Jackson died I wrote a piece. It may be a little short on the facts we later learned, as it was written in the confusion of the tabloid headlines and lingering grief of the next morning, but it describes my mood and the love of precious life I found at 1OAK the night before.

Blackbook Magazine Goodnight Mr Lewis, June 26, 2009:

Michael Jackson: The Best Club Songs Ever

An autopsy may reveal it was pills or something similar that shut Michael Jackson down, but the heart really gave out because it once was loved by the whole world and wasn’t anymore. My emotions roller-coastered through a day of death and rumor. A great sadness consumed me as allegations and innuendo, tributes and music bombarded me through open windows and closed doors. From beat box radios and every TV in the neighborhood, I was told to remember, condemn, forgive, or just listen. The complexity of understanding the meaning of Michael Jackson’s death personally and on that grander scale became harder by the hour. I was enlightened by Jesse Jackson, Quincy Jones, Cher, Paul McCartney, and even Celine Dion. Everybody except Elizabeth Taylor was getting into the act — it is an act we and they will find impossible to follow.

From the point of view that I write about – the never neverland of clubs – Michael Jackson’s passing immortalizes the best songs I’ve ever heard on a dance floor. The music will live on as pure and wondrous and as perfect as the man himself was confusing. I won’t dwell on the bawdy stuff; plenty of others will milk that cow. I’ll just say flat out that "Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough" or maybe "Billie Jean" are the best songs I’ve ever heard a DJ offer. To this day they still blow a dance floor up.  Years ago, there were Michael Jackson club rumors. Some claim that he visited from time to time, unrecognizable in prosthetic makeup or with a face wrapped in scarves. The only place I know he went for sure was Studio 54. I asked Carmen D’Alessio about Michael at Studio 54, and she told me, "I of course remember him coming to Studio, 33 years ago. He was a kid releasing his first album. As the VIP hostess, I met everyone my dear, and I do recall clearly a 17-year-old Michael Jackson. He was nice and friendly, and I remember thinking he was very good looking." A quick Wikipedia read finds Michael listed first in a list of Studio 54 attendees. He led over Nureyev, Mick and Bianca, Elton John, Truman Capote, Mae West, Gloria Swanson, Jackie Onassis, and Elizabeth Taylor. Ironically, fair Farrah Fawcett was also listed.

I went to 1OAK, as a tribute was hastily put together with superstar DJ Cassidy only playing M.J. hits to a packed house of the beautiful. O’Neal McKnight danced and lip-synched to tunes, and Robin Thicke sang "Human Nature" in tribute. Cassidy asked over the mic, "Michael, why did we lose you this night?" When I arrived I was skeptical, thinking the idea of this tribute was almost cheesy — and it might have been if not for the sincere efforts by the 1OAK family. We were swept up in Michael’s massive talent as every single impeccably-produced tune held the packed house and dance floor. What other artist could have a catalog of songs that would hold a floor for hours?

I stood with Scott Sartiano and Ronnie Madra surrounded by a stunning and smart crowd. Sparklers announced bottles, and Cassidy offered, "We are here to celebrate the music and the life of Michael." The crowd roared and the waitrons poured, and I became a corny mush. I thought of the immense sadness that must have been consuming him at his end. I wondered if he indeed had just ended it, if he indeed had stopped cause he had enough. I thought of that traffic song, "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" — the lyrics, "If you just had one minute to breathe and they granted you one final wish, would you ask for something like another chance? Or something similar as this, don’t worry so much it will happen to you as sure as your sorrows or joys."

I wondered what Michael would have done with another chance. What would he have changed? What did he want that he, with all the fame and riches, never got? "We Wanna Be Starting Something" whipped the beautiful crowd into a frenzy, and the scope of our loss drove me to leave and find some summer air. It’s impossible to measure the wattage of the light that went out yesterday.

I remember watching James Brown’s funeral on TV and seeing Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton manipulate a frail Michael to the mic for a speech that was brilliant and eye-opening. He eloquently spoke of the soul icon’s love, contributions, and forgiveness as the Brown estate vultures loomed all around. The world that seemed to be tearing him apart will now fight for his bones, and it won’t be short or pretty. None of them will stop until they get enough, yet Michael Jackson’s life and much-talked about excesses leave us with a great lesson.

Is there ever enough? Can you ever stop? Is it human nature not to be happy with what you have and to keep pushing and fighting till the heart eventually bursts? If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that all you have can be torn from you in an instant.

Rest in peace, Michael Jackson.

Micah Jesse: “You’re the King of Nightlife, I’m the King of Nice Life”

Share Button

A while back, I named three people as the "next big things" in this little world I write about. The Dual Groupe twins Derek and Daniel Koch have been a steady force in New York nightlife and day life as their ongoing brunch party "Day and Night" remains the standard. They get tons of ink here and everywhere. Jordan Fox and I ran into each other the other night and I promise a follow-up on his genius activities, Micah Jesse was my third pick. Micah and his MicahJesse.com have been described as the East Coast’s version of Perez Hilton. Micah’s approach, however, contrasts with most media. He focuses on the good news and the positive things in their lives. I caught up with this busy bee and asked him a few questions.

What have you been up to lately? Still working on my website and it’s rapidly becoming a full-blown brand. I’m doing a lot more television and I’m able to lend my name and my presence to causes that I’ve cared about all along. For me, anti-bullying is huge. I was severely bullied growing up, to the point where it was almost tormentous, so it’s exciting for me that I’m aligning with The Bully Project. I’m going to be raising $5,000 for the five-year anniversary of my website on a site called Crowdrise, which is co-owned by Edward Norton, so that’s exciting. Being able to finally use my name to do good really means a lot to me.

I was joking with you before, like saying you’re the king of nightlife – I’m the king of nice life. I’m really loving being able to give back; that’s always been my goal when I moved here – yes, to have a public platform, yes to be a public figure of course, but to be able to do that for causes that I’m actually passionate about. When I first moved to New York, I felt that people were constantly putting me into a category of like a socialite, but socialites to me are just that: social. There are a whole group of them that are doing good but there are a whole group that just go out to get their photo taken. For me, anti-bullying and gay rights are huge so I’m working with GLAAD and I’m working with The Bully project so I’m excited.

So in the last year, using your platform and all that, who are some of the people you’ve run into at the events? I like covering red carpet events. I get media alerts all day long and I have to sift through them and consider what’s going to be interesting to my reader, interesting to tweet about live. It’s pop culture, it’s reality stars, the Kardashians just in general – they’re amazing. Jersey Shore…I don’t know how much longer that’s going to last but…they’re getting spin-off shows.

I think the Jersey Shore has been around forever, it wasn’t invented by Snooki or whatever. I think the world should become obsessed with Snooki…in my relationship, she’s my "celebrity exception." I think the reason the Jersey Shore is successful is that it really hits on a weird sexual desire in us. I’m good friends with Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola and I happen to think she’s super hot and I’m an openly gay male. These kids, both girls and guys, they’re out there partying their tooshy’s off, taking off their clothes. They have no limits; they’re still living as if nightlife is still what it was 20 years ago, just like partying ’til the break of dawn, fist pumping all night long, just making it seem fun again because a lot of people have lost that sense of allure of nightlife. I feel like a lot of people are criticizing it and saying that there’s no nightlife anymore. Well, not for the Jersey Shore.

As a nightlife writer, I disagree with that statement. I end up at great parties every single night. There may not be one great club in NY by the standards we set back in the day, but I think every night there’s something great going on. Nightlife is just less confined by walls; it’s everywhere and, sure, you really have look around. You must draw lines where you’re not going to talk about something. Sometimes I don’t tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth because it’s not important. The brand that the person is trying to establish and the individuals’ needs could be negatively affected unnecessarily. I see a lot more than I write about. Tell me how you personally draw these lines. I’ve always looked at celebrities as my best friends since I was little. Now that they actually are my friends, why would I want to hurt your best friend? I have celebrities that I know that are gay and out in public are straight; there are celebrities I know that claim they’ve never had plastic surgery and I know exactly which body parts have been altered, but I’m the king of nice life. I’m the one who’s out there keeping that hush-hush like you said and respecting people’s feelings but also keeping them public. They want to be public but they don’t necessarily want their private life public. 

When I’m with my straight friends (which I try to keep down to a minimum), sometimes the conversations get around to some celebrity being gay or straight. I might say to them, "I had dinner with him and his boyfriend in 1986 when he was gay before he made it and for image purposes they’re no longer gay." But I would never write about it. I would never bust someone. How do the PR companies work to keep down that sort of story? Let’s take the example of Anderson Cooper because he’s more local. Anderson Cooper is a news personality whose sole responsibility is to report the news directly and straightforwardly and honestly, so it’s a double-edged sword. At the same time he’s trying to be relatable to all of America, but at the same time there are reports that say he’s been with a man for many years now, and he’s seen in public with this one particular guy walking around NY and things of that nature. It’s tough because as much as I’d like to see him come out, if he is actually gay, I don’t know if that would be the responsible thing to do just because he’s a public figure. If he wasn’t a public figure, he would only need to tell his close friends, so why would he share that with the world?

Many people believe that it is the responsibility of gay public figures: they need to come forward or be outed. Conceptually, if America knew how many public figures and athletes were actually gay, wouldn’t it accelerate the acceptance of gay people into our lives? Absolutely, I’m on board with GLAAD’s messaging of making sure filmmakers and writers are putting in gay storylines into films and media. I think that it’s absolutely the way to do it, but when it comes to people’s lives, I’m not necessarily sure I agree with pushing people out of the closet before they’re ready because I know, for me, it was really important to come out on my own terms. Now, I’m so happy that I would never in a million years ever think of going back, but it needs to happen on one’s own terms when they’re 18 or even 14 or when they’re 65 and they realize they love their wife – if they have a wife – and realize they need to finally be true to themselves. I’m so pro that. I’m so pro coming out on your own terms. 

Your job comes with a lot of responsibility because you’re openly gay and covering a lot of gay and straight people and events. How is it building up trust with your readers? Tell me about that word "trust." Trust for me is huge because I feel like I’m a trustworthy person. I don’t know if everyone can say that about themselves. I know everyone would like to say that about themselves, but for me especially – when it comes to celebrities – developing a relationship with them, that they know when we’re off the record and the mic’s not in their mouth, we’re just having a good time. They can tell me about their relationships, but what I ask them to do is perhaps let me know first what they are ready to share and I would hope they give that to me. I do the same things in my life. Nowadays, everything is tracked online, whereas years ago, people would get their media through print newspapers or magazines. You could read a magazine and throw it out and it’s like it didn’t exist. But now everything is online. Bloggers that are out there bullying celebrities online – it’s unfortunate because there’s a track record out there forever. There’s no real way of taking that down. For me I feel a big responsibility to not bully online and always highlight people’s good.

Last plug? My five-year anniversary party coming up on May 3rd with DJ Cassidy. I’m really excited about the party because it’s at an exquisite space that’s really about to take over and it’s only been used for high-fashion photo shoots. It’s called Canoe Studios. I like to think of it as like the Boom Boom Room event space. It’s almost like floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the whole Hudson and it’s really exquisite. I’m so excited to be the first person to have the event there.

BlackBook’s Latest Party at GunBar

Share Button

Omg, I had so much fun last night. I DJed at the latest and greatest BlackBook party – it was an easy gig to get because I have an “in” there. The gala was at GunBar, a space in a place that was something else, which isn’t worth talking about. I mean—everything in Meatpacking was something else. They used to hang cow carcasses where swells now sip $1,000 bottles of champagne. In time it all gets washed away, and now it’s a playground for jet-setters and raucous revelers. GunBar is different and not just for the sake of it. It’s rock ‘n roll purity in a most unlikely place.

Surrounded by Eurotrash boites and wannabe model-bottle haunts, GunBar takes a left turn from faux elegance. It takes me and you back to a time when the Meatpacking District was a bit less fabulous.

Co-owner Bobby Persson (Southside) greeted me warmly and showed me to the DJ booth, which was inspiring. His partner Aaron Elbaz (Bagatelle) would later visit the booth and continuously turn the sound up, up, up. He’s a turn-it-up-to-eleven kind of guy, and the Funktion One sound system is really a dream. Usually found in all the best house head clubs, the Funktion One is the Rolls Royce of systems. It even made me sound good. In the smallish basement you could hear every word, drum beat, and guitar lick like you were in the studio with the band.

I like GunBar. Every inch of it is covered by graffiti artist Lucas Benarroch’s vision of a time that was. Its ‘80s street chic references brought me back to places like Stickball and Berlin and Save the Robots. It’s a place I can hang my hat and let loose after putting on my game face at surrounding joints. GunBar is a breath of fresh air. Fingerprint Communications P.R.’s gal on the go, go, go, Ariel Moses was gushing about her account and hit it on the head when she spoke about how it is so fundamentally correct. A long time ago—and yes, I’ve told this story before—I ran a joint called the World with a bunch of savvy dudes and after the initial push they never spent a dime maintaining it.

There was one particular period where all the bathrooms were broken. There were holes in the stairs and water was leaking torrentially from a broken pipe. Owner Arthur Weinstein’s solution to our problems was not to fix anything but to just focus lights on them. Well, Andy Warhol walks in one night and I begin blathering and apologizing about how much of a mess the place was. He told me that any place that is too neat or too clean can’t be any fun and that was that.

GunBar seems gritty. Although that grit might be just as big an illusion as the spit and polish glamour of the joints next door, the straight up honest approach to the game that Bobby and Aaron are bringing to the table makes it a must attend kind of place. After my set I had a Heineken and went to say hey to BlackBook head honcho Ari Horowitz and the crew, and I left the DJ booth in the very capable hands of DJ Martial. I caught up with my favorite person in the whole world, student/heartbreaker/ChiChi212 blogger Brittany Mendenhall. I considered getting a free tattoo from Michelle Myles (Daredevil, Fun City) but my next tat is of my Arturo and that must wait as it will take some hours.

I headed off into the night to see if it could be all that it could be. DJ Cassidy was on his way in and I apologized for not attending his birthday on the Intrepid July 6. I told him I was all a blur on July 6 after the long weekend and asked him if he would consider moving his birthday to a more manageable night next year. I think he replied that I’m not invited next year or something like that. The scene on the street outside was glam. The venue was sold out and so many familiar, fabulous folks were enjoying the breezy night knowing that a good party was downstairs. All got in with a little patience, the rarest commodity at these affairs. After that I headed East but won’t tell you all about it.

Midnight’s Children: New York Nightlife Icons

Share Button

Every field of endeavor has its icons, and nightlife is no different. To be an icon in this world, one has to be successful and stay relevant. After all, you’re only as good as your last party. For every genuine icon, there are swarms of scenesters who occupy the pantheon in their own minds — putting the “I” and “con” in the word. But it takes a certain amount of swagger to succeed in this business, so they should be forgiven. Besides, they are always the easiest people to shop for around Christmas: any mirror will do. Listed below are my six New York City club icons — solo artists and teams — and the up-and-comers with the potential to replace them, if only their predecessors would move to India (or somewhere even more remote, like Brooklyn).

ICONS: Club owners Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss, who scored big with Suite 16, Marquee, TAO New York and Las Vegas, LAVO and the new super-hot gastro-lounge Avenue. WHO’S NEXT: Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum currently operate a number of A-list properties including Tenjune, Abe & Arthur’s and Simyone, and have put together a strong marketing company in Emm. If they’re missing an ingredient, it’s downtown cool.

ICON: Nur Khan, whose sophisticated rock chops and social skills (his friends include everyone from Beck to Alexander McQueen) are tough to duplicate. When Rose Bar is at its best, it’s the best in town. WHO’S NEXT: Bowery Electric’s music junkie Jesse Malin, with some help from Rose Bar’s DJ Nick Marc, might do the trick. Throw in Mark Baker for the high-end crowd.

ICON: No matter how many times his sister wears one of those “Save the Beatrice” T-shirts, Paul Sevigny’s iconic inn looks like it has shuttered for good. WHO’S NEXT: Carlos Quirarte and Matt Kliegman of The Jane Ballroom and The Smile come pretty close, but they need a Chloë. Here’s looking at waifish downtown rocker Lissy Trullie.

ICON: For years, Bungalow 8’s affable Amy Sacco has been the reigning queen of New York nightlife. WHO’S NEXT: If Sacco stays in London to be closer to her Blightly Bungalow outpost, which seems possible, could model-turned-club promoter Emma Cleary step up, with a little seasoning and help from Serpentine’s Patrick Duffy?

ICONS: Club czars Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva of Butter and 1Oak fame. WHO’S NEXT: The pair’s partners in 1Oak — Jeffrey Jah and Ronnie Madra — are ready and able to slide right in. With a clipboard courtesy of door guru Binn and the hustle of promoter Adam Alpert, plus the high-end hip hop reach of DJ Cassidy or his manager Yoni Goldberg, they might just have enough edge.

ICONS: Party promoters Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny. WHO’S NEXT: If these two took a powder break, heirs apparent Ladyfag and Desi Santiago would need to go for the gold. Clubdom is a numbers game and a merger with Mr. Black’s iconic Stuart Black would be necessary.

Bend It Like Bentham: Jeffrey Slonim on Surveillance

Share Button

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.

image

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]

Michael Jackson: Best Club Songs Ever

Share Button

An autopsy may reveal it was pills or something similar that shut Michael Jackson down, but the heart really gave out because it once was loved by the whole world and wasn’t anymore. My emotions roller-coastered through a day of death and rumor. A great sadness consumed me as allegations and innuendo, tributes and music bombarded me through open windows and closed doors. From beatbox radios and every TV in the neighborhood, I was told to remember or condemn or to forgive or just listen. The complexity of understanding the meaning of Michael Jackson’s death personally and on that grander scale became harder by the hour. I was enlightened by Jesse Jackson, Quincy Jones, Cher, Paul McCartney, and even Celine Dion. Everybody except Elizabeth Taylor was getting into the act — it is an act we and they will find impossible to follow.

From the point of view that I write about, the never neverland of clubs, Michael Jackson’s passing immortalizes the best songs I’ve ever heard on a dance floor. The music will live on as pure and wondrous and as perfect as the man himself was confusing. I won’t dwell on the bawdy stuff; plenty of others will milk that cow. I’ll just say flat out that “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” or maybe “Billie Jean” are the best songs I’ve ever heard a DJ offer. To this day they still blow a dance floor up. Years ago, there were Michael Jackson club rumors. Some claim that he visited from time to time, unrecognizable in prosthetic makeup or with a face wrapped in scarves. The only place I know he went for sure was Studio 54. I asked Carmen D’Alessio about Michael at Studio 54, and she told me, “I of course remember him coming to Studio, 33 years ago. He was a kid releasing his first album. As the VIP hostess I met everyone my dear, and I do recall clearly a 17-year-old Michael Jackson. He was nice and friendly, and I remember thinking he was very good looking.” A quick Wikipedia read finds Michael listed first in a list of Studio 54 attendees. He led over Nureyev, Mick and Bianca, Elton John, Truman Capote, Mae West, Gloria Swanson, Jackie Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor. Ironically, fair Farrah Fawcett was also listed.

I went to 1Oak, as a tribute was hastily put together with superstar DJ Cassidy only playing M.J. hits to a packed house of the beautiful. O’Neal McKnight danced and lip-synched to tunes, and Robin Thicke sang “Human Nature” in tribute. Cassidy asked over the mic, “Michael, why did we lose you this night?” When I arrived I was skeptical, thinking the idea of this tribute was almost cheesy — and it might have been if not for the sincere efforts by the 1Oak family. We were swept up in Michael’s massive talent as every single impeccably produced tune held the packed house and dance floor. What other artist could have a catalog of songs that would hold a floor for hours?

I stood with Scott Sartiano and Ronnie Madra surrounded by a stunning and smart crowd. Sparklers announced bottles, and Cassidy offered, “We are here to celebrate the music and the life of Michael.” The crowd roared and the waitrons poured, and I became a corny mush. I thought of the immense sadness that must have been consuming him at his end. I wondered if he indeed had just ended it, if he indeed had stopped cause he had enough. I thought of that traffic song, “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” — the lyrics, “If you just had one minute to breathe and they granted you one final wish, would you ask for something like another chance? Or something similar as this, don’t worry so much it will happen to you as sure as your sorrows or joys.” I wondered what Michael would have done with another chance? What would he have changed? What did he want that he with all the fame and riches never got? “We wanna be starting something,” whipped the beautiful crowd into a frenzy, and the scope of our loss drove me to leave and find some summer air. It’s impossible to measure the wattage of the light that went out yesterday. I remember watching James Brown’s funeral on TV and seeing Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton manipulate a frail Michael to the mic for a speech that was brilliant and eye-opening. He eloquently spoke of the soul icon’s love, contributions, and forgiveness as the Brown estate vultures loomed all around. The world that seemed to be tearing him apart will now fight for his bones, and it won’t be short or pretty. None of them will stop until they get enough, yet Michael Jackson’s life and much-talked about excesses leave us with a great lesson. Is there ever enough? Can you ever stop? Is it human nature not to be happy with what you have and to keep pushing and fighting till the heart eventually bursts? If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that all you have can be torn from you in an instant. Rest in peace, Michael Jackson.
Robin Thicke Tickets

Industry Insiders: DJ Cassidy, Celebrity Choice

Share Button

DJ to the stars Cassidy Podell started on the turntables in fifth grade. Since battling club owners for entry into venues (to work, of course) as a teen, the UES-born mixmaster now works with a list of clients on the level of: P Diddy, Jennifer Lopez, Jay Z, Kanye West, Oprah, Barack Obama, and Mariah Carey. And if that’s not enough, the 27-year-old has recently discovered and produced new club-track sensation O’Neil McKnight (the album drops later this year). Cassidy acquaints us with humble beginnings, a first meeting with P Diddy, and his rom-com guilty pleasure.

Were you a club-hopping New York kid at a young age? I was not. I didn’t really go to clubs until I DJed at them. The first real club I went to was called System, and I DJed there when I was in 10th grade.

How’d you get that gig in 10th grade? I got my DJ equipment when I was 10 years old for my 10th birthday. By the time I was in 5th or 6th grade, it became known around school that I was the man to go to for music and for all of your party needs. As I progressed into high school and kids started to throw parties and promote parties around town, I was always the go-to guy to have DJ. Once I was in the 9th or 10th grade, it just kind of snowballed from there. One party led to the next.

Any unfortunate mishaps when you were working as a teen? There were many times the clubs didn’t want to let me in. New York City was a different place back then, and clubs weren’t as strict with the IDs as they are now. But not only that I wasn’t 21; I looked extremely young for my age. It didn’t really matter what kind of fake ID I had, it just wasn’t going to work. Every time I went to a club to DJ, it was almost a battle between the promoters and the nightclub owners. The promoters were trying to sneak me in the back door, and the owners were trying to catch them and say, “Hell no, he’s not coming in.”

When did you start doing A-list party circuits? The summer after my senior year of high school, I met a promoter named Jon Lennon. Jon Lennon was — and still is — a very hot promoter in the city, and he hired me to do a Friday night party at Float, which was then on 51st and Broadway. I did the VIP room upstairs. He liked me, and he gave me a chance, and I remember he paid me $150. That Friday night at Float was really my first hot party. Right at that time, I went away to college to GW in Washington DC, where there were no opportunities for me to expand my now-blossoming DJ career. Quickly I realized that I had to transfer and come back to New York. NYU accepted me, thank God, and I came back to New York as soon as the academic year was over. I spent all of my year at GW scheduling my classes for the middle of the week so I could fly back home every weekend to play at Float. By that time, I had jobs on Saturdays and Sundays and flew back on Monday. So thank God for the people in the admissions office at NYU, or I wouldn’t be talking with you right now.

When did you start producing? Producing came much later on. While I was in college, I bought my first drum machine and my first keyboard, and they pretty much stayed in the box in the living room of my mother’s house. She’d always scream at me to take the stuff out of the box and put it in my room and threatened to throw it out. When I graduated college, I said to myself, I think it’s really time to take producing seriously. I’d been a DJ since I was 10 years old, I had been making money as a DJ since I was maybe 13 years old, and the career is still continuing to grow every day, every year. Creatively, I thought now is a good time once I finished school. It was hard to go to class every day and do my work and do well while having my gigs five, six, or seven nights a week.

What’s going on with O’Neil McKnight’s career now? O’Neil and I met through Puffy. I was doing all of Puffy’s parties, and he was a stylist working for Puff. One night, I came home from the studio — at this point, I had a studio and a partner [Dub-L] — and O’Neil came over and we started playing some beats. O’Neil just started to hum, and I said, “What is that?’ and he said, “I don’t know, I’m just humming,” and then I said, “What is that?” and he was like “I don’t know, I’m just free-styling.” I just told him to keep going and got my iPod recorder out. That song — which we finished writing that night — became the first single that we ever put out, which was “Check Your Coat.” That quickly became the hottest song in the clubs in New York and was on the radio every five seconds. O’Neil wasn’t even signed. That occasionally happens with a rapper, but for someone like O’Neil, who was really kind of like a genre-less artist where you couldn’t really place what it was, it was very rare. We quickly got signed to Universal Motown, and his album, Prom King, is coming out later this year. Dubs and I produced the entire album. It was all so natural. O’Neil never planned to be a singer, he was kind of a jack of all trades, and I never planned to get him to sing. It just happened one night and really became something very special.

Is this something that you want to continue and expand on? Absolutely. I’ve spent the vast majority of my studio time in the past two years producing O’Neil and working on all things related to him. We just finished the album, and now Dubs and I are certainly going to get working on some other projects. It’s a very exciting time in that sphere of my life.

What, in your opinion, is the difference between a good DJ and a great DJ? I think a great DJ knows what to play, when to play it, and how to play it. I really can’t say it any better than that. It’s a skill you either have or don’t have, and when you have it, it can be honed only through experience. I don’t know if I had it when I was 10 or when it developed, but I certainly feel I have it now.

Did you ever have an epiphany moment when you realized that you had the skill? There are many moments where I’ve been reminded why I do what I do and why I love it. A very significant moment in my career was when I met Puffy.

Where did you meet him? I met Puffy DJing at Lotus one night. I was downstairs, and it was empty on an off night. Around 3:30 in the morning, when I was counting the minutes until 4am, I see Puffy and Kim Porter walk out from a dark corner of the room. I hadn’t even realized they were there. They apparently liked what I was playing and came to the center of the dance floor and just danced by themselves for about an hour and a half. I was 18 at the time, and on his way out he came to the DJ booth and said, “Where’s the DJ?” and I said “I’m the DJ,” and he said, “No really, where’s the DJ who is playing all this old shit?” I was playing all these soul classics from the 70s and the 80s. He asked me how old I was, and got a napkin and a pen and he wrote down his number. I procrastinated calling the next day for the whole afternoon, I was so nervous. Finally I got out of class, took my cell phone out, called him, got his voicemail, which said “God is the greatest, leave a message.” So I said, “Hey, it’s DJ Cassidy, met you last night …” He called me back himself the next day, and a week later I was DJing his party for the VMAs, and I’ve DJed every party that he’s thrown since. He was the first celebrity to really take an interest in me, and it was before I was getting props from anyone else. That was definitely a big break in my career.

Where do you hang out? Sushi Seki. Sushi, as much as it kind of sounds like a cliché, is my favorite food. I’m a sushi snob for sure. Sushi Seki is open ’til 3 in the morning, which is not why I love it but it certainly helps me out. I go there after gigs a lot. I also go to 69 Bayard, which is a cheap, hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant on Bayard and Mott that is open until 5 in the morning, which also helps me. My third favorite restaurant is Pink Tea Cup, which is a soul food restaurant. It’s home cooking with a jukebox full of soul, so it’s perfect.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? Upper East Side JAPs.

Any DJ’s you look up to? Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, Jam Master J, and Funkmaster Flex. Since the day I got my turntables and mixer, those four have been the people I’ve looked up to. They’re all from slightly different eras, and all were reasons why I asked my parents for my equipment.

Best summer party you’re looking forward to? I’m most looking forward to my birthday party, which I don’t perform at. Every year — this will be the ninth one that I’ve thrown — I throw a huge birthday party. All my friends come and DJ, and it really is — with the risk of sounding easily self-indulgent — the most fun party of the year. It’s highly anticipated and by far my favorite night of the year. I have amazing things in store for this year that I cannot reveal. July 8th.

What are you doing tonight? Tonight, to be honest, I am probably going to get the movie He’s Just Not That Into You on demand. I’m probably going to be watching that alone on my couch.