Amanda Lepore’s Big Top and a Diner’s Fallen Empire

Amanda Lepore’s BIG*TOP, a weekly Wednesday night party that started last night, is.. well, over the top. It is a triumph of glitz, glam and, more importantly, fun. All the usual and unusual gathered for this 3-ring purpose. We often judge these “fashion fag” events by the familiar faces, the cast of tried and true characters who have shaped this scene for decades. Their presence laid credence and their attendance was often the barometer of success. What I saw yesterday was much better. A new generation as magnificently styled, as beautiful and as relevant as days of yore has taken over. They needn’t be defined by what was, but do carry respect for those like hosts Kenny Kenny and Amanda Lepore who have, for eons, broke it out, tore it and wore it without getting worn out. Many of the legends who led the way have moved on to live on farms or become stylists to the stars or some such thing and are not seen as often at these galas. Of course many have succumbed to the pains that are inevitably the price of their past pleasures. Having attended the services of Marc Berkley earlier in the evening I was melancholy as I walked to Amanda’s soiree. A chill spring wind added to the mood. Then sparkles from a glass-enhanced sidewalk broke the spell. If I were king of the forest all sidewalks would dazzle.

I was whisked into carnival through the Bowlmor lanes entrance. Carnival is the upper floor of the University place. It used to be called Pressure and not pleasure, as it wasn’t. Carnival is wonderful. Filled with Coney-like amusements and a colorful high-tented ceiling. It was a perfect background for this fun loving crew. I chatted up door host—Josie—who was head to toe in his boyfriend’s “nude ensemble.” Normally Josie is strictly a Christian Louboutin man but the custom shoes created by his sig-nif, the Project Runway alum Wesley Nault of Feld and Nault, Josie told me how doing the door for Amanda and Kenny was “a great honor—it’s where Kenny started.” He greeted each patron with a real smile and a “thank you for coming.”

Upstairs, Kenny introduced me to new creatures of the night in all shapes and sizes. He giggled with glee as a brash youngin’ hit him up hard and cutesy for a drink ticket. The energy and love from this gathering of mixed nuts broke me from my mood. I’m glad to be friends again with Kenny. Over the years the club world we helped create and enjoyed had faded into an elusive mist. The fun, the fashion, the love couldn’t be relived it seemed. Suzanne Bartsch had tried a few times but the times were not right. Maybe too close to the crash and burn of this scene in the late nineties. She has had a ginormous success with Kenny with her Sunday nights at Greenhouse. She has kept the embers of this form of nightlife alive for years while everyplace else digressed into the model/bottle/jet-set formula.

This second weekly event, for what was sometimes called the Club Kid crowd, is better than all the other attempts at recapturing or redefining this niche of nightlife. The moniker “Club Kid” doesn’t apply any longer. It’s a dead and buried concept. I use it only to reference the time in clubs when preparing your evening’s outfit was a big part of the lifestyle. I hate to define this world in the image of the club kids. That era’s leader, Michael Alig, has been incarcerated for 13 years and, of course, was an evil mess for a few before that. This crowd knows him only from a bad movie. However, it must be noted that outside of Susanne’s monthlies back in the day at the Copacabana and other spots, or her New Years Eve soirees, it was Michael who led us down the path of spectacle. I’m glad that the good things Michael pushed have survived without a trace of the negatives that tore that house down. It’s like, out of all the fertilizer that Alig and his crew left behind so many years ago, these newbies have sprouted. They are not defined by what was. Only I am. I was awed by the return to form. I was inspired that it was devoid of the bad energy and that creativity in fashion and attitude was tempered with just enough humility and respect to renew my hope. For years I have said to those wallowing in “good old days’ banter that it could come back, that the missed spirit is still all around. I congratulate and thank Amanda, Kenny and Joey Rosa for making it so. Amanda Lepore’s big top is undeniable.

The closing of the Empire Diner, which has for decades been the gathering place of so many in the club world, leaves me hungry. Late-night avocado vinaigrettes, sweet potato fries and hot fudge sundaes have defined my waistline forever. My favorite memory was having Sunday brunch looking forward to day of sunshine and dog walking while leather queens fueled up next to me, gearing up for a day at nearby Sound Factory or Twilo. I have been told by a couple people, who are sometimes right, that the crew from Union Square’s staple Coffee Shop might take it over.

On a last note, word came to me from sources about comments made about Marc Berkley after his death by mega DJ Peter Rauhofer, who will define Santos Party House this Saturday. Over the years I have heard despicable things come from the mouth of this Grammy-award winning producer/DJ, who I respect professionally. On this occasion, when I called around to confirm what I heard, I was told “it isn’t worth my time to say anything” and that “he has beef with everybody” and that “you can’t dignify the things that come out of Peter’s mouth” and “an evil, destructive, egomaniac who has NO care for you or anything else including his fellow DJs, promoters, employees” and so on. I have lots of these. I must say that the few times I have had dealings with Peter, we had minor beef—only once—but I hear of it all the time. Marc Berkley was no angel for sure, but if the remarks attributed to him are true, Peter should try to reflect on the message he is putting out there. If he wants to be defined as an asshole there are people, like me, who will help him with this endeavor.

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