A business trip to Miami and its not New York cold climate was supposed to give me a much needed break from everything. Instead I came back more agitated than before to a pile of work that had only gotten bigger in my absence. Feeling my stress, my dear friends basically dragged me from my desk to see the new Martin Scorsese, Leonardo Dicaprio flick Shutter Island. The complexities of the plot and the ambiguous ending did the job. I machinated over the ending, seeking internet chatter and clues and this had the Effect of a Prozac.
But just as I was getting my groove back, distress cried out from my blackberry . A text took me to a different, desperate reality. A friend of mine was correctly dragged to the psych ward at Bellevue. I was tasked to visit. A one-visitor-at-a-time policy left me in the psych ward’s holding area, where one prisoner/patient who was handcuffed to a wheel chair immediately lost it and started screaming at the top of his lungs. He then proceeded to bang his head violently against the wall. For literally a minute nobody even looked. It was business as usual.
Soon other inmates started to get agitated and the authorities took the poor fellow to the “blue room.” Really nice doctors and nurses came to chat with the people around me, who were seeking meds and food for what ailed them. One seemingly nice and sane fellow told me that the headbanger probably was seeking the better meds available at Bellevue. “He didn’t want to go to jail tonight. It was too late to get processed. He’d rather just sleep and be himself here.” Through glass windows people with Albert Einstein’s hairdo and Kramer’s walk stared at me and into space. Some smiled at me. deep secret smiles or sad smiles or “soon you will be in here” smiles. I lowered my hat over my eyes to the exact point where I could still see them without attracting their interest. In a rather chilling moment, reminiscent of the film I just saw, a doctor came to me and said, “Now, how can I help you today?” I swore to him I was just visiting a friend as his trained smile and “I’ve heard this all before” eyes fumbled to believe me. I fumbled for my visitor’s pass and he went back to his flock. When my sad friend and I finally chatted he assured me that where I was was way better than where he was.
I met up with porn pal Ron Jeremy who is in town for a bunch of meetings. Ron and I were born a month and a couple miles apart and attended the same college and share common and uncommon friends. We’re going to go to Lit’s 8th anniversary soiree tonight. A zillion DJs and a creative crowd will descend on this bastion of grungy fun to celebrate and hope. Lit is, as we mentioned here before, the subject of intense scrutiny and legal actions. Targeted as one of the clubs where smoking was prevalent, the jury is literally still out on its fate. We all hope for the best as 50 peoples’ jobs and the cultural importance of both the club and the attached Fuse gallery are at stake.
Last night’s episode of How to Make It in America had to be watched. The show, which fairly accurately describes how to make it in New York, features places and people all to familiar to me. Nightlife locations like Freemans and 1Oak are the background for this very NY scene series. It’s been described as an East Coast Entourage and that seems fair.
Mark Wahlberg produces both shows. Mark used to be a regular at my clubs and was always a gentleman. When I was at my lowest point I remember him stepping up to help. How to Make It in America also features my old friend and club manager Donal Lardner Ward, who I still call Donnie. I spoke to Donnie after I saw the show. I asked him about his role on the series.
“The pilot was made before I was hired. I actually pitched the guys getting the break of being invited to sit with Varvatos and then getting placed so far at the end of the table they might as well have been in another joint. Shit like that happened to me all the time when I was coming up, trying to meet show biz people. So close yet so far. It’s a fun gig, good group, trying to make something true to New York.”
He went on to talk about working with the show’s amazing Luis Guzman and other crew. Donal is one of those people I always talk about. They work in clubs year after year, pursuing their career, their dreams. Without a vibrant nightlife they could not survive. Castings and meetings are unpredictable and during the day. The entertainment crowd needs to work at night until they can support themselves. When a club closes these people desperately pound the pavement or are forced to head back to the wilderness. Donnie was my manager, who jumped in to become my chef one hectic New Year’s eve. He fed Grace Jones and hundreds of others who never suspected he was to have a bright future in showbiz.
After Donnie I caught up with My friend Eli Morgan Gesner, who is a creative consultant for the show. Eli ran the crew that occupied the skateboard ramp I had put in the Tunnel back in the day. I had seen Eric Goode put a small half pipe in Area as part of an installation. The one we placed in the Tunnel was four times the size. Eli supervised the whole thing, maintained the ever-chipping wood and made sure the young skateboarders were in control. Harold Hunter was there, as well as some future bold face names. Eli told me, “Ha! I miss that ramp. I built it. It’s funny. I helped make the movie Kids and I’m skating and I’m skating that very ramp in that scene in the Tunnel. I’ve always wanted to work in film, just got distracted with making skate board companies. How to Make It is a project I’m really proud of. I think it’s a fun and accurate depiction of life hustling in NYC.”
Towards the end of the show my ex, Nicole Pope, appeared as Jon Varvatos’ assistant’s secretary. She had a line and looked amazing. I replayed it 20 times. We’re great friends again. She makes her money in clubs as she pursues her passion acting. I facebooked her in Paris where she is shooting a movie. She was filled with glee that I caught the show. One of the ways Nicole and Donal and Eli and thousands of other talented people can make it in America is if they have jobs, night jobs. Mr. Mayor please stop closing down clubs or making it impossible to keep them viable. An experienced club investor told me that opening anywhere else in this country, you deal with a business climate that encourages you to open and has a “how can I help you?” attitude. For the most part you take in as much money and you don’t have constant harassment from city agencies. He asked me why he should continue here, why should he bother? My answer “because this is where we live” satisfied him … for now