All images by Victor P. Corona
Leaving The Box on Valentine’s Night, my hair is wet with Jameson and in my pocket are several keepsake golden condoms stamped with “A DECADE OF DECADENCE.” Despite my countless magical nights at The Box, I had wondered how the downtown hotspot could deliver on the huge hype surrounding its ten-year anniversary blowout party. So I walked in excited but unsure about what to expect, despite devoting a big chapter to The Box in my upcoming book about downtown New York, Night Class: A Downtown Memoir.
Approaching the door I’m accompanied by writer and performer Alexandra Warrick, who, like me, adores the overwhelming rush of the venue’s madcap performances. Suave keeper of the door Giza Selimi welcomes Box staff members assembling for the night and guests eager to see what all the fuss is about.
The place is already packed to the gills. As in, cannot move, elbows in your back, shoulders in your throat CROWDED. A new documentary about The Box co-directed by Laura Weyl is being screened, and the crowd loudly cheers and laughs whenever a known face appears. These are regulars. This is a family night.
After the screening, Alexandra and I sip Stellas at the bar while a blonde aerialist in white lingerie twirls and spins above us. A row of men behind me watch her, mouths open.
Soon the first act starts with revered Master of Ceremonies Raven O popping out alongside beautiful Box Mistresses Kimberly Nichole and Ashley Stroud, all armed with some of the most potent voices in the city and enough style, sass, and stage savvy to spill out onto Chrystie Street. The great Narcissister ends her act with a sparkler in her vagina and the crowd can feel the heat from the golden plumes of Flambeaux’s wild fire eating feast.
On our way to get another beer (two beer limit: I have a class to teach the next day), a brush past Fab 5 Freddy and air kisses with Daphne Sumtimez. Lindsay Lohan walks by and I consider devoting my life to her new global crusades. Instead I stick with Alexandra. I hear afterward that Zoë Kravitz, Damian Loeb, Josh Lucas, and Susan Sarandon were all in the festive mix too.
DeeDee Luxe, a stunningly gorgeous Box performer, arrives with dashing boyfriend Eric Otero, a nightlife impresario and mastermind behind the Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose Bar. We huddle for selfies and chat about DeeDee coming to my sociology class next week to discuss her own art and science of nightlife. Eric and I chat about how most New York nightclubs only seem to last around four to five years and toast to a decade of Box spectacles.
Co-founder Richard Kimmel is proud, smiling, and ready to greet all assembled. Everywhere he and fellow co-founder Simon Hammerstein go they’re bum-rushed by well-wishers ready to bestow hugs, kisses, and congratulations. Simon gives a speech thanking everyone, while all the staff and performers crowd onstage for an epic curtain call. People are now teetering off the stage and about to roll into the audience but they don’t care. They’re thrilled, beaming, drunk.
And then the whispers. Who’s the surprise guest performer? Rose Wood had refused to tell me. The curtains pull back. PUSSY RIOT. Nadya Tolokonnikova sings “Straight Outta Vagina” while wearing a tuxedo and top hat. A hypermodern poetic punk Marlene Dietrich at The Box. Brilliant. Behind her, neon-haired women caged in jail cells burst out to accost policemen wearing Trump wigs.
Finally, the great Rose Wood, my dear friend and beloved Mother of The Box, struts around, gulps from a Jameson bottle and spits it all out at the front row, leaving Alexandra and me moist. Baptized by the Jameson spew, the night is almost complete. But not yet. Rose sits on the bottle and lifts it up via the gripping power of her anus. I’ve seen her perform plenty of times but still the same thrill and slight fright about what she’ll spit or throw out at us. We meet up near the bar after her act to debrief on the night’s affairs. The Mother of The Box is exhausted but satisfied. After hugging Rose goodbye, we slip out of the club, still packed around four in the morning. I had a class to teach in a few hours.