Your 2011 LA Grammy Party Roundup

With Hollywood awards season reaching its crescendo, we’d forgive you for thinking movie folk have all the fun. But this Sunday, the Grammys will aim to remind you that the music industry is full of famous people, too, and that like their cinematic counterparts, they love a good party. Here are a few of the best events in Los Angeles leading up to Sunday’s big show.

Last night, Essence magazine hosted a salute to Janelle Monae at Playhouse for the second-annual “Black Women in Music” event, with Joy Bryant hosting. A private party, obviously, and still the organizers had to disinvite previously confirmed guests. Classy. But the Essence party was a blip on the radar compared to the usual lineup of heavyweights. On Saturday, we have Clive Davis’ annual bash at the Beverly Hilton, and the Jimmy Fallon-hosted Roots jam session at the Music Box. Then on Sunday, Sony takes over the Beverly Hills Hotel, EMI throws down at Milk Studios, and Warner Music hosts a bash at Soho House.

But what would a weekend of exclusive parties be without a week of exclusive parties leading up to them? Tonight, the annual Peapod event goes down. Fresh off their questionable half time show, The Black Eyed Peas headline the Bacardi-sponsored event at the Music Box. Playhouse has Jermaine Dupri’s annual bash tonight with DJ Vice, and on Friday, Beyonce will be in attendance. Also on Friday, the annual “Friends & Family” party will take place at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, where you can expect pop Svengali Dr. Luke. At Bardot and the connected larger club Avalon, Usher held a party Thursday night. Friday, Bruno Mars hosts a separate event in the same space.

On Saturday, expect less star-power but more actual good music, when Groove Armada toasts their fantastic Grammy nominated Black Light at Supper Club with Jason Bentley and Dirty Vegas. And Sunday, Jay-Z will brunch at a Gucci/Roc Nation event. The biggest parties, however, have yet to leak. Arcade Fire is expected to play somewhere, where a certain someone will probably not be attendance.

LA’s Redbury Celebrates Grand Opening with Opulence

The recession is over. At least it felt that way last night inside Hollywood’s Redbury hotel. SBE, the nightlife giant and growing hospitality player in L.A., held a grand opening celebration Wednesday evening, toasting the new boutique long-term stay property with a bash that was as opulent as it was blissfully economically tone deaf.

A full banquet in addition to tray-passed appetizers from their new restaurant Cleo (which received an early nod of approval from the Los Angeles Times’ famously picky food critic) won over the 800 or so invited guests, who also indulged in elaborate cocktails (the Lotus Flower in particular was a winner, with Krol Vodka, muddled fresh blackberries, lemon juice, elderflower liqueur and soda).

The event was surprising to some locals, considering SBE has had well-publicized economic problems in late 2009 and early 2010. But SBE’s CEO Sam Nazarian and the real money behind the hotel, the CIM Group, know they have a winning hand to play with The Redbury, and last night, they played it Vegas-style.

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The party’s vibe was playful, with models’ garb landing somewhere between Marie Antoinette and an acid trip. Several guests commented on what a nice job it might be to be paid to sit and look pretty. SBE secured permits to have Dave Navarro’s “hip” cover band Camp Freddy play inside a ballroom, and Macy Gray sang a tune with the band. But most people (everyone from Los Angeles’ Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to Lance Bass) seemed content to simply drink, eat and meander throughout the hotel across the street from the iconic Capitol Records building.

The Redbury, awash in red both outside and inside the hotel, boasts large rooms with kitchens that feel more like suites. At around $250 a night, the hotel is a steal for anyone coming to Hollywood in search of luxury. Rates at the W across the street are about the same, but the rooms are half the size, darker and none of them come with the whimsical touches that make the Redbury unique, like record players with actual LPs inside each room.

To be sure, you’ll want to request a higher floor if you book a room here; the hotel is right next door to the massive Avalon nightclub and some rooms on low floors have a view of the Avalon’s trash area. In an area with surprisingly few hotel choices, The Redbury looks set to do well this Fall with leisure travelers, but luring the business set will be a tougher nut for Nazarian and SBE to crack.

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Where to See the Best DJs in America

DJing is a funny thing. Advances in technology have made it so that anyone with a laptop and iTunes can play their favorite tracks at a party and call themselves a DJ. But for party purists all over the world, a true DJ someone who lives and dies by the beat, and who can control a dance floor of hundreds, sometimes thousands, with the flick of a switch. On any given night in clubs all over the country, these masters of the mix are getting the party started (and keeping it going) so you don’t have to. Here’s a list of where to catch the most scorching sets around.

NYC Pacha: Ibiza by way of Hell’s Kitchen. This is NYC’s best go at a Euro megaclub mock-up, and likewise, it’s where the world’s biggest DJs come to spin. Unless you’re a hardcore techno-head, you’ve probably never heard of names like Mark Knight, Benny Benassi, and Jonathan Peters. But you can bet the sea of sweaty, ecstatic revelers, well, have. Santos’ Party House: DJs flock to sound systems like flies do to, well, you get the picture. Boasting one of the best speaker sets in town, mixers from all genres of music flock to this bi-level downtown boite. The best place in Manhattan to discover noise from the underground. Cielo: World-class DJ Nicolas Matar opened Cielo after a nine year residency in Ibiza during the golden era of House, so you know that this ultra-futuristic club attracts only the best talent behind the decks. Legends like Danny Tenaglia, Richie Hawtin and Frankie Knuckles are frequent guests.

MIAMI Space: In a town notorious for its after-hours clubs, this is the crown jewel. Some of the biggest DJs in the world have residencies here, and there’s a never-ending lineup of superstar guests delivering high octane well after the sun rises. World’s away from the SoBe bling parade, this is the mecca for dance and trance freaks. LIV: Tiesto—the world’s best known DJ—has gone on record saying this Vegas-style megaclub at the Fontainebleau is his favorite in the world. His reasons: “high ceilings, good sound system, beautiful people.” Works for us. Mynt Ultra Lounge: Not quite a lounge, not when international DJs like Cedric Gervais celebrate their birthdays here with pulverizing sets. Uber exclusivity on the South Beach strip. Celebs constantly linger around the elevated, see-and-be-seen DJ bootbh.

LOS ANGELES Avalon: The readers of URB.com, a hub for lovers of all things electronica, named this club their venue of the year for 2009 in a year end readers poll. The legendary building, once known as The Palace, has been operational for over 80 years. Dance is with the ghosts of Dean Martin and Groucho Marx at Avaland, the weekly Saturday parties that draw top talent in the DJ world. V Lounge: Most danceclubs in LA are caught up in the Hollywood nightlife machine, but not V Lounge. Here, it’s all about the music. Fridays with DJs Stardom and Nightlife remain popular, and on Saturdays, DJ Ammo, who has spun at L.A.’s biggest and best clubs, mans the decks. Playhouse: Parties rage almost every night of the week at multi-level club. Occasional live music, but you can expect DJs most nights. Their Friday night jam Dirty Sexy House speaks for itself. Two DJs spinning simultaneously, one up top, another bellow. New York mainstay Jesse Marco has been known to show up from time to time to blow the roof of, just because he can.

Top 10 Friday Night Dance Parties

Guys may come from Mars, and women from Venus, but Friday night dance parties are universal lingo. From glittering warehouses to stealth doors at intimate lounges, these slick floors ache for some unbridled dancing debauchery.

Butter (NYC) – Friday night party Whipped is so fresh, most can’t believe it’s Butter. Resident hipster DJs Matt&Maia draw out big name fashion folks like Alexander Wang and the Ronsons and buddy up with special guest DJs like Interpol’s Paul Banks. Mixed clientele harbor a serious need to put on their dancing Miu Mius. ● Cielo (NYC) – New York’s dance addiction reigns supreme. Deep Space house heads maintain the sunken dance floor, which still attracts the pretty people looking to move something.

Avalon (LA) – Headliners and hipsters live harmoniously in this Hollywood dance palace. The multilevel playground draws fist pumpers, dance floor grinders, and A-listers. Timberlake, Timbaland … it doesn’t matter when you’re dancing ’til the sun comes up. ● Circle Bar (LA) – This toe-tapping Friday night hotspot is an LA singles favorite. A dark, circular pick-up spot, delicious for loud beats, dance floor writhing, riffs, and of course bringing someone home. ● Element (LA) – Bottle service and stellar sound system round out this public warehouse club with a private party rep. Handsome variety of the young n’ dumb prevail when it’s not a celeb-fest: Albas, Johanssons, Bartons, plus the men that worship them. ● Space (Miami) – Space often lures in big-time DJs like Danny Tenaglia, Paul Van Dyk, Tiesto, and Nic Fanculli and is definitely not for dilettantes who prefer “lounges” and, um, “conversation.” Since Saturday’s party usually translates to a Monday hangover, it’s only natural this dance haven started a Friday night after hours. Not for the faint of heart, or feet. ● 1Oak (NYC) – Certainly “one of a kind,” Friday night starts off with a lot of stargazing and label watching. When the PYTs finally down enough Veuve, the dance floor goes off, becoming one glittering mass of movers and shakers. ●Bardot (LA) – The LA dance party scene is not complete without a collection of oh-so-elite patrons and at least one stealth door. Surprise guest musical performances and Audrey Hepburn look-alikes make this secret dance den a prime after hours joint. DJ Sweet P hosts the late night Friday, where the packed dance floor goes until 7am. ● LIV (Miami) -Drinks are impossibly strong, outfits are impossibly tight and tiny; impossible not to have a good, wild time. Friday night plays host to some heavy hitting DJs, and special performances by the likes of Kid Cudi — making it easier to party like a rock star. ● Tenjune (NYC) – While Tuesday night is the “hot” night to rubberneck, Friday attracts straight up dancers. Bottle models and dangerously cute co-eds are TJ’s coup; oblivious to anything but vodka tonics and thumping tunes. If you aren’t moving, grab a girl and grind lest you be pushed up against a wall. Posted in Nightlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Industry Insiders: Tony Daly, Master of the House

After-hours house parties in the Hollywood Hills are infamous the world over, and nightlife aficionados Tony Daly and David Judaken considered just that while outlining the concept behind LA hot spot, MyHouse. Co-owner Daly talks fully-functioning ovens and bathtubs in a nightclub where soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo stops by to douse crowds with six-liter bottles of champagne.

What’s your position at MyHouse? I’m the co-owner and operating owner of MyHouse. My partner, David Judaken, previously owned a club called Garden of Eden, and I came in with him on the newly-remodeled MyHouse. I also run the other clubs our company operates, which are Crimson, Opera, and Mood. I focus my efforts on our marketing and outreach.

What was your first job in the industry? When I was 21 years old, I worked in Las Vegas for the MGM Grand, in the public relations department, and when I got out of college, I started doing promotions and marketing for Garden of Eden. Eventually I moved on to clubs — A.D., Lounge, Pearl nightclub, and I also did the opening of Avalon in L.A..

Anyone in the industry you look up to? My partner David Judaken is actually my mentor. I promoted at his club at 22 years old, and I’ve gone into partnership with him over every other nightclub owner in the city because of his work ethic and integrity. In a very dysfunctional business, to have integrity and to do everything the right way is rare; I’m trying to model myself after that. He leads by example.

What’s the concept behind MyHouse? The best parties in LA typically tend to be house parties, so we had a big space with an upstairs mezzanine and when Dodd Mitchell came in, he looked around he said, “Let’s make a house,” because that’s where the parties are. We literally tried to make a house, not just a house theme. We went as far as building a kitchen with ovens that work and we bake cookies. Our bar has a stove top, a coffee maker, and we have a sunken living room with TVs that are hooked up to DirecTV and Playstations. Our upstairs bedroom has a bathtub with skulls that shoot water, and there’s a huge king-sized bed. Every piece of furniture is original and different, not just club booths. We have movable furniture and shaggy area rugs in a nightclub, which is pretty insane. You feel like you’re in a house, so we’ve held our meetings there and we’ve done tasting for our restaurant there because we have a functional kitchen and dining room. At night, all of these areas are used for bottle service or seating elements so people feel like they’re actually partying in someone’s home.

Are themed nights a big part of the MyHouse experience? We’re trying to do Guitar Hero Tuesdays, and we’ve had an Xbox party using all the TVs, but mostly we use the game consoles for private events. We want people partying and having fun like it’s an actual nightclub so we haven’t really broken out the Wii post-10pm.

Aesthetically it’s set up like a house, but is there still a club vibe? Yeah, the DJ doesn’t even spin on a typical booth, instead he’s on a custom-designed DJ area where he puts his equipment on top of what would look like a table in someone’s house. We have areas with platforms where people can stand and dance. During the construction process, Dodd wanted to go completely “house,” but we explained that we needed things like backs on the couches because in the club environment people like to sit up on the couches. We tailored the couches so people could sit or dance on them, but they don’t look any different from the other furniture in the house.

What’s the best night you’ve had at one of your clubs? It was a Wednesday night at MyHouse, and we had Cristiano Ronaldo in. He’d just brokered his deal with Manchester United, so they purchased two six-liter bottles of Ace of Spades Champagne, which is roughly the equivalent of nine bottles of Champagne in one bottle. The crowd was going crazy and when the bottle came out, we played the Star Wars theme and Ronaldo took the bottle and sprayed the entire crowd — with a very, very, very expensive bottle of Champagne. The bottle is huge and when he’s shaking the thing, it sprays from one side of the dance floor to the other. That was a fun night, but that doesn’t happen every week. It was raining Champagne.

Notice any negative trends in the hospitality industry? One of the negative trends in LA is a saturation of nightclubs in the marketplace, which affects the longevity of a club. Whereas the Garden of Eden, for example, was around for ten years, now we’re looking to stay with top quality guests for about two years, and then you have to go into another tier of promotion. Within three or four years, you almost have to remodel your club or else you become obsolete. This happened because the city has allowed too many nightclubs and given out too many entitlements.

What are your favorite places to party and dine in L.A.? I enjoy dining at our new restaurant East, and I also like a smaller Italian restaurant called Pace, which is off the beaten path and not very Hollywood-sceney. As far as clubs go, occasionally I’ll stop by Villa, because it’s a very small club and the owner is a good friend. It’s a 90 to 100 person club so it’s a complete departure from the big club environment and you can go with a couple of friends and actually have a conversation while enjoying the energy.

What’s the scoop on the new restaurant, East? East is another partnership between Syndicate Hospitality and Dodd Mitchell, which opened on September 2, and Dodd did the design. It’s an Asian/international fusion restaurant, and we’re doing several sashimi dishes, but no traditional sushi. Our sauces will be very inventive with a Latin flavor, and we’ll also have over 40 cooked items which range from lamb, to prawns — so we have land, sea and air covered.

How do you wind down when you’re not working at one of your clubs? I wind down with poker. Occasionally I’ll go and play because it keeps your mind away from the crazy lifestyle for a bit. I work day and night and it’s almost like I have two jobs. My life is essentially in the hospitality industry, whether it’s Sunday morning or a Wednesday afternoon. You’re constantly being called or put to work, so I really don’t have any down time, but occasionally I’ll go play some poker at one of the casinos.

Travis Pastrana Roasted & Toasted

How many people get to have an evening honoring their life’s achievements attended by famous peers, famous comedians, and the press corps at the ready? Most of the time you’ve gotta be an old, like Don Rickles or William Shatner, to get such treatment. But Travis Pastrana, at the ripe young age of 25, is getting the star treatment tonight at the Avalon, courtesy of Red Bull, in an unusual event that combines sports with nightlife. A celebration of one’s life at 25 might be considered premature for most, but Pastrana has already double back-flipped a motorcycle, jumped out of an airplane without a parachute, and won nine X-Games gold medals.

His pals, including skateboarder Ryan Sheckler of MTV’s Life of Ryan, supercross champion James Stewart, and cast members from MTV’s Nitro Circus will be on hand to help roast the young danger-seeker. They will be assisted by a real live comedian, Arj Barker from Flight of the Conchords. Red carpet starts at 7, Red Bull Toasted starts at 8. Tickets available for $15 via Travis’ website.

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Dita Von Teese and Murray Hill Tear Up Avalon

Dita Von Teese likes to take baths. Last night at Avalon, for her first appearance in L.A. in two years, she took two baths in just an hour and a half, easily more than I take in a few weeks. (I do bathe, just the less glamorous way — standing up in a shower). Though I’d seen the host, Murray Hill, more times than I can count, it was my first time seeing Dita perform.

She did three sets — two of which she performs at the Crazy Horse in Paris: one set to her own remake of a Mae West tune, “A Guy What Takes His Time” that ended with her in a black bathtub giving herself a very luxurious bath; a second one put a twist on her classic martini glass act (it’s been altered to signify a Cointreau cocktail — they were the night’s sponsor). And her final act was brand new. It was dubbed “The Opium Den” and was set partially to the Cure’s “Lullaby,” and it featured an elaborate red and orange glowing “Oriental” set.

Dita’s burlesque, and to a large extent, the first half of the show’s acts, including Ava Garter (her bff from high school), a smashing redhead, Mayte, and Gregg Romeo, were historically correct burlesque (right up to Mayte’s belly dancing, sword-balancing act). Though they are performers during the “new burlesque” movement — which for all intents and purposes really started at the end of the 90s with Jo Boobs and Blue Angel in NYC, and here with Michelle Carr and Velvet Hammer — they are really old-school burlesque.

If you watch an old burlesque video of Tempest Storm or Bettie Page, you will be surprised by how little happens, and for how long. Minutes go by and barely an item of clothing is removed; the dancer just stands and shimmies with a suggestive smile, moving elegantly around the stage before removing an item of clothing. In this way, Dita’s act is quite similar.

While New York and neo-burlesque is almost more like theater — with mini-stories told in less five minutes — I once saw Dirty Martini get ready for a date, set the dinner table, get stood up, have a breakdown, and commit suicide while she got totally naked. Dita’s old school burlesque is an exercise in patience.

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In the 1950s, a glimpse of thigh — let alone a flash of tummy — was truly titillating, and so teasing out the full reveal was really meaningful. Today, however, we know exactly what naked ladies look like, so watching Dita slither around on the stage artfully picking off clothing is less exciting than it should be. It was less like watching a performance than watching a modeling shoot in progress: on the big screens flanking the stage, you could see her lips quivering, her eyebrows arching just so. The faint movement of her mouth, created a feeling. She was like a sponge, soaking in adulation while looking incredibly beautiful.

There was also surprisingly less tease than I expected. Dita didn’t have layers upon layers of clothing to peel off; usually she went through one phase of deliciously glittery, alluring costuming, before we got the titty shot. However, she has a rockin’ body that I would eat puppies to have myself, so I am perfectly happy to ogle her all night long.

As someone who chronicled the New York burlesque scene for the Village Voice, it was interesting to see the difference between the two coasts — and I was curious to see how our favorite uncle, Murray Hill, would play to an L.A. crowd that has no context for Murray. Who, they must have been wondering, is this androgynous Benny Hill-like man wearing a tuxedo worthy of Vegas with a high squeaky voice?

Sweet-cheeked Murray seems to have undergone a bit of a transformation in the last few years. He’s saltier for one thing; his old partner at club Casanova (a long ago drag king night that’s ancient history), Mo Fischer, who used to do drag as Mo B. Dick, noted “Murray’s cursing a lot more.” Just then he uttered, “Oh, shit!”

And he’s a bit more aggressive, going after the laughs, calling out Carmen Electra (who may or may not have been in the house) and gave out his numbers (if you were paying attention, they were all real), and the audience members a hard time. “This is my L.A. debut and you’re fucking Twittering!” he chided one fool who was busy texting down in front.

Most importantly, though, Murray was able to rile up the crowd before the performers came on, stretching their names like taffy. “Put your hands together for the International Queen of Burlesque,” he said, “Dita Vooooooooooooooon Teeeeeeeeeeeeeese!” It was big. It was showbiz.

That was the other thing: burlesque — or at least Dita’s burlesque — is big here. Big space: held at Avalon, which has a capacity to hold a few thousand people, and was sold out. There were multitudes of celebrities in the audience: we spied Margaret Cho and Jorja Fox, (of CSI: Las Vegas), as well as Jenny Lewis (or at least her exact replica). The size of L.A.’s geography lends itself to making burlesque seem more than a quick and dirty striptease in a tiny hovel of a club in the Lower East Side. Still the acts during the second half of the show managed to invoke the edgier East Side of both coasts, (here it would be the Silverlake contingent).

Raja, the transsexual contestant from America’s Next Top Model, did a classic “reverse strip,” which is where you start out naked and get dressed. It takes on a new, mournful meaning when the performer in question is a man who should be a woman, putting on women’s attire and emerging as her true self. A moving portrait.

Raja was followed by pint-size package Selene Luna, an L.A. favorite. She is a little person, and stands all of three feet ten inches tall; she arrived on stage in a makeshift motorcycle, smoking and pouting, and very easily stole the show. I looked back up at the top rows in the V.I.P. section and could see all the way from the front of the stage that Carr and her friends were on their feet with their fists in the air cheering on their friend, victorious.

The last act before Dita’s “Opium Den” finale, Kerry Wee, performed almost entirely in the dark. We soon learned why: her act was orgasmic moans and wails set to a crescendo of tap dancing. It was the sort of thing that could be called performance art and it could have been performed in a very different context. As she reached her climax, tapping furiously and moaning ecstatically, the crowd cheered her on.

When she was finished, we all exhaled. I needed a cigarette. To quote Murray, “Oh, shit!”

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Murray Hill, International Man of Mystery

There may be a push to a performance-based nightclub scene as more and more clubs explore alternative ways to attract moths to their fading lamps. The Box has certainly led the way for this generation but its shocking, or often described as “disgusting approach,” to performance may not be necessary. There are inklings of a burlesque revival, which has small but tenacious roots in places like Corio and The Slipper Room. Dita Von Teese is the grand dame of this genre. I caught her act over at the now-defunct E. 27th Street haunt Happy Valley, when she performed for Suzanne and Kenny. Her performance in an oversized champagne glass nearly drove me to drink. Murray Hill, however, is a performance artist who I have seen for almost 15 years. His act has evolved from a distraction to a big time “show biz” attraction. Murray will be joining Dita tomorrow night in L.A. and I expect sparks. Catch Murray as soon as you can while you can get it cheap. The world just might be ready for him at exactly the same time he is sober and honed to meet the world.

I’m sitting here with Murray Hill—let’s get spelling the spelling right. S-H-O-W-B-I-Z

Tell me how the name came about… Well, there’s two versions: One of the versions is the Showbiz version–I was born in the backseat of a cab on 23rd Street and Third Avenue and then the cab driver asked my father, “Is it a boy or a girl?” And my father said, “No.” You laugh, that’s good, you get it. But I actually came to N.Y. around 90-something and went to Life for the the first time in 96 or 97. I was at grad school at the School of Visual Arts. And you know Fancy? Him and Penny and that crew, that’s the first club thing I got into at the “999999’s.”

Penny Arcade? Penny Tuesdae, way back. Fancy had this night called the “999999’s,” at Flamingo East and I was still in grad school and I didn’t have a name yet—I was unnamed for like 2 weeks.

So you don’t have a name yet, but you are a performance artist at this point? No, I was a photographer; I was going to grad school for photography and media.

So you were going to begin to perform, and you needed a name? I got to it by getting to my name. So Fancy said I’m starting this big Swing club—you know, I’ve been through all the phases now, Swing, that was the cocktail phase back then. And he’s like I’d love for you to come and be a pinup girl with your camera. I wanted to do the night, the New York nightlife, I wanted to get into it, but we both thought, “no that doesn’t seem right,” so he got me a suit–my first fancy suit–and I went to college with him in Boston. It was this ugly brown thing, a gold tuxedo ruffle shirt, and he says, “Well what about this?” and I said that feels more natural. Now I’d been photographing drag queens in Boston, I have early pics from those first few weeks of me in the bathroom wearing this crazy suit, and you know, I have cheekbones and my name was gonna be BJ.

BJ? I know, real creative. I lived in Murray Hill. My first apartment was on 23rd and Lexington. I had a post office box on 23rd Street, and one day I was walking down the street and every single thing was Murray Hill — Murray Hill Post Office, Murray Hill Cleaners, Murray Hill Cinemas, and it just stuck.

Your Eureka moment, an epiphany! It was really a moment. There’s been a couple of twists, because Murray Hill is actually the name of an old vaudevillian from the 1800s who lived in NY, and I’ve been told that Murray Hill was the name of a politician—because, I ran for mayor. One of the first things I did, was the name of a politician who died who was actually a woman.

The story is, he lived as this hard drinking tough political man, and during the autopsy they discovered that he was a woman. Yeah, and it’s Murray Hill, isn’t that crazy? I had no knowledge of that.

So you don’t call yourself a drag king? No I don’t….

But you are a woman, performing as a man. The audience knows you’re a woman most of the time. Not as much these days. I think New York has changed.

You don’t like to call yourself a drag king, but that’s the only term I have. Explain this to me. There’s not a lot of language. I got into New York nightlife right at the very end, you know what I mean? Life was still kicking the clubs, Jackie Beat was doing every night, it wasn’t dead like it is now for drag. You can’t go out 5 nights a week anymore and see a show in the East Village. It sucks. So I came in at the tail end, Flamingo East was the only place, and at that time I used “drag king,” because there was no other language. Musto first called me that. The press got excited, but at that time there wasn’t a lot of us, there was like 7 of us doing a Sunday night called club Casanova, and I was doing Flamingo East to all the straight hipsters. At Casanova there was the only drag king night in the country, and from there it just spawned all over the place. At that point I was comfortable using the term “drag king,” but not as I got more mainstream. I have those old values of drag etiquette, like you never give your other name ever. But it’s a dying breed, this is it! And no one’s like me on the “drag king,” side.

What about on the women’s side? The W-word—is it a bad word? No it’s not a bad word, but here’s the other thing from the old days–in the queer scene, everybody says “transgender.” Justin Bond says “transgender” now. But when I was in high school, college, even in New York—we didn’t’ use those words. So I kind of developed all the stuff before everybody has all these words now.

Before everybody became PC… Well it wasn’t all these labels. If you were a dyke, you were butch or fem—that was it. And if you’re drag, you’re either a queen or a bear. Today, the kids who come to my bingo night, I’m blown out of the water by the identity everyone has, they’re out about it. They’ve been out since they were in high school, they’re having surgery—it’s crazy! Again, I missed all that.

Tell me about the bingo… I do a bingo night, at Bowery Poetry Club, it’s off the hook it’s every Monday from 7 – 10p.m.

I have seen you a number of times recently and I think the show is amazing, I think you have come into your own. It was never about shock value with an old school guy like me. Even though it’s friendly, it’s a little shocking for some people.

You’re going to be performing with Dita Von Teese, tell me about that. She’s been at the Crazy Horse in Paris and really blowing it out over there, she’s the top burlesque performer in the world, she really is.

I talked about her as being the Babe Ruth of modern burlesque in Melody Sweets’ interview. She is the person who is most likely to take this incredible art which struggles under the surface to the mainstream. RuPaul took drag queens out into the mainstream, Milton Berle and many others did it before, but RuPaul did it for this generation. But anyway, I’ve seen your act, and I’ve seen Dita’s act, which is, I mean, I was dragged kicking and screaming to see her at Happy Valley and it was an unbelievable show. She lives up to hype. New Yorkers are jaded and we perform at shit boxes, but I did some shows with her in Seattle and it was the first time we’d met and they were just like whoa—we gotta have this guy in our big L.A. show.

What are you doing with Dita? At Crazy Horse in Paris, she debuted these huge new numbers, but she hasn’t performed in L.A. in about 5 years. So this show is at Avalon and it’s me, a couple of local guests and her, and she’s doing 3 new performances and she goes out and does 10 to 15 minute performances. She’s up there and she’s got Cointreau behind her and all of her stuff is all diamonds. It’s the real deal kids. I think the reason why they like the old school vibe of me is because I bring some class to the night and I’m not–you know, a sexist stand-up comedian. I can be Murray Hill as the character, which you’ve seen, but make everybody feel comfortable, including the performers.

When do you come out of character? Late at night when you come home? Well, remember you and I were in the same sober hipster article, do you remember that?

Tricia Romano, who actually writes for BlackBook now, did a story called sober hipsters, and both Murray and I are sober hipsters now. I don’t drink, never have, I do it out of choice, but many of our friends are alcoholics who have now recovered and live in nightclubs without the benefits of booze. So, explain to me the how you are in character all the time. When I first got to NY nightlife and was out every single night, it all added up. Since I’ve been sober, which is almost 5 years this September, my act is different. People see me now from the old days, and now I’m almost 80 pounds thinner, and the way I am now I credit to being sober and to working downtown every night. When you are in clubs 5 or 6 nights a week on stage, people are loaded, they’re screaming at you, they’re fucking each other while you’re telling jokes. It’s the best training that I’ve ever had, and I always credit downtown New York. I never forget my roots, Avenue A or Avenue B, because that’s where you get the muscle. When I go out of town now, it’s easy! People just sit there and they pay attention. So that’s the difference, the whole act has gotten a lot better, and now, I’m not Murray 24/7.

You now say “Showbiz” as a catch phrase. What does it mean? You know I love the oldies. Like Don Rickles, Shecky Greene, Shelly Berman—all these guys. And they did acts that I thought were very “showbiz”–they dressed well, they were in a lounge, they were classy, and they interacted with the audience. There was such a rapport.

Right, I was watching one of those roasts the other day on YouTube, Dean Martin—and they’re so out of control—they’re just laughing at each other and you’re laughing at them. And that’s showbiz, right? If I’m on stage at Corio and I’m telling a joke and the entire sound system and lights go off—I’m like “Showbiz!”

And it’s just a catch phrase. It covers everything. It covers the drunk, it covers the rude patron, it covers the waitress spilling the tray, it covers the joke that doesn’t go over, it. covers everything. So where can we see you? Bingo on Monday Nights. And I’m going to be in Los Angeles at Avalon next Wednesday with Dita Von Teese. I’m doing off Broadway next year. I’m going to be the first of my kind. And we don’t know what the word for that kind is.

It’ll be the gay, lesbian, transgender and not bi-Murray Hill. That’s the one thing I’m clear about. You won’t see me with a man! The tentative title is, “Murray Hill is Mr. Showbiz,” so I just recorded that live show and we’re going to make it a comedy album. So from that, we’re going to develop a whole other show based on my nightclub acts in the last ten years.

LA Summer Night Moves

Unlike New York, where socializing slows to a crawl because everyone’s in the Hampton’s or it’s just too plain hot, in Los Angeles, the social scene picks up during the summertime. In your immediate foreseeable future, you will be very busy taking in art, dancing, weird circuses, and getting a visit from everyone’s favorite comedy uncle (Murray Hill!) while ogling half-naked women.

First things first. Daisy O’Dell’sVinyl Lover’s Lounge was extended, but next weekend is the last installment, so bring records to the Palihouse.

Also getting a summertime lifeline: the Cirque Berzerk, the funky, gothy, burlesque/cabaret which was supposed to shut next week has been extended through August.

One time only, don’t sleep on it! Next Friday, the Soul Clap and Dance-Off, a New York Night Train dance party run by DJ Jonathan Toubin, comes to L.A.’s Nomad Gallery (1993 Blake Avenue). The night is a throwback — the kids dance to gritty 60s soul spun on 45’s (remember those?). There’s a dance contest happening in the center of the dance floor, with celebrity judges weighing in on the winners. The judges for the L.A. contest will be Don Bolles (of the Germs), Jennifer Herrera (of RTX), Howie Pyro (of Intoxica Radio), and Randy Randall (of No Age.)

Next Wednesday at Avalon, my favorite person in the universe, Mr. Murray Hill, comes to Los Angeles from New York. He’s a little scared of the L.A. crowd since he’s never really gigged here, but I told him not to worry as Murray Hill awesomeness is universal. Murray’s here to be part ofDita Von Teese’s night. Make him feel welcome.

Last but not least: pictures! But not exactly pretty ones. Starting next Saturday, the Scion Installation L.A. Space (3521 Helms Ave.) in Culver City will host the work of three Vice mag regulars: Jamie Lee Curtis Taete, Maggie Lee, and Tim Barber. Expect a lot of bodily fluids, and generally shocking-for-shocking’s-sake images. The exhibit will run through August 8.

Image via by Danielle Bedics / dita.net

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