Rudolf Piper Is Alive in Brazil

When I was king of the forest, and a young bright person would come to me with aspirations of a career in nightlife, I would make them listen to a little ditty: “I will hire you, but you must understand that nightlife is like a roller coaster. You spend a little money to get on the ride and the first thing it does is it takes you up a great hill from which you think you can see the whole world. It broadens your horizons, and the anticipation of what lies ahead is a huge adrenaline rush. Then you plunge headlong into it—fast and fun, steep curves, and drops and spills, and you have barely enough time to catch your breath or see much else. Suddenly it’s over, and you basically went around in a circle and didn’t get anywhere, and the only person to really make any money is the guy who owns the thing.” For the great majority of aspiring Steve Rubells or Noah Tepperbergs, that’s all she wrote. Some are satisfied with the gal above their pay grade or the recognition at the club du jour’s door, but few make a real career from it. I was very lucky to have worked for so many brilliant men who did, and Rudolf Piper was as good as they get.

He understood the money end and never let it get in the way. He knew without the bucks there would be no Buck Rogers, but he was an artist first. The clubs were a canvas that sometimes sold for lots of loot and sometimes a little less. The value of art is not necessarily in its price tag. I think Andy Warhol would have disagreed. I think Andy felt its value was in its ability to generate cash, but although Andy did something in almost every creative field, he never ran a joint. Nowadays, few operate places for little more than the money, and maybe the gals. There is nothing wrong with that, but it has led to the migration of the creative types to other boroughs—or even hemispheres. Rudolf Piper now resides in playful, hedonistic Brazil. He is making money there for club operators from NY, Miami, and elsewhere. He takes familiar brands visited by South Americans during the warm weather when they migrate north, and recreates them near their home. Yesterday I gave Rudolf 15 minutes of fame, and today I’ll give him another 15. Andy wouldn’t have minded. Rudolf is a man for all seasons, a bon vivant. He found himself in a paradise and furnished it to his tastes.

When operators look for a name of some garage or warehouse that will be “the place to be” for a few years, they no longer think small. They envision their brand in Vegas, or Miami, or Atlantic City – or with Rudolf’s help – Brazil. A name must transcend the boundaries of Manhattan’s rivers. It must be able to travel and be relevant elsewhere, wherever the party people live and play. Sometimes it’s merely a pop-up at Sundance or Cannes, but often it is a full blown joint in a faraway land. I learned much from my mentor, Mr. Rudolf Piper, and I apparently have a great deal more to learn. He invited me to visit him way down there, but I had to decline. I’m just getting used to Brooklyn, which feels like a foreign (but absolutely wonderful) country to me. Besides, from what my old boss has been telling me, I’m not sure i would ever come back. I often say you can only live one life. My old pal once again proves me wrong. Like an old cat, he survives continually and recreates himself and the world around him. I asked him a few questions via modern technology.

So, how does it feel doing club business in Brazil? First and foremost, it’s fun, sexy and lucrative. Meaning, it’s better than in many other places in the world. The economic crisis never arrived, or has been extraordinarily late in coming, so the economy is booming. Here, everybody that has money is really nouveau-riche, and therefore prone to spend a lot on lifestyle. It’s no secret that Brazilian girls are ultra-sexy, so that takes care of that. One generally overlooked factor is that the local population is of a joyous nature: they are happy, easygoing, and welcoming, and that’s a major differential. What other countries in the world could be labeled as “happy”? If you think about it, I’d say that there is almost none. So, it’s much better to live in a place where people are party-oriented, than in places where they are weird or depressed.

You have specialized in licensing foreign club brands in Brazil. How did that happen? It all started because Jeffrey Jah was trying to install a Lotus club in São Paulo in 2005. He was having difficulties, because a lot of the investors did not speak English down there. Then, at my birthday dinner at the Bowery Bar in 2005, where you and Jah apparently made up, I was sitting right next to Jeffrey and he got a call from Brazil, and he passed the phone to me. My Portuguese is impeccable, don’t ask me why because the story is too long. In any case, suddenly I was thrown into the middle of this project, and loved every minute of it. Then, that same night, some bizarre queen came out of nowhere and trashed our entire table setup, remember? Well, that incident gave me a good feeling about this whole plan, and I’ve been south of the border ever since then. There were many branches of Lotus down there. What other places did you license? Yes, Lotus had clubs in São Paulo, Guarujá, Salvador, Campo Grande, Campinas and Campos do Jordão. A nightmare to control. Then, I licensed Buddha Bar from Paris, owing to my friendship with Raymond Visan, who just passed away a few days ago. Later, I was briefly part of Pink Elephant-Brazil, and then purchased the Mokai brand from Miami. Recently, I was involved in the development of Kiss & Fly, which is now going to Punta del Este too. Currently, I’m working to open SET, from Miami, for next year, and I have some more things up my sleeve.

Talk about the strategy behind bringing these brands to Brazil. It definitively makes money and sense. Brazil is still a class-divided society, and the upper echelon is well-informed, has money to burn, and does not like to hear samba in their clubs. They travel a lot, and once back home, they want that same house music and DJs they listened to abroad. In a nutshell, they really want that NY club they liked so much in their own backyard. So, I took it upon myself to bring those venues over. How do you hook up with a foreign brand and how do you select which club you want to approach? First of all, I do research amongst the target clientele, to see which U.S. clubs seem to excite them most. And they always want American clubs, because nobody really knows what clubs are trendy in Europe. Once I have three or four possible candidates, I fly over and start negotiations with the people from NY or Miami. Normally, some 50% of the selected venues clinch a deal. The reason why the other places don’t is because they charge too much or create obstacles. Many fail to see that a licensing deal for Brazil is like money found on the street. They get concerned about the image of their brand, forgetting that most American clubs have only a short lifespan, so what possible damage could Brazil do to them? Others start preparing complicated contracts, some gigantic legal monuments that nobody in Brazil will sign. The rule of thumb is “easy does it.”

So, once you have signed a US brand and secured a property in Brazil, what do you do next? I start doing all those things that you do so well here in NY, like drawing up plans, getting additional investors, hiring contractors, decorating, starting initial promotion and presswork. As a matter of fact, I consider myself to be the Steve Lewis of Brazil! Well, thank you, I guess I’m flattered! It feels good to know that I became a mentor to my old mentor somehow. Now, changing subjects radically, let me ask you a question that a lot of our friends have been wondering about. Why, after so many successful clubs in the 1980’s, did you suddenly leave NY in 1991 without notice? They didn’t run you out of town, did they? To be honest, I think I did! No, seriously, there were a few reasons. First, I believed that the magic of NY had evaporated by then. Boy, was I right. Second, I realized that nightlife was subject to cycles of trendiness, which ended abruptly and was substituted by new ones. Most people who seriously identify with the times just past, normally have difficulties in a new situation because they were considered passé. The best example of this was when disco ended from day-to-nite in 1979, for no specific reason. The morning after, nobody would be caught dead in a disco outfit! Something happened to me when New Wave gave way to hip-hop. I was too close with those skinny black jeans! Plus, when I say that I ran myself out of town, there is a certain truth to that, because I opened Mars in 1990, and that was the first legally established place to really play some kick-ass hip hop—and I absolutely hated hip hop! I was not gonna put up with it! Then, because of all the shootings and stabbings in Mars, I decided to get away from the young crowd, and became a partner with Mark Fleischman at Tatou, a very successful supper club that existed in midtown for many years. When we decided to open branches in Aspen and Beverly Hills, I thought it was time to say farewell to NY. Then you initiated some kind of a pilgrimage around the world that lasted for roughly 20 years? Yes! I’m this German that became the Wandering Jew! Well, long story short, after a few years, California became just too lame for me and, besides, I heard voices telling me that my destiny was to go back to Germany, where I hadn’t been in 25 years. So, not wanting to argue with those voices, I sold my part in Tatou, went back to Berlin, and got a nice apartment there. Three months later, I realized that I couldn’t stand all those krauts around me, and I started to remember why exactly I had left Germany in the first place! It is an impossible place to live! I threw myself out of town again, and fled to Paris. In Paris, I was the promotions director of Les Bains Douches for a while, and did many other clubs and events for 6 years. Then, projects in Belgium and London followed suit. I spent one year in Lisbon, 4 years in Miami, and now 5 in Brazil. Yes, I call it tourism in slow motion, because in every damn place that people normally visit for a couple of days, I ended up staying there for years and years. I had fun, though. Of all these clubs you participated in, which one do you consider the greatest, most incredible nightspot you ever were involved with? You know, I hate being nostalgic and like so many other club people, I live for the here and now. But, as we both are true blue connoisseurs, let me just say the following: Up until recently, I would have said Danceteria, no question.That place had an un-fucking-believable magic, and, as you were part of it, I need to explain no longer. A short while ago, however, I came across an old issue of Mao Mag that had a long article about the Palladium, and I came to realize that this was really the most fabulous club of all time. And you were involved in it too! I came to think of all the aspects that made that place so great, like that fantastic old theater, Arata Isosaki the architect, Steve and Ian, the sheer luxury and size of it, those incredible parties for 5,000 people, all dressed up. It was a castle of dreams, a never ending ball at the Grand Opera. I also realized that, nowadays, the Palladium has been overlooked and even forgotten, in spite of the fact that no other place like that existed in the whole world—ever! There was an aura there, some atmosphere that cannot be repeated, and that will never come back. But then, again, Marx said that “History does repeat itself, but the second time around, only as a farce.”

Michael Alig and All Return to The World

Tonight, The World—that Top 5 club of all time—will be celebrated at a reunion party at Santos’ Party House. Doors will open at 7pm, because the crowd isn’t getting any younger. The World was located on East 2nd Street, just off Avenue B. It had many incarnations, with the last batch ending approximately 20 years ago. There isn’t a Wikipedia page to tell you all about it. It isn’t in people’s minds much when they reminisce, but all the music that we listen to and all the great clubs that followed owe a lot to this joint. I was the director of the place. Back then, when people asked me what I did for a living, I’d dead pan “I run The World.” Ronald Reagan officially had that job, but I was a far better actor. The ancient ballroom was a perfect place for my talents. A big room with high ceilings where 1500 people could see a show or dance to a big DJ and a smaller room for 700 with a stage made famous in the Talking Heads video for “Burning Down the House.” When we needed more space, we took over the tenement next door and named it “It.”

The place was rough-and-tumble and some celebrated their last day on earth there. Others burnt themselves out, lost everything, or picked up habits or illness that they didn’t survive. Everybody who was anybody passed through the doors. It was Madonna, Sinead, Bjork, Bowie, Prince with the paupers and everyone in between. It was hip hop before that became big business. It was rock with everyone from Neil Young to Pink Floyd hitting the stage. It was Dean Johnson’s Rock ‘n Roll Fag Bar every Tuesday night and it is somewhat arguable that the tradition of that night still carries on at Eric Conrad’s Tuesday night soiree at B Bar, which has been running for the past 17 years. The cast of characters at the top included the legendary Arthur Weinstein and the infamous Frank Roccio. Arthur passed a couple of years back and is missed everyday. I haven’t heard a credible report of what happened to Frank, although most say he has also died. I last saw him in front of Tiffany’s maybe seven years ago. I don’t think he was shopping for jewelry. Co-owner Peter Frank is attending and hundreds of others will dust of their finery and join him. There are too many insane stories, too many wondrous events that occurred there and my memory is corrupted by time and other distractions. I’ll just say that in my experience, there was never a place like it before it burst hard into the scene in September 1987 and there has been nothing close to it since. There probably won’t ever be a place like it again. It’s been made illegal to have that much fun. A cross between the parties in the flick, Marie Antoinette and Mel Gibson’s, Mad Max, The World made all the rest seem very tame and often lame. It was a place where you could come of age; act out your deepest dreams, fantasies or nightmares. It was a place where you could get New York hurt if you crossed a very blurry line. Despite all its grime, crime and bad habits, it was the most fun ever and it changed everything we know about nightlife. I’ll be at Santos’ tonight to see how old almost everyone got.

I visited Michael Alig Saturday and found him sound, sober and focused on his post-prison life. I went with former club god Maurice Brahms. Maurice was the player behind such joints as The Underground, The Red Zone, Bonds International Disco, New York New York, Le Jardin, The Palace de Beauté and Infinity. On the three-hour drive through pastoral New York to Michael’s Coxsackie Correctional Facility, we talked about clubs and such. Maurice’s Infinity on Broadway and Bleecker was a game changer. Lights, sound and action kept all the swells coming long before Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell left Queens. Steve and Ian were actually customers at Infinity and many argue that Studio 54 was conceived there. I only went twice, but remember it as one of the greatest clubs of all time. It’s often lost in the shuffle as those who win big always control the history. Maurice doesn’t mind much as his history includes almost a half a century with his lovely wife, Vivian. We both worked with Michael, around Michael, despite Michael and we hold him dear to our hearts. We are both well aware of his crime and are equally aware of his punishment. It’s been almost 14 years since Michael last covered his face with blue polka dots and pranced around New York. He’s now a man in more ways than chronology. He may get out soon. A late September, early October date is a large disco light at the end of a very long and unfriendly tunnel. When he walks out of those extremely un-pearly gates, and into the new world, I’ll be there with Maurice to carry his luggage and help with some of his baggage. In the end, Michael will have to face the criticisms, the scorn, the hatred that so many still carry for him on his own two feet. He will do his best to prove to all that he is deserved of a chance. Certainly he has more of a chance than his victim Angel Melendez had. Michael has spent 14 years reliving his mistake, rethinking his life and hopefully soon, he’ll renter society and contribute to it in a positive way. He was a genius and in my visits to him he still shows the wit, the charm, the brains and the creativity that gave us so much but also led so many astray. It led him to the long tunnel from another mother where he has hopefully been rehabilitated. He is saying all the right things and his eyes are filled with remorse and desire to do good.

Where Celebs Go Out: Marc Jacobs, Amanda Lepore, Adrian Grenier, Emma Snowdon-Jones

At David Barton Gym annual toy drive: ● MARC JACOBS – “In Paris, there’s a small club called Montana, and there’s a restaurant called Thiou. Bars I really don’t hang out in. Oh, there’s this great club that happens once a month in Paris called Club Sandwich. And it’s at the Espace Cardin. And everyone gets super dressed-up, so it’s really, really fun. I try to go whenever I’m in Paris, if it’s going on. And we stay out all night and just dance like crazy. And in New York, my favorite restaurants have always been the same. I love to eat at Pastis. I love the Standard. I love Da Silvano. I eat in the lobby of the Mercer a lot, the hotel. I usually go to Pastis for lunch, and there’s a sandwich that was on the menu, but they don’t make it anymore, but I always insist that they make it for me. And it’s really fattening, so I shouldn’t eat it, but it’s chicken paillard and gruyere cheese and bacon. And it’s so delicious. It’s really good. And it’s my weakness. It’s just like the most perfect sandwich.”

● DAVID BARTON – “Oh, I can’t think where I like to hang out in Seattle except my new gym! There’s a great place that just opened up in New York, up on 51st, called the East Side Social Club. Patrick McMullan is one of the partners there. He’s co-hosting with me tonight. Great place; really cool. It’s very old world, kind of like going to Elaine’s, kind of little cozy; sit at a booth; very cool. Love a little place called Il Bagatto, over on 7th between A & B — little tiny Italian place, East Village, kind of a neighborhood place that I go to. What else? I don’t know restaurants. I’m very casual. I’m so not that into food. I mean, I could eat cardboard — I’m just not into food! I like people. I like atmosphere, but I’m just not that into food.” ● AMANDA LEPORE – “I definitely like Bowery Bar and I like Hiro. Boom Boom Room. Just anywhere where everybody is, I guess! [laughs] Novita, I like, my friend Giuseppe. Any favorite dishes? I try not to eat too much! ● PATRICK MCDONALD – “My favorite restaurant in New York is Indochine. It’s been around for 25 years. Jean-Marc, I adore. I love the bar at the Carlyle. I don’t drink, but I like to go there for tea in the afternoon. And I love Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon on Gramercy Park. I love Pastis, Odeon, and everywhere. I like the French fries at Pastis.” ● PATRICK MCMULLAN – “I love going to Waverly Inn downtown. Boom Boom Room is fabulous. That’s really a new, great place. SL, on 409 W. 14th Street, down below is nice. Of course, I have the East Side Social Club that I’m involved with, and that’s great for hanging out in, for eating. Favorite dishes anywhere? Oh, I don’t know, just anything that people recommend. I usually go with what people recommend ’cause most people know what’s good — the waiters know, so I think that’s the best thing. Red wine is good to have to drink sometimes. They have a drink called the Eastsider at the East Side Social Club that’s really good; any of their pastas; their ravioli is great there. What else do I like? That new place that’s open, the English place, on 60th in the Pierre — Le Caprice, that’s a nice place. At the Waverly Inn, I like the macaroni and cheese. It was funny because the macaroni and cheese is about two dollars less than a room at the Pod Hotel, which is where the East Side Social Club is! The Monkey Bar is fun. There are so many cool places in New York. I just go where people tell me to go.”

At elf party for Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe:

● JENNY MCCARTHY – “In Chicago, I would have to say Gibsons Steakhouse still; in Los Angeles, Katsuya, still love that sushi; I’m addicted to it. And in New York, Koi. I’m very trendy and boring, but, hey, that’s where the good food is, so …” ● PERI GILPIN – “In L.A., we like BLT a lot. We have five-year-old twins, so we’re like in bed by nine o’clock — pretty boring. Corner Bakery for soup.” ● CANDACE CAMERON BURE – “L.A., hands down, our favorite restaurant is Gjelina, which is in Venice. And we love Craft; love Michael’s in Santa Monica. Here, in New York, my favorite restaurant is Lupa, which is a Mario Batali restaurant; love it here. And I don’t go to clubs anymore, nightclubs; I don’t ever! At Gjelina, they have a burrata with prosciutto and, usually, a warm pear or a warm peach. I love that! I really love tapas. I enjoy getting a lot of appetizers, more than just a main dish. We, actually, have had our own wine label, Bure Family Wines, for two years, which is at several restaurants, so matching the food and the wine is a big part for us. We’re big foodies” ● DEAN MCDERMOTT – “There is a great bar, Ye Coach & Horses in L.A., on Sunset. I’m so bad at this stuff! Oh, Katsuya, in the Valley, awesome sushi. It’s our favorite place. We go there like three times a week.” ● KEN BAUMANN – “In New York, my favorite restaurant is Il Cortile. It’s in Little Italy, and it’s run by this guy named Stefano, and it’s incredible, phenomenal food. In Los Angeles, my favorite restaurant’s gotta be Cut, which is in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.” ● SHAILENE WOODLEY – “Honestly, I’m not really a club kinda girl. I’d rather go to a local bar with some friends and hang out there. Or just go back to my house and have people come over. I’m more of the congregate-at-my-house kind of chick. I’m 18, so I don’t drink, so I don’t go to bars. There’s a place called the Alamo, which has karaoke and it’s a bar, but we go and karaoke there probably once a week.” ● FRANCIA RAISA – “I’m not a big club person. I really like bars and lounges. In L.A., I like to hang out at Buffalo Wild Wings, watching sports and drinking beer with my friends. I really don’t go out that much. I hang out at home and have my own glass of wine, watching Grey’s Anatomy. Oh, I just tried this restaurant yesterday at Gramercy Park Hotel. It’s a new, Italian place — Maialino. It was amazing. And again, I’m very simple, so I like pizza, and John’s Pizza out here is amazing to me, too. And hot wings I like at Planet Hollywood. I’m obsessed with them!”

At Zeno “Hot Spot” launch party @ MTV Studios:

● SKY NELLOR – “I am a huge sushi fanatic, so I just had Katsuya three times in two days in L.A. What is it about Katsuya? It’s the baked-crab hand roll in a soy-paper wrap. It’s just so yummy. I want one now! In New York, I have a fixation with Bagatelle. I just love the fish and the veggies. Nightclubs, nightlife, oh, my God! Apparently, I’m a really good bowler, so I hang out at Lucky Strike everywhere — Miami, L.A., Kansas! We just had a bowling party, and I won, so … Oh, they didn’t let me see my score. I just kept getting strikes to the point where they were, like, ‘Give her more shots! We have to stop this girl!’ And the drunker I got, the better I got. Clubs — if I’m going to go out, I’m going to go out to dance. And I’m going to go where the DJ is playing. I don’t care what club it is. I went to a dive in L.A., at a party called Afex, just because some of the best DJs were playing that night. Like, I don’t care about the crowd. I don’t care about the scene. I care about the music. I don’t think the venue has a name. I think it’s called No Space. They just move the party around.” ● SUCHIN PAK – “I have a great place. It’s called Broadway East, and it’s on East Broadway. And I love it because it’s a beautiful space, but also it’s literally across the street from my house. That always helps. And then there’s a really fantastic place called Bacaro. Oh, it’s amazing! It’s downstairs. It’s almost a dungeon-like place. The people that used to do Peasant, the wine bar there, moved to this place. I like to say the Lower East Side on East Broadway is where the grown-up hipsters go. For a true Lower East Sider, it may not be true Lower East Side, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved more south than east, and I keep trickling that way.”

At charity:ball for charity:water:

● ADRIAN GRENIER – “Brooklyn. Fort Greene. Habana Outpost — it’s run mostly on solar power, and it’s a sustainable business.” MARK BIRNBAUM “Well, if I do say so myself, Abe & Arthur’s on 14th Street; SL, the new club underneath it. I still love Tenjune. And I like hanging out at home other than that. What about places other than your own? So I shouldn’t say the Chandelier Room, in Hoboken? I really like going to Bar and Books in the West Village — that’s our spot. You know where else I like to go? Miami — the new W South Beach is unbelievable, by far the best hotel down there. The design is incredible; the pool area is very nice; they have good restaurants there — there’s a Mr. Chow’s and the other one is good; the rooms are really nice; it’s very well done; it’s just very fresh, the entire thing; and the artwork is incredible. You don’t feel like you’re in South Beach — not that there’s anything wrong with it — but it’s really, really, really, well done.” ● NICOLE TRUNFIO – “I just found this really cool jazz club in Paris where they still dance to old, rock-and-roll music in partners. It’s a location undisclosed. I don’t remember what it’s called. It’s in the Saint-Michel — it’s just off it. You can jump into a taxi, ‘cause we went to a jazz bar called the Library, but that was closed. So we asked the taxi driver, and he took us to this place. So, I’m sure lots of local French taxi-drivers would know the place.” ● LAUREN BUSH – “Oh, gosh, I’m like so uncool! It’s such an obvious question, it’s so hard … I’m a vegetarian, so I love Blossom restaurant. They have a good, quinoa-tofu dish. It’s like gingery. It’s really good. ● EMMA SNOWDON-JONES – “I love Le Bilboquet because it’s consistent, and mainly wherever your friends are it makes the place. It’s on 63rd, between Park and Madison. I’ve gone there since I was in boarding school. I’d come into the city on the weekends, and I’d go there. I think anyone that’s been in New York as long as I have knows it. That’s a really, bloody long time, sadly. As good as my Botox is, it’s too long!” ● KRISTIN CHENOWETH – “I am an old-fashioned girl, and I still love Joe Allen’s. I go there all the time. And right next-door above, is a place called Bar Centrale, and I go there, too. I was just there last night for three hours. I like the manicotti at Joe Allen’s. It’s excellent!” ● JULIAN LENNON – “Probably the Jane bar and the Rose Bar in New York.”

At launch of S.T. Dupont in-store boutique @ Davidoff on Madison Avenue:

● RON WHITE – “I love the bars in Glasgow, Scotland. You could go sit in a bar by yourself and in five minutes, you’d be talkin’ to 10 people because they’re so curious about anybody that walks in that’s not normally in there. They just want to go talk to ’em and find out what they’re about. They’re just as friendly as they can be. I was there for the British Open, or the Open Championship, as it’s called. And if you go to a bar in New York City, you can sit there for the rest of your life and not meet another person because they’re not really gonna come up to you and go, ‘Hey, what’s up? What are you doing in town?’ That just doesn’t happen here.”

Mila Kunis: On The Brink of Movie Stardom

By Ben Barna

I first met Mila Kunis nearly 10 years ago on the set of the generic teen comedy Get Over It. We were fake high school classmates in a fake high school. She and co-star Kirsten Dunst were inseparable and I was an invisible extra. There were husky crew members on hand to remind us of the prevailing social order: extras were not to fraternize with movie stars. It was just like high school, actually. When Dunst once caught me gawking, she pantomimed one of those rickety movie cameras you crank during a game of charades and, in a voice reserved for children, said mockingly, “We’re making a movie!” Kunis, still just the cute one from That ’70s Show, stood next to her more established co-star and giggled.

It’s 10 years later, and I’m with Kunis again. The 26-year-old actress sits curled up in a 1950s-style diner booth at Manhattan’s BBar and Grill, looking like she’s aged approximately three days since our last encounter. Sporting a post-workout outfit—billowing gray hoodie, cut-off black tights and trainers, her chestnut brown hair pinned back tightly against her head—she sends a quick text and coils her white headphones around her iPhone. She complains about a torn muscle in her left arm, orders a glass of Shiraz and readies herself for the talk at hand.

With the words “Get Over It” barely out of my mouth, she covers hers and lets out a lengthy squeal: “I haven’t seen that movie in years!” And indeed, that Mila Kunis, an embryonic TV star whose career was still in question, was an entirely different person than the one sitting in front of me, the one set to co-star in Denzel Washington’s next film, The Book of Eli.

At 15, Kunis became a pin-up for keg-swilling frat boys as Jackie Burkhart, the spoiled gossip on Fox’s That ’70s Show, a role she inhabited for eight years. (She was hired when she was 14, a fact she hid from casting directors who were reluctant to employ a minor.) Jackie was pretty, looked good in bell-bottoms and used her high-pitched voice to wheedle, gripe, whine and manipulate. You’d be forgiven for assuming, based on her performance, that she was destined to remain Ashton Kutcher’s arm candy forever.

Kunis didn’t do much to burnish her credibility, posing half-nude, at all of 16, on the cover of Stuff magazine under the barely legal headline, “Mila Kunis Dares You to Look.” (These days, she claims she would never be photographed in a bikini unless “someone air-brushed the shit out of it.”) On hiatus from the show, Kunis appeared in iffy movies like American Psycho 2, a bargain-bin sequel to the Christian Bale cult classic. “I didn’t think this was going to be my career at 16,” Kunis says without apology, twirling the drawstrings on her hoodie between her slender fingers. “Any movie I did prior to the age of 20, I did because I could.”

Then came Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the movie that upended everything we thought we knew about Kunis’ talent. Yet another offering from the Judd Apatow Institute of Comedic Learning, this one about a heartbroken sap’s romantic recovery, Sarah Marshall co-starred a laundry list of likeable comedians, including Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Jack McBrayer and Russell Brand. And yet, in scene after scene, it’s Kunis, as the hotel clerk Rachel, who steals the show. Grounded, funny, appealing and gorgeous, she was a revelation. Who knew she had it in her? When the final credits rolled, audiences found themselves entertaining a thought they would have laughed away two hours earlier: Mila Kunis is going to be a movie star.

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While carefully smothering a plate of raw oysters in cocktail sauce, Kunis talks about why Sarah Marshall worked. “It’s one of those movies that comes around once in a blue moon. You just go with it and don’t ask questions,” she says. “When [co-star] Kristen Bell and I got the script, we met with [screenwriter] Jason Segel and [director] Nick Stoller, and we talked about what these characters would do in different situations, how they would react. We talked and talked, and then they tailor-made the characters for us. Rachel is very close to me. To my personality, she’s the closest of any character I’ve played by far.”

Even Segel, who also starred in the film, was surprised by Kunis’ knockout performance. “When I wrote Mila’s part, I tried to imagine the perfect woman to meet at the wrong time,” he says. “I had no idea Mila would come in and not only be the perfect woman, but also add depth and complexity to the male fantasy of ‘the perfect woman.’ She made me look like a good writer.”

The film’s effect on her career has been palpable. “The quality of work I was able to get and fight for increased,” Kunis says, as proved by her next project, Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s top-secret follow-up to last year’s Mickey Rourke-resurrector, The Wrestler. “I first saw Mila in Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” Aronofsky says of his casting choice. “She electrified me and made the screen sizzle. I instantly knew I wanted to work with her.”

But it took an unorthodox effort to strike a deal. Conflicting schedules delayed a rendezvous, so the web-junkie actress suggested a meeting via iChat (the instant messaging service she also uses to keep in touch with Segel and Hill). After a transcontinental video session, Aronofsky sent her the script for Black Swan. He offered her the part over IM a few meetings later. Kunis, still visibly surprised by the outcome, remembers their exchange: “Hey.” “Hey. Do you want to do this?” “Video chat? “No, the movie.” “If you just offered me the movie, I think you need to get on video chat and offer it to me.”

Aronofsky complied and Kunis took the part.

Black Swan is a psychological thriller set in the ruthless world of ballet in New York City. To prepare, Kunis endured a punishing ballerina boot camp for more than two months, practicing seven days a week, five hours each day. “I just skipped about 10 years of ballerina training and started as if I’m a professional,” she says, laughing. “Every day, I tore the ligaments in my calves and I would think, What am I doing to myself?”

Kunis plays Lilly, the unhinged and possibly sadistic yin to the yang of Nina, her uptight rival played by close friend Natalie Portman. “It’s like a real-life version of the third act of Swan Lake,” she says, treading carefully around plot secrets. “I just feel like such a douche because I can’t talk about it. It’s not even that big of a deal. It’s a fucking movie. It’s not like I’m saving the world.”

Talk drifts to online chatter of a rumored sex scene with Portman, something she’s also weary of discussing. Surely, she understands why the rumor has fans in a tizzy. Kunis’ black nail-polished fingers hit the table in a cascade of taps. “Sure,” she says, with a roll of her eyes. “It’s two girls making out, and guys have a thing for that. And Nat is like every guy’s dream. She’s a nerd’s idea of heaven. The whole thing is silly, but I can see why people care.”

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Mila Kunis moved to California from the Ukraine when she was 7 years old. She spoke no English, but contrary to tales on the Internet, she did not learn the language by watching episodes of The Price Is Right. (“It was a totally cute story when I was 14,” she says. “It’s not so funny and cute now that I’m 26.”) In the Eastern Bloc, her parents were engineers. In America, her mother was, and still is, a manager at Rite Aid. Her father is a cab driver. Their goal was for Mila and her older brother Mike to go to college. “That was not optional,” she says. “It was what I was going to do.” But with a recurring role on a hit TV show, Kunis found herself too busy for school, and after taking a summer course at UCLA, she put her education on hold. “It’s not to say that I’ll never graduate,” she says. “It’s just that college wasn’t for me.”

After That ’70s Show ended, Kunis found herself second-guessing a career that most struggling actors would kill for. “I didn’t come to L.A. to become a famous actress. I lived in L.A. and I was an actress, and it was just like, Who am I? I loved what I did, but I didn’t like the judgment that came with it,” she says. “It took me until I was 21 to realize that this is what I was going to do. I finally decided I’m not going to be embarrassed to write ‘actress’ on my medical forms.” And why should she be embarrassed? This January, Kunis co-stars alongside two serious thespians in The Book of Eli, an apocalyptic allegory directed by the Hughes brothers. The film’s title card reads: Denzel Washington. Gary Oldman. Mila Kunis. “It’s like, which one doesn’t belong?” she jokes.

When I compare Eli to Max Payne, the monochromatic noir procedural in which Kunis played opposite Mark Wahlberg, she says, now only half-joking, “I’m pretty sure you just shattered Denzel’s heart.” When I persist about the similarities—a monosyllabic lone warrior waltzes into town and kills everyone and everything around him in slow motion—she stops me. “In Max Payne, everyone’s super powerful and everyone shoots everyone,” she says. “This is all about survival.”

Thanks to co-star Gary Oldman, filming the movie wasn’t such a test of endurance. Kunis has collaborated with some of today’s great clowns: in addition to the Marshall men, she has worked with Seth MacFarlane on his animated series Family Guy, voicing human piñata Meg Griffin for eight seasons; Mike Judge, the blue-collar messiah who directed her in the misunderstood Extract; and Steve Carrell and Tina Fey in the upcoming comedy Date Night, in which she briefly appears as a stripper married to James Franco (“I made Steve break character!” she says, beaming). But it was Oldman of all people, the English actor famous for his noxious onscreen personae, who made her laugh most. “He has a sick, British sense of humor,” she says. “Some of the funniest people on the planet aren’t necessarily funny when you yell ‘cut.’ When they’re not working, they don’t want to think about being funny.”

Even when Kunis isn’t on set, she’s working. Today, her packed schedule included ballet rehearsal, physical therapy, acupuncture, fitness training, meetings and an interview. When discussing life off-camera, she latches onto safe topics such as her TV habits and her obsession with video games. (“I love Grand Theft Auto,” she says, “but I can’t get past the level where I have to drop my hooker off.”)

Kunis is obsessively protective of her privacy. When she says, “He’s the love of my life,” she’s talking about Shorty, her mutt who, along with bulldog Audrey, makes up her entourage when she’s at home in L.A. (It’s only a seven-minute drive from her house to her parents’ place.) But Kunis spends some of the year in New York, her East Village apartment just a few blocks from our table, because, as she coyly puts it, “I started dating a New Yorker.”

That New Yorker is Macaulay Culkin, the 29-year-old actor whose appearances in the Home Alone franchise made him the most bankable child star since Shirley Temple. If it weren’t for a handful of freak paparazzi shots, Kunis would have pulled off the impossible by concealing her long-term, live-in Hollywood romance. “I don’t remember being single,” she says, pulling her right knee up to her chest. “I love coming home, taking a bath and having a glass of wine. I love my life.”

Though Kunis has, in her own way, settled down, she isn’t quite ready to settle down. On the subject of marriage, she doesn’t sound like the product of such doting parents. “Not to say that I don’t believe in it, but it’s just not something that’s important to me.” Unprovoked, she continues. “But I will have children. I’m too selfish to have them now, but when I do, I don’t feel like I need to be married. I need to have a person in my life who will care for me and my children—nothing else.” Is Culkin that guy? “I don’t know who you’re talking about,” she coolly replies.

With her biological clock on pause, Kunis remains fiercely devoted to her craft. “I don’t know that I could do Shakespeare, but I don’t know that I couldn’t. It’s like ballet. Did I ever think I could get en pointe and be a prima ballerina? No. But, give me two months,” Kunis says. “I will work my ass off and do everything in my power to get it done.”

Photography by David Roemer. Styling by Anda & Masha.

New York: Top 10 Places to Spot Robert Pattinson

Robert Pattinson was here in New York for a while, where, like a mirage of tousled sex, he dodged fans while flitting from hotel to bar to hotel. If the young gentleman can ever again summon the courage to return to Manhattan — and its chorus of “OHMYGAWD ITSEDWARDILOVEEDWARD ICOULDJUSTDIEEEEEEEE” — here is a list of his favorite places to hide. Stalk away!

Pearl Street Diner (West Village) – According to this man’s Twitter account and this blogger’s mobile photos, the no-fuss West Village eatery was closed on July 15 when it became a filming location for Pattinson’s new movie. When asked for comment, Pearl’s cooks said, “We’ll never wash our hands again.”

Gemma (East Village) – Late last month, Pattinson was spotted dining at the Bowery Hotel restaurant with his blonde Remember Me co-star Emilie de Ravin — which makes sense, because the place is dark, sexy, and features “Late Night Bites.” ● B Bar & Grill (East Village) – Pattinson was once spotted exiting the East Village eatery and mega-patio at 1:30 in the morning after a night of pizza and Peroni with a crew of friends that included Calvin Klein firebrand Eva Mendes. ● The Cabin Down Below (East Village) – In celebration of a friend’s birthday, Pattinson reportedly spent a night holed up in this small model-and-rock star hang in the East Village. At the very least, even if he’s not here, you’re guaranteed to lock eyes with a Stroke or Agyness Deyn. ● Don Hill’s (Soho) – This one doesn’t exactly count, because the 23-year-old actor was on site filming a scene with Remember Me co-star Tate Ellington. Still, in its sweaty Squeezebox heyday — and its subsequent rebirth as the home of the MisShapes’ weekly debacle — this would have been a can’t-miss for Pattinson. ● Il Cantinori (Greenwich Village) – Pattinson was seen noshing on a Caprese salad and veal entrée in this dimly lit Greenwich Village hotspot. (His merry band of masticators added a modest $50 tip to their $350 bill.) ● Black & White (East Village) – Pattinson was instantly noticed by an anonymous fan when he walked into this oft-packed East Village bar. Allegedly, after three beers, he was overheard saying, “I need to stay away from women born after 1988 … ” ● Lure Fishbar (SoHo) – Not surprisingly, this SoHo seafood abattoir is an underground affair, and rumored to have hosted Pattinson during his New York retreat. ● The Stanton Social (Lower East Side) – For its “A Night Out With …” column, The New York Times brought director Catherine Hardwicke and her vegetarian cash cow to this tri-level Lower East Side restaurant, where the group sampled Chef Chris Santos’ macaroni-and-cheese and fish tacos. Later, they headed over to the nearby Death & Co, of which BlackBook said, mistakenly, it’s “vampire-free, at least as far as we can tell — it’s dark in here.” ● Cafe Gitane (Nolita) – The breakfast offerings here are unparalleled, the people-watching perches impressive and close friends say they saw Pattinson here. But they also swear that I look cool in hats.

Robert Pattinson Stalker vs. Pregnant Kristen Stewart & Other Indecencies

There have been some nasty rumors circling that New York (and specifically its Twilight fans) is eating Robert Pattinson alive. Then today, some brash Australian news service tried to one-up Michael Jackson Day by speculating that Kristen Stewart is pregnant with Pattinson’s baby. To address these shocking allegations, we went to our most authoritative source on all things RP: our Robert Pattinson stalker intern.

Robert Pattinson is in full-on brooding mode in every picture I’ve seen of him lately, and for good reason. Not only is my main man not smiling much, but he’s been instructed to not even look at his fans. The rumor mill has taken a toll on poor Robert and our relationship. I wish all the tabloids would just shut it and leave us alone.

Newsweekly Australia’s “breaking” news that Kristen Stewart is preggers and Robert Pattinson is the possible baby-daddy has taken over gossip websites and has Robert-lovers across the nation traumatized and a little grossed out. Although I can automatically deny that Robert is cheating on me, I did a little research to calm my nerves that anyone would go close enough to Kristen Stewart to get her pregnant. The report states that Kristen was sporting a small baby-belly on the set of her movie The Runaways. After careful review of this photo, I can officially state Kristen is not only not pregnant (which she also denies), but she is getting a little spare tire around the midriff. Perhaps her mullet has made not only her hair, but also her belly white-trash-tastic. Or maybe the constant shooting of her new movie has gotten in the way of her extracurricular activities (i.e. puffing a cancer stick or other smokeable substances). I can assume that Kristen would kick the habit were she with child, but she’s still puffing away like a chimney, thus confirming that she isn’t having Robert Pattinson’s baby and saving me a very uncomfortable phone call.

But Robert is still brooding. He’s still frowning, and his weight loss and stress are becoming more and more visible. Lately, Robert hasn’t shown up in any of our usual hangouts, and his friends and I are worried about him. It seems, according to the newest tabloid buzz, that the city that never sleeps has worn Robert out — that, and the women that never sleep when there is RPattz stalking to be done. Black and White bar and B Bar are now swarming with eager twentysomething fangirls hoping for a glimpse of Robert. In a desperate attempt to avoid his crazy fans, Robert hides out in multiple hotels and longs for London and the escape from New York Rob mobs. Obviously he doesn’t respond well to the fanatic groping attempts, so just give him some space and he should come around to New York in due time.

Finding Robert Pattinson: One Intern’s Quest for Love & A Restaining Order

BlackBook has a famous lineage of interns; we’ve yet again found another one amongst our unpaid ranks whose existence and presence has shocked, shaken, and amazed the staff in ways we didn’t think our interns were capable of doing. This one, like all the others, has a very special secret: her life’s ambition. No, it’s not a career in publishing. It’s finding and ravishing the man of her dreams (and those of every other girl aged 14 through 40): actor Robert Pattinson. While we simply talked to her about her obsession before, we’ve now given her time to explore it.

I enjoy a nice lunch in Washington Square Park and he just happens to be feet from my favorite bench in the park. I show up in NoLita for a late afternoon stroll and a blood orange gelato and there he is again with his posse of Schwarzenegger-esque guards. He goes to the same bars I go to. He hangs out in the same hotel lobbies I hang out in. And, no doubt, he finds himself wishing he could constantly be surrounded by talented British men. There is nothing blasé about it, but Robert Pattinson is stalking me.

Upon my arrival in Nolita this past Wednesday (June 24), for a lunch meeting/stalking session, I stumbled upon the Remember Me set. I found that the crowds had grown substantially from the first few days of filming. And so had the security — all a ploy for Robert to prove that they were there first. I wasn’t convinced. The crowds were all too cliché; The throbbing hearts of the Tiger-Beat-era, the “I’m too good for this” 20somethings that repeat they’re “over it” but still continue to camera-rape Robert, and the pushy moms that force their children to lie across a filthy New York cab that Robert touched in order to pose for a picture. I wasn’t buying it.

Of course, working for a magazine, I felt it my duty to examine the scene closer. Unknown to the crowds around me, I am the “Robert Pattinson Stalker” or BlackBook intern with an obsessive goal to ravish RPattz by summer’s end. I decide that the best route to keep the creepy, stalker vibe from surfacing is to play dumb. I ask those around me what is going on, and what all the fuss is about. The 12-year-old standing next to me looks up dumbfounded. My co-intern looks at me like I’m crazy. This totally makes me appear less creepy, or so I think. I blink stupidly and search around for Robert … pretending I don’t know what he looks like.

It’s at this moment that Robert’s eyes graze the crowd. He pretends not to see me (as if he didn’t know I would be there). Yes, the tween next to me probably thinks he was looking for her, but I know the truth. I quickly turn into one of those 20somethings in order to avoid his wanting glance. “I’m so over this scene” I tell my friend and insist that Robert is working and all the people there disgust me by disturbing this poor actor who is just trying to do his job. I have to get to my “lunch meeting” anyway. I check my watch and realize I have five minutes to get from Nolita to Gramercy. A lunch break is not sufficient time for a meeting in Nolita.

As I scramble to catch the train, I mull over why I don’t just run up and grab him when I have the chance. Being a Robert Pattinson stalker, this would be the appropriate move according to many. The truth is I don’t want to be that crazy fan with the Twilight bag and the Fraybans. Maybe there is that small glimmer of hope my dream will come true — that I will meet him in a intimate bar, he’ll find me intriguing for who I am, and in return I’ll fulfill all his wildest fantasies. But in the meantime, I’ll probably frequent my favorite spot, Black & White, or perhaps I’ll catch up with a few friends at the Bowery Bar. I mean, with my current record, Robert will more than likely turn up where I am in a day or two. After all, he is stalking me.

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‘Woof Roof’ & Sun-Gay on a Weak Night

A night that began with a quiet and scrumptious Whole Foods BBQ was turned on its ear by a bombardment of text messages about the goings-on at theGansevoort rooftop. The nice weather enticed me to the party, which my friends call “woof.” I asked if that was the real name for the party — after all, I am a nightlife correspondent, and accuracy should be part of my agenda. I asked my friend again, who avoided eye contact and said, “When it’s good they call it ‘woof, woof’,” or sometimes “woof, roof’.” Maybe Sundays are not for answers. The roof was packed, although everybody told me it was a weak night. Apologetic promoters told me that “it’s usually more packed” and that celebrities abound. “Last week, Leonardo DiCaprio and Willem Dafoe were here, but this week we only have Lance Bass.”

We had started our night at the gay party downstairs at Ono but were constantly whisking ourselves up to the “woof roof.” We didn’t see Lance — maybe because we were going up while he was going down — oops, did I say that? The “woof roof” was great despite the promoters’ insistence that it wasn’t. There were people throwing napkins in the air, hot girls doing limbos in front of bongos (does that make the bimbos?), dancers on platforms, some guy who could really whistle on top of the bar, scenesters, models, and a beautiful view. My crowd was mostly lesbians and gay men, and we headed out before we were discovered.

We made our way to The Standard as one member of our party insisted that the third-floor bar was amazing. The Standard is anything but standard design-wise. I love it. The elevator took us up to the third floor, but a very helpful bellhop (do they still call them that?) told us there was no bar on the third floor, and there had never been one. This devastated our friend, who swore she had the time of her life there. Her Twilight Zone or Punk’d explanation wasn’t holding water with us. Some of our crowd headed off to Mix, because apparently hanging out with straight women and men can be a strain. They had joined us after partying at Stiletto with Queen Latifah, who they said was “very smart.” We then went to Hiro, where we were greeted by Connie and whisked to Erich Conrad’s well-appointed table. Amanda Lepore looked resplendent in a summer dress, and a promoter in a Weird Al Yankovic wig entertained us. Honey Dijon was wrecking the crowd, and I was thrown back to a simpler, sweet, bygone day. “Exactly,” said Erich Conrad, who I congratulated for being at Hiro forever. Erich is good at what he does. He has had this party going since 2003 — that’s like a century and a half in club years, but this still pales in comparison to his long-running B Bar Tuesday party. Beige has been going on for about 14 years; Erich insists he started it when he was 16.

After that, we headed over to Vandam at Greenhouse, where door dutchess Cynthia Powell greeted us. Suzanne gave me a big hello and asked me if it was a “slow night elsewhere as well?” I thought Vandam was brilliant, but apparently it’s often better. Johnny Dynell was playing a set that was decidedly more electro than the pounding sexy house beats Honey had offered at Hiro. I went up to pay respects to “daddy” and surveyed the room from that DJ booth’s great height. Vandam is wonderful, and I congratulated Kenny Kenny on his success. The crowd at Hiro is different than that of Vandam. Hiro is a very sexy, mostly gay crowd, while Vandam is more mixed and fashionable. The crowd at Vandam is dancing while it walks. At Hiro they are cruising. Sunday is my new Monday — the best night to go out. The summer weekends bring out the warrior party, set and the three gay nights I visited are more fun than what I’m seeing during the week. Sundays are not really part of the summer weekend, nor are they really a weeknight — and they are anything but a weak night.

Say Hi’s Eric Elbogen Gets Pop Quizzed

“This song is about vampires,” said Eric Elbogen when introducing a track towards the end of his set last Saturday at The Bell House. Then for the song right after, the same introduction. In fact, in 2006 the former music critic and one-man machine behind the Seattle-based band Say Hi (formerly Say Hi to Your Mom) released a whole album centered around vampires, with other previous albums infused with robots and science fiction imagery. In Elbogen’s sixth album Oohs and Aahs — released on Barsuk early this month and played from beginning to end last Saturday — he forgoes the metaphors for a more straightforward approach of simple, sweet, synth-infused songs of romance and heartbreak. This time the bloodsuckers are real, but lucky for us they still make for catchy tunes. Say Hi is currently on tour with Telekinesis, but Elbogen took some time out from the rock star life to tell us about Prince and Gossip Girl in our Pop Quiz.

When you were in elementary school, what did you want to be when you grew up? A magician.

Do you have any tattoos? Nope.

Are you superstitious? Incredibly.

First album you bought? I bought Appetite for Destruction and that first DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince record (both on cassette) on the same day.

If you could have any super power, what would you choose? Time travel. That’s the best one, by far.

What restaurant would you eat at every day if you could? Magnolia Cafe in Austin.

How many times a day on average do you think about sex? 10, 20, 30, 40, 50. I’m not sure. It’s a lot though.

Have you ever been arrested? No. But I once got scolded by the Canadian border police for inadvertently lying about how much merch I was bringing in.

What’s your guilty pleasure? Gossip Girl.

Do you have a favorite bar in NY? The most trouble I’ve gotten in has been downstairs at Bowery.

Ever been star struck? Once, when Prince was standing next to me at a show. That dude is quite intimidating for his size.

When you get good news, who’s the first person you tell it to? My cat.

What do you always watch if it’s on TV? South Park.

What do you normally sleep in? Whatever girl will go home with me that night.

Where’s the craziest place you’ve had sex? An airplane cockpit.

What’s on your computer wallpaper? The solar system.

If you could be any literary character, who would you be? Rubeus Hagrid.

Where do you really want to be right now? On a beach somewhere, with my toes in the sand.

What’s the first job you ever had? Editing sound effects for the guy who did the sound design for Tron. True story.

Favorite Muppets/Sesame Street character? The Count.

Photo: Jenny Jimenez