The First Time I Heard and Saw Donna Summer

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The news of Donna Summer’s death from cancer at the age of 63 shocked me out of my un-routine routine. I went to iTunes and downloaded half a dozen of her hits for use last night while DJing at Hotel Chantelle. Although it is the rockiest of rock nights, with a high probability that everybody in attendance had at one time owned a "Disco Sucks" T-shirt, it felt important to pay respect. At 3am I started mixing disco hits – and every other song was a winner from Donna. The crowd responded. It was "Love to Love You Baby," "Love Hangover", “Bad Girls,” and then Gloria Gaynor’s, "I Will Survive". Diva after diva… and the crowd went wild. The sound of well-produced dance music over a solid club sound system is one of the unique attractions of nightlife. “McArthur Park” was a near-religious experience. They ooo’d and ahhh’d and understood the loss as her voice rang clear.

I first heard “Love to Love You Baby” on my third date with a stewardess back in the mid ‘70s. We were hanging with her stewardess friends at their stewardess apartment when the record was put on. It was put on to turn me on, as I had been missing the hints that my world-weary stewardess was tossing tired of waiting for me to make my move. I caught the eye contact between her and her co-conspirators and understood my job. The 17 minutes of moans in “Love to Love You Baby” was worth a thousand words. After that affair, I retreated to my rock world, aware of Donna Summers’ hit factory but not very interested. Although “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff,” and her other mega-hits dominated disco – the most fun era in club history – I was a rock and roller and remain so. I was grunge before there was a name for it. I was a punk with ripped jeans and Ramones T’s. Disco was for the bad cologne, the polyester set.

Over the decades, her anthems were heard at parties and disco nights. She was unmistakable, undeniable. Her voice held even the disinterested in awe. Around 1989 I had the Red Zone, a popular club in the West 50s.

We had booked a Donna Summer event where she was to openly apologize for something she had denied even saying. She was quoted as saying "AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals.” She wanted her gay family to rejoin her, rejoice in her. In 1989 we were all losing scores of friends to AIDS-related illnesses. The hideous statement from a diva whose fan base was the gay community was beyond dumb …if it were true. Few believed her denials, and the event was being held to clear the air. ACT-UP disagreed and picketed the event. Donna never left her limo and that was that. Her protestations and lawsuits did little to regain her lost fans.

Over the years, I would hear a track on the radio or at a club and was awed by her talent…her way of hanging every impossible note and underlining every lyric. It was mid-last decade and I was asked if I wanted to see her perform at some corporate affair at Exit, another club in the far west 50s. Owner David Marvisi figured I might want to see her, but no one I called cared, no one wanted to go. I went alone. I stood in the sound booth, 15 feet above and in front of the stage, and waited. I had no expectations. I had no idea what I was going to see.

She came out in complete darkness, singing the intro to “McArthur Park” and I got goose bumps. It was beyond amazing. When the beat came on so did the lights and she was a DIVA, DIVA, DIVA. The corporate suits flocked the stage to see what all their money had paid for. Donna delivered. I welled up with tears. She was an overlooked star playing to an un-hip corporate card-crowd. The crowd should have been queens, hipsters, club kids, and the wonderful instead of the mundane. She gave them her hits and smiled that show-biz smile, but all I could feel was what could have been.

Donna Summer’s death is a stop-the-presses event. I was to tell you about a bunch of things today in detail, but a few lines will now have to do. On May 18th through the 20th, Roseland Ballroom hosts the New York Tattoo Convention. Clayton Paterson, a friend and organizer, was hooking me up with a photo of man-about-town Steve Bonde for a story, but… in short, he was the Stray Cats photographer back in the day and started this tattoo convention stuff in 1998. He wrote a couple of books: Tattoo with an Attitude and Marked for Life. Everybody in the ink community is going – and so am I.

I was also to discuss the end-of-season run of Daniel and Derek Kochs’ unstoppable hit brunch “Day and Night” at Ajna Bar, 25 Little W.12th St. I would also have talked about the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Javits Center on May 19-22 where you can see all the furniture and fixtures of next year’s clubs in advance.

Lastly, I would have mentioned the piece in yesterday’s NY Times about Justin Ross Lee, international man of controversy. In that, the Times referred to me as "an authority on nightlife.” Now that I am official, I’m going to put down the pen, grab a diet Ginger Ale, and sit back and listen to "Last Dance."

Drink Your Perfect Bloody Mary: Lexington Brass Launches New DIY Bloody Mary Bar

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Now that Midtown East’s classy American bistro Lexington Brass has launched their DIY Bloody Mary Bar, weekend brunchers everywhere can drink Their Perfect Bloody Mary. The Sunday & Saturday afternoon addition equips you with your own little checklist of ingredients – from spirit to rim to spice – that you mark with a pencil, hand to the bartender, and watch (and salivate) as they make their mixing magic with your choices.

For $9, you can choose between sauces like Worcestershire, Tabasco, and/or horseradish; yummy little toppings like pickled okra, pepperoncini, and celery; and even an additional $5 upgrade to the big boys: Grey Goose, Sapphire, or Avion.

It’s fun getting what you want, isn’t it?

Get the inside-scoop on Lexington Brass, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Fried Chicken & Cereal-Topped Donuts: New Brunches Launch Tomorrow

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It’s a pretty good day when 1. it’s Friday and 2. the following day marks the beginning of a new wave in the competitive NY sport that is brunching.  Two very new and very delicious spots – The General & Sweet Chick – are launching their brunches, meaning that the following items will transform our weekend afternoons/hangovers/indigestion for the unforeseeable future.

The General: Top Chef winner Hung Huynh & pastry chef Thiago Silva cooks up…

  • Peking duck hash and eggs
  • Blueberry buttermilk pancakes
  • King crab in a kabayaki hollandaise
  • Signature pretzel bombs: pretzels filled with egg and cheese, and bacon or pastrami
  • Signature cereal-topped donuts

Sweet Chick: Southern-American dishes include…

  • Cheddar-laced shrimp and grits
  • Signature golden chicken & waffles
  • Bacon Bloody Marys
  • Sticky buns lathered in cream cheese frosting
  • Smoked pork hash and poached egg

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Photo: delish.com

New York’s Top Easter Brunches

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Congratulations. You’ve made it through the 40-day period of Lent and are now entering an entire day of divine gluttony known as Easter. Just like Jesus, you too are resurrected, as your worst vices –  ice cream sundaes before bed, chocolate after lunch, and mustard & salami sandwiches – are raised from the dead newly available during a meal known as “the moveable feast.” But since we all know the most moving we’ll be doing is from the table to the couch/reaching for the Italian bread, let’s get started on where to eat. Here are the restaurants serving New York’s Top Easter Brunches

Know every inch of NY by visiting BlackBook’s NY City Guides, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

This Week’s Miami Happenings: Cecconi’s, Brothers Beckett, Serafina Brunch

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NOW:  Cecconi’s Adopts Mixology Pairings
If coupling lamb chops with Shiraz feels too old school, head on down to Ceccioni’s at the Soho Beach House Miami for some mind-boggling mixology pairings on executive chef Sergio Sigala’s new, customizable spring menu. You’ll find yourself sipping on reposado tequila with Aperol and grapefruit peel served with hamachi crudo and a gingery gin concoction that tastes nothing like it sounds when paired with bufala mozzarella. Best part: the face time with the mixologists, who are as generous with shoptalk as they are with alcohol.

Mixology parings are now available at Cecconi’s Miami Beach (4385 Collins Ave., South Beach). For details, check out the listing in BlackBook Guides.

WEDNESDAY: Sibling Satire At The Arsht Center
Supporting the performing arts is belly-hurting hilarious thanks to Brothers Beckett, a cheeky play penned by a local playwright about friendship, family, and slacker siblings, laced with sharp banter and dark humor.

Brothers Beckett is playing at The Adrienne Arsht Center (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Downtown) through Sunday, March 24. For ticket information, visit the official website.

EVERY WEEKEND: Brunch Debuts At Serafina
The latest NYC culinary transport is rolling out its brunch menu. Serafina’s chef Marco Zuccala will be serving up Italian dishes, such as egg white frittatas and lemon ricotta pancakes, which will go deliciously with those bottomless Bellinis.

Serafina is open now (1111 Collins Ave., South Beach). For details, check out the listing in BlackBook Guides.

Be the first to know about the latest openings & events in Miami by signing up for the weekly BlackBook Happenings email.

Tumblr, Vimeo Founders Talk Creativity At SXSW Brunch

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Want to brunch with Tumblr founder David Karp? Split an omelette with Vimeo founder Jake Lodwick? Have an espresso with the lead singer of OK Go? Yep, so do I. And maybe someday we will, but for now, we’re getting the next best thing: a video from GE’s two-hour Brilliant Brunch at SXSW, when eight leading creators of all things tech, media, & music came together to dine on waffles, sip Bloody Marys, and tackle how they got started, what challenges them, and how they stay on top.

In this video, the innovators discuss their “Path to Creativity.” Check out the full list of videos, sit back, grab a coffee, and get instantly inspired. Or at least hungry.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Pig and Khao Launches Brunch: The Hit Dishes

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It all started with the chocolate & bacon rice pudding at Pig and Khao: a multi-layered Filipino treat of sticky rice, coconut milk, whole milk, and chocolate, topped with bacon bits. One rice and pork-filled scoop, and I vowed to never let a silly thing like “healthfulness” or “but I’m going out later”  be a concern on the weekends. Why? Because the Thai and Filipino spot Pig and Khao has just launched their weekend brunch, and with a name that translates to “mountains of rice and pig” in Thai, there’s just no time for any thought besides "bring on the bacon."

About Pig and Khao; every forkful at this Lower East Side spot has been crafted by Top Chef contestant Leah Cohen, and everything else – from the décor to the management – is under the care of Fatty Crew Hospitality, the same group behind NY’s Fatty ‘Cue and Fatty Crab. You’re in good hands.

And good hands yield happy bellies at Pig and Khao, where the brunch menu includes hit dishes like a sizzling platter of braised pork head (pictured) with garlic and a just-cracked egg; corned beef hash with raw egg, Thai chili, and cilantro; and the king of the crop – a pan-seared French toast-inspired bread pudding (below) with caramelized bananas baked inside, topped with caramelized plantains and coconut whipped cream.  

And mimosas are bottomless. At $15, you get nonstop, express-delivered glasses of fresh lychee, mango, orange, and watermelon mimosa. And when you couple two hours of those drinks with the sobering effects of pork head and yellow curry noodles, you too can walk out of Pig and Khao a new person, ready to take on the day. Godspeed.

Know every inch of this city by visiting BlackBook’s New York City Guides, and follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Pig and Khao

Rumor Has It: Boulton & Watt Is Launching Brunch

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When Boulton & Watt opened in the East Village in January, I thought that was good enough; a rustic, yet industrial, sexy spot serving gouda and white cheddar mac & cheese, brick chicken, and a gooey cookie cake? Sold, to the highest bidder. But while dining on their Scotch egg and veggie burger last night, I heard a little rumor… brunch is beginning at Boulton. Weekend brunch.

Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s a development that may take several weeks, but nonetheless, brunch will happen at Boulton. Soon. And if it’s anything like their dinners, this brunch is sure to blossom like spring tulips into the city’s best. Poetry…such is Boulton.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here. Check out BlackBook’s New York Guide.

DIY Prosecco Bar, Truffle Pizza, & French Toast Sticks On Sotto 13’s New Brunch Menu

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Given the choice to begin the day with French toast sticks, a truffle pizza pie, and DIY prosecco bar, would you take it? If only all decisions were this easy. Come Saturday, Feb. 16th, you can put these words into action, when acclaimed Italian spot Sotto 13 launches their new weekend brunch menu.

At Sotto, nothing is taken lightly; not the flavor, the décor, the alcohol content of the cocktails. This West Village restaurant welcomes you with its earthy green walls, atrium, creamy eggs benedict, and raspberry-white-peach-bellinis. I had the chance to preview the new brunch menu last night, and let’s just say I walked out tipsy, full, and – the morning after – still full but oddly craving their signature olive oil-salt chocolate ganache. This is so weird.

But I’m taking it in stride, because some meals are worth it. Where else can you have an all-you-can-drink $25 brunch and DIY prosecco bar? And where else can you feel nine-years-old again and dip French toast sticks into maple syrup and fresh berry compote?

So between now and the 16th, go ahead; while away this weekend’s brunch over another restaurant’s standard scrambled eggs and mimosas. But come next Saturday… it’s Sotto time.

Get the inside-info on Sotto 13, and follow Bonnie on Twitter here