The Girl With The Million-Dollar Smile and The ‘Open Arms,’ 1920 Bunker Club Closes

Tomorrow, from 6pm to 9pm, Guastavino’s (409 East 59th Street) – that incredibly vaulted restaurant directly under the 59th Street Bridge – will host "Open Arms," a fundraiser presented by Team Ronald to benefit Ronald McDonald House New York. My pal London Rosiere alerted me to this gala. I met London while she was visiting New York many years ago. A storm, perfect in its ability to destroy lives, homes, and careers delayed her travel back home to New Orleans. Katrina destroyed a great deal of her city and most of the material things in her life, leaving her to make a go of it here, alone. She never let us see her sweat. Her million-dollar smile, her inner and outer beauty and determination to do her best helped her through the crisis as she built a new life for herself. She never forgot what it meant to need. Her heart of gold has her helping others and giving back to those who need it. I caught up with London and asked her all about it.

Tell me about Open Arms, the fundraiser to benefit Ronald McDonald House New York. Tell my readers what they can expect to find at this event, and of course, at the Ronald McDonald House.
Open Arms is our biggest volunteer-organized fundraising event of the year. This spectacular evening is filled with great music, food, open bar, prizes, and dancing. There will be a live auction featuring exciting prizes including travel packages, theater tickets, jewelry, sports tickets, paraphernalia, and much, much more to raise money for the cause.

The Ronald McDonald House provides a home-away-from-home for children undergoing cancer treatment and their families.  The House is a supportive and caring environment which encourages and nurtures the development of child-to-child and parent-to-parent support systems.

I met you at one of my clubs back in the day… you were a refugee… a transplant from Katrina. Tell me about your before, the hurricane’s trail of destruction, and your post-huricane life and career.
Born and raised in New Orleans, I came to NYC for a two-day trip to film a commercial. On the day I was scheduled to leave and return home, there was an emergency evacuation in New Orleans and I couldn’t fly in because there was a serious hurricane threat.  Being spontaneous and adventurous, I decided I’d just stay in the city for an extra day or so and return home once the storm passed and everyone had calmed down. Thirty-six hours later, there was nothing to return to. I lost my home and everything I owned. 

My family was in Texas, urging me to come meet them – but I said I couldn’t. There was a strange magnetic attraction pulling me to the city and I just went with it. I wanted the challenge. So I was young and alone in arguably the most expensive city in the world. I had no friends or belongings; just a positive spirit and a bright smile. I remember deciding not to think about what happened or allow myself to get sad; there was no time for that. So I got a job and immediately went to work. London Rosiere You’ve done some club/hospitality work as nightlife continues to support ambitious and talented people on their way to achieving their goals. Tell me about that what your goals are while you’re here?
NYC’s nightlife actually played a major role in me getting on my feet here in the city. I remember eating alone at Butter the night after the storm. I befriended the manager and he loved my wild story. I will never forget him saying "Well, if you don’t mind going out alone, I can call and get you into some pretty cool places…" One phone call to Matt Oliver and that was it! I was a fearless and outgoing young Southern girl having fun meeting fabulous new people in this fabulous new city. I liked being different and thinking differently. Through the years I have met so many amazing and inspirational people from many walks of life from being out in nightlife. 

One of my biggest inspirations, a man named Mike Saes. I met him about six years ago at Club 205 on the LES.  We started talking about running. I never had run before… and just last month I completed my 11th full marathon. If I hadn’t gone out that night, I wouldn’t have met him, and I wouldn’t  have any medals hanging on my wall to remind me of my strength. I always think back and wonder where I would be if I hadn’t gone out… especially to Butter that night.

What is it about you that has you giving back …helping others?
I’ve always been into philanthropy work and giving back because I know what it’s like to need help. It’s my compassion for the less fortunate that drives me. When I lived in Africa at the Watoto Wa Baraka Orphanage, I realized there are so many more ways to give back besides making donations. There is so much poverty in the world, more than money can fix. There are sick, scared, and lonely children that just want to feel like someone cares about them. Working with The Ronald McDonald House has given me the same "big sis" feeling I had at the orphanage. Listening, laughing, playing, and being a positive friend and role model is what I love doing.  It makes me happy knowing I’m doing my part: inspiring and giving hope.

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Word comes that about another incredibly vaulted space. The 1920 Bunker Club – that joint that lives under the 9th Avenue cobblestones directly below 14th Street – no longer lives. I asked a rep "why"? and "what it will now be?" and was told "wasn’t profitable any longer. No plans just yet." The Stephen HansonB.R. Guest property closes on the heels of another closing of one of their joints: Kibo, off Park Avenue south. Kibo was in the process of adding a nightlife component when it abruptly shuttered. London Rosiere B.R. Guest is one of the best restaurant groups around. They operate Fiamma, Primehouse, Blue Water Grill, Strip House, Atlantic Grill, Bill’s Bar & Burger, Blue Fin, Dos Caminos, Isabella’s, etc., etc. That’s here in New York, Vegas, Atlantic City etc., etc. They got their act together with the food but I have never understood their approach to nightlife. To fail at the 1920 Bunker Club, with hordes of spending patrons all around them, is unbelievable.

Failure in the Meatpacking does occur but it should have done better. I rarely visited Bunker as it had little appeal. I remember seeing it for the first time long before it came to be. It was a big hole under the street with the underside of manhole covers clearly visible and leaking water and the smell of old. I was part of a design team but never did get involved. I didn’t like the design. It made little sense to me as a nightclub. Nightclub operators have trouble transitioning to restaurants and few do well. Restaurateurs look at them and inherently understand the problem. Nightlife operators clearly see the weakness of restaurateurs trying to sell bottles. They are two different games with different rules and, well, now 1920 Bunker is closed. Stephen Hanson, who I respect and adore and am so often awed by, needs to pair with someone new if he wants to go late… and great.

A special birthday shout out to Butter Group (1 OAK NYC, 1 OAK Las Vegas, The Darby, Darby Downstairs, Butter, Butter Charlotte) honcho Michael Goldberg. He is celebrating at 1 OAK tonight with music by Sam French, Daniel Chetrit, E Rock, Jus Ske & Sal Morale, and a "surprise performance. I’ll be there. Happy birthday Michael!

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Legendary Billy’s Antiques Closing This Weekend, Paris Fashion Week Begins

I’m so confused about the weather, and nowadays I’m at least six degrees of separation from Al Gore and have no chance of getting the truth, inconvenient or not. The sun is high in the sky but the temperature remains low, and I want the winter that really never was to turn into a spring of boundless possibilities. I don’t know what to wear and everyone I know is in Paris for Fashion Week, trying to find out for themselves. I guess it’s the worst time to go to Le Bain or Le Baron with all those Frenchies having gone home for the spectacle – or maybe not. Le Baron has The Virgins tonight and that might be fun.

These Fashion Weeks in those fashionable cities abroad take all the broads (er, models) for work and/or play and all the playboy types and such that follow them. It really strains the bottom line of joints that depend on the jet-set crowd for bottle bucks. It does mark the end of the winter doldrums and the spring will bring all the snowbirds back from their warm retreats. I am restless for the new season. Yesterday I spied crocus and other tough little buds rearing their little heads…ready, like me, for action.
 
Every spring needs a cleaning, but I’m sad to report that dear friend Billy LeRoy is cleaning up and out of his tent that has been the home of Billy’s Antiques on Houston Street for 30 years. There will be a couple of days of events to mark the end of an era of a place that often looked like a comedy of errors, but more than often  was a place that dreams were made of. Over a couple or few decades, I have purchased tables and chairs, kitchen sinks, and mirrors for clubs I have been designing. It was at Billy’s that I bought that life-size Muhammad Ali bronze statue that stands in front of Snap Sports Bar. I would poke around Billy’s on most warm afternoons, chatting with friends that popped by for a chat. Regulars like Clayton Patterson, Paul SevignyArthur Weinstein, and Anthony Haden-Guest would converse and bask in the unreal realness of it all. The place always seemed "semi-legal" – and that described many of the regulars anyway. If you needed a trunk or a stool, Billy would have a nice one. If you needed to know what was happening with a neighborhood storefront or missing friend, Billy had the scoop. The neighborhood has changed and Billy’s old clientele looking for a moderately-used end table or obscure oil painting for their tenement apartment have been replaced with yuppie scum buying their furniture brand new at Raymour & Flanigan. Many of the old characters have faded into the past and, with the closing of Billy’s, Nolita loses much of its character. This Friday, March 9th at 7pm until Saturday, March 10th at 7pm, the Billy’s crew will say farewell.
 
Lorraine Leckie, always the class of the place, will perform. There will be "eulogies, art, poetry, and film" and many other performances. It might go late. On Saturday afternoon, they’ll take down the tent. "In a gothic burial ceremony, the flesh and bones of Billy’s will be placed in a coffin that will remain on display until demolition day. In the week leading up to the event, our landlord, Tony Goldman, will invite renowned artist and visual poet RETNA to paint the legendary Bowery and Houston mural. In the absence of the tent, a tradition of thoughtful creativity will endure."

13 Questions for Friday the 13th

It is Friday the 13th and, yes, I am getting a "13 ball" tattooed on my arm from Magic Cobra Tattoo Society.  The line on Driggs and South 1st was long and totally fun for the inexpensive permanents. They ink for 24 hours starting at midnight and I gave them mixed CDs for the occasion …some biker/tattoo music to ease the pain.

It may be Triskaidekaphobia that has me not willing to write today, to commit to a story, say anything I might regret later. I was up until 8am at Magic Cobra haven and woken at 7am Thursday morning. That question from Dirty Harry keeps banging around in my head "…But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?’” Well I feel anything but lucky today and the entire world away from my pillow feels like a .44 Magnum; I am absolutely feeling like a punk, so forgive me if I keep this to 13 possibly dumb questions with uneven answers.

Q1) Was it the luck of the Irish that got that fabulous Ballinger crew open almost immediately at Webster Hall after a stabbing at a hardcore show, while  Greenhouse/W.i.P. got shuttered harder and longer for a bottle-throwing incident?
A1) I think it’s a matter of a long history of working well with the community that has Webster doing its thing, while Greenhouse has been way more annoying to some. The fact that the Webster stabber and stabbees were white and the bottle throwers and brawlers at Greenhouse were black never crossed my mind.

Q2) Are the rumors that Pink Elephant may close for August true, and was it bad luck or bad planning to open a Euro-based club in the beginning of the summer or was it planned like this all along?
A2) I’m too tired to ask them the question today and you know what will be said anyway.

Q3) Is The Double Seven just being unlucky or is it the weather, or is it just fabulous and not as confused as my personal confusion perceives it?  A source who made me swear to say nothing about what he told me about The Double Seven will be happy that I respect his wishes.
A3) Mark Baker and crew will tell me how wonderful it is over there if I had the strength to pick up the phone so why should I bother to call?

Q4) So why can’t they call it Bungalow 8 and what did Amy Sacco ever do to be the focus of such silliness?
A4) She is so fabulous and smart and fun and if they want to call it "8"…wink, wink, I’m going to go anyway. Hey, they can call it 13 and I’m there.

Q5) Is the Xtravaganza Ball really going to happen next Sunday, July 22, and have they really asked me to be a judge?
A5) OMG ! Yes ! What to wear? I must look …legendary.

Q6) Have those wonderful and erotic Domi Dollz fallen into a pile of good luck now that every skirt on the planet has read Fifty Shades of Grey?
A6) I missed their monthly soiree/seminar this past Thursday at the Museum of Sex but predict they may soon need to get a bigger room to whip those novices into shape.

[Editor’s Note: I went, and it was amazing. Those Dollz know how to whip you and their leather-collared, half-naked boys into shape.]

Q7) Am I really going to do 13 of these?
A7) No, seven is more than half of 13, I think… and considering the condition my tattoo is in, it’s all you can expect. I’m going to crash…get my tattoo from Adam Korothy at Magic Cobra, rinse, and repeat.