Good Night Mr. Lewis: Dancing with Vices and Shien Lee

I only have a few minutes so here I go before I really have to go. I wish everyone the best. I hope you get what you need, desire, lust for, crave. I hope some of you don’t get what you deserve while others get just that. I wish for world peace and peace of mind and a bigger piece of the pie for those that hunger for that. I hope you all come back safe and sated.

The good old days had fabulous clubs with people of every class, cast, and culture. Many lament the loss of the great clubs of yesterday. I’m not one of them and I was really, really there…ask anyone. Today, there are an increasing number of fabulous people dressing up for fabulous parties. The dressing up club culture is not only not extinct or just surviving, but thriving. One of these distinctive individuals is Shien Lee who I bump into once in a while. We are both creatures that go bump in the night. I’m here to tell you she is fabulous by old, new – by any standards – and she is throwing a couple of events that I must attend. I chatted with her and here it is.
 
How did a nice girl like you end up doing this?
All nice girls dream about finding other nice girls and boys with which to do bad things. I started the Dances of Vice events in 2007 to meet other aesthetes and pleasure-seekers, and sure enough, here we are…
 
You are a striking individual… all done up.  Is this all you or does marketing your brand have something to do with the dress up? Also, if a FedEx guy delivers a package at 9am …what will you be wearing?
I’m a romantic, and the way I dress has a lot to do with sharing a fantasy. Through costume, one can transcend the social and material boundaries of utilitarian life and elevate oneself from the mundane. I remember the days of being a poor student by day, but promenading as an Eastern deity dripping in pearls by night. That’s what I mean about having the power to transcend social and material boundaries. Beauty and fantasy have the power to inspire awe, curiosity, romance, and cultivate a connection with other people. That’s what I live for. That being said, I like to dress comfortably at home – if I were expecting a delivery at 9am, I’d try to put some pants on, at least.
 
What do you do? Tell me about your company.
I’m known for creating highly stylized anachronistic and new romantic events through my company, Dances of Vice. I wanted to create a venue where lovers of anachronism and surrealism could meet other like minds and celebrate art, beauty, and rebellion. I also provide event and entertainment services for clients ranging from Google to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I’m a goth girl at heart, so I also have a monthly dance party called Disko Nouveaux on the second Saturdays of each month which celebrates New Romantic music and fashion. If you couldn’t tell from my sense of style, I’m all about dark melodrama.
 
Tell me about the Moonlight Circus, the Grand Illusion, and previous events … the growth of your brand.
I have two events planned to welcome the new year. The first, "The Moonlight Circus," is an opulent vintage circus-themed gala on December 30th at Riverside Church, an amazing Gothic cathedral located next to Columbia University. "The Grand Illusion" is a 1960s crime-noir-themed bash on New Year’s Eve proper at the lavish Tribeca Grand Hotel, featuring all manner of cirque, burlesque, live music, and other enticing entertainments. Details on those events can be found at dancesofvice.com. Some of my favorite events in the past have been a Dada-themed event at Don Hill’s, the annual Dances of Vice Spring Ball, and a "Glam Rococo" show featuring Prince Poppycock that called for a synthesis of 1770s decadence with 1970s glam rock.
 
I hear the old-schoolers lament that nightlife isn’t what it once was, and I reply it just isnt true…that maybe there isn’t one great club like back in the day, but there are great parties/events. What is the state of nightlife and can a club exist that people like you can go to every night… a cultural cauldron?
I moved to New York from abroad in 2007 not knowing a soul, but I was familiar with the great history of NYC nightlife, and I was active in reaching out to other innovators. There are many artists and newcomers who are making waves in nightlife that continue to astound and inspire. Times change, but if your mind is open to the new, you’ll find there’s a wealth of exciting parties and communities in today’s scene. I think cultivating a creative community is what makes nightlife great, and it’s daunting to hear people complain. Don’t like what you see? Reach out and do something about it! I produce a wide range of events for all types of audiences, but I’ve been told that some of my events offer a taste of "Old New York," which is extremely flattering. I think that’s because I try to welcome eccentrics from all subcultures and demographics who appreciate unconventional beauty and want to participate in that culture. I’ve also had the honor of  working with some extraordinary artists who fuel my inspiration and ideas behind the events. Art, beauty, and rebellion have the power to break down barriers and material boundaries and unite people in a shared passion for pleasure and fantasy. That power is what drives my work.
 
Some people just throw parties while some have led the way, broken down barriers…I’m talking nightlife here, not Gandhi or Abe Lincoln.  How ambitious are you?
You better believe…I’m hot to trot!

Boobs, Bubbles, and Beaumarchais

Most people know Beaumarchais for their wild brunch parties on the weekends that start soft and end up with dancing on the tables. Last night, though no one got higher than a chair, I was pleased to see Wednesdays are also hot, and that after 11pm, the swanky French restaurant turns into a mini nightclub.

This, of course, didn’t come on sporadically. The party fire was fueled by an unbelievably sexy and classy performance by a troop of burlesque dancers, courtesy of Dances of Vice, an entertainment and party organization run by vintage-goth Shien Lee. Every week these ladies tease the stage and audience with Nuit Blanche, their theme-based weekly show that runs from 9:30 to 11pm right in the middle of the dining room. This week we were treated to a Boardwalk Empire premise, flapper dresses, bee-stung lips, and feather boas included.

For guests it’s complimentary, though don’t be surprised if a foxy lady or two saunters over to your table, tassels shaking, and steals a kiss and sip of your Champaign. It’s all in good fun.

While your there, take a gander at the menu, the food, I was surprised to find, is actually high-class. True, executive chef David E Diaz makes dishes that are as exuberant as the space and vibe, but who doesn’t want to tuck into a plate of uber creamy gnocchi with truffle, a pot of lobster topped with caviar, or a classy crock of salmon tartare, roe included. Chase that down with their jalapeño-infused tequila cocktail, or a giant glass of Rioja, and you have got yourself a night to remember.

Photo by Ben Goldstein.

New York City Will Be One Long Food Festival This Summer

It’s no secret: food events are all the rage. This couldn’t be truer than in New York, where dining alfresco has taken on a whole new meaning with the rise of food trucks, markets, and whole days dedicated to eating from little stands, festival or not.

Already this summer the New York Times has dedicated two articles to these events. In last week’s Sunday paper, they talked about the artisanal side of eating, small businesses, and the hunt to try foods first at these gatherings. The other one hit on the trend of music festivals turned in to food extravaganzas, the most recent example being the failed GoogaMooga a couple weeks ago (though props to them for refunding the VIP tickets). The complaint surrounding that event, and with a many food-centric gatherings, is waiting in line.

This problem isn’t so bad at weekly gatherings like Saturday’s Brooklyn Flea Market in Fort Greene or the all-food bazaar Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. At the Flea, they have nibbles like vegan Faux Gras by The Regal Vegan, Sam Mason’s Empire Mayonnaise, and tiny cupcakes from Kumquat Cupcakery. The year-old Smorgasburg has more vendors than we want to list here, but some of my favorites include First Prize Pies, Rick’s Picks, and Kings County Jerky. You can also get your grub on at Hester Street Fair, which features lobster rolls from Luke’s Lobster, artisan ice pops from La Newyorkina, coffee from Café Grumpy, and a whole slew of other bites.  

If you just want to hit up a bunch of seasonal food trucks, try the Red Hook ballpark in Brooklyn, an area famous for its taco and papusa stands. In Manhattan, the Highline has spattering of snacks you can buy as you walk along its lovely, urban-meets-organic path. Also, for you beach goers, nothing is finer for a beach body than stuffing your face with Rockaway Taco and DiCosmo’s Italian Ice at the famous Rockaway Beach in Queens.

As for up coming food, music, and fun festivals that you will probably have to wait in line for, June 9 and 10 brings the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in Madison Square Park. For a decade they have been hosting this meat and music fest. This year they have Jon Langford, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, and Southern Culture on the Skids to strike a cord as people chow on barbecue from the hottest spots around the country including Scott’s Bar-B-Que, Ed Mitchell’s whole hog roast, and Pappy’s Smokehouse.

Another event coming up is popular party host Dances of Vice’s Rockabilly Night Market at the DeKalb Market in Downtown Brooklyn on June 22, which will have music by Eddie Clendening and the Blue Ribbon Boys, plus tons of food from the vendors there. Governors Island also hosts food-happy events like their Cook Out NYC on July 7 and 8, which features a burger cook off, a kimchi eating contest, and lots of local craft beer.

So, go forth you hungry people and enjoy this popular way to eat outdoors, listening to music, and walking around our fair city. Is there something on your list this summer that we forgot? Please share and may the lines ever be in your favor.