Look, I hope you won’t be insulted if I keep this short today. I am way too busy to chat or be profound or funny or whatever it is I am doing these days. I got to get to the 17 Stanton space, formerly called The Elsinore, to finish up with the construction so you guys can go oooh and ahh or say …"What in God’s name was he thinking?" According to Scott Solish at Eater yesterday, nobody cares, but sometimes he is a little left of right. I read his take on my column yesterday and noticed just a little error…a right when he should have gone left. He said that Noel Ashman had changed the name. In reality, the name was changed over Noel’s strenuous objections. This will play out, as revelers attend the space and play with tables and bottles and other toys. Seventeen Stanton has a new name, which will be seen and heard sometime in the next few days. The place is almost ready. It feels good-to-go. After this writing and the day-job designing, I’m off to Hotel Chantelle to DJ with Sam Valentine and Michael Tee and a slew of others.. I’ll get home at 6am-ish. I was up at 7am, so it’s a 23-hour day for me. I figure I’ll get all the sleep I need in 20 or 30 years.
There will be no napkins safe this weekend as the serviette-tossing Rocco Ancarola returns to Lavo, July 29, for Riviera Sundays starting at 9:30pm. It is a joyous occasion. The event, called a "Celebration of Life," is a reference to Rocco’s long recovery from a heart attack that almost ended his life. In a Facebook post, he offered, "Thank you to all my friends for all your Love. You all helped me to recover very well and I THANK YOU ALL !!!!” Rocco is one of the great gentlemen in this business and we can’t wait to see him.
While at BINGO at Hotel Chantelle Monday, tablemate Michael Cavadias informed us that he was going to miss a week, something we never do, because he was heading to London. "For the Olympics," someone exclaimed, and I imagined him in a leotard, pole vaulting or weight lifting. Actually, he and our dear friend and inspiration Kembra Pfahler (Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black) are performing at Antony’s (of Antony and the Johnsons) Meltdown Festival. Other performers include Lou Reed, Hercules and Love Affair, Joey Arias, Marc Almond, Laurie Anderson, and Diamonda Galas. The festival runs from August 1st to the12th, basically at the same time Olympians (sans the banned Greek racist track star) are running for the gold.
So I was so-so when Mayor Bloomberg led the charge in banning cigarette smoking in places where I eat and drink and dance and play and walk in. The downside at the time was the encroachment by government into our rights…or freedom of choice. The arguments about second-hand smoke hurting those around those evil smokers won the day and, in retrospect, the trade-off was OK.
Now comes a proposed ban on large containers of sodas that contain dreaded sugar at any place regulated by the Board of Health. It’s easy to spot those: they have a letter grade in their front window. I am a strictly-diet-soda guy, but this ban reeks of Big Brother. If they can ban sugar in soda, then they can ban butter on popcorn or lollipops or cracker jacks or hot dogs or liverwurst. The foods we eat are often only acceptable in moderation. I didn’t trust the cigarette ban because it seemed like a step 1. Now that step 2 is on the brink of enactment, I fear for step 3. Is step 100 a requirement for sensible shoes? A ban on ankle-breaking Louboutins? If a person wants to buy fattening soda, educate them, don’t regulate them.
Will drink maximums be considered by our Mayor? This won’t end until Bloomberg is put out to his billionaire pasture. He is so out of touch with the life of the regular guy that he thinks this might actually stop someone from consuming massive amounts of whatever. If they can’t buy a 32-ounce bottle, they’ll buy two 16-ouncers. Will New Yorkers eventually be fined for not wearing sunglasses on a sunny day?
We have to mention the passing of Sylvia Woods at 86, the legendary proprietor of Sylvia’s, Harlem’s soul food mecca. She was buried this morning. Reverend Al Sharpton performed the eulogy. I never met Sylvia, but was touched by her. When I was designing the Cherry Lounge for Timbaland and DJ Clue in Harlem, me and mine would stroll over to Sylvia’s for lunch and comfort. The walk over and the meal and the company at her restaurant washed away a myriad of stupid misconceptions we had about Harlem. She was a true ambassador for the neighborhood. It was wonderful. She will be missed.
Tuesdays are the best night of the week for people with heads that tilt like mine. I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow. As the warm weather progresses, many successful joints will turn to alternative programming early in the week. These off-the-beaten- path parties on the so-called "off nights" will offset their predictable model/bottle weekends and add cool, cool cachet. The competition is fierce, with nightlife enjoying a renaissance, rebirth, or whatever you want to call it. Places are looking for the edge to set them apart from the pack. Throw in Brooklyn nightlife, and what we have here is a golden age. The party is as good as it has ever been, albeit with some sacrifice. I gladly miss the smoke-filled, drug-induced mayhem of previous decades. My friends aren’t waking up dead and my hair doesn’t wash out gray from cigarettes… only old age.
"The Mondays are not at all about the models, bottle spenders, etc. (same cookie cutter format everywhere) and are 100% about the musicians. This is a home for live music by a new generation of musicans in 2012 with a passion for rock n roll, alternative and indie music. People who want to come see a kick ass rock show on a Monday night. Jeffrey Jah, David Rabin and Mark Baker have given me 100% support on this project and I am excited to work with them on it."
Man about town Steven Greenberg has passed and I’m going to put my two cents in. I’d put in three but I have a feeling, if he could, he’d scold me for overpaying. Over many years, Steven was a friend, mentor, and a go-to-guy when I needed a big brain and an honest answer. He was always more than pleased to help. A couple of years ago when I was putting together some nightlife community thing, he advised me about the people I was dealing with and why it would fall short of my expectations. He was unrelenting, unforgiving, and spot-on. I was in too deep to go back, but his wisdom had me prepared for the inevitable.
This past Monday would have been Andy Warhol’s 84th birthday. It’s hard to imagine a world without Andy, and it’s hard to imagine Andy at 84. He hasn’t been replaced. The concept of "downtown,” of art-influenced clubbing, has never adjusted to his loss. Going back before "back in the day” for most of you, there was a scene that was led by the creative crowd. In my club days, I started each night with the concept of having my joint cool enough "in case Andy Warhol walked in.” It was the way I set my goals, got up for the game. On occasion, he would walk in.
I can’t think of a celebrity that would define the "cool" in this era. I guess club owners were fawning over Lindsay Lohan until recently, and at one point it was Paris Hilton. Of course Jersey Shore peeps or Kardashians or basketball stars bring excitement to the hoi polloi. Maybe Jay-Z or Beyonce are the pulse. An art star like Julian Schnabel is often seen at downtown spots. Although he carries impressive credentials, he doesn’t influence the thought process like Andy did. I thought Banksy might create a stir – until we got used to his face.
Andy charged up a room. Any gathering he attended was defined by his presence. He hobnobbed at Studio 54 with Bianca and Mick and Truman and Halston and Elizbeth Taylor, but then snuck south to Max’s Kansas City for Lou Reed, The Dolls, and his crew. The profound difference of celebrity back then and now mirrors the profound difference of VIP, then and now. Then, it was the wonderful, the creative, the style-influencers. Now, it’s all about the Benjamins.
Until a few weeks ago I would catch Taylor Meade’s act at the now-shuttered Bowery Poetry Club. Stories about Andy would drift into his act – one day disdaining Warhol, one day adoring him. Taylor is 87 now. He’s still brilliant but very frail. I don’t know if and when and where I will see his schtick again. I miss my weekly dose of his and Andy tales. Just before his death, Long Nguyen and I produced a fashion show for Kohshin Satoh at Tunnel. Andy, Miles Davis, and Devo’s Gerry Casales were the celebrity models. Andy was complaining about the place being cold, although it wasn’t. He looked ill, so we forgo him walking up and then down the steps from the dressing room he shared with Gerry. We put him on the ground floor with Miles. We weren’t being mean, but we couldn’t make him comfortable. He smiled and waved on the runway and no one in the audience suspected a thing. We knew he wasn’t himself and we found out later that he was sick and in pain. He died a few days later, on February 22, 1987.
Here’s Andy’s own recollection of the event at Tunnel, straight from his diary:
Tuesday, February 17, 1987:
…Then went over to the Tunnel and they gave us the best dressing room,but it was absolutely freezing. I had all my makeup with me. Miles Davis was there and he has absolute delicate fingers. They’re the same length as mine but half the width. I’d gone with Jean Michel last year to see his show at the Beacon, and I’d met him in the sixties at that store on Christopher Street, Hernando’s where we used to get leather pants. I reminded him that I’d met him there and he said he remembered. Miles is a clotheshorse. And we made a deal that we’d trade ten minutes of him playing music for me, for me doing his portrait. He gave me his address and a drawing-he draws while he gets his hair done. His hairdresser does the hair weaving, the extensions.
They did a $5000 custom outfit for Miles with gold musical notes on it and everything, and they didn’t do a thing for me, they were so mean. They could’ve made me a gold palette or something. So I looked like the poor step child.and in the end they even(laughs) told me I walked to slow…
The passing of Adam Yauch saddens me. I wasn’t going to write today, as food poisoning has debilitated me beyond the patience to sit and type. Adam’s passing has me here. I didn’t really know him as a Beastie Boy, although I had a coincidental meal with him at the airport when they signed their big deal. They were off to Vegas or someplace like that to celebrate and we were off to Paris to pick up my wife’s wedding dress from Thierry Mugler. I met the crew when they were youngins tooling around St. Marks Place on skateboards. There were four that I remember; Shadi was still alive. I was holding meetings at the Holiday every day as my new promo business couldn’t afford an office. I had a table in the back and, for the cost of a few drinks a day, Stefan the owner was happy to have me.
I guess they heard I was doing a show, a hardcore punk show featuring The Undead and Khmer Rouge, two bands I was managing into obscurity. The Undead actually got signed by Stiff Records just a few weeks before Stiff closed down. It was like that. They asked me if they could open. They called themselves the Young and the Useless and for that alone they earned a spot on the bill. I’m not sure what the deal was, but I think I paid them $15 and they had to help load in the gear. It was like that. The space was some second-floor dance studio or loft on, I believe, 2nd Avenue just above Houston. It’s unimportant. What was important was they weren’t a joke.
I wasn’t surprised when I and the rest of downtown was invited by Vito Bruno in’83 or’84 to see them perform in some club…maybe 21st Street. You must forgive me as I am really ill and my mind cannot focus. I seem to remember being surprised that Kate Schellenbach (drummed for Luscious Jackson) wasn’t on drums – maybe it was Rick Rubin who was. They weren’t punks anymore, not physically and not musically. The Beastie Boys came to be what they are famous for. Maybe Shadi had passed by then, I can’t remember. I remember a sadness hung over the scene for quite some time. I remember how much fun he was but I strain to remember his face. I do remember seeing his tag all over town for quite awhile. There was one by the Midtown Tunnel that lasted forever. Over the years, I would see Adam in a club or on the street and he would say hello. He was way cool and I know a great many people who can’t deal with this news.
I can’t really speak to this or much of anything more today, so in their words:
"All I wanna know is when is checkout time, So I could be in heaven with the rhythm rock rhyme, And when I’m with my man Shadi rock at the gates, We’ll be rockin’ rhythms over disco breaks."
"We’ll go up, up, up, but I’ll fly a little higher. We’ll go up in the clouds because the view’s a little nicer."
So are the lyrics written by 18-year-old Zach Sobiech in his goodbye song "Clouds." The teenager passed away Monday morning from bone cancer, a disease he fought for four years. The song, since its December debut last year, has garnered over three million views, comments-by-the-seconds, and leaves a trail of gratitude everywhere it’s heard.
But in the midst of his last years, Zach – who’s been described as having "an aura around him and always a smile" – lived fully, in a world of extremes. Some very bad days, like finding out he had a collapsed lung, and some very good days – every date with his girlfriend Amy, the time he test-drove his favorite Nissan GTR car across the snowy streets of his Minnesota town, and the day he signed to BMI Records.
Watch his story be told by Zach, family, and friends in a stunning SoulPancake video that’ll make you sob, laugh, and feel thankful for, as Zach describes it, the "life that’s beautiful, beautiful moments, one after the other."
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