‘Boom For Real’ Chronicles Basquiat’s Life as a Homeless NYC Teen (Watch)

Photo by Alexis Adler

 

Everyone knows the name Jean-Michel Basquiat. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, he became one of the world’s most influential artists, responsible for revolutionizing the New York art scene by popularizing street art and promoting a radical, political message. But before his paintings were selling for $110,000,00 at auction, Basquiat was living as a homeless teen in NYC’s East Village.

A new documentary, Boom For Real, explores this pivotal time in the artist’s life, which undoubtedly impacted his work and career. From the prevalence of drugs, crime and violence that he witnessed (in the documentary, director Sara Driver shows how his famous tag “SAMO” came from Basquiat seeing the “same ‘ol shit”), to his experiences with class struggle, these themes were at the center of the artist’s work until his untimely death in 1988. While most of the other films about the painter, like Tamra Davis’ 2010 Radiant Child documentary, touch on Basquiat’s career and the effect he’s had on contemporary art, Boom For Real sheds light on his life before fame, and how those experiences shaped him as an artist.

In theaters May 11. Watch the trailer, below.

 

 

Best Coffee Shops to Work in the East Village

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Photo courtesy of Think Coffee

The East Village, spanning Alphabet City to the outer confines of NYU”s campus and Union Square, has no shortage of java joints, whether you”re looking for an artisan brew, a neutral meeting place, or a WiFi connection outside of your apartment. We”ve culled through the neighborhood”s inventory of coffeehouses to present you with the best ones to work, study and read. Here are the best coffee shops to work in the East Village.

The RoostThis Alphabet City joint is a coffee shop with a speakeasy hidden in the back. It”s a cozy and quiet place to do work during the day, especially if you can snag a spot on one of the leather couches — if not, there are a few small tables and counters overlooking the sidewalk out front. WiFi is free and there”s usually an issue of The New York Times floating around on the weekend. (222 Avenue best online casino B at 13th St., 646-918-6700)

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Photo courtesy of The Roost

Think CoffeeThis local chain has outposts all over the city with a few on the boundaries of the East Village. While the Bowery and 4th Avenue locations don”t have internet, they do have ample seating. The flagship on Mercer Street by NYU is more Greenwich than East Village but it has free WiFi, plenty of outlets, and more than enough tables to work at. (Think Mercer: 248 Mercer St. at W 4th, 212-228-6226; Think Bowery: 1 Bleecker at Bowery, 212-533-3366; Think Union Square: 123 4th Ave at 12th St., 212-614-6644)

WaysideIts proximity to NYU dorms makes this coffeeshop-wine bar a popular hang for students, but luckily its compact size and chill vibe mean it never gets too loud or crowded. It has high-top tables and a few counters, plus a food menu of quick breakfast items and Mediterranean-inspired sandwiches. Free WiFi is available until 5:30 PM, when the spot transitions to a candlelit wine and beer hangout. (139 E 12th at 3rd Ave., 646-201-8977)

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Photo courtesy of Wayside

Ninth Street EspressoThere are two East Village locations of this simple coffee spot — one overlooking Tompkins Square Park on 10th Street and one further into Alphabet City on 9th between C and D. The 9th Street location has more tables than the TSP one (which is more of a grab-and-go spot) so it”s a better option if you”re looking to do work. It”s cash only and free WiFi for customers is only available during the week. (314 E 10th between A and B; 700 E 9th between C and D, 212-358-9225)

Madman EspressoSince this petite coffee shop on 14th Street has limited seating — only 10 or so high-top tables — it never gets too crowded, so it”s a good spot to do solo work. WiFi is free and available with no limit. (319 E 14th between 1st and 2nd)

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Photo courtesy of Madman Espresso

EMM Group Opens The General, A Sure-Fire Hit

I’ve was invited to the friends and family opening of The Generalthe new restaurant from EMM Group at Bowery and Spring. EMM is Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum, and Michael Hirtenstein. They are the force behind Abe & Arthur’s, CATCH, CATCH Roof, CATCH Miami, Lexington Brass, SL, SL East, Tenjune, Chandelier Room, Revel Nightlife, FINALE, and Bow, and lots of other stuff. Bow and Finale are the other parts of the Spring and Bowery space that once housed Boulevard and Crash Mansion. Executive chef Hung Huynh of Top Chef fame offers up modern Asian cuisine in a red-chaired gilded wallpapered paradise. All the inside-info is here.

Opening up this time of year is interesting. Most operators look to open in the early or late stages of spring or fall, and with 300 seats, there will be a lot of kinks to be worked out. Groups like EMM have fewer kinks than most.  Opening now allows the place to hit its stride as the nice weather and affluent snowbirds return. They can do no wrong in my book. The General stretches the Bowery strip from its previous above-Houston Street border where joints like Daniel Boulud’s DBGB, Gemma, Peels and many others serve neighborhood residents and well-heeled visitors. This is not the Bowery of my youth. Little Steve Lewis trivia: my great uncle was one of the famed Bowery Boys.

Most clubs reported near-normal attendees for the week after New Year’s but much lower revenues. People went out but seemed to be tapped or burnt out.  For all except for the very top operators, New Year’s Eve is a loss when you account for the naturally slower nights preceding it and the after-effects. I’m still beat up from all the rushing around, and Christmas bills are still being paid. Getting me out requires special coaxing.

Many people obviously get terribly drunk on New Year’s Eve and try hard to slow it down for a couple of weeks. Then there are those resolutions which often include a step back from the boozing. My resolutions always end in a vow to break all my resolutions ASAP. We are still enjoying tourist dollars, but those will fade away as vacation bucks tend to fly to warmer climates this time of year. The cold keeps people in and, well, you get the idea.

EMM group is way ahead of this game. They have a built-in clientele that’s enamored with all their other joints. CATCH is still more than killing it, and the word "NEW" is always a sure draw. The General, a NEW offering from an established hospitality group enters as a sure thing. I’ll keep you posted.

Lucky Cheng’s Owner On the Big Move to Times Square

When the city closed the gay bathhouses, others came in and reinvented them. Hayne Suthon led the charge for her family, converting the old Club Baths into a series of restaurants and fun lounges. Cave Canem was a Roman- themed joint that had me on day one. Its conversion in 1983 to the drag queen-heavy Lucky Cheng’s was an inspiration. Owner Hayne was the belle of the ball. Throw together Amy Sacco (before she was Amy Sacco) with a little Susanne Bartsch, and a Barnum and Bailey ringmaster with serious legal schooling and bizness-savvy, and you have Hayne.

All was good until the neighborhood changed. The East Village/LES’s conversion from hipster heaven to dormitories for slaves and students left them without their base. Bachelorette and birthday shindigs filled the Lucky Cheng’s room,and Hayne eyed the new Times Square. A year or two ago, I told everyone in town that her space was available and the best game in town. Now, operators are clamoring for it and deals are done… almost. Someone will make it nice for those who are now around. Money will be spent to pay for the rent, the renovation, and other things. The neighborhood can now support that. Whatever fabulous that comes in will set a bar… a tone for the area. Sutra Lounge, available and nearby, should also be scooped up by entrepreneurs going with the flow.

Hayne will bring Lucky Cheng’s to Times Square – and, therefore, the world – this Monday, the 15th. It’s a dream come true for her and her loyal companions. NYC…just like I pictured it.

How will the new space differ?
The difference is the space. It’s a beautiful and theatrical setting, and it’ll feature a different show-formatting. We’ll seat a little over 300 people with a massive staff of waitresses, bartenders, hostesses, and yes, managers – all of whom will perform. There will be an MC also doing a few numbers, but that part of the show will feature less audience participation and more stand-up comedy. With the high ceilings, the two Asian performers have created costumes with height. They’ll have sequins and massive wingspans. Black lights will be a part of the Asian dance numbers. And Richard Krause’s food is going to be simply ridiculously delicious.

How will your marketing change?
The demographic will change: we’ll have tourists, theatergoers… but most importantly, cast and crew of several shows have discovered us and plan to host very organized events and become regulars for after-work drinks. Although not a destination per se, we need to focus on bringing business through concierge outreach, street teams of queens, and partnerships with Broadway shows. Totally new sales and marketing strategies are being developed.

What is your history with the old Lucky Cheng’s space on lower First Avenue?
My history with that building dates back to 1986, when my family purchased the Club Baths, and demoed the building with up-and-coming graffiti artists who filled and tagged 40-yard dumpsters daily. I transformed it into Cave Canem, Lucky Cheng’s opened in 1993 while I was pregnant with my daughter Josephine , who is now attending Sarah Lawrence. Both Lucky Cheng’s and Josephine have grown up together and are simultaneously graduating to the next level.

Bowery Bingo Legend & Andy Warhol Star Taylor Mead Has Passed

On Wednesday, bad news came as it does these days, via tweets and facebook. Taylor Meadan Andy Warhol "superstar," has passed. Other publications will get into the details of his life and death. They’ll list the underground movies he was in and repeat notable poems he wrote which were much more notable when he recited him. Those other periodicals and blogspots will tell of his long-running run-in with his landlord who finally bought him out. 

He was in Colorado when he left us. He was visiting a niece when a stroke stopped his heart. I won’t get into the details, but they are out there for you if you care. 

What can be said about him that Taylor didn’t say about himself before on the street, in a bar, or one of the countless Bowery Poetry Club readings I attended? I’ll just say this…when I heard the news, all I could think of was the people who loved him. I could see their faces weeping from the loss.

Taylor was wonderful. He was brilliant. He was a lovable monster. He was a definer of the downtown altar that I worship. Decades ago, a friend and I would seek him out in the East Village bars that he haunted. We’d buy him drinks in exchange for tales of life within the candle. He told us of Andy Warhol and the coolest peeps on earth. Sometimes he would hate them all, sometimes he would love them all. Sometimes he would love himself, and sometimes he would hate himself. I always felt that his love/hate for Andy’s gang was because they could appreciate him on a level far above us all. Taylor was a player with the most "in" of the "In-Crowd."

A year or so ago, I was playing Bingo religiously at the Bowery Poetry Club. It usually sold out, so I got there early to reserve seats for my crew. Taylor would read poems he randomly chose from a satchel bursting with them, and in between, he’d tell tall-tales while playing classical music or Charlie Mingus tunes on a small beatbox. 

There were times he would yell at the early Bingo aficionados for talking while he was enlightening. Once, he yelled "Bingo" when he didn’t have it, just to disturb the later event to get even. 

I went every week. Sometimes I’d hear the same story a dozen weeks in a row. Sometimes something new and bold sprang up. When Bowery Poetry closed to give way to Duane Park, no one made room for Taylor. On his last night, I thought I’d never see him again. And so it goes. 

Spring Menus Launch Downtown: Spring Rolls, Scallops, & Panna Cotta Await

While it does not…quite… feel like spring in NY (is there such a thing?), two restaurants are doing a very good job at playing along with Mother Nature by rolling out their new spring menus, characterized by light, cold, smooth bites and fruity, bitters-filled cocktails.

Feast  East Village’s whitewashed brick, dim, and woody restaurant – debuts their nine-course scallop seafood spread for the scallop fanatic in most/all of us, priced at just $49. Fried Nantucket bay scallops? Oh yeah. Citrus scallop ceviche and a seared smoked-scallop pot pie? You betcha. At Feast, there are no limits to the variety of those bivalve mollusks. And the culminating dessert: the vanilla yogurt panna cotta. Feast has also kicked-off their Sunday brunch, offering diners massive, flat, and sweet Swedish pancakes, shrimp and grits, and a big ol’ basket of bakery goodies to overstuff yourself on before the food arrives.

L’Amant – the West Village’s French-Southeast Asian, wallpapered cocktail nook – debuts baby crab spring rolls in a ginger soy sauce, alongside such bubbly spring cocktails as "The Big Gun" – with whiskey, pear brandy, bitters, and homemade cinnamon syrup – and "The Business Man" made with rye, byrhh, maraschino, and orange bitters. And to temper the buzz, their menu staple: the creamy, in-a-skillet truffle mac & cheese.

Ah, spring. Thanks for coming.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Rumor Has It: Boulton & Watt Is Launching Brunch

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.

Sleek Indian Food Among the Chili Pepper Lights

A couple weeks ago, restaurateur Shiva Natarajan opened up his latest Indian restaurant, Malai Marke, on Indian Row in the East Village. Nestled in among the old school, $9.95 prix fix Indian joints that have spiced the air on that block for decades, Natarajan, who owns popular celebrity spot Chola, as well as Bhojan, and Chote Nawab, aims to bring not only Goa and Punjabi specialties to the area, but a chic dining option too. This means the chili pepper lights and party decorations are out, and hanging copper bowls are in. The interior, designed by Thida Thongthai Chan, maintains a contemporary bent with black tiled walls, exposed brick, and an open kitchen.

From that kitchen, Malai Marke rolls out plates piled high with grilled kebabs, including the spicy chcken achari, grilled fish in a carom marinade, and a vegan kebab with broccoli and garlic. They also churn out tandoor-cooked shrimp, chicken tikka, and tender lamb chops that get marinated in yogurt, nutmeg, and garam masala. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg, as Malai Marke offers dozens of small plates, lamb and goat dishes, chicken platters, and seafood options like the Punjabi-style shrimp curry.

Chase this all with one of their 20 bottled beers, drafts of Radeberger and Kingfisher, wine, or a mango lassie.

Steampunk Meets Cuisine at Chef David Rotter’s Boulton & Watt

A(n industrial) revolution has hit Alphabet City: the team behind Ella and the Blind Barber bring revolutionary dishes to the table at Boulton & Watt. “Like our namesake, we’re refining and re-creating an already much loved product,” said former 983 and Norwood chef David Rotter. “It’s a revised take on rustic American comfort food, rich and hearty and satisfying during the cold months.”

This means you can find dishes like gouda and white cheddar macaroni and cheese, a chicken pot pie topped with light puff pastry, and a bunch of indulgent small snacks including wild mushroom duxelles and his rich short rib with bone marrow toast.

Boulton & Watt have opened in the former Nice Guy Eddie’s, and now, the prime spot has a steampunk twist with salvaged windows, an antique steam engine used to power the restaurants fan system, and a spattering of repurposed furniture.

“We knew that by taking away Nice Guy Eddie’s we had to create something worthwhile, especially on such a prominent corner,” said Rotter. “Our ethos is simple; we want to bring people together over great food, great drinks, in a welcoming, inviting atmosphere.”

The name comes from Boulton & Watt, who made stationary steam engines in England. While the original company revolutionized machinery, the restaurant in Alphabet City comes at a time when many things have been changing around the area, including numerous green spaces popping up along Houston, and the opening of Union Market.

“The corner of Houston and Avenue A has always been a gateway to something special,” said Rotter. “With the changes this neighborhood has gone through over the last few years, we felt the time was right to give something back to a neighborhood that has given us so much love and joy over the years.”