NYC Culture Just Got Hotter: Launch of Tattoo Photo Book & Art Show By Former BlackBook Editor

I guess I have to come back. Paradise is where you make it, but I have gotten used to the sand, surf, and sun, and the generally slow pace of this wonderful island. Alas, I will walk among you tomorrow morning. There are two events of interest: Tomorrow, Saatchi & Saatchi are hosting a soiree from 6pm to 10pm for the launch of photography book Generation Ink: Williamsburg, featuring photos of 20-somethings and their tattoos by Paul Nathan. The Dough Rollers are performing, and my gang from Magic Cobra Tattoo Society will be doing what they usually do on Driggs and S. 3rd. Sailor Jerry Rum will provide the courage. It’s kind of ironic that this event is taking place in Manhattan, 375 Hudson St. Manhattan is that place where cool kids slum. Paul Nathan will be taking a portrait of people who buy his book at the event.

Tonight is the opening reception for art exhibit “Bad w/$”  at 443 PAS (443 Park Avenue South). The hubbub is about a solo show of work by Fernando Cwilich Gil that “continues his longstanding exploration of wealth and poverty through painting, design, and media." The show will run until New Year’s Day. Tonight’s opening reception will run from 6pm to 8pm. Gil was the dude who brought me to BlackBook, so you can blame him. Since I am traveling I’m just going to paste the show’s one-sheet onto my column and go back to the beach.

…Gil is the owner of Buenos Aires-based Liquid Assets Paint & Pigment Company, a functional/conceptual company established in 1997 that manufactures and sells artist paint made from 100% pure currency pigment ( In 2012, Gil began working with neuroscientists from the Universidad de Buenos Aires to measure cognitive visual capacity in a dynamic online environment. A beta version of the project can be found Both of the above projects will be featured in Bad w/$, along with traditional paintings.

Gil (b. 1977 in Argentina) lives and works in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro) In 2002 he conceived and co-founded ProyectArte, a Buenos Aires-based nonprofit that provides fine art training to poor young people in South America. He is the founder of the Prima Gallery in Buenos Aires. His work has been show extensively in the Americas and Europe, where he has also left his mark in the more traditional media world as an editor and creative director for print, broadcast and online media for clients such as Adidas, Heineken, Nike, LVMH, and others. He has also served as editor of BlackBook and as a reporter for the New York Post, and has written for many other media.

The Top 9 Coca-Themed Products of the Last 100 Years

This holiday season, the Coca growers union in Bolivia created a special Christmas Panettone, featuring traditional ingredients like candied fruits and raisins, but made with Coca flour. According to Ebococa’s prez, Coca flour is a great source of calcium, vitamins and other essential nutrients. This makes Coca Panettone a noble product and reminds us of other formidable coca products that have come to market over the years. After the jump, our Top 9 Coca-themed products of the last hundred years. Viva la Pachamama!

Coca Panettone: In South America, Pan Dulce is what employers typically give their employees come Christmas. This one has an Andean twist–you can use it to fill your belly while trekking above the clouds of the Altiplano and avoid altitude sickness at the same time.

Coca y Bica: Sodium Bicarbonate is the active ingredient you chomp in your mouth along with the coca leaves to set off the alkaloids. Together, they make your lips frothy and numb like a novacaine-happy dentist. Better than ham and cheese.

Trujillo Coca: The Cohiba of Coca. These verdant, pungent ovals are famed for their aromatic qualities and high concentration of essential oils; a hallmark of their Northern Peru pedigree. Fun Fact: Trujillo Coca is what makes Coca Cola so tasty. 

Scarface: An Italian guy playing a Cuban guy revered by millions of inner city Black guys, then transmitted to 12-year-old White kids via framed posters on MTV cribs. That’s the American Dream. 

Griselda Blanco: Not even Pablo Escobar can hang with the Godmother. Her very name conjures snow-capped Medellin mountains.

The Miami Skyline: All those laundered coke millions make for great ocean-view condos.

The Eight Ball: The six-pack of cocaine. The magnum of yayo. Ubiquitous term denotes 1/8 Ounce of powdered cocaine. Not just another clever measurement unit; this one also happens to be the threshold at which private bathroom party becomes an evening of shared enthusiasm and mutual benevolence for two. The couple’s choice. 

Coca Cola: Coke is still flavored with Coca and it’s still better than Pepsi.

Evo Morales: Though not a product in the sense that there are many Evos that one can buy, sell, or trade, Evo is truly a product of the Coca industry. The former Coca union boss is now Bolivia’s first indigenous president with a firm grip on power. Has led an enviable economic resurgence, and is known to rock cool sweaters

The Do’s & Don’ts of Hitchhiking in Chile

Hithchiking in the U.S. is a dying art, possibly because it may result in you, the hitchhiker, actually dying at the hands of some Charlie Manson type. Luckily, there are still places in the world where hitchhiking is not only possible, but one of the more entertaining modes of transportation. Places like Chile.

After spending a week living the lush life as the United States judge in the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles–the world’s preeminent wine competition–held here in Chile, I decided to go off the grid for a hot minute, or more accurately, a hot month. So, after leaving the Award Ceremony in Valparaiso, where myself and fellow vino jurors representing countries like Russia, Belgium, France, Japan, China, England, Chile and others, presented medals to top Chilean vineyards, my girlfriend and I decided to head north to the Atacama desert, and eventually over the Andes into Argentina.

In case you’re wondering how to go about hitchhiking in South America, here’s a basic rundown of what to do, and what not to do.

1. Find a truck route. Truck drivers are a hitchhiker’s best friend. They have big, comfortable vehicles and want the company. The key is to market yourself as the ultimate travelling companion.

2. Bring a girl with you. Truck drivers by definition are skirt-chasers and will appreciate this noble gesture.

3. Address them as “colega” or colleague. This is what truck drivers in Chile call each other, and using this term automatically puts you in the know and lets them know you’re a professional hitchhiker.

4. The ideal place to find your next ride are truck stops, gas stations, or toll booths/weighing stations, where there are lots of trucks. If you’re desperate, you can sit by the side of the road and try your luck–but be prepared to wait many hours. If you are trying your luck on the road, make sure you’re at a point where long distance trucks pass, and not just local traffic. The worst place to find a ride is inside the actual city. Most trucks stop outside the city, so if you decide to venture to the city to check it out you’ll need to figure out a way to get back out to the truck hubs on the outskirts.

5. Never take the TomatesAsesinos (TomatoAssasin) trucks. Tomatoes rot. That means they have to get from farm to supermarket quickly, which means it’s a super rush delivery. Tomato loads pay well, but require driving fast for 48 hours without sleeping, which results in lots drivers ending up as ketchup splatters on the side of the road.

6. Mining trucks are great because they pay well and travel in caravans to avoid highway robbers (drug dealers make cocaine with the same chemicals the mines use) which means you can actually get snobby and have your pick of truck model and make. The most comfortable truck cabins are made by German manufacturer Man, in my opinion, though there are some other quality ones. 

7. In the truck stop, the lot lizards (hookers) can function as your best travel agent. They know all the truck drivers, where the loads are headed, and when they’re leaving. Befriend the lot lizard and have her introduce you to the truck drivers heading in the direction you’re going.

8. Trucks not carrying loads move fast. Trucks carrying loads travel very slowly. This can add hours to your trip, or mean that you’ll end up sleeping in the truck when the truck driver decides to stop for his power-nap before arriving at your next destination.

9. Plan the next portion of your ride. You could get lucky and find that one truck who happens to be going exactly to that city 3,000 kilometers away where you want to go, but that almost never happens. You’ll probably need to take multiple trucks. Ask the truck driver to drop you off somewhere strategic where you can continue your journey. If they’re cool, they’ll radio a fellow driver

10. Be prepared to wait for at least 12 hours if you’re crossing an international border. Most truck drivers are wary of crossing borders with hitchhikers because of the whole drug smuggling thing, so you’ll have to be a very beautiful girl or a really convincing, respectable looking dude. Be patient and network at Customs, which takes a long time for drivers so you have a good window of opportunity to hustle your next ride.

11. Talk. The truck driver’s job is to drive. The hitchhiker’s role is to talk incessantly so that the truck driver doesn’t fall asleep at the wheel. Any topic of conversation will do. At 4:37 a.m. on a completely dark road in the middle of the desert, you don’t need to be Charlie Rose to fulfill your role. Beavis-quality utterances are better than silence. Never stop talking.

12. Trucker hand jobs. Bon Voyage!


Watch a Chinese Soprano Serenade the Nello Elite

There’s lunch, there’s drunch (dinner + drunk + lunch), and then there’s Nello, where the European art of the extended late afternoon meal has reached theatrical levels. I was having lunch at the celeb-heavy eatery recently with proprietor Nello Balan, John A. Gotti accountant Paul Tong, and a Chinese soprano named Hsuan Ma, who’d just stopped by to say hello before her performance of Traditional Chinese Folk songs at the China Institute. She introduced herself, asked for a tea, and whispered that she was taking care of her voice for an upcoming performance. Naturally, we cajoled her into regaling us with aforementioned Chinese heat, much to the delight of the Nello patrons.  

You can catch Hsuan Ma’s “traditional folk tunes and modern art songs” this Tuesday, December 13 at  7 p.m. at the China Institute on E. 65th Street, or if you’re fortunate, the next time you’re having a three-hour drunch at Nello. 

New York Opening: AOA

A once troubled Mexican space in SoBeCa gets an American makeover from a Brazilian dude – only in New York, kids. The gregarious Brazilian-about-town Dival Ramiro has opened AOA in the spot that formerly housed Pelea Mexicana, a magnificent space in that little section of town just south of Soho, on the north edge of Tribeca (you know, SoBeCa).

Ramiro tells us: “I’ve owned a Brazilian bar, called Boteco, in the space next door to the restaurant that was here previously [Pelea Mexicana]. Every Saturday we were doing these big feijoada parties sponsored by Cuca Fresca where all the Brazilians in New York were coming to drink caipirinhas, listen to live music and the party ended up spilling into the space next door. When I saw that Pelea was closing I thought, ‘Why don’t I just take over the whole thing?’" 

Some Brazilian investors came on board, and the space next door is now AOA, which stands for Avenue of the Americas. The concept in the main space AOA will stick to tried and true American staples likes ribs, burgers, pizzas, 40 different beers, and a gazillion flat screen TVs showing sports. We assume much of it will focus on futebol, though we’re told there will be a healthy dose of American material like baseball, football and Nascar.

And of course, Brazilian supermodels and celebs spilling over from Boteco next door; Ramiro is a former model and ultra-scenster in his native Brasil.

AOA opens Tuesday, December 13 with a grand opening hosted by OK! magazine and Star vodka. 

[Photo: Elimar Coelho]

Models Get Wet for Haiti

Wednesday night at Milk Studios–the venue models lovethe most–dozens of tall girls got wet for a great cause: LakayPAM, a phenomenal nonprofit that helps orphaned kids in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The rain-soaked event featured an emotional short documentary entitled Letters to Haiti, about a post-quake tour of Haiti by supermodel Coco Rocha, Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo, and LakayPAM founder Cedrick Roche.

Canada-born Rocha introduced the film and gave background on the organization and her ongoing role in Haiti relief efforts, then urged guests to reach into their pockets to purchase B&W photos on display, taken by Prinsloo during the Haiti trip.

Often times at these New York philanthropic events, you get a lot of people there for the scene, and not so much for the cause itself. Not so at Milk. Perhaps because Roche has such a direct way of speaking about his homeland (he closed his comments with the frank “Visit Haiti. We need the tourism dollars”) or because it’s nearly impossible for even the most blasé scenester to not have a visceral response to a situation as urgent as the Haitian earthquake. Or because Haiti itself is in such dire straits. It was already the poorest country in the Americas prior to the quake.

I wound up sitting between a fashion photographer and a Haitian New Yorker who’d heard about the organization and showed up to learn more and support the cause. Both had tears in their eyes by the time the film had ended.  You can learn how to help here


Introducing Your New Addiction: WikiMaze

Imagine if Wikipedia founder and fundraising genius Jimmy Wales consummated his crush on Jeopardy silver fox Alex Trebek. Assuming Trebek could bear children, they’d give birth to WikiMaze, an addictive new trivia app that flips Wikipedia entries upside down and turns them into questions.

The brainchild of honcho and MIT wizard Ben Gleitzman, WikiMaze is the sort of engaging, educational use of technology that’s sure to get you kicked off American Airlines prior to take-off. Down the line, Gleitzman—part of the brainy posse that just auctioned off Hunch to eBay for $80 million—promises users will be able to curate their own categories, meaning you can answer art questions if you’re not into field sports, quantum mechanics queries if you ain’t into Hollywood starlets, or curate your own quiz on the Kama Sutra.

There’s currently a free version you can play on that will render on any mobile device, a souped up paid version on iTunes, and a tequila drinking version coming to a bar near you. The best part, it directs you to the correct Wikipedia entry when you guess wrong, so you leave the whole experience just a little bit smarter than when you first ambled into the maze. Mr. Baldwin, we’re going to have to ask you to put yourself on airplane mode, sir. 

Wrap Basel: Criminal Intent, Sponsored by Apple.

Art Basel is one big, enticing, honey pot of rich folks, semi-rich folks, and broke folks posing as rich folks, and generally a lot of inebriated folks with expensive things. In other words: a grifter’s paradise.

Which brings us to the door of the Delano’s Florida Room, once again run by Paris boite Le Baron, and by an order of magnitude, the hottest spot to get into at, say, 4:32 am on a Wednesday night, after hitting off the more buttoned up affairs around town. The mob scene attracted a lot of pick pockets apparently, as desperate partygoers pushed, clawed, and pawed, each other to get in. Some were even grabbing wallets and purses, and scurrying off into the Miami night.

One very chic fashion chick whose phone was pilfered on her way into Le Baron last Saturday, told us she felt a hand groping her as she eased her way past the ropes, then looked down and saw her credit cards lying on the floor, while her well-dressed thief ran off toward the mess of people on Collins Ave. with her iPhone 4. When she reported the incident to hotel security, they informed her that iPhone thievery at the door was the number one security incident being reported to them.  Then again, the whole experience might have been a genius experiential marketing campaign by Apple, in which case, you got me. And her. And a bunch of other people, along with their phones.

Interestigly, when our fashion victim turned on Mobile Me, Apple’s device retrieval system, it pinpointed her phone’s precise whereabouts to a house in Hialeah, Florida, a relatively sketchy suburb of Miami. She and her fashion friends considered going over to confront the iPhone thieves before taking one look in the mirror and deciding that Basel vigilante wasn’t on their itinerary for the day. Instead, they went to get their nails did at Dzine’s Imperial Nails Presented by Perrier at The Standard Spa instead. 

Illustration by Fernando Cwilich Gil

The Best Party at Art Basel Was at a Place Called Purdy Lounge

"You down here working or partying?" was the most quoted line at Art Basel this year, and more often than not, the answer was a bemused shrug, and then the latter. 

As far as art world elites actually working were concerned, my pick for best party was the party on the beach, at Soho Beach House. The mix of high-brow-low-brow-middle-brow-uni-brow (Both Hilton sisters bumping into ancient A-list collector Aby Rosen bumping into Will Smith bumping into Gagosian, then stumbling into the ocean) was commendable. I also pick this as a shining beacon of a great super art world insider party because, full disclosure, is my brother’s company. But again, Basel is more about the hardcore party people these days than the legit art world people, so let’s move on to where the real party people were doing their thing this year.

French club Le Baron‘s annual Basel takeover of the Delano‘s Florida Room was so slammed, as expected,  that they did an offshoot next door at the Shelborne, called Paris Paris Cabaret, where the French party people rocked kook karaoke, and the always entertaining Simonez Wolf held down the entrance with typical aplomb and well timed fuck yous.On Saturday night, when the Le Baron DJ got fed up with the Florida Room management’s insistence on turning the sound down, they took the Le Baron spinoff next door and merged it with their Paris Paris offshoot, creating a French Miami art world party clusterfuck of epic proportions. In the picture above, the Le Baron crew hang poolside at the Shelborne on Sunday after the Delano debacle, and offer their advice to Florida Room management. 

All that said, the very best party of Basel was the Sunday night end-of-madness industry throwdown at the reliably sketchball Purdy Lounge, where true Miami hip-hop heads and Basel industry elites threw caution to the wind and went apeshit bananas on their last day in town. Le Baron went low-brow that night as well, taking over the Free Spirits dive off Collins, but there’s always something about Purdy’s Basel debaucherous finish that gets everyone dancing and going nuts. Perhaps it’s their Tony Montana room in the back? So our pick for best Basel party: Purdy Lounge, Sunday night. We’re looking forward to winding down our Basel down there next year as well.  


Photos by Eric Ervin