Paul Sevigny at Heathers, Yours Truly at EVR and DL, and a Rock ‘n’ Roll Designer Birthday

A call in the middle of the night from my dear pal Paul Sevigny always puts a smile on my gorgeous face. Paul said he was in Fort Lauderdale with his boat, but planned to jet up to New York to DJ at the newly re-duxed Heathers (506 East 13th Street) which, by all accounts, is catering to the sharp set. He asked me to DJ with him, which I always enjoy, but alas I am at EVR (54 West 39th Street) from 6pm to 10pm for their after-work soiree, and then off to DL (95 Delancey at Ludlow) for their hard rock/metal/sleaze rock party with Sam Valentine and David Katz. DL will be celebrating rock enthusiast and star Daniella Tyler’s birthday.

Another birthday shout-out to Natasha Adonzio, the designer of all things rock, who was the spandex queen of St. Marks at the boutique that bore her name. The first party I ever threw was Dee Dee Ramone’s birthday at Max’s Kansas City. I got the bug, and so my second party ever was a fashion show with over 20 East Village shops. Natasha was the first to say yes. Everyone else said "Well if Natasha is doing it then so will I." She legitimized me … not an easy task. She is still designing and still for the rockers.

I got to go … It’s 8am and I won’t get to sleep until 7am. Yes, still crazy after all these years.

[For info on the venues listed above, visit the BlackBook New York Guide]

DJ-ing at Heathers and Reminiscing About Brownie’s

As I said yesterday my editor is off somewhere doing unspeakable deeds and I have been asked, tasked, and threatened to keep these shorter than usual. I am complying, letting some of the hot air out of the balloon (or is it buffoon?) before this gets to you. I was up late last night at the behest of old pal Greg Brier who, along with some players to be named later, is involved with Heathers (506 East 13th Street). They asked me to do the 3AM till close DJ set and I said "Yay!" or something like that. It’s 7:30 AM now as I write this … welcome to my world. As they were setting up the equipment I was informed that most of the DJ’s use vinyl, and that this bar was the notorious after-hours joint Brownie’s way back in the day. Heathers is for real. The crowd was simply wonderful and the atmosphere is the perfect mix between dive bar and trendy lounge.

I cannot confirm that it was indeed Brownie’s, as that was a long time a go in a galaxy far, far away, and my vision and memory were often clouded back then. Although I never did drugs or drank I did stay up for days at a time and did push my limits in other ways. Brownie’s was the last stop for those who desperately needed more blow or maybe a blow job. It was a place of deep desperation tucked away in an area where nobody cared or at least didn’t complain. Nowadays neighbors complain all the time and the good folks at Heathers rightfully spend a lot of energy to be good neighbors. A big "or else" hangs over that statement.

Way back when the neighborhood was rough, punks and other revelers in ripped jeans, Ramones T-Shirts, or rock and roll collars pointed their pointy shoes toward the place, traveling in packs for safety, seeking just a few more hours of fun. I went there to find someone sleazy enough to top off my night. It was easy pickings. There’s an old saying which thankfully I rarely repeat or even subscribe to anymore. It goes something like this. "In 30 years in the nightclub business I never went home with an ugly woman … but, I have woken up with a few". Such was Brownie’s and my life before I got it all out of my system.

The punk era was for me the best time of my life except maybe for this time. The streets I walked and played in then are hardly recognizable today. Crossing the Bowery on Second Street the other day I watched yuppies from Peels glaring at some rockers having a smoke outside Bowery Electric. The yuppies were thinking rudely of them, their closeted minds content with fabulous slumming in the continuously unrecognizable hood of my youth. The look on one yup’s face as she stared at some post-punk refugee was "what is happening to this neighborhood". She took the words out of my mouth. I glanced up at the Joey Ramone Place sign above and lamented his loss, not regretting a second of my misspent youth. Brownie’s was a big part of it. If you see me out and about ask me about my favorite Brownie’s story, which I cannot repeat in this family blog.

Late last night I offered up some tracks that I might have heard back then, or it least had the vibe as I recall it. The Steve Lewis Brownie’s mix: 

"Jet Boy" – The New York Dolls

"Where is My Mind" – The Pixies

"Stay With Me" – The Dictators

"New Rose" – The Damned

"Detention Home" – Dead Boys

"TV Eye" – Stooges

"Kashmir" – Led Zepplin

"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" – The Tokens

The Rising Surf- The Tandems

Decoy- The Sandals

Bravo Is Developing a ‘Heathers’ TV Series

Here’s some news from the Unnecessary Ideas file: Bravo is expanding their original scripted programming (because the Real Housewives franchise is "unscripted," you know), which would include a TV series based on the cult classic Heathers. How very, etc. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter:

The NBCUniversal-owned network, as part of its goal to have original scripted fare on the air next year, is redeveloping Heathers, the 1988 Winona Ryder and Christian Slater feature that The Big C‘s Jenny Bicks and Sony Pictures Television initially sold to Fox three years ago.

In the updated take, Heathers picks up 20 years later, with Veronica (Ryder’s character) returning home to Sherwood with her teenage daughter, who must contend with the next generation of mean girls: the Ashleys: the daughters of the surviving Heathers.

There’s been talk of a movie sequel to the classic for years—Winona Ryder herself "confirmed" that the film was in the works back in 2009 with the original creative team—but nothing much had moved forward since then. Could this be a good idea? Sure, maybe if Ryder was involved, but what are the chances that she’d stoop so low to be on a basic cable TV series? And, because it may be on Bravo and not, say, Showtime or HBO, how will the original movie’s dark treatment of sex and murder translate to a Bravo audience? I’ll believe it when I see it. 

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Psychic Ills Return with ‘Hazed Dream’

Brooklyn-based acid rockers Psychic Ills first got together in 2003, and released their debut album, Dins, three years later. Now the trio’s back with a brand new disc, Hazed Dream, another richly experimental soundscape that incorporates elements of dub, electronica, Southern rock, and a universe of other genres that humans have yet to discover. Ills bassist Elizabeth Hart recently took some time off to give us the lowdown on Dream.

Where does your band’s name come from? I can’t remember the specific name of the book, but it was Tres that got the name from a book about nine years ago. What genres do you reference in your music? We take references from different things, not just music. In the last year or so, we wanted to brighten the mood a bit. It kind of felt like we were having a breakthrough as a band, including personal things in our lives, and we wanted to lift that weight and make a record that felt good. With songs like “Mexican Wedding” and “Ring Finger,” there’s a lot of romance on this record. Yeah, well, Tres wrote the lyrics, so I can’t really speak for him on that, but we also have ties to Texas, and sometimes the culture creeps into our music. I think we were thinking about what a Mexican wedding would be like when we came up with that song. You participate in side projects, like improvisational dance. What’s that like? It’s awesome! It’s basically me and some of my best girl friends dancing and singing together, and we’ve been doing it together for a while. Do outside projects influence Psychic Ills? I think they’re pretty separate, although I do feel like there is a community within all of it. I guess it does all crossover in a way in that we all know each other, and know our different interests, and we support each other in that way. But I wouldn’t say it crosses over literally. Did you always want to be a musician? I actually started playing music when I met Tres in college. He gave me a guitar and that’s when I started playing. It was actually my second guitar. I got my first guitar when I was eleven, but stuck it out for a short time (Laughs). Are there women in music that you look up to? I’m a big fan of Stevie Nicks. My friends and I even have a monthly Stevie Nicks DJ night at Heathers, every first Monday of the month. I think Kate Bush is amazing. I’m very inspired by her too.

Speak Easy, A New Brooklyn Speaker Series, Celebrates Doing It Yourself

From pizzerias to cupcake shops, local honey makers to music venues, Brooklyn is filled with businesses that serve their local community, all while keeping their quality up and their carbon footprint down. So it was only a matter of time before someone tapped the minds and personalities behind these businesses. Speak Easy (the name gamely references another New York trend), a new monthly series out of Veronica People’s Club, kicks off February 15, and will spotlight a different subject each month, highlighting the connection between entrepreneurship and the arts that its organizer, Cara Cannella, feels is too often overlooked – or underplayed. The Haslegrave brothers, the women of Ovenly, and musician Nathan Larson (Shudder to Think, A Camp) are some of the subjects Cannella has lined up.

“I think Brooklynites are really loyal to, and supportive of local businesses, especially those driven by a DIY or collaborative ethic,” says Cannella.“For the most part, we’re seeking authentic experiences and connections—at the farmer’s market, the Brooklyn Flea, the local butcher shop, etc.—rather than anonymous transactions, and we like to share what we know through word of mouth. The borough’s strong neighborhood and community ties, cultural diversity, creative energy, and relative affordability result in fertile ground for startups.”

Cannella’s interest can be traced back to a post-college internship at Inc. magazine, where she interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs and where she continued to work on and off for ten years as a reporter. “Over the years, I’ve talked to hundreds of entrepreneurs, interviewing them, and I just find the whole process of creating something out of nothing and putting your whole heart and soul into it to be fascinating. And I think basically that’s what artists have to do too.”

Cannella counts among her friends many of Brooklyn’s small business owners and owes her luck with the series to the generosity of her friends, many of whom she’s made writing about small businesses and food, and not least among them Heather, of Veronica People’s Club. “I feel so lucky to have this space as a home base for Speak Easy. The owners are really supportive and community-driven, and their hosting of the series came about organically. One day, I was there hanging out with Heather (one of three owners, along with Dre and Stevie; Heather also owns Heathers Bar in the East Village), thinking out loud about wanting to do the series, and she generously offered the space. They’re all curious, passionate and open-minded, and their staff and crowd reflect that. The bar’s open design—along with rotating DJs, Sunday Suppers, projected movie screenings, and the relaxed garden out back—all contribute to a welcoming and creative vibe, which is exactly what I want for the series. During the day, they serve Inteligentsia coffee and locally made Ovenly pastries; with that and wi-fi, it’s also a great place to do work.”

Pictured top: Cara Cannella. image The Haselgrove brothers.

On April 5th, the Speak Easy will present “How to Bring a Restaurant to Life” in two parts. Part I will feature Oliver and Evan Haslegrave, the two brothers behind the design team hOmE, who are known for their use of recycled and repurposed material in the creation of spaces like the Manhattan Inn and other venues. “Oliver used to be a fiction editor for one of the big houses,” says Cannella.“Their company is called hOmE, which is the acronym of their four siblings. Their family is sickeningly close. Their sister now works with them. They all have a tattoo too that says hOmE, including their mom.”

It will also feature Paul Giannone, of woodfire pizza restaurant Paulie Gee’s (designed and built by hOmE), and Agatha and Erin of Ovenly, “who bake out of Paulie’s kitchen and create ice cream toppings for the restaurant. Agatha and I grew up together, and she and Erin met at Four Burners, a food-focused book club I started three years ago.”

So that’s going to be part I. The other part will Sean Dimin of Sea2Table,—which partners with fishermen from sustainable wild fisheries to deliver their catch overnight, creating a direct connection with chefs—and Jacques Gautier, chef and owner of Palo Santo, a Latin American-influenced restaurant that sources fish from Sea2Table and vegetables and herbs from its own rooftop garden. Gautier also “raises bunnies on his roof” that he cooks and serves to friends.

For June, Speak Easy will present musician and author Nathan Larson, of Shudder to Think. “He has a novel coming out called the Dewey Decimal System, which is set inside the New York Public Library, which I’m so excited about. “[Larson] scores a lot of movies. He scored Boys Don’t Cry. He’s married to the lead singer [Nina Persson] from the Cardigans. I’m a big fan of the Cardigans.”

For future guests, Cannella hopes to feature Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy, “since he was one of the pioneers of the recent local small business boom,” the founders of Etsy, and Lisa Price who started out mixing oils and fragrances as a hobby and now runs Carol’s Daughter, a multi-million dollar all-natural beauty company. Cannella will also feature “less conventional business owners,” like subway buskers, food truck vendors, and farmers who sell at local Greenmarkets.

As for how Cannella managed to swing Colm Toibin for the first guest? She met him ten years in Newport Rhode Island to write a profile on him. “We spent the whole day together—did the Cliff Walk; went to a used bookstore where we found some of Colm’s books; went to a lobster dinner. He was imagining, ‘Do people think we’re father and daughter? That you’re my mistress?’ It all felt a little surreal. I played his Minnie Temple,” she says.She recently heard Toibin speak at the NYPL series. “He closed with Sylvia Plath’s Daddy from memory. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.”

While she reveres renowned and established discussion series like Live from the NYPL, Cannella admits her series is inherently different, though she aims to create a similarly exciting atmosphere. “First and foremost, I want the series to be fun. I want people to come together and share stimulating ideas, but for it not to feel formal. I really wanted to generate community—people in a room, connecting. Like the experience of hearing Colm recite “Daddy” the other night—chills up everyone’s spines. And that doesn’t happen when you watch a video.”

Old School After Hours, Greenhouse to Sell?

Monday night, after Bingo at the Bowery Poetry Club, we trudged through black snow and brown sludge to Heathers for my pal Tina Vaden’s birthday bash. Tina is my on-again-off-again photographer and a cutie, beauty, non-snooty talent and all around great gal. Heathers had my old brain percolating, as I was consumed by a sense of déjà-vu, all over again and again and again. While my Amanda danced with Tina and the ladies, I sidled up to the bar to chat with old friends. I asked, “What was this place?” and was told “Brownies.” After a dozen “no shits,” I strained to remember.

I couldn’t picture it, I couldn’t find anything to confirm the gut feeling: no landmarks or telltale signs remained or jogged my old conscience. I was assured it was true. I whipped out the Droid but alas, Wiki hasn’t gone there yet. Brownies was usually the end of the line. The last desperate place after an evening of failure or too much excess. It was the place to go if you couldn’t go home. It wasn’t necessarily a dead end for the dead heads who stumbled into the place at 7am, or even later. It was the last chance to get a drink, or a pop, or someone to get icky with. It was always there, but reliable and Brownies couldn’t be used in the same sentence. It was one of best after hours clubs of all time.

After hours, as I know it, is long gone. Every so often a place sneaks open for a minute, and I bet there are a few right now that people don’t blab about, especially not to an old dude with a column. Of course, there are legal parties that go past 2am, but the bars are closed, and the sense of being mischievous is absent. One of the key ingredients of a true after hours joint is its illegality, and the sense that some of the patrons, and probably owners, shouldn’t be messed with. These days, the people who shouldn’t be messed with are not part of the club culture. Probably better off, but a certain amount of film noir-like experience is lost. Fun may not describe it, as the feeling has a deeper, visceral impact. Maybe we have been too sanitized by a society that likes us all packaged, neat, and predictable. Maybe some types of lust and enlightenment can only be found in the cracks.

Without after hours, our nights end at a predictable hour. Our lusts and desires are packaged into cabs, and rushed to a million dormitories, and our secrets are played out in familiar settings. We live our lives through characters we channel from Kindle, or from movies which will always be 2D, no matter how many of them are made in 3D. Brownies, Crisco Disco, Save the Robots, AM/PM, The Nursery, Nickel Bag, and their ilk, have been banished to memory by our elected puppeteers. It’s probably a good thing, but there was a time when the night stretched into day, and there was always the next place to find that special something, or someone, you might not even want, but just had to have. I used to tell an old joke that described my disease, so of course I’ll tell you now. “In 20-plus years in the club business, I never went to bed with an ugly woman. Of course, I’ve woken up with a few.” Brownies, I did not recognize you, but you probably didn’t recognize me.

A couple columns ago I alluded to “turmoil” over at the Greenhouse space. “Turmoil,” a little birdy told me, was not the right word. I have been assured that the kids, and everything over there, is alright over at Jon B’s Vandam Street money machine. Rumors still reach my very big ears that Jon’s “green,” as in environmentally-compliant joint is being sold. The rumors say that his Juliet Supper Club, named after his mom is making big bucks, and is also for sale. Both places are open 7 days a week, and are banging, so the possibility of a sale seems unlikely. Still, my sources are reliable and ethical, and it just feels true.

I called my old friend and asked him about it. He didn’t really answer, but instead, just asked me questions like “Where did you hear that?” It was followed by a chuckle and a “Who did you talk to, what did they say— do you believe them?” And so on. He never denied the story, and he chuckled a bit, and offered me a clue in the form of still another question. He asked, “You know me, why would I sell?” I do know Jon, and my feeling is that the old adage, “The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence” may apply. In this case, Greenhouse may be greener, and able to make more money, elsewhere. Jon has always vied to be in Vegas, and is well-connected there. His idols in the business are not the glamour guys, but those making mega-millions. Vegas, and its cash, are a powerful and irresistible siren for the man, I believe. His Miami Greenhouse is in construction, and I believe that a climate that is warmer in general, and warmer for the club business, is in his cards. He ended our chat with a cryptic “You will be the first to know, the first with the story,” and I believe him as I think I am.

Veronica Peoples Club Opens in Greenpoint

Winona Ryder is coming to Greenpoint—sort of. The hip East Village bar Heathers (named after Ryder’s memorable late-eighties teen flick) opened an outpost in Greenpoint this past weekend, aptly called Veronica Peoples Club. Fans of the movie know Veronica was Winona Ryder’s croquet-playing, suicide-faking character, but why call it the Peoples Club? “It’s a great description of what we do, an egalitarian ‘everybody bar,'” says owner Heather Millstone, who is completely anti-label (the bar will be a mix of gay, straight, old, hipster, has-beens, what-have-yous). Judging from her East Village bar, expect a very cool neighborhood crowd with trendy DJs and a no-frills environment.

Not only will Veronica Peoples Club function as a new watering hole for the local musicians and hipsters that live in and around historic Franklin Street, but it will also serve a daytime purpose. The new establishment will sell coffee and pastries by the baking company Ovenly. Add homemade tamales, and expect a cast of amateur chefs to join the fun, curating early dinners for “Sunday Supper, dinner with friends and music without the formal atmosphere of a restaurant.”