Armen Ra On His Shocking Documentary, Favorite Nightlife Stories, & Theremin

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In this holiday-shortened week, with the spring pushing and pushing and pushing its way to free us from this winter of discontent, I am writing about the unusual suspects who toil or play in the clubs as they define their crafts. Yesterday it was FLXX. Today it’s Armen Ra, the master of the theremin. The theremin is a rare, eerie-sounding musical instrument, with its foremost astonishing trait explained by Armen in our interview below. Right now, Aremn is raising loot on Indiegogo for a theremin-infused feature documentary about his life: one of growing up in Iranian aristocracy and, after going on vacation in the United States, being forced to stay there due to the Iranian Revolution. A man from wealth and in exile, his story takes flight when he discovers the magic of the theremin and its effect on people. The fundraiser has six days left, and $4,000 to go to get the feature released.

Armen Ra is a well-known face and figure in the posh NY nightclub scene. His story is of ups and downs and all-arounds. It will shock and awe you. I asked him to tell me all about it
 
It’s been a long road. You are an exile,  being forced to leave Iran and live in a foreign land. Tell me about that transition.
That transition was a complete nightmare. I literally thought it was a nightmare for years. Coming from a sheltered aristocratic background, growing up in the opera, traveling the world yearly, submerged in music and art and literature. Being stuck here was like Gilligan’s Island from Hell. I started making jewelry, doing puppet shows with sets and costumes, learning about the power of beauty. We had been to the US several times already, but I didn’t speak any English. My mother and sister were fluent though, so they helped. I adapted quite fast in every way possible. I had to. It was a sudden survival, and I was unprepared at that age, but you figure things out when you have to.

Drugs, prostitution, alcohol, a zillion demons – not exactly the American dream. How’d you get out of that?
Divine intervention, self discipline, and believing in my own intelligence to eventually conquer the demons that were in reach. The light is always there. We are all light. The substance abuse was knocking holes in my aura, diminishing the light. It was not easy to get a regular job for someone like me at the time, especially when the club scene collapsed. Sometimes I had nowhere to sleep and was living in my friend’s multi-million dollar mansion. I worked at Patricia Field doing make-up, did reception at hair salons, drag shows, and whatever else I had to do to survive. I even worked at Show World in the old Times Square! Until I found a voice through the theremin, I was spiraling downward. I wanted to be great at something, and drag and clubs and doing make-up did not satisfy that urge, that quiet knowing that something else is in store, but what? A gift from the gods…waiting for me to open my eyes, to look up.

Tim Burton, Andy Warhol, Vali Myers, Salvador Dali met you, checked you out… you guys rubbed shoulders.
Being in NYC at that time and living in the East Village, it was inevitable really. I’ve always been lucky in attracting interesting people, and I was just amazed that such incredible people and artists wanted me around. It wasn’t that I had low self-esteem; I was just coming out of years of school and abuse, so it was a fabulous shock. I tell the stories in the film. It really is like mythology, and thankfully its all documented and witnessed. Being 16 and spending hours a day with Vali Myers in her room at Hotel Chelsea with people like Ira Cohen,  Andy Warhol, and Debbie Harry coming and going was insane. Vali would constantly take Polaroids of me and send them to Dali. Befriending Leigh Bowery and Thierry Mugler, dancing with Grace Jones in the Limelight DJ booth,s itting on the floor of Frankie Knuckles’ DJ booth at the World… going to a tranny hooker club with Tim Burton and Francis Ford Copolla. Yes, really. Doing the 1999 MTV VMAs in the Madonna Drag Queens segment; I represented the frozen video, that’s a story! I COULD go on! 

The theremin. You have mastered it, and yet I’ve never heard of it.
The theremin is the first electronic instrument ever. Invented by Russian Physicist Leon Theremin around 1920, it is the only instrument that is played without touching, and one of the most difficult to play. Many people use it as a sound effect. I play it as a classical instrument and a voice. My theremin has an eight-octave range, so she is like the ultimate opera singer. She sounds like Maris Callas from beyond. The theremin was used in many sci-fi and horror movies in the background. I think it fell into obscurity because it was difficult to play properly and was not easily accessible. My intention is to bring this instrument to the foreground where it belongs. It has taken me all over the world and onto some of the greatest stages. The sound affects people, it brings out emotion, and touches the heart like a beautiful voice does.

What is the film about?
The film is channeling sadness and horror into beauty, and music is the alchemy. It’s about being clear enough to receive. We are in THE LAST WEEK of our Indigogo crowd-funding campaign. We’re asking anyone who is interested in seeing this fabulous film made properly to please help support us by making donations and/or especially spreading the word about the film and the campaign. We are working very hard to create a meaningful, beautiful, high-quality work of art. Any and all support is welcomed and much appreciated.

And thank you, Steve. You helped me when I first started working in clubs by believing in me and giving me work of all kinds, and you continue to support what I am doing. I really appreciate it. You’re a real gentleman.

Abbe Diaz’s Greatest Rant

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Abbe Diaz is an old friend. If you catch her at the right moment, she’s an angel, but if you say something offensive that could be the most innocuous thing, she’ll rip your throat out. I try to always be pleasant around her. I ran into her on my way to BINGO recently. She was sitting alone at Gemma, and I took her up on her offer to sit and chat. I adore Abbe Diaz. The last time we interviewed her, sparks flew so I figured I’d try it again.

What’s all this movie stuff about?
It’s actually a pilot/web series for more of a TV show than a movie. PX This: The Series is based on my book PX This (Diary of the Maitre d’ to the Stars), so it’s essentially an audio/visual manifestation of the story depicted in it. Some stuff was restructured to make it more adherent to the paradigms of television, but it’s still based on a true story. I mean seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Aside from that, this show also really reflects the exposition of my book, because it’s such a bootstrap project. I am lucky to have been able to assemble an amazingly talented cast and crew, many of whom have worked in the restaurant industry and whose lives mirror my own to a pretty substantial degree. I am humbled by their passion and dedication, working such long arduous hours, for a sum that doesn’t nearly compensate their tremendous skill and effort.

Of all the messages people have seemingly or professedly derived from PX This, the one about holding tight to your dreams (as clichéd as it is) is the one I cherish the most. So PX This: The Series is turning out to be quite the spiritual manifestation as well. And that is so infinitely satisfying. The teaser-trailer (and more information is available at) at IndieGogo.

You are a relentless proponent for fair play in the restaurant biz, and give the newbies the 25-cent tour. Who are you and how did you become you…and leave mom and dad out of it.
Well, that’s a nice sentiment but I don’t think I’m really all that “relentless.” I published a diary that happens to expose certain unsavory aspects of some renowned and illustrious fine-dining organizations. And since all I was doing was telling the truth, I take a fair amount of umbrage at those who would seek to disparage me for simply recounting these anecdotes in my own comical and satirical way.

All I was doing was minding my own business, literally. I’m one of the most chill people anybody will ever know. The industry has made me misanthropic enough that I’m perfectly happy to keep a good distance from other people and their fatuous escapades. I think I have pretty much one philosophical mandate and one alone, and that’s: DON’T COME FOR ME– which is undoubtedly a fairly easy rule for anyone to follow.

Unfortunately, it seems some people have had to learn the hard way that if you come for me, oh, you are sure to find me alright. Too bad I’m not quite the feeble prey you anticipated. I ran into you a couple Monday nights ago at Gemma and you seemed happy. Many people see you differently…some as a crusader – a c word – and some would use a b word. We always hear about your peeves, but what makes you happy?
Ooh, I’m afraid to say because then I might jinx everything. But yes, you have it right; I am happier now than I have ever been because I have pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted. (And what I don’t have yet, I’m about to get.)

Come to think of it, that last sentence alone is probably enough to make certain people seethe. I must admit; that does make me happy.

We’ve been friends for decades…we both have the scars to show we were there. What is not talked about within all the scandals surrounding Limelight and the characters you used to work with? That’s a leading question because so much written and screened is misleading.
Which is probably why I’m the wrong person to ask. I’m so accustomed to “misleading” representations in the media and whatnot, I have no idea what’s “talked about” anymore, because I’ve long stopped paying attention.

But I can well imagine that what’s not talked about very much is everything that was good; the wonderful people we knew, the fun times we had, the outrageous things we saw, the spectacular things we experienced, the whopping money we made. Despite all the hard work all those years (and the scandals), the only thing I regret about any of it is I never took any photographs.

We were part of a unique era that will never transpire again. Sometimes it feels like certain elements would have us apologize for it. But that very same era fostered a generation of strong and fearless wills – some good and some not so good, but largely the unparalleled combination of both.

What are you going to be when you grow up?
Fierce. Like my mom. (Oh, oops, sorry I didn’t leave Mom out of it. Hey, I didn’t bring up my dad.)

Ok, we need a rant … who makes you mad and why?
Woo child, that’s a whole other book. Literally. Its title is PX Me (How I Became a Published Author, Got Micro-Famous, and Married a Millionaire), as a matter of fact. Coming soon in the autumn of 2012!

But okay, I’ll give you a rant. Right now it’s still some particular facets of journalism and the media that make me really mad. To this day I am dumbfounded by the media’s rampant unscrupulousness and hypocrisy.

And if a piddling little nobody like me can be subject to the media depravity I’ve encountered, imagine the global implications of such a thing. It’s vomitous. It’s enough to make the entire news system suspect and incapacitated, the universal consequences of which we are just beginning to realize.

How’s that for a rant.

Kink For Dummies: Domi Dollz Launch Fundraiser For Their First Book

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Down here in the Caribbean, it’s hard to believe that the holiday season is in full force. A friend up north was talking about snow while my main concern is tan lines. For the record, there won’t be any…it’s like that. I’ll be filing little glimpses as I sip tropical fruit drinks and practice the art of not getting caught staring at the bikinis while laying out next to Amanda. Amanda can be scary.

Speaking of scary…Sandy not only destroyed homes, ‘hoods, and a sense of security; it threw the calendar out with the bath water. Many people and businesses plan their holiday parties at the last minute, right before Thanksgiving, and many, bolstered by an improved economy and needing a reason to be cheerful, are scrambling for a night date in a hot spot. Domi Dollz, a group that lives and teaches a real life 50 Shades of Grey lifestyle, is one such group. They will have a super-secret seasonal soiree as soon as they find a place to hang their hat…er, whip.

This year they have a lot to be cheerful about as they are completing their first real-deal book, Kinky Amour, on the subject. Publishing a book is an expensive process and they are trying to raise funds to complete. I  asked Domi Dollz founder and president Nina Payne to tell me all about it:

The fundraiser. Tell me about it.
Someone had mentioned I should try a fundraiser a couple months ago when I was faced with the huge budget of getting this book together. Domi Dollz isn’t just trying to self-publish a book; we’re also creating video tutorials and taking beautiful photographs to show readers how they can practice kinky techniques. We are raising funds so we can properly advertise and promote this book to help make the world a sexier place. Check out the fundraiser here.

What is Kinky Amour?
Kinky Amour is an introduction into kink that explores everything from communication, psychology, and safety, to specific techniques like spanking, bondage, and role-playing. This book has been designed to inspire the reader and help direct her or him to discovering what works best for them and whomever they’re with.

So what types of things will you be covering in the book?
We’re covering a lot of ground in our first book, which is so exciting, beginning  with understanding what kink really is and the reminder that no one should feel ashamed if they are curious or interested in it. Kink is about fun, creativity, and, most of all, trust; it can really liberate an individual and especially strengthen the bond of a relationship. But we will also be covering lots of specific techniques likes spanking, flogging, bondage, dirty talk, role playing, and much more.

What makes this book different than the other kink books out there?
Kinky Amouris not only a book, but it will also be an eBook that has beautiful photography and video tutorials. In fact, it will be the first eBook about kink with video tutorials which you can download to your computer, KindleFire, or iPad. We’ve structured it in a sort of "Kink For Dummies”-style  way, and it will feature personal stories, kinky tips, and other fun stuff from myself, Ms. Mona Rogers, and other fellow Domi Dollz.

So this is a collective effort from all the Domi Dollz.
Yes, our fans will be happy to hear that this book will have contributions from other Domi Dollz, all of whom you can check out here. My biggest help was Ms. Mona Rogers; she came in while I was writing the final draft and really elevated it to the next level. We are very excited by what we have.

What motivated you to write this book?
Aside from wanting to bring a positive message to the world, we were also motivated to write this book after getting feedback from people all over the world interested in our workshops, but weren’t able to attend. We hope this book will bring people an opportunity to learn at their own pace in the privacy of their own home, and hopefully help them embrace their sexualities.

When will the book be out?
February 2013. We are currently shooting all the video and photography, and it’s been a blast watching it all come together.

Tell me about the costs of producing this tome. How do people get involved?
Domi Dollz is on Indiegogo to raise funds to bring this book to life. Self-publishing is no easy task; we’re not only producing high-quality videos and photos, but also advertising it, which has an added cost. It’s expensive to make your dreams come true! We are hoping others who support kink and sexual education will also support our cause. All the money raised will go toward the creation, publishing, and promotion of Kinky Amour. When you check out the fundraiser, you’ll see our sexy video explaining it all. People can use their credit cards or Paypal to donate on Indiegogo. We also accept money orders,  so just email info@DomiDollz.com one of our Dollz, and she can arrange that. We are aiming to raise $10,000, but honestly EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS and gets us closer to our dream. We are grateful for it all and offer perks for different-sized donations. If all the kinksters in NYC donated just $1, we would have way more than ten grand! 

James Franco Wants Your Money To Make Three Short Films

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We were all practically waiting for it now. As soon as Amanda Palmer’s celebrity-crowdfunded-project Patient Zero hit the web, with things like the Veronica Mars movie, Zach Braff’s Garden State follow-up and Zosia Mamet’s very expensive music video, we were waiting for the crowdfunded project from an already-wealthy, artistically-establihed celebrity that would make the Internet all go, "Oh, come on!" in unison. And who better to be that person than resume-padder and Spring Breaker James Franco? 

Franco is asking for $500,000 in an IndieGoGo campaign (or at least a handful of MFAs from Tisch) three to make three short films based on his book of semi-autobiographical fiction short stories, Palo Alto, which wasn’t even all that good. The shorts are based on the stories "Memoria," "Killing Animals" and "Yosemite," and deal with stories of angsty teens growing up in California and encountering such hazards as love, drugs, violence and mountain lions.

Franco, who talks about his passion for teaching in the crowdfunding video, has tapped four up-and-coming filmmakers from NYU, Nina Ljeti, Vladimir de Fontenay, Bruce Thierry Chung and Gabrielle Demeestere, for the project. So at least it’s sort of using Kickstarter for its original intention, to give exposure to rising filmmakers. But are the stories in Palo Alto, which were met with generally tepid reviews, stories worth telling and raising capital for? 

Franco defends his desire to crowd-fund in the campaign video, explaining that he is putting his own money into these projects, but also needs just "a little more help." A little more help. A half-million dollars’ more. 

"I find that this process is very exciting, that it’s the best way to make movies," he tells the camera, practically staring down the viewer under his dark sunglasses. "Because in this way, the movies we want to make get made in the ways we want to make them, where the only consideration is how to make the best movies possible. And I see these projects as an opportunity for all kinds of collaboration." 

The other element of this project, about which Franco is very passionate, is that all of the proceeds from the films will go to Art of Elysium, an organization that connects working artists, musicians and actors with children who are hospitalized or battling serious injury or illness. Art of Elysium does a lot of work to inspire creativity and joy in those who need a boost of it, and it’s worth raising awareness about them, for sure. 

So basically, James Franco means well, and Art of Elysium is a very cool organization that deserves your support. And maybe he’s on to something, that maybe the already-rich-and-famous can get attention on crowdfunding websites for cool, lesser-known charities and up-and-coming filmmakers, who were the kinds of things that were supposed to get exposure via crowd-funding in the first place. It would be infinitely more insufferable, if, say, Franco was directing the films themselves and there wasn’t a goodwill element.

And people will probably fund it anyway, because they funded Zach Braff and Amanda Palmer and the Veronica Mars movie, and this will further become the new way. We’re not really sure what the best solution is, except, like, create a need-based system for movie crowd-funding, but that comes with its own set of problems. Anyway, brace yourselves for the next round of navel-gazing about this as The New Way, and watch Franco’s crowdfunding video below. 

Domi Dollz Launch Fundraiser For Their First ‘Kink for Dummies’ Book

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There are several things in life that make us consider how woefully sad and colorless the world must have been without their very presence. We’re talking things like cinnamon buns, leather pants, and snow globes. But recently, another addition has been made to the list: the book Kinky Amour. A “kink for dummies,” this tome brings all things kink – from S&M to bondage to role playing – out of the taboo and into the mainstream in an accessible, step-by-step, educational way. The learning gets easier since Kinky Amour will be available in eBook form as soon as February 2013, and include downloadable video tutorials and photographs of incredibly good looking people in lingerie doing very naughty things. If only all our textbooks had that…

But I digress. Kinky Amour is created by the experts themselves: the Domi Dollz, a group of professional NYC-based dominatrixes who know the power of a sexual power play and a good spanking. With personal stories and kinky tips contributed by the Dollz and the founder and president herself, Ms. Nina Payne, Kinky Amour doesn’t simply educate;  it titillates and elevates your play to a nearly pro-level – safety first, of course. And since the Dollz are currently NYC-based, the book is making the teachings of their world-renowned workshops national, global, atmospheric, as anyone, anywhere – martian or man – can buy or download the book.

To raise money to release Kinky Amour, the Domi Dollz have launched a fundraiser, where certain donations are rewarded with incentives from a “yes, mistress” t-shirt and free tickets and VIP access to their workshops, to one-on-one lessons with the Dollz in person. And if you’ve ever witnessed one of their workshops – ahem, I have – let me just say the experience is priceless.

So go ahead: be selfish, demand an amazing sex life, get that book out into the world. Bedtime reading doesn’t get better than this.