Tonight, I will attend a birthday dinner for Octavia McKinney, an old and dear friend whose faults I’ve always forgiven. Octavia is part of my family of friends who’ve migrated to Los Angeles. The dinner will be held at Indochine, a joint I have been visiting for over 25 years. The thing about old friends and classic restaurants is that they make you feel like you belong—and that you always have belonged—even though life lets you drift away from time to time. Octavia is a legend, revered in so many nightlife circles. Tonight we will celebrate her life.
First of all, Happy Birthday! Without getting into how old you are, lets just say you enjoyed a long career in nightlife. Tell me about the clubs you worked in and what your jobs were. I started off working at Mars doing the ropes to the 2nd floor. I didn’t actually have ropes, so I used my legs in the doorway. I would ask for the password when there wasn’t one. I would say it was about me, and they would usually respond, “You’re beautiful!” and my legs would lift. Out of the way you dirty birdy. I danced on the bar and gave a Coke & Pepsi challenge at Limelight, entertained the crowds at the Building, waitressed and Maitre D’ed at Life (which gave me the start to a much better life—no pun intended—in the club world). Then I promoted places like Thompson Hotel & Tribeca Grand. Actually, Patty Doria, Marcus Woods, and myself were the first people to promote an ongoing downtown trendy party at a hotel. Then I promoted clubs such as Cain, Home, Quo, Aer—the list goes on.
Coming from Hawaii to the Gianormous Apple, what were you seeking, and did you find it? I lived in San Fran for 7 months before, but I was still wanting NYC. I saw a couple movies when I was about 10 that were filmed in NYC, and told my mom that’s where I want to live when I grew up. I just wanted the artistic freedom NYC had to offer.
Nightlife has changed. But you? Not so much. Why do you keep going out, and how are things different today than years past? Nightlife used to be about dressing up to go out and having a great time. It was all about giant clubs with many rooms to run around and get lost in. Kind of like an Alice in Wonderland feel. The bathrooms were coed, and people had sex and did drugs in them. There was an element of freedom to be who you wanted to be. The crowds were a mixture of everyone—gay, straight, bi, tranny, wall street, artist, jock— it didn’t matter as long as you dressed up. Now it’s all about having a table and being seen. Bottle service killed the club scene in NYC. Now I love the Standard Hotel’s Boom Boom Room and Le Bain. It reminds me of old New York. Glamorous and mixed. I just wished the wild element was still around. The hotels seem to be taking over the city. I miss old NYC.
Why, of all the Gin joints around town, did you choose Indochine? We have both been around for over twenty years in NYC, and we’re still standing tall, got the love, and respect of the city. We’re classic and delicious. Plus, I love Jean Marc. He’s a dear friend, and I’ve known many of the staff, so it’s like home to me.
Tell me a funny nightlife story. I walked into Love Machine and Larry Tee saw me. I was wearing a purple bustier and skirt with 5 1/2- inch stiletto patent-leather thigh-high boots. I had taken coat hangers and twisted my hair around them, creating horns that I painted day-glo yellow. Larry said Grace Jones was performing, and he would pay me $100 dollars to dance on the box closest to her while she was on stage. Naturally, I obliged. During the performance I swung upside down from the pipes above me. Steven Meisel, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell were watching me. Then I realized my boots were stuck and I couldn’t get down. I had to swing like a bat for 10 minutes—which is a very long time when the blood fills your head. Eventually I curled up and twisted my boot sideways and out til I came tumbling to the box with a thud. Pretty funny stuff!
Many of your closest friends have moved to Cali. This was not even a thought years ago, but LA has changed and you have matured. Will you make the move? If so, besides me, what will you miss most? I am not moving to LA, so there will be no missing you. I am a New York City bitch, and this is where this bitch belongs. I love my trips to LA to see my gaggle of friends, but someone has got to keep NYC on her toes. So looks like you’re stuck with me.