This Just In: DJs Erick Morillo & Afrojack Join Pacha Benefit

This old guy once wrote: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…." The quote begins Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.  He continued  "…in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." Mr. Dickens offered this tome in 1859, but was referring back to the French Revolution days. He might as well have been talking about now, for New York is a tale of two cities. While many of us are sipping lattes and talking football and going to parties, others are struggling in the cold, displaced and in despair.  It is the worst of times for so many of our neighbors while most of us are busy as bees, forgetting the destruction and "inconvenience" the storm brought, and readying for the holidays.

Last night at BINGO at Hotel Chantelle, a packed house laughed and squealed with joy as regular hosts Murray Hill and Linda Simpson returned to the stage after a two-week Sandy-induced hiatus. They were joined by Michael Musto who proved to be a joy. Like almost every event worth mentioning these days, this night was dedicated to raising money for victims of Sandy. Specifically, BINGO raised much-needed funds for the Ali Forney Center which was flooded by the imperfect storm. Homeless LGBTQ homeless youth can drop in when they need a place. 

Tonight I will party like nothing ever happened at The Electric Room where the dapper Nick Marc will celebrate yet another birthday. Partner-in-crime Justine D. will DJ. Kodi Najm of Hypernova will host. There are rumors of a proper English celebration with everyone involved partaking in heavy drinking and partying. This is rock and roll, followed by some rock and roll and then quite a bit more rock and roll. I’ll be there.

Tomorrow night, Richie Romero will celebrate his birthday and has tasked me to open up for real DJs Jesse Marco and ?uestlove. This affair is at 1OAK and I am very excited about it. I love the staff of OAK and, of course, Mr. Romero. As is his way, Richie was complaining about his age and other trivialities. I’m going to play tracks older than him to cheer him up. I reminded him that I have shoes that are older than he.

As I wrote the other day, I will then whisk myself up to Pacha for their Help Heal New York Sandy benefit where they have me bartending. Since I will have my CDs and headphones with me, I stand ready to pitch in if one of the following DJs fail to deliver: DANNY TENAGLIA, FRANCOIS K, SUNNERY JAMES & RYAN MARCIANO,  Chainsmoker, SHERMANOLOGY, DANNY AVILA, D BERRIE, AUDIEN HARRY, CHOO CHOO ROMERO, SHAWNEE TAYLOR (live), CARL KENNEDY, HECTOR ROMERO ,DAVID WAXMAN, CEVIN FISHER ,THEO, HEX HECTOR, PAUL RAFFAELE, CODES, ROXY COTTONTAIL ,SAZON BOOYA, DALTON, SIK DUO, CARL LOUIS & MARTIN DANIELLE, PAIGE, BAMBI and THAT KID CHRIS. 

Just added as we go to press are superstar DJs Erick Morillo and Afrojack. This is a serious not to be missed event. There are some fabulous surprises that, because of conflicts and dotted i’s and such, can’t be listed here but will be appreciated there. Among that illustrious crew are DJs from my management company 4AM. Chainsmokers are whisking in from Singapore and are off on tour but are stopping by for this fundraiser. Dalton has been debuting his new house tracks along the Northeast corridor, making stops in D.C., Boston, and Philly. 4AM just booked me for New Year’s Eve … yeah, it’s coming up fast.

Please help those still without, and as the holidays approach, be aware of those unable to have a normal celebration. Help where you can.

April Bloomfield Saves Us With Tacos

This past holiday season our savior was April Bloomfield and business partner Ken Friedman who brought Salvation Taco to the Pod 39 Hotel in Murray Hill. In this religious-icon-filled space, you won’t find Bloomfield’s notorious British-done-well cuisine that she is famous for at the Spotted Pig. Nor will you find a seafood theme like her other hotel restaurant, the John Dory Oyster Bar, which is in the Ace Hotel in Flatiron. You will, however, find Bloomfield’s notorious nose-to-tail mantra prevalent, much like it is at the Breslin, with dishes like lamb’s tongue torta and crispy pig’s ear. 

Fonda chef Roberto Santibañez advised the team on the nuances of the menu, and you can see his Latin American influence in dishes like the braised short rib torta, cauliflower with curried crema taco, and the pork belly and pineapple salad. “It’s a taco place that’s not Mexican,” Santibañez told Zagat. “It’s a New York mix of all sorts.”

To drink, bartender Sam Anderson, who created the cocktail list of Pod 39’s rooftop bar, manages the list of beverages that get served tableside, or at the restaurant’s long, fiesta-tinged bar. 

The name Salvation Tacos stems from the building’s previous tenant, a Salvation Army. Though, nothing is second hand or second rate, but for $3 a taco, you can still get a great deal.

The Top NYE Parties In NYC

Look, don’t stress. Who cares that your trip to Miami fell through, your sister announced she’s visiting, or your best friend you were going to eat Chinese food with bailed on you for a guy she met on the F train. It’s okay. You can still reclaim an unstoppable NYE night and New Year at one of these top New Year’s Eve parties in NYC. From rock anthems, to tarot cards, to monkeys, to lavish five-hour open bars – we’ve got you covered, and you will be okay. Tipsy and making as many poor decisions before your resolutions as possible, but okay.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

MONDAY FUNDAY: Tonight’s Top NYC Events

So it’s the first day of the work week and there are four more days to go. We get it. But why ruminate when you can start to make Mondays the best night of the week? This weekly column is devoted to finding the best events across NYC hosted by individuals and places that are doing amazing, crazy, wild, sexy things on Monday nights. And we’re here to honor them. Here are tonight’s top events.

See something beautiful: 
Launching tonight is Time Warner Center’s star-studded holiday light display. Twelve 14-foot LED stars will dance and flash to Yuletide tunes, illuminating Columbus Circle. After, grab a cocktail at Warner’s new fourth-floor lounge overlooking Central Park: Center BarThe light show runs until Jan. 3rd. All the details here.

Do something crazy:
At LES nightclub Hotel Chantelle, there’s a legendary weekly game called Drag Bingo that’s attracted people from all across the globe. The celebrity drag hosts – Murray Hill and Linda Simpson – give away ridiculous, crappy prizes (like cat figurines and sheep slippers), and tell saucy stories about their past sexcapades. The best part: in the third-to-last round, winners strip down to just a couple of paper plates to cover up. Feeling adventurous? This is your place. The games begin at 7:30pm and last until 10pm. Happy Hour starts at 7pm. All the details here.

Watch something classic:
The Academy Award-winning 1975 crime drama Dog Day Afternoon, starring Al Pacino and directed by Sidney Lumet, opens tonight, 9pm at the East Village’s Anthology Film Archives. Watch the heist go wrong until Saturday the 8th.  And when you’re done, have some post-film discussion at international beer haven d.b.a. on 1st Ave. All the movie details here.

Hear something special:
In NYC, there’s a deep yearning to hear something that’s truly new, fun, rich, and fresh – and that’s hard to find – but you’ll find it tonight at Rockwood Music Hall, where rising singer and songwriter David Alan Thornton debuts some of his top narrative-infused pop songs with a band of pros, including pop sextet The Dirty Gems’ Mark Sanderlin. Plus, it’s Thornton’s birthday show, making it an especially celebratory night that’s hard to resist – so don’t.
The concert starts at 10pm. All the details here.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter.

New York Openings: Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse, Singapura, Foragers City Table

Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse (Gramercy) –  Texas-based steak chain brings its tasseled curtains and leather to the big town.

Singapura (Murray Hill) – Malaysian, Hakka Chinese, and Thai infiltrate the Indian grubfest in Curry Hill.
 
Foragers City Table (Chelsea) – Restaurant within a market serves organic, shelf-to-table fare.

Dita Von Teese and Murray Hill Tear Up Avalon

Dita Von Teese likes to take baths. Last night at Avalon, for her first appearance in L.A. in two years, she took two baths in just an hour and a half, easily more than I take in a few weeks. (I do bathe, just the less glamorous way — standing up in a shower). Though I’d seen the host, Murray Hill, more times than I can count, it was my first time seeing Dita perform.

She did three sets — two of which she performs at the Crazy Horse in Paris: one set to her own remake of a Mae West tune, “A Guy What Takes His Time” that ended with her in a black bathtub giving herself a very luxurious bath; a second one put a twist on her classic martini glass act (it’s been altered to signify a Cointreau cocktail — they were the night’s sponsor). And her final act was brand new. It was dubbed “The Opium Den” and was set partially to the Cure’s “Lullaby,” and it featured an elaborate red and orange glowing “Oriental” set.

Dita’s burlesque, and to a large extent, the first half of the show’s acts, including Ava Garter (her bff from high school), a smashing redhead, Mayte, and Gregg Romeo, were historically correct burlesque (right up to Mayte’s belly dancing, sword-balancing act). Though they are performers during the “new burlesque” movement — which for all intents and purposes really started at the end of the 90s with Jo Boobs and Blue Angel in NYC, and here with Michelle Carr and Velvet Hammer — they are really old-school burlesque.

If you watch an old burlesque video of Tempest Storm or Bettie Page, you will be surprised by how little happens, and for how long. Minutes go by and barely an item of clothing is removed; the dancer just stands and shimmies with a suggestive smile, moving elegantly around the stage before removing an item of clothing. In this way, Dita’s act is quite similar.

While New York and neo-burlesque is almost more like theater — with mini-stories told in less five minutes — I once saw Dirty Martini get ready for a date, set the dinner table, get stood up, have a breakdown, and commit suicide while she got totally naked. Dita’s old school burlesque is an exercise in patience.

image

In the 1950s, a glimpse of thigh — let alone a flash of tummy — was truly titillating, and so teasing out the full reveal was really meaningful. Today, however, we know exactly what naked ladies look like, so watching Dita slither around on the stage artfully picking off clothing is less exciting than it should be. It was less like watching a performance than watching a modeling shoot in progress: on the big screens flanking the stage, you could see her lips quivering, her eyebrows arching just so. The faint movement of her mouth, created a feeling. She was like a sponge, soaking in adulation while looking incredibly beautiful.

There was also surprisingly less tease than I expected. Dita didn’t have layers upon layers of clothing to peel off; usually she went through one phase of deliciously glittery, alluring costuming, before we got the titty shot. However, she has a rockin’ body that I would eat puppies to have myself, so I am perfectly happy to ogle her all night long.

As someone who chronicled the New York burlesque scene for the Village Voice, it was interesting to see the difference between the two coasts — and I was curious to see how our favorite uncle, Murray Hill, would play to an L.A. crowd that has no context for Murray. Who, they must have been wondering, is this androgynous Benny Hill-like man wearing a tuxedo worthy of Vegas with a high squeaky voice?

Sweet-cheeked Murray seems to have undergone a bit of a transformation in the last few years. He’s saltier for one thing; his old partner at club Casanova (a long ago drag king night that’s ancient history), Mo Fischer, who used to do drag as Mo B. Dick, noted “Murray’s cursing a lot more.” Just then he uttered, “Oh, shit!”

And he’s a bit more aggressive, going after the laughs, calling out Carmen Electra (who may or may not have been in the house) and gave out his numbers (if you were paying attention, they were all real), and the audience members a hard time. “This is my L.A. debut and you’re fucking Twittering!” he chided one fool who was busy texting down in front.

Most importantly, though, Murray was able to rile up the crowd before the performers came on, stretching their names like taffy. “Put your hands together for the International Queen of Burlesque,” he said, “Dita Vooooooooooooooon Teeeeeeeeeeeeeese!” It was big. It was showbiz.

That was the other thing: burlesque — or at least Dita’s burlesque — is big here. Big space: held at Avalon, which has a capacity to hold a few thousand people, and was sold out. There were multitudes of celebrities in the audience: we spied Margaret Cho and Jorja Fox, (of CSI: Las Vegas), as well as Jenny Lewis (or at least her exact replica). The size of L.A.’s geography lends itself to making burlesque seem more than a quick and dirty striptease in a tiny hovel of a club in the Lower East Side. Still the acts during the second half of the show managed to invoke the edgier East Side of both coasts, (here it would be the Silverlake contingent).

Raja, the transsexual contestant from America’s Next Top Model, did a classic “reverse strip,” which is where you start out naked and get dressed. It takes on a new, mournful meaning when the performer in question is a man who should be a woman, putting on women’s attire and emerging as her true self. A moving portrait.

Raja was followed by pint-size package Selene Luna, an L.A. favorite. She is a little person, and stands all of three feet ten inches tall; she arrived on stage in a makeshift motorcycle, smoking and pouting, and very easily stole the show. I looked back up at the top rows in the V.I.P. section and could see all the way from the front of the stage that Carr and her friends were on their feet with their fists in the air cheering on their friend, victorious.

The last act before Dita’s “Opium Den” finale, Kerry Wee, performed almost entirely in the dark. We soon learned why: her act was orgasmic moans and wails set to a crescendo of tap dancing. It was the sort of thing that could be called performance art and it could have been performed in a very different context. As she reached her climax, tapping furiously and moaning ecstatically, the crowd cheered her on.

When she was finished, we all exhaled. I needed a cigarette. To quote Murray, “Oh, shit!”

Email tips to {encode=”tromano@bbook.com” title=”tromano@bbook.com”}.

Murray Hill, International Man of Mystery

There may be a push to a performance-based nightclub scene as more and more clubs explore alternative ways to attract moths to their fading lamps. The Box has certainly led the way for this generation but its shocking, or often described as “disgusting approach,” to performance may not be necessary. There are inklings of a burlesque revival, which has small but tenacious roots in places like Corio and The Slipper Room. Dita Von Teese is the grand dame of this genre. I caught her act over at the now-defunct E. 27th Street haunt Happy Valley, when she performed for Suzanne and Kenny. Her performance in an oversized champagne glass nearly drove me to drink. Murray Hill, however, is a performance artist who I have seen for almost 15 years. His act has evolved from a distraction to a big time “show biz” attraction. Murray will be joining Dita tomorrow night in L.A. and I expect sparks. Catch Murray as soon as you can while you can get it cheap. The world just might be ready for him at exactly the same time he is sober and honed to meet the world.

I’m sitting here with Murray Hill—let’s get spelling the spelling right. S-H-O-W-B-I-Z

Tell me how the name came about… Well, there’s two versions: One of the versions is the Showbiz version–I was born in the backseat of a cab on 23rd Street and Third Avenue and then the cab driver asked my father, “Is it a boy or a girl?” And my father said, “No.” You laugh, that’s good, you get it. But I actually came to N.Y. around 90-something and went to Life for the the first time in 96 or 97. I was at grad school at the School of Visual Arts. And you know Fancy? Him and Penny and that crew, that’s the first club thing I got into at the “999999’s.”

Penny Arcade? Penny Tuesdae, way back. Fancy had this night called the “999999’s,” at Flamingo East and I was still in grad school and I didn’t have a name yet—I was unnamed for like 2 weeks.

So you don’t have a name yet, but you are a performance artist at this point? No, I was a photographer; I was going to grad school for photography and media.

So you were going to begin to perform, and you needed a name? I got to it by getting to my name. So Fancy said I’m starting this big Swing club—you know, I’ve been through all the phases now, Swing, that was the cocktail phase back then. And he’s like I’d love for you to come and be a pinup girl with your camera. I wanted to do the night, the New York nightlife, I wanted to get into it, but we both thought, “no that doesn’t seem right,” so he got me a suit–my first fancy suit–and I went to college with him in Boston. It was this ugly brown thing, a gold tuxedo ruffle shirt, and he says, “Well what about this?” and I said that feels more natural. Now I’d been photographing drag queens in Boston, I have early pics from those first few weeks of me in the bathroom wearing this crazy suit, and you know, I have cheekbones and my name was gonna be BJ.

BJ? I know, real creative. I lived in Murray Hill. My first apartment was on 23rd and Lexington. I had a post office box on 23rd Street, and one day I was walking down the street and every single thing was Murray Hill — Murray Hill Post Office, Murray Hill Cleaners, Murray Hill Cinemas, and it just stuck.

Your Eureka moment, an epiphany! It was really a moment. There’s been a couple of twists, because Murray Hill is actually the name of an old vaudevillian from the 1800s who lived in NY, and I’ve been told that Murray Hill was the name of a politician—because, I ran for mayor. One of the first things I did, was the name of a politician who died who was actually a woman.

The story is, he lived as this hard drinking tough political man, and during the autopsy they discovered that he was a woman. Yeah, and it’s Murray Hill, isn’t that crazy? I had no knowledge of that.

So you don’t call yourself a drag king? No I don’t….

But you are a woman, performing as a man. The audience knows you’re a woman most of the time. Not as much these days. I think New York has changed.

You don’t like to call yourself a drag king, but that’s the only term I have. Explain this to me. There’s not a lot of language. I got into New York nightlife right at the very end, you know what I mean? Life was still kicking the clubs, Jackie Beat was doing every night, it wasn’t dead like it is now for drag. You can’t go out 5 nights a week anymore and see a show in the East Village. It sucks. So I came in at the tail end, Flamingo East was the only place, and at that time I used “drag king,” because there was no other language. Musto first called me that. The press got excited, but at that time there wasn’t a lot of us, there was like 7 of us doing a Sunday night called club Casanova, and I was doing Flamingo East to all the straight hipsters. At Casanova there was the only drag king night in the country, and from there it just spawned all over the place. At that point I was comfortable using the term “drag king,” but not as I got more mainstream. I have those old values of drag etiquette, like you never give your other name ever. But it’s a dying breed, this is it! And no one’s like me on the “drag king,” side.

What about on the women’s side? The W-word—is it a bad word? No it’s not a bad word, but here’s the other thing from the old days–in the queer scene, everybody says “transgender.” Justin Bond says “transgender” now. But when I was in high school, college, even in New York—we didn’t’ use those words. So I kind of developed all the stuff before everybody has all these words now.

Before everybody became PC… Well it wasn’t all these labels. If you were a dyke, you were butch or fem—that was it. And if you’re drag, you’re either a queen or a bear. Today, the kids who come to my bingo night, I’m blown out of the water by the identity everyone has, they’re out about it. They’ve been out since they were in high school, they’re having surgery—it’s crazy! Again, I missed all that.

Tell me about the bingo… I do a bingo night, at Bowery Poetry Club, it’s off the hook it’s every Monday from 7 – 10p.m.

I have seen you a number of times recently and I think the show is amazing, I think you have come into your own. It was never about shock value with an old school guy like me. Even though it’s friendly, it’s a little shocking for some people.

You’re going to be performing with Dita Von Teese, tell me about that. She’s been at the Crazy Horse in Paris and really blowing it out over there, she’s the top burlesque performer in the world, she really is.

I talked about her as being the Babe Ruth of modern burlesque in Melody Sweets’ interview. She is the person who is most likely to take this incredible art which struggles under the surface to the mainstream. RuPaul took drag queens out into the mainstream, Milton Berle and many others did it before, but RuPaul did it for this generation. But anyway, I’ve seen your act, and I’ve seen Dita’s act, which is, I mean, I was dragged kicking and screaming to see her at Happy Valley and it was an unbelievable show. She lives up to hype. New Yorkers are jaded and we perform at shit boxes, but I did some shows with her in Seattle and it was the first time we’d met and they were just like whoa—we gotta have this guy in our big L.A. show.

What are you doing with Dita? At Crazy Horse in Paris, she debuted these huge new numbers, but she hasn’t performed in L.A. in about 5 years. So this show is at Avalon and it’s me, a couple of local guests and her, and she’s doing 3 new performances and she goes out and does 10 to 15 minute performances. She’s up there and she’s got Cointreau behind her and all of her stuff is all diamonds. It’s the real deal kids. I think the reason why they like the old school vibe of me is because I bring some class to the night and I’m not–you know, a sexist stand-up comedian. I can be Murray Hill as the character, which you’ve seen, but make everybody feel comfortable, including the performers.

When do you come out of character? Late at night when you come home? Well, remember you and I were in the same sober hipster article, do you remember that?

Tricia Romano, who actually writes for BlackBook now, did a story called sober hipsters, and both Murray and I are sober hipsters now. I don’t drink, never have, I do it out of choice, but many of our friends are alcoholics who have now recovered and live in nightclubs without the benefits of booze. So, explain to me the how you are in character all the time. When I first got to NY nightlife and was out every single night, it all added up. Since I’ve been sober, which is almost 5 years this September, my act is different. People see me now from the old days, and now I’m almost 80 pounds thinner, and the way I am now I credit to being sober and to working downtown every night. When you are in clubs 5 or 6 nights a week on stage, people are loaded, they’re screaming at you, they’re fucking each other while you’re telling jokes. It’s the best training that I’ve ever had, and I always credit downtown New York. I never forget my roots, Avenue A or Avenue B, because that’s where you get the muscle. When I go out of town now, it’s easy! People just sit there and they pay attention. So that’s the difference, the whole act has gotten a lot better, and now, I’m not Murray 24/7.

You now say “Showbiz” as a catch phrase. What does it mean? You know I love the oldies. Like Don Rickles, Shecky Greene, Shelly Berman—all these guys. And they did acts that I thought were very “showbiz”–they dressed well, they were in a lounge, they were classy, and they interacted with the audience. There was such a rapport.

Right, I was watching one of those roasts the other day on YouTube, Dean Martin—and they’re so out of control—they’re just laughing at each other and you’re laughing at them. And that’s showbiz, right? If I’m on stage at Corio and I’m telling a joke and the entire sound system and lights go off—I’m like “Showbiz!”

And it’s just a catch phrase. It covers everything. It covers the drunk, it covers the rude patron, it covers the waitress spilling the tray, it covers the joke that doesn’t go over, it. covers everything. So where can we see you? Bingo on Monday Nights. And I’m going to be in Los Angeles at Avalon next Wednesday with Dita Von Teese. I’m doing off Broadway next year. I’m going to be the first of my kind. And we don’t know what the word for that kind is.

It’ll be the gay, lesbian, transgender and not bi-Murray Hill. That’s the one thing I’m clear about. You won’t see me with a man! The tentative title is, “Murray Hill is Mr. Showbiz,” so I just recorded that live show and we’re going to make it a comedy album. So from that, we’re going to develop a whole other show based on my nightclub acts in the last ten years.

LA Summer Night Moves

Unlike New York, where socializing slows to a crawl because everyone’s in the Hampton’s or it’s just too plain hot, in Los Angeles, the social scene picks up during the summertime. In your immediate foreseeable future, you will be very busy taking in art, dancing, weird circuses, and getting a visit from everyone’s favorite comedy uncle (Murray Hill!) while ogling half-naked women.

First things first. Daisy O’Dell’sVinyl Lover’s Lounge was extended, but next weekend is the last installment, so bring records to the Palihouse.

Also getting a summertime lifeline: the Cirque Berzerk, the funky, gothy, burlesque/cabaret which was supposed to shut next week has been extended through August.

One time only, don’t sleep on it! Next Friday, the Soul Clap and Dance-Off, a New York Night Train dance party run by DJ Jonathan Toubin, comes to L.A.’s Nomad Gallery (1993 Blake Avenue). The night is a throwback — the kids dance to gritty 60s soul spun on 45’s (remember those?). There’s a dance contest happening in the center of the dance floor, with celebrity judges weighing in on the winners. The judges for the L.A. contest will be Don Bolles (of the Germs), Jennifer Herrera (of RTX), Howie Pyro (of Intoxica Radio), and Randy Randall (of No Age.)

Next Wednesday at Avalon, my favorite person in the universe, Mr. Murray Hill, comes to Los Angeles from New York. He’s a little scared of the L.A. crowd since he’s never really gigged here, but I told him not to worry as Murray Hill awesomeness is universal. Murray’s here to be part ofDita Von Teese’s night. Make him feel welcome.

Last but not least: pictures! But not exactly pretty ones. Starting next Saturday, the Scion Installation L.A. Space (3521 Helms Ave.) in Culver City will host the work of three Vice mag regulars: Jamie Lee Curtis Taete, Maggie Lee, and Tim Barber. Expect a lot of bodily fluids, and generally shocking-for-shocking’s-sake images. The exhibit will run through August 8.

Image via by Danielle Bedics / dita.net

Email tips to {encode=”tromano@bbook.com” title=”tromano@bbook.com”}.

Va Va Voom Burlesque: Exit Strategy, Ear-Hole Entry

One of things I touched on yesterday in my story about actor/doorman Wass Stevens was the concept of exit strategy for nightlife workers. Most people employed in nightlife have other careers that they hope will take them to some promised land. For some, it’s a dream of fame and fortune; for others it’s a law degree and a nice house in Minneapolis. Many have no plans at all and are just trying to get through the week. Sometimes it would bother me if after many years of trying to act or paint, the bartender had not broken out or progressed and they seemed destined to be a gin-slinger for life. I hired creative people. That was my trip. I wanted these kinds of interesting art types to make a decent living and move on. I wanted my patrons to interact with these types. Many of my best friends have and are indeed now facing the realities of being stuck behind the three compartment sink and serving people they no longer relate to. Moving to California is a band-aid often applied. My ex-bartender Scrappy is still in the life but has segued into singing and performing in burlesque shows around town. Catch her act ( and any of the other burlesque shows being offered) if you can. The Box broke this stuff out to a financially viable level, and I think we will see more of it. It keeps getting more interesting. Just ask Scrappy.

Your hair is very feathery. Did you pick out the long feather earrings first, or did you do the hair as a result of the earrings? The hair is permanent for a couple of weeks. It’s my homage to Farrah. It’s called the Margie Bang at Tease Salon.

Scrappy was a bartender for me back in the day, and now she calls herself Melodie Sweets. Do you refer to yourself as a showgirl — a burlesque performer? I call myself a singer. Yes I do burlesque a lot, and I do my own show, Rouge Coquette, but I mainly sing in every show I do.

The first time I saw you was at Corio; you invited me down, and I went. Which was very surprising by the way. The light was kind of hitting you, and I was like, “Is that Steve?”

It was absolutely uncomfortable for me having known you as Scrappy the bartender. You hire bartenders and work with them because they are fabulous and beautiful and cool, but you absolutely disconnect yourself from them in a sexual way. If you’re a pretty good guy in this business, you shouldn’t be hitting on staff, and here you are a number of years later in this incredible feather outfit which had not nearly enough feathers. They were in select spots; very classy with a capital “C,” I might add.

I remember feeling very uncomfortable but anyway your voice was amazing. You’re a great singer. You’re a great showgirl; when I knew you as a bartender, I thought you were very conservative … You did?!

I thought of the entire bar staff, you were the least outgoing, the shyest. I am pretty shy.

But here you are on stage with a fairly sophisticated audience and mixed gay-straight crowd, and you are not shy at all. So on stage, it all comes out. Tell me about this process. How did you start doing it? Well, when my band GoodFinger decided to go into the studio and concentrate on our album that just came out, we stopped playing live shows, and I just really love the stage. A friend of mine was having a burlesque show and was like, “Will you do it?”

Who was that friend? Norman Gosney, who is now in China opening up another club. It was his show, and I loved the performers. Miss Tickle is just genius — everything about her was genius. She is so inspiring, and she’s a really good friend of mine. I saw her do it first. So I said if I’m going to be on stage, I don’t want to just do burlesque, I want to sing. So it was a challenge to myself to write my own songs, perform my own songs, and build it from the ground up. And that is what I loved the most about it. So Melodie Sweets was really born because GoodFinger stopped playing live.

As Melodie Sweets, as a frontwoman of GoodFinger, you are wearing sexy clothes. How do you get almost naked in front of strangers? Oh that’s the easy part, because I don’t care if you’re judging my outsides. That doesn’t bother me. Everyone has nipples — not that you see them.

Some people have three. Yes, some people have three. I bet if they got into the burlesque with three nipples, they would make a killing. I think it’s harder when people judge my singing, because they are judging something that I can’t change. They’re judging my insides. I get more nervous about singing on stage than I do doing burlesque. Because burlesque, when I’m done, I have more clothes on than I do on the beach. Some girls really just go down to the bare minimum.

You’re saying your singing is more naked. Yes, especially when I do covers. I’m even more nervous when I do covers. You know the audience is expecting you to be just as great or even greater than the original performer. So I just get manic backstage. What goes on backstage is just priceless. It’s always a brilliant time — girls just running around.

From what I’ve seen, there is a camaraderie. You guys are like a cult; a lot of the same people at Corio or the The Slipper Room. The Box is more shock burlesque Yeah, I perform there a lot.

How would you act differently at The Box? The Box is actually really great; I love performing there. I’ve met some amazing people there, and it really pushes me to do more modern things. So really The Box has inspired my music, and so I pull from old school.

Which old school? Billie Holiday, all the old jazz and blue greats, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald, all those wonderful, wonderful women. And Cole Porter … even going back to that style, that genre of music.

Are we in a golden age of burlesque now? I think so. I think it’s really hitting a more mainstream audience. People are opening themselves up to it more. I don’t know how it is in the middle of the country.

Are you performing at Webster Hall now? I have a residency at Webster Hall every second Friday of the month.

I designed this giant iron and glass fan for Webster Hall that would open up so that the burlesque dancers could walk out and be on stage, and then it would close behind them. I haven’t been to Webster Hall in a very long time. Was it supposed to be motorized, Steve?

Yes it was. Because it’s not.

I’m sure they’ll get around to doing it. They’re often late with doing things. Back to the golden age; one of my favorite performers of all time and someone I want to interview very soon is Murray Hill, one of the funniest humans alive. He is so in character, I never think of him as a her. Murray Hill is a drag king — a woman who performs as a man. If you say “she” it just doesn’t register. He’s brilliant to work with. You can come into the theater in the worst of moods, and you just see Murray, and in two seconds you’re laughing. It’s a pleasure to work with him.

I hate to say it, but I think he is carrying the burlesque thing on his back. He is one of the most recognizable and professional characters. Who are the other players in burlesque? It’s a growing community. And I say community because it really is, and we all really help each other. But a few of my favorites, of course, are Miss Tickle and the Pontani Sisters.

How many Pontani sisters are there? There are three, and they are amazing. I’ve worked with them at Corio and with them and Murray for the past year, since the show started. And then you have Amber Ray who is just such a force on stage. You were a bartender with me. You are a singer in a band, and you are a burlesque singing star. Where does this take you in the future? I have about three more songs to finish the album, which is really exciting for me. And I’m forming a band, and I want to incorporate my acts that I do now with some of the girls in my show but really make it more into a music venture. Not a musical. So this way I can take it not only to theaters as a burlesque show, but I can take it to rock n’ roll venue and really focus on the music side of things as well.

Do you believe a club could exist as a burlesque club? Yeah. Slipper Room has existed on burlesque. They do some other things there too; they book bands, but they always try to keep it in the realm of burlesque.

The sight lines aren’t great at the Slipper Room. It’s a very difficult place to see burlesque. They’re reopening. I think they just bought out the upstairs above them and are redesigning.

Is Dita Von Tesse the Babe Ruth of modern burlesque? She definitely has the most notoriety right now. I’ve never seen her perform, nor have I met her. I would like to see her perform.

She performed in a martini glass. It was insane. I love that someone is carrying that torch. And the bigger the community gets, and the more people that get into, it the longer we stay being able to do what we love to do.

Prior to seeing her perform I didn’t see the attraction, but the end of the show I was dying. She was insanely hot. I guess that is the game isn’t it? Finding sexuality in the audience? It’s the art of the tease. You’re not supposed to give it all. It’s about teasing the audience and pulling them into your fantasy.

Are there moments that you connect? Yes, that’s the best feeling ever.

Is it orgasmic? It could be. For me, when I sing, I’m entering inside your ear holes. The best feeling is when you look out and see them singing the songs. You just glow when you’re on stage. It’s such a great feeling.

You’re not shy anymore Scrappy.