Kelly Bruce’s Birthday Bash at Stash, My Birthday Next Tuesday at Avenue

A freak injury involving a work boot, an immovable object, and an unfortunate little toe has made this a slow news day. I blew off yesterday with pain pills and bandages, just mobilizing enough to DJ last night. I had a tumbly, tossy night of  medicated dreams and am coming at this late in the day. Normally, I’m up at 7am, but the painkillers convinced me my pillow was where my fortunes lie. Of course, they lied and my editor is going to hurt another toe or something.

I plan on limping over to Stash tonight for Kelly Bruce’s Massively Epic Birthday Bash. Kelly left Blackbook just a few days ago and I have been inconsolable since. Stash just got a fab mention in New York Magazine’s Design Hunting section …much thanks to Wendy Goodman. I will then pop into The Darby for a peek; they finally got their marquee up. It looks fabulous and makes the place look even more elegant. I’m a proud papa. Then it’s Provocatuer to be amazed. It never ceases to amaze me.

Nightlife is getting bigger and better, except sometimes when it gets smaller and chicer. Fashion week looms and everyone is getting ready to slam into the new season. Club operators are getting ready to unveil or, at least, have polished the silverware and brought out the good china. New spots like Le Baron will help define the night. XL will be a game-changer as well. Christina Visca is having a good old- fashioned grand opening tea. Be there this Sunday for the boys and girls who need a place of there own. It starts at 5pm and ends at 10pm so there are no "tomorrow’s a work day" excuses.

Of no significance at all is my birthday bash at Avenue this coming Tuesday. I will be older than the wind but still young at heart. I’ll DJ for a half an hour with pals DJ Sinatra and Todd Smolar. I will pop a couple bottles of Beau Joie Champagne and promise myself that this year I will offer no more teenage excuses. The people at Avenue, Lavo, Marquee, and  the great team at Tao Strategic Group are family to me and I am honored they are offering me a party. It’s what they do best. Shout out/ Happy Birthday to the Group’s Judy Tepperberg.

New York, Then & Now: Warhol Christmas Party at The Gershwin Hotel, Hotel Chelsea, & Beatrice Inn

This Saturday, December 15, brings in Christmas with Andy (as in Warhol) Party at The Gershwin Hotel (7 E. 27th St.), an 8pm to midnight affair. The event, which caught my eye and ears a couple weeks ago, is now being billed as the closing night of the Gershwin, one of the last of the bohemian hotels that were home to downtown sorts. Back in the day, clubbers, artists and all sorts of creatures of the night shacked up in places like the Hotel Chelsea, Hotel 17, and The Gershwin. These sorts were often without credit but could hustle up an insider rate for rent often a bit late. Starving artists often traded art for months in a tiny room in a hotel filled with like-minded types. 

The Gershwin was always art-heavy, and this closing night will reflect its glorious past and the souls, living and dead, that gave it its edge. The party will be hosted by Robert Heide, John Gilman, Neke Carson, and Michael Weiner. It will honor the “REGARDING WARHOL” exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is running until New Year’s Eve, and a new book named Thank You Andy Warhol by Catherine Johnson and Andy Warhol’s New York City by Thomas Kiedrowski. DJ Tennessee will spin Lou Reed, Nico, and all sorts of Warhol-appropriate fare. 

The Gershwin and I rarely got along. It was little too messed up for me. I almost stayed there for my ex’s birthday one year, but when I got to the hotel, every arrangement I had made with management for the occasion was bungled. I ended up at a boutique place and endured the bombardment of many "What did you expect?" from friends. I still go there for a coffee at Birch or sometimes a meeting in the lobby when looking for something "artistic" for a design job.

I lived in Hotel Chelsea for a bit and loved it. To me, it was the hometown I never had. I knew my neighbors and borrowed and lent sugar and other things from them. The transient guests provided excitement on many levels, and I must admit I spent a few nights having encounters and traveling to and fro in ancient elevators. The Hotel Chelsea was sexy. It has been reduced to a question mark, a debate in the New York Times or New York Magazine. Although it’s temporarily closed, when it was open it lacked the charisma it offered in its glory days, when hotelier Stanley Bard curated the place like a club doorman. The passing of The Gershwin is a great loss to a scene that lingered long after many of the real players that made it what it is have moved along. In that respect, the Andy Christmas Party is perfect. 

The article “The Oral History of the Beatrice Inn” by Kelly Hoffman in The Cut section of New York Magazine is a must-read. It starts with "Nothing Will Ever Be Like the Beatrice," and maybe that’s so, but I kind of doubt it. It’s true the players that grew up together at this unique moment in club history are now off and gone to their greener pastures, but there is always a new generation of players. Beatrice was the best place of its time, as short-lived as that was. Given more time it would have to rank as one of the best joints ever. Alas, it fell victim to what made it great. It played by few rules and the rules came home to roost.

There will be a new Greatest Club Ever soon enough. The players exist, the spaces are there, and money is flowing again in this town. A new generation of genius will emerge and make a place their home. When you come of age in clubland, wherever you hang your hat on a regular basis is home, and you remember it in its purist form. Boring nights are forgotten and all you have is a string of wonderful memories. Beatrice offered less boredom and more mayhem than seems possible in these highly-regulated times. However, I have confidence that some smart alec will find a way to get around it all and create something truly exceptional again.

Did P. Diddy Seriously Get ‘New York’ Magazine’s Logo Tattooed On His Arm?

New York magazine staffers are passing an image around Facebook of the rapper P. Diddy (neé Puff Daddy) showing off what appears to be a new tattoo on his arm of the New York magazine logo, which he tweeted last night.

In one pic, Diddy poses alongside a friend (tattoo artist perhaps?) holding out his arm. The other pics show the apparent tattoo in close up, revealing it is the exact font and logo of New York mag:

But is it … real? Staffers seem to think so. (The mag’s Twitter tweeted, "We’re flattered.") Yet wonderful things can be faked with Photoshop! And although he is a bit eccentric, getting a magazine logo tattooed on his arm is definitely a weirder behavior than we’re used to from Mr. Diddy.  

He does have us curious for what’s next — perhaps a Cosmopolitan tattoo for the youngest Cyrus sister?

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Brooklyn-Based Author Obsessed With Hating Elizabeth Wurtzel

Last night I finally got around to Elizabeth Wurtzel’s personal essay in this week’s issue of New York. I saw on Monday, while driving a U-Haul with a friend from the East Coast to Chicago, that it ran online and people—at least on Twitter—were talking about it, mostly in a negative way. I haven’t read much of Wurtzel beyond her first memoir, Prozac Nation, and she fell off my radar, perhaps on purpose. So I read it a day later, which feels like weeks in Internet Time, out loud to my boyfriend, just a few feet from Wurtzel’s other books, Bitch and More, Now, Again, which sit on his bookshelf. Both of us liked it quite a bit.

I tweeted my reaction to the essay, mostly to joke about how "finally reading the Elizabeth Wurtzel piece" one day after it is published is inherently (and hilariously) ridiculous, and I received one response from someone I don’t know:

I didn’t respond because I don’t know what the hell that means. But then I looked at this guy’s Twitter and found that a great deal of his tweets are about Elizabeth Wurtzel. To wit:

And so on! The weirdest thing is that this dude (who, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a Brooklyn-based writer with a Kindle single readily available for purchase) takes his obsession with hating Elizabeth Wurtzel (and by the way, EVERYONE, don’t you sometimes get bored picking such low-hanging fruit? Isn’t there a less popular, very smart woman you can shit upon?) to a level that borders on laziness, as he just copies and pastes the same nonsensical digs on Wurtzel and directs them to anyone on Twitter who mentions her name. (And yes, there are over a dozen or so more tweets not embeded above.)

Isn’t it fun how Twitter allows us, perhaps even more so than well-written personal essays, to take a glimpse into the madness of other human beings?

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Personal Faves: Mx. Justin Vivian Bond’s ‘Snow Angel’

Instead of ending the year with a slew of Best Of lists, BlackBook asked our contributors to share the most important moments in art, music, film, television, and fashion that took place in 2012. Here, Tyler Coates shares his love for Mx. Justin Vivian Bond’s cabaret performance Snow Angel.

I started an earlier version of this piece last week before heading home for Christmas. Here’s how it started:

I was first introduced to Mx. Justin Vivian Bond in John Cameron Mitchell’s 2006 film Shortbus. Bond, who has since chosen “V” in lieu of gender pronouns such as “he” or “she,” is also well known as one-half of the duo Kiki and Herb. In the years since they disbanded, V has gone solo, recorded two albums (2011’s Dendrophile and Silver Wells, which was released earlier this year), and wrapped up 2012 with Snow Angel, a show that I was lucky to see at 54 Below last Monday. Billed as a holiday show, V’s performance was a wondrous event, combining personal stories, observations, and original songs as well as covers of tunes written by singer-songwriters Melanie and Joni Mitchell and hip-hop superstars Jay-Z and Kanye West. Bringing in the Christmas spirit in V’s own way, Bond sang “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” although with the original lyrics penned for Meet Me in St. Louis (which Judy Garland refused to sing, suggesting that “Have yourself a merry little Christmas, for it may be your last” was too depressing). “I think the ending of that movie is actually depressing,” Bond said, “since they don’t get to move to New York and have to stay in St. Louis.”

On Christmas morning, I saw that the New York Times reviewed V’s show. Of course, my first response was to scrap my own recap of Snow Angel; after all, how could my writing compare to something in the Times

And then I read the piece, and was pretty shocked at how music critic Stephen Holden described what sounded like a completely different performance. For example, Holden brought up the "bone-deep ambivalence that is the essence of Mx. Bond’s being." That wasn’t the Bond that I was in awe of, or the Bond that I wrote about in that first unpublished draft. And I wasn’t surprised that V has responded to Holden’s piece with an angry blog post:

It may look rather innocuous at first so let me break it down for you.

Mr. Holden decides to open his hate-fueled review with this gambit:

“at 54 Below, Mx. Bond imagined that his/her self-described freakishness was caused by…”

I never called myself a freak during the show but with his twisted worldview Mr. Holden translated my observations about the “nature vs. nurture” argument and my open and direct discussion of my life as a transperson and my queer identity as “self-described freakishness”. I do not have a problem with the use of the word “freak” but when it is used as a tool to pave the way for a blatantly transphobic personal attack cloaked as a “critique” it gives me pause.

According to Mr. Holden once I have described myself as a freak I continue with my “proudly abrasive” performance in a “blonde chignon hairpiece”.  (I only mention the “chignon hairpiece” because there was no hairpiece  and it was not a chignon.  I style my own natural hair into a French Twist.)  Like my hair, I am real. Mr. Holden continues with a vague reference to a character I portrayed very successfully on Broadway several years ago and for which I received a Tony nomination, then goes on to compare me to Kim Novak -all of which is apropos of nothing.  Except for the constant barrage of insults most of this ridiculous piece is, in fact, apropos of nothing because Mr. Holden shouldn’t be writing about contemporary cabaret.  He has no understanding of it and he has no context for it.

This could easily be read as an artist’s angry response to a negative review, but that’d be a pretty narrow reading. What surprised me most about Holden’s review was not just that he blatantly ignored Bond’s desire to eschew masculine and feminine pronouns for "V," but he tossed out the phrase "he/she," which sounded not like an easy catch-all for a transperson and more like an offhanded, offensive remark. Bond has been pretty vocal about journalists who refuse to use "V" in print, perhaps most famously in response to a 2011 New York profile penned by Carl Swanson (which also referred to V as a drag queen). I’ve had friends suggest that changing grammatical rules to suit one person’s decision to create a pronoun is too difficult to do. My response, generally, is that it’s not that difficult or confusing, and I agree with Bond’s response to Holden’s review: "If you can’t honor my preferred pronoun then it’s best not to hazard a guess. If you aren’t sure what pronoun to use then don’t use one!" (Also, I can image that using "V" instead of "he or she" is a lot less difficult than, say, being a transperson in our society. Just sayin’!)

But enough about the brewing controversy behind the NYT review of Snow Angel. What blew me completely away was not just Bond’s tremendous talent—that voice, for starters, which goes up and down in various registers, never losing its power; the quick wit with which Bond shared stories from V’s childhood, alluding to the uncomfortable nature of growing up as a misunderstood transperson in a society that, for the most part, treats such an identity as inherently wrong or a narcissistic expression that threatens others (rather than an acknowledgement of being impeded against). What I love most was Bond’s comfort, grace, and glamour, as much as V’s personable nature after the show when greeting fans. Talking to Bond for a few minutes felt like talking to an old friend—someone who was funny, endearing, encouraging. And that comfort and contentedness is not only admirable; it’s also something I wish most people could achieve, especially myself. 

I identify as a gay man, and I recognize that I have it pretty easy. I came out to friends first, of course, and my parents a few years later. I emailed my parents one evening in January 2008, a week after discovering that my father’s cancer had returned. At the time I was terrified to tell them about myself, but I understood that it was time to do it because the time with my father was running short. “I don’t think that you’d be angry or hate me because people who would feel that way toward me are, frankly, idiot assholes,” I wrote, “and I do not think either of you are idiot assholes.”

Over cocktails recently I told my mother that the only thing I regretted about the way I came out (other than via email, which in hindsight was impersonal), was that I also told them that I didn’t think it defined me as a person, or at least made me a different person than the one they had raised. The latter is true, but the former… Well, that’s trickier.

In the nearly five years since, I’ve come to realize that one’s sexual identity—especially those who do not fall into the heterosexual category—will always define them. That’s a sad truth about being in a minority; the majority has all of the power, because they are the supposed “normal” persons in our society. I’ve never been particularly comfortable or courageous enough to break free of that, but I’ve grown to admire those who are able to express their sexuality, gender, lifestyle (however you’d like to put it) very plainly and openly. And when my mother said to me, “I’ve started to realize that just because someone is different, it doesn’t mean they are wrong,” I felt proud that someone important to me, someone who has had to confront that firsthand, was able to come to such a conclusion.

I don’t know much about what it is to be transgender, and as far as I know I don’t know anyone personally who has had that experience. But that doesn’t mean I should reject it completely, or make a point to not understand it. As a writer, the most interesting part of my job is learning how people live and create art and conveying what I have discovered to others. 

That’s what I love so much about Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, and what is so disheartening to see in Stephen Holden’s review in the New York Times, of all places. Rather than criticizing the art, Holden criticized the person making it. That does not encourage others to make art, but it especially doesn’t encourage any sort of self-expression when the self does not fit into the normalcy of a straight white man’s world. There should be more people like V, and less of people like Stephen Holden to express their own narrow-minded views in respected venues under the guise of arts criticism. 

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Analyzing the Handwriting of Lana Del Rey

In these modern times, I find myself writing things down less and less. I’ve replaced my notebooks and notepads with GMail drafts, and "to jot" is a verb that has been nearly removed from my vocabulary entirely. That’s why, perhaps, it’s so fascinating to see the handwriting of others online — especially celebrities. You can tell a lot from a person’s penmanship; chicken scratches indicate an erratic personality, and careful lettering reveals, perhaps, an obsessive nature. And which cold, distant, weirdo celebrity might benefit from a handwriting analysis more? Indie chanteuse Lana Del Rey, of course.

New York magazine’s gallery of the best and worst of March fashion magazines features Ms. Del Rey’s spread in British Vogue. She looks mighty pretty! The photo comes with a bonus message from Lana herself, revealing her precious, childlike script:

lana del rey handwriting

Awwww, LOL right back at you, Lana! Looking at those letters (and those kisses and that heart, which apparently has a glare on it, somehow?), what can we learn from Del Rey’s personality? Well, according to one of your mom’s favorite website, Real Simple, we can gather the following:

  • The slight slant of the script to the right indicates that Del Rey is "open to the world…and like[s] to socialize with other people."
  • The large letters show she has a "big personality" and likes the limelight. 
  • Those (very) open, loopy Ls and Es mean she is very spontaneous and open-minded.

Hmm, she wasn’t born to die after all! But my very limited qualifications as a handwriting analyst, which is entirely based upon my memory of passing notes with my female classmates in fourth grade, tells me that Lana Del Rey has the brain of a ten-year-old. 

(Hat tip to Maureen O’Connor)

Why So Serious? Edelstein Pans ‘Dark Knight’

It was bound to happen. The Dark Knight has garnered its first negative review and it comes from New York Magazine critic David Edelstein. The film was sporting a 100% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes until Edelstein came along and spoiled the party. He called Heath Ledger’s performance, which has earned unanimous raves, “painful to watch,” and wrote that “scarier than what the Joker does to anyone onscreen is what Ledger must have been doing to himself.” As for the film’s script, it’s as if it was written by “Oxford philosophy majors trying to tone up a piece of American pop.” And speaking of Oxford philosophy majors, it seems as though one of them eloquently responded to Edelstein’s review in the comments section.

“you gave Zohan and Wanted get positive spins, and the dark knight gets a bad review.. your fucking crazy.. did you even watch the movie? why is it that every review i have read have given it rave reviews and you are the only one who said it sucked…… you must have thought the first hulk movie was good huh? better yet i bet you think superman was a masterpiece…i think you just wanted the attention.. your a fag.”

MenuPages Sells to ‘New York’

imageThe deal’s been in the works for months now — even subject to extensive though ultimately inaccurate speculation at CNET back in May — but PaidContent’s the first to publicly note that New York magazine is acquiring online culinary powerhouse MenuPages. Integration of the vast MenuPages database into the already rich NYM site will no doubt present a challenge, not to mention the question of how to deal with the non-New York material. (Maybe you should check out BlackBook’s restaurant guides while you wait.) Terms of the deal have so for not been disclosed, though finance types may be interested that media specialist Mesa served as banker. Parties involved in the transaction pithily declined to provide pithy comment.