Diplo Headlines Huge Hush-Hush Event Tonight

Last night I bartended the Help Heal New York benefit at Pacha. I had not bartended since before you were born; the game has since changed. Here I am writing everyday about how to do this and how to do that, and my afternoons are spent designing bars so it was good to have this hands-on experience. I didn’t actually make a drink; I had minions to do that. I better correct: the love of my recent life, Amanda, made the drinks while I interacted with the patrons. It all went to charity – the price of admission, the drink revenues, and even the tips. The real Pacha bartender assigned to me, Megan, was amazing. Her smile and demeanor while slinging drinks for the cause and putting up with my antics was above and beyond. She is a great bartender and a wonderful new friend. Twenty-dollar bills and even some Benjamins flew over the bar to the tip bucket, which also benefits the cause. At one point I was squatted down picking up loot that slipped down from the bucket.

The DJs were just grand. I particularly loved Afrojack. I left before Erick Morillo went on, as I have to be up early for you…and looking good at that. At one point, Pacha owner Eddie Dean came by to hug and heckle me . He was accompanied by his sidekick, partner in crime, his "Tonto"… Rob Fernandez and DJ Sunnery. These guys threw money at us for the bucket as well-wishers gathered to shake hands and take pictures. All around us, thousands rose with the music… the love was apparent. DJ Sunnery , a big deal, was waiting to go on. He seemed as calm as a thoroughbred at the gate on derby day, ready to get this party started. I was told he is the nicest of persons and is married to the most beautiful girl in the world… Victoria’s Secret model Doutzen Kroes. I looked her up and, for sure, she is real, but alas I only have eyes for Amanda.  

Pacha is a monster. On every level, from the door to the staff to management, they are pros. Everybody talks a good game, but Pacha walks the walk. As those who know me know I am a rocker, and house or  EDM or whatever label is put on it in whatever decade doesn’t sooth this savage beast . That being said, being in a big room with a big DJ, big lights, effects and a big crowd is an experience unlike any other.

Before the bartending gig I was at 1OAK, tasked to DJ for Richie Romero at his birthday. I was to open for ?uestlove and Jesse Marco, and I had M.Ortiz opening for me. M.Ortiz was so great that I didn’t bounce him off, content to hear what he was offering. Amanda told me if I kicked him off, as some told me to do, she would "moida me.” Mr. M. Ortiz is getting ready for a British tour, and I expect we will be hearing his name often. He is really great. 1OAK was starting to fill up when the birthday boy finally showed. Richie Romero was zonkered as I wished him well. He has dodged almost as many bullets as your humble servant and it was good to see him surrounded by hundreds of friends and tacky balloons and such.

Tonight I will be at a big event in a big location…off the beaten path and super hush-hush as it’s sold out. Dos Equis is behind this shindig. Diplo will headline. There are six or so rooms of music and other distractions. I’m going to DJ for a short set along with Cobra Krames, Sam Valentine, David Katz, Justine D. Daniel Leyva, Fatherhood (Michael Magnan and Physical Therapy), Hayley Pisaturo, Shayne (Hood By Air), and 7aywana. There will be a lot going on at this happening and I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. If you see me today, ask me nicely. I think there are three tickets left.

If I wasn’t obligated elsewhere, the place I would surely be is the Ava Lounge at the Dream Hotel up on 55th Street. A photo installation by Marko Kalfa will bring the sharp set. Liquid Lab, which I have to tell you about in depth on a later day, will provide fall cocktails. Fannie Chan wil DJ.

Another party worth checking out is the five-year anniversary of the Thursday Punk Rock Happy Hour at Otto’s Shrunken Head. My pals Traci Danielle and Joy Rider are doing the inviting.

Dumps, Dives, & Holes: The Tropical Underworld of Otto’s Shrunken Head

Green lights pour out onto the sidewalk and the rotating group of characters constantly smoking outside. The large front windows are completely filled with tiki paraphernalia. After a strict IDing by a leathered guy with very long chin hair, you descend into Otto’s Shrunken Head: a beautiful burn-out paradise slipped into a narrow piece of 14th near Avenue C. Hold your breath and sink in. 

An elevated DJ booth hovers on the right, always occupied by some kind of weathered rocker playing a song you want to hear. Life-sized photos of palm trees are wallpapered from floor to ceiling, setting the backdrop for the bar. Hatched palm fronds extend above the liquor, lit with white rope lighting (the only white lights in the place). Drinks are not super cheap: well shots are six dollars, but PBR on tap goes for three. They specialize in silly rum-based cocktails served in signature tiki mugs like The Zombie, The Naught Nell, Ruby Jewels, and the Volcano Blast — the size of a kiddie pool and big enough to serve five people. Except for the Volcano Blast (which costs $26), cocktails with cost you ten bucks, plus a five-dollar deposit on the mug (which you can choose to keep). Above the rotating stools, bamboo bar and linoleum-as-wood bar top, hang large blowfish lit blue and green from the inside. Other things hang from the ceiling like pirate skulls, a surfboard, figurines, and some worn wooden signs. The floor’s checkered pink and orange.

The left wall is a series of patterns stretching to the zebra photo booth that separates the back room from the front, all of the ’50s Hawaiian pinup aesthetic. Below the colored panels of women lounging on different themes of tropical flowers are a line of dark red circular banquettes.

You never know who you’ll find occupying the front room crowd-wise. You have the regulars — older guys in leather jackets teetering on the brink of a highly detrimental alcoholism, barely holding it together with their menial day-jobs and knowledge of most things cool. You’ll hear them chatting about how bummed they are about having to kick their roommate out after finding him nodding with a needle in his arm, or offering pick up lines like, "How ’bout we go to my place around the corner on 7th Street and I’ll play you records?" Then there are the dive tourists: yuppies living around 14th Street who wanted to interrupt their staggeringly tame existence by doing something fun — or more likely "funky." Random adults, goth kids, old drunks, and everyone in-between. One of the great things about Otto’s is that the only constant is its vibe; all other factors are interchangeable and constantly in motion.

Down the hall and past the bathrooms (which are gorgeous: light blue walls with glitter, teal and soft pink lights, a semi-dirty white tile floor and huge antique gold mirror…my dream bathroom) is the back room. They have cool shows there: little-known punk, open mic nights, rockabilly bands… pretty much what you would expect from the place. The back room’s walls are bamboo, booths line the perimeter, and there is a small stage in the corner. Last Wednesday they were projecting Rebel Without a Cause on the front wall to an audience of two people who brought popcorn from home. Totally cool.

Otto’s is awesome, a fun and unique contrast I’ve never encountered before. It’s best in the evenings, before it gets crowded with guys who immediately upon their talking to you the bartender comes up and asks, "Is he bothering you?" Go with friends, get a tiki drink, and see a rockabilly show. Or go alone, talk to weirdos over a three-dollar beer, and watch a movie. At Otto’s, anything goes.

Otto’s Shrunken Head
538 East 14th St.
Between Avenues B and C