Nur Khan Confirms Kenmare Lounge Is Not Closed

Last night, nightlife people behaved like rubber-necking suburban commuters staring at some twisted wreck (a phrase often used to describe me). Tired of their own tragedies, they gained a moment of exhilaration over the misfortune of others. Thus was the scene as word spread that Kenmare was closing. It was a hundred “did you hears” as bon vivants put in their two cents. Most comments and opinions weren’t worth even one Abe Lincoln copper. Of course everything was exaggerated. Kenmare isn’t closing, at least not the part that waters these players. The restaurant, however, is going to need to change. I called up Nur Khan, always a friend to me when I need one, and asked him what was up.

The main thing he needed to make clear was that it’s business as usual for the still-hot basement boite, and that the bar upstairs will remain open. He told me that everyone has the story wrong, and we talked about this step and the next few. “The lounge has always been majorly profitable,” he began. “The restaurant had a good start, and was profitable for a long while. Michael [Montalto, the manager] broke his back trying to make it work. It was a true labor of love for me. I didn’t miss one night when I was in town. I hired a talented people manager from Batali’s, and Joey [chef Joey Companaro] was great until he left to do Philly and a couple of places on the West side.”

I talked to him about the “other” stuff he’s been working on. His Electric Room project at the Dream Downtown is off the hook. He also added that he “just got back from L.A., where I opened Writers Room.” Nur continued to lament the talented people he had in charge while he was involved in these exciting new projects. “Kenmare is one of the top neighborhood hangs,” he said. We talked about the delicate geography of the ever-developing Nolita/Bowery hood, and how suddenly there’s activity elsewhere, leaving Kenmare Street relatively quiet. Serge Becker and Nur had chatted — landlords these days are rarely renewing leases on traditional stores and joints, as they see dollar signs in the form of high-end boutiques and the like. The hood I moved out of in favor of Williamsburg is developing as fast as leases run out.

I asked him for an official statement: “The lounge is staying open while we may partner up with someone strictly in the restaurant area. It is not closed. Lounge is business as usual. We’re talking to a few potential partners for the restaurant portion. Everyone loves the downstairs.” We talked about how, as the busy season approaches, it might be nice to run the door outside and let the packed downstairs crowd spread out and chill upstairs. I asked Nur the hard question, too: Does the chill between him and Paul Sevigny have anything to do with what’s happening? “Maybe Paul and I are better friends than business partners,” he responded.

The bottom line is the bottom line, and the restaurant was a drag on it. To the rubberneckers happy to see defeat, I offer them no reward. This kind of thing happens. Some things work and other things need to be adjusted. This is an adjustment. Even with all the right ingredients — chef, management, location, superstar owners — the dish came out not as expected. Or at least it wasn’t received well. The balance of operating the restaurant upstairs and the playground downstairs is very difficult. It looks easy at Darby and Lavo, but the execution requires diligence and experience and luck. Maybe this is just some bad luck. The thing about players like Paul Sevigny and Nur Khan is that they make their own luck, and they have the resources, the experience, and the cajones to turn it around. I ran into Kenmare DJ Todd Smolar last week. Todd told me that the place was better than ever; it’s evolved into a place where regulars and locals treat it like home. Maybe that’s all they need: a little comfortable home cooking and a fresh start. I’ll be there all week.

Although i always try to ignore it, CMJ, that music festival thingy, refuses to be ignored, like a baby in a crib screaming at me to get up and pay attention. Tonight the party seems to be at the ever-glamourous Mondrian Soho, where the Pearl Jam movie’s afterparty will…jam. I hear Eddie Veder and Cameron Crowe will be there. Tomorrow it’s the Ministry and Killing Bono afterparty with Ministry’s Paul Barker doing a DJ set. Thursday it’s the Tribe Called Quest after party with Dj Questlove and a crowd of the fabulous and famous who love this mix. So basically I’m going to shuttle bus myself between the Mondrian and Kenmare all week. Oh, and I have that Studio 54 thing tonight…. What to wear?

DJing at Le Bain’s ‘My Favorite Party’

Tonight I will DJ at “My Favorite Party” largely because my favorite DJ, entrepreneur, restaurateur, and favorite person Paul Sevigny has asked me to. He’s telling me to think outside of the box. I haven’t thought inside the box since Reagan was president…and even then the box contained a pipe, some combustibles and keys to my Rickie Stickie Tickied Volkswagen Camper. These Wednesday night shindigs at Le Bain started a couple weeks ago but now they’ve added early acoustic sets.

The Standard has its act together, so the bookings at Le Bain are eclectic and relevant and are as close as anyone is going to get to the perfect past. If I had the time, I would go every night. However, Wednesdays it will be.

Tonight’s acoustic set features ex-Moldy Peaches member and now solo artist, Adam Green, whose hit “Anyone Else But You” made it’s mark in the flick Juno. These live shows are being called the “Havaianas Summer Wednesdays Series,” and Paul tells me they represent the tip of the iceberg. Come October, he will be hitting up friends like David Johansen, Kool Herc, Maripol, Fab Five Freddy, Lizzie Truly and a list of other unconfirmed etceteras to chime in. He and his team will create an atmosphere that will attract the right “artists to want to participate.” He excitedly asked me as I was blinking off last night, “What place in the whole world can you listen to rock and blues with better views?” He continued, “This is a kick back kind of thing tonight but we’re going to get uptight come November. I mean it’s Summertime, we are in America…people can come look at the Statue of Liberty and listen to old time rock ‘n roll.” I asked him what I should be playing and he told me “anything cool from the last half of the last century to today.” I can do that. I was around when those records came out.

The party is called MyFavoriteParty because it will be. Paul is no longer involved with his long-running Tuesday night at Avenue and is now putting his efforts here. I’m going on at 9pm and will be followed by Alexandra Richards, Jamie Biden, Prince Peter and Paul. The Standard’s Sebastian Puga told me that they’ll be giving away free flip flops, which I assume will help with the chill tone. And for the record, as a DJ, the only requests I take are ones like “Can you hold on to my flip flops while I jump off the roof?” The answer will always be yes to this one and no to anything else.

On June 24, an article appeared in the Financial Times, that London thing, with my byline on it. It tells everyone my 5 choices for best rooftops in New York. The Standard is listed as one of them. Often I contribute a great deal to articles in other publications and get zero credit. In this case, I was interviewed at length for the piece, though I did not write it but received credit for writing it. I’m not complaining, just disclosing and there are only a couple of things in the article that aren’t exactly perfectly correct. That’s because my editors weren’t asked to help out. All in all it’s a good read.

Memorial Weekend Recap: How to Do Summer in the City

This weekend was spent walking dogs, DJing, and watching war movies — 3 of my 5 favorite things. As the city emptied out, those who are not inclined to wallow in traffic and party like it’s 1999 enjoyed the relative quiet. Clubs in NYC were quiet as well, with many joints closing, and others pared down to skeletal staffs. With almost every real DJ cashing in out of town, guys like me had a chance. On Thursday, I opened for my friend Paul Sevigny at the roof garden of the glorious Hudson Hotel.

I left Paul with an upbeat track and he surprised me (and everyone) by turning to Mambo and assorted tracks often associated with the Riviera. Think: The Talented Mr Ripley. It was amazing, and the crowd went with it completely. Paul always surprises, and he always pulls it off. I took his lead and played soul and such for Stuart Bronstein and Ronnie Rivilini’s Canal Room art soiree on Sunday. A very hip crowd gathered to catch the bands, see the art from various geniuses, and listen to the DJs that followed me.There were things going on this weekend because experienced operators created something out of nothing.

One of the old war movies I caught was Oscar winner Patton. In a scene where the rowdy General is mustering his army to counter a German surprise assault at the Battle of the Bulge, Patton remarked that this is the time when all the hard work and training pays off. He would march his men for days in the worst winter in memory to win the day. As most joints lay fallow this weekend, I found out that Marquee had done great. Their Friday was banging and their Saturday just a little off. I texted co-owner/operator Noah Tepperberg, who told me Rocco Anacarola’s Sunday party at Lavo NYC was slammed, and that his Vegas joints were “like nothing he’d ever seen.” Indeed, weekends like this is where the experience kicks in. With a city and suburbs of 20 million + people, a zillion tourists visiting, and ships filled with sailors, there was no reason to be empty. I went to see The Hangover 2 and every show was sold out. I visited a couple of parks in Brooklyn and Central Park and they were jammed with young people who would make fine customers if only operators and promoters knew how to reach and entertain them. I always knew how, and although I was a little slower on Fridays and Saturdays, I was always OK. My Sundays were always banging and made up for any and all loss of revenues. I worked hard for my money.

What I saw in clubland this weekend was disgraceful emptiness due mostly to laziness and inexperience. The club scene is bloated with operators who basically fell into their roles as hundreds of small places replaced the mega clubs. Every nook and cranny now vies for a crowd of scenesters and hipsters, and it is indeed easy pickings until they have to perform outside the normal routine. Places like Marquee have spent years establishing a brand which, of course, is exported to Vegas for huge pay days/years. The myriad of non-branded places fail to open elsewhere and die on 3-day weekends. The tourists and New Yorkers in town this weekend knew that Marquee and a handful of other places would be fun and the quality of the music and staff would guarantee a good time. Marquee in New York may not be what it was 8, or even 5 years ago but it still makes loot and has a hundred million dollars worth of Vegas branding keeping it potent and potentially relevant again. Branding pays dividends. Most places can only stay viable for a year or 3, as most operators are functioning using systems they learned from other players. These systems often become irrelevant or just dead wrong or useless in time. The real players have learned to evolve and evolve their methods.

On another note, an operator asked me what I thought about letting sailors in to there joints as Fleet Week brought in thousands of these fellows. I sternly replied ‘let them in.’ I can’t imagine why anyone would keep them out— unless they were drunk or acting disorderly. On what grounds legal or moral can they be denied entry? If they’re old enough, that is (many are not). They are certainly dressed, and are deserving of the respect of the club community, especially considering the times and Memorial Day.

The Legend of Don Hill & The Final Word

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” So goes the famous line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. And that’s the way we roll when a legend passes, and such is the legend of Don Hill. We hardly ever dig too deep to find faults, flaws, or the things that define him—up or down—as human. However, recent rumors imply that the joint bearing his name is possibly opening again under “new” management. The implication is that the old management drove the place into dire financial circumstances so that the club was no longer able to continue. This requires a look, as reputations are on the line.

When Don Hills took Paul Sevigny and Nur Khan on as partners last September, it seemed like a second coming—a marriage of heaven and earth. Immediately, mega acts like Iggy and Courtney were banging in the intimate room, and it was déjà vu all over and over again. It was a real rock and roll joint, where true believers could hang their fabulous hats. When it began Don didn’t just go away and let them do it their way. He was there smiling, telling stories, reveling in the renewed fame and possible fortune. He had new life—until he didn’t.

His sudden death shocked us and penetrated our beings on a level unlike most others. Don was the “greatest guy in the world”—a saint who’s sins were amusing and fun, and a big part of the party. I paraphrased another Liberty Valance quote once to describe Don Hill. I said he was “founder, owner, operator, answered the phones, and he also sweeps out the place.” Don was the perfect club owner, everybody loved him.

A bit of time has passed, and the joint has since closed. When I talked to Paul Sevigny, who has created big success out in LA which is now taking up his time, he told me it didn’t feel right without Don. They had had a great run. They had made a statement. I postulated that without Don things would be different with the community, and the landlord and local enforcement. I was told that Martin from the Ear Inn was actually on the license, while Don had the relationship with the landlord covered. I was also told that Don owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent, and to scores of vendors. I asked Nur to comment.

“You will see another live music venue from me. It’s my passion. Don was riddled with debts that kept popping up out of nowhere. I loved the guy but Don’s creditors back from like 2000 who started taking money out of the bank account. When he died we tried to get the lease changed which was being negotiated together while he was alive but were only offered a 1 ½ year lease with a 6 month demo clause. Would have had to pay all Don’s back debts that were way too extensive for such a short-term lease. That, coupled with the fact that we had no idea who was going to come out of the woodwork at any given moment and take money out of the company account, made no business sense to continue. I loved Don and the venue. Yes I’ve had some of the best times in NYC in that room, but I will build another live music/dance room.”

The Nur/Paul/Don Don Hills was a home-run for those into this scene. Nur is right to walk away and to clarify that it was old debt and a changing situation as well as the loss of his old friend that meant the end of this era. Rumors abound of a temporary operator until the landlord is ready to put up hamster habitats in the air space above. I guess going up will bring them closer to the heaven Don dwells in. There is a rumor of a Taco Bell. I think that would be perfect. The city continues to shed it’s nightlife culture to service the high-risers at the expense of the low riders. That’s why Brooklyn was invented, anyway. The Nur/Paul/Don show is over, and the light it shone was a bright, and has left us a little blinded, wandering lost and wondering what can replace it. There’s still places to go and I’ll just pop into Kenmare a bit more to taste the magic until these guys bring it again—together or separately.

Paul Sevigny & Nur Khan Talk About the Legendary Don Hill

A quiet man who made a great deal of noise slipped into eternity yesterday. Don Hill left us in the way he lived, quietly and without fuss or fanfare. His passing showed us all how to go. I rushed to Don Hill’s last night, where friends gathered to support each other, remember and honor. All around, rumors and tales percolated about the circumstances of his passing. It was left to others to figure out how he died, as we all agreed that how he lived was far more important.

I did some math and realized that I must have known him for 30-something years. In a business where a 60% approval or adoration rating is tremendous—and often a great exaggeration—I can honestly say that, in all the time I knew him, I never met a person who didn’t adore Don Hill. When he merged with Nur Khan and Paul Sevigny back in August 2010 I wrote this:

“Don Hill’s was born in April 1993 to much flag waving, fanfare and hoopla. The Smithereens set the tone that night and it has since become a virtual rock and roll hall of fame. Don has booked the joint, hired staff, run day to day and night to night operations, he’s answered the phones and I suspect that on some nights he swept out the joint. He will now be joined by superheroes Nur Khan and Paul Sevigny. They will come in with mad skills, new energy and cash to redux the place. They will merge with Don to create more of the same but even better.”

I had forgotten I wrote it until Brooklyn Vegan referred to it in their post last night. They do a great job. Last night, this piece of news was official, although so many didn’t want to believe it. It was, after all, April Fools Day, and there was the weird coincidence of another Don Hill dying in Kingsport, Tennessee. Was it just a bad rumor—a game? I and many others hit the internet hard to find out. Don Hill, of Kingsport, seemed like a great guy. Hardworking. Loved by all. Kingsport Tennessee is described by it’s Chamber of Commerce as “a beacon of hospitality in an increasingly impersonal world. “ Our Don Hill was also a beacon of hospitality in an increasingly impersonal world. Our Don, I think, would have liked that Don, and I’m sure he would have liked Kingsport too—provided they had a music scene. If they didn’t, he would have brought one there.

My calls to Paul Sevigny didn’t help. He was sure, but not 100%, and this is a 100% sort of thing. But then it was true. Paul called close friends when the hope that it was just an April 1st prank fully faded. Paul said he was “ageless” and asked me what records he should bring to the fast-forming tribute at the club? I told him anything rock. We talked about how loved he was, and how the new incarnation that Paul and Nur brought to Don Hills was a blessing for Don. “All of the wounds were healed all amends were made, he seemed healthier lately. He was getting it back.” We agreed that Don wouldn’t have wanted us crying, at least not alone, and we headed to the club. Paul was organizing a moment of silence at places all around the world.

Nur texted me: “Yes it is (true). I just found out 2 hours ago. Having a tough time processing it. He was a dear friend to all of us for so long. It’s late now, but we’re gonna have a toast and moment of silence tonight, and then I’m gonna figure out how to put the best motherfucking NYC rock ‘n roll tribute show together for him.” He continued: “He was a very dear friend for many years, as he was to any NYC rocker. A true sweetheart, and a gentleman who cared about everyone and everything rock and roll. Maybe this year happened for a reason. You can bet your ass I’ll fly the flag in his honor!“ We chatted some more, and he summed up the last year and its meaning: “I’m so glad we were able to carry on the legacy cuz I’m just as passionate about everything he was. It’s almost like it was supposed to be. I’ll make him proud. Gonna put a lot of heads together for this one and give him a good send off.

The accolades came in on my phone via text and Facebook. A bombardment of “The most nurturing of club owners” and “the best guy ever” and “tell me a Don Hill story.” Someone told me the original concept of Don Hills:

“The place was born from a thousand meetings at his pal Martin’s joint, the Ear Inn just up the road. In the 10 or 20 years they had known Don, that was the place they met. Don Hills was to be a lounge where artists could gather and possibly jam after their Madison Square Garden Show. Hip crowd, no press— a true rock mecca.”

The consensus was that, although his health was failing, the last year he was invigorated by the talent again hitting the stage and the “good crowd“ coming back. We all agreed that he died a man doing what he loved to do, loved and respected by all. That isn’t a bad way to go. Laughter and tears sprang from all of us. A funny story made us laugh, and then lose it. The room was filled with familiar faces—some that have shared air with me for 3-plus decades. Some were new and eager. Michael T, who was as sad as I have ever seen him, commented that it was great that a new generation had seen Don Hill’s as it was meant to be seen. I can’t name all the names, or repeat all the praises.

Nur was beyond tears, hunched. He hugged me and talked of his last moments with the man. “I knew he wasn’t feeling right. he was huddled by a space heater a couple days ago, then he didn’t’ show up yesterday. He wasn’t himself, maybe he knew.” Someone said: “He took a cab to the hospital where he died, he didn’t want to bother anybody and maybe somebody else needed that ambulance more.”

Don’s death is a large rock thrown into a pond. We see the splash, and maybe the first ripples, but there will be more ripples, and some may prove to be difficult. With Don gone, how will neighbors and enforcement view the place? Even they loved and embraced the man. What other neighborhood embraces a popular club? Other ripples might come from the liquor authorities, and maybe even a landlord. Lyle Derek, a longtime Don Hill worker bee, understood how Don would support the scene, even though it didn’t make as much money as other promotions might. The biggest ripple might bring change. In an age where bottle service pays the bills, greed might win out. Paul and Nur will do their best, no doubt, but death brings vulture—types who feed on despair and confusion. They may have other less fabulous ideas about the property. We must support the legacy of Don Hill, and maintain one of the few places in town where guys like him and I could actually hang out. Don Hill was a gentleman, and that’s the greatest compliment I have about a fellow.

The Box, Juliet Supper Club: Fashion Week Madness!

At the end of the Oscar-winning flick The Bridge on the River Kwai (which won 1957’s Best Picture of Year award), a British officer stands on a hill and repeats “Madness!” while making a funny face. I can relate to him. Fashion Week is madness, and as much as it’s usually a “must avoid” for me, I am swept up in it like flotsam on the River Kwai. So many events, so many friends in town, and the weather is giving me a bit of spring fever—yes, even at my age. Madness! I was swept to The Box for it’s 4th anniversary. The dapper, debonair door principal (and all around nice guy), Giza (Gizaselimi), kindly invited me down, and as I have always depended on the kindness of gentlemen, I decided to go.

All the Boxers were there: Simon Hammerstein, Serge Becker, the Jakupi brothers (Genc and Binn), and all the bells and whistle blowers that have made the joint famous and infamous.

Walter Durkatz introduced me to a beautiful gal who spewed economics and politics at me like I was back at Stuyvesant High in Mr Irgang’s 12th-grade class. Madness! I nodded at the passers-by, shook a hundred hands, air kissed the unbelievably decked-out and gorgeous (I mean, how does she do it?) Suzanne Bartsch, and eyed Adrian Grenier and his very hot posse—er, entourage. I even smiled a couple of times. So I was told.

The stage was a-flutter with guys, gals, and those where gender doesn’t matter, performing their hearts out . Then the Scissor Sisters came out and raised the ante. 4 years ago, The Box raised the ante, and last night it was undeniable. One of the best rooms in the city: it is amazing when it is amazing. A smart guy with a funny hat whispered in my ear, “It ain’t what it used to be.” I told him neither was he. 4 years in clubland is like 15 in dog years—100 in human years. Too few joints can boast relevancy after even 2. Sure, there have been ups and downs, and scandals, and madness. But it’s a club, not a boutique.

While the Scissors were doing their thingy I looked at the mixed bag of socialites, queens, socialite queens, movers, shakers, spenders, debutantes, sluts, playboys, and street candy that packed the place. The people who say it can’t be done are just the people who don’t know how to do it, and those that follow them follow everything, and follow everybody else. Imagination was once a major part of nightlife, and these folks understand that, and have proven it for 4 years— and long before. There’s talk of a mega-move of talent, dreams, and energy to the vacant 27th Street shells of Home/Guesthouse and Spirit, and this coo-coo-cooler-than-cool (so cool crowd that sways to the beat of different drummers, and last night the Scissor Sisters) will surely enlighten us still more.

I had so much fun. Absolute madness: with and without a funny face. I just wanted to add that, from the moment I rolled up to the door to the moment I popped into the cab back to BBurg, I was treated like a king by a staff— who largely didn’t know me. Everybody smiled, and when I couldn’t find the coat check (I rarely check stuff) I was taken there by a busboy rather than pointed in the right direction. Everyone smiled and said ‘hello’ or ‘welcome’ or ‘goodbye.’ Everyone was sharp and sexy. That is the service I hear about from the operators of the moment, who don’t know what the word means. Great service all the way down the line is actually, really, truly found in places that survive and thrive for 4 or more years. I’m thinking inside The Box at least once a week, if they’ll have me. My pal Mark Baker, the Energizer Bunny of nightlife, may just be in the right place at the right time (after all, this is the year of the rabbit). Nice guy Mark has been inviting me to the new, post-sloop/Jon B Juliet Supper Club for all the fashion week thrills they have in store. Jon B has indeed left the building, and Mr. Baker (don’t say that 3 times fast) is ready to step up and bring madness and mayhem to the spot. I’m wondering, since Juliet was named after Jon’s Mom (and he’s gone singing Viva, Las Vegas!) shouldn’t they change the name? If they’re changing the game, maybe a new name would be in order? I’m suggesting Madness!

Mark is uber excited by tonight’s Mackage official after-party, with Ladytron performing. Mark loves Ladytron, and insists I go. The dilemma is my very own BlackBook is hosting a soiree for Siki Im this Wednesday, and I actually got invited by them, which means I have to go to that. Then on Thursday, the love of my life (save for Mom, my dachshund LuLu, and my darling Amanda) Devorah Rose, is having her Rosa Pusher fashion presentation there. Could I possibly go to Juliet Supperclub 3 nights in a row? Would they bar me form Brooklyn if I did?

On Sunday, when I might have been at the Zinc Magazine affair at Juliet (OMG, Madness!) I was trying to DJ at the Catherine Fulmer aftershow party. It was nextdoor to the Bowery Poetry Club, through some weird door at what used to be that joint, Crime Scene, but now sports a giant red neon sign that says “LOUNGE.” It was to be Michael S. Baltra (DJ MSB), glamorpuss DJ Paul Sevigny, and then me. I love PSev opening up for me! Anyway, there was major equipment malfunctions on a Janet/Justin level, but the three of us had a blast anyway. We had 3 mixers, 2 turntables, 2 CD players, and a Serato—none of which worked at the same time. There were wires everywhere. Oh, and we didn’t have a working headphone jack. Try mixing without one. Some said I was better than usual. We were sliding tracks in and out while tech guys with flashlights in their mouths only made things worse. They tried, and we scrambled. At one point I tried to put on “Pop Musik,” and Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” came out. Madness—and a much better track. DJ MSB just took charge with his Serato, which allowed him to work. Paul is one of the last DJs to still use vinyl, and I use CDs. We all agreed to try again real soon. As I was staring at malfunctioning equipment and frenzied techies I did notice that the crowd was wonderful and forgiving of our madness.

The Full Fashion Report: Thakoon, Wang, Mandy Coon, & More

Only during Fashion Week do you see industry folk bright-eyed and dressed to the nines on sub-zero, it’s-so-early-it’s-still-dark-out weekend mornings — all in spite of hard-partying the night before. You can catch them dashing like trained athletes between shows at Lincoln Center, Milk Studios, and various other obscure venues for hours on end, fueled by copious amounts of caffeinated beverages (sometimes spiked – I mean, who’s really that chipper in the am?).

It’s all for good reason, though, since some of the most hotly anticipated FW11 collections showed on Saturday and Sunday, like Alex Wang (see the show recap here) and Thakoon. But in case you couldn’t bear to give up your sacred R&R for 48 hours of fashionable mayhem, me and my fleece-lined tights (they’re lifesavers, trust me) were there to brave all the shows, parties, and eerie doll encounters for you.

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Rachel Antonoff Stages the High School Dance We Always Wanted When someone invites you to a party that’s meant to remind you of being a teenager, your first instinct might be to cringe. Admittedly, I winced a few times before RSVPing, but only because I was jealous of the girls that have Rachel Antonoff in their lives to make them look way cooler in high school than I ever did. But unlike the lunch table-isolating mean girls from yesteryear, the designer filled her presentation in the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School gym with happy, cool kids that just really like to dance. And she covered every last detail to make it as authentic as possible, from puppy love slow dancers (inspired by a still from Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides), to shy students observing from the bleachers, to a live chick band – all dressed in Antonoff’s whimsy-prep collection. This has to be one of my favorite themes for a presentation yet.

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Alexa Chung (who’s good friends with the designer) and two adorable looks from the collection.

The band couldn’t have been a better fit for Antonoff’s retro theme: The Like. The ’60s-inspired pop band, who performed playful tunes that got even the most straight-faced editors tapping their feet, includes the designer’s friend and the face of her recent footwear collab with Bass, Tennessee Williams. Here’s a moment I really liked:

Mandy Coon Dresses the Futuristic Globetrotter Next up was Mandy Coon at Lincoln Center. It was a looping presentation like last year, so new guests were able to see the complete collection at various times. And each time, French singer and composer Émilie Simon was behind the piano, performing the same beautifully haunting song, causing me to stick around for a few encores. Just as captivating were Coon’s highly-structural designs, which reminded me of some kind of nouveau crusader, complete with outerwear for the sequel to Blade Runner that I really wish was happening.

image A corseted leather tank, a jacket for the hard-edged Eskimo, and a tie-dye-to-die-for maxi dress.

image As proven by last season’s vivid splashes of print, Coon has an eye for introducing color in creative ways. Here, she adds a burst of unexpected hot pink to an otherwise muted color palette – a major theme for FW11.

Charlotte Ronson Throws it Back Again No one does recent retro like Charlotte Ronson. Last season was straight out of an episode of My So-Called Life, and this season edges into the same ’90s territory, but with a dash of inspiration from the ’60s. In addition to flowers, plaid, and holey tights (sometimes found all in one look), the designer introduced a collection of oversized angora knits that would blend right in at any vintage store. Another throwback I was delighted to see was Irina Lazareanu’s return to the runway for two looks, even linking arms with Ronson’s half-sister and nightlife fixture, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, during the end parade. The designer again commissioned her twin sister, Samantha, to direct the music for the show, which started with a tune by Adele.

image Irina’s finale look—and I spy a Man Repeller!

Belve and Baubles with Bijules Although I was spent by the end of Saturday, I couldn’t miss BlackBook friend and fierce jewelry designer Jules Kim’s presentation at Gramercy Park Hotel. Her latest line of fine jewelry pieces, called “The Seize Kind,” were circulated throughout the event (more party atmosphere than presentation) on silver platters held by suited men. From single ear pieces to edgy-elegant pendants, designer Jules Kim delivered another collection of covetable accessories. Combined with an open Belvedere Vodka bar and a packed after-after-party at Rose Bar downstairs, I couldn’t think of a better way to unwind after a marathon day of shows.

image Kim and some of her designs.

Art Imitating Life at VPL Sunday morning started with a trip to Chelsea Piers to see the always innovative Victoria Bartlett’s latest effort. The collection was inspired both by progressive artists Piero Manzoni and Joseph Beuys, and by the human form, evident in her stretch-and-constrict designs that shift with the body’s motion. For fall, the VPL girl is wearing layers upon layers, wrapped in a plethora of textures in a range of neutrals and well-chosen hues like vivid orange and bordeaux. As each look came down the runway, myself and everyone around me was quite and focused—as if we really were at a sculpture exhibit. We all started to clap as the music faded and the lights dimmed out, until suddenly the loud beat returned, the room went bright, and out walked an army of latex-clad models in classic VPL cutout bathing suits, culminating with a primitive finale piece that was a nod to her interest in evolution.

image Layers, suspension, latex, and a furry close to VPL.

Timeless Thakoon at the Historic Plaza Although Sunday night was jam-packed with NYFW events all over the city, there’s no doubt that Thakoon was not to be missed. As I entered The Plaza Hotel for the show, I felt the history within those walls. After all, it’s one of two hotels considered a National Historic Landmark (the other is Waldorf-Astoria), and it’s where The Beatles stayed during their first visit to the U.S. As a designer with a deep respect for the past, it makes sense that Thakoon Panichgul would select such a venue for his show, which drew an equally historic crowd of fashion influencers, there to witness Panichgul’s designs.

image This collection felt very Baroque for its more regal details, but also had a cultural feel, especially with this yellow bustle skirt in an eye-popping floral batik print.

image There was also some heavy pattern-clashing, mixing stripes with plaid or paisley printed separates—or even more stripes. Cigarette pants were also a big focus for him, which just might be the next pant style designers will start experimenting with.

image And then there were Thakoon’s signature ultra-feminine dresses, like this delicately innovative silk taffeta tie-waist style.

Katie Gallagher Designs Life-Sized Voodoo Dolls Katie Gallagher has been a designer to watch for quite some time, due to her limitless creativity and no-boundaries design approach. Held at Milk Studios, her latest collection is called “Gris-Gris,” after the tiny doll charms meant to ward off evil in Voodoo culture. And her models definitely looked the part. In haunting eye makeup and witch-like hair, the mood was dark and a little scary, though the actual designs were beautiful. Gallagher’s signature leggings were back, sliced and diced in various styles in shades of grey, black, and nude, with an expected pop of color—another example of the season’s trend. I can only describe the collection, with its capes, cloaks, and tunics in moveable fabrics, as sporty witchwear.

image The voodoo dolls in action, which most guests were too afraid to look in the eyes.

Ken Doll’s Great Dream Date Debate My second encounter with life-sized dolls occurred at Christie’s auction house, which was quite a contrast from the doll situation earlier. In an event hosted by Mattel, Ken’s “Dream Date” party was part of the big PR push the brand’s been focused on as of late, themed around Ken’s desperate attempt to win Barbie back by reviving his wardrobe. All I can say is: It’s about freakin’ time, Ken! I mean, have you even seen the range of looks Barbie attempts while you’ve been wearing those same damn Hawaiian print board shorts? Believe it or not, the event drew a massive crowd of supporters thoroughly concerned with Ken’s heartfelt dilemma—or they just really liked the idea of Christie’s, free drinks, cupcakes, and music by Paul Sevigny. Either way, it was a perfect ending to my fantastic two-day NYFW bender.

image Designers like Billy Reid, Nicholas K, and Simon Spurr were commissioned to dress the new Ken doll for his big night.

image Ken can learn a thing or two from the always-dapper DJ Paul Sevigny. When in doubt, just throw on a suit and dance.

Bah! Humbug! Real Reasons to Be Merry

Tonight the party of the century, or at least one of the last good ones of this decade, is happening. Gosh, is anyone aware that the decade is done, kaput, finito? The DGI Management Holiday Party has been unbelievable the last couple of years, and everything says tonight’s event will rock, roll, hip-hop, mash-up, and mix-up all the formats. DGI, among other things, is a DJ management company, so tonight’s music will come from Paul Sevigny, Rev Run, The Misshapes, DJ Ruckus, Jesse Marco, DJ Kiss, Corey Enemy, David Berrie, DJ M.O.S., Mel DeBarge, and DJ Rashida. There are always surprises. Don Hill’s is the place, and getting in will be a trip, so start texting, faxing, calling, and bribing now.

The distractions of the seasons have rendered many of us mindless, oblivious to the troubled world that continues to spin out of control around us. Dinner conversation is mostly about parties, gift ideas, and travel plans—with a few recipes thrown in. There is little talk of war, people in harm’s way, or even the unfortunate. Yet these things, and so many more, continue to exist and plague all of us—even those who think that not finding a cab is a disaster. I have a friend desperate to find jobs and another desperate to find celebrities to save the tigers, while others work tirelessly at soup kitchens and other charities. Take a deep breath and see what you can do, is all I’m saying. Yesterday I watched as a newbie restaurant interviewed prospective staff. Amongst the expected dieting artists and actors justthisclose to breaking out were a few owners and restaurant management-types who lost their gigs. It was sobering to hear tales of failures and banks and bad breaks. I was told that an ad on Craigslist had 900 responses: too many to properly review. Was it only a year ago when the king had fallen and a new king was going to change the world?

It’s going to be a busy day on construction sites where the heat isn’t turned on yet. It will be improvised with heaters and hot (for a minute) coffees. I look at these new restaurants and bars-to-be as places where people will work as well as play. My work provides work. The construction workers are feeding themselves, their families, and their local economies. Soon there will be gigs for creatives chasing other gigs, but for every 30 jobs, there are a thousand people looking. Today, more than yesterday, that saddens me. The weather, I guess, is to blame, as I’m a lucky guy and, for the most part, happy with my place in the universe. The applicants came from everywhere: San Diego, France, the Bronx, and Staten Island, too. All were putting their best face on, all were enthusiastic about working there. I couldn’t have made the decisions; there were so many qualified people. While we celebrate our small successes at holiday soirees, lets try to remember those who need work, and the ones who, for real, would say all they want for Christmas is their their front teeth.

I read in the news about a lucky man who ran into a bullet 30 years ago today. My melancholy morning has me trying to imagine a world with John Lennon. I can never forget his line, “But you’re all fucking peasants as far as I can see.” I think all club owners, management types, and promoters should be required to write this on some blackboard, somewhere, a zillion times. Hmmm, they’ll probably just think that it refers to everyone else. Although his life was cut short on this very day, John Lennon somehow saw further than almost anyone. Yeah, if you see me today, say hey, wave, and keep moving.

I loved Hotel Chantelle last night. I’m a regular after going only once. The crowd was chock full of friends, there was a hot party for a hot publicist in one section, and the strangers were just strange enough, and ultra friendly. While I was chatting up owner Benjamin Shih, my darling Amanda was getting a tour of potential new rooms by my pal of 20 years, Tim Spuches. Benjamin and I talked mostly of wallpapers and building things right and such, but also about making a difference in the community. You’ll meet him here next week. His story and the story of Hotel Chantelle needs more space than I have today and it needs to be told when I’m not so crabby. Ericcson was at the door. We told war stories and had a few laughs before the Ludlow street wind drove Amanda and I to other exotic places. It was great to see the door controlled by someone who knows their stuff. Ericson was the man, or something like that, at places like Marquee, and Kiss and Fly, and Bungalow 8, and Pink Elephant, and a slew of others when those places were not featuring B-listers. I must say, he has aged well.

Recapping on My Way Back to NYC

I’m packing to come home, and for the first time ever, I will be sad to leave LA. I either just got “it,” or “it” changed enough in my direction to have meaning. I had a great time, and I swear I will never use this old joke again: “If its 10pm in New York, it must be 1998 in LA.” It just doesn’t ring true, as NY has become less and LA more. Back in the big wormy apple I hear that Santos’ Party House is reopened, and Gina Sachi Cody is still dearly departed. Gina will be put to rest following wakes and funeral services 2pm to 4pm and 6pm to 7pm tomorrow at the Barret Funeral Home in Tenafly, New Jersey. I’m going, so if you expected to see me, fogetaboutit. I’m sending my sweetness off, even if I must go to Tenafly—wherever that is. I would walk a million miles for one of Gina’s smiles, but will have to settle for a photo on an easel.

The Halloween Bash at the Hudson Hotel had me spinning with my friend Paul Sevigny. I hadn’t seen him spin in ages. He’s one of the last DJs to still use vinyl, and it was wonderful to watch him work. He has great hands, and he mixed seamlessly—from one fun track to the next—and the crowd roared. Paul gets all sorts of ink as a club mogul these days. In fact, I wrote about him and his partner Nur Khan for the November issue of BlackBook. It’s easy to forget that the second thing Paul should be remembered for is his DJ skills. His heart of gold is obviously first. As he spun, a strange smiling character would come up to praise this Ceasar. Paul gave him a card and told the dude to call him so that they could talk about music. I asked Paul what number was on the card, and he told me his cell. I gave him that are-you-pulling-my-leg? look I usually reserve for girls who tell me I’m hot. He answered “Why not? Who the fuck am I?” Paul remains down to earth, and a great DJ, despite a million words that might swell another guy’s head.

I finished up at 4am. I heard the Suzanne Bartsch soiree at Good Units was raided and closed down by the city’s finest, and that she was “devastated.” Over 3,000 people had showed up, and the party was brilliant fun—until its abrupt end. Paul and I were away from the mayhem, but we could hear the commotion and see the flashing lights outside. I felt like those kids from Cloverfield: barely aware and slightly informed of the disaster and craziness just over there, waiting for it to come at us. Alas, we got by.

I slept for 20 minutes and rushed to the airport for the Hollywood/Bollywood BlackBook event at the Standard. The event was sponsored by Russian Standard Vodka and brought together a team of DJs who made their mark in NYC. I was joined by the always-gorgeous Christine Renee and the always-debonair Ethan Browne. The Bollywood dancers did their thing to that unforgetable song from Slumdog Millionaire that we all thankfully forgot. The Lady Miss Tigra performed as well. Tigra used to work with us back in NYC. She is the sweetest thing in the world, and it was crazy to hear her sing lyrics that belied that innocence. That’s, as Murray Hill says, showbiz! The whole shindig benefited the Zeno Mountain Farm.

We couldn’t stop eating at the 24-hour diner-like restaurant at the Standard. I don’t know its name, but I suggest it should be called “24 Hour French Toast,” as it has the best I’ve ever had. [Ed Note: It’s called The Restaurant at the Standard]. We visited old friends at the Chateau Marmont. While the rest of the town was jammed up with celebrities, Chateau was packed with movies stars, and there’s a difference. I won’t name names, as that would be impolite to my hosts, but it was a wondrous evening that I must find a way to relive.