If Maxim has decided to throw a party for the WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN. who am I to argue. They have named the HOT 100 and made a list and I checked it (twice). Some actual top 100s are going to be at this event being held tonight at The Gallery at Dream Downtown hotel, 355 West 16th Street. The music will be brought to you by DJ Vice, underlying that this is a big event – a hot event. Among the attendees is the number one hottest girl in the world from their list (my list has Amanda at the very top): Bar Refaeli. Others who you can strike out with include: Abby Elliot (Saturday Night Live), April Rose (model), Bria Murphy (model), Claire Coffee (General Hospital), Jessica Rafalowski (model), Jenny “JWOWW” Farley (MTV’s The Jersey Shore), Katrina Bowden (30 Rock), Nadia G (TV personality), Rebecca Mader (actress), and many more. This list thing is 12 years young and for the first time ever, the Maxim readers made the selection. What to wear?
Some prophet once said beauty is "in the eye of the beholder" and another said "beauty is only skin deep.” This beholder’s eyes think beauty must have skin covered with tattoos. For me, it don’t mean thing if it don’t have that sting. So I’m sure to find hottie heaven at the 6th Annual NYC Zombie Crawl in my native Williamsburg, Brooklyn this Sunday. It’s presented by the new Resident Evil video game and the BBURG requisite Sailor Jerry Rum and Pabst Blue Ribbon. People will be running around in Halloween in May gear with the grand finale at Public Assembly, 70 North 6th Street, where the girls of burningangel.com will offer up Strip for Pain "America’s Most Dangerous Game Show.” For me, this trumps Maxim’s hot list, but I can appreciate both sides of the coin… even it’s an edge.
Public Assembly will hold live performances by Bikini Carwash (9pm) and Fucking Bullshit (9:45pm). There will be a Rigor Mortis Burlesque Revue, prizes for the best costumes…well, you get the idea. The Zombie Crawl begins at 3:30pm at The Trash Bar, 256 Grand Street, where makeup technicians will, for a small fee ($5), make you look undead. At 3:30 pm on a Sunday in Williamsburg, everyone looks a little undead anyway. Then it’s on to The Grand Victory, 245 Grand Street, where additional Zombie action will be rampant. By 6pm it’s a march down Bedford Avenue, where all will pop into Spike Hill, 186 Bedford, for "flesh hook" performances by Nassau Chainsaw DisGraCeLand Demolition Committee. All will gather after in McCarren Park for photo-ops and a chance to confuse the tourists and nouveau hipsters who discovered Williamsburg by watching HBO’s epic series Girls.
If the Sailor Jerry Rum and PBR’s haven’t gotten the best of me and mine, we’ll head to Bowery Poetry Club, 306 Bowery at Houston, to take in Linda Simpson’s new party "Exhibit A,” Sunday at 10pm, $5.
Exhibit A promises to take "the spectator on an absurd and erotic journey.” That sounds a lot like my third marriage, so I’m there. This is a last-Sunday-of-every- month affair, which sounds like my second marriage. On stage, there will be experimental drag rules, high-concept hostess Sylvia London, sexual outlaw Alexis Blair Penney, and non-stop butch and femme orgy by Dollhaus and Dj Chris P.
Tonight, (and I have told you about this before; pay attention or a spanking may be in order), Domi Dollz presents “Shades of Kink” at – where else – the Museum of Sex, 233 5th Avenue at 27th Street. This event will show you the ropes and other ways to spice up your love life. It’s a perfect place for a couple looking for answers to all the wrong questions and for singles looking for Mr. or Ms. right or wrong. If you have been looking for love in all the wrong places, then this place is perfect for you. It is way wrong – and right.
For an hour or so before midnight on Friday April 13, three key former members of Hole, the 1990s grunge-pop sensation—Eric Erlandson, Melissa Auf Der Maur and Patty Schemel (billed as the “Trinity Jam” to celebrate Hit So Hard, a rock-doc about Schemel screened earlier that night at Cinema Village in New York City)—tuned their instruments and hung loose at Public Assembly in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But at the strike of midnight the three band mates looked nervous. Word that something serious “was up” seeped out from the band’s hangers on to the publicists and to a few reporters, and one by one eventually the whole audience got the message: Courtney. Is. In. The. Building. (!!!)
So by the time the three kicked off a short set that included The Smiths’ Paint a Vulgar Picture—crooned by the stunning Auf Der Maur—and a noise-rock jam, the darkly lit room crackled with nervous energy. After toying with the crowd to the point that her own bandmates seemed to despair whether Love would actually show up (After a few initial cues Der Maur joked: “Does someone want to check the boiler room for someone smoking?”) a side door bolted open and Love was whisked up to the stage wedged between a burly black bouncer and a kid dressed a little like Justin Bieber.
Dressed in a prim black vest and white shirt, Love slid several strings of colored beads from her arm onto her designated mic stand name checked British indie kids The Cribs, who had played earlier in the night. Then she picked up a beat-to-shit Fender Stratocaster. Crouching down, she strummed it rhythmically–almost violently–to warm up and be photographed as members of the band rushed around to find a strap for her guitar. “Strap me in Eric,” she joked, stifling a flash of minor annoyance. “Oh yeah Daddy.” Then they launched into Miss World, the biggest hit off their Billboard number one album Live Through This, released 18 years ago last Thursday, seven days after her late husband, Kurt Cobain was found dead, a shotgun shell through his head and a suicide note nearby.
Despite long being a favorite target in the mainstream press—for her public tantrums, plastic surgery choices, and serial drug-abuse issues—it had been a tougher week than usual for Love, given especially the bleak anniversary. After lobbing accusations over Twitter at ex-Nirvana guitarist Dave Grohl to the tune that he made a pass at Love’s 19-year-old daughter, Frances Bean, Bean released a statement referring to Love tersely as her “biological mother” and suggesting that Twitter ban her. So some of the people in the crowd may have been expecting to see a train wreck. (As of Sunday, Gawker posted Love’s Twitter apology to her daughter, "Bean, sorry I believed the gossip.. Mommy loves you.")
At the Morrison Hotel gallery recently rock photog, Jesse Frohman stressed that grunge can be strictly a nostalgic commodity. His prints, last portraits shot of the grunge icon before his death, ranged in price from $1,500-12,000. But Frohman, who only dealt with a “very stoned” Cobain for twenty minutes—after he had shown up to the shoot 3 hours late—couldn’t escape the dark aura that surrounded the singer either. “There was just something very sad about Kurt. I’ve never seen someone so sad,” Frohman related. During the after party at the Tribeca Grand, in which the Virgins played a set and Jarvis Cocker DJ’d, pr-types wondered if Love would show up and either create buzz, pandemonium or both. As it turned out they needn’t have worried.
Love delivered the goods at Brooklyn Public Assembly as she sang “I made my bed I’ll lie in it/I made my bed I’ll die in it”— the chorus to Miss World—each time with increasing emphasis and even the most hardened cynics suspected she meant it. And for a moment at least, the audience of mostly 30-somethings were teens again sitting in their parent’s living rooms watching 120 Minutes on MTV. This was the other Courtney. The good Courtney; the strong-female archetype who bridged several different species of rock genus—from Garage to Laurel Canyon glam to Punk and Riot Grrl; who can pop her eyes open as wide as Alice Cooper.
Of course, Love’s relationship with her daughter wasn’t always tragicomic, but it was probably never carefree. While overall the scenes in Hit So Hard (which runs all week at Cinema Village) concerning mother, daughter and Cobain—filmed with Schemel’s camcorder in the apartment Love, Cobain and Bean shared on Spaulding Ave. in the Hollywood Hills—convey a hippie communal vibe, the most arresting visual sequence shows Love “talking” to a diaper clad Bean while Cobain listens. Practically whining she says, “We were worried about daddy tonight weren’t we? We thought he died. Is daddy going to leave his girls?” Cobain cracks back in a southern drawl: "I’m going out for a pack of cigarettes and I’m never coming back."
There is no question that Cobain’s suicide, one week before Live Through This hit record stores and catapulted the band to stardom, cast a pall of darkness over Love and by extension, Hole, that never receded. Asked to join the band, the then 22-year old Auf Der Maur recalls having wondered if she could psychically afford to join an outfit that was “so dark.”
Schemel, who knew Cobain from back in the mid-1980s when he was a roadie for proto-grunge outfit the Melvins, had already been dabbling with heroin and was on and off the wagon until finally disappearing to “crack and heroin island” when she was literally drummed out of the band by control-heavy producer, Michael Beinhorn—in 1997 during the recording of Hole’s third record Celebrity Skin—who replaced her with a hired hand she refers to as “Johnny one-take.” Eventually she landed up living in Macarthur park wearing a “crackhead windbreaker” and pleading for Love to Western Union her money. Love’s response: “I’ll only do it one more time.”
Two months after Cobain’s death, Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff, who was also Erlandson’s on and off girlfriend died of a heroin overdose when he was (at least according to Love in Hit So Hard) on his “first date” with Drew Barrymore.
Asked whether he and Pfaff were using together at the time of her fatal OD, Erlandson, who admits he has “many regrets” over what went down with Pfaff that night, will only say, “I was still close to her at the time. She had her problems and I had mine but I wasn’t doing what she was doing and that’s why I’m alive.” While Cobain’s death had caused both Love and Erlandson in his words to “just say fuck I don’t even care about music,” the death of Pfaff “galvanized us and we knew we had to keep going.”
As late as Thursday, Erlandson strongly suspected he would never play with Love again. Sitting over iced tea in a greasy spoon West Side diner, he said with a sigh, “Things would have to change a lot for that to happen.” Erlandson, a tall bony man with long blonde hair, was wearing an old burgundy cardigan. His thoughtful, unhurried demeanor conveys a brand of slacker-masculinity that served as a perfect foil for an otherwise all female group, whose fan base consists of, in Love’s words: “mostly girls, gay guys and a handful of advanced straight men.”
He spoke at length about forming Hole with Courtney, his friend Kurt’s suicide, and the maelstrom that was his twelve years of rock stardom and excess. Then the twelve years of “self-imposed exile” afterwards to “process everything that had happened to [him.]” Its all grist for his book of prose poetry, Letters to Kurt, which hits bookstores tomorrow. The volume takes the form 52 free-associative letters to different people in his life, most noticeably Kurt and Courtney. Like Hit So Hard, Letters is the story of a regular person taken in the tide by extraordinary personalities.
He understands why so many alternative theories have arisen around Cobain’s death, which male impersonating rocker Phranc likens to “our generation’s Kennedy assassination”—an event so stark that everyone in a specific generation can recall where they were when it happened. “With suicides especially you want to create a murder or a conspiracy,” Erlandson says. “You just do! You start doing all this stuff in your head and its just natural.” He adds that it is especially difficult to accept given the method Cobain used—swallowing a shotgun and pulling the trigger—“is such a harsh act.” Before trailing off, without elucidating further, he adds, “in some ways [in the book] I’m trying to say there are some deeper truths here.”
A sense of failed belongingness, which leads to isolating yourself and alienation as well as numbing yourself to pain are a number of textbook signs that future suicide victims exhibit. “Well throwing yourself into a drum kit every night, numbing your pain with heroin and what does that do but forces you to isolate further,” he says. Not to mention Cobain would write “50 times ‘I hate myself and want to die,’” in his journal. Asked if after he got famous Cobain felt he couldn’t match up to his stage persona, Erlandson looks at me intently and says: “that’s fame. You go out on stage and you have all this adulation and then you go back into your private moments and you think ‘I’m not that person, I don’t deserve this’ and that causes fragmentation and you need to numb yourself further.” And Cobain had all those issues going on “even before the record blew up.”
He explains that only a choice few that were actually with him at the time of the events of the book—“which were mostly a blur at the time”—will be able to connect the dots and interpret the book literally. “It came out in coded language, I wasn’t comfortable talking about all this stuff directly.” Even so: its difficult not to look in a certain direction when lines like, “under the knife one too many times and no amount of money will fix you.” Or that he is including himself when he writes: “The survivors get to edit history to their liking. And then call each other names.”
While acknowledging the gravity of the unmistakable tragedy that marked the death of Cobain, who he calls “the voice of a generation” Erlandson writes, “I’d hate to see you wasting away in digital nostalgia like the rest of us.” Try as he might he cannot place his old friend in a modern context. “Can you picture Kurt on Twitter? No way. I can’t even picture that guy on a computer.” Cobain had something “ancient, old and wise even backwoodsy—yet still of this world—about him.” Moreover he’s emblematic of something society is especially yearning for now—gleaned in the fashion aspects of grunge, which have been popping up lately—and the fact that twenty years later teens are still interested in the Cobain mystique. That seems like a something of a sift from when he was a kid and “connecting” with musical styles much “less distant,” like punk, then only a few years old. “We need that more than ever as we’re becoming more robotic, the internet is changing us man, its heavy, heavy, we just don’t realize it because we’re in it,” he says.
One of the only non-coded revelations in Letters, which comes early on in the books short introduction, is that Erlandson and Love lived together for “almost two years” between ’89-91 during their first years of the band. According to one LA scenester at the time, Paul Koudounaris, a typical early Hole gig would have been when they opened at Natural Fudge Company for his local Dadaist cult favorite band, Imperial Butt Wizards. Koudounaris recalls Love once telling him and a friend that she wanted to be “gold record famous in a year” and he and his friend bursting out laughing because it seemed so unlikely. “No one even thought about crossover success. The idea was preposterous, like an elephant flying,” he says, adding, “until Nirvana.”
The seeds for Love and Cobain’s relationship were planted one night after the unknown couple met the soon-to-be grunge god outside a Butt Hole Surfers concert. Later that night, “goaded by a British rock journalist” Cobain called Love when she was in bed with Erlandson. Laughing, he says, “the media was already in bed with them from day one, no courtship – you go right to the magazines.”
As anyone at Brooklyn’s Public Assembly on that fateful Friday night who saw the two share a long hug before Love hurried off stage and back into her insular world of unknowable celebrity, all is not just animosity between the two. While he laments the fact that Love is potentially “wasting her life collecting fashion junk, doing Etsy, and eBay, Tweeting and slandering people left and right,” he is quick to acknowledge another “true” Courtney Love who “most people have only gotten glimpses of.” Letting out a long sigh, he adds, “the essence of that person will last forever.” Perhaps it is in the nature of Love’s perpetual rebellion never to fade away.
The New York Nightlife Association (NYNA) is often the only thing that stands between a vibrant night scene and the powers that would turn the Big Apple into a bedroom community. Paul Seres is the newly elected President of the association. I feel Paul will bring the energy and guts needed to take this thing to another level. I love David Rabin and commend him on a job well done.
Congratulations on being elected the new NYNA president. Give me a state of the club scene. I think right now we are at a very critical point. Owners and operators are dealing with more issues now than ever before, and all this through a recession that has everyone wondering what is waiting for them around the corner. Our industry has always been heavily regulated, but now it seems we get less help where we need it and are left to deal with increased violations that lead to heavier fines. I’ll give you an example: Public Assembly permits and inspections. Very often, FDNY and DOB who are both involved in the process, can’t seem to get on the same page. Venues inspected by FDNY write violations stating one thing, and DOB expects something completely different. Venue operators are stuck in the middle between two city agencies who could care less what the other is claiming and the venue operator is left to figure it out on their own. If the city wants to close a business down, it can have representatives from NYPD, DOB, FDNY, ECB, and DOH all show up at the same time at the same place. To get the same agencies to inspect a premise in order to get them open or to fix issues such as Public Assembly permits, it’s like herding cats. Logic would state that jobs are at stake; people’s livelihoods and taxes are all there for the offering once that business gets open, so let’s get them open, but here we are. I will say this: We now have better relationships with some city and state agencies than we’ve had in the past. But getting them to communicate to one another for anything other than closing a business is something completely different. David Rabin left some big shoes to fill. I’m not sure David’s shoes will ever be filled. The amount of work and time he has contributed to the industry as a whole is monumental. Even though he has stepped down in an active role in the Association, he is still a member of our board and now holds the title President Emeritus. I think the industry is incredibly lucky to have had David be our president and I know we as an industry would not be where we are today if not for his efforts and those of Rob Bookman, who is still our counsel. Batman and Robin or Robin and Batman, take your pick, but Gotham is more fun because of them both. What steps are you taking to make things better? We are being very proactive as an association in areas that affect not only the venues, but will have a positive impact on our patrons and our communities. We are working with some elected officials to get new legislation introduced for enhanced security training for licensed establishments. Presently, the training that is required by the state for security guards that work at a department store is the same for a license security guard at a bar, lounge or a nightclub. There is a disconnect, since the issues that come up in a nightclub are vastly different than those that may arise at a Macy’s. California and cities like Providence, have already passed this type of legislation. This is a win win win for all parties involved. We are also working with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Task Force on Sexual Assault to come up with additional training so our employees know what to look for before sexual assaults may occur. Now that NYNA is under the New York State Restaurant Association, we have been working with them on issues that affect both sides of the industry such as letter grading and immigration reform. Is working with the community boards going to get any easier ? I think for some it already has but not because the community board members are making it any easier. After Denis Rosen took over the State Liquor Authority he made it very clear that he would follow the ABC code to a “T”. One of his primary objectives was to get rid of the backlog of applications by October of 2010 and he is well on his way. He also made it clear that unless an applicant agreed to earlier closing times, the SLA would not deny an application simply because the community board did not want that applicant to close at 4 AM but demanded they close earlier. I’m most curious to see what happens with the Mayor’s Charter review. That will be the most telling tale of the community board process and how it relates to our industry. As a board member of Community Board 4 (Chelsea/Hell’s Kitchen), the charter reform seems to be the big x factor that no one really knows which way it will go. We are getting more owner operators of nightlife venues on community boards to help create a balance between small businesses and the NIMBY’s that want to turn New York City into a bedroom community. Do you feel that many of the fines and summonses operators receive is simply because a lack of knowledge on the ins and outs of city policy, negligence? I love this town but sometime it can be a real son of a bitch when it comes to how it treats businesses that offer jobs and pay enormous amounts of taxes every year. You think with a billionaire mayor who has been a successful businessman, things would be different. NYNA has been involved with a group out of California called Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) who works with municipalities all over North America, helping them better manage their nighttime economy. They break the process down into three steps, plan, manage and police. In setting up special nightlife districts, if each city follows steps one and two, then step three is very seldom needed. New York it seems knows how to police but very rarely does the city plan or manage. Most of the city agencies we as an industry have to deal with are set up to be punitive. Look at the nuisance abatement law and how it is used. If the police are having issues with a venue, they don’t notify the management and tell them they have a problem. They get an order from a judge on a weekday, wait for Friday night, and then order the venue closed and vacated for the weekend. The venue must remain closed all weekend since there are no civil judges available until the following week. In addition to any fines or stipulations that have to be met before the venue is allowed to open, the venue also loses the weekend’s revenues to add insult to injury. If the police were willing to work with the venue, they could approach the venue prior to the weekend and explain the issues they have. I’m not saying this will work every time, there are bad operators who will continue to be bad operators. But if these issues arise with good operators, and they had no idea the police had these issues with them (most of the cases are brought about by undercover operations) I’m sure the operator will work with the police in order to stay open. What can you do about that? NYNA has a good working relationship with the NYPD but obviously nuisance abatement is where we don’t see eye to eye. We are in the process of working with them to release a second edition of the Best Practices Guidelines. I also think that more lines of communication with local police precincts, city agencies, and elected officials will help mitigate any of the issues that can arise. What is your background and why did you agree to take on this position? Let me answer the second part first. I agreed to take on this position because I was at a point in my career where I was taking sometime to think about which direction I wanted to go. I had just sold my interest in my nightclub Sol last year and decided I would use my free time to work with the Association and you Steve on things like helping get the Nightlife Preservation Community launched as well as work on other initiatives such as the Manhattan DA’s Task Force on Sexual Assault. It became a labor of love and I really like being a Nightlife Activist fighting for our industry and what makes this city great. I really enjoy being on the front lines of the battles that are shaping our industry. Now the first part, I’ve done just about every job in hospitality. I started out working in the industry when I was trying to get my commercial directing career off the ground back in the early 90’s. I owned my first place back in 94, a neighborhood bar and restaurant on the UES called Lefty Louie’s. Once I was able to sustain my living as a commercial director I left the industry but loved going out to all the amazing venues the city had. I started traveling all over the world for work and would visit as many nightlife venues as I could soaking it all in, seeing what other people did, looking at what worked and what didn’t. I guess I realized that at some point I would get back into it. In 2005 I decided to make the switch back and put together a team to buy Ruby Falls, which I turned into Sol. I joined the association in 2006 and have been there ever since. Besides this new gig what projects are you working on? I’ve got a few things in the works including a roof top restaurant lounge that will be something amazing when it’s done. I don’t want to go into too much detail now and spoil the surprise but the views will be quiet spectacular. I’m also working on another club, where I won’t disclose the location but will be downtown. What drives you? I am a creature of the night and there has always been something that NYC has offered that I can’t get enough of. I live in the Lower East Side and every time I walk out of my apartment I love that pulse the city has. I love the diversity this city has to offer but most importantly I love the potential our industry has to get back on top and reinvent itself. This industry produces some of the most unique people you will ever get to know, and I have been fortunate enough to work, on many different levels, with most of them, yourself included, and I just absolutely love that. In an ever-changing economy and business landscape how do operators keep their joints operating? I think good operators are going to have to dig deep and become more creative in how they approach their individual businesses. The bottle service trend made things very easy for a lot of operators and now that it is subsiding, more creative solutions will have to be found in order to survive. I’ve heard you say this all the time that the good operators will always figure out a way to stay in business and I couldn’t agree with you more. But being a good operator isn’t just about how you can get the crowd in and squeeze as much money as you can out of each customer. It will also entail working within the industry on issues that we have to fight every day. It will be working with area residents and other businesses as the defining lines of nightlife districts get blurred more and more each day.