I am bedridden so this is going to be sort of left unwritten. Tonight there is yet another 2feet@12inches art opening reception. I DJd the last one of these treats by Robert Aloia and crew and it was sold out, got raided, was the most fun. Tonight’s event is at White Rabbit ‘s White Box at 145 Houston Street. The event – curated by Aloia, Bill Spector, Frankie Cedeno, and Laksmi Hedemark – will be one of those great adult events that we so often long for. I’m DJing from 10pm to 11pm if I can make it out of bed. If Shorty, Small Change, Sal Principato, or Julie Covello/ DJ Shakey won’t cover for me, Jazzy Nice, or Greg Poole surely will. I’m excited to see buzz-band Roma and hang with old friend Dominic Chianese. This shindig starts at 6pm and goes to 2am.
Chaske Spencer is not a household name. In fact, when I hang with my neighbor and friend, it is more likely that someone will recognize me than the face seen by millions and millions. Chaske is a movie star who is well-known or, at least, well-seen as the head of the wolf pack in the Twilight movie series. Once in a while, at brunch, I’ll ask him to make that werewolf face and make him recite a line from the flick … he never goes for my bait. He just smiles that movie star smile and laughs that hearty movie star laugh. His star is on the rise and I suspect his anonymity will soon be lost. There are movies in the can and in the works and TV things being talked about. He is, like, 6’5,” good looking, of Native American heritage, and might be the nicest person I’ve ever met.
This Thursday he will have his debut photography show at the Dream Hotel, 210 West 55th Street, up on the roof. I will be there. I have been trying to get him to Monday night Bingo for a year and if he gets me uptown then he better show up for Murray Hill and Linda Simpson’s Monday Night Bingo extravaganza…or else. Chaske is half my age and twice my size and I’ve watched him turn into a bad, bad wolf many times….. so it might be a fair fight.
Let’s get the elephant-in-the-room question out of the way… I know you as a friend, a brunch and Bingo buddy (soon), but to a great many people you are the leader of the wolf pack in the Twilight movie series. Tell me about your film career and how it affects your normal routine for good …for bad?
Yes, brunch pals and hopefully go-to bingo pals soon. My film career started about a decade ago. My first film was a movie called Skins. The director was Chris Eyre. Since then, it’s been a slow climb to the working-actor mountain top. When I landed Twilight I was broke and hadn’t been able to land a job in two years. I actually thought that if I didn’t get this I was going to pack it in… call it a day on the acting career. For the good part, I’m working a lot now. I have three films lined up. They should be out next year. I also, just got back from Australia. I was filming a pilot called Frontier for NBC. I don’t let my career affect my normal life. I keep pretty low-key. It’s just a job that I like to do. I’m pretty lucky.
Have you always been a photographer? Tell me about your work, especially shooting rock bands. Which ones have you shot?
I’ve always been fascinated by photography. I wanted to be a painter but I found out that I don’t have the patience for painting. I like the instance gratification of a really good photo. I started taking photos as soon as I moved to NYC, when I was 22. I was using a Canon film camera. I bought it for very cheap at a pawn shop in Calgary, Canada. At the time I needed to spend money on food and rent, not film. So, photography sat on the back burner for a time but, since I’ve been working and traveling, I take my camera everywhere with me. I have a digital Canon Rebel. I started shooting bands a couple of years ago. My roommate at the time, Adam Morse, plays bass for the Five O’Clock Heroes. I started going to their shows and taking photos of them. I’ve also shot this band called Roma. I like going to clubs and finding bands to shoot. You are a Native American. How did you grow up and how did you end up here? Also, tell me about your charity work and let’s throw Michelle Obama into this mess of a question.
I grew up on a couple reservations in Montana and Idaho. I moved around a bit. My parents were teachers and taught on Indian reservations. They did the best they could raising me with a strong since of self. But, living on a reservation I saw a lot of poverty and addiction. There is not a lot to do there, so I would get into some trouble from time to time. Nothing big; just regular teenage shit. It wasn’t until I started to go to an all-white school that I noticed how different things were, how the living conditions on a reservation are pretty much that of a third world country.
After high school, I tried to do the college thing. But I failed at that. I wasn’t doing much with my life. I was just hanging out in bars, getting drunk, and smoking a lot weed. One night I just decided I couldn’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. I decided I wanted to move to NYC. I bought an airplane ticket to NYC. I had saved some money from working some shit jobs.
But the weekend before I was ready to fly out, I got drunk and put my dad’s truck into a woman’s fence. I had to postpone my flight, and repairing the fence and her yard took all of my cash. So I ended up coming to NYC with only $100.
I look back on it now and I’m glad I left when I did. I was getting out of hand with the partying in a small town. My charity work comes from seeing a lot of bullshit that goes on in a reservation. I try to use the spotlight of the media to bring social cause to the forefront that wouldn’t normally be picked up by the mainstream media. One of the causes I’m in involved in is Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move. It’s to help inform people about eating healthy and getting exercise.
Where will the film world take you ideally, and where will photography take you ideally?
I don’t know where the film world will take me. I hope just to keep working. I love what I do. I’m a pretty lucky guy that gets to have a job that I already love to do. I learned a long time ago that you really can’t make a plan. Life takes you where you’re supposed to be. As a photographer? I hope that I can capture some really beautiful images. I hope one day to shoot some amazing landscape for National Geographic, or do a photo shoot with someone like Waylon Jennings. I love faces that tell a story.
You’re having way more than 15 minutes of fame, but I know you as this shy, polite guy. Is there a hunger for the limelight and loot? What else is driving you?
I’m not big into the limelight stuff. I found that out after the media blitz of Twilight, that the spotlight is not my thing. It’s a part of the job, and I can live with that. But it does make me uncomfortable. I try to keep a low profile while I’m in NYC. I do notice I’m getting more and more noticed in my hood. I do love making movies though. It’s like joining a circus. Playing pretend and having fun. And being a photographer is an outlet I have. It keeps the boredom away. Keeps me being creative. I had an acting teacher tell me once, “Don’t be an actor. Be an artist.” I try to live by those words in everything I do.
Typically, the period between Labor Day and Halloween is slow in the club world. People are paying down credit card debt accumulated in a summer of WHEEE! Things like the Jewish holidays, flu season, back-to-school, and a dearth of tourists add to the red ink. The change of weather and the loss of daylight as we wind down to the Winter Solstice near Christmas are all negative factors. The season theoretically begins in earnest on Halloween. Sandy literally put a damp on those concepts, but building for an inevitable future is happening all around.
On a small renovation job, an electrician told me that getting even the most commonplace electrical supplies is becoming problematic as the post-Sandy rebuild is taking everything. I can only imagine what getting permits and inspections will be like from an over-tasked buildings department. Still, I hear of a Frank Roberts’ "mostly-a-restaurant project down in lower Little Italy.” I hear of a redux of GoldBar. Marquee nightclub, for a decade the "in" spot for the going-out crowd, is in renovations that will bring it up to speed with its Las Vegas incarnation.
Meanwhile, that Tao team is inviting peeps to the Thursday opening of their Arlington Club on Lexington between 73 and 74th Street. St. Jerome’s has, of course, been sold to The Bowery Electric crew. That has left the St. Jerome’s "crowd" looking for a new home, and Hotel Chantelle grabbing for that gusto. Chantelle started its weekly Tuesday “Rumors” party last night, going forward with famously ex-ex-St. Jerome’s honcho DJ Luc Carl joining DJ Ian El Dorado.
There’s all sorts of things happening over at Bantam where absolutely nothing to speak of has been happening. A re-thinking is occurring. Construction at EVR on 39th street between 5th and 6th is almost over – or is that ovr? I was there the other day checking out the progress and was very impressed.
On a final note: Friday I will be DJing the late set over at The Hanky Panky Club, up the side entrance of Webster Hall. It is a Sandy-related benefit called “Rock-N-Rebuild.” Acts/bands like Hits, Roma, Wild Yaks, The Netherlands, Outernational, and Kendra Morris will interrupt sets by Djs iDeath, Gavin Russom and, thankfully, Steve Lewis er …me. This shindig starts at 8pm. It’s hosted by man-about-town Terry Casey and the lovely Flutura Bardhi. Please help where you can. While people are ordering $1000 bottles of booze, many are still without basic necessities.
Every Monday night, at the intimate The Double Seven club by the Hudson River, three new music talents are being heard. Here, signed and unsigned recording artists are performing private concerts to crowds filled with music industry, fashion, and the arts insiders – people passionate about music. And if you’ve ever wanted to witness an unsigned artist finally get discovered by all the right people, then say hello to your new Monday night plans: Avenue A Soundcheck’s “Mondays Rock" series.