Last Night’s Var Magazine’s Launch Event: I Got a Tattoo

 A long time ago, there was this club called Palladium. It was my job to fill its 108,000-square-foot space about five nights a week with people that mattered. To give you an idea of how big that is, it is more than two Webster Halls and maybe 15 Marquees. Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager were on top of the pyramid and were really great at bringing in top-tier celebrities to create the shock and awe such gigantic places needed. In this modern era, superstar DJs drive the car. Back then, it was Yoko and Liza and Rick James and Andy Warhol. Palladium never lived up to Studio 54 -Steve and Ian’s previous project – but it did have its moments. We did do 3,000 to 5,000 people, five nights a week. It was a pre-bottle universe but people drank a lot more and most paid admission.

I learned many lessons working for these geniuses of nightlife. The specifics were lost in time, but there was this party, and Madonna was going to be there …she really was supposed to. We were even allowed to say it, but we opted not to. The thought process was that we were going to sell out anyway, but if we said that Madonna was going to host or pass through or whatever then everyone would be focusing on that and not the party. The theory went on that if she does show, then everyone will be energized, as it will come as a great and wonderful surprise. Madonna ended up showing, sitting on the backbar, and reading the magazine that prompted the party. It was a party where the anticipation of the celebrity didn’t squash the fun.

Another event at Palladium was an Elite Model soiree. Again, we opted to limit promotion to the model agencies’ list. We didn’t tell our adoring public about the event. The logic was that model agency parties attracted the worst kind of guys and it would be swell if people came and saw a place packed with long-legged beauties. Without knowledge of the event, they might think it was like that every night. I did a good job.

Another time we produced a Koshin Satoh fashion show. He did clothes for lots of famous folk like Miles Davis and Rick Ocasek and Andy Warhol. Again, we knew Andy was going to show but we left it an undiscovered secret. The crowd that came was pumped up by his presence and the party was off the hook. For me, having the party off the hook was more important than a Page Six mention. He was swarmed by the press, including a TV crew who asked him why he had come for the Koshin Satoh show and he replied "Because Koshin designs clothes for Don Johnson.” The interviewer didn’t understand and said "So?" and Andy deadpanned: "Oh, because I think I look like Don Johnson." I held back my laughter as she went away confused and happy. Andy let loose a small smile as she skitted away.

I was mad about Andy. You can take all your Guitar Heros, DJ Megastars and whose-reality-is-it-anyway TV stars and toss them away. Andy was my reason to be cheerful. My clubs and the great clubs of this day are driven by the great crowds and off the hook parties. Word of mouth, amongst the people who actually got in past the door staff, was and remains more important than housewives reading gossip in the NY Post or other periodical. Most savvy operators realize their revenue streams aren’t driven by mentions in Us Weekly.

Last night I attended the VAR Magazine launch event. In fact, I was the DJ. It was a great party. Everyone had a blast. Sally Shan did a fantastic job. She will be happy when she reads this. She is sleeping now because she put everything into it. At the event there were whispers that Ron Wood, out and about pushing his book, would show and that Adrian Grenier was going to perform. These whispers didn’t become the focus of the event because Sally and the other organizers didn’t let the celebrity or the anticipation of one get in the way of a good event.

The Wooster Street Social Club, known as that tattoo place on NY Ink, was the setting for this bash. One of the highlights of the evening was me getting a tattoo while spinning records…well, CDs. Has this been done before? You can Google it if you think it’s important. You can even call the Guinness Book of World Records or start an event where everyone leaves with a tattoo to remember it. Luke Wessman did my tat. Even though the event was wonderful, in time it will fade in memory for even those who had a blast. I won’t forget it, as the ink will always be there to remind me. What did I get?… Andy Warhol’s signature… of course.

Personal Faves: How I Spent My Rent Check On A Rolling Stones Concert

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, Hillary Hughes writes about dropping a load of money on the greatest living rock ‘n’ rollers, The Rolling Stones.

“You paid HOW MUCH FOR ROLLING STONES TICKETS?!”

I had made the mistake of casually mentioning to my mother that I spent a month’s rent (literally) on a pair of tickets to watch The Rolling Stones perform at the Barclays Center, and she was completely shocked and appalled. “You’re irresponsible! I’m not gonna tell you how to spend your money, but Jesus, Hilary … they’re just so old. I wouldn’t have paid half that to see them twenty years ago let alone now.”

Mom wasn’t alone in thinking that. When The Rolling Stones announced the handful of select cities they’d visit on 50 and Counting…, the band’sfiftieth anniversary tour, their age (“But Keith Richards is probably gonna die soon!”) and the $100-$900 price range for seats were topics more avidly discussed than the fact that this rock band had made it through to the better half of a century together. My friends thought I was borderline institutional for entertaining the idea of wasting two hours and hundreds of dollars on The Rolling Stones, and so a volley of YouTube clips hit my inbox, a damning reel of highlights recorded from recent awards shows and other anniversary tours that displayed an exhausted-looking Richards and a flailing, shouting Mick Jagger in a most unfavorable light. Even my dad—the man responsible for my Rolling Stones fandom and the one whose glove compartment I lifted a tape of Tattoo You from at the age of ten—was taken aback by the fact that I was so determined to find tickets to the Brooklyn show of 50 and Counting… just to watch a band of senior rock musicians “who’ve seen better days” play through a predictable set list.

No one seemed to get why I was so hell-bent on seeing The Rolling Stones, so when the time to hit the “Confirm Reservation” button came, I had forgotten why I had decided to hand over my rent check to TicketMaster in exchange for the chance to see the greatest rock band in history play songs that mean more to me than even I understand—and I subsequently freaked the fuck out. I forgot about how, while driving back and forth between Brooklyn and Boston this fall, Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed anchored my sanity on I-84, especially because “Call Me Maybe” and “Some Nights,” two of the most lyrically inept songs ever written, were also Clear Channel’s favorite singles to play and therefore unavoidable unless I dodged Connecticut’s airwaves throughout the course of the four-hour drive. I forgot that the first real conversation I had with my dad about music was about The Rolling Stones, one about his favorite song of theirs, “Bitch,” and how it was overshadowed by “Brown Sugar” on 1971’s Sticky Fingers. I forgot about how I’d told an ex-boyfriend that I wanted to walk down the aisle to “Happy” should we ever get married, and I forgot about how many times I opted to belt the chorus to “Gimme Shelter” into a hairbrush in front of a mirror as a teenager.

I more or less forgot about the fact that The Rolling Stones have provided the off-peak soundtrack to my life, despite the fact that I was born fourteen years after the release of Exile on Main St. I sought solace in the straightforward tenacity of their choruses instead of settling for the shitty, manufactured pop songs that my friends sang along with when they came on at the dive bar, and the musical inclinations of Jagger, Richards & Co. have set the standard for my taste as a listener, fan, and critic from the get-go.

I had forgotten all of this, and yet with one play of “Doom and Gloom,” the first single from their newly released greatest hits collection, I came to. I clicked “Confirm” and that was that. I was going to see The Rolling Stones, and I was going because I needed to see them—to hear the steady build of “Gimme Shelter,” to groan when “Miss You” made an appearance, to jump up and down like a maniac during “Get Off Of My Cloud”—and this was the first time I’ve ever felt so compelled to declare my love for a band so openly before, despite the fact that I knew that I was potentially setting myself up for the kind of epic disappointment that can only occur when your expectations of meeting your idol fall short.

Thankfully, Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie eviscerated every skeptic thought in the house when they took the stage at the Barclays Center for the big event on December 8. Though 50 and Counting… could’ve been the safe and tired victory lap of a final tour, the scene that unfolded was that of a jovial reunion, one where Ronnie Wood galloped across the stage without hitting a wrong note while Richards took to his solos with the effortless dexterity of a person who has cradled the neck of a guitar in his hands more frequently than he hasn’t over the course of the past fifty years. Jagger’s bellow reached the highest and lowest recesses of his range, and though his gait and the topography of his face tell the truth about his age, the flamboyant frontman ran at the crowd with an identical fervor to that of himself thirty years prior. (Or so I’m told, anyway). Richards and Wood sauntered back to the drum kit and turned and faced the arena before them in unison, and as Jagger shimmied, clapped and convulsed while the room erupted as the hits flew into the ether, I stood there slack-jawed thinking about how impossible it was for them to be so good when time, logic and the basic truths of the human form seemed to be working against them.

The show may not have been perfect—my prediction of a Beyoncé cameo during “Gimme Shelter” disintegrated when Mary J. Blige showed up, and “Midnight Rambler,” well, rambled—but to say that I got what I paid for would be an immense understatement. 2012, for me, was the year when Autotune became a superficial stylistic choice as opposed to a performance crutch, where The Black Keys farmed out the track list of El Camino to any studio that wanted to opt it for a movie trailer and a song like “Call Me Maybe” earned more accolades for its saccharine hooks than any other single on the charts. It was also the year of The Rolling Stones, in that the rock icons showed the world, and me, that a good song is an immortal thing that can only grow stronger with age—and that a fiftieth anniversary tour isn’t to be met with the same expectations of a retirement party. 

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The Rolling Stones Premiere ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ At The Ziegfeld

In a recent glossy magazine feature on the lives of the post-millennial East London hipsterati, the writer, somewhat embarrassingly, blathers on fawningly about her subjects indulging in such, um, establishment-defying activities as "trading pork belly recipes" and "obsessing over fair trade coffee."It’s precisely such a banal, eviscerated 21st Century version of youth rebellion that makes it all the more seditiously provocative when, in the new Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane, Mick Jagger matter-of-factly conveys that the band was only half the reason so many fired-up young lads were flocking to their early shows; the other half, he insists, was for the singular fuck-the-old-crusties thrill of "participating in a riot." Indeed, the film electrifyingly recalls how rock ’n’ roll once seethed with all the violence and anger that young people felt towards "he generation that is running our lives." The teenagers were, literally and figuratively, storming the barricades. 

Crossfire Hurricane, which has already had a run across the pond and will premier stateside on HBO this Thursday, was introduced by the Stones themselves at the Ziegfeld Theater Tuesday night; and Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and (perhaps a bit less) Charlie Watts still seemed, fifty years on, to be every bit the rock & roll hellions who had initially inspired all that adolescent fury. Uniquely formatted with current interviews (in which interim guitarist Mick Taylor also participates) laid over a lightning-paced pastiche of ’60s and ’70s era clips, it leaves out the gossip (no Jerry Halls, no Anita Pallenbergs), letting the blindingly revolutionary music—and culture-altering behavior—speak for itself. It also unabashedly canonizes the band’s shameless, glorious depravity. An unidentified commentator sums it up: "Parents become homicidal at the sight of them." To which the late Brian Jones counters with a satisfied sneer, "We’ve been called everything from beautiful to revolting."

And revolting they were, specifically against the grey, post-war misery of a still culturally clenched Britain run by stunted old farts. It was "goodbye to all that" times a thousand, the virtual ground zero of us-against-them.

The live clips are, of course, incendiary. From the ragged, anarchic early shows, with audiences full of thrashing boys and screaming, fainting girls (who were, apparently, according to Jones, literally wetting their pretty little panties), to the wildly histrionic ’70s arena clips, the Stones (despite a few inexcusable fashion faux pas) are depicted as nothing less than the coolest, baddest, greatest motherfucking rock ’n’ roll band ever. Truly, watching them tear through "Sympathy For The Devil," "Street Fighting Man," and "Jumpin’ Jack Flash" with such snarling but deadly earnest exuberance is alone worth the price of admission. 

Specific epochal episodes—Brian Jones’s funeral, the fatal pandemonium at Altamont, the band’s drug-drenched tax exile in the South of France (which, by the way, resulted in Exile On Main Street), and Richards’s genuinely career-threatening heroin bust in Toronto—are all treated with an intelligence and poignancy by director Brett Morgen, traits usually lacking in rock documentaries. Yet never are such matters allowed to get in the way of the hedonism, debauchery, and, well, balls-out fun. 

Indeed, post-bust, an impressively unshaken Richards proudly refers to himself as rock’s Jesse James. "I never had a problem with drugs," he sniffs. "I only had a problem with the cops."

The film’s only concession to normal human reality comes by way of Jagger’s not-all-too-concerned observation that, "You can’t stay young forever." Still, Richards—being Keith Richards—leaves us with an unconditional warning, nay manifesto: "Don’t fuck with the Stones."

It’s a gas, gas, gas. 

Photo Credit: ©Rolling Stones Archive