I’m very late today because I went to Long Island to pick up slate for the fireplace at The Elsinore, which is quickly approaching completion. I think it will be done the end of next week. On the way back, with literally a ton of stone in the truck, the truck konked out. Luckily, we were on a steep hill and spotted a gas station at the bottom. We just rolled into the place and they went to work right away to fix what was broke. Next door to the gas station was a Dunkin’ Donuts so it wasn’t a complete disaster.
The rumor mill has it that legendary DJ/producer Mark Kamins has passed. A massive coronary in Guadalajara, Mexico where he (pictured, last on the left) apparently was teaching was cited. He was having heart problems for a few months and about three days ago went to see a cardiologist. Yesterday he wasn’t feeling well and went to a hospital and passed away. Facebook, often the fastest bearer of good and bad news, has it being true. A number of close mutual friends are sadly confirming that this club/music legend has moved on. Mark was best known for helping sign a young Madonna to Seymour Steins’ Sire Records and producing her hit "Everybody." That was back in 1982.
He worked with David Byrne, Ofra Haza, Karen Finley, and UB40 and Sinead. He had a heart of gold and a million friends. I just got this news about an hour ago and I am a bit shaken and not stirred to write anything. I will say that when I spoke to him a number of months ago, he seemed pressured. Some are saying he needed a heart bypass and didn’t have the means. Word came to me that his ex has confirmed. I’m not sure how this will become official … move from rumor to fact. That’s all I know except that Mark was beyond a legend. He was exceedingly human. He was vulnerable but sure, brilliant yet lost, a good friend but often very much a loner. I DJ’d with him at subMercer a couple years back and it was just about the most fun I’ve had at that game. Justin Strauss was whispering the names of obscure tracks Mark was spinning, and I’d go to the booth and say "hey, I was going to play that" and he was incredulous and amused. Mark tried to help me DJ but of course that was impossible. He was a titan and I a mouse. He was just grand.
Here is an interview I did with Mark in the mag back in December 2008. Rest in Peace, old friend.
Legend has it that Mark Kamins was bugging Sire Record’s Seymour Stein for a producing gig, and Stein told him to get his own act. That act turned out to be Kamins’ ex-girlfriend Madonna. Stein was so anxious to sign the material girl that she was rushed to his hospital bed to get it done. Mark’s production of her first single “Everybody” still bangs dance floors today. Kamins’ production career includes work with the Talking Heads, Sinead O’Connor, the Beastie Boys, and my old friend and Danceteria bartender turned performance artist Karen Finley. When I was going through my wonderbread years in the nightclub world, I looked up to Mark and always felt privileged to have a few minutes of his time. I caught up with him via Skype as he is now living in Europe, and we chatted about the music and the rise of the International DJ.
Where are you now? I’m in Paris, then I’m going to Moscow, and then Tokyo for a month.
You’ve made a life for yourself as a traveling DJ. Well, now I’m like Barbara Streisand — I’m on my retirement tour, then I’ll come back out of retirement next year.
Can a person like you retire? I don’t think so. DJs will play till they die.
Years ago before I was in the nightlife business, I looked up to you like you were a god. You were one of the people on the scene who was not just making music but was also leading the way, taking everybody to a place they hadn’t been before. Where was your beginning in this business? I was always just a guy who played records at parties, from when I was ten years old on.
You DJed at places like the Mudd Club, Danceteria, and Peppermint Lounge. My first gig was at Trax, which was the rock club on 72nd and Columbus. And that’s when Jim Fouratt and Rudolph heard me and Sean Cassette play, and they decided to put both of us together in the booth at Danceteria.
What are your memories of Danceteria? There were at least three Danceterias; the first one was on 38th Street, and it was an illegal Mafia club with no liquor license, but we sold drink tickets. Jim Fourrat had this concept of bringing the bands, and Rudolph had this concept of image, and we were the first club to have video. The magic of the first Danceteria was Jim and Rudolph taking Sean Cassette from Hurrah (which was Arthur Weinstein’s first club) and then taking me from Trax, where I played Motown and hardcore R&B, and putting us together in the booth at Danceteria. We opened at 8 p.m. and played till 8 a.m., which was the first time two DJs played together for 12 hours. Sean would go into punk, and I would go into James Brown and beyond, and that was the magic of it. This was around the beginning of the new wave era, with the coming out of the Sex Pistols. Those were the original seeds of new wave.
New wave to me was one of the most fun music genres. I guess now that music is going that way, the electronic music is happier. Do you see that in Europe also? What’s going on in Europe right now is amazing; it’s a very 80s feel, but its very electro. A lot of bands want to sound retro; they don’t want to sound fresh from all the new technology. They want to record on tape, they don’t want to record on the computer. So it’s really exciting when I listen to these kids, even my son’s band, The Young Lords … it’s amazing, that these young kids can take the new music and do that again.
In the 50s we had jazz, the 60s rock, 70s disco etc., and somewhere around the 90s and 2000, there wasn’t much new music being made. Now it seems that there’s a new type of music or a new energy coming. Can the mash-up be considered a genre? No. I’m a DJ, and every DJ has the same record — it’s how you play that record, that’s what makes a difference. So what’s happening now is that new kids want to hear live music, and its killing old school guys like myself and Frankie and Jellybean. Rock bands are doing DJ sets, which is now the hippest thing in Paris, and one of the hippest things in New York. So, in a funny way we’ve gone the full circle — we killed live music and bands in the 80s, and now they’re killing the DJs.
Bring me back to a time with the Beastie Boys, with Madonna and seeing a type of music, seeing a person like that — the talent of the Beastie Boys coming up through the nightclubs. First of all, I think Danceteria was a magical space like Andy Warhol’s Factory or Max’s Kansas City or CBGBs. Jim Fouratt and Rudolph had this amazing finesse to hire people that they believed in. Why were the Beastie Boys the sweepers at Danceteria? Why was Madonna one of the dancers? Why Sade was the bartender at Danceteria? That’s crazy shit man. So you’re talking about a magical moment, a magical space, and a magical time where it was the beginning of something. Even Karen Finley was the bartender, and LL Cool J was a busboy. Rick Rubin, who is now one of the greatest producers in the music business, his first gig was playing with the Beastie Boys on the second floor of Danceteria because I had to go to a gig in Europe. I have a Polaroid picture of that night.
How did you help to launch Madonna’s career? I produced Madonna’s first record, “Everybody”. I discovered her and brought her to Seymour Stein. At that time, I was working for Chris Blackwell at Island Records, but I was the DJ for the Talking Heads so I knew Seymour. I brought Madonna to see him, and he gave me a singles deal, and then we did it. That was probably her best record, the only one she made with a live drummer.
You went on to work at other clubs like Mars, Tunnel, Palladium, and at one point decided to take your show on the road and you ended up in Russia, Japan, and Brazil. Every time I spoke to you, you were coming from someplace like that. A lot of club promoters and club owners came to see me, and they would come up to the booth and say, “Forget about what’s happening here, would you come and play in my club?” And I became the first DJ that was booked to travel and play in all these other countries.
That was unheard of, and I remember you bringing back world beats, stuff from Greece, Spain, Africa, that people had never heard of. And Belgium and Japan also … there was one record shop in Japan called Wave that actually had every record from every country in the world.
There was a time when DJs didn’t travel internationally, and the beginning of it was with you, Mr. Mark Kamins. I opened the doors for a lot of guys, especially in Japan. We opened the first real nightclub in Japan called Turia, and then a few years later we opened Gold, and that was the first club where every two weeks I would bring in a DJ from New York. I loved it. It was the first time David Morales, Little Louie Vega, Dimitri, and all those guys left New York City.
It turned out to be a birth week instead of a birthday. There were two planned events and two surprises and I have had more pieces of cake and Beau Joie Champagne than I can count on my fingers, toes, and other body parts. Tomorrow I will take a rare venture out of town – a car trip to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. MASS MoCA (as it is known) is genius. I will not be watching the Super Bowl this weekend since I don’t care a lick, but if I was I would surely go to Brooklyn Bowl or maybe The Brooklyn Star. The word "Brooklyn" is key. Manhattan will not see me again until Monday. You see, I legitimately got a little older yesterday and I am feeling it.
This attitude will prevent me from attending some wonderful events. First on my list of "I wish I coulds" is this Sunday’s (10pm) fabulous Faceboyz Follies at the Bowery Poetry Club. It stars St.Rev.Jen Miller, Velocity Chyaldd, Stormy Leather, Amanda Whip, and Payje Flash. Special guests include Ammo O’Day and Zoe Hanson. While many of the others provide a "voluptuous new variety show" featuring "Bold Bawdy Burlesque, Live Chanteurs, Freaky Flickers, and Top Bananas," Zoe will be… "reading/ performing’ my first play of sorts. It’s a short true story about two junkies – one who robbed a bank in the most bungling heist ever and gets away with it. It’s a story that’s soon to be published in an anthology, yet is unnamed. Due to the growing success of it, I’m actually performing with the hilariously brilliant St. Rev. Jen, who’s got such a vast resume it would take forever to list her accomplishments. She has a couple of successful books under her belt and we’ve become fast friends. With her acting as my rather challenged junkie boyfriend at this event full of downtown celebs, this night promises to entertain those wanting a raunchy burlesque comedy night.
Zoe is a star, and everything she does is worth your time. Big recommendation here for the non-football types.
If I was going out, I would absolutely attend The Hot Music Soul Train tribute at subMercer. The recent passing of legendary Don Cornelius should be noted and respected, and his life celebrated. Tonight the wonderous DJ Jennifly will join DJ MOma and ROK1 for a basement bash that will be sexier than I can handle. I’m old.
I am a little bummed by the departure of one of my favorite Blackbook editors, Ben Barna, who will be moving his considerable talents to greener pasture, a desk at another publication. A proper send-off will occur which I, alas, will be unable to attend. I’ll use this space to say my goodbye and good luck and break a leg or whatever he would have prompted me to say if he were still my editor. Some great man said something like every cloud has a silver lining, and as hard as I try, I can’t come up with one…Oh, I guess I won’t have to exchange small talk with his annoying twin brother until I realize it isn’t Ben anymore at Blackbook events. That’s a LOL or whatever you young people say.
Last year at this time, and the year before that, and the year before that, I ended many of my evenings at subMercer, that Andre Balaz subterranean paradise in his Mercer Hotel. I would hang outside with lifelong friend/door guru Richard Alvarez and his sidekick Moses, or join the scene downstairs presided over by totally cool, hip, fun, temptress Gabby Mejia. Gabby was the reason to be cheerful for a mixed bag of adults who found this small joint with big music important. It was the kind of place that you didn’t have to think about "what was going on.” There was always Gabby, Richard, and Moses. There was always a great DJ, except maybe when I played, and the crowd was always sexy, always smart, and were never-looking-for-the-same-ol’-predictable programming featured around town. It was my secret spot that I told everyone about. Every summer it would close down as the Balaz crew headed to Shelter Island or other exotic lands to reboot.
Every year, when I lamented the end of summer, the knowledge that subMercer would now reopen was a reason to be cheerful. This year it hasn’t reopened and Gabby has moved on. They say it’s for renovation and I’m hoping they get it open again soon. Without Gabby I’m not sure it will be the same. It might be like Casablanca’s, Rick’s Cafe American without Rick, or Studio 54 without Steve Rubell. Often, a persona is bigger than a place. Andre Balaz didn’t get where he is without some smarts, so I figure he’ll make it right but won’t finish the "renovations" until he does.
Meanwhile the amazing Gabby Mejia is throwing a party and she has lined up all her usual and unusual suspects to make it right. It’s this Sunday in the basement of Santos Party House. It’s free. There are dozens of DJs lined up, including Arthur Baker, Stretch Armstrong, Cosmo Baker, Eli Escobar and Lloydski, Justin Strauss, Citizen Kane, Geology, Rok One, and so many worthy etceteras. I caught up with Gabby and asked her to tell me all about it.
Tell me all about the event.
The party is titled “Break Up The Family,” after the Morrissey song, because it’s a final family reunion of sorts, as the tight clan we’d formed over the last three years in subMercer is dispersing in order for wings to spread, as they purposefully should and inevitably always do. After three incredible years as subMercer’s director, and having started the first legitimate music label putting out original productions (and vinyl) for a hotel, I decided it was time to pursue new musical ventures. I stepped away from management and operations in order to focus primarily on musical programming and curating, and everyone else on the team was sort of naturally graduating onto the next phase of his/her life, too. I thought the song was very fitting, as its lyrics denote a certain maturity in reflecting over the years and one’s own evolution, then realizing it’s time to fly the proverbial coop – but not without first wanting to see and hug all your old friends and peers that were with you along the way.
When subMercer closed for renovations, I was bowled over by the public’s reaction – all the heartfelt letters and social media testaments of the positive cultural impact we had had on the underground music scene – all by fostering an environment of creative freedom for DJs to fully express themselves and their individual styles on the decks. I realized then that we had to get the gang back together one last time for a proper farewell, so I wrangled all our residents for a final showcase of their talents on the decks.
And the legendary Arthur Baker is in this?
I also called Arthur Baker, who is a dear friend, mentor, and personal hero of mine, and he happily agreed to fly from London to headline the party. Arthur is a seminal and legendary producer, who arguably changed the trajectory of dance music when he and Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force emerged from a late studio session one night with the groundbreaking hit "Planet Rock," which introduced the world to the revolutionary new sound of the Roland 808 drum machine. He also went on to produce hits for New Order and Rockers Revenge, amongst others. His music greatly influenced a lot of today’s dance music and inspired the careers of many of our DJs. It’s a great boost, too, for any DJ to get to play alongside such a musical pioneer.
Tell me about the decision to move on…and leave the wonderful Andre Balaz family. How could you leave this gig that’s seemingly a dream?
Leaving AB was a hard decision because he was always so encouraging and gave me total creative autonomy at sub to develop and curate it as I saw fit. I’d been with the company on and off since 2004, between four hotels in NY and Miami; but in the end, I realized I had my own, independent goals I needed to pursue, and they understood and supported me in my decision. What is the legacy of subMercer?
subMercer was the best professional experience of my career thus far, and the one of which I’m most proud because we built a reputation of never compromising on the quality of the music or talent that played there. It was so intimate that it really ran like a family. There wasn’t any sort of clear vision I had for the place when I took it over. I DJ myself, and most of my friends are DJs, so it just sort of happened very organically that it became such a music-driven club. Once it started to come together, we really focused on making it really NY-centric to support the underground music community here. A lot of clubs in the city these days tend to book European DJs, but we wanted to support our local community. NY has always been at the forefront of cutting-edge dance music, and we want to keep it that way.
Nightlife in NYC is very bottle dependent. Can a standalone club survive without being in a hotel or part of a larger corporation?
No, I don’t think independent, free-standing clubs need to be bottle dependent to survive. I think you just have to have confidence, high standards, and maintain your integrity in the biz. Integrity is everything; it establishes your credibility and often adds to your longevity. When your output is consistently associated with good quality, people start to rely on that consistency.
A woman in a managerial, programming position is rare in nightlife. What did you do to be one of the boys, or did you just say “fuck that” on day 1?
It certainly wasn’t always easy being a woman in senior management and being a music booker (two completely different jobs) – but I wear velvet gloves over my iron fists, and I’ve learned how to assert myself if/when necessary. In the end though, that’s really all irrelevant. Once again, it’s your integrity that earns you the respect of your peers.
You spend a lot of time in Miami and you confided in me that you will be spending more. You have a decade of excellent nightlife experience and a strong musical base. Tell me about the cultural differences between NYC and Miami besides the beach, the weather, and the Cuban sandwiches.
So much that’s great about Miami — for starters, it’s culturally Latin. There’s great music and a burgeoning art scene and Art Basel. I’d like to bridge the two cities musically more, bringing Miami DJs up here, and vice versa. Last year, for Miami’s Winter Music Conference, I was able to put together a two-night underground party with a killer lineup that included Arthur Baker, Radio Slave, Rory Philips (who flew in just to DJ our party), and a slew of other big name DJs from LA, London, and NY, as well as too many DJs asking to jump on and play, too, after they had just headlined at Ultra. It was a ridiculous lineup that would have taken most promoters months to coordinate and organize, but I got it done in one afternoon, four days before the date of the party.
Ken & Cook doubles down on its Travertine upgrade with a go at the basement. Formerly XIX, the new downstairs lounge is named Lil Charlie’s in honor of the clam bar that held down this corner from 1926 until aught-seven.
The interior represents the opposite end of the design spectrum from red tablecloths and chianti candleholders. Seventies-era glam rock provides inspiration for an elegant, intimate space. There’s plenty of brass, from the DJ booth and the bar to the shimmering chain ceilings. Copper mirror walls and recessed lighting keep things warm. A stray palm tree or two provide a hint of SoBe, a notion backed by the cocktail menu’s smart twists on mojitos and margaritas. Bites come from chef Richard Diamonte, who also mans the kitchen upstairs. As at Ken & Cook, he’s partnered with Artan Gjoni, of subMercer fame, and a fellow vet of Jean-Georges’ Mercer Kitchen. Wide black leather banquettes are just the thing for kicking back with a smooth pour. The overall effect is a lot more comfy than the last incarnation here, should you feel like sticking around a while.
Health is wealth, says my mother. My recent bouts with flu have left me “anorexic,” says she. Well, I took my much thinner self on a romp this Saturday night and got the feel of things. I stopped by APL, which is changing its name, game, and menu to get back to a good place. These are nice people and it’s the last place I designed with Mr. Dizon. I wish them well. Then I scooted by Highlands Restaurant and Mary Queen of Scots, which celebrated their one year anniversary on Sunday.
I walked for a while with Matt Levine, who told me his new place previewed and will soon be ready for prime-time players. He was heading home, so I popped into Hotel Chantelle to see how the roof was holding up with the weather advancing toward winter. The enclosed roof deck’s foliage was as vibrant as ever and the crowds were still there enjoying the illusion of being outdoors. I’m DJing there Thursday, so I checked out the booth to see what I was getting into.
Then I passed by Noel Ashman’s new joint, where fresh paint was debated. Also the name of the place. I can’t much talk about it except to say the joint is going to be sweet. Noel and his uber secret partners are excited. I walked over to subMercer for my second visit in two days. Gabby Meija’s birthday bash the night before was a costume affair with a Roman flair. It was a great party. I didn’t go downstairs Saturday, opting to hang out at the door with Richard Alvsarez and the chain smokers, which could be the name of his band if the door/art thing doesn’t pan out.
I zoomed over to Snap to see how the basement spot I’m designing has progressed. Although the name is secret here as well, I’ve been hearing it in the street. If one more person mentions it, I’ll consider it public knowledge and tell you. Geez, when I had joints I wanted people to have the name on their lips. This secret sauce confuses me. I peeked into The Darby and was amazed by the vibrancy of the place. The upstairs was winding down its dinner/show with a solid adult crowd and bon vivants were sliding into the downstairs lounge. Everybody was beautiful and well dressed. Matt Issacs and I walked over to this 42 Below Underground Rebel Bingo event on 16th street. It was just ending and the crowd was shuffling off to Buffalo and other such places.
There were nice new cars parked everywhere, and I was told the Cold War Kids had performed. It was time to get real, so I headed to the Dream Downtown. I went to the roof where everyone was having a good time in the low lit room. How dim was it… girls were picking me up. It was that dim or they were. I called ahead to Provocateur to announce myself, as is their practice, and was whisked inside. Lately, the snarkiest amongst my readers and friends have suggested that two years in the place has lost a step. It had been a couple of months, so I wanted to see for myself. Those naysayers are crazy or just mean spirited. The place was off the hook with every table a story with a fairy tale ending. Every time I go to Provocateur I see the most wonderous crowd. I zipped over to Electric Room, where Nur Khan was hosting Crystal Castles after their show. I asked the door heroes about the black carpet that guided you through the steep Hacula garage entrance. “So, if a person is rejected they have to skulk all the way uphill to the street? How embarrassing that must be!” They replied with something eloquent, like “Yep.” Inside it was wonderful. Every thing was clicking. The staff is brilliant, the music fun, and the crowd was having a great time instead of just pretending or looking like they were having one. I love it there. In my spare time I asked Victor Medina-San Andrés about his Thursday night soiree’ over at Hotel Chantelle.
SL) Thursday you are hosting the 5th Annual Masquerade Ball. Tell me how you got into this and the charity it benefits.
VMSA) The first Masquerade Ball was in Paris in 2007, I brought out about 700+ people on a Tuesday night and it was a huge success. Healing the Children Northeast is a small organization which is based in Connecticut and they’re great, their sole purpose is to heal children with burn injuries, cleft palates and other deformities whose families don’t have access to or cannot afford treatment in developing countries. I have decided to help them to raise money with their missions. I know the money goes to the right people since I traveled with them to Thailand right after the Tsunami.
SL) You’re having it at Hotel Chantelle and the invite says black tie. Talk to this why Chantelle and why black tie?
VMSA) Terry Casey was the person who suggested Hotel Chantelle and he told Tim Spuches and Kyle O’Brien about the event and they said “Definitely!”. I love Hotel Chantelle, it has a great vibe, 3 floors an amazing roof deck and it’s just perfect for the event. I call it black tie because I want to give people a second chance to look like a rockstar at their prom. If you think about it, we were all a bit awkward in High School so this way you get to basically be whoever you want behind the mask and have fun at the same time. In addition, this party is dedicated to all women. Yes, women who have amazing beauty and within and can show it with their attire that evening.
SL) Tell me about what you do.
VMSA) I’m a photographer and filmmaker. I have worked in about 24 films and I’m developing a few ideas about directing 2 short films I want to shoot. One of them is about suicide and how painful it is to families and I want to present it to suicide organizations to try and prevent it. I’m still developing the idea but we will see what happens with it. The film industry is very “up in the air” sort of business. At times, you can shoot for months and then is quiet. Also, I became partner and curator of the After-Set Independent Film Screenings and we do screenings with Tribeca Grand Hotel & GrandLife. Tony Fant & Tommy Saleh are amazing when it comes to support with the arts and we allow indy filmmakers to screen and showcase their work for free, we screen weekly and we give a percentage of the money collected at the door to Healing the Children Northeast on a weekly basis and it works. After-Set.com is a social media site for filmmakers only and we do the screenings not only in NYC but Paris and Rome. As a photographer, first it was a hobby which turned into a business, I have been shooting for a long time and I recently joined The Cooper Union to take lessons and it’s funny how the professor asked me: “what are you doing here?” since he found out what I have done as a shooter. Lastly, at the party I’m also showcasing The Masquerade Show – Part Deux, 20 nude images I photographed, I’m selling the prints and giving half the money to the charity as well. This way everyone at the party can feel good about helping children.
SL) Terry Casey is involved with this event… tell me more.
VMSA) Terry loves masquerades as much as I do, he’s not only a good friend but very talented when it comes to music and DJ’s. He has been in the nightlife scene for a long time and he approached me last year about doing the Masquerade Ball and he actually introduced me to GrandLife and Tribeca Grand where I did the Masquerade Ball last year, I know this business can be cut-throat but you do actually build good relationships at the end. We are in the business of entertaining people and make their nights memorable and The Masquerade Ball is going to do just that.
SL)How do people get in?
VMSA) Get there early and $20 gives you access to get in. Masks can be purchased at door for $30. Starts at 7pm until 4am on October 27th at Hotel Chantelle. I didn’t want to sell the tickets online because I want to see a line of people dressed in black tie outside the venue. if you come with no mask, jeans, caps or any wrong attire or shoes, no problem, then your entrance fee is $1,000.
So many things to do, so little time. Work is killing me. Everybody seems to want to open the same day, and I haven’t been able to clone myself since I lived in Chelsea. I’m finishing that Stay space (which will have another name), the very secretive space for Matthew Isaacs (which has a name that I can’t reveal), and that hush-hush, I-can’t-utter-a-word-about-the-name Noel Ashman joint. What’s so important about keeping the names secret? Shouldn’t places about to open be screaming them from mountaintops? That’s the way I rolled, but hey, I’m not complaining. Real men don’t complain; they suck it up and finish right. That sounded dirty.
Tonight, I’m heading to The Darby mostly to say happy birthday to my dear older friend Jenny Oz Leroy. Look her up. She’s the stuff that dreams are made of. The Oz is not a reference to that TV show, but the Wizard of, Dorothy, and her little dog, too. Her granddad produced the movie. Her dad created and operated things like Maxwell’s Plum and then Tavern on the Green and The Russian Tea Room, until he passed and she took over as a wee lass. Then I’m off to subMercer to join Richard, Gabby, Moses and the gang for The Underground Series Record Release Party. This is a celebration for the debut album of the new subMercer music label. DJs Lloydski, Eli Escobar, and Marcos Cabral will be on hand. Everyone is told to wear red because Belvedere Red is supporting. I don’t costume party, so the red of my eyeballs will have to do. I must congratulate Gabby as she has worked hard to pull this thing together. The idea of a hotel having its own label based around the serious music played in its little basement boite is fabulous.
Friday, I will attend the Stuart Black Hanky Panky party, which despite all efforts to establish an identity unto itself, is in Webster Hall‘s upstairs and far-to-the-left Balcony Lounge. I mean, how are you supposed to find it otherwise? The affair that brings me back is the birthday bash of Jordan Lines Middendorf. She is celebrating her quarter-life crisis. I have shoes older than her, but then again, real men don’t worry about age. I will be there, and look forward to hearing DJ Louie XIV, who I didn’t enjoy the first time I heard him. Boy, was I wrong. (Real men also own up to their mistakes.) I have since found him to be a wonderfully creative, unpredictable talent. Unpredictable is a very good thing in a DJ world where every one of those suckers has 37,000 tracks on a laptop that mixes and mashes and organizes. I like the chaos and unpredictability of the “record” era.
Saturday, I will brunching at Lavo. I have always adhered to the “Real men don’t brunch” theory, but I have been cajoled, pigeonholed, and told to be there, so I will be. Rocco and I exchanged pleasantries and reminisced. When I mentioned a Blackbook plug, our conversation hit the gutter as we remembered the little black books of our distant youth. I am invited to another brunch this Sunday, but unfortunately, will be traveling to some beach house out on the North Shore of Long Island. I never do that sort of thing, either. Real men don’t go to beach houses on the North Shore. The Sunday soiree is at Yotel, and is hosted by my pal Patrick McMullan. It’s a madcap affair, with DJ Sammy Jo, who is so often tapped these days as the DJ for this sort of thing. Patrick Duffy is the man behind these men. He’s been busy gathering Darian Darling, Jordan Fox, Michael Warner, Erickson Wilcox, and Roxy Cottontail, to lend their good names and talents. I think I spelled Erickson correctly. For some reason, I used to always put an extra X on it. Well, not so much anymore. This weekly affair is wonderful, and I unfortunately will be sipping wine and eating Concord grapes at a very Laura Ashley-Long Island affair. Real men shouldn’t be subjected to Laura Ashley. If you find yourself looking for a real man, a whole bunch of them will surely show at The Hustla Ball Sunday night. It seems to be at the old Rebel space. DJ Nita invited me, and Sammy Jo will be there as well, and tons of other Djs and very special hosts. If you don’t know what this is about, I strongly advise you get with it.
Hairstylists often do double time as therapists. Some stylists and their clients even become BFFs. Think Jessica Simpson and Ken Paves. Or my stylist, the in-the-know, talented Rogerio Cavalcante of Maria Bonita Salon & Spa in SoHo, who’s revealed some of his fascinating life story to me when I can stop yapping about my own latest drama.
Point of Origin I am from Sao Paulo, Brazil. I have a large family, and 12 of my relatives are hairstylists. My first job was in my uncle’s salon when I was 13. I swept the floor and washed hair. And by the way, he did not pay me well (laughs). My career began when I was 22 and I started working at my cousin’s salon with some of the best stylists in Sao Paulo. I was so eager to learn that I gave up part of my commission to be taught by the top stylist, Marcelo. He taught me to mix colors and highlight techniques. I continued working, and took classes with Vidal Sassoon, Toni & Guy, Nick Arrojo, L’Oreal, Redken, and Wella.
Why do you enjoy doing hair? I just love it—it is the best job in the world! I look forward to seeing the excitement on my client’s face when I finish their hair.
What are your favorite things to do as a stylist? I love cutting and coloring hair, but please don’t tell anyone that I have the most fun when I am cutting. And of course, like all stylists on the planet, I love big changes.
What are you known for as a stylist? I am a “precisionist.” I like to do precise and sharp hair cuts. My haircuts can take up to two hours because I want to make sure that the style works well with the client’s features and it is exactly what they want.
The ambiance in Maria Bonita is really fun and relaxed—why do you think that is? First of all, the clients make the salon very special. We love to see our clients from everywhere in the world. They come in and we help them relax while we make them beautiful with our exclusive Brazilian treatments. Also, the staff at Maria Bonita is always in a good mood— and we have fun making people look their best!
What is Maria Bonita known for? What is requested most often? Maria Bonita is known for being the only full-service Brazilian salon to offer hair, nail, and waxing services, as well as facials and massages. People request Brazilian blow-outs (straightening) and color treatments most often.
What’s the difference between how South Americans approach hairstyle and care vs. Americans? Volume! My beginning here in New York wasn’t easy. In Brazil, girls want pin-straight hair. I was used to taking the volume out of their hair. Here, I have to add it—a lot of it!
What are some hair trends you really hate? That’s hard. I think it’s better to keep my mouth shut here: No Habla Ingles!
What are some Spring hair trends you are loving? Definitely middle-length hair. I like the modern choppy bob, with the ends lighted by a technique we call ombré.
Name 5 beauty and hair products that no girl should be without. 1. Envix 20 in 1 hair mask 2. Pomade/wax for the spring/summer messy look 3. Bianco breeze dry shampoo 4. Redken shiny gloss 5. Moroccanoil light oil treatment
A fairly mediocre NYFW has come to an end, right as spring seems ready to roll around the corner. We skipped and tripped over the remaining patches of frozen tundra that was our post-Christmas New York, to attend all of the fabulous parties. And the only conclusion I drew from the week, is that snow is now the new black. Dinner at El Quijote at the Chelsea hotel was wonderful, and the same as it ever was. I’ve been going to this classic spot, named after Cervante’s classic read, since before you were born.
Of course, I was a resident of the place back in my wonder years and took the elevator instead of a cab. We walked off our meal while heading to a soiree at the new Mondrian hotel. There, the hotel’s nightlife honcho Salvatore Imposimato invited me to a friends and family preview and the walk from the old, landmarked Chelsea — erected in 1883 — to the brand new Mondrian, had us discussing and debating the differences and advantages between new and classic.
The Chelsea has been home and host to notables such as Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan, Sid and Nancy, Iggy Pop, Dee Dee Ramone, Allen Ginsburg, Thomas Wolfe, Virgil Thompson, Charles Bukowski, Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Iggy, Larry Rivers and a zillion others. The room I lived in, I was told, was once home to or at least a notable stop for John Wayne, Isadora Duncan, John Garfield, John Huston and Arthur C. Clark, who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey there. The Chelsea still has a squadron of artists, authors and nightclub superstars living in its’ comfy confines but no longer accepts new long-term residencies. My mighty band went to the top floor and walked down the steps where Natalie Portman dangled from in The Professional. We stopped at every painting and photograph adorning the walls and chatted up Dahlia Weinstein, the daughter of my dear, departed friend Arthur Weinstein. I don’t visit the Chelsea much anymore, as I have found it painful to do so. Two years later, I’m coming to grips with the loss of someone I could always turn to for honest advice while he tried to pick my pocket. His exquisite images hung on walls and as a giant mobile on the 10th floor.
We headed out towards subMercer where we stopped for water and chit-chat with Richard Alverez and Gabby and Moses. It was slamming. subMercer is now a classic, which means that you can pop by anytime and expect quality crowds and music. We then stopped by Goldbar to pick up Jonny “The Lover” Lennon. P.R. player Steve Kasuba greeted us and Johnny took me to meet his new Thursday night DJ, Lino Meoli, who was playing rock and dance classics. Johnny didn’t realize that I have known Lino since he was a brand spankin’ new baby. His mom, Maripol, stylist to the stars–including a young, budding Madonna–is my dear friend. His dad GiGi was a DJ for me for many years and his Wednesday night parties with Moby were one of the better nights I’ve ever programmed. Maripol was on hand to check on her creation who was seriously killing it. Jonny is re-launching Thursdays at the now classic Goldbar. It feels like home and although Goldbar went through some troubled times, it remains much more than a viable nightlife choice.
We skipped and jumped to the new Mondrian and were greeted by Disco, resplendent in suit and tie, at the door of the new hotel’s lounge Mister H. Disco, of course, once worked side-by-side with Mister H operator Armin Amiri at Bungalow 8. He is a welcomed face at this destination stop. The entrance to Mister H. is on Lafayette Avenue, to give it a separate identity, while hotel guests will enter through the 9 Crosby Street lobby.When operators open something new, especially when it’s a little off the beaten path, it is imperative that a familiar face is manning the door. Mistakes made there are hard to rectify as good people rarely return to joints that don’t welcome them. Disco knows everyone and that is a good thing. He is classically trained, having worked with me at the doors of Life and Spa.
After all the hugs and kisses I begged Sal to show me the lobby, which I had seen just a week before. It has been a long week for me but short for those readying the Mondrian, which is only moments away from stardom. The lobby and restaurants on the main floor have improved exponentially in just a few days. It is the “funnest” place ever. Bright shiny patent blues, luscious reds, silver, weird woods, over-the-top chandeliers then the pièce de résistance — don’t be impressed, I get my French from Saturday morning cartoons — is the $250,000 plus, plus, plus table by artist Beth Lipman. The thing weighs a ton–literally–and has tons of beautiful, clear, crystal vases in zillions of shapes and sizes sitting precariously on it, about 8 feet from the bar. As a classically trained nightclub and design veteran I asked, “Don’t you think this stuff is going to break?” I was told that “breaking is an evolution of the art piece.” The Mondrian is going to be amazing.