Mark Kamins’ Greatest Legacy & My Spot On The ‘Vanity Fair’ Downtown 100 List

The celebration of Mark Kamins’ life and times culminates at Santos Party House tonight. Konk will perform for the first time since 1986. Lady Miss Kier of Dee-Lite fame, as well. Coati Mundi, Crystal Ark, and a ton of other performers will crowd both floors of the club that most resembles the old- school type clubs where most of these folks did their thing …in days of yore. A zillion DJs including Jellybean Benitez and Justin Strauss and Mike Pickering and Stretch Armstrong and Ivan Ivan and Jazzy Nice and and and…. will make musical statements about the man we and thousands of others loved. I will MC along with Jim Fouratt, Chi Chi Valenti, Michael Holman, and and and. Proceeds of the event will go to the Mark Kamins Scholarship Award in Electronic Music. Walter Durkacz is the puppeteer pulling all the strings that make this sort of thing happen. Not an easy gig.

This journey will end for all of us maybe tomorrow, maybe in 40 or 50 years. Many have preceded. Some people will say Mark’s legacy can be defined by a great record or his immense body of work. I think Mark Kamins’ legacy is the love that he instilled in the hearts of all the people who will gather tonight to remember and celebrate a life well-lived. 
 
For 20 years, Vanity Fair’s George Wayne has compiled his Downtown 100 List for his annual party of the Most Fabulous+Inspired+Relevant People Who Today Define Downtown. The list has often been controversial, as many who think of themselves in those terms have been snubbed, and many newbies added have gained instantaneous validation and recognition.

The order of the list seems to be irrelevant save for the first name who is always someone delicious. This year that name is Kate Upton. The list includes Solange Knowles and Vito Schnabel and Marc Jacobs and Dita Von Teese and Alan Cumming and Susanne Bartsch and, like, 94 more. I am honored to be listed as well. George is an old and extremely vibrant friend. I will join him on The DL Rooftop, 95 Delancey, tomorrow night at 10pm.

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Reflections on 9/11 and How It Changed NYC Nightlife

The attack on the World Trade Center still seems fresh to me. So many horrible moments from that day haunt me. Among the horrendous losses was a loss of innocence. We have never felt secure in our homes or maybe even our skins since. It’s been a dozen years, a bunch of wars and even the killing of Osama Bin Laden has not brought closure.

The club world was changed forever as well. The way people went out, how they interacted with each other (and others unlike themselves) changed and can be linked directly to the post 9/11 psyche. I have referred to this as "SIN" (safety in numbers).

Prior to 9/11, I was involved with the programming and operations of nightclubs. A successful club was defined by diverse crowds and progressive music. Post-9/11 club crowds became more specialized, more segregated as white people tended to party with white people, blacks with blacks, rich with rich. Like-minded crowds embraced mixed format music laced heavily with familiar sounds, pop music and radio tracks or electronic dance music (EDM)—an escapist trance-like stream of unconsciousness.

For the most part, clubs got smaller to handle crowds with specialized tastes, a clientele that wanted to hang with familiar faces. Bottle service—which had begun in earnest in the late 1990s—became a way of life as groups of people paid for real estate that was theirs until the credit ran out or the closing bell rang.

The top clubs prior to 9/11 were places where fashion trends broke and new ideas were exchanged. Creative people were VIPs. These types were banished to clubs where they would mostly hang with folks like themselves. Super trendy parties had few yuppie types or straight-laced patrons visiting. These parties filled with only the fabulous lost the revenue streams these voyeurs provided.

The fabulous folks gathered on Sundays or Tuesdays or on other off nights in off clubs. Saturday nights at the important clubs no longer featured drag queens prancing on bars or dance platforms. It wasn’t cool anymore. It was too different…foreign for the new mindset. The bottle service era which dominated New York City nightlife for the decade after the attack became a worldwide phenomenon.

Bottle service isn’t about the high-end vodka or Champagne. You can get the same swill anywhere for a lot cheaper than it costs in hot spots. Bottle service is about a booth which few ever sit in. It’s a territory where the credit card holder is king. It insulates that king and his minions from anything unfamiliar. Now we are in a golden age of clubs. The rise of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick, ghettos of love and trendiness that took the creative types across the moat of the East River. The forward thinkers are now there.

A time traveler from the 1980s would look at Manhattan nightlife and scowl. Sure there are small pockets of wonderful but there are mostly lines of bridge-and-tunnel types and far less "pick-and-choose" from snooty doorpersons. The Box, with all its faults, stands firm in fabulousness. The Standard rises above the standard.

Susanne Bartsch is still doing it and doing it well across the decades. Tonight, she will celebrate Fashion Week at the forward-thinking McKittrick Hotel. Natalia Kills will perform. Everyone who is amazing will attend, everyone who attends will be amazing. There are no great clubs—at least as I define them-post-9/11. But there are great parties and events every night somewhere nearby.

Tonight, I’m staying home to reflect. For me it’s still too soon.

 

image: USAF photo by Denise Gould

Fright Night: Gearing Up for Halloween in the City

For the first time in memory, I will not be in New York to celebrate my favorite holiday, Halloween. I will be whisked to Atlantic City for the Duran Duran concert and I couldn’t be more excited about it. As usual my hosts, The Borgata, have gone all out to make things great. The post-concert package includes super-duper uber DJ and former Blackbook cover Mark Ronson in their club MIXX, and sister Samantha Ronson in mur mur. That’s Saturday night. On Sunday, MIXX will be a blast with music by Rev Run and DJ Ruckus. On Monday, I will head to DC for the day to visit friends and family.

I will miss putting on my old fat Elvis costume and walking in the parade. Each year, my Elvis gets a little fatter, a little grayer, and a great deal more disgusting. Last year we added real freeze dried flies pin mounted into the wig, and this year a “walker” was going to be an accessory. I hosted and MC’d the Webster Hall Costume Contest one year (always the official Parade party, and always amazing); another year I sang Elvis tunes on the subway. I gave money to people for their trouble just before announcing that “Elvis has left the subway car.” I love Halloween and I hate missing it.

The thing about Halloween this year is that it’s a week long thing with great events every night. One of the better events that I can’t believe I will actually be on hand for is tonight’s Svedka X Yoni Goldberg Halloween soiree at Good Units. It will be off the hook. Here again that most fabulous duo, Rev Run and DJ Ruckus, will provide the music along with young stud Jesse Marco. There will be a live performance by Pete Wentz’ new band Blackcards and “the best surprise performance of the year.” Along with Damon DeGraff, Yoni is a partner in dGi management, the agents of change and prosperity for these DJ’s and a flock of others. This will be music industry and club royalty, and I will be there. I’ll shoot over to 15 Watts street afterward, where Bill Spector (what a great Haloween name) will be doing his thing with his friends Black Scale and Ssur. DJ’s Vibe and Yamez will do their thing.

Saturday I will unfortunately miss the 20th Annual Jazz Loft Party sponsored by Parmigiani Fleurier at Hudson Studios, 601 west 26th Street. It’s a red carpet affair and Danny Glover, Ronnie Spector, Michael Imperioli, and many more on hand to help the Jazz Foundation of America. Over 50 musicians will be featured at the event and there will be what figures to be a legendary “Battle of the Sax’s.” There will be a tribute to Amy Winehouse with Ronnie Spector and Lou Reed, Randy Weston, Tom Harrell Quintet, Ron Carter, and Dr. Lonnie Smith featuring Donald Harrison. Herlin Riley and the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band will be participating. For more info here.

On Halloween night, Roxy Summers, or Cottontail, as she is sometimes known, along with Ruddyrock will turn out Santos’ Party House with a film parody party called Loonies. She is pushing me on T Mills, which she thinks is the next big thing. Also featured will be Marz Lovejoy, Lil Friday Hoe, and Ducky, along with DJ sets by Fresh Direct, Haruka Salt 999, Mista Ian Jay, Brooklyn Dawn, and Musa Alves. It makes me think I should get me one of those clever DJ names. Amanda suggested Mr. Depends.

The holiday wouldn’t be correct if Susanne Bartsch didn’t throw a big bash. Her regular Tuesday night gig has been canceled for this one week so that she can do Halloween right on Monday. This ON TOP event will of course take place at Top of the Standard. It’s called Bloody Mary Bordello and everyone is involved: Amanda Lapore, Desi Monster, Kayvon Zand, Jeremy Kost, Jordon Fox, and Theodora, to name a few. Johnny Dynell, Will Automatic, Michael Magnon, and Alex from Tokyo will force you to dance. Well, if you don’t know them you just don’t know, and maybe now’s the time to get yourself educated. This is always the most colorful and fun Halloween event, and if you go you will thank me….but you have to really bring it. This is a stylish, fabulous gala for the off-center, future-perfect fashion flock. The costumes have been worked on for months.

I DJ’d last night, and here is my top ten Halloween play list:

1) Spooky: Lydia Lunch 2) Heads Will Roll: Yeah Yeah Yeahs 3) A Pain I’m Used To: Depeche Mode 4) No Tears (for the creatures of the night): Tuxedo Moon 5) Tear You Apart: She Wants Revenge 6) Werewolf of London: Warren Zevon 7) Bela Lugosi Is Dead: Bauhaus 8) Bela Lugosi is Dead : Nouvelle Vague 9) My Girlfriends Dead : The Vandals 10) I Put a Spell On You: Screaming Jay Hawkins

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5 Promoters Who Are Reinventing New York Nightlife

Promoters are a dime a dozen in this city. But then there are people who look at events the way a painter takes to a blank canvas. For them, an event is a means of expression of a musical, theatrical, and crowd-building kind, one where all the elements including performance, space, and guests, require a curator’s touch. Such is the case with the following individuals. We’re reluctant to call them show promoters, because they’re people who produce unique events that are extensions of their lifestyles. Some produce regular events that demonstrate their interest in fashion, music, or visual art, while others spend the better part of six months researching abandoned warehouses and galleries for the perfect space to house a great new musical act. The one thing they all have in common is that they’re worth checking out.

image Susanne Bartsch For anyone who was around during the club-kid heyday of the ‘90s, Susanne Bartsch’s all-night soirees take you back to that most decadent of decades. Bartsch made her debut on the New York scene with an avant-garde clothing store in Soho in the early eighties, and became a promoter of parties for the city’s most fashion-forward set. At her parties, you were, and are, best off wearing a vintage corset, face paint, a headpiece, a cat suit, anything by ThierryMugler, Alexander McQueen, or Vivienne Westwood, or barely anything at all. At her wedding to gym owner David Barton, at which RuPaul was the best man, Bartsch wore a flesh-colored leather bodysuit with built-in breasts. Bartsch began throwing her exclusive parties in the ‘80s at infamous clubs like Bentley’s, Savage, and Copacabana. And getting an invite wasn’t necessarily easy. If you dressed creatively enough at a club, you might be selected and personally invited to Bartsch’s next event by a member of her ground troops. And while Bartsch disappeared for a while during the nineties, as nightlife had its crack-up and RuPaul went on to become a spokesperson for M.A.C., Bartsch is back at the pinnacle of the circus-set. Watch this video of her New Year’s Eve Party in Miami Beach to get an idea. Since her come-back, the Swiss-born Bartsch has been steadily re-energizing nightlife with events like her weekly parties Vandam at Greenhouse, with Kenny Kenny and Ladyfag, and Bloody Mary at the Hudson Hotel, as well as her one-off events. Now, Bartsch’s carnival of freaks continues at Le Bain, at the Standard Hotel on Tuesday nights with “On Top” making us forget she ever went missing.

image Ladyfag The Susanne Bartsch for the DIY art set, who like to frolic in darker, more lugubrious settings, Ladyfag was first spotted by legendary nightlife promoter Kenny Kenny, while crawling across the floor of a nightclub in a leopard-print catsuit.She was asked to come to a party thrown by Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny at Happy Valley, where she danced in the go-go cage and soon became a fixture on the nightlife scene. She is recognizable by her Freida Khalo eyebrows, her unshaved armpits, and her original outfits, which have inspired designers like Ricardo Tisci of Givenchy, and have supposedly been cribbed by Nicola Formichetti for Lady Gaga. Before moving to New York, Ladyfag ran a vintage store in Toronto. And though “Lady” has hosted events with Susanne Bartsch and has clearly taken cues from her, Bartsch is all about the surreal ball aesthetic, while Lady is totally DIY, booking raw, burgeoning talent, and garnering the attention of the fashion’s young, hip element. “The fashion world element is quite unique and never cheesy,” said one show promoter about Lady. “All of her promo is via Facebook and surprisingly effective.” If you’re looking for that anything goes environment, try Ladyfag’s popular Clubber Down Disco, in the basement of the Chelsea Hotel on Fridays, or her latest event installment, WAHWEE, on Saturdays at Drom.

image Seva Granik While some show promoters exhibit their event work on a weekly basis, there are others like Seva Granik who choose to nurture their eccentric vision over months, and exercise it only occasionally, with a show at a space you’ve probably never been to before. The purveyor of the secret DIY show, Granik, under the aegis of his company ABRACADABRA, which until recently he ran with Rebecca Smeyne, has played host to secret shows for Sleigh Bells on the eve of the release of their debut album, and one for Michigan-based band Salem in a Chinatown gallery that could barely fit forty people. (Liv Tyler and Terence Koh got in though.) Granik also booked shows for MoMA PS1’s Warm Up series last summer. For ABRACADABRA’s last event, Granik turned an empty space next to a parking lot on the Bowery into an “enchanted forest,” an event underwritten by Hendrick’s Gin that featured St. Vincent and Julianna Barwick. On June 17, Granik brought together some original talent from the art and music world’s for an event at Sugarhill Disco, a Bed-Stuy venue “frozen in another era.” The showcase performance was The Crystal Ark, DFA recording artist Gavin Russom’s 9-piece musical ensemble in collaboration with multimedia artist Viva Ruiz. And as with all ABRACADABRA shows,it featured designed lighting and visual effects, this time by artists Bec Stupac (Deitch Projects, Whitney Biennial) and Johnny Woods of Honeygun Labs, and custom sound by Jim Toth (the sound designer for MoMA).

image Todd Pendu One of New York’s hardest working DIY promoters is Todd Brooks, aka Todd Pendu, who spearheaded the dark music trend of 2010. Pendu is often looked to by other promoters for discovering the “next big thing.” He introduced the New York music scene to the relatively unknown band Salem in early 2010 via his weekly party Pendu Disco. He recently signed rising musician Chelsea Wolfe to his label, Pendu Sound, and has also recorded the debut album of former pornstar Sasha Grey. Artist Richard Phillips recently joined Pendu Sound’s brightest acts in a short film for the Venice BIenniale, starring Sasha Grey with a soundtrack by Chelsea Wolfe. He has presented an art exhibit by underground punk film legend Nick Zedd, has conducted a black mass at the Convent of St. Cecilia, and has been photographed by Andres Serrano and David Sims. On June 24, you can experience Pendu Disco, featuring Jokers of the Scene and Follower. But if you want to experience something a little more esoteric, check out Licker License on July 2, a touring one-night event with all-female video and performance artists, featuring video by the legendary Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, and performance by No Bra, an electronic pop band based in England who join industrial grooves with macabre Germanic folk.

image Photo by Piotr Redlinski for the New York Times

Kenny Scharf Psychedelic painter Kenny Scharf threw his first dance party in 1981, in the closet of an apartment he lived in with Keith Haring. He took a black light to some trash he found there and created an environment he named the Cosmic Closet. He then threw the party at PS1, and changed its name to the Cosmic Cavern. Later, it moved to the Whitney Museum. At that time, Scharf was known for walking along Broadway with a silver-painted vacuum cleaner. Though Scharf took a break from New York for about twenty years, moving between Miami and Los Angeles, his Cosmic Cavern returned to New York in 2009, combining the DIY vibe of his closet party with the grandness of a museum installation. The Cosmic Cavern A Go-Go is housed in the basement of a Bushwick warehouse where he lives and works. Later this month, step into the Scharf dimension, a magical grotto of junk painted in day-glo, suspended from the ceiling, and affixed to walls through which the oddballs of the world can saunter. Scharf awaits you at the door, ready to paint your face and grant you entry to his dreamscape. Dress for blacklight.

Photograph of Seva Granik by Matthew Salacuse

Miuccia Prada Goes Gay

After citing the inspiration for her men’s fall 2009 collection as “survival” and producing a walking army of leather and metal hardware, Miuccia Prada has turned to what is most likely the most legitimate fanbase of her more eccentric collection pieces: none other than the New York gays. Prada was spotted parading around uberhip eco-club Greenhouse this past Sunday during club promoter Susanne Bartsch’s biggest gay party of the week.

Catching other fashionables like Richie Rich or one of the Blonds twirling their wigs to 90s remixes wouldn’t turn much of a head, but Miuccia Prada knits a different tale. Known for attracting club kids channeling more Michael Alig (read: tranny makeup, androgyny and body glitter galore) than Chelsea proper, Sunday night’s crowd must have provided Prada with all the inspiration she needed, as it’s arguably the city’s biggest costume party. As we slip on our spiked loafers, we can’t help but wonder if the end result of Prada’s venture into the land of muscle and honey will yield a runway presentation for men or women. One can only hope the woman who can tie the effeminate with greasy masculinity in a neat bow will deliver equally to both racks.