Fashion Week Brings Alacran Mezcal, a Willyburg band, and the Cocktail Bodega

Share Button

With every Tom, Dick, and Harry meeting up with every Betty, Veronica, and Sally to attend Fashion Week events in every club, bar, lounge, restaurant, or alley – the city is in a frenzy. Cabs are impossible to get, and fashion victims seeking out lattes have overrun my favorite coffee shops. I tried watching the Democratic convention for escapist purposes, as I decided long ago who I was voting for. My friend DJ Cassidy is DJing it. Now that’s a big gig. I saw him just a minute ago at Noah Tepperberg’s birthday bash and noticed that somehow his head can still fit into his trademark, seasonal boater (that’s a hat). The Democratic convention is some gig. I can’t complain, as my agency 4AM has me all over the place spewing out my brand of rock and roll. Tomorrow I will DJ at Empire Hotel Rooftop and next week at door-God/actor Wass Steven’s birthday at Avenue, and lots more. It’s so much fun.

They had me out at The Montauk Beach House for the Labor Day Weekend Monday pool party. I played classic surf music and end-of-summer fare while my friends sunbathed by the glorious pool. TMBH is wonderful. We stayed over and the rooms were luscious. I want back.

I attended the super hush-hush private performance by Gary Clark Jr. at The Electric Room. Nur Khan always delivers superb surprises for Fashion Week. Gary is a big deal and Nur was gushing all about him. I love The Electric Room and will attend again real soon for the super, hush-hush performance by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club which is coming up but I can’t tell you about. The Electric Room holds a couple hundred people, and seeing this kind of talent in such an intimate setting is amazing.

Obligations took me far away from the opening of Lil Charlie’s, the sweet spot underneath Ken & Cook. Artan and Karim gave me the $2-dollar tour last week and I was so impressed. They made the place more comfortable than its Travertine incarnation. It looks great and seems to be larger somehow than before. Little Charlie’s Clam Bar was for years the home of the locals of Little Italy. The gentrified neighborhood has lost its charms and has been replaced with high-end boutiques, salons, and restaurants. The use of the name in this context raised my eyebrow, but there isn’t anybody around anymore to understand why. So be it. I think the place is going to be a big hit and I’m going back next week.

I also missed the opening/friends and family of Cocktail Bodega on the corner of Stanton and Chrystie. This opening needs a lot of ink and I’m running out of room today, so I will revisit. I’ll just say it adds considerable light and charm to what was a very dark corner. That little area is becoming hot with The Box sill going strong, and Bantam and other venues developing their brands; I think we all will be spending more time nearby.

I will be at the Alacran Mezcal launch party at the Hotel Americano tonight. Alacran is all over Fashion Week and behind the events at The Out. In a very short time, Arty Dozortov and his team has established the Alacran brand. As avid readers know, I don’t drink…well, I do drink about twice a year, whenever I have sex, and nowadays I’ve forsaken the jamo for Alacran. It’s delicious.

Sunday I will check out Chris Anthony’s shindig at The Grand Victory. Chris was prominent in the nightlife world before he grew up. He has formed a small record label, Jump Ramp Records, and his first project is The Boogie Rock Boy’s, a Willyburg rock/blues/funk act. He has just wrapped their debut LP, a three-track album coming out in vinyl and digital, and this Sunday, in  live audio. The album release will be celebrated along with a couple of other noted local sounds…Delano Groove, Jawaad and Kiva, and DJ Prince Polo.  There’s going to be a BBQ and I’m going to be there. 

Why DJ Michael T. Takes No Requests

Share Button

After a couple of decades in the club biz, labels make way for legendary status. I am often described as “a legend” when someone is introducing me to someone. I always find it to be embarrassing and I always check my pulse to see if I’m still kicking. For some reason I find it a bit insulting. It discounts my "now" and concentrates or wallows in my past. Michael T. is still kicking it, so much so that this Sunday, he’s launching his second New Romantic Ball at Le Poisson Rouge. He is one of my favorite DJs. Just don’t ask him to play your favorite track.

For those who just stepped off the boat, tell us who you are… and do get into “Motherfucker” and that old shit.
I’m Michael T., performer/DJ and producer of "rock n roll" events/parties for over 20 years. My parties attract both gay and straight. The ones that are truly mixed are always the best parties. I’ve been going to clubs regularly since 1985. I started working in them on and off from ‘86 on. I’ve worked in clubs consistently since 1989.

The first party I ever "produced" was called "New York Nights." It was held at The Pyramid Club on Avenue A…when it was still dangerous.
It was on a Monday and it ran for two years. [‘91-‘93] It was an "alternative" party, both musically and people-wise.

After that, I had a band called Killer Lipstick [‘93-‘95]. Before/during and after this period I did what a lot of people do in clubs to secure a gig and survive, be it door/guest list, go-go dancer, performer etc. Eventually, this lead to DJing, which seemed to be one of the more "stable" of jobs as far as clubland goes.

Anyway, my first "real" DJ gig was at the now-shuttered The Tunnel at a party called "Kurfew" in the Kenny Scharf room aka “the fuzzy room.”
This was 1998-99. At this time, I also had a monthly party “Heroes” at a club called Mother called "Heroes.” I was also the emcee and DJ at the now-closed S&M restaurant "La Maison De Sade.”

Halloween Night, 1998: While DJing at “Kurfew,”-I took ecstasy for the first time. It was a mind-blowing experience.
The second time I took it: Jan 18th on my birthday [again, I was DJing] I had an "epiphany" of sorts. I thought how amazing it would be if I somehow managed to get the right group of creative people together in order to create the ultimate, outrageous "Rock N Roll Fantasy" party. Thus, the seed to "Motherfucker" was planted that evening.

Fast forward a year and a half later and Motherfucker was born at Mother. Chi Chi Valenti gave us the name, who in turn was given the name
by Clark Render. Apparently, Clark would often ask her why they [Johnny and Chi Chi] never did a party called "Motherfucker" at Mother.
Needless to say, we all thought it was a great name.

At any rate, Motherfucker grew and grew and grew and it became the biggest roving rock n roll party in NYC. We sold out the Roxy, Limelight, Spirit, Eugene, Rebel [with three to four rooms] for the next seven years.

Two moments that I will cherish forever was when I booked Willie Ninja & The House of Ninja and The Cramps [not on the same bill].
The other "infamous" party I did was "Rated X/The Panty Party" with Theo Kogan, singer of The Lunachicks.” It ran for six years, and every week we had naked people on stage competing in our 3am "Hot Body Contest" to win a whopping $100.

This is your second New Romantic Ball. In fact, it is called Romantic Ball II. What’s the difference between a ball and a party? What can people expect at the Ball and what is expected from them besides just showing up with a $20 bill?
Well, they’ll walk into a real club with proper lights, sound, a great dance floor, and CLEAN bathrooms!!
They’ll also see four bands, two burlesque shows, and hear three DJs, and hangout with a bunch of colorful hosts.

What’s the difference between a ball and a party? A ball usually pertains to an event that is held once or twice a year; they’re special events and, therefore, you make that distinction. Besides, everyone these days throws a “party.”

That stated, the main attractions of the night are the tribute shows we put on.They’re done with a full, six to seven-piece band. That’s just my band.
My partner, Ben Ickies, has a 20-piece orchestra. Where can one go today and see a rock show with a 20-piece orchestra?!?

All of our shows are rehearsed. Plus, we always have guest singers. However, let me state that we have REAL performers on stage. This is NOT a glorified "scaryoke" night. The artist[s] or genre we pay homage to is done with the utmost respect. We really love that artist or time period in music that’s being reinterpreted for the evening. We don’t do these shows to be "ironic.”

If you’re wondering what bands fall under "new romantic,” they’re all bands from the U.K. that flourished in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, roughly ‘79-‘82. Just about all these bands were heavily inspired by Bowie or Roxy Music.
ie;Duran Duran, ABC, Visage, Gary Numan, Adam Ant, etc.

In short, you get to see a great show for your $20.

Le Poisson Rouge is a very artsy, creative friendly environment. Talk about the joint.
Well, it’s one of the last "legit" clubs in NYC. It has an incredible stage, excellent sound/lights a greenroom, a big DANCE FLOOR! Plus, it has a very professional and courteous staff.

It’s such a delight throwing parties or balls there. It’s a venue that really helps you achieve your artistic vision and isn’t just concerned with the bottom-line – what a rarity in this day and age. In all my years working in various clubs, I don’t think I’ve ever met a more pro-active staff…from busboy all the way to the GM.

You and I have DJd over the centuries. You are adamant about not taking requests. Explain that and your take on your job as a DJ.
I don’t take requests for the most part because either A) people have shitty taste in music; B) They’re rude; and also C) I’m not a juke-box.

The main reason, however, is very simple: I know what I’m doing. I’ve been DJing since 1998. Whatever venue I’m working at has hired me for that reason. I just find it outrageous that people feel it’s their "right" to make requests and get "offended" if you don’t comply.

Here are just a few lovely examples of the crap you hear from people: "I like what you’re playing…but.” Or, if I was DJing, I’d play this next" etc.
Can you imagine, if I walked into an office and told someone I’ve never met that they should do their job "like so"!?!! I’m sorry, I simply don’t stand for any of that nonsense. If you don’t like what I play, fine, go somewhere else. You won’t be missed. Believe me.

What is your overview of nightlife in the terrible 2010s?
It’s tragic. I don’t really need to say much…you pretty much answered your own question. The state of nightlife is at an all-time low.

—————————————-

I disagree with Michael and find fun everywhere…but then again, I take requests. Something on my hmmmm list is Yiddish Cabaret going on at The Box tonight at 10pm. It’s somehow a gig anticipating the opening of Soho’s new kosher restaurant Jezebel. You can buy tickets here. I have been told to look out for a Ms. Jonas’ rendition of "If I Were a Rich Man." Oy vey, I’m leaving Brooklyn…for this?

Bottoms Up to Travis Bass’s Latest Nightlife Collaborations

Share Button

As I told you earlier in the week, there is a lot going on as clubroom continues to play its never-ending game of musical chairs. Thank goodness I was left standing with the silly music playing sans chair many years ago and can quietly watch from the sidelines. Travis Bass, who had such a big hit with Madam Wong’s and Red Egg and those Swedish dinners on Delancey, has taken the revamped Tribeca Grand and made a go of it with a  pop-up bar. He insists it’s not really the TriBeCa Grand because it has its own entrance, but it still is so shhhh, Travis, I mean what’s the point. He also is calling it a pop-up because, like many things in nightlife, the parties come with an expiration date. That date is still undetermined but a guess would put it in mid-November.

At that time, the EMM Group’s much anticipated 199 Bowery space will open. I drive by it almost every day and just love the Monopolgy motif on the construction barrier. EMM’s foray into downtown fabulous includes ex-Collective Hardware maniac Stuart Braunstein and, I hear, ex-White Noise and ex-Mansion man Luke Brian Sosnowski. Luke has a downtown sensibility but also has the ability to sell bottles. This is promising to be a bit of what The Box offered, without the shock and awe. They are looking for talented performance-types, and my guess is that this space will be a hybrid of what EMM does and what these and other players do. It may just scratch that all-things-to-all-people itch that nightlife hasn’t returned to in a bit. The developing cabaret, performance club on Bowery seems highly exportable to cities like Vegas and AC. This is a winner.

Here, Travis Bass gave me all the details about the yet-to-open Bowery spot, pop-up bar, his role in it all, and his greatest weakness.

You launched Tribeca Grand at the close of Fashion Week. Was that a strategy?
We didn’t want to launch the “Bottoms Up” pop-up bar on a high during Fashion Week and then have half our crowd leave for Europe for three weeks, taking us down to a lower note. So we launched it when they were gone and it did amazing! Now everyone is talking and hearing about the pop-up party known as “Bottoms Up.” Now that everyone is back from Paris Fashion Week, we are gonna take it to a higher note!

What goes on here? Who comes? How has this place reinvented itself?
What goes on down there is magical. People have really been able to lose themselves and dance their asses off! The crowd is much of the same loyal fashion/art downtown crowd that we have picked up along the way since Red Egg and Madame Wong’s, with some new faces mixed in that are really into this new concept of dancing a bit and then hiding.

First off… Bottoms Up is not in the Tribeca Grand Hotel, but a world onto itself. You can’t enter through the hotel. We took the space into the basement and turned it upside down and made it the place you come to party and dance all night! Before that, it was a great space to see big bands and go to early parties. We built it out as a place you can go crazy on the dance floor or vanish into all the hidden spaces. It’s a place where you can escape from everything that is happening on the streets above you. We were going to call it “Pop-Up Vegas” as it feels like a casino, in the fact that time there has no meaning.

199 Bowery opens, and you leave. What can you tell me about EMM Group’s latest adventure and your role in it all?
The space on Bowery is going to be amazing. It will be a culmination of everything that my team and I have been doing for the past two years. The space will be like nothing you have seen before and, using the abilities of EMM, we will be able to curate experiences that have never been possible before in our scene.

Are you a promoter? A curator? A director? All of the above? More?
Dictator or Director?? Ha!

I think the best way to describe me would be all of the above, except a promoter. I put together the team and then work with my team to curate the room. I like to come into a space that no one else wants or even thinks about, move a few things around and punk it out for a few bucks so we make the money back the first weekend. 

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
My #1 strength is my ability to surround myself with an amazing team that truly loves each other and will go to battle for each other — Eamon Kelly (Best Friend/Door), Vance Brooking (Best Friend/sweetest human alive), May Kwok (Best friend/DJ) — all three have been with me since Madame Wong’s and Red Egg. Our bartenders Dave Mason and the two George’s have also been with me since Wong’s as well

My weakness is trying to find a balance in life while being in the nightlife industry. Being a healthy person that does clubs is a contradiction of terms. I am in love with the punk rock lifestyle and attitude of doing clubs, and it really hurts the day after.  Like many people that do clubs, we all need to find a balance between the late nights and having a normal life.
 

Talking About Drag, Blunderland, and Banzai with Eric Schmalenberger

Share Button

Last month, I gushed to everyone I met about the Blunderland party, held in an underground space in the netherlands of Brooklyn. It was, for lack of a better word, FIERCE. The crowd was amazing. One of the DJs was moi. I asked event producer Eric Schmalenberger what I should play and was told, "It’s Brooklyn; play what you want". I did and had so much fun. The talent on stage was brilliant. Anytime I hear the laments over the loss of the "good ol’ days" I want to shake them and stir them. Clubland is vibrant and creative and all that but it is rarely found in the high-rent districts of Manhattan where creativity is rarely rewarded. That was the thing about The Box: although at times it seems forced – shock and awe for the sake of it – at least they don’t offer up the same ol’, same ol’. They make loot by charging the swells, and to this day are crowded with a great crowd… if you pick your time slot. Age takes its toll on creative people and creative clubs, but they still can give it a go, as can I. Last Saturday, when many clubs were slow for Mother’s Day, they were packed.

Eric Schmalenberger is my hero. He produces and MCs the Blunderland soirée and I can’t wait for his next shindig. I caught up with the maniac maestro and asked him a few questions.

WTF are you?
I ask myself that every day. The simple answer would be that I am primarily a performer, and I am a curator and producer when I feel that I have a really good idea. I sometimes feel like a professional collaborator. I’m really into sitting down with folks whose ideas turn me on and figuring out how we can make something new and exciting happen. I have been doing large-scale art and performance events for the past four years, and that has become a big part of what I do and who I collaborate with.

These parties are thematic. Tell me about party theory. How do you throw a good event?
I think something that is important to me when trying to throw a good event is giving the crowd something they haven’t seen before. There is so much of the same out there and I like a challenge. I really like the idea that nightlife can get an emotional response from its audience, on many levels. Anyone with a sound system and access to booze can throw an event. To go the extra step and keep the audience always wanting more – now that is a good trick. Giving a crowd a full evening is always important to what I do. I like having several sets of performance involving burlesque, circus arts, performance art, comedy, and live music with damn good DJs to keep the energy up between the sets over the course of the evening. I also have recently started serving food at some of my events, which is an extra bonus. The way that all these different parts of the evening come together is what really makes the night. Also, never resting on your laurels: keep surprising people and they will keep coming back, wondering what you will show them next.

I DJd at your last event and had a blast. Tell me about that one and the next one.
The event that you DJd at was Blunderland, which is a very performance-heavy celebration with a certain amount of elegant chaos. Some of the first parties that I went to as a very small Eric were Jackie 60 and Squeezebox. They were these incredible nights that blew my brain in just the right way. For this Blunderland, I was incredibly blessed and honored to have Chi Chi Valenti open the performances with a reading of her poem, “Take Back The Night,” which truly celebrates the New York that I want to be a part of.  Over the course of the evening, the crowd got to enjoy dadaist burlesque, comedic drag, two incredible dance companies, a couple with a thing for bullwhips, a live set from an incredible funk band, and a singing wolfman who never fails to break the audiences hearts.

Curatorially, I am sort of all over the map, but I really like putting together the sort of show that I personally would most like to see and, more importantly, most like to share with others. Next up on the docket is Banzai!!!! which is a project with my collaborator, Muffinhead, that has been going on for just over three years. Banzai is a chance for Muffin and I to present the work of over 50 artists of all different media. This time up we will have a live show with Joey Arias, The Pixie Harlots, Soigne Deluxe, Stormy Leather, Vangaline, The Rachel Klein Ensemble, and Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey. We will also be presenting the work of over 30 visual and multimedia artists. That show is gonna be on May 26th at 9PM at the Red Lotus Room (893 Bergen Street). It is a fun one.

The Red Lotus space is insane and often used for a bunch of different events and purposes. Tell me about it.
The Red Lotus Room is one of my favorite spaces to work in New York. For Blunderland, I keep it very much in its natural state; dark, candlelit, filled with mirrors and antiques. t is the kind of space that New Yorkers dream about – unexpected, incredibly special, and one of a kind. For Banzai though, Muffinhead and I transform portions of the space into a beautiful gallery filled with art, while having other areas of the space be very different and like they usually are. It is nice to be able to work in a space that is so versatile.

What will you be when you grow up? … okay,  if they make you.
HA! Planning too far ahead usually ends up being a disappointment. For right now, I just would like to keep on being busy working on projects that inspire me. Who knows what will inspire me next? I like a lot of different things.

What else are you working on?
Oh boy… I am in the middle of shooting a pilot for a new sitcom called Black Box – that has been a pretty incredible adventure. I’m also in a show called Symphony of Shadows with Rachel Klein Productions that will be opening at Dixon Place on June 7th.

Can you talk about your bad drag?… Talk about Miriam.
Miriam is my awful female alter ego that myself and my friend Michael Newman created back when we were in college. She MCs, does spoken word, and sometimes insults people at the door at The House Of Yes (but in a very charming way of course). She wears the most garish clothes possible, and doesn’t shave her face, and is incredibly crude. She is a parody of drag but in a very fun-loving drunk older chick you would like to hang out with but very well might shiv you with a blunt object- kind of way. I adore her.

Will Back in the Day Come Back?

Share Button

The other night at the Latex Ball, I had a eureka moment. It occurred to me that I was witnessing what nightlife was like back in the day; when large, mixed crowds of creative people were all getting along and enjoying each other’s company in a huge room. Out of necessity and circumstance, bottle service drove the creative types from the game. The rising costs – which include rent, insurance, DJ fees, litigation, and too many etceteras – drove the clubs that didn’t embrace the table service crowd to Brooklyn or oblivion…which isn’t another name for Jersey, Queens, or Staten Island, but could be.

Yesterday I wrote:

"Creativity on a grand scale will return to nightlife as a business decision. Creativity is hard to extinguish. It has thrived on the street and in the subways, cave walls, in prison, and in societies that have repressed it. It has reared itself at advanced ages. It has given those seemingly impaired a way to the light. It has channeled the beasts and the fears within us and brought them to survivable places. Creativity will be embraced by the bean counters because it will be useful to separate their bean machine from the others."

Many clubs seed their rooms with dressy or flamboyant people to add to the adventure. "Image" promoters are asked to bring in and babysit young model types, because that is the image that has traditionally sold bottles. Many joints have "hipster nights," where the music isn’t the same ol’, same ol’ stuff heard around the scene. These nights are usually reserved for off-nights and generate enough money to be worth opening. The theory is that it breaks up the week and, every so often, a traveling wale (big spender) wanders in and it’s a score. These nights are the more creative (as I define it) and, in a sense, acknowledge that when the crowds are smaller on early weeknights, the clubs become more creative in order to set them apart from their competition. They change their own game to emphasize that their bean machine is cooler than the next one. New music and even fashion aren’t breaking out of clubs.Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny are throwing a couple of weeklys that don’t attract the fashion-forward set, and the music is also a step ahead. Places like Home Sweet Home are pushing the envelope with great DJs and fun programming. The Box format of shock and awe still brings in a great crowd, long after the novelty has worn off. The very fact that it offers “different” delivers crowds who are bored with the top 40 sounds and condo-clone set. That club does attract the debutantes and the frat boys and black card babies who, like moths, are attracted to its flame – but its smart door monitoring understands how much of that can be let in without scaring away the core crowd. On a small scale it proves that those not starving in Bushwick can embrace a creative format, and the different mindsets can exist in the same club at the same time. The era of a large club where all types gather has passed, but is the time right again for a real monster of music and fun and new ideas?

Nearly every club for a decade or more has hitched to the "great service" wagon. The art of bottle service has been refined into a science, but the concept is wearing thin. The clueless are still all in it but the sharp set are less interested in it as an idea of fun. It just comes with the table. I can’t help but believe those spending the bucks want anything more than the same, and there is little doubt that they will demand more. They are just following their traditional leaders: the good ol’ boy owners who service them as they flit around from Vegas to AC to The Hamptons and back.

One of these smart owners will turn to creative types to set them apart. Will it be drag queens dancing on the bar?…I think not. At least not in the beginning. But nights need to be curated to keep people in their seats and spending. After all, a bottle of Goose is the same bottle of Goose at the A-list club as it is in the dive bar. Getting dollars out of the customer will, as the industry continues to expand, become harder. Every nook, every restaurant or cranny, every roof, every bar salivates over the revenue stream bottle business brings. Entertainment to attract the crowds may not be as out there as what The Box has served, but it may separate the men from the boys. Vegas slams you with the big DJ, the beautiful go-go girls, and the staged entertainment. New York rarely offers anything more than a forced smile from a waitron and a sparkler. It will happen. Managing partners will mix things up or be left behind. Eventually, a large club will be necessary. It will start with a revamping of mid-sized venues and talent bookings. Electronic dance music venues will route acts from Vegas into their NYC locations and maintain a strict door policy. Think Lavo, but on a grander scale. As soon as spectacle is embraced, the need for a larger venue will become apparent. It may not be easy or even possible for a new large venue to open in Manhattan. The existing joints that live on the "size matters" concept are set in their ways and successful at what they do. Webster Hall may not be all things to all people, but they continue to offer brilliant music programming and serve thousands of people who enjoy their version of a big club experience. Their detractors must realize that they are music-based, they do make tons of money (one of the primary reasons to be in the business), and they have been around since before your parent’s were born.

Pacha serves those who want their brand of music and crowd. District 36 isn’t often on my radar, but it does offer a simple, classic, house-head purity. All of these joints are not part of the club social set scene. They don’t care much about that. Off-parties are wonderful fantastic experiences, but the jet-setters, the bon vivants, don’t consider them since they are putting on their shoes to go out. The cops and their puppeteers probably wouldn’t allow a new mega club in Manhattan, but Manhattan is not everything anymore. The high-rises of the Brooklyn waterfront, the $28 entrees at new nearby restaurants, the baby strollers on Bedford Ave., tell me that a ginormous joint could thrive in an old warehouse in Greenpoint or near there.

I have been hearing rumors and have sat in on a few meetings – I believe that this will happen. The next big thing most likely will be born outside of Manhattan and could redefine the scene to what it once was.

Hawaiian Warrior Raven O on Turning 50

Share Button

Raven O, best known for his gig as the main MC and choreographer at The Box, is turning 50. I have shoes that are 50 years old so I understand the magnitude of the day and all that it takes to get there. Raven O is marvelous. He is talented and unpredictable and well…delicious. He can turn on a dime from the sweet and innocent imp to the monster we keep bottled up inside. I have caught his act a zillion times on stage or on a street corner or a coffee shop. He is always on. He is the consummate downtown performance artist. You can catch him at The Box, 5 nights a week, Tuesday through Saturday. Some say The Box isn’t what it used to be… what is?…except Raven. I like The Box better now. It’s worn-in and true, like an old leather jacket. It has less to prove and therefore seems more natural, less forced, and not necessarily for the slumming swells that played there way too much for my satisfaction years ago. It’s fun now, especially late at night when it gets real sexy. The Box has always been sexy and I lay a lot of that at Raven’s door. I caught up with the maestro and talked up about the past, present, and future, which includes a celebration at the Lounge at Elmo, 156 7th Avenue between 19th and 20th Street this coming Sunday, June 10th. I think you got to know him but he makes everyone feel like that, doesn’t he?

Turning 50 is a good time to reflect back and to look forward with purpose…it’s like standing on some big hill. Tell me what you see looking back and forward, spiritually, not a list of your accomplishments and goals.
My parents raised me to be fearless, never a follower, and always reminded me to be myself and be honest, above all things. I think that being fearless…being the "Hawaiian Warrior" in me…got me through incredibly tough times in my past which included homelessness, drug addiction, and constant rejection from the mainstream-show-business types. I also feel fearless on stage which has helped my career. Looking forward, I believe that all religion is bullshit and I don’t think about "spirituality." I’m a naturalist. I listen with my heart and try to let my instincts guide me. I’ve learned that if I think too much, I fuck shit up – so I fucked up a lot in my past. I’m much more confident these days in my choices and hope to get through the next 50 years without getting jaded or pessimistic about life.

That last question covers a lot of ground.. let’s talk about how you got here. You’ve certainly followed a road less traveled to the beat of a different drummer. Give us a CliffsNotes version of your career.
I started performing as a child in Hawaii. One of my first paying gigs at 18 was as a male stripper in a women’s only club in Waikiki. I was practically raped every night on stage…crazy bitches! I loved it. Got to New York by winning a dance contest. Limelight was my first job as a go-go dancer…that was awesome! I was a Cat Club dancer. Don Hill gave me that job. RIP Don, great man. Did everything from dancing in contemporary dance companies to singing in hardcore bands to performing in drag shows and acting in feature films. Was homeless sleeping on the streets, a hustler, a drug addict. Did “Bard’O” for 10 years (a cabaret show). Went to Vegas with Cirque du Soleil show Zumanity, and I’m now at The Box NYC and in London.

I caught you at The Box a couple weeks ago. It wasn’t the same but it had a different energy – still a sexy energy. How do you balance the art of what you and yours do there with the plain old shock and awe?
The Box is six years old but I try to always approach it like its opening night. It’s always about "sexy,” not shock. I’m turning 50 but I’m still very much a sexual animal. I would honestly say that I look at everything I do as a performer first on a sexual level and then the rest follows. I have no education in theater and I know very little about literature and art but I feel that’s a plus for me because I have to just go with my talent, instincts, and years of experience. 

When I caught your one-man show about a year ago, I and of course everyone around me were taken by your humble-pie manners and old-world gentlemanly approach to the sleaziest of subjects. Under it all you seethe and boil and are charged with a hard energy to control. This has affected you throughout. Without the bad-boy imp inside and its demands on you, could you be happy and how do you control that monster these days?
Hahaha Steven, you know me so well. I don’t know if I could be happy without that boiling energy. I think it’s that "warrior" part of me. I control it by accepting it as part of my nature and I just try to not hurt people and myself. Being in love has been the greatest blessing. I’m still a hard ass and can go off, but my fuse has gotten much longer as I’ve grow older. Also, it takes much longer for my body to heal from "incidents," like when I started a bar room brawl in Tokyo.

What are you planning and scheming now, and what challenges you?
Honestly Steven, I have no fucking idea! Haha. Fifty years old and I don’t know what’s coming next. That’s what keeps me going…the unknown…that’s the challenge. I do love living on the edge I guess.

A Nightclub In A Water Tower? Underground Clubland Alive & Well

Share Button

Somewhere along the line, people forgot that Memorial Day was a day of rememberance. It is a pause before summer fun, when we need to remember those who gave their lives so that we could enjoy ourselves. The world seems to be getting worse with only a bad end in sight, and as we cling to the things that distract us from certain realities, we must honor those who gave up so much and who are in harm’s way as we sip expensive swill. If you see a uniform this weekend, club people, push him to the front of the line; somebody buy the man or woman a drink or at least hold open a door for them. Respect is in order. 

I’m not sure where I will spend my weekend. I like it like that. I may have a DJ gig out East, but if not, it will be spent walking dogs around my beloved Williamsburg. I’ll try to take advantage of the great escape and attempt to get into St. Anselm again as the last few attempts have proven futile. Two-hour waits are the norm and I don’t do that. Unless my girlfriend is shopping for shoes.

I am constantly bombarded with talk of "the good old days." People often want to reminisce about a time more wonderful. I remember having fun and all that, but refuse to agree with the assertion that life in clubland was better back in the day. I think the perception of clubs is a perception of how you were at that time.

To a certain generation, there was nothing like the disco era. To others, the 80s were the end all. Many without knowledge of those eras or the roaring 20s for that matter loved the good ol’ days of the 90s and 2000s. 

I think there is always a scene. My memories take me back to Danceteria and Save the Robots, The World and Area, and the Paradise Garage. But today, I love The Box and the underground Brooklyn stuff and Frankie’s Westgay at Westway, and Patricia Fields’ crew and their Chicken and Diamonds party, and anything Susanne Bartsch does, and a zillion other soirees. These are the good ol’ days and dont let anyone talk you out of it.

I read in the NY Times about a water tower in Chelsea that some genius built out and made into a small illegal joint. It was up a dozen flights of stairs and a scary ladder through a small hole etc. This shit is happening, but in an age where everyone knows everything in a second, it’s harder to keep "underground."

I gotta go, but before I do, I’d like to honor my dad who at 90 and a veteran of World War 2 is still  making memories.

Follow me on Twitter here

Photo: NYT.

A Love Letter to Lit & The Box

Share Button

I was weak from Fashion Week events when Lit Lounge owner Erik Foss texted me late last night to head to The Box, which was celebrating its anniversary. Erik told me it was their sixth. Six years in nightlife and remaining relevant is no small task. I cannot think of a more vibrant place than this. I often say that NYC is devoid of great clubs, but not lacking in great nights. Spaces are so consistent with their programming and crowds as to flirt with boredom. Sure, the pretties might be here or there, and the bon-vivants may flock to this or that joint, but few do more than sell booze and spin the same music as the next place…few push the culture forward.

The Box has its ups and downs, but it is one of the few places I will go to without knowing what’s going on. I know the crowd will be mixed and often daring, I know that the experience will entertain me, push my buttons and occasionally my limits. I heard it was packed with a great crowd. Congrats.
 
Erik Foss and Lit are also nearing an anniversary. On February 22nd they will turn 11. Now that’s an impossible number. Lit is my go-to spot. My favorite place. It too can fluctuate but, then again, who doesn’t. I know when I tell the cabby 2nd Ave. and 5th St. that I will find fast friends in a great room, and the music will not be the same ol’ same ol’. There might be an art event in the Fuse or a band downstairs, and Erik will be there or Dave or bartenders that I know and respect. For me, it’s a family affair. I will not be in town on the 22nd or I would help DJ at the celebration.

I DJ at EVR on Wednesdays, and it is refreshing to see the place grow. Nice people, nice place. Its 39th Street location brings in a crowd that is well-heeled but  non-yuppie. They are the hipper side of the working set. Club types gather, and models and hipsters pop in too. I highly recommend it. They have been running mostly afterwork hours, but now they are opening for late night and getting a solid base. 

On Tuesday I was privileged to DJ at BlackBook‘s Fashion Week soiree. It was soooo much fun. I got to hang out with the reigning Miss New York USA , Joanne Nosuchinsky, who visited me in the booth. Joanne is one of the most charismatic people I have ever met …and that’s a statement. She is energetic, sharp, beautiful, fun, and way cool. Her in-it-to-win-it attitude will take her far, and I’ll be rooting for her to win it all at the big pageant  The event was held at Toy, which always puts me in a playful mood. 

The staff is amazing. You start with door icon Fabrizio Brienza, who is so fashionable and fabulous that you can easily forget he has a heart of gold. I described him to a single girl on her way to Toy as about 6-foot-3, extremely handsome, intelligent, polite, and with a heart of gold. When asked if he was single, I said I didn’t really know, and she said "it doesn’t matter; he was probably too busy saving babies or the earth itself." It’s like that. Inside every manager, owner, waitron, maitre d’ is someone outdoing themselves to make the experience wonderful. 

It’s been an exhausting week and I better run off to get a fabulous present to complement the bodega flowers I’ve already offered. If I’m not here tomorrow, you will know that I succeeded in getting the perfect Valentines gift…or didn’t.

New Year’s Eve Parties for All, and Management’s Response to the Christmas Incident at Le Souk

Share Button

First of all, Happy New Year. Today will be short and sweet as BlackBook staff is cutting out to get ready for the big night. Yesterday’s article about Sam Valentine allegedly getting beat up by Le Souk management did get a response, which you will find below. As for New Year’s Eve, I, of course, will be DJing at the Dream Downtown and will be there when 2013 is rung in. Afterwards I probably will pop into Lit to say hey to that gang.

I am sending people to parties that suit them. There isn’t a be-all event for everyone. Many will love the Dream, many 1 OAK. Many will just be in heaven at The Darby while others will love Toy. For people with my view of things I’m recommending the Box and Bow.

I am heading out to 305 Ten Eyck, Brooklyn for Seva Granik’s party, BRCDBR and THV ENT. present Shanghai. Seva and Thunderhorse are producing this event and the installation, which "is going to focus around the fear, or the premonition, of China and Chinese culture taking over the U.S. So lots of  futuristic stuff like screens, lasers, smoke, etc." The DJ’s are Gavin Russom, a "legendary DFA label guy who built their synths for them and played in the now-seminal act LCD Soundsystem" and Venus X, a big deal. The New York Times just did a profile on her. The music is going to be very dancey and very unexpected. Admission is $10 and it starts at 1am. They have my vote.

On New Years Eve the biggest problem, except for the people you are surrounded by, is getting around. If you are not a public transportation kind of guy or gal I suggest hiring a local car service for some hours. Rates range from $25 to $50 an hour . Traditionally I have hired them from 1 to 7 am, sometimes splitting the cost with another. It’s great to have a driver to whisk you around safely while you party like it’s 1999. New Year’s Eve is amateur night for the club industry. Take it from a pro and prepare for all contingencies.

In life they say there are two sides to every story. In nightlife, when you add in booze , dark lights, loud music, and other factors, some stories can have multiple sides. Yesterday I ran a story about a beaten up and down story, Sam Valentine. Others who were at Le Souk on Christmas night verified that indeed owner Marcus Jacob had kicked and punched Sam. Today Le Souk responded to the allegations that Sam was attacked, bruised, and hurt to the point of hospitalization by Marcus Jacob with the help of security. Yesterday I referred to Sam as hobbit-sized, and that description is fairly accurate. He told me he was 5 foot 7 and I’ll believe him as long as he believes I’m 6’3". Sam is 5’7" standing on a phone book. He has heart but is no match for the forces that hospitalized him. 

The response from partner Lamia Funti is below. She is a partner at Le Souk and wife of Marcus Jacob. I have always respected and enjoyed her, but having read her response I cannot help but think that excessive force was brought to bear. Her version only tells of a late night argument, with promoter Sam Valentine reacting badly to not getting paid on Christmas. The amount was $200. All accounts agree that he was loud and demanding, but Sam is a lover and a promoter/DJ, not much of a physical threat to anyone.

The response attempts to justify the physical altercation. It does not explain the injuries inflicted by bonded security and an owner. Anytime a person is beaten badly and in need of hospitalization somebody screwed up. Unless weapons of mass destruction come into play security must contain the situation, and kicking and punching are not allowed.

Here is the response from Lamia:

Unfortunately, it was a small situation that escalated over nothing. Our accountant took the day off since it was Christmas so there was no one to make the checks. We let our staff know so that they do not wait for the checks in vain. Everyone was fine with it, since we never have problems with the checks.

At the end of the night, Sam Valentine comes storming downstairs, asking Marcus to give him "his fucking check now." Marcus was actually very calm, he’s really not the guy that likes to fight, he was trying to calm him down, but he was cursing out, and making a scene at the bar downstairs.

I called the security to calm him down because now he was pushing people around when they are trying to talk to him and we didn’t need a scene in front of our friends and family, while Marcus only asked him to wait til tomorrow for his check. Since it was Christmas, our friends were all there and two of my aunts that are much older in the fifties were there as well, which was embarrassing.

I went quickly to tell him to stop and he pushed me with his hands and called me a bitch, the security saw that and they tried to contain him but he wouldn’t stop fighting, we just asked him to leave, he did not want to leave, and started throwing things around and fighting with the security who was trying to escort him out. I also have several witnesses that saw that and saw him wrestling with the security.

We actually called the police, before it got out of hand, which is really unfortunate. When the police got to Le Souk, he started cursing the officers out which I’m guessing that’s why they told him they would arrest him. And the rest is history. We have been in the business long enough to be mistreating our staff or customers in any way, and we always pay on time, for someone to be acting that way after we ask him to come back the next day because its Christmas and nobody came to the office to work, but we can not tolerate having people storming at us like that while there was no wrong doing.

I guess this is the way he’s planning on getting back at us. And by the way, Ariel was at no point near the scene, he didn’t see anything at all and witnessed anything, and did not talk to the security at any time, he was upstairs the whole time.