The Perfect Storm, Election, & Party

The perfect election distracted us from the destruction of the perfect storm. Those with power and comfort hosted those without as the election served as a bit of relief from immediate woes. Donald Trump, whose wig must be on too tight or his hair must be growing into his brain, provided comic relief with Twitter rants that underscore his new role. The Donald now plays the fool. We seek joy where we can find it as even the Obama win can’t allay our continuing anxiety.

I am still without heat, although space heaters powered by sacred electricity make my Sandy experience less frightful. I have no cable yet, but of course compared to so many neighbors I am doing brilliantly. The streets I saw as I traveled to a friend’s to watch the results were empty as election night seemed to be bad for the booze business. The debate still rages on whether the result of the election is good for business in general. Those seeking an Obama celebration stayed local, as  travel is still problematic. There are few events worth the fuel, and suburban NY, a huge part of the bottom line, can’t get here. They will come when they can as there still isn’t a place outside of our crippled town that can satisfy their party itch. I missed David Davis’ birthday bash last night over at Westgay. Frankie Sharp, through hard work and mad creativity, has made Westgay at Westway a must-attend weekly party. The L train, the lifeblood of North Williamsburg, is reportedly still packed with mud-keeping hipsters and wannabe hipsters and those too hip to go near that moniker near home. The local bars and restaurants are packed. I will go out, but will pick my spots.

There once was this little spot downtown, off Broadway and White, that thrilled us all back in the day. By all accounts and my experience the Mudd Club was one of the greatest places ever to be. I learned my business there and hobnobbed with celebrities and the fabulous people long before I sought a club career. It was heaven on earth for a young rascal who never would have made it in save for the kindness of doorman Richard Boch. For every person inside, there were 10 outside, and I was blessed that Richard saw something in me that he believed belonged. Tomorrow UNDER CONSTRUCTION, Works In Progress (and other adventures) will be happening at The Gershwin Hotel, 7 E.27th St. at 8pm sharp. There will be readings by Richard Boch from his in-progress manuscript: If You’ve Been Standing Here For More Than Ten Minutes: A Mudd Club Memoir 1979-1980, as well as readings by Maggie Estep. I will attend and expect to see many faces that have been swept into the corners of my mind.

Thursday night, man-about-town Nick Andreottola will use his resources to help The Lower East Side Girls Club. While most of the news focuses on the valiant relief efforts in Staten Island and Breezy Point and the Jersey Shore, there are people in our backyard who have lost everything. The storm surge flooded basement apartments in the LES and sent the poorest among us scrambling. Many still have no power or heat, diapers, food, and blankets. Nick’s legendary Champagning party will help raise cash and take in donated canned foods and supplies to make sure the young girls at The Lower East Side Girls Club continue on their journey to success. The event is tomorrow, November 8th, at 7pm at RSVP, 15 Watts St. at W. Broadway, hosted by Nicole Rose Stillings.

New York, Then & Now: Warhol Christmas Party at The Gershwin Hotel, Hotel Chelsea, & Beatrice Inn

This Saturday, December 15, brings in Christmas with Andy (as in Warhol) Party at The Gershwin Hotel (7 E. 27th St.), an 8pm to midnight affair. The event, which caught my eye and ears a couple weeks ago, is now being billed as the closing night of the Gershwin, one of the last of the bohemian hotels that were home to downtown sorts. Back in the day, clubbers, artists and all sorts of creatures of the night shacked up in places like the Hotel Chelsea, Hotel 17, and The Gershwin. These sorts were often without credit but could hustle up an insider rate for rent often a bit late. Starving artists often traded art for months in a tiny room in a hotel filled with like-minded types. 

The Gershwin was always art-heavy, and this closing night will reflect its glorious past and the souls, living and dead, that gave it its edge. The party will be hosted by Robert Heide, John Gilman, Neke Carson, and Michael Weiner. It will honor the “REGARDING WARHOL” exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is running until New Year’s Eve, and a new book named Thank You Andy Warhol by Catherine Johnson and Andy Warhol’s New York City by Thomas Kiedrowski. DJ Tennessee will spin Lou Reed, Nico, and all sorts of Warhol-appropriate fare. 

The Gershwin and I rarely got along. It was little too messed up for me. I almost stayed there for my ex’s birthday one year, but when I got to the hotel, every arrangement I had made with management for the occasion was bungled. I ended up at a boutique place and endured the bombardment of many "What did you expect?" from friends. I still go there for a coffee at Birch or sometimes a meeting in the lobby when looking for something "artistic" for a design job.

I lived in Hotel Chelsea for a bit and loved it. To me, it was the hometown I never had. I knew my neighbors and borrowed and lent sugar and other things from them. The transient guests provided excitement on many levels, and I must admit I spent a few nights having encounters and traveling to and fro in ancient elevators. The Hotel Chelsea was sexy. It has been reduced to a question mark, a debate in the New York Times or New York Magazine. Although it’s temporarily closed, when it was open it lacked the charisma it offered in its glory days, when hotelier Stanley Bard curated the place like a club doorman. The passing of The Gershwin is a great loss to a scene that lingered long after many of the real players that made it what it is have moved along. In that respect, the Andy Christmas Party is perfect. 

The article “The Oral History of the Beatrice Inn” by Kelly Hoffman in The Cut section of New York Magazine is a must-read. It starts with "Nothing Will Ever Be Like the Beatrice," and maybe that’s so, but I kind of doubt it. It’s true the players that grew up together at this unique moment in club history are now off and gone to their greener pastures, but there is always a new generation of players. Beatrice was the best place of its time, as short-lived as that was. Given more time it would have to rank as one of the best joints ever. Alas, it fell victim to what made it great. It played by few rules and the rules came home to roost.

There will be a new Greatest Club Ever soon enough. The players exist, the spaces are there, and money is flowing again in this town. A new generation of genius will emerge and make a place their home. When you come of age in clubland, wherever you hang your hat on a regular basis is home, and you remember it in its purist form. Boring nights are forgotten and all you have is a string of wonderful memories. Beatrice offered less boredom and more mayhem than seems possible in these highly-regulated times. However, I have confidence that some smart alec will find a way to get around it all and create something truly exceptional again.

Introducing Danish Songbird Agnes Obel

Danish-born, Berlin-based musician Agnes Obel has made waves overseas with her debut album, Philharmonics, a hypnotic blend of classical instrumentation — think piano, harp, cellos — with tender, graceful lyrics. But while the album has gone double platinum in her native country, you’d be hard-pressed to find many fans Stateside. (You might have heard her single, “Riverside,” on Grey’s Anatomy.) Before her show at Joe’s Pub last week, we caught up with Obel at the Gershwin Hotel to discuss her creative process, love songs, and performing live.

Did you come from a musical family? Yes and no. I would say I’m from a family of music fans and music lovers, but they are not specialists. I grew up with a lot of instruments, so my brother and I could basically choose whatever we liked to play, and he ended up playing a bunch of instruments, but I ended up playing the piano.

Is there a particular environment you like to be in when you’re writing music? I am not very good in an environment where it’s very competitive. I don’t like that at all. I get really scared.

I imagine it’s hard when there’s a lot of pressure put upon you to write a song. When it’s like, “You have to do it now now now!” that doesn’t work with me. I need time and I have to feel really comfortable.

Is it frightening to you to put so much of yourself out there in your music and lyrics? Yeah, I wish I could say its really easy, but you feel really vulnerable, and sometimes when you’re performing, it feels like you are stepping over a border, but then on the other hand you get so much back when you do it, so it’s worth putting yourself out there.

I heard that you would love to one day score a film. Are there any directors whose films you’d love to create music for? I have some directors that I really like, but I’m not sure I would support the lyrics very well because they have a very distinct style. I’m not sure I would be the right one for them. I’m totally aware of that. There is a director I like very much called Tomas Alfredson from Sweden. He made a movie called Let The Right One In. It’s amazing. It’s almost like it takes place in my childhood or something, it’s really scary.

Do you find a big difference between music here and in Europe? There’s some rock culture here. I feel like I don’t know it well. It’s really interesting to me. And then of course there is a lot of that bluegrass and country music that has really deep roots here. I like this feeling that it’s building up on something up in history. It’s really amazing to me, this experience. I don’t know a lot about this music yet, but I like that it’s a way to tell stories and I’m really fascinated by it.

Your album was a huge success overseas. Was that surprise for you? We didn’t expect anything! This is a quiet album, it’s kind of a surprise to everyone. It kind of moved out of nothing when it was released in October. There was no big promotion. I know a lot of friends of mine had heavy promotion, but I didn’t have any.

Was there a reason you chose to make this album? It was a personal project, it was something that I always wanted to do, to make my own album with my own piano, to do it my way after working with other people for my whole life. It’s the first time I’ve stood on my own. It was completely terrifying when I first had to release it, and if I knew it was going to be released here, I would have been even more terrified.

Do you have to be in love to write a love song? I don’t know. I know some musicians and artists, in general, they work really deliberately with their own emotions and cling on to sad experiences or rejection, but I have not been doing that. I could lie on my back and listen to my mother play piano, and that can trigger emotion, this creativity in me to create songs.

What do you do in your spare time when you’re not playing? I like to read American literature. Truman Capote is one of my favorites. I just read In Cold Blood, it was amazing. I was like, ‘We have to go to Kansas on tour, I want to see the tumbleweed!’

How do you feel about performing live? I have a little bit of ambivalence towards it. I play an instrument that I can’t carry around, so I am very dependent on the instrument that they have in the venue, and this is very different from place to place. At some places it’s totally out of tune and broken, and you have to play a half hour concert on it, and that’s just how it is. But I learn from it, and I love the fact that you can meet new people and see all these places. Since October, I’ve been in so many countries. I’ve been all over Europe. There are so many different cultures, and it’s such a small place.

Clubbing in Cambodia, XIX, & Jessica Rabbit Sings

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a rock star with the greatest moniker ever, Jello Biafra, crooned a tune called “Holiday In Cambodia.” At that time in Cambodia, the people in power were whacking teachers, doctors—anyone with an education or slight western tilt. A holiday in Cambodia was a bad idea. Nowadays things are different. The bad men, for the most part, have been exiled far away from Main Street, and people I know can actually go there. With the weather here driving me bonkers, I checked in with a pal living in the oblivion of Southeast Asia, and asked for a club report. I mean, if I’m gonna go somewhere to duck the cold, they had better have a good club, or I better be prepared to make one. The words may not be that accurate as this Droid translator—a Cambodian to English thing—is way too hard for me to handle. But I’ll give it a try.

It’s real cold here and I’m looking for an exotic escape. Is there nightlife in Cambodia? They are behind here, but it is hip compared to Vietnam.

What are Cambodian clubs like? Most are smoky and have sleazy girls in cheap plastic heels with lots of expats watching soccer. Bangkok has much more of a scene. They have some clubs that can afford international DJs. They do Tokyo to Bangkok, so it’s not like they fly them in from London. Singapore used to have really famous DJs, and the decor in the clubs is so classy, so up-market, that they sometimes had one great DJ a week. Singapore has real night life, but they are American in so many ways — except that ladies doing a “trade” are legal. Why not? It’s the safest city in the world. Is there a little Steve Lewis yet? I hope you are happy and NY isn’t so cold and your apt is warm.

No, no kids. And could you define happy? I’m freezing and want to go somewhere hot. I went to two really nice Cambodian clubs, one called Heart of Darkness with great decor but only so-so music. It did have amazing security. The other one was called Riverside. It has a fantastic sound system, hot women that are not sleazy, so far. Those are the nicest I have seen. Heart of Darkness is also nicknamed “Heart of Business.” It had a gay element, and had tough guys and foreign people living and visiting. It was packed. The decor mixed Ankgor and modern perfectly. It was hot.

I’m looking into flights!

Last night, after BINGO, we headed over to Travertine to check out what my man Ruben was doing with the downstairs space XIX. XIX didn’t impress me at first. I almost went in on a couple of occasions, but stalled at the door, chatting with door folk. The crowds I observed going in were not going to lure me off the street. It seemed to be trying to do the same ‘ol same ‘ol, and didn’t have the players to pull it off. It was, at least for me, a must to avoid. Ruben called me and told me he changed things up, and to pop by.

I never say “no” to some people, and yes, that has gotten me in trouble, but this time I was pleased. Everything was working. The crowd was enthusiastic, with enough beauty to legitimize it with a sharp crowd, and plenty of hip and artistic types to keep it from being a bore. DJ Kid Mess was just killing it with sounds not normally offered at joints trying to sway similar gatherings. I was very impressed. With it’s proximity to Kenmare, La Esquina, Goldbar, and a neighborhood packed with interested parties and restaurants to feed it—including its own upstairs—this small spot looms big. All they need is a little patience to see their plan through, and this joint will get serious. Ruben is just what they needed, and XIX is what I need. I’ll be back.

There are many people I can’t say “no” to besides Ruben. One is Heather Litteer, who is sometimes called “Jessica Rabbit” or just “Rabbit.” She’s an extraordinary performer/artist, often seen around this town wherever the hipper-than-hip, smart set evolve to. Tonight she will sing at The Gershwin Hotel, 7 East 27th Street, which, as she points out, is right next to the Sex Museum (but we all knew that). The shin-dig starts at 8pm, and will include “special performances” by Nath Ann Carrera and Nicholas Gorham. It is promised that Heather “will sway you with the sultry sounds of her smoky vocals, while accompanied by Zecca Esquibel on the ivories.” She says to “Pucker up darlings!” She will conquer you. She can’t help it: She was just drawn that way.

“Love Story” in Gershwin Hotel Bathroom

imagePut this one under “only in New York.” Starting this Friday, The Gershwin Hotel will start broadcasting a live feed from the bathroom in its lobby. The bathroom feed will be broadcast directly to the guest’s hotel rooms, and will be billed as a “Love Story.” Sadly, it won’t be a bizarre peep show for golden shower fetishists.

Instead, this will be a different, more traditional kind of show, albeit in an untraditional space. The dance performance in the bathroom will be called “Dark Horse/Black Forest” and is described as “an emotional and private exchange between a couple that evolves into a formal, sensual dance.” There will be standing room only tickets available for those who want to see the performance live — those will run you $45 apiece. There’s also $10 tickets available for this Friday’s “screening party” in the lobby. Guests of the hotel, however, can watch for free in their rooms. Performances are scheduled to run through June 28.