How I Got Into Nightlife

I think our next president should be a Morman. Not the Mitt Romney variety—heavens no. I’m thinking more along the lines of a Big Love type, with 47 wives and a zillion kids. A man who can handle that can handle anything. Club relationships are also very “special,” as the industry comes with many distractions, confusions, and temptations—similar to a whole lot of “sister-wives” drama. When you see a relationship working in this industry, it should be celebrated, maybe even studied. I enjoyed watching Snap/Bloc Group honcho Mathew Isaacs interact with his lovely Danielle DeGregory last night as she celebrated her birthday at his venue.

It was cuddly, cute and wonderful. The weekly karaoke night was going on, which was adding to the fun. On another note, the much-anticipated basement addition to the venue has a name, a design, and a due date. I’ll talk about that when I am unleashed—I’m really not supposed to say anything so I won’t.

With great admiration I note the opening of Natasha, the queen of Spandex and everything related, of her niche at Patricia Fields, her inclusion to come the end of the month. If anyone wants to point a finger at someone for getting me into the club world, Natasha and my friend Debi Marino must be accused. I was a corporate-type during the day who wallowed in severe punk clubs at night. More often than not, I would go from an obscure place with dim lights and sticky floors packed with girls with hair that could hurt you, to a desk in the financial district. I soon chose the insanity of the former over the boredom of the latter. It was a single sad incident that pushed me over the edge. My roommate and best friend the beautiful and talented “it” girl Jillian Black died suddenly of a heroin overdose. She had done it the night before for the first time, and wanted to try it again. We chatted at 7PM on a subway platform, and I told her of the dangers—pleading with her to avoid that drug and that crowd, the crowd that was enlisting her into their cult. She agreed. She was dead by dawn.

I sought out her new friends with mad intent, but was convinced she only had herself to blame. She was used to getting her way and they couldn’t stop her. She was always unstoppable. Of course now she’s as dead as Julius Caesar. I spun around and decided to do a fashion, art event which would help push the rapidly gentrifying East Village chic/punk scene along. The way I figured it the more successful boutiques filling vacant storefronts, the more interested the cops would be to push the pushers to another hood.

The East Village Look was my big break. The almost 2-hour show had thousands of people attending and 20 boutiques involved. It catapulted me into a new career. Debi Marino partnered with me on the mega show. Natasha was the first person who said yes. She then helped me land Trash and Vaudeville, and soon everyone was involved. Astor place barbers and some other salons sent waves of hairstylists to the gala. Everyone left the club that night with a new—free—’do. I looked at the video of the event last night and it was amazing to see this time capsule of ‘80’s club life. All the players were there modeling and galavanting around. Some of them are long gone as victims of the age of consent—to every vice imaginable. AIDS was there, all around us, but we didn’t understand that, or see it in our brilliant darkness. So a tip of the hat and a wham-bam-thank-you-Mam to Natasha, returning to her roots. Great success, darling, at Patricia Fields!

On a sad, but similar note, I mark the passing of Lita Hessen. Known for her loud voice, big heart, and big binging, Lita was a joy to the world—even though she often seemed deeply sad. I met her a few years back while lounging at the Mercer Hotel with the generous (to a fault) millionaire Linda Rawlings and my friend Marcus Antebi. Linda was wearing—no exaggeration— 10 million dollars worth of jewelry, including a yellow diamond ring the size of Vermont, 5 watches (one worth, like, a million bucks—all diamonds upon diamonds) and a tiara with more diamonds. She was buying Crystal, and offering it to an increasingly larger crowd. Like Lita, Linda made many friends by lavishing them with stuff. The waitress was tasked to wear the tiara while she was serving. Lita and a friend came to meet us. Linda proceeded to give Lita’s pal a check for over $30,000 on the spot to help her with her failing business. It was like that. Lita and I would see each other from time to time, out and about, and then became friends. She was so much fun, but she was everywhere and nowhere. She was lucid, then suddenly nuts: happy then tragic: aloof then clingy. Her inner beasts tore at her ,and no amount of extravagance, tall tales, or ambitions could hide her pain. Everybody knew Lita. She bought everyone dinner, drinks, little gifts. When you could calm her down and get past the fluff she was sweet and smart, and very enjoyable. But there was a lot of fluff. I met my great friend DJ Jennifly through her. It was Jennifly who told me of her demise. A memorial service will be held this Sunday, May 15th 7:30PM on Christopher Street Pier.

New York Itinerary: Jared Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars

Actor-musician Jared Leto and his certified-platinum band 30 Seconds to Mars have been keeping busy, readying their third album, This is War, for release on December 8th. But not so busy they can’t play with Manhattan’s punks and paparazzi. It’s all in a day’s work for the hardcore heartthrob. (Also check out our behind-the-scenes report.)

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“You’re kidding me,” says Jared Leto, grabbing his forehead at the terrible news: New York’s Union Square—where, for many locals, downtown begins—will be the proud new owner of a T.G.I. Friday’s. “I remember when Babies ‘R’ Us first arrived in the neighborhood,” he says. “On one hand, it was like, This is the end. On the other, it was nice to see people weren’t afraid to do business here.” Fans who know and love Leto from his days as Jordan Catalano on television’s My So-Called Life might be similarly ambivalent about the actor’s transformation into a mascara-wearing rocker. But it’s nice to see he’s doing business, too, especially when it momentarily looked like his band, 30 Seconds to Mars, might not get the chance. Comprised of Leto, his brother Shannon (the band’s drummer) and Tomo Miličević (lead guitar), 30 Seconds almost fell apart after Virgin Records sued them for $30M for allegedly refusing to honor their three-album contract. “It was hell,” he says, “But it’s over. This Is War is kind of like a celebration.”

Café Gitane 242 Mott Street It’s just that kind of place, you know, the kind where everyone goes, the kind where you run into your friends. Like we just did. [Leto bumped into photographer Terry Richardson, pictured below, and musician Moby sitting outside.] It’s a neighborhood place that has been here for a while and still feels like a neighborhood place. That’s not always the case in New York. I think places that last a long time are here for a reason.

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Trash and Vaudeville 4 St. Mark’s Place Trash and Vaudeville was making and selling those skinny black jeans that are everywhere now long before they were popular. The great news is that at this place, they’re 60 bucks. It’s a local New York institution, but I’m surprised this place has held on as long as it has. The owner stuck it out, and he’s still here, kicking ass.

San Loco 111 Stanton Street San Loco is New York’s only real taco place. I was living here off and on for quite some time, a long, long time ago, in 1991. [My brother] Shannon lived here in 1993, in Alphabet City. I used to come here at all hours. It’s one of my favorite places: easy, cheap and good. It can stand up to the Mexican food in L.A.

Balthazar 80 Spring Street Balthazar feels like an authentic French restaurant. It’s not like Café Gitane, when you feel like you’re in New York. It more or less takes you there. Their food is so consistent and solid. I’ve been coming here for years. I go in the off-hours—it’s open all the time, and it’s even more beautiful when it empties out, especially during the day, when fewer people are here.

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Café Habana 17 Prince Street I’ve been trying to get Shannon to go here for so long. I’ve been telling him forever that they need to open one in L.A. Now they’re opening two in L.A. Habana has a special charm to it. You’re crammed in there with a ton of other people—models, locals and tourists. It’s crowded, but there’s just a good energy, you know? I often go to the takeout counter next door when it’s too crowded. I’ve got to get some plantains.

For more of Jared’s favorite spots, check out the BlackBook Guides on your iPhone.

Photography by Adam Fedderly. Styling by Bryan Levandowski. Grooming by Kumi Craig @ Exclusive Artists. Leto’s own T-shirt, pants and jacket. Cardigan by Gucci.

When the Bowery Was Electric

Some writer way smarter than me once noted, “You can’t go home again.” That’s Thomas Wolfe. I wrote a paper about it in my college days. If I had some time, I would go back to college and get formal educations in writing and design so my editors and partners would have more hair as they age, but what Wolfe said is true. Last night I went home to the Bowery in the early 80s. Back then I weighed in at a buck thirty five, wore ripped jeans, manic-panic pointy shoes, and a well thought out T-shirt. I was working on Wall Street during the day, on my way to becoming a commodities trader, but at night I became a punk rocker. When I DJ, I offer lots of stuff from that era which captured my heart. I bought all those punk anthems new, and many remain at my mom’s house. After quoting Wolfe I’m unclear if I’m allowed to go home to pick them up. Maybe mom will FedEx them. Last night I went to Vera Ramone King’s book release party at Bowery Electric for Poisoned Heart: I Married Dee Dee Ramone; Vera was a wife of my dearly departed friend Dee Dee Ramone.

Jesse Malin and Johnny T’s Bowery Electric is as close to going home as I’m going to get, located a mere second and a half from the street sign dedicated to Joey Ramone (2nd Street and The Bowery) and a half block north of where CBGBs should be. It’s around the corner from the Ramones’ loft where my dog’s godfather and namesake Arturo Vega — the artist who designed all those Ramones T-shirts worn by hipsters and old crows alike — still lives. He also did the lights and taught me showbiz. Bowery Electric is Bowery rock at its purist. Vera’s party was in the upstairs bar where Jon Derian pendant lights gave off kind illumination for the aging attendees. I hadn’t seen Vera in maybe 20-plus years. Back then I’d pick up her and maybe a sister and we would meet Dee Dee at the old Ritz or something like that. She lived in College Point, while I lived in Jackson Heights with Ramones roadie Danny Zykowski. I would stay close with Dee Dee in later years after the divorce as we both lived in the Chelsea Hotel.

Bowery Electric was jammed with a “who’s who was that?” gathering of Ramones followers. Everybody said I looked great, and it felt strange to be like the third-youngest person in a room. I chatted up Monte Melnick, the Ramones’ road manager, who told me about his book, On the Road with The Ramones, now in its third printing. His card has “Gabba Gabba Hey!” printed on it. Photographer Bob Gruen (you know him from his famous shot of John Lennon with sunglasses wearing a T-shirt with “New York City” on it) was accompanied by his brilliant artist wife Elizabeth Gregory-Gruen. Jimmy of Trash and Vaudeville fame was there, and I think he was wearing the same outfit from the last time I saw him back in 1986. Natasha Adonzio, who I produced fashion shows for before back in the day, was telling me she’s re-launching her line of spandex and wanted me to help in show production. I told her, “Spandex is coming back in a big way, but I personally can’t go home again.” Rock comedian Dave Street was there 20 years sober and still writing songs with my old pal Bobby Steele, lead man of The Undead. Their new record — coming out this week — is “I Made a Monster,” with “Sometimes You Gotta Laugh at Yourself” on the flip. These sentiments seem to perfectly describe my recent life, but still I told him I might not be able to go there. I mumbled something about Thomas Wolfe, and he looked at me like I had purple hair.

I watched an elderly woman dancing enthusiastically but alone in the back room. Her purple boa top contrasted brilliantly with her long gray hair. I think “Teenage Kicks” was blaring. She was straight out of hullabaloo or some other show from an even earlier era. Marky Ramone leaned over and said “go-go dancer,” and I turned to hug him. The last of the four Ramones (that I knew) greeted me like a brother. I told his beautiful wife Marion that I’m going to help them with their apartment this very week. It’s in writing, so it must be true. Marky and I talked a little business and reminisced. Some photos were taken, and I chatted up my friend Starr and Sarah from Stay Thirsty magazine. I started to leave as an important BBQ was awaiting. Mickey Hyman, Joey Ramone’s brother, squinted at me, and I said hello. He knew my face but couldn’t remember from where, and I was very relieved. I told him how he might know me, and he said “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” about a dozen times.

Vera was signing books at the front of the joint. She was all decked out in rock and roll finery, chatting up friends as she wrote personalized messages. She was back home once again on the Bowery, armed with tales of her exploits and those of her punk legend husband. A large poster of her and Dee Dee in a different era was easeled behind her, and people were signing it. Back in the day, CBGBs’ walls were adorned with the signatures of the thousands who came through. My name was there in a spot eye-high, to the left of the door going down to the bathrooms. I picked up a sharpie and was about to write something. I looked over at Vera and back at the crowd, and thought maybe old Thomas Wolfe didn’t have a clue. I signed and felt great that I had indeed gone home again.