Uncle Steve’s Holiday Shopping Guide

For the first time in decades, my Christmas shopping is done, and despite my many shortfalls and aches and pains, I find myself with need for naught. The people around me and the direction I am taking has me in a joyous mood. With that statement, I reveal my ignorance as there are so many people out there hurting. Organizations like foodbanknyc.org need our support. It behooves us to help our neighbors who lack the basic necessities. With all the feasting and shopping frenzy, please take a moment to look around and lend some help.

Nightlifers are slammed servicing holiday parties and the hordes of revelers determined to send out the New Year with a bang and/or a record number of hangovers. One barkeep told me he hasn’t had a day off in 15 days. I told him I haven’t had a day off since 1991. While many amongst us have had rough years, others say that it has gotten a little better, or that they have gotten used to it. The creatures of the night keep strange hours, and it is not unusual for these night crawlers to crawl out of bed late in the afternoon. Holiday shopping becomes difficult as they need to nourish themselves find some clothes (that don’t smell too bad) and rush off to work again. Over the years, I have found a few New York stores where you can zip in and zip out with imaginative and fairly inexpensive gifts. These one stop shopping joints will check off all the names on your list, and if they don’t, then may I suggest a charitable donation in that persons name. It’s better than a bad sweater. So here are Uncle Steve’s Holiday gift sources for those without time to do it right. All of these places are an easy walk from each other.

1. A couple of weeks ago, I walked into Michelle Varian on Howard, at the dead end of Crosby, and the sales girl said "You’re here early this year." For many years, I have done virtually all my shopping on Christmas Eve at this wonderful shop. There are gifts that can’t be found anyplace else in all price ranges. This year, the store has been expanded and is packed with all sorts of wonderful.

2. Jon Derian on 2nd Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery is the big secret of design professionals looking for impact. There are indeed big ticket items, but there are beautiful things for that impossible to buy for set. Paper, objects, knick-knacks and art are among the things I suggest you run over to consider.

3. The owner of Alphabets on Avenue A between St Marks and 7th Street greeted me like an old friend. There were a hundred things in there I wanted for myself. I bought my brother some amazing socks with Luchadores on them. It is a perfect place to find a hundred things that will make them go whoo! When the gift wrapping comes off. The price range fits those in a budget and that is just about everyone I know. If I had only 2 words to describe it (as most of you pray for), I would say "cool stuff."

4. Eastern Mountain Sports at 530 Broadway at Spring Street has hundreds of cool ideas to keep you warm, like super insulated gloves, underwear, hats, all mixed in with all the great gear. Flashlights, water bottles and even a huge box of hand and feet warmers for those who work outside are among the miles of shelving packed with good gift ideas.

5. Yes I designed the WeSC store on Lafayette just north of Prince, but it was a labor of love. I love this brand, which is a bit more stylish and maybe mature than the Supreme store a few inches South. For me, it’s for the dude or dudette who graduated from Supreme and looks at G-Star like it’s for road warriors or wanna-be bikers. Alongside the great clothes at reasonable prices are the coolest headphones in town. They look great and work great. I’m using them tonight when I DJ at Hotel Chantelle.

6. Evolution is that often disturbing place on Spring Street between Mercer and Greene. For that impossible-to-please person they’ll have an answer. If the embalmed animals and stuck insects don’t do it for you, look a little deeper. There are treasures in the myriad of trays and displays. I once gave someone a Venus Fly Trap from there and I enjoyed the love for months.

7. Jo Malone is located in Bloomingdales at 504 Broadway, between Spring and Broome. The hand creams are to die for. Give them a jar of this stuff and they’ll think of you every time they used it.

8. Ina on Prince between Mott and Elizabeth is heaven for the women in my life who find bags, shoes, accessories, and good advice from Ruby and Squirrely (her real name). Designer brands at real great prices. This is a not-so-secret spot for the beautiful people buying or selling new or rarely worn clothing that was used on a photo shoot or something like that. They have a men’s store a couple feet East.

WeSC & The Standard Hotels Design a Capsule Collection

WeSC (We are the Superlative Conspiracy) is a Swedish clothing brand known for bringing international cool to the streetwear culture. They’re also major supporters of all creative fields, and work with both emerging and established culture game-changers to create their distinct community of WeActivists. Now, the brand has kicked their collaborative efforts up a notch by teaming up with The Standard Hotels in New York, Miami, Hollywood, and Downtown LA on a slick accessory range.

The WeSC x The Standard is a five-piece collection of accessories—travel wallet, passport holder, wallet, luggage tag, and iPhone case—in distinct colors that match each Standard hotel’s identity, like the black set for The Standard New York, above. 

The capsule also includes WeSC x The Standard retro-style headphones. To celebrate the collaboration, five artists of the Superlative Conspiracy have created unique short films that represent each hotel. Watch the films here and shop the collection here.

Confronting My Past, Present, and the Article in ‘Crain’s’

So a friend (who prefers to remain nameless) and great publicist from R.Couri Hay Creative Public Relations, handles Stash, a club I recently completed, and Elsinor, which I am finishing up. I’ve known her forever and she is the tiger you want in your tank when you need some ink … press (if you need the other ink ,a tattoo, then Three Kings or Graceland serve me… well but I digress) She pitched and placed an article about me which talks about her clients in Crain’s, and that’s a big deal. I had mixed feelings about the piece which, while blowing me up as this design hero, brought up my checkered past, including my conviction for being part of an Ecstasy sales ring while I was director of the Tunnel, Club, USA, Limelight, Palladium. It also mentions my year in prison. Some people thought this was an unfair attack, or old news, or unnecessary for the story. A debate raged on Facebook, on my phone, and in emails and among friends about the value of the article and whether it was actually a positive thing. I called her up and she gave me this spin: "Your past has helped shape who you are today, and it’s a testament to the quality of your work that you’ve remained a player in the design industry for as long as you have. Clearly, there’s no end in sight." I’m buying into that.

The reporter, Ali Elkin, was very upfront about her desire and obligation to tell it like it is. I told her it was quite alright because it is a huge part of what drives me and defines me and I have never hid from that past. She noted in the article my take on things: "Currently living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he denies any wrongdoing."
The responses and Facebook posts ranged from "Shoot the messenger," to "It’s fabulous." I responded that "I yam what I yam," quoting that great poet, Popeye. I would tell you my side of that story in details, but so many have done so already, including Frank Owen in his Clubland book, which tells a story pretty close to the real. There was a little bit in there that I objected to, and my old friend Frank and I almost came to blows, and that spat resulted in a few articles here and there. We’re friends again. There is also the Limelight documentary by Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman which is coming out any day now on DVD; it really does a great job in summarizing that circus. I’m all up in that and advise you to check it out if you want more insight into that era and the circumstances of my conviction. I didn’t participate in any Ecstacy ring. I didn’t need that to fill clubs. I and the people assembled to run those clubs were the best in the business. The creativity and results of our efforts were rewarded with tens of thousands of satisfied customers who enjoyed one of the best nightlife eras.
The running of clubs, the wars fought , the million smiles, the million nights, the trial, the prison stint all define me as well as my relations, friends, and my little dog too. My creative abilities, as meager as they often are, come from creative freedoms earned on a hard but rewarding road. When someone hires me to design their joint, I understand the price of succeess and failure. I bring all my experience to the table. I have made a great deal of omelettes and have had to break a great many eggs as well, but it all seems worth it when I walk into The Darby, Stash, Butter, the WeSC store, or Aspen Social Club and see them occupied by people enjoying my work. It’s been almost 10 years since my first design gig. Butter was the first place I designed for people other than myself. For many years I designed the places I was going to operate, but Butter was for others. In prison, having completed Butter, I decided to design and write when I hit the streets.
I practiced and studied and used the time I was given to learn how to redefine myself when I got out. Now, after a decade of doing it, I am clearly happy with the Crains article, which celebrates my attempt to get up and stand up. It’s harder than I thought to live with a felony conviction. Many things you take for granted are very difficult for me, but I have no regrets. I may have lost this or that, but I earned a lot and learned a great deal about what it takes to survive. My friends have always been there. The greatest gift has been the clarity I have when I look in the mirror at the beginning or end of every day. Many have said I should have done this or done that or said this about them or that.  A thousand "whatevers, what ifs, and why nots" have been analyzed and debated till my stomach was knotted and then un-knotted with the satisfaction of doing the right thing … I wouldn’t want to change a thing. Nothing in my life, or that wonderful Crain’s article.
Oh, if you are going out tonight, visit me at Hotel Chantelle, or head over to Bowery Electric for Frankie Inglese’s Beahver party. This party dominated Thursdays in NYC forever before Frankie moved to LA. I cannot recall a better party. I guess any party better leave me unconscious and without memory.