To talk about the pitfalls of art, fashion, and nightlife is a bit of a risk I suppose, especially when you have been party to their whereabouts and trappings. I find the current attitude anemic of courage to talk. Perhaps it’s a willingness to sit in the thinness of things. Self-induced ennui is kind.
Recently, I ran into an old friend from art school, a Brazilian living in Portugal traveling around. His hair had grown considerably since I’d seen him. Things like hair-growth are social estimations to the passing of time. He was back in town figuring things out, half sold on drifting to Miami. We started talking about nightlife. We didn’t know of a consistent place to go to on a Friday or Saturday night where we knew there’d be ‘good’ music, a thrilling crowd, and a general good hang. He said he’d been hunting for it but, yeah, he couldn’t find it.
I remember Beatrice, the Jane’s resurgence in 2009, Kingswood downstairs, when Le Bain first opened in ’10, and the upstairs parties at Bowery Hotel. You inevitably ended up at Kenmare after-hours on last call’s night prowl. (I affectionately, if not facetiously, refer to “prowl mode” as that noticeable switched-on acuity in 2 to 3 A.M. arrivals—and by 2/3:00 A.M. arrivals, amongst them, yes, I place my best going-out buddy and partner in crime— who haven’t found someone to smoothly if not cooly lay up with before the 4:00 A.M. close.)
There were the GrandLife parties at Tribeca and Soho Grand, first floor, upstairs, or the Yard; Don Hill’s; Smiths nights at Sway on Sundays; St. Jerome’s downtown—does anyone remember when Oak used to throw parties?— and the Dream Hotel/Electric Room’s brief surge on arrival to the scene. Throw in Westway, Southside, and Cabin.
Gone are the hotel parties and pop-ups like Madame Wong’s. Sure, there’s Le Baron downtown. It’s just not the same. As a nightlife cohort said, “It’s too French.”
Which of course I’m not sure what that means.
I suspect he meant it’s too bourgeois. (See Antek Walczak’s pithy, lively account of Le Baron, Paris, in paperback Société Populaire).
I keep going back to that New York Times article from 2011— note: its placement in the Fashion & Style section— in which artist Maripol laments the quickly disappearing spirit of New York nightlife.
Fast forward: the opening for AREA: The Exhibition at Hole Gallery and Bowery Hotel last November 2013. Deitch’s lavish attempt to recall the carefree ’80s and coked up exuberance was commendable. But, we live in a New York where CBGB’s is John Varvatos. Pyramid Club eeks a throwback feeling. Where did the rock n’ roll go?
Not to discount that ersatz nostalgia isn’t a viable thing. Ersatz nostalgia, according to anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, refers to a commodifiable longing for that which you never had or were a part of. It denotes a wishful thinking. And its usefulness in navigating absence, loss, and the passing of time. Nostalgia points to that which is missing in the present.
So, then I get to thinking, what was so appealing?
I can’t remember which year it was that sentences had 19-year-olds and heroin overdoses as common denominators. Was it only last year, around this time? They were tragedies whose edges I only felt vaguely, blue and dumbly.
I do remember going to a new-ish, now defunct bar on Stanton or Rivington between Bowery and Chrystie. My aforementioned partner-in-crime and I knew someone hosting there. The best is when you know someone hosting somewhere every night, offering up free drinks in clear glasses with clinking ice. Though my friend often had a whiskey in flask on hand. He knew the kid working the door. I got there before him. Walked right up, ducked the velvet rope and got the kid in trouble. Inside it was small, dark and someone from the Smiths was deejaying. A week later my friend told me that the kid had died of a heroin overdose.
Boom Boom Room, 6:00 A.M, 2010. Tuesday night. Well, Wednesday morning. I’m sitting with same friend and our mutual other. One of those curved sofa-type deals. A real clam. Perched on the lip of the neighboring one to our right are Beyonce and Jay-Z. Mutual friend is thrilled. She steals the nerve to leave the clam’s embrace. Around the little gold table she slides away, up and over to Beyonce and Jay-Z, her back turned toward us. Her long brown waves bob as she talks, asynchronous to the music. Beyonce nods and smiles. Later I think my friend says she told Beyonce she was gorgeous. (Among other things, I assure you.) Jay-Z looked nonplussed.
I remember reading once in Sontag’s journals: people are like cardboard.
Do not be offended. Don’t take it personally.
I bet Jay-Z was steering the clam clear of obstruction, and guarding the husk of an oyster.
Later when they’d gone my friend went over and downed what was left of Beyonce’s martini.
Haven’t we all experienced the comedown? The comedown from the high, the sugar-coated giddiness. Everything wears off. You’re left to perform the aftermath of all the choices you’ve made up to that moment in the night. It pulls you out of the moment. Enervating, it sets you apart from everything else.
Up until that moment, the girl with a plunging neckline and lips as perfected bow hasn’t looked so garish against the backdrop of flashing lights, jacuzzis, and puffs of smoke.
I’ve always wondered if that eternal, hulking disco ball has ever fallen in the jacuzzi at Le Bain. If the security guards have never scooped it out, they’ve sure found used tampons. They assured me.
Header photo by Leo Becerra.