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Let’s do the time warp again! And by “time warp” I mean warping to an alternate universe about six months from now when the Nouveau Burlesque, downtown New York’s indigenous revival of the Great 20th Century American Burlesque, opens on The Great White Way. Now, this is an alternate universe, so it looks similar, but it is not identical to our own. In this alternate universe, some greats of our contemporary scene have different names and different histories: Jo Boobs is still the boss, but the alternate Boobs is still partying like it’s 1979. The famous, gritty theater where it all goes down is either The Box or the Slipper Room crossed with the Minsky’s National Winter Garden Theater, circa 1925, and the beautiful ingénue isn’t a brainy, erudite Fordham grad, she’s an NYU doctoral student writing a thesis on alternative gender performance, circa 1995.
You may not guess it from the picture of the handsome man above, but Lefty is a leftist, a commie, a red — and not in the Texas “Red Meat” way. You might think of this guy as a Lefty for The Great Recession — cool, hip, possibly living in a palatial squat in Buffalo, refusing to use currency or pay for food.
And yet, it was not always thus.
The enduring strength of Clifford Odets’s play Waiting for Lefty is its focus on character rather than identity. That may seem like a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one that traces the success and failure of the labor movement in the USA from Odets’s time to ours. Odets’s characters are honest, working people who strive for a measure of human dignity and are systematically deprived of it by the Bosses, the Owners, and the unsympathetic, pampered, and callous Elites. Odets builds his characters through their struggles: they are dynamic, not static. But in the intervening three quarters of a century since this play was first produced “identity” as a pillar of capitalist ideology has dominated and marginalized character so thoroughly that the didactic purpose of this play, what Brecht would have called a lehrstück, is easy to miss. Waiting for Lefty is the greatest work of American agitprop theater because it attempts to dramatize how a person learns courage in an act of character building, rather than appealing to the audience’s fear and pity.
“Who are you going to believe? Me or you eyes?” —Groucho Marx
I jokingly asked myself on the way to see Before Your Very Eyes, a play about 9/11 at the Flamboyan Theatre, “Is it too soon? Is nine years long enough to get a grip on the real truth of 9/11?”
I thought I was being facetious, but the question goes to the heart of what Edward Elefterion, the writer/director of Before Your Very Eyes is aiming to do with his play. The question “what happened” is a question of perspective. Each one of us who were in the city on 9/11/2001 have a personal story about that day that we have shaped and polished over the years into an appropriate three minute downer that you tell people outside the City. “I did (or didn’t) see a building fall with my naked eyes”; “I knew (or didn’t) someone who worked there.” A lot of us have stories of friends who were supposed to be near the World Trade Center towers that day and for some reason weren’t; many of us saw figures covered in concrete dust streaming across the East River bridges into Brooklyn; some of us trapped outside the city had to watch our city cope with disaster from a distance.
In college, a friend of mine said tripping on acid was the ultimate inside joke: if you’d done it you got it; if you hadn’t you wondered what the big deal was.
You could say the same for modern art, religious enthusiasm, and fashion week. From an outsider’s perspective the shiny, happy faces and breathless testimonials are either delusional or cynically fake. But LSD is more than a social convention or manifestation of groupthink; it affects the body and the mind – the bodymind – simultaneously, fusing the two in the most unexpected and necessary ways. In religious terms, it’s the equivalent of Eve eating the apple. Before you taste it you are an extra in the movie of your own life, observing your emotional pain with cool detachment through the lens of endlessly repeated, self-deluding narratives. From the secure perch of innocence nothing can really touch you. Afterwards you know the meaning of good and evil from the inside.
Martin Dockery’s new dramatic monologue The Bike Trip playing now at the Kraine Theater explores the awakening promised by LSD and its ramifications thoughtfully and with nuance. And he gives the audience a rather large dose of humor too.
One fine afternoon in the early 00′s, after having consumed several beers, two hot dogs, and probably as many cheese burgers at the Gowanus Yacht Club, my companion and I stumbled down Union Street headed East to Park Slope. After we passed the canal I saw the following graffito on the side of a building: “Go anus”. Someone had done a reverse Letter Man and taken the “w”.
The canal itself has never been pleasant. One source says “The opaqueness of the Gowanus water obstructs sunlight to one third of the six feet needed for aquatic plant growth. Rising gas bubbles betray the decomposition of sewage sludge that on a ripe, warm day produces the canal’s notable stench.” The environs around it aren’t much better. After you pass Hoyt headed East, the nice front yards and townhouses of Carroll Gardens give place to many warehouses and factories, many of which appear abandoned. It was in one such abandoned warehouse turned crackin’ night spot — The Green Building — that my date and I caught Michael Arenella‘s Winter Ball last Saturday night.
November 19, 2009
Oh the villainies of Facebook! It seems that when word gets out that you write for a blog as prestigious as Cultural Capitol you start getting invited to all kinds of parties. And so it was I was invited to the NCYFF film industry mixer at GStaad last night.
Happy Halloween! Tonight the good people at 313 Clinton Avenue put on their yearly Halloween show, and it may have been their best ever! The theme this year was “Carnival of Carnage.” As always the production value was top notch. The folks working on the show include some past and present theater folk from the Great White Way who know their way around sound and light equipment. They also know how to edit your favorite Disney songs to give them Brooklyn specific lyrics over the familiar music. Most of the ghouls and monsters in this year’s show crawled out of the ooze of the Gowanus canal, including the mermaid in the picture above, tapping her way into the hearts of the many children in the audience who were enchanted by the spectacle. (It seemed like half the audience was under three years old.)
These guys were playing in Washington Square Park recently. I didn’t catch their name. They looked and sounded like the early Beatles.
Last Wednesday was the last Speakeasy at the Museum of the City of New York. If you missed it, too bad. You’ll just have to wait for next year.
Last night the lovely Ms. Cybil Lake threw a fundraiser to raise funds for the production of her movie “The Gun Virgins” at Gallery Bar. She screened a video from her reality show “The Cybil Lake Show” and served free drinks courtesy of Krol vodka and Caballo Negro wine.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE http://www.saveconeyisland.net/
PRESS CONTACT: Juan Rivero, Spokesman
Save Coney Island, 646.229.6609, firstname.lastname@example.org
AS N.Y. HONORS JANE JACOBS, HER SON IS ‘APPALLED’ AT CONEY ISLAND REZONING PLAN
Ned Jacobs: ‘This rezoning plan for Coney Island does not appear to reflect
the urban values and planning principles she espoused’
By the end of June people who can afford it have left town for two months, or at least every weekend. The moneyed leisure class get tans, sit on the dock or the deck drinking champagne, and contemplate early retirement. The rest of us wander the streets between July 4th and Labor Day looking for a party on or off a rooftop, cruising the nearly empty streets and braving the inevitable spike in violent crime. The unmoneyed leisure class (a.k.a. the unemployed) have plenty of time for idleness, and idle hands are indeed the devil’s weekend in the Hamptons.
John Hodgman was performing a comedy show last night at Union Hall in Park Slope. I didn’t know that, so the giddy joy I felt as I told my companion PC was standing in front of us at the door was genuine. I thought perhaps that he was just there to soak up the hipster vibe like the rest of us. It turned out he was amplifying the hipster vibe, by a factor of ten at least.
Last Thursday, May 21st, I clanked down the metal stairs of Jimmy’s 43 and into the subterranean bar completely and thoroughly confused. I had been invited by Christine Elmo to come to a benefit for a dance production she has choreographed and hopes to produce. Christine is a New York dance artist who has performed in the city and Europe extensively for the last two years. (Check out the video of dancing in Central Turkey and her CV here. Beautiful!) She’s a mover and a shaker in every sense of the phrase. So I guess I expected the benefit would be in a black box theater south of Houston, someplace that reeks of fresh paint and sawdust.
The Sad Panda brought his friend to Bowling Green yesterday. His friend didn’t say much, but he was soooooo cute!
Poor little guy. I can only imagine how hot he’ll be tomorrow whent the temps are supposed to be in the 80s!
I was cranky at 11:45 after spending 45 minutes in stop-and-go traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge. It seemed like everyone on Long Island was trying to push their cars into Manhattan. I prayed that some supernatural force would strike upstate lawmakers blind and replace them with legislators who know that fewer cars in Manhattan + more money for the MTA = real growth for NYC. Then I prayed to make it to Lady GaGa’s show at Terminal 5 on time.
The doors opened at 11. Three opening acts made up the bill, and I figured each one would be 15 minutes, so by the time I rolled in at 12, I was prepared to be homicidally angry, worried that I had missed her altogether. But luck was on my side. She waited for the witching hour to start the show, and I had just enough time to grab a drink and wade hip deep into the sweaty, writhing flesh pond surrounding the stage before beats started pumping out of the PA.
by J.D. Oxblood
Our livery car driver has inexplicitly decided to roll all the way down Flatbush, which is like a Christmas Eve parking lot considering that it’s Saturday night in Park Slope. I’m wearing a gangster-fied pinstriped double-breasted jacket, my editor is in a full tux, and our other accomplice looks like a 1950s cartoon character. We’re rolling with three gorgeous women and a bodyguard; I somehow feel that we’re one gorgeous woman short—I like to ride with a spare.
We arrive at the Montauk Club, designed by Francis H. Kimball and completed in 1891. The story goes that he was inspired by a palace on Venice’s Grand Canal, and the imposing Venetian gothic architecture rises from the banality of the Slope like a monolith in a highlands desert. Stone. Mahogany. Stained glass. My jacket pocket feels suddenly empty—I really should be packing hooch to fully be in character.
The folks on the G line near Pratt have been especially creative recently, so I thought I’d share their work with the rest of you. The one above is a sentimental mash up that shows how sports cheese and Lifetime channel romance cheese blend so seamlessly. The one below is just FUNNY.
The band .357 Lover promises on its website to sacrifice their souls so that we may be properly rocked, and Saturday night they delivered.
The Coney Island benefit party at Southpaw was Brooklyn to a T. Freaks, Geeks, Hipsters, Lezzies, Homos, Straights, Bents, Rockers, Mods, Burlesquers, and B-Boys all showed up to save the dilapidated symbol of Brooklyn Soul. The World Famous Bob co-Emceed the Burlesque potion of the show with Miss Astrid, and let me tell you dear reader, they are two of the funniest women in show biz. (Murray Hill, who was not there, is the funniest man.)
It was a night of New York burlesque all stars including Julie Atlas Muze, Gigi La Femme and the World Famous Pontani sisters who performed together and separately.
You can’t go wrong with that lineup. Angie Pontani sealed the deal with her show stopping tub act, courtesy of Hendrick’s Gin. After that it was hard (so to speak) to walk out of the club upright.
The special surprise of the evening, what made it really special and not just really good, were the Daisy Spurs. They tore up the stage with sizzling energy and heart-pounding dance moves. It was my first time seeing the Daisy Spurs, and I was so impressed I imediately updated my mobile FB status to “Daisy Spurs, my new favorite crazy.” That impressed.
Some lady was yelling at the camera people, “What is this? Law and Order? Law and Order? It’s always Law and Order!”
I’m not sure what this dude is selling. He stands on the little peninsula of pavement where Broadway bifurcates downtown. But there he/she is, every day, in the freezing cold or boiling heat, not selling or soliciting, just hanging out with his little panda painted trash pail (pictured at bottom left).
“Come on, let’s go downtown, Trixie and the Monkey are performing at the Slipper Room.”
“No, no… I’m drunk, I don’t have a notebook with me, I don’t have my camera—“
“Let’s just go see the show!”
“Ok, fine, but I’m not working!”
Famous last words. Hear me, O children, as I say verily unto you, once one has started down the path of wickedness, there is, truly, no turning back. And truly, once one has committed oneself to the recording of said wickedness, merely being wicked will never again suffice. Which is a long-winded way of saying, I went to the Slipper Room and totally blew my cover. It had been so long… I was just so HAPPY to be back in a burlesque venue, and the show was so show-stoppingly amusing, and I so show-stoppingly inebriated, that I just couldn’t HELP myself from talking to the performers and generally making a total ass of myself.
This was taken last week downtown. Where is the New Depression is headed?!
I am truly in Hell. The only work I have managed to get is in the comic book convention world. Which, judging by the sold-out numbers of people at the Javits for the New York Comic Con, is still kinda recession-proof. I fell into the work, really. I don’t even read comic books* (Get the whole story here). And I definitely don’t “get” comic book geeks. I mean, they’re sweet enough, in their own, special, pasty, basement-dwelling way, but I mean, puh-lease. You weren’t all home-schooled, were you? There has to be an ounce of social skills somewhere in that cranium, right??? Whatever the case may be, these skills were not on display (yet again) at this year’s New York Comic Con. Actual snippet of overheard conversation on the crosstown bus on the way to the Javits:
Geek Girl1: So when I finally saw X-Men 3…
Geek 2: Oh you didn’t! It was HORRIBLE.
GG1: I didn’t think it was so bad, at first, you know, just taking it at face value, but then they explained to me how it was totally in opposition to the art and color scheme by so-and-so and blahdy-blahdy-geek-blah…
… and this drivel went on the ENTIRE CROSSTOWN RIDE. Nightmare. How do I get myself into these situations? Anyway, I was working a booth for my new semi-F/T gig with the longest running independent comic book convention in NYC. I have biz cards and everything! I am officially one of THEM. O.M.F.G.
And I work for one of the top guys in the comic book collecting world. Somehow he’s one of them and not one of them at the same time. He knows them all, but he used to ski with the beautiful people at Studio 54. High and low, as it were. Anyway, scads of people come by his booth and I get to people watch them all. I could go on and on about the various freaks and geeks**, but the ones who really caught my eye were the Gothic Lolitas: you know, Asian girls in a mix of goth and maid uniforms, with a Lolita twist.
Essentially, these girls are walking manga. I was Goth, bitd, but this is a Japanese twist on an old classic. I talked with one self-professed Gothic Lolita, 18 year old Kana from Manhattan. She said she first got into the look 8 years ago after seeing J Rock artists on TV (example here). She saw the fans of that style of music and wanted to dress like them. It’s a very cute world with which to identify. As opposed to Cosplay fans at the Comic Con, Kana said this is her normal style of dress. She likes bands like Plastic Tree, and she and her friends get together for karaoke parties. She seemed really well-adjusted. It was refreshing, in this land of make-believe.
So I am officially an insider in this crazy comic book world. But I guess now I can finally finish my Sandman collection. I’m only missing #2 and #43. Christ. Kill me now.
*Except Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in the 90′s. Brilliant. Oh, and the occasional Betty and Veronica when I was little. Can you say cat fight? Me-ow!
**New rule: Guys, if you’re wearing spandex, will you PLEASE wear a cup?!?!?!? I am still scrubbing those lumpy images from my brain.
Hey kids, if you’re looking for trouble on a Friday night, but the Recession has put 24 hour raves off your to-do list, why not check out Brian Newman After Dark at Duane Park?
This guy was on 14th, just West of Union Square, ballancing a cat on his head. I had to take a picture.