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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 doorman is an asshole, mawkish and mookish and with the audacity to tell us, “I’m from Long Island,” as if we couldn’t figure that out on our own.  I half expect him to tell us he’s a Scorpio and follow up with a story about his brother-in-law.  Anything to get around this D-bag and get to the bar.  The sounds of the Redhook Ramblers tumble out into the foyer and fill us with aggravated anticipation.  The downstairs hall is packed so we climb the grandiose stairway and snuggle up to Manhattans.  The lounges are occupied by stunning young girls in flapper attire, a girl on a chaise lounge so preternaturally bored-looking I assume she’s been practicing that look since before puberty.  Nicely done.

A second look and I’ve coined a phrase:  Flapper Goth Chic.  The kids are sporting 20s-themed outfits filled out in black, the odd zipper or chain, black makeup, dyed-black hair.  Robert Smith stuffed into a 20s bartender getup, with stays and all.  Girls in fantastic, decorated stockings, garters, wild hair and outlandish makeup.  A couple of eccentrics with painted faces, two-face style, like maniacs at a football game but in suits with umbrellas.  The Manhattans are going down smoothly but I think I need some serious drugs to get into the swing of things.  Need a little Murray Hill in both nostrils and maybe a Roofie.  Did they do blow in the 20s?  Do they serve absinthe at this bar?

I lean into my editor:  “Hey, I’ve been moving all weekend, I’ve had maybe 4 hours sleep in the last two nights put together.  My coverage of this shindig is gonna be slim—this is supposed to be my night off.”  He empties his glass.  “Make it… impressionistic.”  My first impression?  These Manhattans are getting me shitfaced but quick.  Or, as they’d have said in the 20s, I’m getting a little tight.

A slow walk down the stairs, supporting girls in vertigo-inducing heels.  The show is on.  Two figures in death robes do a slow-walk entrance to a dirge that suddenly erupts in freneticism—think a New Orleans funeral, despair flipped inside-out.  They ditch the cloaks and crack a tandem tap routine, in pink slips with black trim and garters, natch.  They’re fantastic, the jazz is on point, and by the time they fall into the Charleston I’m sold.  Kristen and Jen, better known as the Minsky Sisters.

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Amen.

I step out and find myself in a conversation with two kids who have been drinking legally about as long as I’ve been writing this piece, the boy looking like Iggy Pop left out in the sun too long and the girl looking like PSA for jailbait.  They look at me like I’m old.  They come here often.  They wouldn’t call themselves scenesters because they’re too blasé in their habitual interest and because, let’s face it, they’re just too nice.  I like them and ride the conversation wistfully.  Ah, youth.  It’s not wasted on the young—it’s well spent.  If they gave it away to the middle-aged they’d blow it all working and saving.

As the door opens and closes as latecomers try to navigate their way around the Long Island asshole at the door picking a fight with a blonde European tourist with legs up to her eyebrows, the crinkled sound of an accordion shakes out of the building like a dock worker shaking out a last Lucky Strike from a soft cellphone pack.  Someone is grinding it like a sausage maker.

In the main room Mr. Uncertain is tickling the ivories… he looks like Marc Bolan and sounds like Ethel Merman.   I’m beginning to feel like the last of the dishwater swirling down the drain and climb the staircase with visible exhaustion.  Another Manhattan will fix me right up.

The photographer Don Spiro fills me in on where I am… it’s Dances of Vice, and they throw different themed parties all the time (with a 20s-40s vintage lingerie party coming up) … but it’s also a Wit’s End party, which are always, apparently, prohibition-era themed.  Don also introduces me to Diane Naegel, who looks like a cigarette girl but is actually pushing chocolate—she’s a chocolatier, by trade, and working the room like a natural.  Don’s full of useful information—the host, Constantine, is from Berlin, and, as we all know, if you want to be anyone or anything these days you have to be down with Berlin.

I get distracted by the ladies and miss most of the second act.  “It’s supposed to be my night off,” I keep reminding no one in particular.  My accomplice gets the skinny on the after party, a “James Bond” themed event which we are totally dressed for, but fails to get the specifics—where, when.  By the time they close the upstairs people are spilling down the grand stone staircase and gathering near the sidewalk to figure out their next move, huddled and furtive like bookies.  Passersby keep asking me what the event was—it seems the new natives of Park Slope aren’t even aware that they live down the block from a social club.

Before I’m truly aware of my own movements our bodyguard is negotiating a fare with a cabbie to squeeze 7 drunks into one car, the James Bond party is forgotten, the conversation veers into the relentlessly silly, and we’re off, as always, to our immortal destination:  a bar.

Any fucking bar.

Kiss kiss,
J.D. Oxblood

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