Diane Naegel

We here at CC were intrigued by the Jazz Aged themed parties called “Wit’s End“, so we decided to talk to their hostess to find out more.

CC: Hi Diane! I guess my first question is, where are you from, if not from NYC? Why did you move here, what do you do for work, if that isn’t planning these events? What got you into this style of dress / music / literature? Who is your favorite artist in those genres / periods? What are your other interests? For example, are you into Steam Punk, Victorian Gothic, or 40s swing?; alternatively, do you like macs and cheese, Big Macs, macrobiotic vegan fare? Macrame, textiles, rough spun yarn or spandex? Are you also active in theater or music?

Diane N: I’m actually from the Midwest- Cincinnati, Ohio! I went to fashion school there, and the University of Cincinnati has a cooperative education program where you take six paid internships in your field while you’re in school- so I got to live here in NYC, Seattle, and LA while I was getting my degree…so if you look at it that way, I’ve lived here off and on since 2000- but permanently for the last 4+ years. I’m an accessory designer by day- I actually do all of the kids accessories for OshKosh B’gosh!

My Dad has a huge love of films (particularly comedies) that are pre-1940…so I grew up watching Laurel & Hardy, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, the Stooges, and others. So it was really film that got me into this era from a very young age. (When I was 3, I asked for King Kong and Godzilla to be put on my birthday cake. Ha!) When I was 14, I got into Louise Brooks and her life story, which started the whole interest on another more personal/feminist/adult level…my interest is more Edwardian and after- I’m not really as into the Victorian/steampunk things- I’m more into ragtime/hot jazz/deco period interests. Some of my favorite things/artists/etc from these eras: The Gazette du Bon Ton (amazing French fashion magazine from the teens-mid 1920s, hand colored pochoir fashion illustrations- 1912-1914 are unbelievable!), Louise Brooks, Gilbert Adrian (Hollywood costume/gown designer), Bix Beiderbecke, Fats Waller, hot jazz Halloween songs (amazing how many there are), sister acts (The Boswell Sisters, The Andrews Sisters, The Dolly Sisters…), Sally Rand, Harold Lloyd, Kathe Kollwitz, Madame Yevonde, Edward Steichen, Horst P Horst, Alfred Cheney Johnston, Georges Lepape, Tamara de Lempicka, Constantin Brâncuşi, GW Pabst, Fritz Lang…so many things- too many to name them all!

I’m a mac n’ cheese fanatic…I take note of all of the best spots in the city to get great mac n’ cheese…(but then again, you do have those days where all you want is the Kraft make-it-at-home-from-the-packet stuff!) I’ll share with you now that my mac n’ cheese favorites are Mama’s (East Village) and Cornershop Café (at Bleecker/Broadway)!

Funny that you ask about yarns and fibers- I actually still run a small custom scarf business that I started out of college at www.lulette.com ! When I’m not in vintage evening attire, I’m usually in 40s day dresses or tees n’ jeans (favorite is my holey 70s tee that reads ‘rock n roll lives’ in pink on faded black or stealing Don’s Bauhaus tee).

As for other things, I pretty much grew up being into rock n roll- I didn’t get into the music of this era until much later…I was definitely hanging on post riot-grrrl and had almost everything put out on Kill Rock Stars for a good 4 years or so! I’ve played with friends bands just playing around and recorded once, and I was playing keys/synthesizers.

I love owls, vintage Halloween ephemera, houses reminiscent of the Addams Family house, Diet Sunkist, XTC, Antiques Roadshow, watching America’s Next Top Model at the gym while on the elliptical trainer, and The Women. I hate most vegetables, pulp in my orange juice, chunky peanut butter (it’s a texture thing), and Rush Limbaugh types.

CC: Shien Lee, who is a friend of yours, hosts a party called “Dances of Vice” that is a more broadly themed costume party in New York. How did you meet?

Diane N: Shien and I met when I attended the very first Dances of Vice at the Pussycat Lounge…I was very into the idea of attending a vintage nightlife event! Don [Spiro] actually knew her from the LA scene already. I commend her so much for moving to a new city, and just diving right in and starting an event…Don and I put on Wit’s End, and we’ve always gone to Dances of Vice since the beginning…when Shien started taking DOV in the direction of not just Jazz Age events, but Victorian/18th century/etc kinds of themes; we decided to do a strictly Jazz Age regular monthly event to offer to a similar crowd…we missed the Jazz Age regular party. We’re definitely good friends with Shien, and like to cross promote our events (and hang out whenever we can)…now the dynamic is that we’re the jaunty, regular, Jazz Age event; and Dances of Vice is the larger, multi-genre historically-inspired nightlife event…I really think Shien is redefining the idea of nightlife here in NYC and is redefining what a ‘club kid’ can be as well. We love going to each others events so that we can see all of our friends without being the ones running around organizing everything all night!

CC: How close are you guys to the Burlesque scene? Is there any cross over from other groups?

Diane N: Don and I are very close to the burlesque scene- he’s one of the most well-known burlesque/pinup photographers in the country, and I’ve attended shows regularly for the last few years and have lots of pals within that community…we both attend Exotic World every year in Vegas, and I’ve stage kittened at the New York Burlesque Fest. There is some crossover in the burlesque and vintage scenes…I think we’re both creating a fantasy of sorts and appeal to one another that way…

CC: Speaking of photography, I noticed a big part of the scene is recreating a vibe with pictures, which leads me to my next question: what is Zelda magazine? How was it developed, and what is its mission? Who will be writing it, what’s its distribution, will it be in print or online?

Diane N: Zelda: The Magazine of the Vintage Nouveau, is my project that I started this summer. I realized that the ‘vintage’ community didn’t have a print publication devoted to it, and that there were many people interested in it across the country…I knew a LOT of businesses/musicians/etc who work in that genre of inspiration, and there really wasn’t a place for them to advertise or be featured in something that would target that audience. It started out in concept as more of a pinup magazine done in the 20s/30s pinup style (rather than the more prevalent girl-next-door of the 40s/50s), but then evolved into more of a broad, lifestyle magazine. It’s a real print magazine- comic size (5.5” x 8.5”) and is 56 color pages in issue 1. Zelda’s articles are written by a number of great contributors from the vintage scene around the country; and the rest is done by me (editing, layout, ad sales, etc). About half of Zelda is dedicated to pieces on interesting topics from 1900-1939; and the other half is on the contemporary vintage scene with pieces on nightlife events, city guides, and features on artists/performers who work with that inspiration. The main way to purchase Zelda is via the website (http://www.zeldamag.com) . There will not be subscriptions, so it’s a buy each issue kind of situation. Zelda comes out biannually, so its two visits to the site per year to get your hands on the latest copy! It will also be sold at Wit’s End, Dances of Vice, and other vintage nightlife events on both coasts; as well as a handful of our favorite vintage stores here in NYC and around the country! The official launch is at the Black Cat Masquerade, the Hallowe’en event put on by Wit’s End and the Dorothy Parker Society at Flute Bar in Midtown (205 W 54th St); so it will go on sale online on Hallowe’en as well.

CC: Great! Thanks for talking to us!