By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
I generally loathe lounges, but Beige--the gayish carnival of souls approaching its third year of Tuesdays at B Bar--is a stand-up more than a sit-down, and a get-down more than a letdown, the partly open-air quality paving the way for some mentally air-conditioned madness. The place is sometimes annoyingly filled with studlets all sporting the same calculatedly semiunkempt gorgeousness, but they do provide an aesthetic backdrop for all those marvelous guest stars, the ones the event's copromoter Erich Conradcalls "fashion people, movie stars, pop stars, porn stars, and liquor enthusiasts." The result makes Beige "a chase lounge," as Conrad told me over Cokes at B Bar, "because you get to chase people. Everything's so modern now. Everybody swings!"
A swingular creation, Conrad hails from Cleveland, where his main aspiration was "to get out." Once he did, he was drawn to New York's character-friendly night world, emerging as a florid Downtown impresario with a story and/or quip for any occasion. "The actual inspiration for Beige," he insists, "was when I was in Africa for a month being chased by baboons on a mountain, and all I had was a Claudine Longet tape." It was the original chase lounge.
Originally, Beige featured offbeat performances, like the Invisible Man--actually a wig on a string--and a woman who claimed to yodel Beatles songs, "but she lied," says Conrad. "She really had a stuffed dog talking about how she lost her virginity to a mountain man. I was like, 'Yodel! Yodel!' " Now the place is a little less like Viva Varietyand more like a salon with go-go boys, though DJ John Johndoes spin all that wonderfully weird music. (The original DJ, Billy Beyond, is now running Beige in L.A., where they're almost getting it.) The guest-list mix of new and old, Eves and Margos, has made for some blissfully cuckoo moments. Remembers Conrad, "There was the night the Lady Bunnywas in the bathroom for an hour and came out with Buddy Hackett! The night the cast of Beverly Hills 90210were all fighting, so we put on high school marching band music. The time Alicia Silverstonedanced on a table, and it was a bit wobbly--I kind of wantedit to fall. And I'll never forget Dan Matthewsfrom PETA [the group that fights cruelty to animals] saying, 'Do you have any good Princess Di jokes?' to a man who'd just come in from England, not realizing he was Di's stepbrother!" Yodel! Yodel!
Mid misty, watercolored memories, Conrad's copromoter Edwigestraggled into the interview, having partied with the omnipresent Alan Cumming, among others, the night before. Her voice was like dried gravel, but her charisma was still as palpable as her fashion sense. "She was the punk princess of Paris," beamed Conrad. The sometime model and chanteuse grew up in a convent where her main aspiration was, yep, to get out. What's her favorite kind of nocturnal experience? "That's too hard," she cringed. "It's early." It was 4:40 p.m. Anyway, Conrad had no trouble picking up the slack. "Jesus is my favorite pop star," he volunteered. "He's cute and he never ages. No Leif Garrettthere." Conrad also finds the Uptown women divine ("I love asking Nan Kempner, 'Are you sureyou don't want to eat anything?' ") and thoughtfully places champagne buckets at models' tables to facilitate vomiting. The only person he'd throw out of the club is Mira Sorvino,because "she's the illegitimate child of Kathie Lee Gifford." A bizarre reason, but a hard one to dispute since it's so . . . beige. And next to plaid, that's my favorite color.
Many shades of brown are on display at Mars 2112--not a lounge at all (though it has one), but the newest theme eatery to replace the genuine otherworldly ambience of the Times Square environs with a fake one that you pay for. Like the old Downtown dance club named Mars, the place is filled with unearthly clubkid?looking types, but these have been hiredto act like Martians and chase-lounge you with jokes like "I've been told I have my mother's fin and my father's smile!" With granny's grimace, we entered last week's press preview via a pseudo spaceship which shakily simulated flying through the stratosphere and left us in a replica of a subterranean volcanic crater, ready to eat! After picking up an intergalactic beverage from an "astrophizzicist" at the Mars Bar, we floated to our table to peruse the menu, a Martian newspaper filled with forecasts ("Weather outlook on Mars is stellar for the next couple of light-years"), personal ads ("Extra limbs a plus"), and, thankfully, food ideas. The luncheon choice was between Angry Red Penne and surreal salmon, but normally you can also wrap your fins around Quasar Quesadillas, Soylent Greens, and some things even Nan Kempner might consider.
The place is cleverly done and will be a gold mine, though--unlike on the realMars--some needy person asks "How was your flight?" or "How's the food?" about every five earth seconds. This pampering process is clearly aimed at tourists who need comforting before they go back to their hotels and get mugged and raped. But excuse me, I'm not a tourist, and seriously started craving some local attitude. New York is supposed to be its owntheme park--shouldn't your punishment for having raised a family of recreation hounds be that you have to schlepp to Orlando for this? By the time the 800th person asked me how my flight was, I became emotionally violent and smugly retorted, "A little like TWA." The guy looked stunned--this wasn't in the script--then said, "Oh, do they do something like that, too?" Oy.