Dancing (Naked) in the Dark

Something strange happened to New York City last week. Yes, the power went out for 29 hours, but something else happened. The city's nightlife, though bereft of electricity, became fun.

Like any night in the city, Thursday was to be the day of a billion events: DJs were supposed to spin, bands were to play. None of that happened. Instead, everyone had a giant block party. Tompkins Square Park turned into a blazing palace of drums and bonfires. People danced (without a cabaret license) and drank alcohol and smoked "special cigarettes" out in the open. Someone called it "Burning Man in New York."

Most of us found the notion that New Yorkers were "sticking together" or supporting each other through the crisis silly. No, we were all too busy getting wasted in public to be bothered with fighting or squabbling.

DJ Sammy Jo lets it all hang out at the Slide on the night of the Great Blackout.
photo: Sammy Jo
DJ Sammy Jo lets it all hang out at the Slide on the night of the Great Blackout.

Details

More Blackout Coverage:

"Mondo Washington: Why the Public Is Powerless" by James Ridgeway

"Pataki: New York's Prince of Darkness" by Wayne Barrett

"A Blackout Letter From an Absent Friend" by Michael Feingold

"Press Clips: It's Deregulation, Stupid" by Cynthia Cotts

Across the city different nightclubbers were having uniquely different blackout experiences. The Chemical Brothers, in town to promote a singles collection, Singles 93-03, were at the 14th-floor midtown offices of K-Rock. Finished with their interview, Tom and Ed were ready to leave, but their Astralwerks escort introduced them to some more people at the station. A few moments later, the building went dark; had they left a few minutes earlier, they would have been stuck in the elevator for an untold number of hours. After walking down the stairs, Tom and Ed made their way to the Mercer, and spent the night drinking in the lobby, where other assorted celebs imbibed, including Elvis Costello, Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein, photographer David LaChapelle, downtown tranny Amanda Lepore (who spent part of the blackout riding around the East Village in a rickshaw-like vehicle totally butt naked and offering photo ops to strangers), and Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes. (Sadly, Mr. Rhodes couldn't nab a table.)

Some were not so lucky. Local drum'n'bass DJ Empress was stuck on the C train for four hours with a pregnant woman in pain, and because she had a flashlight, ended up leading the people on the train through the pitch-black tunnels. Later, she ventured to DUMBO and a darkened Times Square to gaze at the red moon and the red planet, Mars.

Techno jock Kimyon was at Rockefeller Center when the lights went out. After walking down 28 flights of stairs, he hiked across the Williamsburg Bridge and happily encountered fellow techno mates George, Lenny, and Dave Function at the first bar he happened upon. "If only we had a generator," said Kimyon. "Then I received a Friendster message from someone in Chicago telling me that they saw me walking across the bridge on the national news."

Other people had a big night planned but ended up spending a quiet evening at home. Jorge Hernandez of Passerby was all geared up for an event featuring Sal Principato, the lead singer of Liquid Liquid. The band is recording its first new material in nearly 20 years and was set to tour Europe. "It took some weeks of persuasion, a couple of cocktails, and many, many e-mails, but I finally managed to get one of my reclusive musical heroes to honor me with some time on the decks together," wrote Hernandez. It was not to be. Hernandez spent the night wandering around Bedford in Williamsburg, grabbing a smoke off a friendly neighbor, ending up at home stoned. "I went upstairs and read two issues of The New Yorker by candlelight while listening to the tracks I had selected for my DJ date that never came to pass." (Lucky Jorge rescheduled his party with Principato for this Thursday, though.)

At Pianos, Counter Commons, the publicity director and booking agent for the club, cancelled the show for Fefe Dobson (guest list 150), for which they had rented extra equipment all for naught. They closed the bar, but a few hangers-on, including comedian David Cross, stuck around and drank on the fire escape. Carlos D from Interpol, who was supposed to DJ at the party, was later spotted hanging out on the sidewalk with a group of people, listening to iTunes off a computer and sipping cocktails.

Over at the Slide, the scandalous Dazzle Dancers were having an impromptu party with a battery-powered boombox. It all began when Slide promoter Daniel Nardicio collected his stranded friends on the street in his pickup truck, driving performance artist Garrett Domina, Lypsinka producer Jared Geller, actor-diva Justin Bond, Theo of the Lunachicks, actress Jane Adams (of Happiness fame), and Lily of the Valley (of Wonder Boys) around the East Village.

Their evening evolved (or devolved) into a raucous night of bacchanalia, culminating with everyone getting naked and go-go dancing on the bar at the Slide. Other prime suspects: Tigerbeat party DJ, Sammy Jo, Jason Sellards of Scissor Sisters, local luminary G-Spot, and Jeff Whitty of Avenue Q. Said Nardicio, "New York needs more blackouts." We second that.


tromano@villagevoice.com

 
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