Stayin' Alive

Tonic struggles with eviction; Sherry Vine survives Berlin

Tonic, the venerable Lower East Side venue that's hosted many of the best jazz and experimental musicians since 1998, is facing eviction. The venue's owners say they need to raise $100,000 or else Tonic will be officially kaput. MELISSA CARUSO SCOTT, who owns Tonic with her husband, JOHN SCOTT, says recent rent and insurance increases and expensive building repairs have been an unbearable financial drain on the downtown club where JOHN ZORN, THURSTON MOORE, and SEAN LENNON have played.

While business has been steady, the attendance hasn't gone up enough to cover the rent increase, and Scott points out that they have spent thousands on repairs in an 85-year-old building they don't even own. She says their landlord—"a pretty big real estate firm" that she declined to name for legal reasons—hasn't offered to cover repairs. After paying to patch up a broken sewer line, the club has fallen several months and several thousand dollars behind in rent. "It's a 20-grand fix," says Scott of the sewer line. "That's huge for us." To add insult to injury, someone stole $7,000 from Tonic's lockbox during the summer. The landlord is now pushing to evict the club, but Scott says they are going to fight it, because they've spent so much money fixing the building.

Over the next few weeks, they are hosting a series of benefits, including one this Friday with HURRAY, DOVEMAN and STARS LIKE FLEAS, to raise money for Tonic's expenses. The club has a contributions section on its Web page, tonicnyc.com, and an area where people are posting testimonials. "There's been a huge response," Scott says. "We've been inundated with e-mails and support. It's really moving to know how important Tonic is to so many people."

In more uplifting news, drag diva SHERRY VINE is back. The performer (boy name: KEITH LEVY) spent the last three and a half years in Berlin, predating the massive influx of New Yorkers by a few years. He first fell in love with the city while touring Europe a few years back, and said Berlin appealed to him the most because "it really has this feeling of what New York was like 10 years ago. It has a young artist energy, and the gay scene is really diverse. I thought, 'Yeah, I could live here.' "

And in Berlin, a drag performer isn't snubbed by the big-shot theater world. "It's a legitimate art form," says Levy, a co-founder of Theatre Couture and a trained performer with a master's degree in acting from USC. "You play cabarets and theaters, not really clubs. It's part of their culture—the '20s and '30s. ROMY HAAG performs live and is a star there." Levy says the acceptance of drag was "gorgeous," but "unfortunately, there is no money in Berlin, and everyone's on the dole."

We caught Sherry's first show last week at the performance space of the Chelsea restaurant Elmo (she returns this Wednesday through Friday at 8), and Miss Vine seemed more perky and cheery than we remembered. It turned out that she was in "love" with a certain PRINCE WILLIAM and they were gonna get married. Of course, we all know how this turns out: The Prince wasn't so charming, and this led our Sherry to go down the lonely road of alcoholism and crack addiction (at one point she takes fake drags off a foil). Through it all, she looked fabulous in a glittery pink number that showed off her legs—which are, incidentally, way better than mine or yours, unless you are a supermodel. Rated X's DJ ADAM, Motherfucker's MICHAEL T, CANDIS CAYNE, PEPPERMINT, and HOPEY ROCKof CANDY ASS were in the crowd loving her theatrical interpretations of songs like THE EURYTHMICS' "Who's That Girl?"—sung after Prince William's "sister" answered the phone. Sherry: "Wait, does Prince William have a sister?" She closed the evening on an upbeat note: "I Will Survive." Yes, honey, you will.


tromano@villagevoice.com
 
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