By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
After only a year, the Dark Room's reputation precedes it. It's the kind of place where you prepare for the hangover in advance, the kind of place that causes people to recount stories like this one: "The last time I was at Dark Room was the night I started out at 7:30, quaffing bourbon at a Bowery Ballroom Heartless Bastards show. It ended with me vomiting out the window of my taxi as I crossed the Queensboro Bridge. Outside of a few blurry images, I had no recollection the next morning of (a) being at Dark Room, (b) getting into the taxi, or (c) getting home at all." Yep. Sounds about right.
So with bottle of aspirin in hand, I joined the lineup of Dark Room regulars for its one-year anniversary last Wednesday: Aurelio Valle, DJ Womanmaker (a/k/a Alex Moreno), Spiky Phil, (Brandon Schmidt) with pal Spin EIC Sia Michel, her gossip monger Marc Spitz, and the stars of the night, Interpol's Carlos D. and Paul Banks, who were the DJs. I spun metalMötley Crüe, Guns N' Roses, and AC/DCbut that wasn't enough to impress some real metalheads (who had hair to their waists to prove it). "Don'tcha have any Slayer!" (Um, no.) "Can't you play something more obscure!" they chided during "Back in Black."
Banks played hip-hop, his true love. But more importantly, he spun Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative." In between Bauhaus, Pet Shop Boys, and Love and Rockets, Carlos D. slipped in a little Heart"Barracuda"and I don't think it was ironic, either.
The bar's cast of characters was out in full force. A night at the Dark Room wouldn't be complete without the bar's unofficial mascots, the Twins, two sisters with big, white-blond, curly 'fros. Presiding over the circus was co-owner Jason Baron. It was funny to see all the Dark Roomers in summer mode, wearing something other than black (I'm looking at you, Nuutti of Dead Combo) and sporting tans. We all agreed that Carlos D. would disown us for being anything other than ghostly pale. His bandmate Daniel Kessler joked that I should compliment Carlos on his color. When I did, he admitted to getting a little dark in Hawaii despite his effortswhich must have included slathering on 1,000 SPF sunblock and hiding under a parasol.
The ubiquitous Ultragrrrl, plus two from the Fischerspooner family, Yoder and (a/k/a Jeremiah Clancy), came through, as did Ken Friedman, co-owner of the Spotted Pig. And Fancy from Fannypackarrived late, sans man purse, so he had to resort to extreme measures. He furtively pulled a drink from the previous bar out of his inside coat pocket. "What?" he protested. "That's what these pockets are made for!" And the Dark Room is made for shenanigans just like that.
Earlier in the week, I went to a place with a different sort of infamous reputation: Cyril's in Amagansett, Long Island. Around seven on any weekend night, cars line up along Old Montauk Highway for what seems like a mile in either direction. The owner, Cyril, is the Tommy Saleh of Amagansettalthough they have different styles of dressing and hosting. For one thing, Cyril wears a sarong, dons a cowboy hat, and carries a parrot on his shoulder. For another, he's a "hippie Republican."
Outside Cyril's, well-made-up aging Long Island Lolitas on the make mingled with a couple of grizzly surfer dudes who looked exactly as you'd expect after 30-plus years of fun in the sun: brown-skinned (Carlos D. would faint at the sight of them), with ultra-blond hair, big muscles, and as many thick creases in their faces as waves they've surfed. The most amiable guys there, they hung out nearwhat else?the surfboard sign. Party on, dudes.