Cat Scratch Fever

Bitchy doormen, '70s porn, and the paragraph that turned Fly Life gay

Glenn Belverio and Thomas Onorato can stop fighting like two old Italian ladies. Their book Confessions From the Velvet Ropes: The Glamorous, Grueling Life of Thomas Onorato, New York's Top Club Doorman is finally out.

You may know Onorato as the guy wielding the clipboard and helming the velvet ropes at MisShapes and Motherfucker. Belverio is a longtime club kid and former drag performer turned journalist. I had a three-way with the boys (over the phone, you sick puppies!) a few days after their book bash at Sol in late July, a Who's Who of clubland past, present, and future. Motherfuckers Johnny T and Michael T mingled with elder statesman of club-chronicling Anthony Haden-Guest, novelist Bruce Benderson, Studio 54 doorman Marc Benecke, fashion designer–diva Zaldy, fashionista Patrick McDonald, indie filmmaker Bruce La Bruce, and my personal giant, Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield.

Noticeably missing from the festivities was Kenny Kenny, the New York über-doorman who helmed the ropes at Limelight and the Gatien clubs in their '90s heyday. Though he's featured extensively in the book, Kenny took issue with a characterization in one scene that depicts him getting physical and scratching a patron— Belverio, actually.

Have a super time at the Boysroom
photo: Tricia Romano
Have a super time at the Boysroom

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Slideshow: Smoking in the Boysroom
Go-go boys, '70s porn, and an excellent chance of getting laid
Fly Life Gallery by Tricia Romano

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"I really like Kenny a lot, but when I went to the clubs in the early '90s he was a nightmare," Belverio says. "He was funny and nasty, and that was the ingredient. They expected the doorman to be really evil. It was a show. He got angry with me. He did scratch me. He had long fake nails. He threatened to beat me up. But later in that chapter I talk about how he's changed. He's sober. He doesn't like doing door anymore. He's a Hindu. I did not set out to make him look bad in any way. It was not my intention to hurt his feelings."

We called Kenny Kenny for comment. "I just didn't ever hit anyone in my life," the infamous Irish door diva said. "I'm certainly no saint—I have a temper, and I can give a tongue-lashing. Sometimes I'm surprised and I apologize. But I don't hit people." Kenny admits, though, that maybe he's just getting a taste of his own medicine: "There was a little bit of karma in it. I was a bitch. It's fine. It's karma."

Despite all the drama (he now co- produces the popular Tuesday-night bash at Happy Valley with Susanne Bartsch), Kenny holds no grudges against his fellow doorman. "I do like Thomas a lot. He's always nice and sweet, and I think it's genuine."

(Full disclosure: After I wrote an Onorato profile for Spin, I was contacted about co-writing this book. But since I'd like to remain on good terms with Onorato—after all, how would I get into any parties if he wanted to kill me after six months of working together?—I declined.)

One of the challenges in writing a tell-all about a still happening incestuous scene composed of narcissistic New Yorkers is that no matter what you write, some of them aren't going to like it. And you'll still have to see them on the street. Indeed, Belverio relays a conflict when he described Boy George as a water buffalo on the runway at Heatherette, but Onorato nixed it, yelling, "Think of another animal!"

In another clash, Belverio says he dubbed the promoters behind the Trinity "sublebrities," and Onorato objected: "If we call them that they'll be really offended."

"I said, 'Well, what are they?' " Belverio recalls. "And he said, 'Well, you are right.' "

"Glenn's really witty and sharp," Onorato says now. "But some of these people are my friends!"

"When someone else is writing about you, analyzing you, it's a freaky thing to lose that kind of control," Belverio says. "Now that I'm a journalist, I understand how the process works. You can't expect them to understand the process of journalism and trying to be objective."

There's one experience related in Confessions where they didn't hold back at all. The second chapter depicts a hair-raising Baby Phat fashion show during which the security staff was threatened with guns by unruly fashion fans who were refused entry. "Their team was so unproductive, I would never work with them again," Onorato says of Kimora Lee Simmons's company. "They are one of the few people in the book I didn't tell was going to be in there. I didn't even make the effort."

As for Boy George, in the end, they changed "water buffalo" to "battleship." Good thing battleships don't have nails.


If battleships did have nails, they might go to Boysroom, the short-lived rock-'n'-roll-centric gay bar on Avenue A and East 2nd Street that's recently been brought back to life further up on A, at 13th Street. Boysroom mastermind Misstress Formika pointed out that the new space was formerly called Lucky Stiffs: "We kind of felt it was appropriate for us to move in."

The new Boysroom retains the same sleazy flavor as the old, keeping much of the porn star vibe intact: Go-go boys writhe on the bar while '70s gay porn—featuring hairy men, before the advent of waxing—flickers on TV screens. And what self- respecting gay bar doesn't have a "hot body" contest of some kind?

So far, the roster for Boysroom reads like a Who's Who of rock 'n' roll gay celebs: Spencer Product, Jon Jon Battles, and other "celebrity guest faggots" are expected every Thursday at Fag Machine. Electroclash survivor Cazwell co-hosts Friday's Video Whore party with Zac Posse and Rainblo, Flawless Sabrina, Brandon Olson, and Skyla Versai. Rated X's vixen Peppermint Gummybear hosts Mondays, and Saturdays find the return of the ever popular night Go-Go Idol Night with Formika, Miss Guy, and DJ Adamspinning, and Amanda Lepore hosting alongside Allanah Star. Typing that list just turned me into a gay man.

And that's not all: Formika and DJ Adam's other party, Area 10018, is now back downtown at the space formerly known as the Standard, currently called 150 Varick. The night also gets a name change: Work Area. (Don't work too hard worrying about the small details. There will still be drag queens, homos, hot go-go boys in underpants, and an excellent chance of getting laid. That's the most important part.)

Meanwhile, on the East Side, with the Boysroom situated near the Phoenix and just across the way from Star Bar (another new gay joint brought to you by the former owners of Starlight), the corner of 13th and A is practically a gay mecca. "We're taking back the East Village," Formika says. "There's not going to be any more bashings around here."


flylife@villagevoice.com


Glenn Belverio and Thomas Onorato will do a book signing for Confessions From the Velvet Ropes at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble September 8.

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