By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
By Ray Cummings
By Nicholas Pell
My book club met this month at Gramercy's Bar Jamón, and my enormous distaste for Revolutionary Road's Frank Wheeler got lost in my musings about whether or not I might see Whitney Port, star of The City, who has set up shop in one of the neighborhood's rentals—even after the show's ostensible villain, Olivia Palermo, warned her not to take the first apartment she visited. This should be too embarrassing to admit, but I feel little pinpricks in my chest when they show the names of the New York restaurants and bars (the Smith, Stanton Social, Brass Monkey) providing a backdrop for MTV's manufactured drama, which are accompanied by my squeals of "Of course that's where they are! God!" (Although what's with the repeated mistake of putting a space between "Meat" and "Packing" anytime Whitney sets foot on the cobblestoned streets surrounding the Diane von Fürstenberg offices? None of the editors have corrected it.) Worse still, I find myself annoyed that The Real World: Brooklyn isn't nearly so helpful—in the first episode, I couldn't recognize the club that actually allowed producers to film there, despite repeated viewings. Between these two and Gossip Girl, I guess no one in New York actually needs to go out anymore to feel as if they're up to date—good news, since you probably can't afford to anyway.
Then again, that drivel drives one to drink, and for that, there are a few new things to look forward to in 2009. Former Motherfucker Johnny T now helms Sundays at Bowery Electric for a night dubbed Art Fag; photographer Ryan McGinley—a full-fledged art star—guest-hosted last weekend's kickoff. Amanda Stern's popular Happy Ending music-and-lit series is being rewritten these days over at Joe's Pub, where Richard Price, author of 2008 hit Lush Life, dropped by last week to inaugurate. (Not sure if it will still be twice-monthly, though, since the schedule on Stern's blog only lists events every first Wednesday.) And while beloved East Village dive (a loosely used term I like less and less), the Holiday Cocktail Lounge, has not yet spawned a sequel (and is on a mysteriously indefinite holiday/hiatus), new bars fashioned as spinoffs of old bars continue to pop up in Brooklyn, including the Williamsburg outpost of D.B.A. and a new Alligator Lounge in Greenpoint.
The latter just opened last week, in the old Lost & Found location on the corner of Franklin and Greenpoint avenues, and is already an immense improvement over the circus-themed sensory assault that was its former incarnation. The bilevel space is much cleaner aesthetically (though perhaps not hygienically—those bathrooms sure haven't changed), and with a good playlist it could become a new favorite: same cheap happy hour, same free pizza, and a clientele that includes bands on break from the recording studio next door. Proprietor Michael Kearney (who also owns the original Alligator Lounge, as well as the Crocodile Lounge, the Charleston, Hugs, and the Abbey) was there to drop off dinner for daughter/bartender Jessica, and we chatted with him and his English-born wife for some time. As they were leaving, he protectively encouraged us to have fun but not get too drunk, advice my own dad would be happy someone was giving me. Wish I'd listened.
The Brooklyn D.B.A., located on a quiet stretch of 7th Street between Wythe and Berry, looks a lot like the Manhattan original, but really doesn't feel much like it—nary a pair of khakis in sight. And if a little impersonal, it will be nice for groups, with its high ceilings, ample seating, and back garden for the warmer months. Heads up, though: The drink menu is impressive and in place above the bar, but the current offerings (maybe 16 functioning beers on tap) are a little more scant. My first two orders of spiked cider and Aventinus were both met with headshakes. I also stopped by the Richardson that night for the first time—the bar opened in August, but I hadn't made it there until now, despite a number of e-mails from readers who thought I might like it. As documented, I love the cocktail lounge trend, but don't care at all for the attitude that can accompany it, and the Richardson has pretty wallpaper and friendly bartenders. And they're actually called bartenders! How refreshing. I opted for the Scottish Dew, a scotch-and-muddled-cucumber concoction, and it was good and strong—and less than $10. That little stretch of Graham needed another bar, and once the slickness gets rubbed off, the Richardson should do well.
One last thing: I received an e-mail last week from the Upright Citizens Brigade asking for the support of any East Village residents—the comedy troupe hopes to open an additional club in the Pioneer Theater space (at Avenue A and 3rd Street, next to Two Boots) and needs the approval of the increasingly powerful Community Board 3 to start the process. Anyone who lives east of Fourth Avenue and south of 14th Street can—and should—sign an online petition to help out: UCB would be a fantastic addition to the neighborhood, especially if they can get a beer-and-wine license. The PBR served in the Chelsea location is frightfully cheap, and those Asssscat improv shows are truly one of the best ways to avoid the horrible, terrible, awful, booze-fueled Sunday night blues. See ucbtheatre.com for more information.