Burning Bush


Only in New York are writers treated like rock stars. As well they should be, especially when one of the writers in question is SALMAN RUSHDIE, who turned up for a surprise appearance at the “Where’s My Democracy?” reading, a benefit for the political organization Downtown for Democracy at Cooper Union, organized in part by DALE PECK. The boyish JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER, master of ceremonies, introduced Rushdie, gushing effusively, and stopped himself: “If I said any more, we’d have to go to San Francisco and get married.” The packed crowd greeted Rushdie with thunderous applause before he read from one of the night’s only politically inspired fictions (the other came from SUSAN SONTAG), a DR. SEUSS-ian take on the ballot controversy of 2000, “How the Grinch Stole America.”

The tone of the evening was fast and loose, with the authors often stopping mid-reading. Sontag’s diversion came when she realized she was missing a page of her piece; she said, “God, this is embarrassing,” and then filled us in on the missing link. DAVE EGGERS, who had literally just arrived by train (“I came with my suitcase. I’ve been speaking at colleges I couldn’t get into,” he explained), interrupted his long-winded story, “Your Mother and I,” on several occasions, but his funniest aside centered around JOHN EDWARDS and DENNIS KUCINICH, with Edwards refusing to back away from Kucinich’s support. “Man, I can’t dis the Kooch!” Eggers seemed to be the crowd’s favorite (PAUL AUSTER and JONATHAN FRANZEN were mine), but three words spoken by Downtown for Democracy’s ERIK STOWERS received the largest response of the evening: “Defeat GEORGE BUSH.” You can say that again (and again).

All work and no play makes one dull, so Tuesday night was spent in the usual fashion—at a club. I headed to B Bar for Beige, where the folks behind the dance music documentary Maestro were having a party. Classic house cuts courtesy of RENE HEWITT (of Inferno fame) boomed through the sound system. We promptly stalked DANNY TENAGLIA who had just come from the flick. “I loved it!” he exclaimed. Of course, he is featured in the film, so he might not be totally unbiased. He used to be a member of the Paradise Garage (“I have a membership card”) but said that today’s club scene pales in comparison. “The magic is gone. I do my best, FRANÇOIS [K] does his best, but the new generation . . . ” He shrugged.

The film’s director, JOSELL RAMOS, has such a baby face I couldn’t believe he was 37. His film, though it has its faults, is educational for those of us who weren’t there back in the day. And the soundtrack is sweet, with tracks like ALEEM‘s “Release Yourself” and SYLVESTER‘s “Over and Over.” The fact that the Quad installed extra bass bins just for the movie makes it even sweeter.

After the Maestro crowd cleared out, I wandered into the main room, where I ran into RICHIE RICH, the former Ice Capades member, club kid, and Heatherette fashion designer, who promised to take me ice-skating and said he would do that trick where they spin around and around realfast, just for me. A queen ran out of the ladies’ bathroom screaming “SHAKIRA‘s in there!” but it was only a tall blonde Spanish girl with curly hair and heavy eye makeup who was definitely not Shakira. So punked! Devil and penis lover DANIEL CARTIER turned up to promote his show the next night at Plaid’s Kitten Klub party, where he managed to not clock anyone in the head with a mic stand and get arrested like someone else we know.

A few blocks away, MISSTRESS FORMIKA is in the middle of giving East Village bar Tapis Rouge a big gay makeover and has wasted no time putting porno posters all over the walls, installing poles on the bar, and changing the name to something more appropriate—the Boysroom. “I want it to be sleazy without being a dump,” says Misstress. Her favorite night is Saturday’s Go-Go Idol, which is modeled after American Idol, with the winner nabbing $300. While the crowd picks the first three wannabe go-gos, the club’s real go-go boys serve as the judges for the final round. “They’re so excited, ’cause they get to talk,” says Misstress. Wait, go-go boys can speak? Who knew?

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