You don’t usually go to a karaoke party to get schooled in gritty local politics. But then the event at the venerable Brooklyn dive Freddy’s last Wednesday wasn’t the usual sing-without-shame shindig. A party thrown to raise funds and awareness for Develop Don’t Destroy—an organization determined to put a stop to developer BRUCE RATNER‘s plan to build a stadium in the center of Downtown Brooklyn—the night was heavy on the facts, ma’am, and the singing often seemed secondary.
Host SCOTT M.X. TURNER, sporting a faux-hawk, a bright-blue shirt, and smart sass, took questions from audience members, explaining such details as why the project wouldn’t bring jobs to the area, as Ratner claims, but would instead eliminate them. Or he’d remind everyone which state and city politicians to watch out for—CHUCK SCHUMER‘s for it, as are PATAKI and BLOOMY. HILLARY CLINTON hasn’t even addressed the issue.
It wasn’t all dour politics. A lovely twosome lent their voices to “Fever” and rendered an almost perfect rendition of the hot ‘n’ sexy classic, causing everyone to fall in love with them on sight, and one person to shout, “It’s no fair when professional singers show up!” The bartenders were a multi-talented bunch—one guy, MATT KUHN, crooned LOU RAWLS‘s “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” in an amazingly accurate baritone, and another pourer, MARLENE FLATON, wearing a Ramones shirt, channeled JEFFERSON AIRPLANE before they got lame, in a rip-roaring version of “White Rabbit.” Really, what was that about this being amateur night?
Well, it wasn’t all slick showbiz. My friends TANYA SELVARATNAM, a Builders Association and Wooster Group actress, and DANZY SENNA, author of Caucasia, delivered a tone-deaf “Little Red Corvette,” but redeemed themselves with a Beat-poet-style reading of the last verse, substituting “Ratner” for “Corvette” and bringing to life verses such as “Little Red Ratner, gonna run you right into the ground.” The host quipped, “That was a great save.”
Maybe the folks at the Paper magazine panel “Nightlife: From the Fringes to the Mainstream,” held Monday at the W Hotel, should’ve had some karaoke sessions in between the bitch sessions. A Who’s Who of NYC’s scene from the last 20 years, the panel included former promoter-current club designer STEVEN LEWIS, Lotus owner DAVID RABIN, RICHIE RICH (who needs no introduction), Joe’s Pub owner SERGE BECKER, rocker THEO, and Jackie 60’s CHI CHI VALENTI.
Paper editor DAVID HERSHKOVITS moderated, but any questions about what it was like back then compared to today’s club scene quickly devolved into a heated discussion of bottle service. Lewis said, “You can’t cater to Richie Rich. He doesn’t pay to get in.” Rich shrugged apologetically.
Becker, who noted that bottle service was a choice that club owners could make, also revealed that Volume, his gritty open warehouse space in Brooklyn, is a bust. He envisioned the venue as more of an event space, but because of the financial logistics, he had to keep it open every weekend, and any time they did an installation, like the Mack truck for the DIZZEE RASCAL show earlier this year, they had to get a whole new permit, creating a headache on a weekly basis.
The panel barely touched on the most glamorous and seedy era of New York’s nightlife, the MICHAEL ALIG years, and glorious times past were generally passed over for dire discussion of the impending noise code revisions, and the ever present cabaret law—fueled by a question from MICKEY BOARDMAN. Rabin explained that the city tried to reintroduce a newer, stricter license, but then tossed out his old “We’re for incidental dancing” line. (Sorry, Dave, we still think “incidental dancing” is laaaaaame.) You could see Chi Chi, an ardent anti-cabaret-law activist who was sitting next to him, try with all her might to bite her red, heavily painted lip. (On second thought, maybe that wasn’t lipstick, but blood.)
Who knew nightlife types could be so serious and dull? As Becker said, pissing off the rest of the panel by sacrilegiously claiming that the city’s club scene is better now than it’s ever been, “I don’t get this malaise!”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 16, 2004