Band of Gypsies


There aren’t too many female performers I’d like to see replicated 1,000 times. Madonna or Debbie Harry might be fun, but consider the prospect of that many Courtney Loves. It takes a special lady to withstand thousands of impersonations over the course of 17 years, which is exactly what Stevie Nicks has done, indirectly, as the subject of the annual Night of a Thousand Stevies, thrown by the Jackie Factory and helmed by Chi Chi Valenti, Hattie Hathaway, and Johnny Dynell.

Friday night at Hiro Ballroom, everywhere I looked was a Stevie, from door girl Abby Ehman to the cashier to the twirlers onstage (including Amber Ray). The DJ, Poison Eve, spun an all-Stevie set while looking the part. The performers included one Justin Bond, not in total Stevie Realness drag, but lovely just the same. I spied Mike Albo under a Lindsey Buckingham wig. Later, Sherry Vine turned up in a blonde wig that must have made her eight feet tall in heels. Inexplicably, however, one patron appeared to have gotten lost on the way to the Night of a Thousand Janis Joplins.

It was a dazzling sight, made even more dazzling by all the white-winged doves who twirled and shook their tambourines (inscribed with the NOTS logo) to such hits as “Stand Back,” “I Can’t Wait,” and “If Anyone Falls”— the originals and every remix ever recorded. Sitting with promoter Daniel Nardicio, we swooned over one performer in particular: Legend of Stevie Realness Nicole Nicks, a NOTS veteran turning in her farewell performance to the night’s official theme song, “Edge of Seventeen.” She had every single detail down, from the way Stevie dances to even the slightest of head movements, which along with the absolutely perfect patchwork of frizzy, waist-length, butterscotch-and-bronze tresses made us believe that She was really there.

Chi Chi first got the inspiration for NOTS 17 years ago, when she went to see Stevie at Jones Beach and ran into Joey Arias and Dean Johnson—together, they decided to host a one-off event at Mother, the legendary now-defunct nightclub. The event was such a success they repeated it the following year, but Chi Chi says, “It never dawned on us along the way that we’d actually reach the edge of 17.” Since then, it’s gone through three venues (Hiro Ballroom is the event’s latest and biggest home), and has even inspired a movie called Gypsy 83, a road flick about two Stevie obsessives that culminates with their arrival at the event. Through the years, celebs like Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Boy George, and yes, even Courtney Love have attended or performed.

While she’s been invited every year, Stevie herself has never come. But Chi Chi says fans think otherwise: “Many people believe she was there at the last one at Mother, and that she came as just another Stevie. People who are in really deep said, ‘We recognize the patterns in her retinas.'” Chi Chi suggests Stevie has instead sent people to film it. “I totally understand why she’s never come. I think it would be too much to see 800 or 1,000 people dressed as you, crying and singing every word and fetishizing the leg warmers you wore in a video.” Funny, the part about the retinas would be enough to freak me out.

Speaking of freaky, who knew a bar called the Cock could be art? That’s what it was on May 5, when the Scissor Sisters, back for a hot minute from touring the world, hosted a night at Deitch Projects on Wooster Street.

The warehouse-size art gallery was transformed into a near-exact replica of the old Cock on Avenue A (which closed in 2005, and moved to the former Hole on First Avenue and First Street), with a long bar, bedazzled in black paint and glitter, stretching down the right-hand side of the room; to the right of the bar, where the little stage used to be, three wigs on microphones rested under the spotlight while music played. (That’d be Scissor Sisters art prank, Wigs on Sticks.) Torn, old billboards for nights long past were plastered everywhere, including an ad for the infamous Foxy, the original panty party where people took their clothes off for money—that poster hung behind the DJ booth where Cock regular DJ Miss Guy was spinning. The bartenders were half-naked, of course: Go-go boys wiggled their butts at us. And near the front door, the old club’s hallmark—a red neon sign in the shape of a cock (the bird, not the male organ)—shone brightly. You had to pay 10 Foxy dollars to get in (marked with the Scissor Sisters logo), which the Cock’s legendary doorgirl, Irene, happily accepted.

“Excuse me, I’ve got to get ice put in my drink,” said Casey Spooner, who’d wandered over. “They made it gay-bar strong.” The total Cock realness extended to the celeb sightings:
Gina Gershon, Debbie Harry, and Pat Field took it all in, while the crowd, which included current Cock owner Allan Persiflage, smoked to their heart’s content. The Cock at Deitch: Best. Art. Installation. Ever.

Justin Bond, who spent many nights woozily helming the stage at the Cock, assumed his former position on the bar and introduced the Sisters, who were in their original trio formation, dressed in their authentic pre-stardom S&M getups and singing along to their early hits, including “Electrobix.” It was, as old pal and Scissors frontman Jake Shears said to me before jumping on the bar, “So dumb!” But in a good way. I raised my gay-bar strong drink to Ana Matronic‘s can of Pabst Blue. Here’s to the past! “I’m 26!” I happily told everyone within earshot at least three times. “It’s ridiculous,” Jake said later. “It’s nostalgia for something that was really only four years ago.”

I called former Cock co-owner Mario Diaz, the man responsible for my introduction to New York nightlife (you can all lob rotten tomatoes at him for this), to tell him that “the only thing missing is Jackie Beat, and the ceilings are too high!” Mario was sad he wasn’t there to revel in a re-creation of his creation. I was sad, too, so I joined the others in a measly attempt to drown my sorrows at the afterparty, held at Little Italy’s Goldbar, the luscious-looking space owned by the peeps behind Cain. Deitch owner Jeffrey Deitch, Alan Cumming, fashion designer Zaldy, Adam Dugas, Ladyfag (dressed in Kabuki glam), and Ladyfag’s fiancé, Rainblo, filled the joint.

Around midnight, it suddenly turned into a nightlife episode of Lost. A dark cloud of repressive sameness hovered in the air as the Others started arriving: square dorks in buttoned-up shirts, and girls with shiny tops and $400 jeans. It was time to go before we all turned into pumpkins, or worse, boring bankers. So we headed to the new, current Cock. “This is the fifth Cock, or the fourth Cock, or something,” Jake explained. We went over the history of all the different Cocks—the Fat Cock, the Hole, and the new Cock were all at the location we were dancing in now. We’d just been to a redone version of the old Cock. And of course, there was the original Cock itself. That’s a lot of Cocks in one night— enough to spur a new tradition. Night of a Thousand Cocks, anyone?

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