Pound Sign

New York City, pop culture, art and nightlife. Because nobody else is blogging about those things.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Second verse, pretty much the same as the first.

A couple of fun articles about the neo-burlesque boom from this week that all the burlesque-specific blogs have been linking to, in Backstage and Reuters.

The impetus for the current wave of national press is Margaret Cho's traveling burlesque and variety-comedy revue The Sensuous Woman, which is currently running here in New York. (I had the pleasure of seeing Margaret's burlesque performance debut when she emcee'd the 2006 Miss Exotic World Pageant and took the stage the following night) It's funny, as her national tour has progressed, the local press in each city writes their version of the same story, with the brief intro to the new scene, some brief history of bump 'n' grind through the ages, and interviews with performers local to that city's scene, usually with very similar thematic focus on what burlesque means to the contemporary women who embrace it. There are other things that make these articles appear; Exotic World Weekend, the Burlesque Festival, the Spiegeltent, or a successful local show coupled with a general look at Dita Von Teese's continuing rise in national profile as a pop culture figure. But it's very often slightly different versions of the exact same article. That actually sounds much more critical then I meant it to; press is great! These two articles are fun because a number of my friends with important places in the New York scene are quoted to great effect (especially since the New York local press has mostly moved beyond the "burlesque is back?" piece), and they consistently name-check the Burlesque Hall of Fame which is really important, and of course I want all of these talented people to get the recognition they deserve! And, the more articles that make it clear that contemporary burlesque doesn't begin and end with the fucking Pussycat Dolls is a great thing. It's just funny. And it serves as a reminder to those of us who are surrounded by it all the time that this artistic movement is still well on the edges of mainstream culture--and I'm definitely not saying that's a bad thing either! I like it out here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The gem overhead

A definite perk of working in the non-profit field are the great organizations you get to affiliate yourself with; I had the opportunity yesterday to go on a walking tour of the Highline, led by the leaders of the Friends of the Highline. While the project to turn the Highline into the City's most unique public park is underway, we toured the as-yet-untouched section that crosses the railyards next to the river(which would have been the site of the ill-conceived Jets Stadium since canceled) and then heads along 30th, running parallel to the massive Starret-Lehigh building half a dozen blocks downtown, before the tracks turns south into Chelsea. Having walked beneath the tracks for years and glimpsing sections of it from high-floor gallery windows, having the chance to walk along the track, with the sun setting on the river, in the company of our Horticulturist identifying the amazing variety of grasses and plants growing wild like a prairie in the track bed, was simply an amazing experience. Hearing first hand about the development project, I can say that this should be a model for projects developing urban open spaces, truly conscientous in their efforts to preserve the history of the site, the integrity of this unique natural space, and the attention to the needs of its future audience. Very cool stuff. I have lots of pictures that we were all asked not to publish, understandably, but I'd be happy to share them indvidually, so feel free to drop me a request in the comments.

Friday, September 21, 2007

It looks like the TV's at the beginning of the movie Independence Day.

A rare three-post day! Can you tell that it's Friday? But anyway, we've been having weird and extremely irritating interference issues on our digital cable this week, with a number of channels rendered virtually unwatchable. Jen made a call to Time Warner and it turns out that while the UN's General Assembly is in town through next week, they're beaming in some kind of powerful radio transmission and all of the digital cable on the Upper East Side is getting scrambled! Seriously! Not really a problem that happens anywhere else. But couldn't it at least be affecting channels that we DON'T watch?

30 years ago to the day, everything changed.

One more thing and then seriously, I need to get back to work! I was sent this link this morning, and little did I realize that yesterday was a momentous moment in history, something that all of us should mark in our hearts, each in their own personal way.

And, hasn't the whole country been jumping the damn thing ever since?

This is also my convenient opportunity to mention the next big production to be presented next month by Miss Clams Casino and her partner, the Sweetheart of the Sideshow, the Lady Aye: Jump the Shark Burlesque! At Galapagos, October 15. More to come!

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder. (Oof, that's a shitty pun. Sorry.)

Last night, met Jen at the South Street Seaport; walked through the crowd of tourists and after-work financial center guys, rounded the corner to a walled off area of the pier where the mall is hidden away and you can sip drinks in the perfect Indian summer weather, with the best sunset view of the Brooklyn Bridge in the whole City. We were lucky enough to have comp tickets to Absinthe, at the Spiegeltent, the traveling adult circus that was settled at the Seaport for the summer. And the show was simply amazing; above a small stage in the center of the round space, there was a series of the sexiest, most astonishing male and female aerialists you're ever likely to see, swinging right over the heads of the audience in the densely packed, intimate environs of the tent. Close enough to see the muscles tensing and the sweat beading, to feel real danger. The comic juggler was gifted and truly funny without edging into twee Cirque de Soliel French clown-land (in fact, one comic bit by the emcees specifically took the piss out of the Cirque brand of pretentiousness erotica), the singing was fabulous and the emcees were genuinely funny. I dare say this is the only place one can ever see a British rollerdisco stunt duo featuring an Elvis impersonator. And of course, the one and only Julie Atlas Muz. Really kind of an amazing evening.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jesus H. Christ, I am old.

So, we watched the first episode of "Gossip Girl" tonight. On the CW. What of it? I had a long fucking day! It was Jen's idea, I was just on the couch, drinking a beer. Seriously. Anyway, it's a teenage soap opera about snotty rich kids on the Upper East Side, so it was fun location spotting, and whatever, I'm not in the demographic. I'm totally FINE with that! But then...two of the kids (the Brandon and Brenda characters, for those of you MY age.) have a rough-hewn, Brooklyn-based, super-earnest Dad. He runs a gallery by day, and by night he's in "one of the great forgotten bands of the 90's." The 90's!! This character is probably like 5 years older than me. Not only am I not the demographic for this show, I'm the parents of the demographic for this show. Fuck.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The attrition of the top row continues.

Brett Somers, comic foil to Charles Nelson Reilly for about 100 years on Match Game, passed away yesterday. As Jen said, now they're bantering in heaven.

Ok, maybe I should get some actual work done!

Burlesque backlash?

Ivan Kane's efforts to open a Forty Deuce "Burlesque Club" on the Lower East Side seem to have been stopped by the refusal of a liquor license. I think this is great news, although as the fight against his club by the shrinking community of Little Italy developed, an uncertainty crept through the burlesque community here; the LES and its environs are the focal point of the current burlesque scene and the hope is, backlash against the Forty Deuce doesn't impact other, smaller shows already in existence. This discussion has been making the rounds of the burlesque blogs, most cogently on Jo Weldon's Daily Burlesque which is worth reading anyway if you're into this kind of thing.

Time well spent in Williamsburg?

This weekend I was in Williamsburg, in the beautiful early fall weather, for the 2007 Conflux Festival, a four-day event focusing on psychogeography, a term first coined in the mid-20th Century that the producers of the Festival define as "the investigation of everyday urban life through emerging artistic, technological and social practice". The Conflux producers and curators, several of whom I've been lucky enough to work with, brought together together dozens of international artists, technologists, writers, performers and thoughtful explorers of the urban experience to present a range of projects around the neighborhood's streets and sidewalks, galleries, music venues and public spaces. What I got to see barely scratched the surface of the projects presented, including a range of group and individual walking tours led by maps, guides, MP3's and strangers on the other ends of cell phones. Some of what I did see: a huge diorama by the artist Mark Stillwell taking over the Front Room Gallery, recreating a Japanese-style giant monster movie over Coney Island, all assembled from the detritus of recycled cardboard boxes and plastic bottles. The Locksmithing Institute of Conflux, a part-performance-part-philosophical lecture-part practical demonstration on how to pick handcuffs. The Trifocal Projects installations of pinhole viewers made from plastic cups wedged in chainlink fences, literally turning the views of weedy, trash-filled lots upside down. Ralph Borland and Tim Redfern's smSage, an outdoor installation of a security camera that speaks down to you, nonsensical psycho-babble in an electronic voice.

Most importantly, there was a real sense of playfulness on display in many of these projects, efforts to capture the joy of discovery or the vibrancy of sharing city spaces, but still thought-provoking; projects like Ghostbustour.com or the Sunday afternoon event I'm the most sorry I missed, the multimedia collective MTAA's attempt to run the slowest 5k ever at the McCarren Park running track-complete with official bib numbers, lawn chairs and grilled hot dogs.

There was so much more going on...if you missed it, they'll do it again next year, even bigger. But check out the website and the list of provocative projects, a lot of of them include downloadable materials and online elements that allow them to live beyond Conflux. Worth the time!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Premise for hit show: Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast is frozen in 1996, thawed out in 2007 to create unstoppable team of colossal douchebags.

My fifteen year high school reunion is this weekend, and I'm not going, for a number of good reasons, but I'm bummed out about it. Also, Jesus H. jumpin' Christ, I am old. SO, I'm not writing about that, instead I'm writing about this show, that everyone I know is obsessed with, called the Pick-Up Artist. Come on, I know you watch it! Slackjawed in disbelief, like the rest of us. Anyway, I'm getting to this party late and I don't have anything to add that hasn't already been said, awestruck--really? Big fuzzy hat? Wow.--but I read this today on Jezebel, and everyone should read it, because it's kind of awesome. And yes, I'm comfortable enough with my masculinity and in touch enough with my feminine side to read Jezebel.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tomorrow night, on a very special What's My Line...

That's right, tomorrow night is What's My Line? Live in NYC! And I'm always excited to do the show, but this month's installment is special: month's ago, recurring panelist Jonny Porkpie challenged me to take his place on the panel, a response to the amount of shit I give him when I'm hosting. And this month, we're doing it! Tomorrow Jonny is hosting, and I'm a panelist. I have no idea how it's going to go, I know he'll do a great job and he's been putting together an interesting lineup-but I have no idea how I'm gonna do! It will definitely be fun. And bonus! The return of our sultriest sponsor ever, Veronica Varlow of Dangerdame.com modeling her wares onstage, in a new noir style ad...definite bonus.

Getting easier to avoid already...

After the media orgy that was last year's 5th anniversary 9/11 coverage, this year it seemed noticeably easier to avoid the onslaught. But, just read this on Gawker, and it's actually quite interesting. In the back of the closet, I've still got the paper Times from September 12 like a lot of people do, but I missed this raw immediate account, because I had no Internet connection that day, having just moved to the City. It is an interesting document--and I wish I hadn't read it now, actually.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A vestige of the grimy old Forty Deuce disappears

The Playpen, a seedy adult theater with a long history and a marquee that showed up all the time in establishing shots on New York-based crime dramas, one of of the last holdouts of sleazy Times Square on Eighth Street, has closed.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Just another fall weekend in New York.

Last night we gave Coney Island our own proper sendoff for the end of the season; Clams performed in Pinchbottom's installment of Burlesque at the Beach (and I sweated off about five pounds stage managing!), a truly ridiculous show in the best sense of the word, with the whole crew embodying the attractions in Pinchbottomland amusement park (Jo Boobs was the Parachute Drop, Scarlet Sinclair and GiGi La Femme were bumper cars, Peekaboo Pointe was the carousel, Clams was...fried clams, you get the idea), Jonny and Nasty's very funny response to the ongoing turmoil over the future of Coney's Astroland Park. They had a packed audience, and afterward everybody cleaned up as well as possible after the traditional wine bath and headed to the Boardwalk, grabbed some dogs at Nathan's, drank into the wee small hours out front of Cha-Cha's, in the cool breeze off the ocean...as always, well worth the hour and 1/2 on the train. As the City, local residents' groups and the interloping development company Thor Equities continue to fight over what will become of Coney next year, we headed off into the night not knowing whether this was the end of the season, or the end of Coney Island as we all know it. Now all we can do is wait and see.

And less than twelve hours later, we were packed in a bar at Times Square, with Jen's brother and every Ohio State University alumni in New York, the official site for OSU fans to watch the Buckeyes football game. Two more different excursions in one weekend, I can't really imagine. Watching the Buckeyes with beer, buffalo wings and our fellow rowdy Ohio expatriates is a nostalgic autumnal tradition for us. Unfortunately, this same Saturday, downtown we missed the 3rd Annual Deitch Art Parade in Soho, and the Howl Festival in the Village. Typical quandry in New York City in the fall; too damn much going on! And sometimes, you just want to watch some football, Midwestern style. Of course, seeing Columbus, Ohio on TV is always a reminder that the opposite problem is a hell of a lot worse.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Well that didn't fucking take long.

Mo Pitkin's is going up for sale and likely closing soon. Jen performed in a number of shows there since it opened with celebrity fanfare just a few years ago; although the consensus from the producers we know who've worked with Mo's is that it's not an easy place to produce a show, it is the home to a lot of recurring variety, burlesque, comedy, and music nights, and this means they're all going to have to find new homes. Sucks.

UPDATE, 9/9: the current owners have issued a statement that Mo Pitkin's will be changing hands, but will remain a bar/stage venue. Every one in a while there's good news in stories like this!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Some thoughts between Janovic-Williams and Federer-Roddick.

For various reasons I'm breaking a five-year streak of making it to at least one day of the U.S. Open this year (although Jen is going tomorrow), and it's a drag, especially since the weather has been perfect and the matches awesome. So, sitting on the couch watching tonight, a few reflections on my day:

1. This is my first Fashion Week working at an office in the Garment District, and it is teeming--teeming!--with models. They're everywhere, impossibly tall, willowy and long-legged, this year all wearing the exact same slouchy boots, ass-hugging denim shorts, having the same comically melodramatic conversations on their cell phones while smoking.

2. I saw a Guardian Angel walking down 7th in the middle of the afternoon. Haven't seen one in about 5 years, and frankly always surprised to discover they're still around. Seriously? Let's hear it for vigilante justice! What are you guarding this afternoon, on 7th Avenue? Seeing a chubby middle-aged dude in the red beret and jacket, all I could think was, "lives in his parents' basement."

3. Because I've got nothing else to do this week, I committed this afternoon to submitting an exhibition proposal to a small non-profit space by this weekend. Also, helping Jen put together a costume for a new number at Coney Island this Friday. But tennis is on!

So. much. burlesque.

Finally recovered from the long weekend of the New York Burlesque Fest, by laying on the couch all day Monday watching tennis, and not touching the computer. At this link, my NYBF weekend in words and pictures.