Pound Sign

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Photos and design by the amazing Ted D'Ottavio

Many more details to come, but the best possible ending to a story about losing a venue for your show is to bring it, on the same date, to Joe's Pub at the Public Theater instead.

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March 7th at our new venue, Joe's Pub!

Monday, January 26, 2009

How about this, ring any bells?

There's something big coming...

Hey, remember this?

Wait for it...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Looking up

Some good news to temper my recent long, somber post about the state of New York's venues. Last night two of the best burlesque shows in town happened on the same night as they do the fourth Wednesday of every month; both happen to be at very different venues, proof that some shows are perfectly suited to an intimate space. Clams Casino, incidentally, is in both of them and that always makes for some mad dashing between shows. Starting in the fall Big Apple Burlesque, one of the City's most distinctive troupes that presents old-school themed shows with a live band and singers, has presented their noir-style show Last Call At the Starliner Lounge at the SoHo supper club Corio. They do it every Wednesday and if you haven't made it yet, check out one of the most fun and different shows in town! Then at 10:00, at the Under St. Mark's Theater, an easy-to-miss black box space in the East Village, was this month's Revealed Burlesque. Revealed is a sexy show and that's its initial audience hook, but the fact is, every month it becomes a space where performers can try their newest, boldest, biggest concepts; acts that take on elaborate props, new themes or moods, where performers really seek to challenge themselves. It always makes for an exciting and entertaining night, and last night's show was perhaps the best yet, with every number involving getting wet--a challenge for any live performer! This month's cast includes everyone in the terrific Revealed promo shot above (by Luke Ratray) as well as the fabulous Anita Cookie! But the lineup is always great so go next month.

And, this just in: another happy addendum to my previous post: the winter season of Pinchbottom Burlesque will go, at the 45 Bleecker Street Theater

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Saw the Patti Lupone revival, incidentally. Bernadette Peters was better.

The first Gameshow Speakeasy of 2009 is tomorrow night! I'm very excited to return to the hosting chair, and you should all come. Here's a little clip of an old show that I am legally required to tell you that we have nothing to do with whatsoever. It's just to get you in the mood.


Hero Week

It makes me very happy that Chesley Sullenberger, who put his crippled jet down in the Hudson River and walked the aisles of the sinking plane TWICE to make sure all of his passengers were out safely, was personally invited by President Obama to be a VIP guest at the inauguration yesterday.

On a related note, I'm still getting used to writing President Obama. Isn't that wonderful? It's been a long fucking eight years.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Celebrating the beginning of a new era the best possible way: with nudity, fire and glass eating

This weekend we made a snowy road trip down to Washington DC with one of New York's resident burlesque mad geniuses, Dr. Lucky. Lucky and Clams were appearing in Obama Wonderama! On Sunday night at the Warehouse Theater, a big burlesque and variety inauguration celebration presented by DC performer L'il Dutch. It was big show, absolutely sold-out packed, and it was a tremendously fun night. But there was something else, something in the air. The genuine, exuberant, joyously loud response to every mention of Barack Obama from the stage. The completely unironic wearing of Obama t-shirts and red, white and blue by an audience packed with artsy hipsters. A pack of cynical liberal theater and sideshow artists literally in tears of joy, unabashedly patriotic. It was like nothing I'd ever seen.

And the press! With the city full of pre-inaugural celebrations, this one was certainly unique, and without NYC's "burlesque show every night" glut, it was amazing. It was in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. It'll be in this Sunday's Washington Post. Voice of America radio was backstage. Newsweek was there. Time magazine sent Elliot Erwitt, one of the 20th Century's greatest news photographers and certainly in his 80's, to take pictures!

And the whole city was vibrating. The Warehouse is in DC's Chinatown, and the streets were packed with people. The energy was palpable. Obama posters everywhere. That town was ready to explode with excitement! We could not have been happier to be in DC to ring in the start of a new era, and ring out Bush on his last day in office. And we drove home before the madness really started, and we could watch it on TV instead. Watching it on TV today, I still cried.

Triumph over adversity: New York is not closed!

Wednesday, January 14: 2009 is off to a beautiful start. Yesterday I made a date with our terrific photographer Ted D'Ottavio to design the postcard for our next show at the Zipper Factory, on March 7th. On Monday we'd had a script read-through for Pinchbottom Burlesque's first show of their new season, at their new home, the Zipper Factory, where they successfully moved after losing their previous venue last year. A spoof of old-school "suspects in a house" style murder mysteries; a hilarious script, performers working on new numbers, even a genius video intro based on the old PBS 'Mystery" credits by Edward Gorey. I know, right? Anyway, feelin' good.

So, mid-afternoon: the owner of the Zipper Factory, with no advance warning, announces that the theater has permanently closed its doors. As of right now. Most of the staff find out that day they're out of a job. Every producer with shows booked there, from that night to months in advance like us, find out they no longer have a home. For the record, almost all of us find out second-hand, on Facebook, forwarded emails, urgent cell phone calls, almost none of us ever receive any official notice. The doors are padlocked. Show's over. No explanation, no nothing. The City's performing and theater community is in shock.

This is bad enough for us, months in advance. But Pinchbottom has its biggest show ever there, in three days. Shelly Watson's Inter-Arts Variety Show is the early show at the Zipper that night. They're fucked.

Everybody starts pitching ideas for new homes for Pinchbottom. They're down, but they pick themselves up and get to work. God dammit, we are putting on a fucking show!

Thursday, January 15: Pinchbottom co-producer Jonny Porkpie calls; the 45 Bleecker Street Theater will present the show that Saturday night. It's a lovely Off-Broadway house, the same size as the Zipper, that is miraculously dark that night, and the Managing Partner says, "what the hell!"

Saturday, January 17: Pinchbottom's "Murder Most Naked: Or, the Strange Affair at Pinchbottom Manor" takes the stage. the house is packed. the show is fantastic. I muster up a British accent to play Constable Neil O'Fortune without incident. It's a huge hit.

So, that story has a happy ending. Having now lost two venues with nearly no notice in less then a year, Pinchbottom is once again looking for a permanent home. But it was a triumph of adversity for independent producers who refused to have the show they love be destroyed by greedy corporate bullshit--especially when they have their friends and fellow creative artists ready to back them up. As these things always go in New York, the Zipper came down to a face-off between the theater's owner and a landlord who demanded an immediate and astronomical rent increase, and who showed up with the Sheriff and padlocks in tow when they didn't get their way. So, a triumph for Pinchbottom in a great venue; but meanwhile, New York's coolest theater space, with a great stage, a fabulous bar and atmosphere, beautiful lighting, roomy dressing room, lovely, hardworking and professional staff, and a long lineup of shows that was really creating a distinctive and exciting place for it in the New York entertainment scene...sits closed. A great and successful theater, home to a growing number of artists and shows, closed for no reason other then the demand for more money from someone already making tons of money. It is without a doubt a serious blow to New York's performers, and we're still mourning the loss. Meanwhile, we like so many producers are scrambling to find a replacement venue for our rapidly approaching shows!

It's turned out to be a tough couple of weeks; on the 13th, the Cutting Room closed. While certainly not a beloved institution, it was the home to, among many other cabaret and musical evenings, Bonnie Dunn's long-running burlesque/cabaret show Le Scandal. It was also the stage where Clams Casino made her debut five years ago. The reason was the same, an intolerable demand for a rent hike. The Knitting Factory will close this month in Tribeca, for the other ubiqituous New York reason: complaints from the neighbors, who moved into the newly residential neighborhood long after the club had already been there. Luckily the Knitting Factory will move to Williamsburg, a neighborhood that, while it certainly deserves much of its irritating hipster reputation, at least continues to support night life!

This could be the beginning of a crisis. There have got to be mid-sized venues for performers, of all kinds, who have graduated from producing on the tiny stages of dive bars (not that there's anything wrong with that, I love those places) but aren't competing for the 4-500 seat houses. Those places continue to close. New places must take their place, and if all of those places have to open in Brooklyn, so be it. It's still going to be a great year, but it's going to be tough work ahead. Meanwhile, I remain grateful for the opportunities I had to produce, perform and enjoy shows at the Zipper Factory, New York's best theater space, now presumably destined to be a Walgreen's, or something.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The third annual!

You know, the first time we did this show in 2007, we made a lot of jokes about how it was premature nostalgia...when was the last time YOU looked at a picture of yourself from the 90s? That shit was a long time ago, yo! 1990 was, like 18 years ago. Seriously. (click for the bigger view of our vintage amazingness)


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Master of karate, and friendship, for everyone!

So, 2008 is over. Which is just fine. As has been true for the past several years, I can honestly say that on a purely personal level, 2008 had a lot to recommend it, full of artistic and creative successes, exciting happenings, good friends and loving relationships. But beyond that very personal sphere, except for that one big exception in early November, 2008 for all of us in city, the country and world at large suuuuuuucked. So, fuck it, behind us, 2009 is gonna rock! Yeah! How can it not! Inauguration in two weeks, bitches! Things can only go up! (I know that's not true, but gotta think positive.) We're all gonna make the most of it this year, and here's to all of us having each others' backs.

I've been mulling over the traditional bloggy year's end best of-worst of list, or a wrap-up, or whatever, but frankly, do I have anything more interesting to add to the volume already produced? Probably not. I do want to resolve for Poundsign to be more diverse, interesting and, um, frequently updated then it has gotten to be recently. Here's the thing; 2008 was the year when my irrational love of Myspace was finally eclipsed by the sheer FORCE of Facebook: why, yes, I do want to update my headline ever hour, thanks, and wow, there are so many people I went to high school with that I forgot even existed but now I know what their kids look like! But anyway, between Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, and this here blog, do I need another online outlet for my vaguely amusing musings? I do not. F you, Twitter! So stay tuned to this channel. Hopefully it will be worth your while.

Ok, I do want to mention, by way of 08 wrap-up, some of the things that I'm thankful that the internet made a part of my life in the past year. I'm thankful for octopus eats shark. Get on youtube right now and type that in, prepare to have mind blown. I'm thankful that Hulu.com finally clued my wife and I into the fact that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the funniest show on TV, and has been escaping our notice for 4 years. And I'm thankful for this. I'm here to win!