Photo of the day: MY NIGHT WITH ANDY COHEN AND . . . CHER ! – Last night, at 2:30 in the morning the vision of Cher ascending the staircase amongst the club goers at Club Marquee was not a dream, it was a dream, some would say come true. The goddess herself after spending the evening with Andy Cohen’s “Watch What Happens Live” show on Bravo, joined Andy in attending a ‘Cher Fashion Show’ while her music was blasting.
Dressed in an Egyptian/street warrior type outfit, she and Andy watched with delight as she sang along to some of her songs. It was surreal to have Cher just a few feet away holding court over “her boys” and the Cher drag queens for Pride Week. Andy Cohen was charged with energy as he couldn’t stop grinning with sheer delight at spending the evening with Cher. Neither could we!
After the show she came down the stairs right through the club goers, onto the floor and joined the DJ on stage and spoke from the heart: “I have a lot of very special fans, but you guys are extra special. From the bottom of my heart, I mean this, I have had ups and downs in my career and you guys have never left me! You will keep me in sequins forever.”
Here’s a video montage of the evening:
Mondays on Memory Lane: 1981-2103 ONE NIGHT ONLY AT THE RITZ WITH HOLLY WOODLAWN – Thirty three years ago I saw advertised in the local underground magazines that Andy Warhol’s outrageous transgender star Holly Woodlawn was to appear in Terrence McNally’s play ‘The Ritz” co-starring then infamous gay porn star Cal Culver better known as Casey Donovan. The show was at Xenon Disco, the strong competition to Studio 54 at the time. Xenon (as Studio 54 was) was also inside an old Broadway theater with huge pinball bumpers that came down from the ceiling that you had to bump with your hip so that alarm bells would go off, part of the current ‘the bump’ dance craze.
‘The Ritz’ was based on Bette Midler’s 1971 unusual meteoric rise to fame in the gay bathhouse ‘The Continental Baths’ owned by Steve Ostrow in the Ansonia Hotel. The Broadway play garnered Rita Moreno (as third rate Puerto Rican actress wannabe ‘Googie Gomez’) a Tony award and her role was reprised in the hilarious 1976 film.
The fact that Holly Woodlawn, herself Puerto Rican, certainly not ‘third rate’ but campy as hell, was performing in this play had me immediately buy tickets for the first night of previews (I couldn’t wait for opening night!). The show was a perfect fit for Holly and she was hilarious. After the show we danced the night away, in the early morning hours, on my way out of the disco I tore this poster off the wall – unbeknownst to me at the time, the show opened and closed that same night due to lack of funding.
For those of you too young to know who Holly is, but the name still sounds familiar, singer Lou Reed refers to Holly Woodlawn in his iconic song “Walk on the Wild Side,” in the opening lyric “Holly came from Miami, Florida.” Her antics and connections to a now much revered Andy Warhol past are legendary. I seem to be the only one who remembers that when iconic 1960’s/70’s music club Trude Heller’s at 418 6th Avenue (SE corner of 9th Street and 6th Avenue) started placing hand prints of the famous performers on their sidewalk, Holly placed her ass prints in the side walk. The block was framed and hung on the side of the club.
AIDS and changing tastes wiped out this entire glorious and glamorous era and the people and it’s clubs simply disappeared. But there is one of the few tough survivors – Holly Woodlawn. I was stunned and excited to receive a notice that she was going to make a super rare appearance at the Laurie Beecham Theater (Joan Rivers’ fav hangout) on Friday, May 17. I bought a ticket immediately and sat 2nd row. I brought with me my theater posters of Holly’s shows such as ‘The Neon Woman’, Women Behind Bars’ – both starring drag legend Divine. But my ultimate treasure is the one night only appearance of ‘The Ritz’. The posters caused quite a stir amongst her fans and old friends, taking pictures of them with their iPhones. Then 7:30 came, the lights were lowered and out she came, thirty three years after I had seen her – Holly.
She is the embodiment of a survivor! Now battling near crippling spinal stenosis, it was heartwarming yet hard to watch her cheerfully be helped on stage by two of her friends. “I am home!” she cried. Now 66, nothing else had changed, the sly wink, the double entendres, the off-the-wall humor, and above all, the immense amount of love streaming between her and her audience. She is sharp as a tact. Funny, irreverent, reflective and above all determined to have a good time. It was a mutual love fest. With no disrespect meant to either women but Holly has sort of morphed into long gone comedian Totie Fields. It was endearing. After the show she was helped from the stage in her wheel chair and her long time friends such as actress Brenda Bergman and fans surged towards her, some wanting autographs, some a photo and some just to recall one of the incredible Warhol days with her. She was able to sign only one autograph and she chose my ultra rare poster, “I can’t do it so well you know, Hans is your name? You know I am part German too,” she said with a determined smile. I was left speechless as I watched her struggle to lovingly sign my poster in hot pink ink. In that moment I was transported back to that first night of previews of “The Ritz”, I could hear “You’ll be swell, you’ll be great! Gonna have the whole world on a plate.” Holly Woodlawn does have the whole world on her plate – and I was lucky enough to be at her feast!
Read Holly Woodlawn’s autobiography “A Low Life In Heels”: http://www.amazon.com/The-Holly-Woodlawn-Story-Heels/dp/0312064292/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369066058&sr=8-1&keywords=holly+woodlawn
“The Ritz” The farce is set in a gay bathhouse in Manhattan, where unsuspecting heterosexual Cleveland businessman Gaetano Proclo has taken refuge from his homicidal mobster brother-in-law, Carmine Vespucci. There Gaetano stumbles across an assortment of oddball characters, including a rabid chubby chaser, go-go boys, a squeaky-voiced detective and Googie Gomez, a third-rate Puerto Rican entertainer with visions of Broadway glory who mistakes him for a famous producer and whom he mistakes for a man in drag. Further complications arise when Gaetano’s wife Vivian tracks him down and jumps to all the wrong conclusions about his sexual preferences.
The Continental Baths’ amazing star studded history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_Baths
Rock club Trude Heller’s: http://streetsyoucrossed.blogspot.com/2005/05/trude-trude-trude.html
Holly Woodlawn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holly_Woodlawn
Mondays on Memory Lane – STARBUCKS USED TO BE A NEW YORK DISCO! – At the height of the disco craze, when there was a disco every few blocks in New York City, themes became the thing to separate a club from the crowd. There were circuses, mermaids, big band swing orchestras, human pin ball fists, ice skating, drag, dancing water fountains, roller skating featured in places such as planetariums, warehouses, garages, factories and even a deserted subway station.
The life span of a club was as follows:
1. Invite the gays and hope it turns into another Studio 54.
2. The straight chic crowd discovers it from their gay friends.
3. The gays leave because it isn’t “in” anymore.
4. The ‘bridge and tunnel crowd’ arrives aka Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and (god forbid) ‘Jersey’.
5. The death knell “Tito Puente Night”
On Thursday evening, March 26th, 1981, in a (then) deserted section of the city, at 151 East 45th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues – STARBUCKS Disco opened with great fanfare. In order to attract a gay crowd while not wanting to put off and also attract the straight crowd from the beginning, a theme was needed, so rather than leather, glitz or drag – a cowboy theme was chosen, hopefully equally appealing to both gay and straight. Opening night was a mad house.
The old Danny’s Hideaway (above)
The location itself used to be Danny’s Hideaway bar and restaurant containing four floors where newspapermen, cartoonists and magazine editors used to hang out. The new renovation turned the space into a multi-leveled disco with an identity crisis. There was a working fireplace which remained from the old bar still on the first floor. Since they were desperate to attract all crowds, there was a different atmosphere and music on four floors. A slide connected the floors so that you could fly down the chutes from floor to floor. There was a dance floor on every floor—two of which were disco (one of the dance floors was lighted from underneath ala ‘Saturday Night Fever’), one rock and the top floor was country western complete with a mechanical bull! There was DJ Jim Maxwell on the first floor and DJ Dan (pooch) Pucciarelli on the third floor. With no Studio 54 elitist door policy in place, they pretty much let anybody in since they needed to fill such a big space. $15 got you in the door with free drinks all night…yes, free drinks served in tiny plastic cups which completely littered the floor. It was also one of the very few discos that advertised on local TV stations.
What doesn’t work is to mix cowboy boot wearing, plaid shirted country music lovers with platform shoed, bell-bottomed glittery disco dancers and leather clad rockers. It was a disaster. Each floor’s music blasted the music so loud that it thumped through your chest. Imagine hearing Donna Summer, Duran Duran and Alabama blasting in one building at the same time – insane! The gays/chic Manhattan crowd wrote off the club opening night and the disco life cycle was rapidly overnight sped up to step #4 – ‘bridge & tunnel’. Eventually it turned into an after work hangout for the working class and weekends it was dead. The disco/dance crowd wanted to get dressed up and shine on the weekends, not mix with the working stiffs they were trying not to be, inevitably by 1984 Starbucks Disco closed. Today the name Starbucks is synonymous with the world wide caffeine giant it has become with over 20,891+ locations world wide, 13,280+ in the USA and 172 locations in Manhattan…so necessary for their public bathrooms we have come to seek out.
The invitation reads as follows: “STARBUCKS is a multilevel new western restaurant, disco and cabaret. Designed by Renny Reynolds and lighting by Brian Thompson. Complete with Bucky Bronco, haylofts, hay slides, barbecue pit, waterfall, glass elevator, screening room, wood burning fireplaces, skylighted dance floors and an array of futuristic surprises.”
Invitation design by Greg Porto. Artwork by Dain Marcus