This Manhattan Matchmaker Is Starting a Dating Site for Weed Smokers

Relationship guru Sandra Harmon loves “grass.” And she wishes the dozens of men she’s dated loved it, too. “There have been lots of times I’ve dated guys who don’t smoke,” says Harmon. “They look down on me. They grew up thinking pot is bad.” But now the 76-year-old matchmaking yenta has a solution: a dating site for stoners.

Inspired by hyper-targeted dating sites like JDate (for Jews) and FarmersOnly (for…farmers), Harmon’s goal is to carve out an online dating niche for medical-marijuana patients, recreational smokers, and those who may not regularly smoke, but are open to and curious about marijuana. The site is for everyone — gay or straight, young or old, those looking to hook up or to fall in love, anyone from anywhere, just as long as they give the “green” light.

Harmon expects to launch “M-Date” — the site’s working title — by the end of the summer. She says more than 100 people have already personally contacted her to sign up. The site will be hosted by a larger marijuana lifestyle website, WeedTV — a place to go for everything from political news about cannabis to a national directory of dispensaries.

While “M-Date” will be competing with other marijuana dating sites, such as the Los Angeles–based My420Mate, Harmon also plans to include a relationship blog, expert love advice, local meet-ups, seminars, and personal counseling for “M-Date” members from all over the country. In the site’s merchandise section, she plans to sell sex toys and weed paraphernalia.

According to a 2010 United Nations World Drug Report, between 119 million and 224 million adults around the globe used marijuana, including nearly 100 million from the United States. According to government surveys, more than 14 million Americans smoke marijuana on a regular basis. Combine those stats with the 33 percent of American couples who met online in 2014 — expected to rise to 70 percent by 2040 — and Harmon may have a recipe for success.

Harmon is the author of several books, including Getting To I Do and Staying Married and Loving It, and creator of the Web series The Love Judge, She’s now a professional love, dating, sex, and relationship coach — perhaps not a surprising turn for a gal who came of age during the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Harmon later moved to Manhattan, where, after a short stint married to Larry Harmon — creator of Bozo the Clown — the boy-crazy Jewess fully embraced the 1960s swinger lifestyle. But Larry himself was a bozo, Harmon says, plus “he didn’t like that I smoked.”

Soon after her divorce, Harmon landed a job writing on The Dick Cavett Show, for which she ultimately won an Emmy in 1969. “When I became a writer, [marijuana] widened my focus,” says Harmon, who began smoking when she was eighteen. “It was that stimulus for me.” But even in the Sixties and Seventies, smoking marijuana wasn’t as widely accepted as it is now. Things are changing, says Harmon, ever since nearly half the country legalized medical marijuana — “people are becoming less judgmental.”

Still, even in a state like New York, where possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized and a limited medical law will go into effect next year, Harmon is shy about her use. She doesn’t like to explicitly mention it on her and JDate profiles.

That’s where M-Date comes in. The site’s users won’t have to worry about awkwardly gauging their matches’ feelings about marijuana — they’ll already be speaking the same language, says Harmon. “It’s a shared camaraderie.”

“The whole movement and acceptance of marijuana has spawned a lot of events, [and] a lot of people meet at these events, so it’s also prompting social interaction and connections,” says Mark Bradley, founder of WeedTV, who says he’s excited to partner with Harmon on the dating site. “Having an online version of it is really just an extension of where society is today.”

Establishing that shared interest already gives matches an activity to enjoy together. “[Smoking marijuana] loosens you up so you’re not uptight in the beginning,” says Harmon, explaining that it heightens sensitivity and the desire to laugh, explore, and dine. “All of a sudden people enjoy music more,” says the enthusiast, “and there’s no question that the relaxation and good feelings that marijuana gives you make sex better.”

In fact, in a recent study, porn video sharing site PornHub found that “weed” was the most popular search term for its visitors, followed by “marijuana,” “pot,” “joint,” and “420.” The second most common word found in tandem with “weed,” after “smoking weed,” was “weed sex.” That’s right: smoking “grass” and getting ass may have more to do with each other than we ever thought.

But Harmon doesn’t advocate that everyone use marijuana. “If you’re going to get paranoid, don’t smoke,” she says. Her goal is merely to foster a dating community that is accepting of marijuana use.

“I wanted to do something special,” Harmon says of her dating site. “People who smoke marijuana also want love and sex and rock ‘n’ roll.” But most importantly, she adds, “nobody wants to feel judged.”

Interested in signing up for M-Date? You can contact Harmon via email or at her website.


58 First Dates: Here’s Your 2015 NYC Summer Events Guide

Why meet at a familiar bar and slip into old habits on a date? Instead, hit up one of these nearly 60 events happening in New York this summer, and nudge yourself out of your comfort zone a little. Whether your first date or your hundredth — and whether of the platonic or romantic variety — hell, whether it’s a three-person date, a double date, or a date with your damn self — there are movies, concerts, and food festivals, events rich with history and culture, and rallies that encourage you to chart your own path. There’s nothing sweeter than French cinema in the park (Films on the Green) or Shakespeare under the stars (The Public Theater)…or all-you-can-eat ice cream, to get literal (the Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown). Any date would be impressed by the Lobster Rumble or Royal Ballet, but maybe save Green-Wood Cemetery’s spooky midnight re-creation of Alice in Wonderland for a more adventurous paramour. Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating competition is a Coney Island institution, but it probably sends the wrong message for a first date. Our list runs in chronological order, with summer-long series appearing under the date of their premiere. Seek out the best things to do every day with our New York Events calendar.

Intrepid Summer Movie Series May 22–August 6

The Intrepid Museum’s seventh annual edition of this outdoor program — which screens science-themed movies, free of charge, on the exhibit’s stunning Flight Deck — comes equipped with a special guest speaker to accompany each showing. The elected personalities include Scott D. Altman, a former NASA astronaut and Navy pilot, who introduces Top Gun on May 22; Dr. Charles Marmar, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center, who contextualizes the Sam Rockwell–led Moon on July 16; and Jeffrey Kluger, who presents Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 (an adaptation of Kluger and Jim Lovell’s book) on July 30. Intrepid Museum, Pier 86, West 46th Street and Twelfth Avenue, — Danny King

Shakespeare in the Park May 27–July 5, July 23–August 23

If you’re not looking forward to this summer tradition, it must be because you’ve never been before. The legacy of the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park is well deserved: Broadway-grade productions, star casts, and a B.Y.O. food and drink policy, all enjoyed under the stars in one of the more gorgeous sections of Central Park. This year Tony nominee Mark Greif directs The Tempest, starring Academy Award nominee Sam Waterston and Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Return in July for Cymbeline, directed by Tony winner Daniel Sullivan with veterans Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater. The Delacorte Theater, 81 Central Park West, — Heather Baysa

Films on the Green May 29–July 31

This festival uses an assortment of scenic locations — Central Park’s Cedar Hill, Washington Square Park, Tompkins Square Park, Riverside Park Pier, and Brooklyn’s Transmitter Park — to deliver a sampling of both classic and contemporary French cinema. The series begins in Central Park with Roger Vadim’s And God Created Woman, a star-making success for Brigitte Bardot. Caroline Bottaro’s Queen to Play (July 17, Riverside Park Pier I), featuring a curious duo in Kevin Kline and Sandrine Bonnaire, and Éric Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse (July 31, Transmitter Park) are among the additional titles on the docket. Various locations, — King

Rooftop Films May 29–August 22

The nineteenth annual Rooftop Films Summer Series spreads across nineteen locations, each of them offering packed-house presentations of live music, independent movies, and the occasional post-screening after-party. Industry City, the venue that opens the series, contains numerous highlights throughout the summer, from Zachary Treitz’s Civil War–set Men Go to Battle (screening here on July 3), which earned strong reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival, to Joe Swanberg’s Digging for Fire, presented on August 18 with the director there in person. Industry City, 220 36th Street, Brooklyn, — King

Taste of Times Square June 1

Taste of Times Square proves that the tourist-heavy neighborhood isn’t entirely Disney World North. Sample dishes like tacos al pastor from chef Julian Medina’s celebrated Toloache, bacon-smoked Oreos from Urbo, the fine-dining megaplex, or eggplant parm from Carmine’s, the old-school Italian that even natives deign to visit. For the first time, there will also be a beer garden at the festival, featuring ales and lagers from Heartland Brewery. Broadway between 45th and 47th streets, — Alanna Schubach

The crowd for <a href="">St. Vincent's Celebrate Brooklyn show</A> on August 9, 2014
The crowd for St. Vincent’s Celebrate Brooklyn show on August 9, 2014

Celebrate Brooklyn! June 3–August 12

The annual summer-long festival of music, dance, literature, and film at the Prospect Park Bandshell has become way too huge to even get into here. That said, consider this random selection of highlights: Free performances by Lucius, Lucinda Williams, Dance Brazil, Taylor Mac, tUnE-yArDs, and a wide variety of others. Benefit shows from Interpol, Modest Mouse, and Edward Sharpe. An outdoor screening of Paris Is Burning. Get the picture? Yeah, you do. Now go! Prospect Park Bandshell, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, — Baysa

Dark Wonderland: A Nighttime Festival of Visionary Performance June 4–31, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays

2015 marks the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and all month, Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery will stage “Dark Wonderland,” an interactive tribute. The National Historic Landmark, with its winding paths, marble sculptures, and unearthly mood, is an apt setting for revisiting Lewis Carroll’s fantastic world. Visitors take a candlelit stroll through the cemetery, which concludes with Alice-inspired performances from musicians, dancers, and actors. Each weekend features a new lineup, and tickets are $25. Green-Wood Cemetery, 500 25th Street, Brooklyn, — Schubach

Lobster Rumble June 4

Tasting Table hosts this decadent competition, in which 25 contenders come together to see whose lobster roll reigns supreme. Serving up their swankiest sandwiches at Lobster Rumble are purveyors like David Burke Fishtail, the John Dory Oyster Bar, Red Hook Lobster Pound, and more. Wash down all that fresh crustacean with beer, cocktails, and wine, and round out the meal with sweets from spots like Sullivan Street Bakery. Tickets are steep, at $165, but proceeds benefit Share Our Strength. Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, — Schubach

The New York Heritage Salon and Bounty June 5

Toasting the Town, a publication that encourages New Yorkers to explore their city’s past, hosts the New York Heritage Salon and Bounty tonight. This swank celebration takes visitors on a journey through history via food and drink recipes from NYC’s many eras. The evening includes unlimited tastings, live music and dancing, and a silent auction to benefit Green Bronx Machine, all in the classic, Neo-Renaissance setting of the Prince George Ballroom. 15 East 27th Street, — Schubach

DigiFest June 6

Citi Field becomes teenybopper heaven today as it hosts DigiFest, a touring event that began as a platform for social-media stars but now welcomes celebs from more traditional venues as well. The all-day extravaganza includes food, games, and four stages. Demi Lovato headlines, but also performing are Jack & Jack, teenagers from Omaha who rocketed to fame via Vine; Selfie C, whose popularity stems from her YouTube videos on the GLAMMS channel; and more. Citi Field, 123-01 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens, — Schubach

Sleigh Bells open for Run the Jewels on June 14 as part of Northside Festival. Vince Staples also performs.
Sleigh Bells open for Run the Jewels on June 14 as part of Northside Festival. Vince Staples also performs.

Northside Festival June 8–14 If you really commit yourself to the Northside Festival, you can experience something close to a year’s worth of Williamsburg entertainment in one compact week. More than 400 bands flood the neighborhood’s many concert venues — McCarren Park included — with Best Coast, Zola Jesus, Neko Case, and Sleigh Bells fronting 2015’s lineup. Equally exciting is the bevy of independent films by local filmmakers screening at Nitehawk Cinema, as well as Brooklyn Brewery’s series of talks and workshops by the borough’s entrepreneurial tech innovators. And don’t miss Williamsburg Walks, Northside’s visually striking centerpiece during which Bedford Avenue is closed off to traffic and transformed into a public park, grass and all. Artists are invited to decorate the main thoroughfare, street performers roam, and picnicking is rampant. Grab an ice cream and you won’t find a better block party than this. Through June 14, various locations in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn,, free–$315 — Baysa

Museum Mile Festival June 9

This evening, those stately institutions along Fifth Avenue throw open their doors and welcome visitors to explore their galleries for free. Naturally, the Met and the Guggenheim are major draws in the Museum Mile Festival, but El Museo del Barrio, the Africa Center, and the Museum of the City of New York are just as brimming with artistic and cultural riches. Festivities kick off at the Cooper Hewitt, and in between museum visits there are interactive activities for children. Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 105th street, — Schubach

Bryant Park Word for Word Series June 10–September 22

Bryant Park’s Reading Room, a free, open-air library, hosts the Word for Word Reading Series, featuring an eclectic lineup of writers, publishers, and book groups. Today, see Peaches, the irreverent performer whose lyrics prove there are still envelopes left to push, in conversation with Lorraine Ali, senior writer for the Los Angeles Times. And throughout the summer, drop in for events as disparate as a Ulysses discussion and a lecture on the films of Paul Thomas Anderson. Bryant Park Reading Room, Bryant Park, — Schubach

Shamanic Power Animal Workshop June 10

If you ever went to art school, or lived in Brooklyn for any substantial amount of time, you probably know someone who describes him- or herself as a “shaman.” Not to knock your Bushwick neighbor’s legitimacy, but Larish Koronowski is the real deal, coming from a long ancestral line of Tuvan hereditary shamans. In tonight’s lecture and workshop, she breaks down the shamanic practice to cultivate a deeper understanding of what the mystical healers actually do. Participants will be guided in determining their own spirit animal and asked to participate in traditional dance and offerings. Seated observers are invited to watch from the sidelines. Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th Street, — Baysa

WOW: Women of the World Festival June 11–14

A celebration with a message, the WOW: Women of the World Festival brings musicians, speakers, artists, and activists to the Apollo. Performers range from singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon, known for her progressive, genre-blending music as well as the operas she wrote with her mother, Bernice Johnson Reagon, to Naomi Wolf, author of the groundbreaking The Beauty Myth and, most recently, Vagina: A New Biography. Participants are united by the goals of celebrating women and making the world more hospitable to people from all walks of life. Apollo Theater, 253 West 125th Street, — Schubach

The Jazz Age Lawn Party returns for two weekends this summer.
The Jazz Age Lawn Party returns for two weekends this summer.

Jazz Age Lawn Party June 13–14, August 15–16

Even without a 1.21 gigawatt power source, the ferry to Governors Island will take visitors back in time for the Jazz Age Lawn Party. (See our story on the music of the Jazz Age Lawn Party) Picnickers can check out vintage motorcars, cut a rug in the Charleston contest, and sip Prohibition-era cocktails (shh!). Or they can relax and take in such acts as quarreling love, songbirds Gelber & Manning, and the hot jazz of Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra. Governors Island, — Rob Staeger

Insiders expect another tight race between brisket and ribs this summer. (See more photos from the <A href="">Big Apple Barbecue</A>.)
Insiders expect another tight race between brisket and ribs this summer. (See more photos from the Big Apple Barbecue.)

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party June 13–14

There’ll be no better time this summer to queue up for the ‘cue. This annual block party prides itself on transplanting all the sensuous experiences of a real Southern pit BBQ: It’s a heady combo of taste, aroma, and country music. Pit masters hail from across the country, with the meaty goodness of Hill Country, Dinosaur, Blue Smoke, and other BBQ favorites all in one place. Go V.I.P. with a Big Piggin’ Pass that ensures “all the ‘cue is brought to you.” Madison Square Park — Baysa

The Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival runs from June 13–August 29.
The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival runs from June 13–August 29.

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival June 13–August 29

Pack a picnic, head for the hills, and celebrate artists from across America and abroad, starting with Ira Glass and Monica Bill Barnes in Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host and continuing with 350 diverse shows in two theaters and on a free outdoor stage. On deck are the Martha Graham Dance Company, Ballet British Columbia, the L.A. Dance Project, Nederlands Dans Theater 2, Dorrance Dance, Liz Gerring Dance, and dozens more. Jacob’s Pillow, 358 George Carter Road, Becket, MA, — Elizabeth Zimmer

Grown Ass Carnival June 14

Lady Parts Justice, a national movement that advocates for reproductive rights through the unifying power of comedy, hosts a Grown Ass Carnival today at the woman-owned the Creek and the Cave. Try your hand at adult versions of games like bingo and darts, gawk at the sideshow acts, and stick around for an evening of sexual storytelling from comics like Sara Benincasa and Corinne Fisher. The Creek’s kitchen fuels your afternoon with Cal-Mex grub and margaritas. The Creek and the Cave, 10-93 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, — Schubach

Kulturfest June 14–21

This week Kulturfest, the first international celebration of the impact of Jewish culture, brings live music, theater, dance, and more to NYC. Shake up your usual Sunday-morning routine by joining a klezmer brunch at City Winery, see The Mar Vista, a play that transports audiences from ancient Egypt to 1950s Cincinnati, or watch To Life, a German drama about a former singer of Yiddish songs who embarks on an unusual friendship with a man 30 years her junior. Various locations, — Schubach

Anywhere in Time: A Conlon Nancarrow Festival June 17–28

Anywhere in Time explores the career of Conlon Nancarrow, a U.S.-Mexican composer among the first to write for player piano. This was necessitated by his politics: After fighting against Franco in the Spanish Civil War, Nancarrow was refused entry to the U.S. and relocated to Mexico, losing former collaborators in the process. Ultimately, his work found support from John Cage and Merce Cunningham; see his compositions interpreted by musicians and artists at this exhibit. Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street, — Schubach

BAMcinemaFest June 17–28

In the words of the Voice‘s Calum Marsh, who covered the festival for the paper last year, BAMcinemaFest “[boasts] some of the most exciting independent features to premiere in New York all year” — and 2015’s seventh annual edition will be no exception. The flagship selections alone speak for themselves: James Ponsoldt’s opening-night The End of the Tour, starring Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace; Sean Baker’s closing-night Tangerine, shot on an iPhone 5S; and the centerpiece title, Queen of Earth, which reunites Elisabeth Moss with her Listen Up Philip director, Alex Ross Perry. BAM Rose Cinemas, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, — King

NYC Dance Week June 18–27

You can learn nothing more standing still! Take advantage of this fourth annual opportunity to join free dance and fitness classes all over the city, as studios invite you to try out new and familiar forms. Various locations, — Zimmer

Sin Cities: Shanghai June 19

In the 1930s, before the Flamingo was a twinkle in Bugsy Siegel’s eye, three towns vied for the title of Sin City: Paris, Berlin, and Shanghai, known as “the wickedest city in the world.” The sultry aesthetes of Dances of Vice will ensure the Chinese port lives down to its rep in the first of three vintage nightlife experiences reveling in the glories of sins past. The DTA, 60 Pine Street, — Staeger

Nolafunk Crawfish and Music Festival June 20

Pinch the tails, suck the heads: Eating crawfish takes a minute to learn, and a (well-spent) lifetime to master. What better setting to down a platter of mudbugs than Governors Island, as the James Brown Dance Party fills the air with funky notes? New Orleans stalwarts Flow Tribe, New Breed Brass Band, and Papa Mali will also be on hand, bringing the 504 to the 212. Governors Club, Governors Island, — Staeger

Hawaiian Islands Liberty Challenge June 20

Outrigger paddling is little known to New Yorkers: The ancient sport has its origins in Polynesia, and was instrumental in the migration of people across the South Pacific. At today’s Hawaiian Islands Liberty Challenge, teams from throughout the globe will race on the Hudson in some of the fastest human-powered watercrafts. Along with the competition, expect live Polynesian music and dance, food, and activities for children. Hudson River Park, Pier 26, — Schubach

Mermaids will again leave their ocean homes on June 20 for their annual summit with the people of New York.
Mermaids will again leave their ocean homes on June 20 for their annual summit with the people of New York.

Mermaid Parade June 20

You might think parades wouldn’t come naturally to mythological creatures with no feet. You’d be wrong. Mermaids have been parading through Coney Island for 33 years, mixing high and low culture as naturally as fusing skin and scales. Participants in handmade costumes on elaborate floats turn Surf Avenue into an undersea thoroughfare, celebrating summer in inimitable Coney Island style. Surf Avenue between West 21st and West 10th, Coney Island, — Staeger

Taste of Jewish Culture Street Fair June 21

So much of New York City culture and cuisine stems from Jewish culture. This annual foodie festival by Workmen’s Circle illustrates that in the most delicious way. Stroll Sixth Avenue and enjoy NYC’s favorite breakfast item — the bagel and schmear — from standards like Baz Bagel & Restaurant or Black Seed Bagel. Sample Mile End’s modern, and kind of Canadian, incarnation of the classic Jewish deli, or discover the innovative flavor creations (like an out-of-this-world olive oil) by OddFellows Ice Cream Co. Sixth Avenue and 46th Street, — Baysa

Bryant Park Summer Film Festival June 22–August 24

Running each Monday evening for two months, this outdoor series offers considerable lounge time: The lawn opens at 5 p.m. (blankets and picnic materials are encouraged), but the movies don’t start until a few hours later, at sundown. The Bryant Park website has yet to document the lineup of selections, but many of the featured titles of recent years — Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy, Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining — inspire high expectations. Bryant Park, 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, — King

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and family in the 2014 Pride March
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and family in the 2014 Pride March

Pride Week June 23–28

Pride Week boasts the full spectrum of events and celebrations, from the family-friendly to the irreverent. Bring the kids to a Finding Nemo screening on Pier 63 on Tuesday, but drop them with the babysitter so you can party with thousands when the Hammerstein Ballroom is made into a mega-club on Saturday. And walk in the march down Fifth Avenue, led by this year’s grand marshals, Sirs Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen. Various locations, — Schubach

Royal Ballet June 23–28

England’s venerable troupe returns, for the first time in more than a decade, under the direction of Kevin O’Hare and with a clutch of works by Britain’s best choreographers, including Frederick Ashton (his delightful interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Kenneth MacMillan, Wayne McGregor, Liam Scarlett, and Christopher Wheeldon. Opening night’s a gala honoring Wheeldon. David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, — Zimmer

Häxan screening w/ live score June 25–26

Banned in the U.S. for depravity, the 1922 silent film Witchcraft Through the Ages (Häxan) wants to have its devil’s-food cake and eat it, too — it celebrates the superstition it condemns, particularly a lurid depiction of a Black Mass. The Morbid Anatomy Museum is screening this twisted gem accompanied by vintage 78s — including some polka music discovered alongside this 16mm print. Diabolical! Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424-A Third Avenue, Brooklyn, — Staeger

Steffani Jemison: Promise Machine June 25–27

In tandem with its Migration Series exhibit, MoMA presents “Steffani Jemison: Promise Machine,” a multimedia work from the Brooklyn-based artist that contextualizes Jacob Lawrence’s depiction of African Americans’ northward journey. Lawrence’s masterpieces were supported by a women’s association called the Utopia Neighborhood Club, whose dream of a better world shaped Jemison’s own creations. The artist performs a libretto that pays tribute to particular Lawrence paintings on display, which is followed by lectures and discussions. Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, — Schubach

FarmBorough Country Music Festival June 26–28

FarmBorough isn’t an offhand way to insult Staten Island, if that’s what you were thinking. It’s New York’s brand-new country music festival, and it’s kicking up its boots on Randalls Island, starting today. Grab your headwear most closely shaped like a Stetson and get on over to see Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan, and many more. Don’t miss Maddie & Tae, whose single “Girl in a Country Song” is brilliant, genre-subversive fun. Randalls Island Park, — Baysa

Christopher Williams June 26–28

Combining an extravagant imagination with exotic music and exquisite costumes, Williams brings four short dances inspired by baroque opera and heroes of ancient myths and legend, and featuring special guest Douglas Dunn & Dancers. 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, — Zimmer

Contemporary Color June 27–28

Apparently we weren’t the only color guard groupies in high school. David Byrne is also a fan of the flag-spinning, competitive-dancing “sport of the arts.” He’s organized this exciting showcase during which the country’s elite color guard teams will converge in Brooklyn to perform alongside live music. The big names include St. Vincent, Lucius, Devonté Hynes, Zola Jesus, Nelly Furtado, and of course Byrne himself. We can, with some confidence, say that you’ve never seen a concert like this before. Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, — Baysa

Louis Armstrong International Music Festival June 29

Louis Armstrong had close ties to Queens: In 1943, he was already famous worldwide, but he and his wife chose to move into a small house in Corona, where they lived for the rest of their lives. The Louis Armstrong International Music Festival celebrates the jazz legend’s contributions to the borough, and marks the 50th anniversary of his concert at the 1964 World’s Fair. Come to the Unisphere today for live music, dancing, and food. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, — Schubach

Independence Day Weekend at Nitehawk July 3–5

Nitehawk celebrates this year’s Fourth of July weekend with three days of U.S.A.-themed brunch and midnight screenings. The featured movies range from the canonical (Steven Spielberg’s Jaws) to the unexpected (Annelise Meineche’s softcore Without a Stitch, which was initially hobbled by censorship issues in America). As with the rest of the program — which includes Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers and Hal Needham’s Smokey and the Bandit — these movies are paired with Independence Day–flavored food-and-drink options. Nitehawk Cinema, 136 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, — King

Liberty Belle Extravaganza July 4

When the Declaration of Independence was written, you can bet some of the signatories wished there were burlesque dancers around. (Lookin’ at you, Ben Franklin.) The Liberty Belle Extravaganza realizes Franklin’s dream by celebrating Independence Day in vintage, bawdy style atop the Empire Hotel. Swing bands, go-go, magicians…firecrackers everywhere you look. All under a retractable roof so the party happens rain or shine. Empire Hotel, Level R, 44 West 63rd Street, — Staeger

As American as overeating, the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest returns July 4.
As American as overeating, the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest returns July 4.

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest July 4

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — there’s nothing more American than an eating contest, and there’s nothing more Coney Island than Nathan’s Famous. That’s why this nationally televised gorge-fest has all the makings of one great Fourth of July activity for its beachgoing spectators. Joey Chestnut of San Jose holds the record with 69 hot dogs in ten minutes, and he’s looking to make this year his ninth straight win. Come out and cheer for him, or just unabashed excess in general. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, 1310 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, — Baysa

Endless Summer – Mods vs. Rockers July 4

In A Hard Day’s Night, Ringo is asked if he’s a mod or a rocker. “I’m a mocker,” he replies. The lines between the two get blurry sometimes. Endless Summer celebrates early-Sixties styles of every sort with a beach party on the roof of the Gansevoort Park hotel, with cocktails, barbecue, go-go, and live bands laying down surf rock, rockabilly, and more. Groovy. Gansevoort Park Hotel, 420 Park Avenue South, — Staeger

Celebrate the Fourth of July with cred at the Indie-pendence Day Festival.
Celebrate the Fourth of July with cred at the Indie-pendence Day Festival.

Indie-pendence Day Festival July 4

This Fourth of July independent comedy marathon is back for a second year. Gather at the PIT for twelve consecutive shows from noon until midnight by 36 teams performing short-form, long-form, and musical-form improv. Hang out and laugh all day with bands, ping-pong, and a B.Y.O.-meat BBQ spread. Beer sponsors will pour out the drink specials and the NYC fireworks will be telecast for all those patriotic but not patriotic enough to brave the crowds. The Peoples Improv Theater, 123 East 24th Street, — Baysa

SyFy’s Movies With a View July 5–August 27

The nearest drive-in is an hour away, but the outdoor movie experience is still in reach. Movies with a View screens an eclectic mix of films in Brooklyn Bridge Park every Thursday, with classics like High Noon or Dr. Strangelove rubbing elbows with more modern fare like Attack the Block. And if you can’t sink your teeth into Sharknado 2, well…there’s always that spectacular skyline. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, — Staeger

Lincoln Center Festival July 6–August 2

Each summer, a dazzling range of performing- arts acts from around the globe come to NYC for the Lincoln Center Festival. This year’s crown jewel is a live performance of music from the films of Tim Burton, featuring a full orchestra, choir, and the composer himself, Danny Elfman. Expand your horizons further and see the ballet The Peony Pavilion, a ghostly love story from China; Ninagawa Company’s theatrical version of the Haruki Murakami novel Kafka on the Shore, and more. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza, — Schubach

National Ballet of China July 8–12

The Lincoln Center Festival brings us that perennial ode to doomed romance, The Peony Pavilion, choreographed by Fei Bo to an original score by Guo Wenjing. The run concludes with one of the oddest, most militaristic ballets you’ll ever see, The Red Detachment of Women, in which pointe shoes meet bayonets. Staged for President Nixon during his 1972 visit to China and made into a popular film, it was choreographed by Li Chenxiang, Jiang Zuhui, and Wang Xixian and influenced by the Soviet style. David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, — Zimmer

McCarren Park SummerScreen July 8–August 12

Launched in 2006 with an exhibition of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing at the McCarren Park Pool, this weekly, Wednesday-evening series supplements its outdoor screenings with food vendors and live music. The program for this summer’s edition — presented by Northside Media Group (the publisher of The L Magazine and Brooklyn Magazine) — opens with Amy Heckerling’s Clueless on July 8 and concludes with an “Audience Pick” on August 12. The time in between, meanwhile, is filled in with the likes of David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer (July 15) and Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (July 29). McCarren Park, Bedford Avenue and North 12th Street, Brooklyn, — King

Japan Cuts July 9–19

The website for Japan Cuts, that reliable annual provider of contemporary Japanese cinema, promises an “exciting and expanded ninth edition,” and we’ll have to take their word for it — the full lineup isn’t set to be listed until June. But the selections that have been revealed so far are indeed cloaked with intrigue: the photographer and director Shingo Wakagi’s Asleep, adapted from a 1989 novel by Banana Yoshimoto, and Masaharu Take’s 100 Yen Love, which the Variety critic Peter Debruge enticingly describes as “a Japanese indie with the soul of a 1970s American film — a project that might’ve caught Hal Ashby’s eye.” Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, — King

Taylor Swift July 10–11

What’s summer without an appearance by our first and best Global Welcome Ambassador? Even though the show technically takes place in New Jersey, we like to think Taylor is still repping NYC with this one, so shake it off, cover up your belly button, grab your vintage Polaroid, and get on over the river. The Swift One has proved herself a pop-music powerhouse with this new album, but more than that, a pop-branding powerhouse. Let yourself get caught up in the fantasy of the 1989 World Tour. MetLife Stadium, One MetLife Stadium Drive, East Rutherford, New Jersey, — Baysa

The Rise of Sneaker Culture July 10–October 4

If you’ve ever seen a line wrapping around the block as people await the release of new Air Jordans, you know that sneakers are more than just footwear. Starting today, the Brooklyn Museum explores how they evolved into works of art in “The Rise of Sneaker Culture.” See 150 pairs of shoes from a range of brands, some made in collaboration with esteemed contemporary artists. Also on display are photos, film clips, and drawings tracking the history of the sneaker. Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, — Schubach

The 4Knots Music Festival moves to Hudson River Park this year.
The 4Knots Music Festival moves to Hudson River Park this year.

4Knots Music Festival July 11

The Voice‘s annual 4Knots Music Festival is celebrating the first year in its new location on Pier 84 in Hudson River Park. Different river, same deal: all-day indie music, dancing, and drinking with coastal views. This year’s headliners are Super Furry Animals, Mikal Cronin, and the boys of Twin Peaks, preceded by Happyness, Heaters, and Meatbodies, with more bands to come. Spring for the V.I.P. ticket to access the private viewing area with complimentary drinks and snacks. Pier 84, Hudson River Park, — Baysa

Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown July 12

What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and…all-you-can-eat ice cream? Brooklyn’s Ice Cream Takedown offers the opportunity for both, as the stone-cold masters of frozen desserts face off in a no- ingredient-barred ice cream slobberknocker. Meanwhile, attendees get to enjoy the spoils of war with unlimited tasting privileges. Victory — another dish best served cold. Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, 514 Union Street, Brooklyn, — Staeger

Fire Island Dance Festival July 17–19

Gather with the glitterati at a stunning site on the Great South Bay, lift a glass, and watch wonderful dancers perform favorite works at one of several performances, all to raise funds for Dancers Responding to AIDS. The program for this 21st season includes works by Stephen Petronio, Pontus Lidberg, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Joshua Beamish, Al Blackstone, Charlie Williams, Manuel Vignoulle, and Dwight Rhoden, performed by dancers from Ailey II, Miami City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, 10 Hairy Legs, and other troupes. Fire Island Pines, NY,

— Zimmer

Animation Block Party July 30–August 2

Dr. Frankenstein should have been an animator — imbuing a drawing with life would have been right up his alley. The Animation Block Party at Rooftop Films and BAMcinématek is something of a mad scientists’ convention, as animators from around the world share their eye-popping creations. All genres are represented here, shorts and features alike, for four days of screenings and events. Rooftop Films and BAMcinématek, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, — Staeger

Full Moon Festival August 1

Inspired by the beach parties on the Thai island of Ko Pha Ngan, the Full Moon Festival is a bit under the radar compared to larger — and more overwhelming — EDM blowouts like Electric Zoo. Drawing a smaller crowd to the beach on Governors Island, the event features acts like Life on Planets, a Baltimore duo that blends chilled-out indie rock and electronic music. Plus, there’s food from classy vendors — last year brought in Mile End, among others — to fuel the all-night dancing. Governors Island, — Schubach

BalletX August 11–12

Philadelphia’s premier contemporary ballet troupe comes to town with its unique, full-length Sunset, o639 Hours, a glorious 2014 collaboration between founding choreographer Matthew Neenan and New Zealand–born composer Rosie Langabeer. Set in and around the Pacific Ocean in 1938, it features ten dancers who, among other things, transform themselves into an aeroplane. The score is played live, and the four versatile musicians share the stage with the dancers. Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, — Zimmer

New York Fringe Festival August 14–30

The Fringe Festival, the largest event of its kind in the country, returns for the nineteenth year this August, bringing the offbeat, the irreverent, and the bizarre to theaters across NYC. Some Fringe veterans, like Avenue Q, have gone on to Broadway glory. Sniff out 2015’s crossover hit: Will it be the musical about a dressmaker who pursues a chupacabra? The solo show centering on a man’s anxiety about his small package? Or something else entirely? Various locations, — Schubach

U.S. Open August 31–September 13

If you know anything about tennis, the U.S. Open is like a dream — the two-week tournament pits the world’s biggest names against one another in some truly suspenseful matches. But even if you don’t, it’s still an interesting anthropological outing — possibly the country’s biggest festival dedicated to yuppie culture and the only reason most people outside of Queens have heard of Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. A day strolling the fair-like grounds or popping in on amateur matches is entertaining in itself, and let’s not even get started on the wide variety of (almost absurdly) fine dining available. Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens, — Baysa

Free Kayaking Weekends June–August

You may not think of New York’s many waterways as idyllic natural wonders, but they’re considerably more majestic when you’re actually on them. There are a number of locations for free kayaking on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer. Try the Downtown Boathouse at Pier 26 for a day on the Hudson, or Kayak Staten Island for a less congested paddle. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse is one of our favorites, offering panoramic views of downtown Manhattan and the iconic bridge. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Piers 1 and 2, — Baysa

Seek out the best things to do every day with our New York Events calendar.


Ride Along With New York Private Eye Michael McKeever

“People are like snowflakes,” says private detective Michael McKeever. The son and grandson of New York City police officers, McKeever, upon graduating from college, decided he wasn’t “cut out for the grisly side of life.” Instead, he hunts down cheating spouses, does surveillance in fraud cases, and looks for people who have gone missing.

He shares thoughts on his life and work with videographer Emrys Eller.


Awful March Madness-Themed ‘Study’ Ranks Columbia Coeds Among the Nation’s Hottest

OK, so Columbia didn’t qualify for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. They didn’t join their fellow Ivy Leaguers at Harvard — nor their fellow New Yorkers at Manhattan College and St. John’s University — in the Big Dance. But who cares about a silly basketball tournament when there are sexy coeds at your school to be bought online for hundreds of dollars?

Despite this blow to its otherwise formidable athletics department, Columbia can still claim victory in the form of a coveted (?) No. 8 spot on the “March Hotness” Sweet 16 bracket created by the ethically ambiguous date-auction site The Harvard Crimson and Princeton Tigers may have crushed the Lions on the court, but Columbia triumphed where it really counts: babes.

The site, which claims to “make dating more rewarding for everyone,” released the bracket in celebration of the famed regional-semifinal round of the NCAA tournament. The rankings were calculated using a scientific and statistically sound method: WhatsYourPrice rounded up all of the female users with .edu email addresses and averaged first-date prices by school. The Columbia female student body (sorry) averaged a respectable $225 for a first date, crushing the national average of $120. The University of Kansas clinched the top spot with an average of $324 for a first date — not too shabby for a state that ranks smack in the middle in the U.S. for mean household income.

“We thought it would be a fun take on the time-honored Sweet 16 and March Madness tradition,” says Hannah De La Cruz, public relations manager at WhatsYourPrice. The list was released on March 23. has more than 800,000 members worldwide and 592,000 members in the United States. Approximately 70,900 female members on the site are college students (or have cunningly co-opted a .edu email suffix). De La Cruz says that while the site also caters to enterprising daters of all sexes and sexual orientations, WhatsYourPrice chose to focus on the normative male-seeking-female structure for the bracket because it constitutes the largest active group on the site (clearly they sought a solid n for these hard-hitting data).

When it’s not compiling statistics of questionable moral and scientific value, here’s how WhatsYourPrice works: Date-seeking, or “Generous,” members place an offer on the chance for a date with an “Attractive” (broke or business-savvy and desirable) member who can then accept the date. Attractive members also have the option of creating a fixed first-date rate. It’s like eBay Buy It Now or Best Offer, but with a romantic twist. After the date, the Generous member presents his or her date with the promised cash and, depending on how things go, arranges a second date offline without the clear-cut monetary incentive.

Created in 2011, WhatsYourPrice almost immediately came under fire for sanctioning digital-age prostitution, but founder Brandon Wade has argued that his site does nothing of the sort. “It’s all about economics, demand and supply,” he told ABC’s 20/20 in November 2014. The site offers busy and successful guys who can “shell out some cash” a chance with a beautiful woman, he says. De La Cruz adds that it helps women cut through the online-dating noise: “You know they are serious because they are offering a monetary value for your time.” With the glut of online and mobile options for lady-daters, it’s not hard to see how cold hard cash could be more alluring than tepid conversation over sweaty PBRs.

De La Cruz says the study speaks to the notion that New York singles will pay a premium for the right combination of looks and education. “In this case, men are happy to shell out more money to date someone who is the complete package.” It’s unclear how this translates for top-earning University of Kansas students (the school ranks 106th among the nation’s universities, according to the U.S. News & World Report), but they’re probably too busy opening offshore bank accounts from all that date money to worry about such trivialities.

Students from all eight Ivy League schools are registered on WhatsYourPrice, but Columbia has the highest membership on the site, with 186 students currently monetizing their single years. If the Sweet 16 tradition continues, it could be time to call your bookie.

If you wish to, you can see the entire “March Hotness” rankings here.


Love (and Methane) in the Air at Valentine’s Day Tour of Wastewater Treatment Plant

Like most successful romantic endeavors, the Valentine’s Day tour of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant began with a release form.

The more than 30 attendees at the annual New York Department of Sanitation fete were greeted upon arrival at the plant — you’ve surely seen the steel, egg-shaped, silo-like structures while trapped in a cab on the BQE — with the safety release, a complimentary Hershey’s Kiss (because love), and a sewer-themed pin (because of course). They were then given an enthusiastic presentation from community relations director Sivan Schlecter and plant superintendent Zainool Ali that would have converted the staunchest climate-change denier into an ardent eco-warrior.

But everyone was there for pretty much the same reason.

“The shit. Where is my shit?” said one tour-goer, Erin Reddy. The tour was a Valentine’s gift from husband Pranay, who had hoped to surprise her with the excursion but was foiled by the department’s strict registration system.

Plant superintendent Zainool Ali
Plant superintendent Zainool Ali

Most of the attendees were couples and groups of twenty-to-thirtysomethings, but despite the hipsterish demographic and Greenpoint location, the overall mood was one of earnest curiosity rather than ironic bemusement. Despite the legitimate interest in the subject matter, the tour never quite lost the giddy feel of a middle-school field trip — complete with fart jokes and covert hand-holding. “Everybody say ‘SEWAGE,’ ” yelped one of the many ebullient photographers.

With its steely Bond-villain-lair vibe and signs with phrases like SLUDGE MIXER, or GAS DOME AREA, the plant is lousy with internet like-bait. Although many had informed scientific questions, most queries were regarding the weird debris that gets dredged up during the initial filtration stages (the answer: clothing, driver’s licenses, and once, a whole tree). Ali was quick to point out that by the time things get here, they’re generally well past the point of recognition.

After covering the basics (the plant handles around 18 percent of the area’s wastewater, and those “biodegradable” baby wipes you keep flushing are clogging everything up), the real tour began with an elevator ride up to the catwalks that crown the facility’s jewel(s), the digester eggs, which process up to 1.5 million gallons of sludge each day. The views were truly breathtaking — and, as visitors neared the methane processing sections atop the eggs, so was the odor. Ali motioned the group toward a plexiglass porthole affording a view into the burbling sludge. One by one, people crouched down inches from the window, then recoiled with squinched-up faces from a creeping stench best described as “earthy flatus.”

Peering into the sludge
Peering into the sludge

Between the postcard-worthy views and frigid temperature, romance (and methane) was in the air, and several of the group’s couples engaged in a little light PDA. Department spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla noted that in the tour’s history, she’s seen “a lot of people hugging, holding each other, laughing…” Would-be fiances, take note: A proposal has yet to take place on the tour, so you can still stake your claim in the quirky-proposal corner of the internet. Gail Nayowith, who took the tour with her partner, Larian Angelo (and who says she can see the digester eggs from her Manhattan apartment), pointed out that “It’s romantic if you love the city. You can share your Valentine’s Day with two things that you love: your person and your city.”

Larian and Gail
Larian and Gail

At the tour’s conclusion, a sampling of attendees all agreed that they would absolutely do it again in a romantic capacity (it beat the hell out of stilted first-date trivia). Several suggested that the plant offer regular night tours to heighten the mood and take full advantage of the views and high-concept illumination, conceived by French lighting designer Hervé Descottes, whose body of work includes New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Miami International Airport.

As Dennis Cheung, a Greenpoint native who was there with girlfriend Danielle, aptly noted, “it was romantic as shit!” — a sentiment that can now be taken literally.

The plant also offers romance-neutral monthly tours of the digester eggs. For more information, see here.


Couple Slides Into Marriage at Bronx White Castle

Jasmine and Mariana didn’t have bridesmaids or groomsmen at their wedding. Jasmine didn’t wear a white dress, and Mariana didn’t don a bridal veil. There was no limo to escort them to and from the ceremony — just a beat-up Dodge.

But they couldn’t have been happier: The couple had White Castle, their favorite burger joint, all to themselves as they tied the knot.

The women won an all-expenses-paid White Castle wedding — complete with a three-course menu, silver wedding bands, champagne for all, and a multilayer frosted cake — through the fast-food chain’s annual wedding sweepstakes. For the past eight years, White Castle has teamed up with radio stations in eight cities around the country to host a number of weddings each Valentine’s Day weekend.

Valentine’s Day has always brought in a good deal of business for White Castle, says Susan Milazzo, regional director of operations for White Castle in New York. Each year, for one weekend only, burger lovers can make a reservation at the fast-food spot for a romantic sit-down meal. Think candles, chocolates, shiny tablecloths, shrimp nibblers, sliders, and some sentimental music providing ambiance.

“We’ve kind of owned Valentine’s Day, like it’s our thing,” said Milazzo, who is expecting roughly 100 Valentine’s Day customers-with-reservations each night this weekend. “So from Valentine’s Day you go to love, from love you go to weddings, and a lot of people met in White Castle or wanted to get married here, so we thought it’d be great to have a contest centered around a winning couple, every year at this time. They just have to be in love to enter.”

This year’s New York winners, Jasmine Dimovski and Mariana Publiese, shut down a White Castle on East Fordham Road in the Bronx on Friday afternoon to seal the deal. In the company of twenty close friends and family members, the two women walked down a makeshift aisle and exchanged vows in front of the open counter, cash registers, and a tall sculpture made of burger boxes. Z100 radio host Greg Tyndorf, known on-air as Greg T from Elvis Duran and the Z100 Morning Show, officiated the ceremony as cars continued rolling past the drive-thru window. “I’m an ordained minister,” he said, reassuring everyone that the wedding was legal. This was his second time officiating a same-sex marriage, though he had never met this couple prior to the event.

“It looks and sounds non-traditional to be married in a White Castle,” said Tyndorf. “But you know what? What really matters is the amount of love they have for one another. And respect. Who’s to say that where you get married determines how long your marriage is going to last?”

The ceremony took all of five minutes. The brides exchanged rings and danced their first dance to an Ed Sheeran track. They skipped throwing the bouquet; White Castle employees were already marching around with trays of fried chicken rings and mozzarella sticks.

The newlyweds, both New Jersey natives, met each other at a mutual friend’s party almost five years ago. They began dating just three weeks later and have been together ever since.

Publiese, a nanny, had recently seen the contest publicized on Instagram and submitted an application without giving it too much thought. “I filled out a form and told them why I love White Castle,” she said. “I love White Castle for the mozzarella sticks.”

But it’s also the couple’s default, added Dimovski, a stay-at-home mother. “White Castle is the place we’ll always go to when we can’t decide on dinner,” she said. When the duo heard less than a month ago that they had been named winners, they made the mutual decision to get married.

“Getting married on Friday the thirteenth? That’s so us,” Dimovski laughed. “We always do things out of the ordinary.”

The women even color-coordinated their outfits to match the White Castle logo. Dimovski wore a royal-blue wedding gown, and Publiese dressed in a royal-blue button-down and black slacks. Dimovski’s eight-month-old daughter, Sophia, was also bundled in a bright-blue sequin-encrusted dress.

Out came trays of cheesecake on a stick — White Castle’s signature dessert — as the wedding drew to a close. “I just want to say I love this woman right here,” said Dimovski, champagne flute in hand. “And now she’s stuck with me!”

Fifty cheese sliders and three weeks later, the newlyweds will be off to Puerto Rico for the honeymoon.



New Yorkers Give Love and Sex Advice

Stand-up comic Sam Morril asks New Yorkers young and old, fresh-faced and grizzled, and a few tourists (because we did this in midtown) about love and sex in 2015. Happy Valentine’s Day!




Want to Find Love in NYC? Put a Bag Over Your Head

Monica Siu has never been in a relationship.

The 23-year-old is not unattractive. In fact she is quite beautiful — quick to laugh, with long black hair that falls past her shoulders, and cheeks that flush pink easily.

But in high school, while “everyone else was dating and getting all those feelings,” Siu, the oldest of her siblings, was saddled with adult responsibilities because of problems at home.

So she didn’t flinch when her friend, Sandy Yu, invited her to take part in a matchmaking event at the New York Hall of Science in Queens on Wednesday. It was speed dating with a twist: The participants would meet their prospective partners with paper bags covering their faces.

“I was attracted to the pictures,” Yu says of the announcement for the event, which she saw on Elite Daily. The ad had pictures from a gathering in London: men and women chatting with decorated brown bags covering their heads. Her curiosity was piqued and she brought along her able wingwoman, Siu. “She’s one of my more adventurous and spontaneous friends,” Yu says. “When in doubt, invite Monica!”

Upon arrival, the two were given their paper bags and ushered into a room with the rest of the female participants. Men were sequestered in another room at the opposite end of the large hall.

Inside, Siu and Yu joined their peers in fiddling with markers, ribbons, tape, and scissors as they decorated their bags to reflect their personalities — leaving openings for their eyes and mouths.

Siu opted for a clownish motif, with a red “buggy” nose and orange curly hair. “I’m just making it along as I go,” she said. Soon she had added a stick man bungee-jumping off the side of the bag, a tiny red airplane trailing a green globe, a taco, a bowl of pot-noodle soup and “You Can Do It” scribbled in Chinese letters.

“You’ve got quite a lot going on there,” Yu said.

“I’m nervous,” Siu revealed as the ladies continued to wait. While there’s no pressure to keep up appearances at the eccentric affair, which doubles as a literal blind date, “there is pressure to keep the conversation going,” Siu said, wondering what she would say if one of her “dates” turns out to be interested in things she knows nothing about. “If it’s a finance person? I don’t know anything about finance. How do you keep the conversation going with a person like that since you don’t know the topic?”

The 30 women, who each paid $25 to attend, work hard at personalizing their bags under the glare of flashing cameras and questioning television reporters who have turned up at the event. When asked if they expect to walk away from it all with the one, they scoff. “If nothing else,” Yu said, “I want to meet new people.” Some ladies have made ambitious pieces out their bags, like the thirtysomething-year-old who included flaps that unveil fun facts such as visiting all 113 museums in NYC.

Nearly an hour into the event, the lights in the room are turned off for a brief presentation. Siu and the others watch a promo video of the event from its organizers, the developers of Loveflutter, a new app that showcases quirky facts about potential dates rather than their pictures. Words encapsulating the group’s ethos flash on the screen, “#SayNoToShallow,” “could you get a date with just your personality?” “Wit is sexier than looks.”

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a psychologist who has been consulting on the Loveflutter project for a year, masterminded those words. A business psychology professor at the University College of London and a visiting professor at Columbia University Teachers College, Chamorro-Premuzic has been doing extensive research on relationships and dating sites. His findings show that sites like Tinder are basic; they “gamify” dating. “They try to replicate encounters that come close to representing two drunken people in a bar,” he told the roomful of women after the clip.

“We try to leverage the science of compatibility,” he added. He acknowledged that dating in New York is unique, especially considering that there are more women in the city than men. “You have to compete for the guys.”

Loveflutter co-founders Daigo Smith and David Standen are hoping their new app will help women like Siu find what they want. They are hosting about 30 versions of the social experiment in different countries next year. The paper-bag speed dating mirrors their app and serves as an effective means of launching their product.

“For women who are struggling with dating,” says Standen, Loveflutter will “filter out all the shallow males and get you straight into [real] conversations.”

See also: Dear Single Women of NYC: It’s Not Them, It’s You.

After the presentation, Siu wrote excitedly on her bag. Her quirky fact had finally come to her: “Can’t drive, but I can ride an ostrich.”

Slipping on her paper bag Siu joined the other women being led into the big hall. They were seated at different tables according to the number they had been given — one to 30. The men — about 26 of them — would stroll in later from the other end of the hall.

A hostess screamed, “Start!” And the dating began.

Continue reading and view photos from the event on the following page.


Siu’s first date had “Compost Toilets, I like that shit” scrawled on his bag, with white ribbons sticking out from its maw. They seemed to hit it off. Their “date” was marked by a high-five and a lot of laughter. He played with her illustrations with his pen.

Two minutes passed and the hostess called out again, “Switch!”

Siu and Compost Toilets shook hands before he moved on.

Her next date wore glasses that could be seen through the wide eye holes in the bag. He had doodled a clever Garfield illustration below his quip, “love at first spikes.” He touched Siu’s bag during their conversation.

The call to “switch!” echoed throughout the room after another two minutes passed. Siu and the man with the glasses shook hands. Siu jotted down notes on her dating scorecard.

This process continued for an hour. The New York men outshone their London counterparts, Loveflutter co-founder Smith revealed. They were “more outlandish in their designs,” he said. The guys were certainly more creative. Some brought along props ranging from Brooklyn Lager to small terrier-like dogs. One even performed Spider-Man stunts for Yu.

Once the women had met each of the men, it was time for the big reveal — or “de-bagging.”

Yu and Siu compared notes. Yu said she had about seven likes. Siu had three. “It was interesting, but short,” said Siu. Yu said there wasn’t enough time to get to know her dates, most of whom were preoccupied with the quirky fact she wrote on her bag: “Bought my first smartphone two months ago.” She said she did connect with one guy, a native New Yorker from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

All the scorecards — the organizers called them “tick sheets” — were returned to the hosts. In 48 hours, the Loveflutter team would connect participants with mutual likes. Yu hoped to be reunited with the man from Bensonhurst, whom she knew only by the slogan he wrote on his bag: “I don’t always drink beer but when I do I wear a bag on my face.”

Siu, on the other hand, had a lot of passes. “I just want a funny, smart guy that I can do random activities with,” she said. “I get to know people through talking. That’s what I find attractive.”



The Looking-For-A-Girlfriend Guy Is Now Looking For Your Business

Dan Perino — the gentleman behind Looking For A Girlfriend, a massive flyer campaign for love that got play on CBS and Gothamist — has decided to take his talents back to the streets, putting up posters for his new, er, poster-putting-up business. He first wants you to know that he doesn’t lack in experience — in a way, the new venture is a return to his roots. “A long time ago I put up flyers,” he tells the Voice. “Like 20 years ago.”

Perino, who identifies as an artist, decided to start marketing his services to others because he wanted the flexibility and the cash: “I’ve spent quite a bit of money on all of these dates,” he says.

But he insists his girlfriend campaign was not just a clever idea to pimp his new business, nor was it a performance art project. “It’s not even a social experiment at this point,” he says. “It’s just, I’m trying to find a girlfriend.”

And how has the hunt for love gone? “I’ve put up 23,000 flyers and I’ve been on 72 dates,” he says. “Promising, but not marriage material.”

Perino started putting up the flyers for his business yesterday and he’s already got two calls from potential clients, as well. “Brought to you by the man behind ‘Looking For a Girlfriend,'” his poster reads. “Check me out on Facebook.”

“The reason why I did it that way is I don’t just want to be a stranger to people,” Perino says. “They’ll know I’ve pushed my own flyers, and a lot of them. It’s more of a trust thing.”

See also:
In Defense of Dating in New York City


Upstate New York Farm Must Allow Gay Weddings

An upstate New York farm has been fined by the state Division on Human Rights for refusing to host a wedding for a lesbian couple two years ago. Liberty Ridge Farm is located in Schaghticoke, New York, a 7,000-person town some 30 miles north of Albany. When Melisa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy decided to get married in 2012, as they told the press at the time, they thought Liberty Ridge would be the perfect place: they’d gotten engaged at an apple orchard, and getting hitched in Liberty Ridge’s barn seemed like the perfect continuation to their rural theme. (According to court filings, the farm hosts blueberry-picking, pig races, and something called “pumpkin cannon shows.”)

The couple’s exuberance lasted right up until McCarthy called Cynthia Gifford, one half of the husband and wife team who owns the farm. Gifford invited McCarthy and her intended to visit the farm, until, a moment later, McCarthy referred to her fiancee as “she.” Gifford immediately replied that there was “a little bit of a problem.”

According to court documents, Gifford told McCarthy, “We do not hold same-sex marriages here at the barn.” (McCarthy was recording the phone conversation, so we have a pretty good idea what was said.)

Incredulous, McCarthy asked if that was legal. “Yeah,” Gifford replied. “We’re a private business.” Gifford added that she and her husband Robert decided “that’s not what we want to have on the farm.”

After that, McCarthy and Erwin stopped looking for wedding venues altogether, before eventually finding the heart to continue. They were married at the Olde Tater Barn in Central Bridge, New York in August 2013. (Erwin has since changed her surname to McCarthy as well.) In the meantime, represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, they filed a human rights complaint with the state against the Giffords and Liberty Ridge. New York’s human rights law says a place of “public accommodation, resort or amusement” can’t discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation. Liberty Ridge isn’t a church; the farm allows anyone to book a wedding there, making their no-gays policy plainly illegal.

But the Giffords, who were represented by attorney James Trainor Cutler Trainor & Cutler, argued that while the couple was welcome to visit the farm and participate in all the blueberry picking and pumpkin-cannoning their hearts desired, the Constitution protected the Liberty Ridge owners from having to host a wedding they objected to.

Other Christian answers to the NYCLU agreed. “The owners, Robert and Cynthia Gifford, object to gay ‘marriage’ based on their values and religious convictions,” the New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation wrote on their website. “They still have children at home, and believe that hosting a same-sex “marriage” would send the wrong message to the teenagers they are raising. The question before the State Division of Human Rights is whether or not homosexual rights will trump religious liberty.”

Another Christian legal institution who took an interest in the case implied that the McCarthys had deliberately decided to try to host their wedding there, despite having heard that Liberty Ridge was not amenable to same-sex weddings. Stephen P. Hayfrod, the legislative director for New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, attended a hearing in the case and wrote on their blog that the case “raised a real question about whether the two ladies really wanted to have their ceremony at the Farm, or whether this whole thing was a set-up to go after a family business that holds traditional moral beliefs about marriage.”

Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Peres, who heard the case, didn’t buy that argument. In a July decision, announced the NYCLU today, she ordered Liberty Ridge to “cease and desist from discriminatory practices in public accommodations.” They’re also ordered to pay the McCarthys $1,500 each, and a fine of $10,000 to the state. They’ll also need to prove to the Division on Human Rights that they’re conducting anti-discrimination training at their workplace. Finally, they have to display a copy of this poster somewhere prominent, in case any other LGBT couples attempt to get married in a lovely bucolic setting featuring pigs, blueberries, and open hostility.

An earlier version of this story misidentified the attorney who represented the Giffords in this case. It also stated that Stephen P. Hayford of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms had testified during a hearing; he did not. His comments were made on the group’s blog afterwards. The Voice and the author regret the error.

Liberty Ridge Notice and Final Order