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ASTRONAUT STATUS

He’s wearing Gucci, and he’s wearing Bally at the same damn time. He’s on the phone, and he’s cooking dope at the same damn time. He’s on Pluto, and he’s on Mars, yes, at the same damn time. He’s Future, the deeply Auto-Tuned Atlanta rapper whose recent debut is innovative, hard, lyrical, catchy, and even a bit sentimental, often at the same damn time. Singles like “Tony Montana” have gotten most of the attention, but don’t sleep on album cuts like the softer, rambling “Truth Gonna Hurt You” or the R. Kelly duet “Parachute.” Tonight, Future touches down at Irving Plaza with Pusha T, one half of the Clipse’s brothers Thornton, opening.

Mon., June 4, 8 p.m., 2012

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NYE Guide: Dance

WEBSTER HALL

This is the place I wanted to go to last year, but, alas, the gods conspired against me, and I ended up helping my drunk best friend and trying to hail a cab somewhere on Stanton. What’s the lesson? Buy your ticket now, and stay put. Don’t go outside for a cigarette, and ignore anyone who wants to go to Brooklyn between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., or you’ll be celebrating 2012’s arrival in the back of a crosstown bus. The professionals who run this 126-year-old nightclub know exactly what you need, and they’ve got all of your bases covered. Still the biggest and most elaborate of parties, Webster Hall’s New Year’s Eve Ball is epic in every sense of the word. And the best part is that everyone’s invited. Their legendary midnight 100,000-balloon drop is something everyone should experience at least once. At midnight, you get to watch the action at Times Square on their high-def video wall while fire dancers, aerial acts, and assorted freaks cruise its four massive floors. If you can’t make it to the main event, $40 gets you a ticket to Nero’s after-hours performance. General admission is $99. For a six-hour open bar, tickets are just $150.

125 East 11th Street, 212-353-1600, websterhall.com

SANTOS PARTY HOUSE

The greatest thing about this down-and-dirty Chinatown nightlife spot is the people you meet when you’re there. You never know who you’ll run into or what you’ll see inside its black walls. Santos stays true to the essentials of a New York City dance club. Your sound system must be loud and top-of-the-line, your talent must be freshly brilliant, and the only ones who are turned away at the door are assholes looking for trouble. Last year’s reOPENed party was a killer, so you better believe they’ve got something great planned. Eighty-five bucks gets you six hours of premium open bar from 9 p.m. onward, but if you need to sit down, you can buy reserved seating with bottle service for $145.

96 Lafayette Street, 212-584-5492, santospartyhouse.com

PACHA

I don’t care who you are or where you come from, when you look down at the crowds packed together at Pacha, bathed in a frenzy of flashing lights from the mezzanine, you feel like a gangster who has just conquered New York City on his own terms. The most amazing thing about this club is what passes for normal. Gucci, shower dancers, and celebrities are not only common but also required. Since opening its doors to New York City six years ago, Pacha has been doing it bigger and glitzier than anyone else. Every week, DJs at the top of their game flock to Hell’s Kitchen in droves. This New Year’s Eve, Laidback Luke comes correct with Super You&Me. Seventy-five bucks gets you in the door, but you should probably just buy the four-hour VIP open-bar ticket for $110, which includes chocolate cherries, hors d’ oeuvres, and a champagne toast when the ball drops.

618 West 46th Street, 212-209-7500, pachanyc.com

S.O.B.’s

This place never fails to deliver when it comes to South-American flavor. S.O.B.’s is one of a handful of old-school dinner-and-a-show dancing spots left in the city, and they pull out all of the stops come December 31. The night kicks off with live sounds from Bossanova Funky and DJ Spike T.I. Later, celebrate the coming of 2012 as you spin your date around the floor to the new salsa dura sounds of La Excelencia. The $150-per-person platinum package includes your own table where you and yours can enjoy a five-course dinner menu, a champagne toast at midnight, and, if you’re still dancing by dawn, breakfast. If you just love to dance, go for the general admission, which will run you $30 after midnight.

204 Varick Street, 212-243-4940, sobs.com

SPLASH BAR

You might want to get shit-faced with your recently hitched brothers and sisters this year because no one knows how to stay out all night longer and harder than a gay New Yorker fresh from victory. Still a solid gay club destination, Splash Bar in the heart of the Flatiron is about as big and unapologetically gay as it gets. It’s places like this that kept Jerry Falwell up all night sweating in his Jesus Christ–checkered onesie pajamas. This New Year’s Eve, DJ Max Rodriguez rings in a bright, shiny tomorrow. Rent boys will dance, and strong drinks will be poured. Pre-sale tickets are $30 apiece to gain access to this 10,000-square-foot den of hedonism.

50 West 17th Street, 212-691-0073, splashbar.com

CANAL ROOM

Cyndi Lauper made quirky chicks a party must, Madonna single-handedly lifted the gay scene off Cher’s poor, tired shoulders, and Nikki Sixx died a couple of times just to teach us the importance of placing limits on our lives. These people should be thrown parades for their great achievements. So the least we can do is celebrate their art. This New Year’s Eve, the Canal Room is throwing its quintessential “Back to the Eighties” bash featuring the almighty cover band Rubix Kube and a collection of over-the-top costumes and performances that warm the heart as you drunkenly belt “Take on Me” from the bar. Advanced tickets are $99, which includes a five-hour top-shelf open bar.

285 West Broadway, 212-941-8100, canalroom.com

THE ZEPHYR

There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in New York City traffic on New Year’s Eve, as you sit there hopelessly watching the meter run while everyone around you is having a blast. But there’s a way around that this year. The magnificent Zephyr will be setting sail from Pier 16 and rounding the horn of Manhattan. The three-hour party cruise promises climate-controlled comfort as you pass by Gotham’s glittering skyline. Fireworks, champagne, and dancing are all included in the $175 ticket price. (If you’re looking for something a little less fancy, the New York Water Taxi offers a slightly cheaper option at $120 per person.)

Piers 16 and 17, South Street Seaport, 212-809-0808, nywatertaxi.com

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CHILLER INSTINCT

Is Alan Palomo of Neon Indian chillwave’s least hermetic knob-twiddler? In March, this Texas-bred synthmeister released a collaborative EP with the Flaming Lips, and later this month, he’s scheduled to tour college campuses with Kreayshawn, the “Gucci Gucci” rapper from the Internet. Before that trip begins, Palomo and his pals hit New York tonight to wrap their North American headlining tour in support of Era Extraña, Neon Indian’s sophomore full-length. The album’s an open bid for the kind of electro-pop breakthrough attained in recent years by MGMT; one sweet licensing deal could be all he needs.

Fri., Oct. 21, 7 p.m., 2011

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Let Soulja Boy Be Great

It feels like I oughtta cool my heels in a Red Roof Inn until Witness Protection can come scoop me up just for uttering this—you know what the Ayatollahs of Real Hip-Hop think about Soulja Boy. But his third album, The DeAndre Way, frequently thrills me. Particularly, given that I’m a human repercussion of the same Atlanta public-education system from whence the rapper himself came, his choice to kicks matters off with “First Day of School”: a perfectly unthuggish threshold morning about which every grown-ass rapper, no matter how many foes he’s theoretically bodied, is posturing if he claims he never recalls it with a humbling, emasculating fondness. Soulja Boy remembers it well, of course, and he rides up with the tags still hanging off his accoutrements: “Gucci socks?!/Polo draws?!/Awww, man, he craaazay!”

Sheesh, I love this kid—er, man, now, but I’ll grapple with that discrepancy at the next exit. Love his drawl, his stage charm, his swag—ay!! Love the “ay!” thing, love the way he drives y’all maniacs into the comments section where you revoke his license to exist, love the way his pandemonium beats expose hip-hop’s patty-cake roots via handclaps and hollers, love the verdict his knack for rote repetition renders on No Child Left Behind. However obvious his limitations, give America’s most controversial (ergo respected) kid rapper credit for crafting an aggresso-crunk sound without actual assault charges, broken glass, or sharp elbows. He Fruity Looped a fluke hit with Doug Funnie sensibilities and, three years later, somehow remains a controversial/respected player in rap’s realness-tested closed-circuit bloodsport whose “whole project,” to quote Greg Tate, “may be the triumph of obsessive African stylin’ over European savagery.”

Which rewinds me to the triumph of those Gucci socks. I know, materialism, SMH. But, listen: “Hat gon’ match my shoes—shoes!/Shirt gon’ match my belt—belt!” This is Soulja mentally garbing himself for a record whose aspirations will vastly exceed his abilities. He will try, and flop, and therefore half-succeed. On the bleep-blooping Kraftwerky rhapsody to success Icarus-ly titled “Fly,” he will attempt two-, even four-syllable rhymes, then revert back to rhyme/time/grind. Musically, he will graft actual violin onto “School,” and it will sound forced, but the rowdy, disorganized noise on the rest of DeAndre will mostly fall, as if mercifully controlled by Crunk Chaos Theory, somewhere between wacky and wilin’.

All this runs a needless risk for a media gig as banally profitable as Sarah Palin’s. Bottle his violin/internal-rhyme aspirations and Soulja’s role is easier to play than even Fonzie’s, who eventually overreached his own two-dimensional aaaay persona by, well, you know what the Fonz did, and you wonder sometimes if DeAndre isn’t skiing nigh on the same jaws. The record’s low points bare his jarring thirst for recognition, considering all he’s accomplished since the 10th grade. On the histrionic “Grammy,” he and croaking cohort Ester Dean itemize in bald detail what he wants. “Am I not good enough?” Dean caws, seemingly on his behalf, into the beat’s bittersweet symphony. Soulja claims the track made him cry, which is one way to admit how much this arch-dramatization of the Soulja Story (“I done seen a lot of thangs,” etc.) sabotages his unflappable swag. The wiz-kid is rapping for the Angel of History now, and it leaves this record feeling less like his locker-room-drumming debut and more like the straight-to-grocery-store biopic on how that first record transpired: the Get Rich or Die Trying to his Get Rich or Die Trying.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about 50 Cent’s cameo here, on “Mean Mugs.” The felonious beat alone constitutes a threat to Soulja’s comic persona, with horror-flick piano and funereal church bells jammed into its gun chamber, alongside actual sampled bloodhounds barking. Somebody brings up 9/11. Soulja unconvincingly threatens to “split ya,” but trades off to 50, who specifies the murder weapon: “ice pick.” Brrr. Hearing Soulja follow that felt like watching my daughter double-dutch in the shadow of a gargoyle.

Chisel him a Grammy, I guess, for quixotic stylistic adventurism. Contrast that track with his and Trey Songz’s buttery come-on, “Hey Cutie.” Next, stack that against the vintage Soulja bedlam (two seemingly random schoolmates, growling synths) of “30 Thousand 100 Million”—which is not, I don’t think, um, finished?—and you finally glean that the genre-spanning ground he’s covering here is mostly a ploy to stall his existential question: What, precisely, does the world need from Soulja Boy?

“Pretty Boy Swag” offers the clearest response, over haunted-mansion piano warbles as sinister as Soulja’s crush on his own clean-cut chic is innocent. Take its stunted, whispered verse as a preening millennial reminder that showmanship cometh before penmanship. But what rap really needs him for is effigy, right? Depending on what trajectory you’re coming at America, he’s either the villain scheming to paste linens onto your dozing daughter’s vertebrae (not what he says he meant by “superman,” for the record) or the embarrassment whose stylin’ rap gatekeepers often willfully misinterpret as shufflin’. But let a young man have his swag. “Watch me push the stunt button,” he requests on “Boom,” while sirens portend uncertain consequences, like he’s Desmond in the Hatch. I increasingly doubt I’ll crank much of whatever comes next from this self-enamored rascal nearing the limits of his gig, but he’s had his uses: He’s vexed all the right sticklers and coined ample catchy hooks during the commercial breaks. “All I do is stunt,” he reiterates, and you tell me: Isn’t that enough?

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Waka Flocka Flame Is Yelling at You for a Reason

New rap meme, same as the old rap meme: form over content. So it’s useful to get this out of the way straight off: Waka Flocka Flame is not, in the parochial sense, a good rapper. That much has driven the conversation surrounding the Georgia-based MC since he began appearing in earnest last year alongside Gucci Mane, his mentor, one-time business consort, and (maybe) former friend.

“I ain’t got no lyrics,” Waka said during a radio interview in February. “I’m straight blunt. I ain’t got time for lyrics. I don’t even care about selling records. As long as I get them shows for $15,000, four to five days out the week, I’m happy.”

At first glance, this statement seems not just short-sighted, but a bold rejection of the traditional vision for hip-hop as a social tool. At the time, Waka’s debut single, “O Let’s Do It,” was growing a national profile thanks to a remix featuring Diddy and Rick Ross, but he was hardly a recognizable figure. At best, he was Gucci’s dread-shaking sidekick; at worst, a bodyguard who wandered onstage during shows.

So when Waka’s thoughts first made the rounds, some artists took umbrage. “Let him feel that way,” Method Man said in a radio interview later that month. “But the people that are in the know, that know what time it is, know that if you ain’t saying shit out your mouth, your time is very slim in this motherfuckin’ game.” But then something unusual happened: Unprompted, Method Man apologized, claiming he was taken out of context. He gave Waka his blessing. This is a not uncommon series of reactions. “What the hell is this garbage?” you may ask yourself on first listen. “Why am I being yelled at? Why don’t his words rhyme? Seriously, what is wrong with this person?” And then you change your mind.

Though Waka, neé Juaquin Malphurs, was born in Queens, his roots are in Riverdale, Georgia, where he was raised. And there’s something undeniably local about him—his accent, his calm demeanor, his easy-come-easy-go attitude. When Waka was shot in the arm by an unidentified assailant in January, he told MTV, “I got in the ambulance, the [EMS attendant] was like, ‘Lift up.’ I’m like, ‘Lift up? This hurts! You ever been shot before?’ ” When asked during another interview how he became involved with music, he answered, “I just did a song, and it worked. So I thought I could do 10 more.” But where Waka’s personality seems nonchalant to the point of offense, his music is as unhinged and exuberant as anything to happen in Southern hip-hop in years. Gucci is an effortlessly garrulous assassin, while Waka uses his voice like a Howitzer. BOW-BOW-BOW-BOW, his ad-libs go during many of the songs on his debut full-length, Flockaveli. It’s a fascinating and punishing album, as violent and gun-crazy as any in recent memory, but also mesmerizing in its commitment to ferocity. Waka Flocka Flame may not care about lyrics, but he embodies free-flowing energy manifest in onomatopoeic fury.

Untended, that energy could be a stray annoyance. Fortunately, he has hitched his wagon to the most exciting producer in hip-hop at this moment: Virginia-born Lexus “Lex Luger” Lewis, who takes his name from the running-forearm-smash-throwing professional wrestler, and built Rick Ross’s summer-suffocating “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” and “MC Hammer” with thudding snares, ascending minor-key melodies, and an otherwise ineffable sense of bigness. Luger handles 11 of the 17 songs on Flockaveli, and it’s as much his album as Waka’s—he is a force whose tinnitus-inducing tracks demand replay. Though sometimes they’re also difficult to get through—it literally hurts to listen to them. Luger created Waka’s first two hits, “O Let’s Do It” and “Hard in Da Paint,” and the latter in particular, with its ratcheting drum sound and digitized French horns, turns clubs into mosh pits, and mosh pits into funeral marches. In fairness, it’s not just Luger, it’s that spirited Waka chorus—”I go hard in the motherfucking paint, nigga/Leave you stankin’, nigga/What the fuck you thankin’, nigga.”

Waka seems to understand his place in history, too. “We the new Wu-Tang/The new No Limit,” he raps on “Young Money/Brick Squad,” and it’s not an ill-fitting comparison. Waka has been compared to Ol’ Dirty Bastard before for his incomprehensible tenacity, but No Limit–era Mystikal is a useful comparison point, too. Ditto Pastor Troy, who appears on “Fuck the Club Up.” But mostly, he’s unique. Waka is a rap outlaw in a sense, disinterested in dishonesty or disputation, and maybe incapable of either. He doesn’t get embarrassed. Waka and Gucci appear to have drifted apart in recent months—Debra Antney, Waka’s mother, is Gucci’s former manager—though a reported feud seems to have been blown out of proportion. They continue to support each other via Twitter, though neither is featured on their respective new albums. The final song on Flockaveli is called “Fuck This Industry,” but it’s the most tranquil thing here, with Waka adopting a whispering tone. Gucci receives a shoutout; this is the closest we get to 21st-century beef. Ultimately, the inflammatory Waka is an avatar for a new rap economy: few words delivered with force, with an eye to the stage and the check that arrives with it. Fuck this industry, indeed.

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TEACHER’S PET

We’ve all heard by now that James Franco was recently studying fiction at Columbia and Brooklyn College and even poetry at North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College. So what exactly has he been writing in all these workshops? Is enrolling in three writing programs really better than one? Find out tonight when the actor/director/producer/author/screenwriter/Gucci model/Yale PhD candidate reads from his debut story collection Palo Alto, which explores the troubles and boredom of teenagers living in Franco’s Northern California hometown. A Q&A and book signing follow the reading.

Wed., Oct. 20, 8 p.m., 2010

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Gucci Mane Goes Abroad

Upon first exposure to The Cold War—Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane’s epic, globe-trotting mixtape trilogy, casually unleashed online at 10:17 last Saturday night—you are forgiven if you ignore the guttural, defiantly uncouth rapping itself and fixate entirely on the goofy accents he attempts during the skits. In your defense, Gucci’s accents are fucking hilarious. He affects an aristocratic, Grey Poupon–coveting tone for a few seconds of Great BRRRitain (“Is anyone interested in, maybe, a game of croquette?”) while BRRRussia sends him farther East: “I got a free concert tonight in Siberia,” he announces in a delightfully ludicrous Nikolai Volkoff grunt. “Wear your longest, precious, and nicest fur.” And later: “I’m rushin’ like a Russian—to the bank. I got more check than a Czechoslavian.”

I have cracked up about 300 times this past week just thinking about “I got more check than a Czechoslavian.” And while such international chicanery accounts for maybe two minutes of The Cold War‘s nearly two hours—Guccimerica, though the best of the three free mixes, is dismayingly domestic—it manages the neat trick, within such a gleeful orgy of excess, of leaving you wanting more. What about a prequel trilogy? FRRRance! AustRRRalia! GuChina! Get this guy back on the plane! With accents this fantastically absurd, can a role on True Blood be far behind?

Gucci is a gruff, wheezing snarler in the vein of (sworn enemy) Young Jeezy; we join him now during another chapter of the Mixtape Avalanche phase of his upward trajectory. The 29-year-old’s October output also includes The BURRprint, a blunt, robust “BRRR” being a popular exclamation of his, perhaps on account of all the ice. (Accessories are a major concern: His best insult thus far is, “Your jeweler is a loser,” and his custom-made, mind-blowingly awesome Bart Simpson and Odie chains cruelly underscore the point.) Lyrically, he’s less concerned with flaunting an outsize vocabulary than picking one word, naming the song after it, and doggedly bashing away until it achieves either meaninglessness or transcendence: “Gorgeous,” “Awesome,” “Wonderful,” “Ridiculous.” No one has yet had the heart to tell him that hip-hop is dead.

That single-word thing only happens once this time, on BRRRussia‘s “Foreign,” and you quickly grow to regret it. Funny voices aside, The Cold War isn’t a particularly conceptual affair, instead favoring a breathtakingly monochromatic wash of brutally dour but occasionally thrilling trap-rap dirges as Gucci fully explores the widening chasm between his jeweler and yours. Guccimerica hits the hardest: The beats themselves harbor the greatest potential for ribald surprise (greasy organ on “Street Cred,” punchy horns on “Follow Me,” space-age synth stabs on ” ’09 Bachelor Pad” that mesmerize through headphones). Plus the latter finds our hero inventing a new profession (“Ass like an ass-crologist/I need a telescope”), while he color-codes his gear during “Diamonds” (“Miley Cyrus diamonds on/Caucasian ’cause I’m not racist”) and gleefully obliterates his remaining cash flow on the deviously catchy “Throw Money” (“Throwin’ up money like we mad at the ceiling”). We end with “Danger’s Not a Stranger,” an anthemic, semi-melodic ode to streetwise menace and early-onset emphysema: “I’ll put you in the papuuuuh/I’ll send you to your makuuuuuuuuh/Then retreat to Jamaicuuuuuuuhh.” No one involved in the recording of this song could possibly have been holding themselves upright at the time.

BRRRussia, conversely, is the weakest: The monotony of so many minor-key, tinny-drum-machine dirges finally sets in, and the headphones that allowed you to fully luxuriate in ” ’09 Bachelor Pad” sadistically betray you once DJ Holliday is dropping incomprehensibly loud “HOLLIDAY SEASON!!!” vocal cues you come to dread like 1944 Londoners constantly braced for V-2 rockets. (A different DJ for each mix here: DJ Scream takes the U.K.; DJ Drama, the U.S.) I suppose “Euphoria,” with a femme-r&b hook and guest spot from Gucci affiliate Waka Flocka Flame (pronounced the way Fozzie Bear would pronounce it), is astoundingly melodically ugly in a way that’s pretty impressive, but, really, you could trash the whole of this—if not for good ol’ Czechoslavia.

Which leaves Great BRRRitain to split the difference. “I’m Expecting” gets us started with the entire project’s smarmiest chorus: “I’m expecting/Like your girl when she’s pregnant/(What you expect?)/I expect another check in.” And “Timothy,” though not exactly a rousing closer, is certainly memorable, a rare foray into narrative-driven storytelling and relentless suffering. (Timothy’s mom is gunned down before the first verse ends.) In between is “Outta Me,” a manifesto of sorts, either serving up straight clichés (“You can take me out the hood but not it out of me”) or modifying them very slightly (“Ain’t no I in team/But there’s an I in win“). Another pronouncement carries a little more weight, though: “I’m not your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper/But by far, I’m the most famous in East Atlanta.”

The point, it would seem, is that anywhere that isn’t East Atlanta doesn’t matter. But people who don’t live there are falling in love with Gucci Mane anyway; he has a long, complicated history with both the law and the record industry, but The State vs. Radric Davis, allegedly out on Warner Bros. in December, might be his most elaborate and highest-profile release yet. Yes, allegedly. Hopefully it won’t be pushed back 200 times. And while The Cold War offers plenty of tropes to improve upon, hopefully its audacity and anarchic spirit aren’t crushed by shinier, prettier beats and better-known guest stars. The man with the Odie chain won’t so easily be deterred. His next concert in Siberia will not be free.

rharvilla@villagevoice.com

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Prepping for Fashion Week 2008

I know what you want. I read those two-ton fall fashion magazines, so I am well aware that at this very second, you are scrambling about furiously for a blouse with floppy sleeves and a pair of unattractively full pants, pencil skirts as stiff as those pants are limp, a gauzy peasant dress, and a pair of hideously high heels. And let’s not forget furry vests! And lace, lace, lace!

Hurry! Even as you read this, New York Fashion Week, debuting the spring 2009 collections, is unfurling on the Bryant Park runways, all but oblivious to the fact that most Americans are too busy choosing between food and fuel to worry about foulards versus fan pleats.

But back to the task at hand. Don’t bother visiting the expensive stores—not only can you not afford them (who are you kidding? Like you’re going to fork over $5,000 for a lace dress?), but in many cases, these much-lauded trends haven’t even arrived yet. Due to the miracle of modern technology, clothes are frequently knocked off with such head-spinning rapidity that the replicas hit the cheaper chains before they make their way to the glass-and-gilt confines of their snootier sisters.

So what’s on the racks at this very moment? At Anthropologie, whose airy-fairy confections I have always had a soft spot for, the only notable trend is an over-reliance on a curious shade of mustard, employed in a long sweater with a ruffly collar, a dirndl skirt, and a lot of other garments. Is this a trend at all? I only mention it because at my next stop, J. Crew, I see a lot of this hue—here more Gouldens than Grey Poupon, but everywhere apparent in cardies and Gossip Girl–ish blazers. J. Crew also has those new wide-legged pants, which have rarely looked good on anyone since Katharine Hepburn, and a plethora of pencil skirts—both of which are quite suitable if you’re going on a job interview but are otherwise kind of depressing, no matter what the magazines say. Far better to my eyes are the ersatz-Chanel jackets gobbed up with satin-beaded trim. (But bear in mind that given the choice, I always opt for Mary-Kate Olsen over Mary Tyler Moore, at least sartorially.)

Those horribly vertiginous heels that the mags are pushing—they make every step an agony! Your life is a living hell whenever you’re hobbling around in them!—are out in full force at Aldo, rendered in ombré-shaded pink patent leather, or with Mary Jane toes, or sporting multicolored straps, and all with shiny metallic heels treacherous enough to fell the most agile contortionist. (But at least at Aldo they’re $100, which is $900 less than their sadistic siblings with loftier provenances.) It comes as quite a relief to walk to the back of the store—or crawl, if you’re wearing those stilettos—and see flats in plaid (another putative trend of the season) for an appealing $40.

Just when you think you’ll have to settle for saggy mustard pants and a pair of nasty heels you’ll never wear, along comes Zara. Pay dirt! Right inside the door, there’s a slender dress made of lace, which Prada is pushing heavily this season. Go ahead and buy it, but be warned—I wore a lot of vintage lace at one time, and the line between cool and fusty-grandma (I personally love a fusty-grandma look, but that’s another story) is painfully thin. Maybe you just want to settle for a pair of lace-covered ballet flats, which Zara also has on hand.

As forgers of the highest order, Zara has done a magnificent job this autumn, especially in the arena of floaty paisley, which looks a lot like Gucci’s overindulged-hippie ensembles, but also has more than a whiff of Dries Van Noten, who thinks you should spend the winter in pale, weightless silk chiffon. (To hell with global warming—turn up the thermostat!) Or don one of those weird furry vests, which make you look like the love child of the Abominable Snowman and Sonny Bono (don’t know who that is? He’s on YouTube), that are also apparently having a moment—only at Zara, they’re not fur. Hairy and creepy they may be, but they’re made out of some sort of synthetic stuff, so no worries that your p.c. friends will spit at you when you wear this thing. I could swear that a Marni-ish smocked coat has a collar made out of dog, which was actually the scandalous case with some Burlington Coat Factory parkas a few seasons ago, but according to the label, no animals were harmed in the making of this particular garment.

After all the excitement at Zara, H&M is a little disappointing, offering only a pair of cream-colored lace leggings for $19. Still, how can you get mad at a place that is doing a collaboration with Comme des Garçons in November? (If they don’t let the press corps have first dibs, I am planning to camp outside at the crack of dawn and buy everything in sight the minute the doors open. The only problem with this strategy is that everyone I talk to says they are planning to do the same thing.)

I cross the street and visit Express, where I am never even vaguely tempted to buy anything. Here I find the first leather motorcycle jacket of the season, an item with a curiously circuitous recent history: Kate Moss, who is idolized as a fashion maverick for mixing couture pieces with thrift-shop finds, included one of these jackets in her Topshop collection last fall, and everyone loved it. As I recall, it was around $300. For fully 10 times as much, Balenciaga has a similar jacket (OK, so the leather is softer) hanging on the rack at Barneys this season. And now here it is again, at Express, for a perfectly serviceable $248.

Last but not least, I toddle over to Forever 21, another place where I’ve never purchased anything, namely because 1) if you like something in the window, you can never find it in the store, and 2) everything is very tiny. (Could this because I am 90 years older than the average Forever 21 shopper?) As ever, the geniuses behind this place manage to combine trends in an effortless fashion—a plaid pleated skirt has a swirl of black lace extending from its hem; a polka-dot peasant blouse is a ghostly cousin of Gucci and Dries.

Unlike the other stops on my brieftour, Forever 21 seems to have jumped on another fall trend, with red-white-and-blue tote bags that say “Vote,” a faux-faded T-shirt sporting the legend “Freedom Rocks,” and, for a highly affordable $10.80, a slender, silky purple tee decorated with a peace symbol that would go far in sexing up a pair of slack trousers or a skinny skirt on a certain Tuesday in November.

Categories
Living Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Eastern Bloc

I was standing in Red Square last winter, chatting with a young woman who was patiently answering my questions about life in Moscow. When I finally asked her if there was anything she wanted to know about the States, she blurted out, “Can you tell me, please, what are the Hamptons like?”

OK, Natasha, this one’s for you.

Two weekends ago, I paid my $29 fare and climbed aboard the notorious Hamptons Jitney, which was as you might imagine, choked with whippet-thin, pouty-mouthed Paris-Lindsay derivatives who looked like they weighed 50 percent less than the Vuitton duffels they toted; taut matrons in linen shifts who viewed the free jitney muffin as if they’d been offered a dead frog; and bronzed-to-a-deep-orange hedge fund managers hidden behind Tom Ford sunglasses.

It takes three hours to plow through the traffic and arrive in East Hampton. Three hours of listening to the house-sharers behind me compare the size of their hangovers, three hours of no cell phone calls since the camp-counselor-ish Jitney attendant has announced sternly that calls are limited to three minutes and are for emergencies only.

One can only imagine the cacophony of bragging and whining that led to the imposition of this rule. And in theory I’m all for it. But hey, I’m alone and I’m bored—this is an emergency! So I surreptitiously call a friend and spend a half hour bragging and whining in whispered tones into the phone.

And then suddenly, after an eternity, the bus pulls up across from the Manrico cashmere shop—we’re here! I tumble out, ready to begin my Hamptons adventure. The town doesn’t disappoint: In the space of five minutes, I overhear “How was Prague?” asked by a guy in shorts to a girl with flippy hair. “Amazing,” she replies in the flat, dull tone teenagers employ when they mutter “whatever.” Two minutes later, I listen in on the following: “You know, Mykanos is kind of fun. Oh, you like the south of France? Then you are so not going to like Greece.”

Hello, people! Aren’t you on vacation already? Didn’t you work your whole lives to have a place around here? Why are you so worried about going somewhere else?

It turns out there’s an antique show today, set up on the grounds of a colonial restoration, so I decide to stroll over, past oak trees bearing brass plaques dedicated to deceased East Hampton luminaries. At the admissions table, I hand over $8 to a woman whose fine bone structure and wild red hair remind me a bit of Little Edie Beale, former denizen of Grey Gardens and perhaps the most famous dead Hamptonite of all, though as far as I can tell there is no plaque for her—or her mother.

“Don’t buy it before we see it!” jokes a shopper with a clear plastic Prada tote who recognizes me from Manhattan antique shows. (Her companion is sporting a classic $900 Goyard carryall, one of what seems like several thousand Goyard carryalls I will see in my brief sojourn here.) But there’s not much danger, since I’m taking the Jitney home in a few hours and can’t carry anything larger than an art deco bread box. Outside while admiring a booth featuring case after case of ornate sterling silver knives, forks, and spoons, I become fascinated by another anecdote being loudly recounted: the sad tale of an air conditioner owner whose noise is driving his air-conditioning-less neighbors nuts. Every winter the neighbors stuff objects in the air conditioner’s pipes, monkey with the switch, disable the compressor, and otherwise express their displeasure.

I am smiling at the ingenuity of these overheated Hamptonites when another cry distracts me: “Marv! Marv! I found something really cool!” I’m not Marv, but I look anyway—it’s a footrest with tusk legs and a leopard cushion. Perhaps Marv’s companion wishes to emulate the barstools covered with elephant foreskin that reportedly graced Aristotle Onassis’s yacht?

After the swift purchase of a Pinocchio wall hanging for $15 (who says there are no bargains in the Hamptons?), I walk back to Main Street, a boutique-clotted avenue with miniature editions of Tiffany and Gucci and a requisite Starbucks whose contribution to American life—good, no-questions-asked bathrooms—cannot be overstated. But hey, I can visit Gucci and Tiffany and get a Frappuccino anytime. Instead, I seek out a place around the corner called the Monogram Shop, which offers infant-sized personalized cowl-neck sweaters for future captains of industry. The samples on display are inscribed Hugo, Caiden (huh?), Maxwell, and Blake. (Could Blake Carrington be responsible for the currency of this moniker?)

I pass by many more spots that I am overly familiar with from Manhattan—a behemoth Scoop, the ubiquitous Calypso, Catherine Malendrino, Cynthia Rowley. Though this is a summer resort, there’s a mysterious number of cashmere shops—at least four, and this isn’t even counting Ralph Lauren, who displays his soft sweaters in the company of Victorian lace skirts.

Oh, Ralph. Could there be a more perfect Hamptons figurehead than the Bronx-born Lauren? (OK, sure, he changed his name from Lifshitz, but if your name had the word “shit” in it, wouldn’t you change it, too?) His distinctive message—and one that I’ve always embraced—is that you can dress like a WASP, present yourself to the world as a rich twit, and call your kids Hugo and Caiden no matter what your ethnicity or what depressing hole you originally crawled out of.

So I venture in to see biers filled with sand and a mannequin being held aloft by two tiny saleswomen who are trying to yank a pair of shorts off the thing. “They’re vintage,” one says reverently of the patched and frayed Marcia Brady–esque denim. I’m unmoved by this precious garment—I’ve always felt you should patch your own dungarees—but I do like a small gold-colored skirt trimmed with crystals. Just to be sure, I ask the clerk if 7500 is the model number, but no, it’s the price. The good news is that it’s been marked down—to $1,900.

It turns out this garment almost fulfills that old joke, “For that much money, it must be made of real gold.” The clerk explains that in fact its fabric comes from “some mill in France” and has genuine metal woven into it, “which is why it’s so heavy.” (This is a good thing in a skirt?) Then I notice that this item is also in the window (they made more than one $7,500 skirt?) and is being shown with nothing but a man’s undershirt—guess all the money went for the skirt—and posed next to a bottle of Veuve Clicquot soaking in an ice bucket.

Collette Consignment seems promising—it’s stocked with nearly unused Chanel flats and Goyard wallets purchased and then rapidly discarded by Hamptons ladies with shifting tastes, but the prices are nearly as high as it would be to buy this stuff new (turns out the ladies are not just fickle, but greedy, too). So I head over to the Windmill Deli to buy a bag of chips for the trip home, only to discover that this humble shop (they were never very nice, but still) has been replaced by a bloated, glaring Citarella.

Well, at least I have reading material. My arms are heavy with the free magazines peculiar to rich towns: Hamptons; Hampton Life; Hampton Style; East End Living; Social Life. (All those years growing up on Long Island, I never saw a copy of Massapequa Social Life). By the time we pass Watermill, I have contemplated a $26,995 diamond cuff bracelet featured in a column entitled “Beach Buys” and read not one but two separate interviews with Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss, the ex-girlfriend of Jerry Seinfeld who designs a line of fashions for young women with big knockers and tiny hips.

Now if only that jitney guy would come though with an extra muffin.

Categories
ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES Theater

Land of the Lost

A wedding ring. An Agnes B. scarf. One black Gucci pump. The lost items eulogized in the musical Gone Missing tend to be expensive, stylish, and—above all—sorely missed. Their absence sends their owners into fits of desperation, even operatic anguish—these are reactions we typically associate with lost love, not lost accessories. A peculiar theatrical experience, Gone Missing bills itself as a “documentary musical,” and it largely delivers what it promises. The six members of the Civilians acting company interviewed more than 30 New Yorkers and assembled a familiar panorama of urban eccentricity: a jaded cop, a talky Jewish dowager, a Korean grocer, a Pakistani cabbie, and a cell-phone-addicted yuppie fashionista. This bustling mosaic vibrates with energy and intelligence, even if the overall dramatic picture remains curiously devoid of shape. The talented actors perform their impersonations with admirable restraint, though certain vignettes tend to go on too long (the show feels extended at an intermission-less 75 minutes). Periodically, the cast breaks out into a strange robotic dance or performs a song in a foreign language-—these too-infrequent non sequiturs point to a slightly loonier and more experimental musical that Gone Missing aspires to, but can never quite achieve.