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SHEAR GOODNESS

What is the real measure of someone’s character? To this retail survivor, it’s buying a watch. Several years ago, in my period of indentured servitude at a certain iconic New York department store, many famous faces perused my gleaming jewelry and timepiece counters, and in turn provided an honest look into their true personalities. For example, a much-heralded, seemingly kindly, older Academy Award–winning actress was a curt, foul-tempered witch. Chris Martin of Coldplay was a grinning, affable goofball eager to debate the virtues of Radiohead. And Jake Shears, the brains and booty behind Scissor Sisters, was one of my favorite customers from any walk of life, a friendly and unassuming young man who bought a beautiful Mother’s Day gift while warmly sharing his love for New York, music journalism, and Dolly Parton. I think I spent his commission on another copy of Ta-Dah. So thanks for making one shopgirl’s day a little more wonderful, Jake. When the gregarious carnival that is your band hits Terminal 5 (in support of your extra-disco dance-pop newest, Night Work), I’ll be there with bells on.

Tue., Aug. 24, 8 p.m., 2010

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GOLD BOND

A perusal of Justin Bond‘s recent tweets reveals what a charmed life it is to be the premier gender- and genre-bending performance artist in New York. “Perfect East Village day,” Bond writes. “Lunch with Miss Antony Hegarty, then girlfriend gabfest with Martha Wainwright” in Tompkins Square Park. That post came just days after having tacos with Sandra Bernhard and Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears. The week prior: “Just chatting with Yoko in the green room,” at San Francisco’s Castro, “as you do.” The guest performers at this Tony-nominated cabaret superstar’s upcoming residency at Joe’s Pub are just as impressive as Bond’s online datebook. He’ll be there six Sundays through May 9—but then, if you really were stalking him and his well-heeled pals, you’d already know that.

Sundays, 9:30 p.m. Starts: March 21. Continues through May 9, 2010

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SASSY GENTS

With one wiry cute guy and one burlier bearded guy, the Gay Blades bear more than a passing resemblance to Jake Shears and Babydaddy of the Scissor Sisters—kind of funny, given that this local duo treats big-riff cock rock the same way the Scissor Sisters handle glammed-up disco-pop. (With a sense of humor and a splash of sass, that is to say.) On Ghosts, their recently released debut, singer-guitarist Clark Westfield contemplates the utility of mittens and the way robots can fuck your shit up, while drummer Puppy Mills (get it?) lays down the honky-funk Bonham beats. Not unlike the Sisters, though, the Blades’ real deal is their swagger-soaked live show. The roof (and your eyebrows) will be raised. With Demander.

Tue., April 7, 9 p.m., 2009

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Queens of England

There are 3,700 Scissor Sisters fans, and they are all screaming. The New York City quintet are playing the Manhattan Center’s Grand Ballroom on this late October night as part of the first round of U.S. dates to support Ta-Dah, their sophomore record. The front row, populated by hip, young gay men and their straight girlfriends, explodes when the house lights go down, and everyone howls at the top of their lungs when the Sisters finally arrive and break into “Take Your Mama.” A perfect introduction to the band—with an incessant hook and an upbeat sound reminiscent
of 1970s pop, yet instantly fresh and new—the song may as well not have existed in the United States, never making a dent in the U.S. market despite peaking in the U.K. Top 20.

These hometown fans are typical of an American Scissor Sisters crowd—fringy, urban, hip twentysomethings who love dance music, a nearly absent genre on American radio. The Ballroom masses sing along to every catchy lyric and melody, climactically exploding with glee during the band’s hyperactive disco remake of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”

“Comfortably Numb” was the Sisters’ first major U.K. hit. They have six or so.

Four weeks later and 3,000 miles away, there are 11,000-plus Scissor Sisters fans gathered at London’s famed Wembley Arena, and they are all screaming. It’s the first show in a three-day Thanksgiving weekend stand, and instead of East Village hipsters with spiky hair and jaunty scarves, these U.K. fans range from fairly chaste pre-teen girls who idolize Ana Matronic (Ana Lynch, the Sisters’ glittery pop princess and sole female member) to middle-aged-mom types happily cheering on a guy named Babydaddy (Scott Hoffman, multi-instrumentalist and co-songwriter) to thuggish
guys who look like they’d be just as comfortable at a football match as they are watching Jake Shears (Jason Sellards, the band’s flamboyant frontman and Babydaddy’s songwriting partner) cavort around in shiny little boy shorts. This assorted mix of devotees all push toward the stage, wearing their requisite feather boas and bright pink bunny ears while clutching their inflated Scissor Sisters logos—a pair of scissors suspiciously resembling splayed legs clad in high heels.

Four hours before the show starts, I meet 50-year-old Mary Butler and 28-year-old Chris Bettin, who both took the day off work to come to their first Scissor Sisters concert. She works in shipping, and he’s a warehouse manager. In America, they’d look more appropriate at a Bruce Springsteen gig. Mary explains why she loves the Sisters: “Their music just makes us smile all the time.” Chris adds, “If we’re really down, we listen to their music and start bouncing around.”

Perhaps it’s this sort of cheeriness that spurred Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher to deride the Sisters as “music for squares, man,” as he did that weekend in Spin—a quote immediately pounced upon by the British press. Even the group’s friend Beth Ditto, frontwoman for Northwestern indie-rock band the Gossip, complained more recently in Mixmag that touring with the Sisters was “a soul-sucking experience” thanks to crowds of “soccer moms wanting chart hits.” “It wasn’t gigs,” she opined. “It was ‘concerts,’ you know, like when you’re nine and New Kids on the Block come to town and you camp outside the mall all day to get your ticket.”

It’s a conundrum that any big band deals with—the bigger you get, the more watered-down your audience becomes. “The problem with playing places this size is you’ve really got people that aren’t necessarily the most loyal fans,” Shears says later over tea. “Just people that have heard a couple of your singles on the radio, and they want a night out, and they want to surprise their wife with tickets. You’re still having to sell the show.”

He didn’t have to sell it to twentysomething front-row diehards like Celina Fowler, Nikki Cowles, and their gay boyfriend Max Sycamore, all already tipsy at 6 p.m., all wearing bright pink shirts, red and pink feather boas, and cowboy hats they bought right before the show. They like Ana (“Girl power!” Celina shouts), but Jake is their favorite. “He’s sexy, he’s gay, but he’s got something for everyone,” Celina says. “I absolutely love him,” Nikki adds. “I’d eat him alive.”

Max, silent for most of the conversation, suddenly blurts out a request should I see Shears backstage: “Ask him, ‘Will you marry me?’ ”

Everyone in the arena loves Jake Shears, and no one cares a whit that he’s gay. “We relate to camp—we’ve never had a problem with it,” says longtime U.K. music journalist Craig McLean, who writes for the Observer. “There’s a long tradition of bands being out and proud.”

“I think that’s sort of a testament to the British public,” Ana Matronic says. “They don’t give a shit who you are as long as you make good music.”


[

Every American article written about the Scissor Sisters—the band also includes drummer Paddy Boom (Patrick Seacor) and guitarist Del Marquis (Derek Gruen)—mentions three things: Three of the five Sisters (Shears, Babydaddy, and Marquis) are openly gay, the music sounds like a cross between Elton John and the Bee Gees, and they are “famous in Europe”—that universal backhanded compliment. But the Scissor Sisters are not just famous in Europe. Their first single from Ta-Dah, “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” hit the Top 10 in eight different countries, and they are touring Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Essentially, they are famous everywhere but here.

“It’s funny—it’s the one black hole in our campaign,” says Babydaddy over dinner on the final night of the Wembley residency. “We have a maximum amount of enthusiasm from the label, and I think they don’t know what to do with a band like us. I think they’re really in a tough spot right now, ’cause at least on the first album they could say it’s just a U.K. phenomenon, and now, it’s working in just about every other country—including Canada, which is almost always tied to the U.S. market.”

The “Can they break America?” question won’t go away. They might be too dance-y to get radio play, or maybe they’re too campy. But these are just code words for “too gay.” Homophobia is the last refuge of accepted blatant prejudice in a country that has laws banning gay marriages. It probably didn’t help that the Scissor Sisters’ initial volley, “Comfortably Numb,” takes a deified classic-rock band and turns them into a flamboyant punchline.

So can a band named after a lesbian sex act crack the mainstream here? The Observer‘s McLean doesn’t think so: “If ‘Take Your Mama’ can’t be a hit in the States, maybe they’ll never be successful.”

Even the band dodges the issue. As showtime looms, Babydaddy digs into his pasta and mulls the challenge over. “When music is good and credible in the U.S.,” he says, “you’re supposed to strip everything else away and let the music speak for itself. That’s kind of what Nirvana was, and in my mind, Nirvana was the ultimate credible band of a generation. There was no sparkly exterior—there was just guys playing music, and most everything else out there still goes by that model.”

Shears suggests that maybe they’d be bigger here if they were tormented: “I think our whole sexual side is optimistic and free, and I think that American audiences are so used to, and expect, dark sex, which mainly involves women.” If the Scissor Sisters were closeted, “I don’t think we would exist,” he says. “I think we would be a completely different band.”

“Maybe it’s too much,” says McLean. “Too many ideas, too many genres fighting for attention. And they look funny.”


As big as they are throughout the world, the Scissor Sisters are most famous in England, where “Comfortably Numb” first broke. Over there, everything that turns Americans off is an asset. “Dance music is a mainstream part of our culture,” says McLean. “We’re less hung up on genres. Your radio is stratified.” Their ultra-gay, ultra-underground, ultra-fab image makes them seem “exotic,” McLean continues. “They come from a hardcore New York subculture. It was almost like they were beamed in from another planet.”

That percolating, infectious techno Pink Floyd remake launched an improbable career, one that has long outlasted its novelty thanks to the skillful songwriting of Babydaddy and Shears. The Sisters’ self-titled 2004 debut record was the bestselling album in the U.K. that year, earning them three Brit Awards (analogous to the Grammys) and four Top 20 singles. Of course, this makes it all the more absurd to hear an American rock critic friend express a sentiment held by many back home: “Come on, can’t we move on already?”

“It’s just strange seeing that level of interest in both places,” Babydaddy says. “It’s almost like it’s this weird chain reaction, and we happen to go in one direction here, and went in the other direction in the U.S.”

It’s as if we’re in a parallel universe. Here—back on the Sisters’ home planet—the band’s debut sold a respectable 300,000 copies, on par with critical darlings like Bloc Party, Arcade Fire, and the Arctic Monkeys; compare that to 2.7 million copies sold in the U.K. That trend has continued with Ta-Dah—in the U.S. it charted at 19 and quickly disappeared. In the U.K., it entered at 1, while “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” co-written with Elton John, topped the singles chart for four straight weeks.

This disparity extends to the road. While their U.S. operation is more modest—a much smaller staff and 3,000-seat spaces—the U.K. arena tour lasted three weeks and covered 13 venues, including halls that seated in the tens of thousands. At Wembley, they have all the trappings of a big-time band. They stayed at the Landmark, a five-star hotel. They have a bodyguard, on reserve mostly for Shears’ public outings when crowds become too thick to manage. They have five big buses, a full staff of sound and lighting technicians, a four-person catering crew, a masseuse to tend to Paddy’s and Ana’s recurring injuries, a staff photographer, a wardrobe designer, and Trinity gal Aimee Phillips, who oversees special projects. And of course, there’s their ever present DJ Sammy Jo, who tours with them everywhere. They don’t just have an entourage. They have People.


[

Their celebrity is evident in the press treatment they get: In England, they’re gossiped about, constantly making the news, whether it’s the full band appearing on the popular soap Passions or Shears spouting off about Sir Paul McCartney’s ex-wife. Then there’s the easy access to celebrities. They are friends with Kylie Minogue, and for most of the Wembley weekend, Shears skipped out on the hotel to stay at “Elton’s place” because the superstar and his husband were out of town.

It is a fame they simultaneously never imagined and always wanted. “When we started this band, our sights were not necessary on Wembley,” says Shears over tea at the Landmark. “It was like, ‘Can we get a Saturday night show at Luxx? Then the next month, ‘Oh, my God, we got Berliniamsburg? Do you think they’ll book us at Spa? Oh, my God! We’re playing Amanda Lepore’s birthday party at Spa!'”

“I used to dream about being in situations like this,” says Marquis, strumming a guitar in one of the bland rooms backstage that serves as a practice area. “And so now they exist, not necessarily how I planned them, but sometimes even more fantastic than I could have dreamed.”

This double life would almost seem cruel, except the band doesn’t seem to mind a bit.

“Great. Great. Love it,” says Matronic, who’d originally hoped for an underground career modeled after Bongwater’s Ann Magnuson. She’s putting on her makeup for the show while the hairstylist preps her Hollywood-quality wig, made of real hair, with fine lace for the hairline. “It’s like being a superhero. You put on your cape, fly over to London, and save the day. Then you put your glasses and your three-piece suit back on, and you’re Clark Kent back in New York. No one, none of us, got into this for fame, or celebrity, or riches. It was always about music and playing to as many people as wanted to hear it.”

“I never want to be a celebrity,” Shears says. “I want to be an artist. Celebrity-ness is like herpes, and once you have it, it never goes away.”

This way, they have it both ways—they can be stars, then come home and go to parties at local clubs like Mr. Black and not be bothered. “It’s almost as if I went to sleep and then I woke up, and I’m in New York, and everything that happened over here I can put to rest if I need to,” Marquis says. “I couldn’t have this existence follow me around in my home, so I actually really like the dichotomy.”


Fame and occasional fortune—most notably the bling glistening off Shears and Babydaddy’s wrists, gifts from Elton John himself—aside, being a rock star seems almost tedious. As the tour bus drives toward Wembley, Paddy Boom talks about how strange it is playing arenas: “There’s almost like a vacuum that’s been created, because it’s like, ‘Whoa, here it is, I’ve got it, I’m in a superstar rock band.’ But the backstages feel like prison. It’s a weird contrast. ‘We’re going down, here come the gates! Check, check, security!’ ”

He was half-joking, but you could tell he also meant it. Sure enough, as we pull into the arena the gates clank down behind us as the bus descends into a bottomless pit of cement and monster trucks. “Look,” says Paddy as we get off the bus, walking like his hands are tied together and wobbling as if his feet are in shackles. “We’re in prison.”

“You know, I was just happy when we got a record deal,” he continues. “I’m surprised that it’s still getting bigger. I almost thought it could have been a swan song with Live 8 [during last summer’s performance, they shared the stage with U2, Madonna, and Paul McCartney, performing to 200,000 people], ’cause this business chews up bands and spits them out. Today’s love affair could be tomorrow’s MC Hammer.”

[

The Wembley trip is a family affair, with significant others and reps from the Shears, Baby- daddy, and Matronic camps, the latter proudly wearing self-made black T-shirts studded with “Mama Matronic” and “Papa Matronic.” Having their families in town seems to chip at the dullness of the backstage view—a long, narrow hallway leading to a series of indistinguishable rooms painted a crisp white, with gray carpeting and bright fluorescent lighting. There are no windows, so were it not for a wall clock, you’d have no idea what time it was. You certainly wouldn’t know that thousands of people are gathering just outside these rooms, waiting to be entertained.

To break up the boredom, photographer Kevin Tachman and Babydaddy’s brother, Ben, embark on a mission. “Scissor Sisters Parking Lot!” they shout, heading to the lobby with a video camera and microphone, asking random victims the inappropriate questions featured in the heavy-metal cult movie. They lack the delicate interview skills one needs when approaching pre-teens and the shy British public, but they score when a little girl with bright red hair finally consents to a chat, clutching a giant pair of inflatable scissors. “Are you wasted?” Ben asks the girl, who looks no older than eight.


After Friday’s 4 p.m. soundcheck, I hang out with Shears and his family, including his mom, Frida, a dynamic blonde Southern woman who’s a well-known fixture among the band’s fans. Jason/Jake Shears is much the same person I met over 10 years ago in Seattle when I was working at Bauhaus Café on Capitol Hill: bubbly, optimistic, and friendly. I had so many other friends who seemed far more obsessed with music and fame; I never would have pegged him to be a future rock star. “I must have known, ’cause I wrote a letter to myself when I was 16 years old,” he says later. “It was like ‘To the future me, I hope you’re enjoying being a rock star.’ I wrote it upstairs at Bauhaus. It was the night before we played a show.”

Now, Shears is dressing for 11,000 fans for each of three nights at an infamous arena. He tries on a shiny blue sparkling suit and deems a simple, flowing, silky white shirt too gay, even for the Scissor Sisters: “No. Too Ice Capades.”

Not unlike the Ice Capades, the Wembley show is a full-fledged production, as opposed to the straightforward club sets they play in the States. As at many large-scale shows, two gigantic Jumbotron screens flank the stage, which is transformed throughout the night to create different “scenes”—there’s a door that Jake walks through to mark the end of one segment; later, a giant theatrical mask drops down from the ceiling. The finale is an explosion of confetti, fittingly raining glitter on the audience. “The best thing about playing an arena is you get the sense of it as a whole show,” says Matronic. “It’s almost like a theater piece.”

Though I’ve seen them play tons of clubs, they do seem better suited to arenas. “I love it, I absolutely love it,” says Shears. “I just feel very at home in front of a big crowd. It’s really about mesmerizing in a matter of 10 minutes at the beginning of the show, pulling that crowd in—which is a challenge.”

Each night ends with a costume change and an encore. The Sisters retreat to an eerily quiet backstage area to catch their breath before heading back out into the roar of the crowd. “The moment when we come back for the encore, and we do ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,’ and that was No. 1 here for like four weeks—to see this sea of people, everybody’s hands in the air, everybody freaking out, pumping their arms, really going for it, is such a mindfuck,” Matronic says. “It’s like, ‘Wow! Whoa! I guess they like us.’ It’s a Sally Field moment. ‘You like me, you really like me!’ ”

On Saturday, they enjoy a belated traditional Thanksgiving meal, and after the show, Aimee Phillips throws a party for the entire staff and a few of the band’s friends, including the actor Sir Ian McKellen, hanging out in leather pants and a sweater. Shears drinks more than usual and chain-smokes, which he will regret the next morning—and the next night.

“That show killed me!” he says after Sunday’s final gig, staggering offstage with the crowd still screaming. The day had been more relaxed than the previous two; we’d gotten to the arena later, at six. But still, with a smaller, more casual wrap-up party backstage, we don’t leave until 1 a.m.

I am going home the next day, exhausted from the nonstop weekend. I can’t imagine how the band feels; they’ve been doing this for months on end. Even though the arena tour is over, the Sisters have a full week ahead of them, including TV appearances and other promotional duties. And there’s still more touring to do: back-to-back New Year’s Eve shows to play (in Berlin to an audience of over 1.2 million people, it turned out), along with tours of Japan and Australia, and a four-week U.S. run that starts in March.

[

In the gargantuan, cold cement garage of Wembley Arena, I say goodbye to Shears and the band before boarding the bus back to the hotel. I won’t see them again for a while. After all, they are one of the biggest bands in the world.

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A Honky Château Overrun by Drunk-ass Muppets

Jason Sellards and Scott Hoffman (oh, wait—make that Jake Shears and, fuck, well, OK, Babydaddy) may be two of the best songwriters working right now, and we may never know it. Arch and ostentatious, their music both falls victim to and exalts in Warhol’s 15-minutes-of-fame declaration. Like a screenprint of a soup can, it’s at once timeless and pointless. Take “I Can’t Decide.” Contrary to what you might have heard, these folks aren’t strict Giorgio Moroder disciples; they dig the Muppets too. Check this tune’s chorus, with its hee-haw lope, banjo, jaw-harp, and Fozzie and Rowlf on backup vocals. OK, not that last thing. Point is: If it happened between ’76 and ’85, it’s fair game. Prince, Elton, Heart, Pat Benatar (like, a buttload of Pat Benatar), Desperately Seeking Susan, Susan Sontag, Keith Herring—why is this stuff so huge only in the U.K. when it’s so quintessentially Downtown? Conversely, if no one ever found out Freddie Mercury was gay, this grandiose cock rock would kill in Duluth. A good touchstone: Halloween in the West Village. Feather boas, queens dressed up like Carmen Miranda on acid on steroids, the whole thing one big costumed romp, an orgy, a parade, a cataclysm—everyone’s drunk, on drugs, on fire. One of the best times all year. And I was so wasted I can’t even remember. Ta-Dah may very well be what rock ‘n’ roll is all about. Times so good they might as well not exist.

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No. 1 Fan

I was never a fan of Kylie Minogue—until she gave me her fan. Sure, I couldn’t get “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” out of my head, but she’s really a European sensation. Then I met the wee lass at the Hiro after-party for the Scissor Sisters‘ show last week, hosted as always by those cuckoo kids the Trinity.

Jake Shears (a/k/a Jason Sellards, a/k/a my old friend), receiving admirers— including another pop royal, Cyndi Lauper. Wearing her hair short from the radiation treatment she was undergoing for breast cancer (it’s in remission, thank goodness), she bounced her famously bodacious behind in the booth to house music. The collection of sweaty shirtless men on the dancefloor and the club’s lack of air conditioning made Hiro resemble a gay sauna. “I’m soooo hot!” I whined like a baby. Kylie to the rescue: She dug into her purse and produced a fan. Now that’s a lady. “My sister gave it to me” (that would be Dannii Minogue), she said, as she fanned me. Oh, Kylie, “I’m So High,” I’m “Under the Influence,” I “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.”

The next day she was in the studio with the Sisters, who are finishing up their second record, due out by the end of summer. I tried to pawn off my extra ticket for Jamie Lidell on either Shears or Babydaddy (hottest bear ever, by the way), but they both had a date with Elton John at the Lestat premiere. Elton—it turns out—is a fan of Lidell and had passed on his Multiply CD to the Sisters’ boys.

Too bad they couldn’t come, because they missed another showstopping Lidell concert, where he—as my friend, writer Will Hermes, put it—”single-handedly made up for 10 years of boring electronic-music performances.” Part ’70s soul tribute, part experimental improv, part sampling lesson, the concert showcased Lidell’s talents as a comedic performer, a smooth crooner, and a freaking genius with more charisma in his pinky than all the indie-rock bands playing Pitchfork’s Intonation Festival combined. Also, did I mention he’s hot? I’m his number one fan. I’ll fan him—and feed him grapes too.

Hopefully, after they fix their floors, Lidell can return to Rothko, which he once played. The club was shut down after last Thursday’s Blues Traveler show, when the buildings department determined that the two-year-old venue’s floors needed reinforcing. Owner Rory Maher is renovating the club for the next month or so and diverting his bookings to other spots around the city. A new, improved Rothko will arrive just in time for summer. “I need a vacation,” Maher quipped.

Me too—especially after this week. On Wednesday, I dipped my toes into the Tribeca Film Festival—with a party at the Time Warner mall thing, ostensibly an event for Across the Hall, a short featuring Entourage‘s Adrian Grenier (who also popped up Thursday at the Soho Grand and Saturday at the Bowery Ballroom with his band, Honey). It turned out we were really just vessels for Samsung advertising and bad hors d’oeuvres. I fled to the newly opened Buddha Bar in the meatpacking district with DJ Shoe, the first DJ I ever heard, who spins at Little Buddha in Las Vegas. The simple, unassuming exterior of the Paris-based chain’s local outpost didn’t hint at the flamboyant decor inside. The piéce de résistance was a giant, black, floating Buddha that loomed over the diners as they enjoyed pricey, mediocre sushi and listened to fine French import Sam Popat play Enigma.

We headed across the street to Cielo, where we found the Roots party, thrown by Blaze‘s Kevin Hedge and Louie Vega, in full throttle. It felt like a celebration, and that’s ’cause it was a birthday party attended by Cirque du Soleil bigwig Guy Laliberté for Vega’s gregarious sweetheart of a wife, singer Anané, who plied me with drinks. She didn’t have to. I was already a fan.


flylife@villagevoice.com

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Helloween

You know it’s time to go home on Halloween when it’s 3:30 in the morning, and after locking yourself in the bathroom, then downing three more drinks than your body weight allows, you find yourself hitting on a 20-year-old. Of the same gender.

That was my cue and I took it. But then, I am excused from being such a mess since Halloween lasted four achingly long days this year. Too lazy to come up with more than one outfit (I was Uma Thurman‘s overdosing coke-whore character Mia, from Pulp Fiction), I felt stuck in a longer version of Groundhog Day, where the soundtrack was not “I Got You Babe” but “Blue Monday,” and fake blood trickled forever from my nose.

It all started on Friday with the Bowery Ballroom Depeche Mode
show. I wasn’t obsessed as a teen, but I did enjoy the encore, “Enjoy the Silence.” I also enjoyed singer Dave Gahan‘s washboard abs, as did all the girls in attendance—and at least one boy. Carlos D. explained why he was not joining
Moby
and Martin Gore at the after-party at the Gansevoort: “I already met my life’s goal and told Dave Gahan he’s the sexiest man on earth.” At night’s end we wound up at Motherfucker, which had been derailed from the Roxy to the Delancey. The police had shut the Roxy before the party started, at 10, allegedly for underage drinking. The club reopened for Saturday’s Junior Vasquez bash, but Monday’s Halloween party was relocated to Crobar.

On Saturday, at Scissor Sisters Jake Shears‘s biannual Monkey Island party co-hosted by Deitch Projects, a man was dressed as club-kid-turned-Heatherette-designer Richie Rich. He was such an exact Richie replica that he spooked Heatherette’s Aimee Phillips and Macky Dugan and Paper mag’s Mickey Boardman (who came as Richard Simmons). Later that weekend, the fake Richie, Jason Kaplan, won a costume contest. The prize is a trip to the Virgin Islands, and he’s threatening to bring the real Richie with him. Double spooky! Fellow Scissor Sister Baby Daddy was a Big Pussy with his head popping out of the labial folds, his noggin topped by a furry muff, while Shears danced to multimedia band Leslie and the Lys wearing a disturbing rainbow clown costume with a painted ghoulish visage. I’m gonna have nightmares forever!

On Halloween proper, I spent the evening with Fischerspooner
and their publicist Space Ghost (one Jason Roth), who was a strapping vision of Styrofoam muscles and broad shoulders, and who had to fish his wallet out of his butt every time he bought a drink. Before the band went on, The Gates (four people wearing big orange contraptions and drinking beer) beat out a human chandelier and Olive Oyl by a landslide in the costume contest, as decided via audience shouts. Amber Ray, dressed as an orange-and-black butterfly, did not enter, but should have won every costume contest in town. On all four days. Someone give her something.

FS might be over with downtown dorks, but Casey Spooner proves he’s the frontman he always pretended to be when they were doing the performance art thing. Now when is their boneheaded label going to release “Never Win” and make them true stars? At the FS after-party at the Maritime’s Hiro Ballroom, co-hosted by Sophie Dahl, Boo!—a collaboration with Adam Dugas, his Citizen’s Band mates Jorjee Douglas and Sarah Sophie Flicker, and Kembra of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black—performed two sets. Michael Stipe was supposed to sing, but alas, his apartment caught fire. I know, priorities.

The last stop was new Rivington mega-bar Fat Baby, which is not even a week old and had its hipster cherry popped thanks to the all-star L.E.S. party, which included the Tribeca Grand’s Tommy Saleh, Benjamin Cho, the MisShapes, model Anouk Lepere, Jefferson Hack, Spencer Product, Sophia Lamar, Michael T, Mandy Coon, and Henry Lau. No wonder I was driven to drink.

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Artsy Fartsy

Parades are boring. Once a way to inject razzle-dazzle into our dull existence, parades have turned into an endless series of corporate floats blasting bad music and featuring said company’s lame employees wearing matching T-shirts and waving to the crowd like we care.

I have a solution. Just let Jeffrey Deitch run all the city’s parades. Gay Pride, St. Patrick’s Day—give him Thanksgiving too. If all parades were like the first ever Deitch Projects’ Art Parade on September 10, instead of stupid blow-ups of Garfield you’d get the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, singing live on her Tarantula Mobile. Or you’d get a cartoonish car bouncing around in the sky, called No One Rides for Free, designed by artist Steve Powers. The Dazzle Dancers, shiny and glittery (and wearing some clothing, so as not to frighten the adults), would march alongside Jeremiah Clancy, Vanessa Walters, and Alexia Stamatiou‘s JVA Flag Corporation, a “cheerleading” squad wearing little white shorts and shirts with a bunny rabbit donning a beret on the front (Art Translation: prolific ideas) and a glowing lightbulb on the back (AT: illumination).

It was so visually arresting I felt high. (Ahem.) It didn’t help when Amber Ray and her hubby Muffinhead waddled down the road wearing outfits made of black and white balloons and curly hats, looking like Whos from Whoville. Perfectly, they were dubbed The Conundrums. Julie Atlas Muz‘s Whore Cops,Little Brooklyn, Lady Ace, MsTickle, and boylesquer Tigger threatened to tie everyone up. Then two giant fluffy multicolored monsters with big teeth came bouncing along—Scissor Sisters Jake Shears and Baby Daddy guided by Ana Matronic and Heatherette’s Amy Phillips. If their “hair- babies” looked like real muppets, that’s ’cause they were made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, based on Shears’s sketches.

Deitch was pleased with the results. “I wanted to keep it homegrown and spontaneous,” he said. “Maybe next year it will be bigger.”

Post-parade on Wooster Street, Andrew Andrew hawked another one of their fashion projects: their own identical red versions of a preppy polo-type shirt that had been taken to a shooting range and blasted with bullets. Said one of the Andrews: “We were gonna do it during the parade, but you can’t open fire on the street.” Andrew Andrew should have a new name: Crazy Crazy!

Inside, Kehinde Wiley performed with Shaquita, backup singers, and four manservants. They were dressed in Beethoven-esque outfits (white wigs, frilly tops) and retooled modern songs as dirty, classical romps. At the end, they busted out mid-’80s dance moves to the strains of Salt-n-Pepa‘s “Push It.” I believe they did the headache, the cabbage patch, and the Roger Rabbit. They also brought the house down. That is certain.

Before his show, a Citizens Band member, a nervous Adam Dugas (yes, Mrs. Jack White performed, as did Rain Phoenix), lamented the separation from his BF, Casey Spooner, who has been in Ibiza for three very long months, during Fischerspooner‘s residency at Manumission. Spooner was supposed to be the parade’s grand marshal, but nabbed a weekend gig with Tommie Sunshine in Moscow.

At Scenic at Tommie’s Monday party Degeneration, the usually hyper DJ was sick as hell, but stuck it out to watch the New York debut of his new favorite band, L.A.’s She Wants Revenge, who sound so much like Interpol I half expected Carlos D. to appear in a plume of white smoke. But SWR are more Joy Division than Interpol supposedly are—in the dance-rock spectrum, they fall closer to dance. When everyone else was about to fall down drunk, Sunshine held the wall and did the least rock ‘n’ roll thing I’ve seen in a club (or the most): He pulled out a packet of Alka-Seltzer and popped it in his water.


tromano@villagevoice.com

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Mega Huge

What a difference a few years makes. This month the SCISSOR SISTERS have been headlining the Mercury Lounge every Wednesday night under a different name for quasi-secret, hard-to-get-into shows. Not so long ago, they were just another local band hoping for a shot at the big time.

Last Wednesday night, I went to see MEGAPUSSI play with their DJ SAMMY JO, MORNINGWOOD, and SPALDING ROCKWELL. (One week they played as BRIDGET JONES’ DIARRHEA; this week they’re PORTION CONTROL.) JIMMY FALLON, Christian Dior designer HEDI SLIMANE, JARED LETO, FRED SCHNEIDER of the B-52’S, JEFFREY DEITCH, and a couple hundred totally crazed Scissor Sisters fans were treated to an intimate set from a band that now regularly plays in front of 200,000 people. The Sisters are slicker and tighter than they were last year. Singers JAKE SHEARS and ANA MATRONIC really put on a show. They move around. Dance. Make eye contact with the crowd. Introducing “Filthy/Gorgeous,” Matronic told a story about watching a couple in Glastonbury fuck in broad daylight to “that UNDERWORLD song from Trainspotting. You know the one that just goes on and on and on and on,” she joked. And lest you think this is the only band composed largely of gay males totally obsessed with female sexuality, Matronic also explained to the crowd that “megapussi” means “big bag” in Finnish. I didn’t believe it either, but after the show, BABYDADDY showed me a photo of such a bag, with the word “megapussi” emblazoned on the front. They played new tunes that seem to have a country-pop sheen, which the crowd (and my ears) responded well to. For their next album, still very much in the making, don’t expect “Comfortably Numb Part 2.”

The morning of the show, I had breakfast with Shears, who will be known forever and always to me as Jason Sellards, the hyperactive 15-year-old who bounced around the café where I worked in Seattle. He was adorable then and is adorable now. I felt like a greedy voyeur as he dished on Live 8, which the band played a few weeks ago in London, to an audience 1,000 times bigger than the one at the Merc, sharing the stage with PAUL MCCARTNEY, ELTON JOHN, COLDPLAY, and U2.

One of my two favorite stories: Just as the band was about to go on, Shears realized that the conservative all-white outfit he was wearing wasn’t going to work for two reasons: MADONNA and BRANDON FLOWERS.

“I walked out of my room and saw Madonna in front of her dressing room with her African chorus, and we were pretty much wearing the same outfit,” he says. Then, “Five minutes after I see Madonna, I see Brandon Flowers wearing an all-white prom suit!”

Like any self-respecting gay man and rock star, he busted out the sequins and feather boa. “HEATHERETTE two days before had magically sent me a white sleeveless rhinestone housecoat with a huge, crazy collar and a white boa. I found a white top hat lying around.

“But,” he says tipping his hat to Madge, “I have to say we both looked amazing.”

My second favorite story: After their set, who comes running after them to tell them how much she likes them? None other than FAYE “MOMMIE DEAREST” DUNAWAY, who loves them so much she listens to the band every day on the treadmill. Says Shears, “I was just shocked! She was so amazing and sweet.” Oh, did I mention that she came with the SULTAN OF BRUNEI? “He’s a big fan too!” says Shears.

While it’s crazy cool to be onstage during the encore with people like McCartney, MARIAH CAREY (“She was so smiley! She seemed like such a nice lady!”), and GEORGE MICHAEL (“I was totally having a CYNDI LAUPER ‘We Are the World’ moment!”), it was Pink Floyd’s performance that moved him the most. “I watched the whole thing from 15 feet away with all their wives. I was bawling. How could you not?” One thing Shears is not, is comfortably numb.


tromano@villagevoice.com

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Big Time

I love it when local bands make good. OK, so it’s not like we live in Kentucky, but still. SCISSOR SISTERS frontman JASON SELLARDS (a/k/a JAKE SHEARS) e-mailed me from Maui, where he’s vacationing, about their post-Oscar performance at ELTON JOHN‘s house, which included a duet with Sir Elton himself and meeting ELIZABETH TAYLOR (“OH MY GOD”).

If anyone deserves a rest, it’s the Scissor Sisters. They’ve been touring the world for the past 18 months. Last month at the Brit Awards, they did a number with the JIM HENSON CREATURE SHOP (“we had a singing, dancing barn and a chorus of watermelons, a 14-foot-tall pink bird, and dancing eggs,” says Sellards) and then collected three trophies—for Best International Album, Group, and Breakthrough Act—before playing Japan and winding up in L.A. for the Oscars.

I ran into two members of another hardworking local band, NICK ZINNER and KAREN O of the YEAH YEAH YEAHS, Wednesday at the Tribeca Grand after-party for the film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, based on JT LEROY‘s short-story collection of the same name. Directed by ASIA ARGENTO, it kicked off the New York Underground Film Festival at Anthology Film Archives, where the Voice connection runs deep. Not only is Voice writer ED HALTER the festival’s executive director, but the eldest gentleman dancing up a storm at the party was AFA founder and the paper’s first film critic, JONAS MEKAS. At the screening, MEAN LOU REED reared his head again. He was reading an introduction written by JT. The festival’s photographer, JOSHUA WILDMAN, was dutifully snapping photos, but then he fired the flash a few times, and Mean Lou Reed went ballistic. See, I told you: mean!

Whether or not you like his stories, the JT Leroy rumor mill is hilarious. Overheard: “They say he’s really a girl.” “They say he hires people to pretend to be him.” “They say he has three heads.” OK, not really. Here’s my amateur movie analysis (keep in mind I’ve not read the book, but am familiar with Sarah): Good acting was marred by the flick’s glacial pace; it sometimes felt like a series of scenes rather than a narrative. The cameo appearances by JT fans WINONA RYDER, MARILYN MANSON, and LYDIA LUNCH are enjoyable, but their celebrity is distracting. However, Argento is fabulous as Sarah. She’s very COURTNEY LOVE, but mean, mean, mean. I loved hating her. And now back to your regularly scheduled nightlife column.

I asked Karen O what she thought about the flick (“Asia Argento is a fox and her presence is the most engaging and compelling part of the movie”) and living in L.A. (“you get a lot of work done”). Presumably, by “work” she means job work, not plastic surgery work. She said the band’s gonna start writing and recording in a studio out west very shortly. Just then, the movie’s makeup artist, MIKE POTTER (who also worked on Hedwig), handed the phone to Karen. “JT wants to talk to you!” While Karen chatted with JT, whom she’s never met, Zinner told me about his trip to Tokyo, where he hung out for a month. While he was in town, a bunch of New York bands came through, including the BEASTIE BOYS, THE FEVER, and LE TIGRE. You go to the other side of the world and end up in the East Village.

I finally met Karen’s friend and designer CHRISTIAN JOY, who is as joyful as her name implies. She was wearing some fabulous white boots and said that she almost always wears thrift store clothes. No $1,000 purses for this homegirl. DJ EDDIE NEWTON, nicknamed Pink Bicycle by moi because he rides around town on a little girl’s hot-pink bicycle, told me the sad news: The bike in question finally broke, and he’s resorted to an unglamorous black one. I weep. Argento finally took over the DJ’ing duties from THE RAPTURE‘s MATTY SAFER, and spun nasty electro and techno, throwing in some classic ’80s. When she played LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, she scored major points with the Grand crowd. Afterward, I asked her, “Oscar?” and she shook her head and waved her hands in a “phooey” gesture. Love to love her.


tromano@villagevoice.com