Bowery Birthday & The Box

Tuesday night I accompanied my friend Nick to rock photographer Bob Gruen‘s birthday party. The event was held at R Bar on the Lower East Side — the Bowery, to be exact. My last trip to R Bar was as part of SantaCon and, blinded by all the red and white, I hadn’t noticed then how swanky the joint is! Also, their back room was closed off, which was a real shame, since it has a few stripper poles. And Santa loves stripper poles! But I digress.

Bob decorates his birthday bashes with prints of his photography and this year’s collection was completely comprised of work shot in 2010. There were multiple photos featuring Yoko Ono, Debbie Harry and Billie Joe Armstrong, as well as many of Bob himself with friends and acquaintances. After perusing the prints, I immediately texted my ex: “Bob Gruen’s bday? There’s a shot of Debbie free for the taking!” He’s a big Blondie fan, or, more specifically, a Debbie fan. Nick and I parked ourselves in the back room, behind a stripper pole and in front of the best Debbie pic, and my ex joined us a half-hour later. We hung out and bought each other beers. It’s so grown-up to be on civil terms with one’s ex, no?

The club became progressively crowded with the famous and semi-famous, including Ms. Harry. People kept mistaking me for Gruen’s wife, shaking my hand in congratulations or randomly chatting me up. The only resemblance I can discern is that we both have long blondish hair…and I think she may be almost as tall as I am. I wonder if she’s ever mistaken for me! I said hello to Clem Burke, who Nick had introduced me to during Blondie’s Parallel Lines tour. Other luminaries included Bebe Buell, Leee Black Childers, Victor Bockris, Richard Lloyd, Anthony Haden-Guest, Alison Gordy, Tommy Gunn and BP Fallon.

The Pretty Babies, a Blondie cover band with Tammie Faye Starlite on lead vocals, rocked the house in black blazers and skinny ties. Well, except for Tammie Faye. She was in something suitably skimpy! There were downtown types of every age, size and stripe (literally, stripes!) and a festive birthday cake. One particularly saucy young woman in a fab ’70s-ish maxi dress (when was the last time you even heard the term “maxi dress?”), hell bent on snagging a shot of Iggy Pop, introduced herself. The buxom blonde with her  asked if I was interested in any particular photo. I nodded at the Debbie print behind me. “I’ve been at the last four birthdays and I’ve never gotten the picture I wanted! Take it now!” she ordered with a slur. I demurred, saying I didn’t mind waiting. Whereupon she snatched it off the wall and rolled it up, shoving it at me with an exaggerated sense of urgency. Mr. Gruen was a mere arm’s reach away, shmoozing with one of the women who’d mistaken me for his wife. I tried not to look too embarrassed. But I surreptitiously squirreled the print away in the sleeve of my metallic red motorcycle jacket. And my ex happily toted it home.

I didn’t last too late at the fete; I’d had 11:0pm plans with The Baroness. She met me at R Bar, where we were fabulous for a while, posing for Tina Paul and letting people conjecture about whether we “were somebody” or not. (We are!) Somewhat reluctantly, we strolled a block over to Chrystie, Baroness in her latex and I in my leopard print sweater, headed for The Box. I’d been hearing about the club for years from many of my performer friends who’d been booked there. For some reason, I assumed it was a tacky bottle bar (perhaps because of their big budgets!) packed with pretentious bridge-and-tunnelers, so I’d avoided it. Quel dommage! The place is positively stunning! Intimate and delightfully appointed, including some serious heavy metal accoutrements dans les toilettes, courtesy of The Baroness herself! I could live there! (In the club, not the toilets…) The adorable bartender was wearing a flowing tulle skirt, a strappy leather top and roller blades. Behind the bar! Gorgeous! We only indulged in one beverage, as we decided not to make a late night of it. The evening ended on an amusing note: as we exited the club and were waiting for a gentleman to vacate a taxi, he took a look at us and exclaimed, “You two look exciting!” “We are!” I laughed. “Well, more exciting than me,” he sheepishly admitted. “Without a doubt!” I snapped in retort. It’s always nice to have one’s fabulousness acknowledged.


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