Tag Archives: Night of a Thousand Stevies

Skin In the Game

A dog in the fight. A horse in the race. Colloquialisms for a vested interest. Recently it occurred to me that this (these?) sentiment is what can be the difference between an event and a memorable event. If you’ll pardon the sports analogy.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been at a few parties that restored my faith in…yeah, parties. In nightlife. Last night I hosted the launch party for the Figment book and the author, David Koren, read a chapter to the guests about “metrics” or numbers. About how we attempt to quantify everything. And as I was laying awake in bed, mulling over the evening and my recent successful forays into nightlife and the many events that vie for our attentions — and our dollars — and what it takes to make them “good” it felt like all the tumblers in the lock clicked.

Skin in the game. A dog in the fight. And not just by the event’s producers. That would be an easy thing. No, magic happens when everyone in attendance has some sort of vested interest. When everyone contributes. Participates. Is dedicated to the night being a success. For not only the producers but for them. The paying public.

My tired little brain and its tumbling lock parts made a mental note: Write a blog post about this. It is everything. It is why Burning Man works. It’s why Figment works. It’s why House of Yes is a huge success. And it is also why so many events that look great on paper fall as flat as…paper. Without passion they are all sports commentator and no sport.

So what were my recent experiences that brought me to this realization? One was a Rubulad. Yes, there have been Rubulads for years. I’ve been to many but certainly not all. As with any recurring events, some have been more successful than others. What made this one feel so…warm? I will chalk it up to the collaboration between Rubulad and JunXion, the many musicians and performers, the artists who had created art for the event and the venue. There were so many people who had a dog in the fight that just about everyone there was tangentially invested in the night being awesome. And it was. People danced. People smiled. It felt like…old times? I dunno. But wonderful. Dare I say…ecstatic.

Also recently I co-emceed the annual twirl-a-thon that is Night of a Thousand Stevies, “the largest and most beloved Stevie Nicks fan event in the world.” It is one of my favorite nights of the year because it is such a lovefest. The glow lasts for weeks afterward. I look at the photos and feel my heart expand in my chest. Everyone in the place — and it now sells out a pretty big place: Irving Plaza — is soooooo happy to be there. They are so excited to catch the tambourines we toss. They lavish those onstage with shrieks of enthusiasm and So. Much. Love. It’s difficult to explain. There are three full acts with dozens of performers: dancers and singers and puppeteers and lip sync-ers, each with at least one friend or “dresser” but more likely a bunch of friends. Some people have been attending NOTS (as it is affectionately known) for many of its 26 years. Yes, 26 years. The event itself is older than some of its fans. I’m sure I don’t need to point out that this is a rare thing. And in my late-night reverie I thought, this night succeeds so brilliantly because everyone in the building is seriously passionate about the party. No one is half-assing it. You can’t half-ass an evening of non-stop Stevie Nicks.

Obviously one also cannot half-ass Burning Man. The scare tactics of “the desert will kill you” aside, this is not an event that you bumble through. It takes planning, supplies and water. Lots of water. And while people have been lamenting that there are more and more “spectators” every year, the scales are still substantially tipped toward participation. There are more burners who bring or build, serve or spin fire. Who show the fuck up. All to make the week a success. Not just for themselves but for the 69,999 other adventurers out there.

Yet how do you get everyone invested? It isn’t an easy equation. And I certainly don’t have the answer. But when the room — or the acreage — fills up with nothing but people who can’t think of anywhere else they’d rather be and anyone else they’d rather be doing it with — drinking or dancing, painting, playing or pillow fighting — you will feel the love. You will look across the room — or the bonfire — and see the sparkle in the eyes of others and think “I am in exactly the right place.” There is nothing better. Nothing. So for a rapturous experience, make sure you have a horse in the race.

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Singled Out Chapeaux & The Empress

My original intent was to write about a different friend every day to tell the world about their awesomeness. I seem to have so much to say that I’m blogging about other topics as well. I kind of like how the two are working together, my random thoughts dovetailing into who I’m presenting. I’m also enjoying the immediacy. So I’m gonna stick with that.

Last night, as I mentioned, I wound up as a plus-one at a fab gala. My “date” was Chi Chi Valenti, Empress of the Motherboards (and formerly club Mother). It was a glamorous evening — cocktails, dinner and a wonderful show put on by Rosie’s Kids — where our table wound up in an awkward but hilarious spotlight: Kicking off the donation segment of the evening, Rosie asked who might want to start at $10,000. When she came down to $1000, she looked at our table. We were a colorful little crew, two of whom were sporting rather large chapeaux. “How about you, pirate?” she asked one. “No? Okay. Love that Pharrell hat,” she said to the other, who was wearing Westwood, sweeeeteeee, but not the Pharrell one, thankyouverymuch! Anyway, after another ribbing at the $500 level, someone side stage whispered, “They’re Jane’s friends!” which let Rosie know not to harass us for donations since we weren’t members of the moneyed class, merely guests of. It was an amusing little culture clash.

Coming home from the desert every year I experience similar culture clashes. I’ve wound up at a luncheon with Condoleeza Rice and a dinner with Susan Sarandon. I’ve celebrated a birthday at a posh resort in Playa del Carmen and spent weekends at expensive spas from Monterey to Sonoma. A week ago I was at a dinner dance at San Francisco’s St. Francis Yacht Club. Just having dinner with my sister and her friends can feel like a journey to a parallel dimension. So being in a room full of people who can raise their hands and donate a few grand wasn’t all that odd. But getting singled out about not being able to was pretty goofy. It will provide chuckle-factor fodder in the future between Chi Chi and I, along with our flying foil-wrapped bagels and the egg-splattered stage.

chichi-sf08-360I’ve known Chi Chi since 1993, when she booked me to walk in the Goddess Ball fashion show at The Palladium. I didn’t realize then just how incredible that was…I was so excited and flattered to be included that the enormity of it somehow escaped me. I went to a couple of Jackie 60s, notably one that paid homage to Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill (I wore Tura Satana drag) and one of the annual Shoe Balls, where I wound up on my hands and knees mopping the aforementioned splattered eggs (in addition to quite a good amount of piss). When she and her husband, DJ Johnny Dynell, bought the club, I was recruited as a co-producer (and “Kink Control”) of the cyberfetish weekly Click + Drag. It was nightclub heaven.

I have an appreciation for people who recognize those who’ve come before them, welcomed them and schooled them. It reminds us that none of us get anywhere alone; we’re all in it together. It is a tradition in both the drag and BDSM worlds, to acknowledge the “mothers” and “fathers” who, literally, “brought us up” in the subculture. Chi Chi is my “club mother” and a mother to so many others.

Aside from contributing to my club education, I’ve absorbed oodles of other cultural ephemera from Chi. She is knowledgeable on an astounding array of topics: history, fashion, the arts, and, most especially, New York City. She was a fixture at Mudd Club before she ran her own establishment. And her legacy continues. Chi Chi’s expertise extends beyond being side stage or on the mic into the literary world. She has written for numerous publications and created one of her own: Verbal Abuse, “dispatches from the nightlife literati.” Her readings are theatrical and atmospheric, blending words with performance art, firmly based in both disciplines.

Chi has hired me to help co-produce Ghostlight, the Halloween haven that raises funds for HOWL Help, and Night of a Thousand Stevies, the annual evening of musical homage to Stevie Nicks, and Low Life @ HOWL Festival. It is always a pleasure to work with her. I am grateful for the many opportunities to be a part of New York City’s vibrant nightlife.

A note: This post is part of my 30-day “YES-vember!” project.

While I Wasn’t Writing…

I’ve been noodling with a blog post for well over a week. Though the topic feels specific, it seems I have more to say than I’ve been able to properly encapsulate. In addition to my inability to  sufficiently whittle down my words, I had an entertainingly distracting week:

I feel like Linda Stasi but, wow, what a week it’s been!

One week ago my friend Robin arrived from San Francisco. Her boyfriend Ace was in town to celebrate his 50th birthday and she surprised him with her appearance at his Tammany Hall rock bash. I couldn’t make it a late night due to the ear-bleedingly loud music and the resulting lack of ability to converse. Wednesday and Thursday were eight-hour work days followed by drinking. At 7:20am Friday, Heather and Caitlin arrived, also from San Francisco. They napped, I ran errands and Robin headed to The Met. I managed to fit in a workout and an hour of sitting in the sun, all in preparation for my big Friday night — and the primary reason for Heather’s visit: Night of a Thousand Stevies.

Photo by Jason Russo

The ultimate Stevie Nicks tribute extravaganza originated at Jackie 60 22 years ago, making “Dreams Unwind,” yes, the 22nd annual! I worked the VIP list at the door with Cynthia, as usual, and then got to emcee on the Stevie stage for my very first time! It was glorious! And of course, the entire evening was exquisite! A crew of us headed to Double Down afterward for a nightcap before I bumbled back to Hotel Abby.

Saturday had a slooowwww start due to my Stevie-sized hangover. It was May 12, Ace’s actual birthday, and he showed up to start DJing at 4. He was spinning some seriously entertaining rock and punk, pretty much the soundtrack of my lifetime, so I was really enjoying it! Between his pals and the visiting DPW folks, the bar was full of friendly faces. When my shift was over, a bunch of us relocated the festivities to my roof. It was, quite possibly, the most pleasant weather of the season, perfect for sitting outdoors and drinking. When I finally lost my shit — and my patience — from sheer exhaustion around 2am, I sent the last few stragglers out to a bar and passed out on my fold-out couch.

Sunday was another slow one and I wound up on the roof for more sunshine. Then Caitlin and Heather treated me to dinner and a show: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert! Oh! Em! Gee! The costumes were fucking mind-blowing! And the blinky bus? Amazing! It was, like, the gayest show EVAR! We managed to grab the only available cab in all of Times Square and headed straight downtown to Crif Dogs, followed by a milkshake stop at Ray’s. Wheeeeee! What an awesome Sunday!

Caitlin and Heather left Monday morning-ish after a quick brunch at Yuca Bar and I fit in a quick trip to the gym before Robin and I met Johnny and David at the 10th Street Baths. It was really nice to sweat out all the booze and beer of the weekend. I hung out with them while they ate sushi, then jumped into a cab to meet Edie and Marianne for Mexican. It was like old times, except I eschewed the booze. We even hung out afterward at Mare’s apartment.

This morning, after Robin left for the airport, I spent two hours getting paid for my opinions on hair dye. Easiest hundred bucks I’ve ever made! And finally, I met Karen at the movie theater to see Dark Shadows. Which was cute! Now, to curl up with my Scribble and enjoy a little bit of solitude. Oh, and perhaps get back to some writing…

Stevie, Outer Space & Cinco, Blackout Cinco

Ah, the past few days have been dark ones, indeed. Coming down off my Married Man Marathon high and second date excitement, it’s back to the usual drought conditions. I’m doing my best to buck up and not be discouraged but it isn’t easy.

Last night was a riot of be-ribboned tambourines and lacy shawls at Night of a Thousand Stevies. I worked the door with the effervescent Cynthia and got to see everyone’s costumes in the light. All gorgeous! The show was the best yet, the 21st annual, and the evening wrapped up with “the battle,” when everyone in full “Stevie realness” is invited onto the stage for a twirl-off. I was busily wrangling the well-dressed for Finlay Mackay, an adorable photographer shooting for The New York Times Magazine. He and his crew were a pleasure to work with and I was impressed with how skillfully they juggled their equipment amidst the dangling satin banners and dozens of spinning Stevies.

When my work there was done, a few friends and I jumped into a cab and headed for Mars 2112, where Kostume Kult and Disorient were holding their annual Burning Man theme camp fundraiser, The Black & Light Ball. I’ve fantasized about throwing a party in this Disney-esque “outer space” since my first trip there years ago with my sister and her kids. To witness hundreds of blinking, glowing revelers enjoying the intergalactic ambience was amazing. I didn’t last long but at least I got to see it!

My Cinco de Mayo turned out to be a complete disaster. I’ve spent the last as-many-as-I-can-remember with Corinne, one of my wildest friends. But the wild girl has been tamed and, rather than sucking down frozen drinks in her giant velvet, spangled sombrero with me, she was watching herself and her husband on cable as they won The Newlywed Game. A trip to Cancun! Sigh. I wound up drinking with a new friend who’s working on the Figment signage with me. We’d had a successful trip to Materials for the Arts, which was fucking incredible. Shopping without having to pay? Yay! Anyway, let’s just say that two quarts of margaritas and bumping into your ex-husband is not a great combination! In a less-than-felice blackout moment, un-remembered words were exchanged and my evening ended with me boo-hoo-hooing and bumbling home to pass out. Olé! Oy vey…