When I decided to take a trip to Toronto over President's
Day Weekend, I didn't think I'd miss much beyond the annual
Saint-At-Large White Party. Then all these incredible parties
started popping up around town.
In addition to Peter Rauhofer at Roxy
and Roland Belmares spinning Alegria at Sound Factory, Junior
Vasquez shrewdly added Tom Stephan (a/k/a Superchumbo) and
'80s dance diva Jody Watley to the Red Party line-up at Earth,
Frankie Knuckles' name graced two intriguing invitations,
and one of the hottest up-and-coming DJs, Chad Jack, snagged
the coveted Sunday night Limelight slot.
Then I heard that our misguided city officials
decided once again that they needed to save us from ourselves.
As you've probably heard by now, the NYPD's
Civil Enforcement Unit, along with its Narcotics Division
and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, shut down
Exit (610 W. 56th St., home to Vasquez's Earth after-hours
party) and Sound Factory (616-620 W. 46th St.) -- on Friday,
Feb. 7. At 8 that evening, authorities padlocked Exit's main
entrance while ceremoniously slapping bright orange-and-yellow
stickers that read "Closed by Court Order and Restraining
Order" across the front doors.
This dramatic display of self-righteous
arrogance was clearly orchestrated to ensure maximum exposure
from members of the press who were invited to document yet
another nail being driven into the coffin of New York nightlife.
The nuisance abatement orders reference ongoing illegal drug
activities allegedly discovered during a 22-month undercover
investigation of the clubs that reportedly netted 151 arrests.
Whether these closures are warranted is
for the courts to decide. But I do question the timing. In
addition to the upcoming holiday weekend, Friday also marked
the beginning of Fashion Week, one of the New York's most
publicized festivals that lures thousands from around the
world to drink, dance and spend loads of money in the (former?)
"Nightlife Capital of the World." Hello?
Nightlife in New York City is a $2.9 billion
industry that yields $800 million in salaries and wages, employs
over 27,000 people, and generates almost $220 million annually
in tax revenue. Did this just slip the minds of city officials?
Does the $10 billion deficit we're facing honestly not register
with these people?
As of press time, both Exit and Sound
Factory remain closed, both unsuccessful in obtaining a stay
during their respective court appearances on Thursday, February
13. I managed to contact few relevant officials, but none
volunteered much information.
Anthony Borelli, district manager of Community
Board 4 (encompassing Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen) admitted
"nightlife is an important industry," but insisted
that "all industries have a larger responsibility to
the New York City community to run their businesses appropriately."
I got the same spiel from the Community
Affairs and Public Information Offices. Even Robert Bookman,
attorney for the New York Nightlife Association (NYNA), a
120-member trade group formed in 1997 to defend local bar
and club owners against Giuliani's reign of terror, offered
only a sliver of hope: "Drugs are a societal problem,
not a nightclub problem, per se."
Hopefully our government will figure that
out someday. Then again, why would they bother tackling such
a large, complicated issue when press ops have worked so well?
Bookman says the NYNA has already met with the current administration
a couple times, and is hoping to work on several positive
programs in a cooperative effort with the city and police
department. Good luck!
For now, the city is urging the court
to keep both clubs closed for at least a year, but I'm willing
to bet that Jonathan Peters will be back in Sound Factory's
DJ booth within a few weeks. I'm not so sure about Exit, though,
especially in light of a posting from Junior's manager, Jerome
Farley on the JuniorVasquezMusic.com message boards Feb. 9.
"Junior and I consider this an opportunity
to evaluate whether Exit provides uncompromised [sic] safety
and comfort to its patrons. We could not say what the future
holds for Exit, but we wish to assure Junior's supporters
that we are examining seriously several options which were
presented to us today."
I'll also bet that most people wouldn't
miss Exit, especially anyone who's been violated and humiliated
by its Gestapo security. Where else would entry into a nightclub
entail a security guard donning a rubber glove, sticking his
(or her) hand down your pants, and probing your ass in an
apparently ineffective hunt for contraband?
So maybe I didn't miss much during President's
Day Weekend after all, right? Well, I'm happy to report that
despite the city's best efforts, all indications are that
the holiday weekend's remaining parties were each a huge success.
The White Party's relocation to the East
Village's elegant El Capital was a brilliant move by the Saint
At Large. I've heard mixed reviews on Thunderpuss, although
one astute friend did say he was impressed that they "got
it" (i.e., they understood how to play the event differently
from a regular club gig).
Warren Gluck apparently nailed his performance
perfectly, beginning the transition with a harder, trance-like
set before easing the crowd into a morning music groove with
White Party standards like "Knights In White Satin,"
"If You Could Read My Mind," and some playful remixes
inspired by the "Alex In Wonderland" theme towards
the end. I'm truly sorry I missed it, but there's always next
year and Black Party is just a month away.
Check out SaintAtLarge.com for more info on that.
Blast From The Past
The seductively soulful British chanteuse
Lisa Stansfield is back in the spotlight with her first ever
greatest hits collection, "Lisa Stansfield: Biography."
Released on Feb. 18 by Arista/BMG Heritage, the CD features
17 tracks spanning Stansfield's remarkable career, including
her breakout hit "All Around The World," and #1
R&B hits "Change," "You Can't Deny It,"
and "All Woman."
The chart-topping dance singles "People
Hold On," "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up,"
and "Never Gonna Fall" definitely spice things up
a bit. But most of the tracks are ballads, so this CD is probably
better suited for winding down or romantic interludes than
a pre-party pump.
In the first of what I hope will be many
giveaways, enter to win one of two promotional copies of the
CD by sending an e-mail to contest@mattunleashed
with "Lisa Stansfield" in the subject line. Winners
will be chosen randomly on Friday, Feb. 28.
Until next month -- Be Smart. Be Safe.