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I promised you some NYC gay nightlife fireworks a while ago, so I’d now like you to all stand back with goggles on as it comes true — and then add disco boots to your ensemble and head into the heart of the mayhem.
Due to the social longing that’s afflicted the post-lockdown crowd, plus the reality that empty spaces all over town are dying to be reinvented (not to mention the reported relaxing of antiquated cabaret laws), there are enticing new options for partying queens who might even look up from their Grindr for a second.
For starters, XL was a gay dance club attached to the OUT Hotel on West 42nd Street, but the gays ultimately ran for the hills. The hotel is now, simply, Cachet Boutique Hotel NYC, and in 2019, the XL space also turned straight, re-emerging as a Playboy Club, though the timing of such a place at the height of #MeToo was bizarre, even if they were supposedly going for a more feminist approach. Well, after financial problems, the club lost its licensing from Playboy Entertainment Group, and now it’s simply an event space called 42 d’Or. And the good news for gays is that longtime promoter Jake Resnicow has been hired to produce special events at the venue. The queens are coming back to roost!
Resnicow’s first “Playboi” party — on Saturday, June 4, to kick off Pride Month and the summer — will surely pack the joint with the hoi polloi bois. [Side note: Resnicow is touting a “multi-million dollar renovation” at the club, but a source at the hotel told me the space looks pretty much the same as when it was the Playboy club. I reached out to Resnicow’s publicist for comment but did not get a response.]
Meanwhile, promoter Ladyfag (who has a new baby with her wife, British singer/songwriter/DJ Skin) has also given birth to a new club party. In addition to bashes like Battle Hymn and CHIM3RA, Lady is doing a Friday night party called Spilled Milk at Musica, a new dance spot at 637 W. 50th Street, where Space Ibiza used to be.
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I went to the Spilled Milk opening and thrilled to the two levels of ambiences and people. On the street level, there was dancing to unexpected mixes of Nirvana and Pink Floyd, plus lots of saucy socializing as impossibly gorgeous gays filed in, with a healthy smattering of the freaky-deakies, whom I find even more gorgeous. It was all very old-school, but with new people, and then, once they opened the upstairs dance floor, the cute guys streamed up there for a slick, European-style dance experience. (The club comes courtesy of Giuseppi Cipriani and Tito Pinton, owner of Venice’s Il Muretto club.)
As I was leaving, trans diva Amanda Lepore arrived, looking very Marilyn Monroe, so I asked her what she thought of Kim Kardashian’s attempt to wear Marilyn’s famous gown at the Met Gala. “She looked horrible,” said Amanda without pause. “She should have gotten something that matched her flesh tone!”
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I returned to Spilled Milk for the second week — wearing flesh tones, of course—and found that it didn’t have the same sizzle as opening night (Nothing ever does), though it was still worthy of repeat appearances. Lots of them.
Garnering a mixed crowd with heavy doses of young fashionistas, long-running diva Susanne Bartsch has recently thrown smash events at the Soho Grand and Public Hotels. And her Tuesday night On Top bash is back at Le Bain at the Standard Hotel, complete with hot tub and roof action. Increasingly, I’ve found that On Top is studded with straight tourists who are staying at the hotel or read guidebooks, but at least you’re always guaranteed visitations by the fabbies on the invite — and besides, straights are people too and deserve equal rights!
Tossing their own mixed salad of humans are two other vets: Keoki (who was DJ and co-producer at his then-boyfriend Michael Alig’s notorious Disco 2000 parties at Limelight) and Whillyem Thrillwell, who spun in the chapel area for the same ‘90s bash. They’re the resident DJs for Disco 3000 at the sleek Nebula NY club in Times Square, which is awash in flashy lights and up-to-the-minute music.
The other night’s launch of the weekly Wednesday party brought out a healthy smattering of nouveau club kids, all responding to current societal anxieties but in a rather polite, au courant manner. While the party promises decadence, I assure you it’s way more sanitized than Disco 2000, which featured illustrious performances by talent like “Sebastian the pee drinker.” Whatever the case, I’m thrilled for any option that doesn’t involve cramming into tiny HK bars and watching either a big TV screen or a drag queen trying to get on it.
Everything’s coming up Billings
Let’s raise a glass to Alexandra Billings (Transparent, Broadway’s Wicked), the noted trans actor who has always spoken truth to power. Her riveting new memoir, This Time For Me, has many highlights, but let me single out what she wrote about having been told she had the lead in the 2005 movie Transamerica, about a trans mother’s road trip with the son she didn’t know she had.
But stinkily enough, Billings soon enough was told that they had to go with a bigger name instead, and sure enough, the cisgender Felicity Huffman now had the part. Writes the author: “I saw the film … I watched Ms. Huffman lisp and shuffle her way into the trans experience. Her voice was pitched low and her hands flopped from side to side as she flailed about, seemingly swatting at flies. I had been around transgender women since 1980, and I never once saw anyone behave in this way.”
Billings points out that Felicity is a wonderful actor and none of this is about comparison, “this is about visibility.” Well, fortunately, things are finally starting to change, and the impulse to laud any cis actor’s trans interpretation as “brave” and award-worthy seems a lot more hollow these days.
Fran Drescher, you’re so (Fran) Fine
From trans to Fran: I caught up with the delightful Fran Drescher at the Robert restaurant publication bash for N is for The Nanny, a slight, new A-to-Z tome whose entire proceeds go to Fran’s nonprofit organization Cancer Schmancer Movement. With all six seasons of The Nanny now available on HBO Max, Fran’s droll humor is reaching all new generations who are thrilling to her nasal intonations. This was our conversation:
MM: Hi, Fran. Gays have been a big part of your career.
FD: Yes, I have always had the support of the gay community, but when I became the Nanny, with the costumes and the hair, suddenly they were having viewing parties at gay bars, and drag queens were dressing like me. When my husband [Peter Marc Jacobson] came out as gay, that really put it over.
MM: You were the new Liza Minnelli.
MM: In 2011, you did Happily Divorced, a sitcom based on that experience.
FD: I felt the community was embracing the show in a profound way. The global message of Happily Divorced was that everybody has the right to live their authentic life. The younger generation today is not going to deny their identities.
MM: Except in Florida.
FD: Well, that’s politics.
MM: Speaking of knowing your worth: Would you ever want to stretch and play, say, Lady Macbeth?
FD: I enjoy stretching, on the rare occasions when given the opportunity. I love to dive in — and I’d have to harness my dialect and all of that. Emotional truth is not something that’s difficult for me to tap into. It should be the same with Shakespeare, Saturday Night Fever or The Nanny. Authentic performances.
MM: Exactly. By the way, you’re from Queens, and I’m from Brooklyn. They tried to drum the accent out of me, but I never totally lost it, thank god.
FD: And I learned how to monetize it, thank god!
But before you go….
I hear that Caroline Kennedy’s daughter, Rose Kennedy Schlossberg, has married her longtime girlfriend, restaurateur Rory McAuliffe. Congrats, ladies. Carry on.