Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Kiss Nightbird Radio Interview 1974 Part 2

Here's an interview Allison did with "an exciting new band."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Remembering Alison Steele, "The Night Bird"


If the world was the way it should be, instead of as it is, we wouldn't even think about Robert Chambers for a second. Instead, we'd be remembering another New Yorker, one of this city's greatest DJs, Alison Steele, "The Night Bird." For a moment, here at Mr NYC, let the world be as it should.

“The flutter of wings, the shadow across the moon, the sounds of the night, as the Nightbird spreads her wings and soars, above the earth, into another level of comprehension, where we exist only to feel. Come, fly with me, Alison Steele, the Nightbird, at WNEW-FM, until dawn.”

With those angelic words, Alison would begin her overnight broadcasts. She would then play some of the greatest rock n'roll ever: the Stones, Dylan, Led Zeplin, The Who, The Doors - you name it. Her silky voice, seductive in its maturity and wisdom, reassured you that there was someone kind out there, making you feel safe during the small hours. She was the grand dame of the New York night, her gentility soothing and smoothing the edges of a rough city. Her gracious audio presence would nurse her listeners through the darkness, into the first blushes of day.

In her later years, Alison migrated to 92.3 K-ROCK, going off the air at 6 AM, right before the raucous Howard Stern would rouse the city. I first encountered Allison's voice in the early 1990s when I was in high school. I would wake up around 5:50 or 5:55 AM in order to listen to Howard and Allison would usually be closing out her show. As a song by Yes or The Police would end, Alison's lovely voice would come on, wishing listeners like me a good morning. Then she would leave us with a parting thought, a little piece of wisdom, usually conveyed in a quotation from one of the great poets like Edgar Allan Poe or William Wordsworth. And then the Nightbird would fly away, leaving us to our usually tumultuous days.

What a great, sweet memory.

Sadly, Alison is no longer with us. All the greats leave before their time. She passed away on September 27, 1995 from cancer. I remember that I had just started college and this news was one of the first things I learned on this then new Internet contraption. It's so hard to believe that she's been gone more than twelve years because it feels just like yesterday that I was waking up to her voice. Like Jean Shepard, she was a genuine radio artist. And in this era of radio consolidation and voice-tracking, it's doubtful we'll ever see her likes again.

But at least we had her when, a small burst of light in a dark place. Let's remember and thank Alison Steele for the comfort she brought this city. In this bitter world, even a decade on, let's remember someone pretty sweet.

Tribute pages:

The First Lady of Rock & Roll
A Page for Alison Steele
Alison's Wikipedia Entry

Robert Chambers: New York's Favorite Criminal


Egads, it's deja vu all over again: the "Preppy Killer" Robert Chambers is back in the news. This time he's accused to running a drug ring out of the Upper East Side flat he shared with his lady friend. If you're a tabloid junkie, then you've heard of Senor Chambers: in August 1986 this handsome psychopath strangled an eighteen-year old Manhattan prep school girl to death in Central Park (right behind the Met). He claimed "rough sex" made him do it but the jury didn't buy it. He copped to a manslaughter beef and spent fifteen years in jail. (This story was the OJ/Monica/Natalee Holloway story of its day, replete with teenagers, sex, drugs, murder, and very stylish clothes. Thankfully MSNBC and Fox New didn't exist then so we were spared the 24/7 coverage.) Chambers got out in 2003, vowed to go straight, and obviously failed miserably. Looks like he's headed back to the pokie for life.

What to say? This story makes for great TV. After all, with a war going on, the environment headed to catastrophe and nearly 50 million people without health care, isn't it nice to take a roll in the tabloid muck once in a while?

Mr NYC's opinion: this is all very sad. Chambers is clearly a hardcore drug addict and simply cannot change. He's one of those people genetically incapable of not breaking the law. The fact that he's made it to age forty-one is probably an achievement for him. And doubtless when he does leave this earth, we'll hear all about it.

'Preppy Killer' Pleads Not Guilty in Drug Case

Interview: Stephanie Sellars of "Lust Life"



We continue to steam things up here at Mr NYC. "Lust Life" blogger and former New York Press sex columnist Stephanie Sellars gives us her take on sex, writing, and New York City.

Tell us about yourself and how you started writing your column in the New York Press?


I am a modern Renaissance woman with vintage sensibilities. Everything I do--writing, performing, film making--draws from the past, specifically in terms of style, but has a modern edge. In my column I wrote about kinky sex from a place of lyrical sophistication. When I first started writing for New York Press, I used a pseudonym--'The Libertine'--a word that originated in 1563, meaning 'freethinker.' The term became popular in 18th century Europe when it was used to describe freethinkers (usually men) who lived for pleasure unrestrained by conventions or taboos. It also refers to refined eroticism. A few years ago I wrote an essay called "Confessions of a Libertine" and gave it to my friend Jon Leaf who was the arts editor of New York Press. He liked it and passed my essay onto Harry Siegel who was then editor-in-chief; they invited me into the office for an interview and the rest is history. I wrote as 'The Libertine' for about five months then I did a cover story under a new editor (Adario Strange), and used my real name as the byline. The following week 'Lust Life' was launched.

Is being a sex writer in New York as glamorous as Sarah Jessica Parker made it look?

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw as the alter-ego of columnist Candace Bushnell is so far from who I am and what I'm doing with the sex column/blog genre. Am I glamorous? Yes. But is being a sex writer glamorous? Not at all. I don't spend my time lunching in trendy restaurants with girl friends or sipping cosmos at pretentious clubs in Chelsea or the Meatpacking District. I write about the alternative sex scene--polyamory, queer sex, S&M, swinging, orgies etc. so my social life is centered around underground loft spaces, yoga studios, and the LGBT Center. Of course some erotic events are very glamorous and take place in gorgeous upscale clubs, but I'm not slinking around in Jimmy Choo shoes 6 nights a week, hobnobbing with fashionistas in swanky Manhattan lounges of perpetual boredom. Besides no sex columnist can afford a life like that on a sex column alone. New York Press paid me $100 per 800-900 word column. Of course I get nothing for the blog.

Although it's a fun topic, how do you prevent your columns and now, your blog, from being repetitive?

Easy. My sex life is the epitome of variety.

How do people (okay, guys) react when you tell them you're a sex columnist?

The most common reaction I've gotten is something like, 'Oh, you're just like Carrie Bradshaw!' It's irritating because I am so not Carrie, and I have no desire to be like her. But once I explain a little about what I write, they are even more intrigued. People also tend to assume I'm an advice-giver like Dan Savage.

Do you get lots of creepy fan mail or messages?

Sometimes. I used to get handwritten letters sent to the old New York Press office. My editor at the time didn't even want me to read them because they were so gross. Once I got an email from a guy asking for advice on what to do about the female roommate he was stalking. I gave him some genuine advice, then he asked me if I would take him to a play party because he would not be able to explore the scene otherwise. I was so offended that I cut off our exchange. A lot of men assume I'm up for anything or I'll be their tour guide into the underground sex scene just because I write about it. I have to get to know someone first before I invite him/her to an erotic event.

Would you call New York a 'sex positive' city? Do you think New Yorkers have more sex than the rest of the country?

Definitely! New York is not only full of sexy people, it caters to people whose sexual expression is outside the norm. With several erotic events a week--from sex parties to Tantric workshops to gay pride--it's hard not to find your niche in a sex-positive community. Although I can't confirm that New Yorkers have more sex than the rest of the country, I'm fairly certain that we are generally more open about sex and therefore more into exploring alternative sex and relationships.

Besides your blog, what are some of your other projects?

I'm working on a book based on 'Lust Life'. It is the story behind the column--my sensual journey from small-town prude to big-city libertine. I also have a feature film project in development. I made two short films--the first was on Independent Film Channel for three years and the second is currently playing at film festivals. I also perform often as a singer and in readings like The Potable Dorothy Parker: A Literary Cocktail, a series that I co-created and curate.

Anything else you'd like to tell us? Any advice for our readers about love and sex in NYC?

Whatever your sexual preference, be honest with others and true to yourself. Don't be monogamous because that's what everyone else seems to be doing. And don't cheat! Monogamy is great if it is consciously chosen. If it is not what you really want, it is better to own your desire to be with more than one lover and enjoy.

Read Stephanie's blog at http://sslustlife.blogspot.com

Saturday, October 20, 2007

So Long Joe ...


"To everything there is a season ..."

The biggest news in town is that Yankees manager Joe Torre has walked away from team. George and that gang offered Joe a reduced salary, one-year contract and Joe, perceiving it "an insult", turned it down and quit.

This wasn't a surprise. The Yankees glory days of the 1990s are long past and the last few years haven't been stellar. Twelve years is a long time to manage a baseball team and, even though this is a rather sad way for it to end, Joe Torre's managing career with the Yankees will go down in baseball history. All those World Series and division wins, making the playoffs every year he ran the team - truly historic achievements. Joe was so successful that he raised the bar for himself impossibly high. How could anyone, even Joe himself, live up to such a standard? He didn't of course, and that's why it's over now.

But Joe will be fine, and so will the Yankees, and so will New York City. Life is not predictable and nothing is preordained. Life is not a play being acted out according to a script. But the vicissitudes of life have a way of forcing our entrances and exits. And Joe, after shining on this stage, has taken his last bow.

On behalf of all New Yorkers, Mr NYC thanks Joe Torre for his service to the Yankees and our city's spirit. During my college years in the late 1990s, living far away from Yankee land, the team's multiple World Series victory gave me insurmountable pride. And of course, it made me an insufferably arrogant bore. But my joy in the Yankees success was very real and helped, in a very small way, to make those years all the more memorable. And Joe did it. Thanks again.

"... a time for purpose under the sun."

Torre Could Manage Steinbrenner and Yankees



Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Million Trees!

Mayor Mike Bloomberg and urban environmental pioneer Bette Midler (who I hear has also worked in show business) are encouraging New Yorkers to help plant a million trees around NYC. This is a great idea. Trees help the environment (literally cleaning the air), look beautiful, and boost property values (wouldn't you rather live on a street with trees?). Let a million trees bloom!

Mr NYC plans on getting fully involved (once school is over). If you want to get involved, go here: MillionTreesNYC

Frost/Nixon's Frank Langella,

Here's a clip from Theater Talk.

"On Stage" and "Theater Talk"

Ya gotta love this town. This being the theater capital of the world and all, you'd think there might be a TV show about the theater biz. Well, actually there are two! Two-half hour shows covering on and off Broadway and they're both actually pretty good.

NY1 has "On Stage", hosted by the lovely Roma Torre. It's on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and from 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. as well as Mondays from 12:30 a.m to 1:00 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Here's the website: On Stage

Channel 13 has "Theater Talk", hosted by NY Post critic Michael Riedel and producer Susan Haskins. It's on Friday night/Saturday mornings at 12:30 AM. Here's the website: Theater Talk



Fall is finally here ...

... and not a moment too soon. Mother Nature has finally vanquished this most miserable of Indian summers. May it rest in peace.

In Mr NYC's humble opinion, there's no better time of year in NYC. As fall descends, the heat and swelter of summer give way to cool breezes, the leaves begin to turn, the farmer's markets sell hot apple cider, it gets darker earlier, and we begin to look excitedly towards the holidays (the holidays always being more fun to anticipate than to actually live through). Fall is a reflective time, a penultimate moment, as we begin to think about the end of the year, what've done and what we still hope to do.

May New Yorkers from Rockaway to Riverdale enjoy this fall, truncated though it may be. Soon the blusters of winter will be upon, and this fall will be a fond sigh in our memories.

Bernie Kerik Speaks

Oh What a Tangled Web Bernie Kerik Weaved ...

Our great city's former top cop is a crook.

Ex-Aide to Giuliani Plans Fight to Avoid Charges

But of course it's all the media's fault.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Interview: Rachel Kramer Bussel, "The Lusty Lady"


She's funny, smart, sexy and a helluva good writer - this quadruple threat is New York's own Lusty Lady, Rachel Kramer Bussel. A former sex columnist for the Village Voice, Rachel is probably the best-known authority on New York's naughty scene. She not only writes prolifically on everyone's favorite hobby, but she also interviews creative people and hosts readings series for new writers to present their work. Best of all, she shares Mr NYC's deep abiding passion for cupcakes. Rachel was kind enough to answer some of Mr NYC's questions.

1. How did you come to be a sex writer in NYC and is it as glamorous as on "Sex and the City"?

Well, I can definitely say my life is nowhere near as glamorous as
Sex and the City, and that’s perfectly fine with me. Not only don’t I get to lounge around like Carrie, but I am nowhere near as wealthy as her.

I moved to New York in 1996 to go to NYU Law School. I was 20 and really thought that’s where my interests lay, but I didn’t know much about the day-to-day of being a lawyer, and once I figured that out, I wasn’t too impressed. I wound up quitting and working various temp/day jobs for a few years, freelancing here and there reviewing books or writing essays. I got asked to work on a few projects and slowly built up my writing resume, and then in March 2004 took a full-time job as Senior Editor at Penthouse Variations, then in October 2004 started writing the Lusty Lady column for The Village Voice. Along the way I also began editing erotica anthologies and by the end of next year will have more than 20 of them!

2. While always a fun subject, how do you keep writing about sex without it getting repetitive or (perish the thought) boring?

I would say that for me writing about sex doesn’t get boring because sex (so far) hasn’t been boring. I think if you’re only writing about the mechanics of sex, the in and out, so to speak, that can get old quickly, but there are so many nuances and I think everyone approaches it differently. By that I mean both how they conduct their sex and dating life and what they want out of sex, how they prioritize it, what turns them on. I’m such a voyeur and I love hearing about what other people are up to.

I really like the fact that, while I am not an expert in any way, I’m someone that my friends can talk to about things they might not have anyone else to ask. I was at dinner with a friend the other day and she looked around and then lowered her head and whispered, “I was told I have to ask you about this. Have you heard of this thing called ‘squirting?’” Her boyfriend wanted her to squirt (female ejaculate) and she was freaked out by it and we discussed it and I assured her that it wasn’t weird but also wasn’t mandatory. Then I sent her a copy of my friend Violet Blue’s book The Smart Girl’s Guide to the G-Spot.

I think sex, as a topic or an act, can get boring, but there are so many ways we can make it interesting that so far I haven’t run out of things to say. But another way I keep it interesting for me is to write about other topics, like books and pop culture and events, so that when I go back to writing about sex, I’m not rolling my eyes.

3. Tell us about your "In the Flesh Reading Series" and your love of cupcakes.

I started In The Flesh in October 2005, and it got off to a kind of rocky start. We had pretty small crowds, but the good thing about Happy Ending Lounge (well, one of them!) is that even small crowds fill up the cozy bar well. Then a few months in things took a turn and we’ve been pretty packed. Basically, each month I have erotica writers come and read their steamiest work. I also sometimes do special nights, like True Sex Confessions Night (that’s coming up November 15th, but first we’ve got Virgin Night on October 18th, featuring first-time readers and authors). It’s sexy, but there’s always humor. I love looking at the crowd and seeing them laugh or hang on an author’s words.

It’s really made me appreciate that writing doesn’t just happen on the page. Having to read my work in front of people month after month also makes me notice things in my stories I wouldn’t have otherwise, both good and bad. It makes writing a little more social for me than it would be otherwise. Oh, and because I’m secretly a total Jewish mother, I like to feed people, so I always give out candy and mini cupcakes and brownies. I just think that’s a fun little extra and people seem to enjoy it.

As for cupcakes, well, they’ve just sort of taken over my life. I started my blog Cupcakes Take the Cake in December 2004, and the interest in cupcakes has only risen since. Pretty much, they’re everywhere, and a New York State Assemblyman has even introduced a bill to make them the official New York State children’s snack and keep them from being banned! They are just so fun and I adore seeing what creative ways people have come up with to decorate them. There are bakeries sprouting up all over and I really love that I’ve become this cupcake authority and can rattle off the names of bakeries all over the country (and even internationally). What’s funny is that I don’t eat cupcakes all that often, maybe once or twice a month, and am not much of a baker myself - I leave that to my fellow cupcake blogger Allison. But finding out as much as I can about the world of cupcakes is something I’m happy to do. I look at photos of cupcakes every single day and by now can’t imagine my life without the blog.

4. What other things do you like writing about and what are your aspirations for the future?

I write about whatever catches my eye, really. I’ve interviewed dozens of authors, performers, artists, and other creative, interesting people, for Gothamist.com, Memoirville.com, and other sites. I cover the publishing industry for Mediabistro, where I get to interview editors and literary agents, and it’s really fun because I get to bond with other book nerds. I also interview bakery owners and fellow cupcake fans on Cupcakes Take the Cake and I love that because for so many of these people, their bakery is their first business and they’re so excited, and learning about their cupcake innovations and plans is fascinating. Someday I’d love to do a cupcake tour of the country and visit these people I’ve only corresponded with.

The future…I don’t really know what the future holds. I definitely want to continue editing erotica books and writing longer work, and eventually a non-fiction book about sexual politics. I’d love to do some talking head spots on TV. But mostly I look forward to being a mom in the next…let’s say five years. I don’t have a plan yet on how that’s going to happen, but I’m working on it. I’d ideally like to be making a living writing from home and taking care of my kids.

5. How do people react when you tell them you're a sex writer and how has it affected your personal life?

I think it depends on the person. For the most part, people are intrigued and want to know more about my career path, but in a respectful way. Sometimes I just say I’m a “writer” because I don’t want to get into a whole big discussion about it that could be potentially awkward. I think how I come across in person and the explicit nature of a lot of my writing is a bit at odds; I don’t tend to talk about sex or my personal life, and sometimes am the one shushing my friends for doing so. One friend of mine jokingly calls me a prude cause he always manages to make me blush!

There have definitely been people I’ve dated who were freaked out by the fact that I write about my personal life, but it’s not the type of situation where the minute I get home from a date or am done having sex, I’m racing to my laptop. For me, it’s more the people and situations that linger on my mind that make me want to write about them because they’ve had an impact on me that goes beyond the moment.

The people who I really connect with the most in my personal life are the ones who get that as much of a workaholic as I can be, I have a lot more going on that just being some girl with naked pictures of herself on the Internet. The phrase “sex writer,” when said in a judgmental way, is an easy and lazy way to categorize me. I can be a vamp and an exhibitionist, but I’m not in this for the sensationalism, and I’ve learned to let go of the people who only want to see that side.

6. Tell us what you love about NYC and does the city make you a better writer?

Wow. What don’t I love about NYC? (L train delays.) I really feel like this is my home and always will be. I love the energy and the people and the fact that there is just so much going on here. There’s always something new to discover, and I love that in a given month I can play trivia, eat cupcakes with strangers, go to comedy shows, work out, and whatever else comes along. You can never get bored in this city and I’m constantly discovering new scenes and things to do. In the past year, I’ve become friends with a whole bunch of comics artists like Dan Goldman, Molly Crabapple, Nikki Cook, and I love that even though I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, they’ve welcomed me wholeheartedly into their crowd and I get to explore this new world and learn all about it. I love having such a creative group of friends, so I can go to a bookstore and see their work up on the shelves.

The city definitely makes me a better writer because there’s so much to look at and absorb. I go to one party and meet someone who sparks an idea that sets me off. Walking across the Williamsburg Bridge, which I don’t do often enough, is often the catalyst for all kinds of ideas. That’s my little oasis from the noise and stress of the city.

Thanks Rachel!

Make sure to check out Rachel's website and Lusty Lady blog.

Monday, October 8, 2007

"The Bonfire of the Vanities" at 20



It's hard to believe, but 20 years ago this month, that enfant terrible of American letters, Tom Wolfe, published his first novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. It tells the story of rich Wall Street trader Sherman McCoy who has it all - lovely wife, lovely daughter, Yale pedigree, and a huge Park Avenue apartment - but who loses it all when he gets involved in a hit and run in the Bronx. Throw in an awful mistress, a media-starved DA, his career hungry ADA, plus a British alcoholic reporter looking to redeem himself, and the story becomes, as Mr Wolfe would call it, "a real rhubarb."

The defining document of the 1980s, Bonfire presents a nightmarish NYC - where greed, vanity, crime, narcissism, recklessness, and plain old nastiness reigned. It was, fortuitously enough, published around the same time as the big Wall Street crash of 1987 and it became the morality tale of its times. Amazingly, this novel has aged little - it's still funny, fresh, and timely. In many ways, Bonfire was prophetic: pre-OJ, pre-Monica, pre-Paris, pre-Anna Nicole, this book understood what made a story sensational and gave it legs. And if anything, the "vanity" of NYC in 1987 was, by today's standards, quite tame. The world of Masters of the Universe and Social X-rays is more outrageous than ever.

Always a fun read, revisiting Bonfire on its 20th is a good idea. And if you haven't read it, please note: while not a roman a clef, more than one or two characters is based on real people still alive and famous today. Most notably:

Peter Fallow = Christopher Hitchens
Sir Gerald Steiner = Rupert Murdoch
Reverend Bacon = Al Sharpton

A couple of more notes:

1. Do not watch the 1990 movie of Bonfire starring Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis. It's a travesty.

2. Check out Wikipedia's entry on where the title The Bonfire of the Vanities came from.

Are New Yorkers Being Gouged? HELL YES!

Check out this New York Times article about WNYC's "Are You Being Gouged?" feature: WNYC asks "Are You Being Gouged?"

And check out the results: WNYC - Crowdsourcing Map: Are You Being Gouged?

Stage Deli

The great writer SJ Pearlman once referred to the sit-down delis on Seventh Avenue as the "rich pastrami beds of the West 50s." There are many notable ones, including the Carnegie Deli. But for my money, the best of amongst them is the Stage, on Seventh Avenue and 54th street.

The Stage isn't very big but when you walk in you're hit by a wonderful smell that tells you this is a quality joint. A meal for two will set you back about $50 but you'll eat enough that it'll hold you for the day. My favorite time to go is for breakfast, to get a great Nova Scotia lox omelet with a large orange juice and coffee. The portions are huge and it comes with a bagel and cream cheese. Also good is the corned beef hash served with an egg on top. The Stage Deli is a popular spot, very crowded, so the best time to go is on a weekday morning around 10:30 - after the breakfast rush and before the lunch crowd.

Another nice feature: they take credit cards, which the Carnegie Deli goes not. And they have sandwiches named after celebrities like Joe DiMaggio and Tony Randall, plus some who are still alive. It's a good New York experience - don't let the tourists bother you.

Find out more at: Stage Deli

Monday, October 1, 2007

Interview: Kenny Kramer, the "Seinfeld" Inspiration and NYC Legend





First there was Ralph Kramden, then Archie Bunker, then Alex P. Keaton, and then ... The Kramer. Yet Cosmo Kramer, one of the greatest characters in TV history, would not exist without this particular man. He kindly agreed to drop us a few lines to tell us a bit about himself. So here he is, exclusively for Mr NYC, the man who inspired the legend and is now a legend himself, Mr Kenny Kramer!

When did you meet "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David and what kind of relationship did you guys have?

We became friends when we both moved into the same building about the same time.

Was it like Jerry and Kramer on the show, always going back and forth between each other's apartments?

Exactly.

When did you get the idea for "Kramer's Reality Tour" and tell us what we would see
if we took one?

When the character based on me became so popular I realized I'd be a jerk not to cash in on it. All sorts of info on the tour is at http://www.kennykramer.com/RealityTourText.html

Has your celebrity ever caused you any problems? Is it hard being a legend?

Not really.

Tell us something about the real Kramer that people don't know.

I'm a grandfather.

What do you love about NYC?

You can do anything or get anything you want 24/7 and they deliver.

How has the city changed in the years you've lived here?

Tremendous amounts of new building. All sorts of gentrification going on.

What do you miss about the "old days?"

The street hookers.

Do you have any other projects that you're currently working on? What does the future hold for Kenny Kramer?

Having as much fun and making as much $$ as I can with as little work as possible.

Thanks Kenny!