Category Archive for Nightcrawling
Every time I go back to New York, it feels like a homecoming. I lived in NYC for years, and the city kindled my passion for nightlife, alt cultures and fashion.
One New Yorker who inspired me over the years is King Vulcanus Levi, club promoter and nightlife royalty. It was an honor to be his Queen for the night, and host an underground party together.
I was here for a TV shoot, and we wanted to celebrate the city’s flamboyant underground nightlife. Reserved Consulting was launching a new club event, called Friday Factory, and it fit the bill perfectly. Their parties shine the spotlight on NYC’s underground through performances and personalities.
Vulcanus and I held court at this giant gold table, which was reserved for us and friends. Thanks to everyone who joined the fun, and to Reserved for the generous bottles of spiced rum!
The scene at Friday Factory was like a “21st century vaudeville.” Most of the guests dressed up to the nines, in styles as diverse as Gothic, retro, leather, lace. Lots of dancing and shenanigans — that’s the New York club kid spirit.
I particularly enjoyed the performance art: burlesque, whips, urban singers. The highlight was my friend Lauren. She covered her body in liquid glue, stood in a corner to let it dry, and then peeled it off and gave bits of the dried “skin” the crowd. Their reactions were priceless.
I’m wearing a Moi-meme-Moitie dress and lace top (the brand is by Mana sama, of Malice Mizer and Moi dix Mois). The blue feathered crown was bestowed upon me, by King Vulcanus Levi, who designed it himself! I urge you to add his Facebook page, to see more designs and inspiration.
(All above photos by Alex E. Houston)
Before Friday Factory, Vulcanus had a pre-party at his Lower East Side apartment. He showed me his collection of handmade crowns and accessories, a pleasure-palace of peacock feathers, playing cards, Gothic crosses, jewels, and other luxuries.
He showed me some of signature looks from over the years. A majestic combination of bird on head, feathered collar, cinched corset (standing next to his friend, latex designer The Baroness).
Vulcanus showed me how he put on his distinctive makeup, with a pure white face, and black V-shaped lips. When I first saw him at NY clubs ages ago, I was blown away by this vision — he seemed like a royal from another planet!
He puts thought into every aesthetic detail, down to the gloves and rings. I’m in awe at his creativity.
All around the room, our friends were doing makeup touchups, pouring cocktails and dancing.
I’ll never get tired of the NY’s nightlife energy. So many friendly and welcoming creatures here.
Living here sparked my love of subcultures and alternative beauty, which continues strong to this day. In New York, you can express who you want to be, and find other like-minded creatives.
And the nightlife can’t be beat! If you want to join the fun, you can check Reserved Consulting’s site for announcements about their next Friday Factory events. And add King Vulcanus Levi on Facebook to see where he’s appearing next.
At dawn, I was happy to lay my weary head at The Library Hotel. In my hazy state, I couldn’t remember my room number: but thankfully, each door has a unique plate that follows the Dewey Decimal System. I was on the Languages floor, so the rooms were called Romance, Asian, Germanic…
It’s the perfect place for me to stay: a hotel dedicated to book-lovers! I love to read at night to wind down, so this put me in instant relaxation mode. Unlike some theme hotels, there is no cheesiness here: it’s 5 star luxury, with seamless service and cozy design.
Here’s a close-up of my white platform sandals, sent by YRU — here’s the link to purchase them. So cool, the clear heel with a cloud print.
The Library Hotel has an ideal location, near Central Park in midtown Manhattan. They have a unique “Writer in Residence” program that aims to give authors inspiration and sanctuary. If you qualify, you get a complimentary stay at their properties, and enjoy perks like the lounge and free Wifi.
My friend, author Elizabeth Wurtzel, joined me for tea. The lounge serves tea, coffee, sweets and fruit all day long “to keep the creative juices flowing.”
My sleeveless jacket with a hood is a gift from Teale Coco. She makes devilish harnesses too, including a full body Lucifer harness.
The lobby has a Great Gatsby feel. (Are you currently reading any good books? I’d love to hear your reading recommendations; leave me a note in the comments!)
Take the elevator to the top floor, and you’ll walk into Bookmarks Bar and Lounge. My friends and I drank literary-inspired cocktails — like a Hemingway made with rum, mint and champagne — on the rooftop terrace, which has a lovely view of the Empire State Building.
Can’t go wrong with a free breakfast that includes berries, lattes and grapefruit juice. Thanks to the Library Hotel for treating us writers like VIPs!
Finally, a closeup of my mint-colored Totoro nail art by Glam Nail Studio. More of their kawaii Japanese nails on their Twitter.
Here are some Instagram snaps from the Dances of Vice burlesque cruise, which sailed from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty. New York, I’ll never grow tired of you.
Do you you prefer dancing at clubs and holing up with a good book? Or are you fond of both, as I am?
Yikes, I’m extremely back-logged with blog posts… but they’ll come hot and heavy from now on, I promise.
Let’s go back in time, to our Wicked Grounds drag performance party. Then I’ll run through the best Gothic, alternative and LGBT nightlife in San Francisco. Sounds good? Strike a pose, vogue, and let’s go-go-GOTH.
You’ll recall that some of my best friends and I gathered in San Francisco over Memorial Day Weekend (you can read all our SF adventures to date).
We learned a big travel lesson: it’s extremely stressful to travel during this American public holiday, since the rest of the country is doing the same. Hotels were booked solid, traffic was choked up… It took far too many hours to pick up this birthday cake with a boot on it (don’t ask why) and drive the short distance to the venue.
Still, Die Schwarze Frau managed to get dolled up, and vamped in the alleyway before her big American debut.
We got to Wicked Grounds, the San Francisco kink cafe, and immediately felt at home. The space is a gathering-place for the alt community, and has regular events such as themed munches. Plus, they serve yummy food and drinks.
We took full advantage of the human-sized cage, and tested out the selection of floggers…
Die Schwarze Frau’s performance was tiger-fierce. She whirled around, screamed at skulls, stripped, and did drops to the ground. I’ll show you more photos from her Tokyo performance soon, and perhaps a video!
To open the show, Naomiyaki did spooky live drawings on bodies, such as an overturned bottle of poison. (She also took most of the photos in this post.)
Naomi asked the audience to participate and made body-art the spot, based on this girl’s personality. Thanks to everyone who came to our event, and to Wicked Grounds for hosting us: we loved meeting you, and hope to be back soon!
After, the shenanigans continued at Dark Shadows, a much-loved San Francisco Gothic night at Cat Club. Such a pleasure to meet many readers and friends at this event.
We’re quite the motley crew to party with. Can you spot in this photo: a bear, blood, Covenant, unicorns, Frankenstein?
The DJ played some of our favorite synth-Goth tracks, like Mylène Farmer’s Désenchantée. On the right: “Despite all my rage, I’m still just a… bat in a cage.”
If you aren’t ready to commit to a permanent tattoo, Goth body-art lets you be expressive for a night.
Things with Trevor got a bit blurry…
I’m wearing a hakama, or traditional Japanese skirt as seen on samurai. It’s a modern interpretation by J-Goth brand Despair.
The MUNI (San Fran subway system) was an easy way for us to club-hop. We weren’t in town for Death Guild at DNA Lounge (every Monday), but we managed to see Bianca Del Rio at Trannyshack. Remember this post about how we met the RuPaul’s Drag Race winner?
I adore retro culture — can can dancers, top hats, burlesque — so we stopped by an Absinthe Party to honor Autumn, the designer behind San Francisco’s Dark Garden Corsetry.
She was traveling to Paris to further study the art of corset-making. (Soon, I’ll do a post about the shops we visited in San Francisco, including vintage and Jpop boutiques).
We raised a glass of the green fairy, and bid her bon voyage.
On another night, we went to Bondage-a-Go-Go, held every Wednesday night at Cat Club. BaGG has been running for 21 years, and is a fixture in the “kinky, fetish-y, gothy, nerdy, punky, leather-y” San Fran scene.
Photos aren’t allowed unless you have special permission, so be assured this is a safe and private space for play. That night, we saw dungeon demos by people in masks, and Go-Go dancers in cages.
The only San Francisco nightlife that didn’t live up to our expectations… was the Castro gay district. Long lines, unfriendly bouncers, and a slightly dingy atmosphere. Stick to the Goth / alt scene, and the lively T-shack drag shows, and you’ll have a grand time in this city.
Have you experienced San Francisco’s clubs and bars? How do they compare to the scene in other cities?
If we missed out on anything in this round-up, let us know in the comments! Coming up: coverage from New York, Cape Town, Taipei, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul…
Are there drag queens in the Middle East? There certainly are — in Tel Aviv, at least!
I’m endlessly intrigued by how subcultures exist (and even thrive) worldwide, especially in regions where being LGBT is grounds for persecution. In the conservative Middle East, Israel is an anomaly: the ancient land is home to a progressive nightlife. And as you will see, it’s fabulous.
On our itinerary, the Israel Tourism Board set aside time for us to explore gay clubs (yes, they are that awesome). The parties don’t start pumping until after midnight, and run until dawn or whenever the crowd decides to go home. My favorite was Evita (Yavne St 31, Tel Aviv), the city’s oldest gay bar. On Friday nights, entrance is free and there is a drag queen performance.
Everyone was so friendly at Evita; people chatted us up and got us dancing. The drag queens came to greet the regulars and goof around for photos.
The club has a mixed crowd — gay, straight, lesbian, etc — giving the party a wonderfully inclusive feeling. In fact, this was one of best alternative nights I’ve ever been to, living up to Tokyo, Berlin, LA, NYC, London and more.
DJ Shlomi Levi has the best name ever. He only broke his stone-faced expression once, to stick out his tongue.
The music was pure fun. Easy, fabulous dance tracks, with some hits and classics thrown in. The club brings in international DJs, like Hansel and Hansel from Switzerland…
… and who can resist a taste of Italia?
I loved watching Osh-Ree work the stage. He’s been a nightlife figure for years, and you can’t help but smile when he sings.
Between the songs, he and K-Long bantered in Hebrew. But the message is clear: “ohohohoh” and “Funtastico” are universal words in the drag queen lexicon!
Osh-Ree told us the gay scene has come a long way in Israel, ever since it was legalized in 1988. Now, Tel Aviv is one of the world’s top LGBT travel destinations, with dozens of parties and a big annual Pride Parade. With no curfew, Israelis party hard and long. Osh-Ree also said, “In this part of the world, you never know when it might be your last night to dance.”
So you might as well enjoy the male stripper and his tiny red undies while you can.
He brought both men and women onstage, and did racy, “acrobatic maneuvers” with them.
Drag queens in cities like San Francisco might stun you with their elaborate sets and dance routines. But I had just as much fun at Evita, where it’s all about having a raucous good time.
The duo sings and dances — no need for lip synching or gimmicks.
My filmmakers are cutting together the travel video now, but here’s a preview of the drag queen show on VideofyMe. (Photography by me, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)
We checked out several other fabulous places in Tel Aviv. The Brown Hotel is a new, LGBT-friendly boutique hotel with a lobby decorated in retro-kitsch. So much fun, sipping cocktails at the bar and exploring the rooftop .
My team and I also went to a massive club, Ha’oman 17 (Abarbanel 88, Tel Aviv-Yafo), which has hosted international DJS like Paul Van Dyk and Tiësto. It’s also the site of Shirazi’s FFF gay parties…
… and as you can see, they’re extremely popular! I’ve never seen so many men crammed into two floors, moving to the throb of electronic music.
If you’re in the mood for bar-hopping, I suggest wandering around Rothschild Boulevard. This wide, tree-lined street is a center of Tel Aviv nightlife.
I’m a fan of Nanushka (Lilenblum 30, Tel Aviv), a nearby bar and restaurant that serves Georgian food.
I saw lots of groups of friends eating and laughing. On the walls, there were mannequin heads in military caps.
Nanushka has several funky rooms, including an outdoor space strung with Christmas lights.
I didn’t get a chance to try the Georgian food here (we were already eating so well in Israel!), but it’s a good excuse to come back.
Did you know Tel Aviv has such a colorful gay scene? Are you surprised by the nightlife here?
Coming up — I’ll show you what the drag queen acts are like in Cape Town, South Africa!
Organizer Heklina (left) invited my friends and me to Trannyshack – the longest-running drag queen show in San Fran. (The name will soon be rebranded to T-Shack, since the “t-word” has taken on different meaning since the event started in 1996.)
We were in for a treat… it was Madonna Tribute night, and the headliner was The Bianca Del Rio. Backstage, Die Schwarze Frau embraces the RuPaul season six winner. Read on, to be blown away by the feisty performance photos!
Die Schwarze Frau is Yukiro’s Gothic drag-queen persona. Before the show, she spooked up the San Fran streets. Those long nail-gloves nearly took out my eye…
Sucking on the blood of young cute boys. That’s the secret to staying forever young.
That night, Trannyshack was dedicated to Madonna (they have various themes each time). The show began at 11:30pm with a Megaman drag act, performed to “True Blue”.
We were impressed by the elaborate staging and choreography of each act — some had a dozen people on stage, prancing around with handmade props. The makeup and outfits were “top quality,” such as this glittering sugar skull trio.
The sold-out audience went ballistic when Bianca Del Rio took the microphone. Heklina brought Die Schwarze Frau on stage, and introduced her to the crowd!
Bianca is one funny bitch. I was falling over laughing at her crowd observations, and witty repartee.
Trannyshack usually takes place at DNA Lounge (375 Eleventh St, San Francisco). There’s a DNA pizza parlor next door, covered in alt posters. Drag queens and pizza = best combo ever.
Outside, we tottered around with these fabulous yet friendly people. Styles ranged from low-brow to avantgarde to punk, and everything in between.
How about this divine hand-flip in motion?
We went back in for more intense theatrics. T-Shack is an institution, and brings in the top drag queen performers from all over the country.
Doesn’t this photo remind you of the “Time Warp” dancers on the upper levels, in the Rocky Horror Picture Show?
We met Holy McGrail, a celebrated San Francisco performer who calls herself a “Faux Queen Diva”.
Bianca returned, as the stunning Evita. She waved manically, while lip-syncing to “Don’t cry for me Argentina” partly in Spanish. Oh, what a moment!
During the instrumental break, she pretended to be bored and sat down on the floor. You can see how much the crowd adores her.
The show went on, with more incarnations of Madonna. “Hey, Mr DJ put a record on I wanna dance with my baby. Music!”
“Strike a pose, Vogue. Let your body move…”
Even the backup dancers went all out with makeup and wigs. (All photos in this post by yours truly, La Carmina.)
Heklina announces the last performer, and a White Rabbit darts out…
… to do a naughty Alice in Wonderland romp. Can you name all the characters represented?
When it rains rainbow confetti all over, you know you’re in the right place. Travelers to San Francisco, you simply must experience Trannyshack (or now, T-Shack). Get tickets well in advance, since they sell out, and check their site for upcoming special events. Try to see the annual “Star Search”, a fierce smackdown to find the next “Big-Wig” of SF drag!
And congrats to Bianca Del Rio, for taking the RuPaul’s Drag Race crown. Did you watch this season, and cheer for her?
This dark queen surely did. Die Schwarze Frau is performing her drag show in Tokyo, on June 15 and 22 — mark the dates in blood. Details to come on her blog.