Sunday, January 18, 2009


Over the past week I came across three events positioned to explore the seedy recesses of Berlin history: Dances of Vice's most recent party, Visions of Weimar; a one-woman show based on the music of Kurt Weill, Lily: Her Life, His Music; and a new club night that added me on MySpace (ha), called Berlin NYC.

The crowd at D.O.V. seemed to look better than ever, which is probably because the dark cabaret aesthetic is at the stylistic core of many of the regular patrons' wardrobes.

Wren Britton, creator of jewelry/clothing line Purevile and queen of the D.O.V. vendors was there as usual selling his extraordinary wares while dressed in an extravagant take on the era's costumery.

(The codpiece is vintage, he professed).

As you can see, the outfits of the attendees really were as entertaining as the entertainment, which included some strip tease, torch songs, and cabaret acts, as one would expect given the theme.

(This lady, ever the dandy, came dressed as a moustachioed male impersonator.)

The evening left me really wanting to believe in a renewal of dark NYC nightlife. All I'm looking for are more events like these that can successfully combine historical and cultural elements with the usual sex, drugs, and RnR to make things more interesting.

The Lily show was a different experience altogether. Conceived and performed by mezzo Audrey Babcock and directed by James Marvel, the piece took Jewish prostitute-cum-nightclub performer Lily Weiss from Berlin to Paris in the 1930's and Hollywood in the 40's through the songs of Kurt Weill. The section set in Germany was my favorite, featuring a particularly moving performance by Babcock that had her bruised and battered from an abusive lover, drunk on Johnnie Walker and crooning the "Alabama Song," turning a trick atop the piano as dollar bills were violently shoved into her mouth, attempting switchblade suicide, and eventually escaping the country after Kristallnacht. Babcock sang with biting vulnerability - beaten but never beaten, beaten down. The projections (featuring images inspired by George Grosz and Otto Dix) along with the sound effects that accompanied her made the experience a electric one. A real snapshot of the period.

(And all the alcohol they used onstage was real).

Last in this triptych of Berlin-related events is a new club night in Long Island City. Not really sure why it's called what it is, but there's always plenty of German material in the Goth, Synthpop and Industrial that's usually played at parties such as these. Either way, I'll surely find out when I check out the next one...


Unknown said...

Sounds like a great experience. Sorry I missed it, James. Were you drawn to the subject matter based on the drag experiences from your youth?

Anonymous said...

Berlin NYC is a damn fine party, and the name is from the pre-existing party that was also based in Queens. They play a nice mix of things and the venue is comfy and easy to get to.

-Ein Berliner