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The 1999 New York Awards


Plugged-in Player

When Elektra Records signed Moby in 1993, the label thought it had finally found a marketable poster child for the burgeoning techno scene, a recognizable "rock star" in a genre that keeps big names behind the turntables and out of the spotlight. But Moby marches to the beat of an entirely different drum machine. In 1997, when electronic music was ready for its MTV close-up, Moby released the punk-rock-oriented Animal Rights and soon parted ways with the label. This year, as New York clubs twitched to the repetitive beats of a house-music revival, Moby expanded the emotional range of electronica by building samples from Alan Lomax blues and gospel field recordings into the surprisingly organic Play. Alternately haunting and transcendently joyous, the album is a compelling challenge to both mainstream listeners who consider techno cold and heartless and dance-music purists who like it that way. "The people who are working within narrow genres are making uninteresting music," says Moby. This time around, the world was ready to listen: Moby was handpicked to D.J. the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards. Which isn't to say he meant to be anyone's poster child: "A lot of times," says Moby, "pop music is successful in spite of itself."
Robert Levine

Avi Adler
David Stark

Flower Powers

If you find yourself at a banquet table facing an electric-yellow wall of 8,000 lemons or sitting beneath alienlike spheres of gerbera daisies, you're probably in the presence of an Avi Adler floral creation. Adler, 44, and his partner, David Stark, 33 -- two former painters who met while inspecting tomatoes in the Union Square Greenmarket -- treat their arrangements like sculptural installations, and their surprising assemblages have made them the most talked-about florists in the city. The two seem influenced in equal parts by avant-garde artists and walks around Wal-Mart, and they've made a specialty of turning prosaic vegetation (wheat grass and cabbage have been two of this year's favorites) into stunning visual tours de force. For the Whitney Museum's Bright Whitney Night gala last March, they created giant balls of white carnations -- 75,000 stems in total. "We went back to flowers that have a bad reputation and made something really great with them," says Stark. "It opens up your mind." For New Year's Eve at the American Museum of Natural History, they're planning a chlorophyll-free extravaganza of metallics, glass, and mirrors. "In New York, everyone goes to all these social events," says Adler. "There are always flowers on the table, but they don't excite anybody. But once you create some sort of ambience, an element that's above and beyond what people are used to, they walk into a room and they are instantly in a great mood."
Sarah Bernard

Jason Flom
A&R Star

In his two decades in the music business, Atlantic Records A&R executive Jason Flom has steered the careers of acts from Twisted Sister to Tori Amos, but his greatest achievement may also he be his strangest: turning Kid Rock from an obscure long-haired white rapper from Detroit into a bona fide star behind the triple-platinum Devil Without a Cause. "When I heard Kid Rock's record, I thought, 'This album is too good not to be huge,' " recalls the 38-year-old Manhattan-born Flom. "So I called everybody I know and some people I didn't know." Flom's hard work paid off. After nearly ten years and four albums, Kid Rock reached MTV his way -- complete with long hair and foulmouthed three-foot-tall sidekick Joe C. -- and ignited the rap-rock trend that became the music-business success story of last year. Along the way, he found time to help the similarly populist Matchbox 20 pass the 10 million mark for its first album and make sure Sugar Ray didn't fall prey to one-hit-wonder-dom with its second album, cheekily titled 14:59. "Jason can tell the real thing from trendy, of-the-moment acts," says Val Azzoli, co-CEO of Atlantic Records. "He's got a great bullshit-detector." Not to mention forthcoming potential-hit albums from Kid Rock's sidekick, band, and D.J.
Ethan Brown

John Belle
Grand Central Conductor

Whitney Warren, one of the chief architects of Grand Central Terminal, envisioned back in 1913 that the Beaux-Arts masterpiece could double as a "bazaar" -- but it took restoration architect John Belle to pull it off. "You know, they're New York merchants -- that's the wonderful thing about it," Belle says of the shops, coffee bars, lunch spots, and gourmet market that have sprouted inside Grand Central. More wonderful still is how Belle's firm, B.B.B. Architects & Planners, found ways for a nonindigenous players like the David Rockwell-designed Michael Jordan's steak house to co-exist with classics like the Oyster Bar and resurrections like the hipster-loaded Campbell Apartment bar. Belle labored for more than a decade with retail analyst Williams Jackson Ewing, who planned Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, to ensure that the commercial element wouldn't upstage the architecture, particularly the vast main concourse. It was a gamble: Retail rents are crucial for repaying $85 million in bonds that financed the final third of the restoration. But Belle can rest easy. Grand Central does more than live and breathe again -- it eats, drinks, and is merry. "I love sitting in the Campbell Apartment," Belle enthuses. "I once had a wonderful single-malt scotch there, a Macallan, that was as smooth as the surroundings."
Robert Kolker

John McDonald
Mercer Street Magnate

John McDonald's SoHo hot spots Merc Bar and Canteen attract pretty young things from Sarah Jessica Parker to Jennifer Lopez, but the 31-year-old restaurateur is more interested in talking modernist floor plans than A-list seating arrangements. "You have to pay attention to every detail," says McDonald, "from the angle of the place setting to the fabric on the banquette." In the case of Canteen -- London-based futurist designer Marc Newsom's first American project -- that means a sunken dining room, a rec-room-style orange-and-chocolate color scheme, and Day-Glo-orange chairs that are now being sold at a nearby gallery. He recently began putting his high-design aesthetic on the printed page with City NY, a stylish magazine he wants to become an American take on Wallpaper*. And even though he's busy with a new magazine and restaurant, McDonald still finds time to make sure his seven-year-old Merc Bar doesn't go out of style. "It still has the same fabulous customers who came when it first opened," he points out. "The beautiful people still have to eat."
Maura Egan

James Ortenzio

You'd think James Ortenzio would have enough to do. He operates a food-distribution business and a fashion company that makes "updated vintage classics," and he sits on the board of an Internet firm. And he's a pretty significant Republican fund-raiser. Yet he's also found time to run the Hudson River Park Trust, and in September, the Trust unveiled the first short but quite impressive stretch of the Hudson River Park, near Christopher Street, with the kind of aesthetic touches -- plantings along the highway, historic stonework -- that we don't have enough of in New York. "My fugue on the Hudson," he calls it. "A fugue of polyphony." An odd metaphor? Ortenzio speaks almost exclusively in metaphor, as often in Italian or German or Latin as in English, but when cornered, he'll tell you fairly straightforwardly about his pleasure in watching people jog and skate and otherwise use his proto-park, which spent nearly two decades on the drawing board and won't be finished until 2005. "People take this for granted, as they well should," he says. "The shoreline is to be used and protected."

Michael Tomasky

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