"There's a lot of sexy geeks here tonight," said Clem Snide front man Eef Barzelay from the stage. The crowd at Irving Plaza last night for The Daily Show's "Ten Fucking Years" anniversary concert cheered in agreement. From the program guide that is sure to be on eBay within 24 hours (introduction by Thomas Pynchon for serious!) to the bouncing thrum of Superchunk, the event was a social mixer few would dare to host. (Consider: Sarah Vowell was one of night's biggest star sightings.) Proceeds went to the cool kids' favorite charity, Dave Eggers's 826NYC.
The Little Dog Laughed is freshly opened, well-reviewed, and its star — Julie White — delivers one of the best performances in recent Broadway memory. So it's the sort of show at which you expect you'll run into boldfaced sorts. That it's about show business — if, yes, viciously satirically — only increases the likelihood you'll see Hollywood types. And, sure enough, last night's crowd murmured with quasi-interest at the sight of a black-knit-cap-wearing Woody Harrelson in one row and a still-recognizable-despite-possibly-having-had-work-done Steve Guttenberg across the theater. When intermission came, the two stars gravitated toward each other (some sort of Cheers–Ted Danson–Three Men and a Little Lady connection, perhaps?). At which point they decided to switch seats. And dates. Neither man was the night's biggest star attraction, however. That honor belonged to Garrison Keillor, who politely and patiently received good wishes from fans — even one elderly man who, while Keillor was pinned in the Cort Theater's tiny men's room, face to face with a urinal, took the opportunity to lean in and tell him, "My wife and I spend every Saturday night listening to your show." And the occasional Wednesday night, apparently, watching him do something else.
— Adam Sternbergh
New York's big annual art-auction season broke $1 billion for the first time in history last night, and nearly two dozen artist's records have been set in just the past two days. Amid the skyrocketing prices, new stars are being anointed left and right. New geniuses suddenly discovered? Hardly. The artists hitting record prices are often either backed by a network of powerhouse alliances or their buyers are betting on the art world's version of insider information.
The sales crossed into ten-figure mark late last night at Christie's, where the main sales room featured every major art-world player from Jeffrey Deitch to Aby Rosen to artist and Louis Vuitton handbag designer Takashi Murakami. (The auctions are something like the Oscars of the art world: There's campaigning and backroom deals, and everyone in the room has gotten a new haircut for the event.) The waiting list for seats, the auction house said, numbered more than 1,000.
Three weeks ago, we noted a somewhat well-duh piece in the Times "Metro" section about how Passaic, New Jersey, reacted to Michel Gondry's shooting a movie there. We noted a quote from Gondry in the piece — "But I'm not going to fix their life. And that's something that makes me a little sad" — and we commented that "it makes us sad, too." Yesterday afternoon, inexplicably, this response (retort? explanation? existential musing?) arrived from Gondry, via his publicist:
Dear Mr. Intelligencer —
I am really sorry I've made you sad. To cheer you up, I decided to share with you some of the exciting things I did for my movie BE KIND, REWIND in the lovely city of Passaic, N.J., and how, in the process, I encountered a lot of unique and interesting people. I can imagine you wagging your tail in anticipation to read all the significant details of my story.
There were about 1,300 people crammed into the Guggenheim for the Hugo Boss Prize party last night, and virtually all of them were in black, as if by commandment. (The crowd, curling up the building's ramp, looked like one enormous, dark martini-carrying centipede.) The $50,000 prize, funded by the German clothing company and administered by the Guggenheim Foundation, is presented every other year and, since its founding in 1996, has become the U.S. equivalent of Britain's very big-deal Turner Prize.
We have seen gay heaven — or, at least, the older gentleman sitting in front of us at the Ambassador Theater, prone to wild clapping, spontaneous standing ovations, and a few outbursts of "Oh, my God! It's Chita Rivera! It's Chita Rivera!" has — and it looks like last night's tenth-anniversary performance of Chicago, a benefit for Safe Horizons, in which every person who's been in the revival's cast either made a cameo appearance or performed an entire number. Who was there?
Jay-Z's comeback album, Kingdom Come, found its way onto the Internet this weekend, and after hearing it, we're thinking it would be smart for Jay to stop calling himself the Michael Jordan of hip-hop. The best producers money can buy — Dre, Just Blaze, the Neptunes, Kanye West (though not, oddly, Timbaland) — turn in competent but overfamiliar work, while Jay-Z sounds altogether too comfy as he raps about how mature he is these days (there's even a song called "30-Something"). There might be a 50-point game in here somewhere — like the title track, with its deconstructed "Superfreak" beat — but, mostly, this is the laid-back sound of a middle-aged superstar nursing his balky knee through a long, grueling season, only to just miss the playoffs. (Meantime, Lil' Wayne, the Lebron James of hip-hop, sounds lean, mean, and hungry over Jay-Z's beats.) Jay-Z might keep in mind what happened after MJ's final comeback: He got fired from the executive suite.
Young H.O. - "30's the New 20, N-gga!" [Notes From a Different Kitchen]
The King Has Returned [Discobelle.net]
Leak of the Week: Jay-Z Does Not Have Time for MySpace [Idolator]
Sandra Bernhard ("Like a Rolling Stone") is actually funny, even if it pains one to admit it. Medeski, Martin & Wood ("Buckets of Rain") are just plain cool. Allen Toussaint ("Mama You've Been on My Mind") has some sweet, sweet pipes. And plays a mean piano. Fine threads to boot. Natalie Merchant ("Hattie Carroll") still has her voice. She also still looks like a bit of a bag lady. Warren Haynes ("I Shall Be Released") has a roadie who looks disturbingly like Haynes himself. Phil Lesh ("Thunder on the Mountain") carries a man purse, as spotted on Broadway post-show. Wonder what's in it. The Roots ("Masters of War") injected new meaning into an old warhorse by singing the first verse to the tune of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Cat Power ("House of the Rising Sun") has a voice so enchanting, all she has to do is open her mouth and you're hooked. Surprise guest Cyndi Lauper ("Ring Them Bells," with Jill Sobule) is still a screwball. With a squeezebox. Jamie Saft ("Ballad of a Thin Man") defies congruity with a two-foot beard and a prep-school haircut. Bottom line: Pretty much an excellent show.
— Duff McDonaldThe Music of Bob Dylan [Music for Youth]
Joanne Carson's glee grew with each sale of Capotiana, her arms shimmying with delight. Truman Capote's longtime friend, with whom he frequently stayed in L.A. and at whose home he died, Carson put over 300 of the writer's personal items up for sale today at Bonhams & Butterfields auction house on Madison Avenue. Tweedy men and reedy women sat tightly among the writer's belongings. Bidder No. 4445 declined to answer questions, but he did repeatedly knock his chair and elbow into a dummy wearing a diminutive blue "Kid Capote" jersey that somehow retained its shape. (It looked like 4445 was bidding on Lot 1095, two engraved and, one hopes, durable pewter mugs.)
The early lots were books from Capote's personal library.
Some masterpieces were missing from the record-setting Christie's Impressionist auction last night, but a slew of boldfaced names showed up to bid, undaunted.
The night ended with $491 million in sales, making it the biggest art auction ever, and paddles were waving right out of the gate. Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Lauria outbid several opponents for lot No. 5, a Piet Mondrian study for "Broadway Boogie Woogie" that went for $3.3 million. Michael Steinhardt, seated with his wife, Judy, outbid powerhouse art dealer Jeffrey Deitch for another Mondrian study just a minute later, paying $2.1 million. And that was just the beginning.
Aspiring rapper and Britney Spears barnacle Kevin Federline played his first New York show this weekend — it kicked off the tour promoting his self-released debut, Playing With Fire — and Webster Hall Saturday night was a curious sight indeed.
An informal survey of the crowd yielded a foursome who confessed that they were friends of K-Fed's manager and had gotten free tickets; two judgment-reserving girls who also had free tickets, which they'd won from TRL; a priceless foreign couple who admitted they'd first heard of Kevin Federline "this day"; and one couple with mixed intentions. (She: "I'm not a fan, just really into the tabloids!" He, glumly: "My girlfriend made me come.") And though the venue may have been sorely undersold — estimates put the sparse crowd around 250, a sixth of the Webster Hall's capacity — the impenetrable bunch of hopped-up fans pressed against the stage were an undeniably ecstatic bunch packed five rows deep.
One of the Post's antique gossipers is suddenly giving Pitchfork Media a run for its money. In today's column, Liz Smith breaks an obscure new singer who's just had her first show at Pianos. Who's this up-and-comer? Well, it's 20-year-old Alexa Ray Joel, spawn of Billy, and her first CD was personally fed to the columnist by her mom, Christie Brinkley — but otherwise Liz's excitement over discovering a hot unsigned artist is palpably bloggerlike. "Her voice is big, beautiful and perhaps even more impressive than her impressive dad's," Smith writes. But there's a problem: "She doesn't have a label yet."
Poor, unsigned girl. But wait! Somewhat unlike your typical self-released debut EP, however, young Joel's has already been picked up for exclusive nationwide distribution at Target stores. She is also paying her dues on the road, "slowly building her career," as Liz puts it. A jog over to Alexa's MySpace page does reveal a full touring schedule, albeit one filled with Northeastern dates marked PRIVATE; her next gig after Pianos is something called the Princess Grace Awards. Wasn't that TV on the Radio's big breakout moment?
Young Lady Is Hot! [NYP]
Alexa Joel [AlexJoel.com]
Alexa Ray Joel [MySpace.com]
We recently saw the new Broadway production of Grey Gardens, which opens Thursday night, and, without stepping on the formidably critical toes of our esteemed colleague Jeremy McCarter, we should say we liked it quite a lot. But we're also forced to confess we'd never seen the famous 1975 Maysles brothers documentary of the same name, which brought the detailed Hamptons Gothic of Big and Little Edie Beale's existence to a popular audience, and which subsequently became a cult — and camp — classic. (We know; the omission surprises us as much as it does you.) That oversight, however, was finally rectified last night, when we noticed Turner Classics was broadcasting the Maysles film. Now, then, a public-service announcement: Go see the documentary before you see the show. It's not that the Broadway Grey Gardens doesn't stand on its own; it does. And it's not that Christine Ebersole isn't impressive as Little Edie; she is. But to see Little Edie in 1975, and to see how Ebersole channels her onstage — well, wow. It's a revelation we wish we'd had last week at the Walter Kerr, not last night on the couch.
(And it wouldn't hurt to read Gail Sheehy's "A Return to Grey Gardens" in this week's magazine. Turns out Gail befriended Little Edie back in the old days, and the piece gives, among other things, a valuable window on what in the musical is true and what isn't so much.)
A Return to Grey Gardens [NYM]
It seems inevitable, really, that artistically underrated tattoo artists would eventually invade the downtown gallery scene — they're charged, after all, with not only the daunting task of flawless execution but also with achieving the sort of on-the-spot originality that will appease even the pickiest patron. And tomorrow night, it finally happens. That's when Fuse Gallery, on Second Avenue in the East Village, opens "Draw," an exhibition celebrating those who can do, well, just that. The show includes nearly 200 stunning, hand-scribbled doodles by some of the biggest names in the underground art world, including virtuosos from tattoo parlors, rock clubs, skate shops — and also including some Whitney Biennial alums and Deitch Project superstars.
Though music fans are still busy saying good-bye to CBGB, which shut its doors last week, Jay Grossen is not yet done mourning the loss of the Howard Johnson's in Times Square. The restaurant closed a little over a year ago, but he's still talking about its signature neon sign. "It's iconic in New York, and it's gone, gone forever," he said. "Nobody really knew what was going to happen." At New York's second Nerd Nite — a popular, hipsterish learn-while-you-drink event imported from Boston and held at Orchid Lounge last night — Grossen gave a speech titled "Fuck the Trees, Save a Neon Sign." He kicked off his PowerPoint presentation with Ace of Base's "The Sign," naturally, and went on to discuss the dire state of these bright-light billboards worldwide. "Especially in New York with condos going up on every corner, these are going," Grossen explained. "And where are they going? To the trash." ("Awww," the crowd dutifully sighed at this point.) He described seeing the old McHale's sign in a Chelsea antique shop and encouraged the audience to get involved in neon-sign preservation. Are we convinced to make this our new cause? Not entirely. But the things look cool, and the guy's got a point.
— Lori FradkinNeon-No-More [Flickr]
Lauryn Hill's fall from grace after recording a world-dominating solo album in 1998 has been well chronicled. She released one further album in eight years. She fell under the influence of a mysterious spiritual advisor. Her last major solo concert was a 2003 acoustic show at the Vatican, in which she bashed the "corruption, exploitation, and abuses … by the clergy." And so when she sang last night at the W Hotel on Lexington Avenue – her first performance with a live band in five years, and, as befits such a momentous occasion, it was in a corporate events room and only open to Starwood preferred guest cardholders from American Express – the question on everyone's mind was which Hill would show up. Genius Lauryn or Crazy Lauryn?
Our money was on Crazy Lauryn.
With this week's release of Pussy Cats Starring the Walkmen, the New York warble rockers have breathed new life into Harry Nilsson's 1974 original Pussy Cats, an odd album produced by John Lennon in the midst of his "lost weekend" debauchery. The Walkmen faithfully and completely re-create the pop gem, a bewildering mix of classics and originals recorded while Lennon and his drinking buddy Nilsson were tearing through L.A.'s bar scene.
The release also reanimates an almost-forgotten strand of creative gimmickry: the full-length cover. Past reimaginings have run the gamut from genre makeovers (Booker T. & The MGs' McElmore Avenue was a funky Abbey Road) to hipster novelties (Pussy Galore's Exile on Main Street, a cassette-only limited edition) to theatrical nerdiness (Rufus Wainwright's recent restaging of Judy Garland's classic 1961 Carnegie Hall performance). Some hit and some miss, but that's no reason to give up on the genre all together. Now the Walkmen have us thinking about some other bands we'd like to see paired with classic LPs.
At The 24-Hour Plays Monday night, a starry group of actors, playwrights, and other show people — Jennifer Aniston, David Cross, Adam Rapp, Elizabeth Berkeley, Wallace Shawn — got together to write, direct, rehearse, and perform six plays in just one day's time. It was a benefit for Working Playground, which brings arts programs to underserved New York City schools, and in addition to raising money, it gave its audience a night of unpolished but riveting entertainment. Some highlights …
Continuing today's 1999 tech-boom theme, the Times reports that the United Talent Agency, which represents the likes of Vince Vaughn, M. Night Shyamalan, and Dick Wolf, has created a unit to scout the Web-video stars of tomorrow. Requisite photos of young men dressed in business casual with dubious stubble accompany the piece, as do on-the-Web-everyone's-an-artist-type nostrums. But there are few details on which videos the unit is eyeing as it seeks its next-generation filmmakers.
That's why New York film critic Logan Hill is here to help. Here are his five surefire bets for Web-video stardom. All he asks is a ticket to the premiere, 3 percent on the deals, and 10 percent of the back end.
The funny thing about Beck is that as his career grows, he becomes less and less of a star. He started out as the slacker's poster child with Loser, balanced populism with avant-garde sonics on Odelay, and now he turns out an interesting but semi-popular album every year. He was just one musician among six at his intimate acoustic set last night at the tiny Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts, the former synagogue on the Lower East Side, his long hair hanging over his face and a fedora shielding his eyes. The low-key and unhyped concert was billed as "Beck & Friends," and the friends on the bill weren't big-name pals but rather the guys he tours with: guitarist Matt Mahaffey, bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, drummer Matt Sherrod, keyboardist Brian Lebarton, and dancer Ryan Falkner. There weren't even any celebs in the crowd.