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There She Is, Murray Hill and Ms. Lez

The seventh annual Ms. Lez competition took place last night in Williamsburg, and, with everybody’s favorite Catskills-evoking drag king, Mr. Murray Hill, as host, it was bent on finding the most fabulous lesbian, transgendered, or otherwise “queer” woman in New York City. Judges including longtime drag queen Linda Simpson and Rose Troche, director of the nineties indie-dyke classic Go Fish, evaluated seven contestants who proved that lesbians could be just as potty-mouthed as men. The winner was Miss I Heart Brooklyn, a fake-ditsy, bikini-clad bombshell who made “summer water safety” her platform, tossing dental dams out to her hoards of female fans. “If you’re drowning, just take out your portable dam — and you're not even in the water anymore!” she chirped. Before the show began, we chatted with some of the major players.

Bill Keller, Staff Perform Amazing Feats of Near-Homeless Newspapering

The Times waiting at our door this morning had a substantial heft. This would not normally be noteworthy, particularly on a Friday, when we get not one but two arts sections and the straight-to-the-trash Escapes. But we'd half-expected a slim volume today, around the size of our college paper. Why? Because the Times news staff is finally moving into the big, shiny new building across from Port Authority this weekend, and everyone had to have their desks packed up by 6 p.m. last night. Which raised the interesting question of how they'd put out the weekend papers. We hear computers and phones remain on 43rd Street, and reporters and editors are expected to work in their near-empty cubicles through the weekend. (Research material? Reference books? Old notes? Eh, who needs 'em!) The biggest challenge: We're told Culture's actual move is happening Sunday night. Up against the Tonys. And The Sopranos. Ain't moving day fun?

Music and Passion Not Much Longer the Fashion: Copa to Close July 1

The famed — if these days sort of down-on-its-heels — Copacabana nightclub is set to close in its current 34th Street location on July 1. It's been known for some months that the club will become a casualty of Hudson Yards redevelopment: A stop on the extended 7 line will go in its spot. But the actual closing date was first confirmed to us yesterday afternoon by a club publicist. The original Copa was on 60th Street; it relocated first to 57th Street and Eleventh Avenue, and it has been at its current location for the past five years. Some of the club's current parties will move to Columbus 72, which is also owned by the Copa crew, but there's no new location yet for the famous club. "Eminent domain," grumbled the club's publicist. —Tayt Harlin

Paul McCartney Invades Starbucks!

Paul McCartney’s new album, Memory Almost Full, is the first on Starbucks’ new record label, Hear Music, and so to launch it today the java monolith has been playing the album nonstop at its 10,000 shops worldwide. How were people subjected to the music handling it? At the three Starbucks locations on Eighth Avenue between 16th and 23rd Streets — yup, three in seven blocks — the worker bees weren't allowed to do interviews, and they didn't want us to photograph or interview patrons. We did anyway.

Diddy on Passive-Aggressive Designer Discounting

the diddy
We'll have more red-carpet interviews from last night's CFDA awards later today, including Oprah on The Vagina Monologues, Rashida Jones on The Office — she's not leaving! — and Alicia Keys on sunbathing naked. But for now, let's hear what Diddy told Jada Yuan about his designer-discount arrangement with Tom Ford:
What designer do you most like getting free stuff from?
Probably Tom Ford, but he ain't sent me nothin' free yet. If I wear something at an awards show, he'll send me stuff, but I like just waking up and just wearing it. I'm cool with the discount. He has the same one at the Sean John store. A small one? Thirty percent. He gives me 30. I give him 30.
We're amused by this transparent cry for help, but we're also curious: Which designers hook each other up? Can Miucca and Donatella take what they want from each other's collections? Presumably Valentino and Armani would have to pay retail. Does Diddy get his pick of Zac Posen … but make Zac pay for Sean John? This is a realm of etiquette we hadn't considered before.

Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big Shilling

A flyer that recently turned up in the in-box:

It's all you need to know about New York in the aughts: luxury condos (in east midtown!), Jay McInerney, and "his favorite summer wines." We'd make a joke, but then, wouldn't that be redundant?

Brooklyn Bedbugs Invade Marty Markowitz’s Building

It's not news that bedbugs are resurgent in New York, infesting all sorts of apartments in all parts of the city. But now we know the little critters might be heading for our leaders: Several residents of Marty Markowitz's Prospect Park West apartment house confirm that the borough president's building has an outbreak of the bugs. One resident spotted her own infestation two years ago and hired an exterminator; two months ago, another fled her apartment because of the bugs. Flyers appeared in the building last month carrying pictures of the tiny culprits and reminding residents of scheduled exterminator visits on the first Saturday of each month. Markowitz's spokeswoman says the beep's apartment has so far been spared. But he's still being safe. "I'm going to go along with my building's plans to fumigate to prevent my unit and others from getting them," he told us via the rep. Good luck, Marty. The borough is counting on you. —Eric V. Copage

Eric Alterman Is the Aging-Lefty Lindsay Lohan

Is Eric Alterman spinning out of control? After his arrest last night at the Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, where the cops cuffed him in a gymnasium “spin room” at Manchester's St. Anselm College and hauled him down to the police station for allegedly trespassing at a private party, maybe Alterman’s friends and family should be concerned that he’s becoming the aging-pundit answer to Lindsay Lohan. The lefty commentator has a taste for mayhem, if only, until now, of the verbal variety. Over the past two decades, worried Alterman watchers have felt growing alarm as his pugnacity and all-around contrariness have escalated to potentially aneurysm-inducing levels. Indeed, when this reporter once shared a subway ride with him from the Upper West Side, he announced: “I am so fucking angry about the war in Iraq, I think I’m going to explode.” This reporter’s reply: “That’s fine, Eric, but if you’re going to explode, do you mind waiting till I get off the train?”

The Strand Turns 80

The Strand Bookstore turns 80 tomorrow, all eighteen miles of it. It was founded by Ben Bass on what was then Book Row — Fourth Avenue, from Astor Place to Union Square, was home to 48 bookstores. Today the Strand is the only survivor, relocated around the corner, to Broadway and 12th Street, and the store is run by the next two generations of Basses, Fred — who took over management in 1956 — and his daughter, Nancy. After the jump, Bass reminisces about famous customers and famous books, and explains why he likes being surrounded by Barnes & Noble stores.

Celebrating ‘Lulu,’ Art World Wonders: Is Gagosian the Conniving Collector?

Mega-gallerist Larry Gagosian was a notable no-show at the book party for Danielle Ganek's art-world tell-all, Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him, the other night at the Guggenheim. (Ganek, a former editor at Mademoiselle, is married to a Guggenheim trustee.) The room was full of collectors, and her book is poised to provide the gallery set with a good month or so of pin-the-name-on-the-character. There's an icy auctioneer (Tobias Meyer of Sotheby's? Simon de Pury of Phillips?), and one of the book's wickedest caricatures is Martin Better, an avaricious collector who buys "art the way some people throw groceries into a cart" and cynically flips the novel's titular masterpiece of a painting. Better's likely inspiration, according to people in the room, was Gagosian. Remarkably, he blurbed the book. "She got it right," the blurb reads, "And that's saying something." He would know. —Michael Idov

With Street View, Google Has Won Victory Over Ourselves. We Love Big Google.

As you may have heard, Google this week rolled out another beta feature that will soon, depending on how things play out, either prove an innocuous time-waster or some sort of privacy-ending, terror-enabling, total-surveillance nightmare. It's Street View, and it's exactly what it sounds like: a ground-level Google Earth that plants you smack in the middle of a street rather than floating above it. New York is one of the few cities to get the early treatment, with most of the Manhattan grid and good chunks of the outer boroughs already covered. Once plopped down at an intersection of your choosing, you can take in a 360-degree view or "walk" up and down the block; storefronts distend woozily around you, and parked vehicles dissolve into nothing where the photos are stitched together. As trippy as the experience is, we're a little intrigued about Street View's next step. What happens when the company photogs have traversed all the places with, you know, streets? Volunteers roaming every hill and dale taking pictures? Flying unmanned Googledrones scouring the countryside? Of course. Street View demo [Google]

Upper West Side Middle-School Search Seeks Weapons, Phones

As if middle school wasn't filled with enough drama — the cliques! The science projects! — students arriving at M.S. 54, the Booker T. Washington School, on the Upper West Side today were surprised to find cops using metal detectors to check their backpacks for weapons this morning. Was there a reason to be worried? Nope — a 311 operator says these "random, unannounced" visits are "a new safety initiative by the NYC police department." The non-weapon-toting kids weren't concerned about guns; they were worried about their cell phones, which are technically banned from schools and presumably would show up in the search — and, if found, won't be returned till Tuesday. It's one way to put the kibosh on excessive text messaging. —S. Jhoanna Robledo

Martha Plimpton Isn't the Only Duane Reade Hater

So now we know that Martha Plimpton hates Duane Reade. She's not the only one, of course, and, as it turns out, there's now a blog — why wouldn't there be a blog? — devoted to chronicling the horrors of the drugstore chain that's eating New York. I Hate Duane Reade launched in February and encourages reader to share their tales of woe. The first post meditated on the one-line-or-several debate; since then the site has included "Overheard in DR" posts ("Teenage girl shaking her fist: 'Fuck you Duane Reade! Gah!' –76th & Broadway"), numerous pharmacy horror stories, and April's sort of genius taxonomy of your standard Duane Reade employees. (A sample: "Photo Guy — He's there. He's just standing there. He knows you want him to say 'cash only' and invite you up. Nope. He's photo guy. Don't mess.") "After way too many bar sessions filled with rants about customer service, specifically the DR," the founders wrote on the site, "we decided to vent our frustrations in prose … and sometimes haiku." Here's a try: Martha Plimpton stews / While filling a prescription / "You have a Club Card?"Katie Hintz Earlier: Don't Get Martha Plimpton Started on Duane Reade Related: The Mystery of Duane Reade [NYM]

Broadway/Lafayette- Bleecker Combo Just the Start of F-Line Changes

We picked up the news from 2nd Ave Sagas that the MTA is set to combine the Broadway/Lafayette and Bleecker Street stations, so you can transfer from the B/D/F/V to the 6 going both downtown and — this is the beauty part — uptown. But wait, as the disembodied voice says, there's more! This is just one part of a whole menu of subway projects for which the MTA is seeking $3.8 billion in federal funding. There's $37 million for the Broadway/Lafayette-Bleecker work, plus another $12.6 to make the combined stop ADA-compliant. There's $11 million to replace "historical arch canopies" over Fourth Avenue at the Smith-9th F stop "as per the National Register of Historic Places" — that means fixing the roof spanning the control houses at either end of the stop with original details— plus $23 million to fix lights and MetroCard collection at Smith-9th stop. There's planned work on the 6 in the Bronx, and on some stations in the Rockaways, as part of the proposal, too, but never mind that. With all this new F work, it'll be a nice ride to Park Slope. —Alec Appelbaum Notice of Public Hearing and Description of Projects [MTA, PDF] Earlier: The Subway Transfer We've All Been Waiting For

Central Park's Imagine Mosaic Is Collapsing

Imagine there's no Imagine Mosaic (it's easy if you try): The centerpiece of Central Park's Strawberry Fields is in danger of collapsing. The first cracks appeared in the 25-year-old memorial five or six years ago, according to M.C. Reiley, the Central Park Conservancy's supervisor of monuments conservation, and what he called the "last, best chance" to save it came last week. "The problem is that it wasn't constructed very well," said Reiley, who is also a sculptor. The mosaic is eleven feet in diameter but sits on a concrete slab only ten feet across. "So, right off the bat there's been this problem with a half foot of the mosaic all the way around not resting on anything," Reiley explained.

Al Gore's Assault on the Upper East Side

Al Gore spoke at the 92nd Street Y last night, and crowds thronged the Upper East Side institution's Lexington Avenue entrance in advance of the talk. There were a handful of Gore 2008 campaigners, a group of enthusiastic — if basically nonsensical — Lyndon LaRouche supporters, (none of whom came from New York and most of whom were dressed in fat suits and leaves), and a great number of enamored New Yorkers. They stood around, confused and bemused by the LaRouchies, waiting for friends to arrive — mostly, alas, in cars — for the lecture. We asked them about their thoughts on Gore, the election, and their carbon footprints.

Hands Across the East Village

Proving that everything eighties is hot again, an estimated 7,000 New York City tenants and tenant activists formed a human chain around the massive, recently sold, increasingly rent-destabilized Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village apartment complex last night — it's Hands Across the East Village! — to protest rising rents and demand state laws to protect affordable housing. But did they really really ring that big old thing, which stretches from 14th to 23rd Streets and First Avenue to Avenue C?

Marty's Purge: It's About Gowanus, Not Yards, Says a Survivor

Five longtime members of Brooklyn's Community Board 6 were replaced by Borough President Marty Markowitz, as today’s Times reported, and there was a pattern: All were active opponents of Atlantic Yards. It was a purge, it seemed, and even stranger one conducted by a man usually viewed by the press — us included — as a kind of lovable, pizza-eating panda in a captain's hat. The five members' terms were up, and Markowitz certainly has the power to replace them, but it's typically not done, and the move seems surprisingly Machiavellian for a man best known for his boosterish enthusiasm for cheesecake. So we called CB6 member Jeff Strabone, another Yards critic whose own term isn't up until next year — and here the plot thickened. Per Strabone, Atlantic Yards was not the real cause of Marty's house-cleaning. Nope, Markowitz is looking a step ahead.

Alice Walker Talks About Feminism, But Not About Motherhood

There was an everydaughter-size elephant in the auditorium last night as old friends Gloria Steinem and Alice Walker, in conversation at the 92nd Street Y, talked about almost everything — meditation, California, Rwanda, George Bush (he's bad!), peaches (mean freedom!), and mothers (complicated!). But they did not talk about Walker's daughter, Rebecca, the feminist writer — and also Steinem’s goddaughter — who revealed in her recent book, Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence that she is estranged from her Pulitzer-winning parent. (Okay, maybe it wasn't entirely surprising: In Rebecca's earlier book, Black, White and Jewish, she wrote about feeling emotionally neglected as a child.) “I am always happy to talk about my mother,” said Walker at the discussion. “My mother was a big woman, a strong woman, a beautiful woman, a woman who could not be beaten.” But there wasn't a word on being a mother herself — not that there weren't opportunities.