21 questions

Dapper Dan Can Ballroom Dance All Night

Photo: Mike Pont/Getty Images

Name: Dapper Dan
Age: “Are you talking about chronological time or biological time?”
Neighborhood: Harlem
Occupation: Designer, hip-hop fashion icon. Next Tuesday, October 7, you can catch him at the book launch for Emily Spivack’s Worn Stories, in which he is featured.

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
I would have to say Robert Day, my father. But if you were referring to someone outside of the family, I would say John Henrik Clarke. He was the first person who opened my eyes historically to the problems that we face as a race, based on what we did as opposed to what was done to us. He taught me to always look to myself.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
A vegetarian burger deluxe from a restaurant I used to love called the Beautiful Way, run by Seventh-Day Adventists on Second Avenue and 12 Street in the 60s and 70s. I used to take all my friends there and trick them. They never knew they weren’t eating meat.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
Contemplate fashion ideas and experiment with them; right now I’m experimenting with different types of embellishment on leather.

What was your first job in New York?
I was an usher for Shakespeare in the Park when James Earl Jones was playing Othello.

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
42nd Street because my niece was one of the dancers, so I was excited. I went a couple of times.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
Yes, I do. I would give quickly to someone in a wheelchair — as long as I don’t see them get up and run afterwards. But no, it’s according to how I feel.

What’s your drink?
Cranberry juice.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
Really often. They’re so simple, anybody can really fix my meals. In the morning, I have a smoothie and some cereal; and in the evening, I have a salad. Nothing complicated. I’m not really into food like that.

What’s your favorite medication?
Ballroom dancing. It relaxes me.

What is the best thing in or about your apartment?
I don’t live in an apartment, I live in a townhouse, and what I like best is all the room. I also really love a lamp that I keep close to my bed. It has a serpent at the bottom, winding up the stem and extending maybe six feet, and at the top it has wings. That’s my favorite piece. The lamp resembles the caduceus, which I am heavily into. I read by that. It’s the light I turn on and the light I turn out.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen on the subway?

When was the last time you stayed out past 3 a.m.?
Saturday. I was ballroom dancing.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
The new Times Square. I could not go to sleep in the movies in the old Times Square, because mice would run up your legs or someone would pick your pockets. The new Times Square is great.

What do you think of Mayor de Blasio?
I think he has good intentions but he gets bad advice.

What do you hate most about living in New York?

If you could banish one person from New York forever, who would it be?
The NYC representative of the NRA.

When’s the last time you drove a car?
This afternoon. I moved from one side of the street to the other.

Finish this sentence: The NYPD _____.
… can be better trained in dealing with the public. That’s a big problem.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
The Times. Especially on Tuesdays when they have the science section.

Where do you go to be alone?
Driving. I love driving. It’s such a free-spirited thing. And I like to go across a bridge. Something about crossing a bridge feels like you’re going away from what you don’t want to be bothered with.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
Wanting to live here in spite of whether you’re rich or poor. To be poor and still want to stay here is something.

Dapper Dan Can Ballroom Dance All Night