Times Square. I started crafting my own adjective-laden metaphor for that nexus of sensory overload, but then I realized that it might work just as well to list a few results of a web search for the phrase “Times Square is like”. So… “Times Square is like Las Vegas times 10!”
“Times Square is like Disneyland. Really!”
“Times Square is like some great cosmic porch light, and we’re all moths to the flame.”
“Times Square is like getting a root canal.”
And my favorite pair, which came up in direct succession: “Times Square is like no other place in the world!”
followed immediately by: “Times Square is like Piccadilly Circus in London.”
But I was surprised that it took until the fifth page of search results for someone to say something like “Times Square is like the holy grail of promotion”. ‘Cause hot damn is it ever true.
But a gentleman from The Netherlands by the name of Justus Bruns has decided to make it his mission to turn as many of the Times Square ad spaces as he can, for however long he can, into places to display art. He’s calling the project “Times Square to Art Square”, or TS2AS, and this is his pitch:
I saw this while walking through the East Village last month — some enterprising street artist scrawled “Become Your Dream” on a forgotten, stained mattress.
Stuff like this makes my soul sing. On the one hand, it’s inspiring and hopeful, maybe from a mattress who’s supported the butts of slumbering royalty, seen the worst of the world and doesn’t regret a thing. Or maybe it’s a cautionary tale: no matter what your dream is or how hard you try, you’re going to end up left on the street to be pissed on by dogs and drunks alike.
Jen Lee is a friend of mine from The Moth, and I just love her stuff because she pours it out straight from the heart. She’s not trying to be liked, she’s just trying to be true to the story itself. She’ll talk about some difficult stuff, and the way she handles it is masterful. She’s not an emotional exhibitionist and she’s not trying to launch her comedy career by making light of dark stuff. She’s a writer who happens to publish with her mouth, and every time she tells a story it’s different and better than the last time.
This is a video of Jen Lee from a Moth slam a few months ago. The theme was “Good Intentions.” Jen grew up as a fundamentalist Christian, and here she explains the hilarious, embarrassing reality behind swallowing fundamentalist doctrine and saving it for marriage — and makes it sound like it’s not necessarily so bad. She’s so funny and awkward and sweet here, and I just had to give her a huge hug when she was done.
Brad and Cyndi run Hotsy Totsy Burlesque on the third Tuesday of every month at the Delancey, right there at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge in the Lower East Side. Cherry Pop Burlesque happens at the same place, the fourth Tuesday of every month, and I can’t recommend either show enough.
You can pay as much as you want in this city any night of the week for entertainment, but for eight bucks you can get right into something wild and weird that you won’t find anywhere else in the country for ten times as much cash.
The storytelling and burlesque scene have a fair bit of overlap in New York. Emotional nakedness and physical nudity are close relatives, and folks like Brad and Cyndi (our new bloggers) work hard at both. Ultimately, both communities are powered by passion and a love for the art form. Lord knows we’re not in it for the money.
That’s why I came to this town and it’s why I’ll either die here or leave a piece of my soul behind when I have to leave this magical, filthy island.
The ladies at Cherry Pop Burlesque were kind enough to let me photograph a show a few months back. What follows here is a loose collection of observations and photos from that night. You can see an expanded photo show here, too.
Seeing burlesque shows at the Delancey feels like something from the bad old days of New York that made me want to move here in the first place. It’s seedy enough to make any loving mother uncomfortable, but not so seedy that I wouldn’t take my girlfriend.
Even the sign for the basement gets me all excited. It’s at the end of a long, red hallway glowing like the understated gateway to hell. Or at least the world of sin that tent revival preachers used to warn against/advertise. This photo reminds me of the Pink Room with maybe a little less overt menace.
If you’re reading this now, there’s a decent chance that you heard my story on the “Pro Se” episode of This American Life. I’m told it’s being re-run this week, which just tickles me to no end. It was an honor and a thrill to be on that show. When I told my sister about it, she got all stoked and said “That’s right, dog, build the legend. BUILD. THE. LEGEND.”
If you took the trouble to follow Ira Glass’s mention of this blog, you probably liked the story okay. I originally performed it at The Moth’s Grand Slam back in April of 2009. There’s a video of it here, if you want to hear the story again or watch my hands wave around while I tell it or something:
If you liked that one, I’ve got a bunch of other stories that you might get into, too:
Hi all! I’m a storyteller, actress, and burlesque producer — and I’m not just a producer, I perform, too under the name Cherry Pitz.” I have been running Hotsy Totsy Burlesque with co-producer Joe The Shark for 3 years, every 3rd Tuesday of every month.
Tuesday, July 20th 9:30
Hotsy Tostsy Burlesque@ The Delancey lounge 168 Delancey – just two blocks from the F/J train stop.
$8. Use the secret pass word “Cherry” and get in 2-for-1!
I wanted to share with you one of my acts. A couple years back I found a record album in the the spoken word section of a used record and CD store. On the cover was a suave and smiling Vincent Price, the album was called Co-Star: The Record Acting Game. And it promised YOU act opposite your favorite stars. And so I decided it was time to bring Vincent Price back from the grave and give him a chance to be part of the NY Burlesque scene! Most girls strip to music. I like to strip to the disembodied voice of dead people. This act has become my signature piece. Hope you enjoy!
We’ve got a couple more mules kicking in the stall here at the And I Am Not Lying stable.
It’s all well and good for me to log in at a whim (which is apparently every three weeks or so) and blog about my feelings and stuff, and for D.Billy to contribute his take on art and design, but we’ve been getting a little stale.
Not blogging is a lot like not working out: it’s pretty great until you look around and realize what happens when you haven’t been doing it for a long time. You’ve got all this free time, all this energy to do other stuff, and then you start feeling a little flabby and the next thing you know your traffic’s fallen off and you pants don’t fit and nobody is writing you little notes about how great you are.
Or what an asshole you are. There’s no middle ground online.
We’re experimenting with a few things here, and one of the biggest most exciting things is the addition of two new bloggers — Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman. They’re both great friends of mine, and part of what makes New York’s underground performing scene weird, wild, but ultimately cozy and comforting.
Cyndi actually gave me my first shot as a storyteller at a tiny little bar out in Bay Ridge, a place so far out on the R train I thought I was going to have to have my passport stamped. It was at this weird little divey biker bar with a coffee shop and Internet cafe sort of tacked onto the side. You had to be careful when you went into the bar side to use the bathroom — the door opened up directly into the line of fire for the dart board, so it was entirely possible to walk in with a full bladder and end up with a pierced ear. Or eyelid.
She’s encouraging, loving and generous, with a bottomless patience for truly crazy people — she’s also a Moth Slam champion and fantastic storyteller herself. She helped me edit one of my Moth stories the night before I competed directly against her in a Moth Grand Slam. For Cyndi, it’s about helping people and building the community.
Cyndi’s also working on a one-woman show about the life and times of Wonder Woman, which she may actually perform in a Wonder Woman costume. She does gigs at sci-fi and comic conventions dressed up as Wonder Woman sometimes, so it’s not really a stretch.
Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman are married, see – -and they co-produce Hotsy Totsy Burlesque and The Standard Issues together. I know — it’s adorable. And it’s some wild, weird, and fertile crossover territory, too.
Brad is a two-time Moth Grand Slam champion. He did it back-to-back, too, sort of a greatly scaled-down version of Ian MacKaye starting both Minor Threat AND Fugazi. Brad’s pretty much one of the most charming, laid-back dudes you could ever hope to meet. You can take the guy literally anywhere and he makes it all better, because he’s seen so much worse. He’s got his own blogging concern over at Billy Joe’s Boy, and book proposal in the works. He’s also a member of the BTK Band, New York’s only improv-comedy storytelling rock band, and one of the only bands that can guarantee every single audience member a hangover whether or not they even drink anything.
Here’s Brad, telling a story at Seth Lind’s “Told!”:
Brad and I have pretty much the perfect 21st-century dude-friendship — we’ve done home improvement projects together and drank whiskey and shouted together at burlesque shows, and he’s also helped me move. You cant’ ask for a better guy than that.
I’m really stoked to have these two join us. Not only do I love them as friends, I respect the holy hell out of them as artists and I love their weird eclectic tastes. I hope you guys do, too.
“The life of a designer is a life of fight. Fight against the ugliness. Just like a doctor fights against disease. For us, the visual disease is what we have around, and what we try to do is cure it somehow with design.”
Anyway, to whatever extent a given graphic designer attempts to innoculate us against any particular outbreak of unattractive information, it’s usually because someone has ASKED them to do it. Which is one of the reasons that Cardon Webb’s “Cardon Copy” project stands out.
Designer Cardon Webb hijacked posters from public spaces — mostly fliers of lost pets, and “for rent” or “for sale” signs — took them home, designed fresh posters using the same information, and then posted the new designs back in the places where he found the originals. Read the rest of this entry »