Grey Gardens At Irving Plaza

It's time, I guess for this topic. Not about the Maysles Brothers' documentary Grey Gardens, but about the nightlife phenomenon inspired by it...

Grey Gardens, the weekly party. circa 1995. Irving Plaza. Hattie Hathaway, Johnny Dynell, Sherry Vine, Martha Staunch. Where we first re-introduced burlesque to NYC with Amy Goodheart & Co. And, of course Triscuit at the bar onstage. The decor also included stunning film loop visuals by Antony Chase, Caspar Streke and others.

The tag was "Welcome to the drawing room of my mind..."

Any memories?
Original Post
Grey Gardens at Irving Plaza!!!
Oh my goodnes gracious!!!

My heart has gone a twitter and I'm getting flashbacks....

I have to honestly say Grey Gardens at Irving Plaza was one of the best parties I've ever been to!! It was so inspiring, I truly felt transported when I entered the room.

I wish my brain cells weren't so fried, and I could remember more.

But Grey Gardens at Irving Plaza...a truly magical moment in nightclub history!!

OMG...I'm getting emotional.
I have posted in other areas of this site, which I think inspired this thread, but I'll repost the note here:

"An NYC-based documentary company is currently
conducting research for a project about the cultural impact of the film Grey Gardens since its release in 1976. If you, your friends, or anyone in your community has ever created performances or events inspired by this film, and are interested in having these efforts included in the project, please contact us at gardentastic@yahoo.com."

We're in the early stages of this research, basically trying to figure out how much of a sub-culture there really was, and if any of it was captured on film/video/photos. And, of course, if anyone has some vivid, interesting memories they might want to share. Seems that this G.G. phenomenon might be a bit passe, now, but we can still re-visit the past!

Any help you guys can give would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
I have a GREY GARDENS memory.....

I was there one night,dancing to Daddy's house mix, when he started playing the song "Love and Happiness" by "India",which was a HUGE club hit at the time.
I was caught up in my groove,dancing,when i looked up and there,up on the stage w/daddy was India,singing the song!Totally unannounced!
that was an amazing moment!
She has such a beautiful voice!

Besides that,the place alway's looked great.
the film loops were amazing and there was nice touches such as candles and tablecloths on the tables which added to the "cabaret" feel.
Plus in the middle of the night they would stop the music and Hattie would read from Emily Post!
Things like that don't happen in clubs anymore!

BTW,Daddy,it was good talking w/you at the David Barton gym.Thanks alot for the advice!!
OK, I'll try.

"Grey Gardens" was basically Hattie Hathaway (Hatches) and my thing. Hattie thought of the name (Hattie also named "Mother" BTW, it came to her in a wet dream about Jimi Hendrix but that's another story) It was every Saturday night at Irving Plaza, after the rock shows ended. The Irving Plaza staff (who were incredible) cleared out the drunk college kids faster than one of Messy Bonnie's farts. And in about 20 minutes we (about 15 people) transformed the theater into this eery, gothic magical ghost cabaret. There were no lights except for the chandelier very dim. The room was lit by candles. We hung black drapes from the balcony to close off the room, and make it very intimate. We put tables and chairs along both sides of the room with white table cloths and candles turning the room into a cabaret with a little dance floor in the middle. Then the room was draped everywhere with white gauzy fabric to make it REALLY haunted and ghost-like. From the ceiling we hung these "Screens". They were tattered white fabric hanging from 2 by 4s slowly turning around with black and white film loops projected on them. They were gorgeous and really spooky. The loops would change every week with different themes (we were nuts!) We had a black scrim that went across the entire stage with old film loops projected on it as well. (ONLY FILM, NEVER VIDEO!!!!!!) The effect was surreal. You could see whatever went on behind the scrim on stage but it was like looking through a veil. (Because you were looking through a veil!) And on the stage in the center was me DJing. Behind me to the left was a tiny little bar with bartender Clark Render as "Trisket" serving cocktails to the ghosts. We had stairs going up to the stage which became this sort of VIP lounge with couches for the undead. But remember, everything that happened on stage was seen through this black veil and the effect was like watching a black and white movie. And if all this wasn't enough we also had ghostly go go dancers and burlesque shows but always with this unearthly twist. Like the specter of Josephine Baker happily performing her classic numbers (Amy Goodheart). This, of course, pre-dated the "New Burlesque" scene BTW. Hattie Hathaway was the Misstress of Ceremony. A high point in every night was when Hattie would read from an ancient Emily Post book. After she was done she would slam the book closed in a puff of dust (baby powder). As beautiful and Gothic as the decor was though the music was definately NOT "Bella Lagosi's Dead". It was deep house and very dancable. (Just another unexpected twist I guess). I'm very proud of Grey Gardens and I'm sure Hattie is too. It was one of the most beautiful club nights ever. I guess that's why when I hear fledgelings talking about how great "Opaline" was because they had 4 boys dancing on the bar in their underwear I get sad. When I think of how much went into parties like "Click & Drag", "Boy Bar" and "Jackie 60"...
Well, I guess for them 4 boys in their underwear is enough.

Well, this just scratches the surface. We have to talk about all the talented people behind "Grey Gardens" too! Casper, Poison Eve, Marti Domination, Sherry Vine, Wendy Wild.
Oh, and the birth of Sammy Jo!!!!!
Well, you beat me to the punch, as usual Daddy!

However, I cannot really take credit for the name. When Daddy and I were discussing the club's concept, having just visited Irving and seen what it was-- a crumbling, dusty former burlesque house (this was before renovations)-- the conversation went something like this:

Hatches: I see it as a cross between an Edward Hopper painting... you know the ones he did of his wife stripping onstage in the ruined theatre... and a huge crumbling Southern Gothic mansion, dripping with spanish moss and full of dustcloths, shrouded mirrors and spider webs... like the house Edgar Oliver and his sister, Helen, lived in and raised themselves as teenagers, after the death of their parents... you know, holes in the warped wood floor where the kudzu has poked through, with tons of ghosts...

Daddy: You mean like the movie Grey Gardens?

Hatches: Exactly!

Daddy: That should be the name!

Hatches: Of course!


As it progressed, it became a concept where all things past continually overlapped, and not necessarily in sequence... sort of like the psychic layers that overlap in a very active haunted house: Victorian meets flapper meets MGM meets Colonial bawdy house meets Vaudeville-- anything old! I also became obsessed with the idea that year 1919 was the most pivotal year in recent Western Civilization, so there was a liberal sprinkling of that, along with 1950s Paris and Weimar Germany.
Kind of an advanced concept for a night club, dontcha know--even back then. A lot of people did get it though. Now, such a convoluted idea might never get off the ground.
Of course, GG never made any money. We used to be happy when it broke even once or twice.
But it was beautiful. And theatrical. Those are the things I am most proud of. And we did the setup in about 20 minutes. Where the hell did we get the energy for all this?

About the Emily Post... Some one, Douglas John, I believe, had given me a copy of the famed etiquette book-- the "Special 1943 Wartime Edition" naturally. One night I decided to read from it, totally unplanned and unrehearsed-- with quite a few adlibs thrown in. i seem to recall it was all about introducing people... That's where "Mr. John Dynell Of New York" came from. At the finish of my reading, I slammed the book closed and a huge cloud of dust came rolling out. Honest to God, that was unplanned too, and the crowd roared! And it was dust, too-- real dust. After that, of course, I had to use talcum powder to produce the same effect. Another great schtick born accidentally-- the story of my life!
The text verbatim on one of the original Grey Gardens invitations, which featured the Hopper image on its face:

" She was as brittle as a breakaway bottle. Smoke from an unfiltered cigarette jammed carelessly in her mouth curled from the corners of her perfectly painted lips.

He was a loner, a grifter, a soldier of misfortune. A diamond winked from his little finger as he stroked his wide lapel.

There, in the smoky, dusty, ancient theatre, among the flakes of peeling gilt, the dust shrouds, the fly-specked mirrors and the nicotine-stained crystals of the chandeliers, in a place where the lights were perpetually dimming, and if you followed the beam of a cracked amber spotlight, within its dust motes, performers, drag queens, burlesque stars and beefcake hired guns, all took their turns in the circus' battered rings.

Their eyes met with a click as audible as a pitted gold Harry Winston cigarette case snapping shut.

Every Saturday night, starting April 2nd, at the stroke of midnight. Grey Gardens. 119 East 15th Street at irving Place. One block west of Third Avenue. Music by Johnny Dynell. Hosts: Hattie Hathaway and Miss Martha Staunch. Filmloop visuals curated by Antony Chase. Door: Sherry Vine. Admission is $5 with an invite. Grey Gardens. Something different every Saturday night."

What, no mention of "go go gods" and best butt contests? Go figure.

But I guess I was reading a lot of Jim Thompson that week.
That's right Hatch, I remember now. That Edward Hopper Painting of his wife Josephine, it ALL came from that.
It's a good thing that you remember things 'cause I sure don't. It's all just a big spinning mirror ball to me.
Oh wait,
we had a big mirrior ball too! It really gave the room a surreal mood.
I've GOT to find some pictures!
It was a rare and magical occurrance that happened far too briefly. I remember so many amazing people passing through there, people who we would never see at Jackie. And Antony Chase's films were so quietly beautiful, and Triskit on stage making drinks and serving them to the endless array of spirits and illusions that paraded through. And that amazingly beautiful black bouncer that worked the front door. He was the reason I spent so much time at the front door. And Daddy's vibrant "house" wafting through the air, I danced more at Grey Gardens than I ever did at Mother. There was nothing like it before and nothing since. I only wish I'd been taking pictures at the time. Though no photo could really capture the essence of the beauty that it was.
I think there really was a very floating/mercurial feeling to Grey Gardens... the billowy fabric.. the feeling of being in a maiden aunts parlour...the flowing fabric... the Emily Post (Hattie, i worship u).. the whole feel of it... all rather etherial (sp) really (When r u gonna get spell check on here i can't spell for toffee).
And the scene behind the billowing curtains... no maiden aunts there! That was where SammyJo got her name, I believe.
And who was it that said "Grey Gardens gets me hot," Daddy? Was in Ginseng Boy-- or another lurker behind those curtains,

My fave theme I think was "Titanic". Long before that rotten film BTW. I remember we had seashells, sand and salt-encrusted dinner settings--cracked plates and tarnished silver-- on all the tables with tons of seaweed. And a water-damaged reprint of their last menu... What fun it was!

And of course the debut of Les Sisters Hathaway to to a track of a very soporific string quartet doing "Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy" as a sort of sick foxtrot.
OMG!!
I forgot about "Les Sisters Hathaway"!!!!
Hattie, Chi Chi and Sherry Vine aka "Les Sisters Hathaway". Someone PLEASE describe "Les Sisters Hathaway" because I can't do it justice. I do have pictures however.

And yes, "Grey Gardens" was the birth of the now infamous and famous Sammy Jo. His cherry broken by Joey Arias I believe. (Justin Bond was not the first "Gender Ambiguous Minstral Showgirl" to get there)!
And as if I didn't already realize how famous my little girl was I just did an image search to get a stupid picture of her and see that she now has more pictures than Heather Locklear! The tramp she was named after!
Go figure.

Sammy Jo & Justin Bond

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Les Sisters Hathaway...
Chi, Sherry and myself portraying (with great prescience in at least one case) ancient, over-the-hill, over-the-top showgirls-- perhaps from Les Folies Bergere... drinking, smoking, enjoying at tootski or two... stumbling, barely lifting their creaking legs, getting caught up in the curtains and scenery, nodding off from time to time... But boy, were they lovely! And the expressions on the audiences faces made it all worthwhile-- astonishment, horror, disgust were some that I recall...
So "successful" were they, that one fateful Hallowe'en they morphed gothically into Les Sisters Dracul. Need I say more?
I think it's time for a revival, don't you Daddy? But who would have them these days?

The first track they "danced" to was that "Sugarplum Fairy" deconstruct from the film White Mischief, but I am sure there were others, no?
I remember Grey Gardens. I thought it was beautiful and I have the impression when I think about it that it was outside under the trees in the mist at night. In some ways it seems like something from 50 years ago, not ten. I can remember Hattie very austerely and vaguely gazing out from the stage. Is a grey dress and pears possible, or is that my imagination invading. The place seemed vast. I remember sitting in a folding chair being spoken to by Edwige while trying to pay attention at the same time to something being said up in the fog and moss. That's the way the memories go, but it's all beautiful and what I wouldn't give to go out now to that very night.
Ooh, I'll have to dig up some pictures from that era! One of the great things about that night was Hattie's genius idea to situate a bar on the stage! It pandered to all closet exhibitionists...James Murphy would never leave the stage of course.never. I remember Lucianna (of Derek Jarman's Jubilee/painter/photographer/McLaren muse) being there on opening night, just a few months before she passed away.
Actually it was Daddy's idea about the bar on the stage I think.
And having Triscuit bartend onstage... with her frequent bathroom breaks and all (we started counting them off over the microphone, and she never caught on!) But she was a definite hardcore Hopper character, that's for sure.
Hattie and Daddy!
Happy New Year! Grey Gardens, for its short life was wonderful. The space was perfect for people and performances. Was it Justin who sang that "Evita" song from the rear balconey with a lone spotlight and a precious gown? There was always a nice, low-keyed crowd, and cheap coronas. But the war-time Emily Post was too anachronistic. I never agreed with your choices of excerpts.
Morgan
Ah- Grey Gardens was for me:
Hattie and Emily Post
Martha Staunch
Johnny Dynell
Triskit
The fabulousness of the burlesque girls- I was always in awe
Gogo dancing on the dance floor platforms with Hehena Handbasket (boy! what a fuckin body HE had!) dressed in rogue, early 70s, poor-boy east hampton carriage help costumes. Altough I enjoyed the gogo dancing, I really enjoyed the dancing with Helena. He was strong and we could get into some real pretzel-like forms on that platform. Hattie- What was his name?? Daniel?
Wendy Wild! Oh, God! I miss my Auntie. She would always show up, sick from her treatment; generally because Tim L. or someone would get her out of the hospital and bring her. She would love her cocktails, a great mix with her pain meds.
I LOVED Grey Gardens. Such Culcha.
It was actually Christian Womyn (sp?) who did Evita (or was it dead Evita?). God I'm going all misty from reading this topic. Mostly because I remember the lethal cocktails Triket served me and my friends (Special K/ Gwen Inc anyone) who had introduced me to the party and thus Johnny, Chi and Hattie. I had my very first job in NYC nightlife when Hattie and Daddy hired me to do setup/breakdown for $40. I would've done it for free I was so in love with that night. And to think how naive and JC I was back then. At least now I'm not naive....BAH!

Grey Gardens for me is:
1. gold spray-painted butoh dancers
2. Emily Post
3. running to get Hattie coffee
4. that fucking broken India record
5. the films-specifically the one of Hats and Daddy's faces with a spiral spinning behind them a la Twilight Zone or something (or High Anxiety)
6. Was that where Nowheresville originated? I remember some night with all the letters sent to one town as decor
7. Joey Arias' gaping mouth coming for me
8. Casper....oh CASPER!
9. End of the night songs: Got To Give It Up and Love Is the Message (where I first heard that track btw)

As you said Daddy, it's hard to imagine someone putting that much effort into concept and design in the present nightlife culture. Although sometimes I will be a part of something and it will be like a glimpse back at those times and I guess we're lucky to have that.

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