Thursday, May 05, 2011

NYC Beige Party Ends After 15 Year Celebrity Filled Run

From NYT: DOLLY PARTON and Gloria Gaynor singing an impromptu duet. Britney Spears supposedly skipping out on her check. Jocelyne Wildenstein showing off her nip and tuck.

They were all part of the mix at Beige, the fashion-y, mostly-but-not-all-gay party held Tuesdays at the B Bar on the Bowery. Started in 1994 by Erich Conrad, it may well be downtown’s longest-running party, bringing together celebrities, club kids, handsome young strivers and both the up-and-comers and has-beens. The festivities always last late into the night, out in the garden during warmer months.

But next Tuesday, Beige is coming to an end, at least in its current spot. Mr. Conrad blames the new luxury apartment across the street, whose residents have already flooded the local community board with noise complaints. Below, reminiscences from 16 years of groovy Tuesdays.

PARKER POSEY, actress.

I first went to Beige a year or two after the movie “Party Girl” came out in 1995. I’d already met Erich out dancing at the club Don Hill’s. I remember him talking about the concept of Beige: that it was the color of ’70s Halston, off-kilter strange glamour. But also things that were in-between. Like a stew. It’s not a soup and it’s not a meal. Granola is very beige, whereas cereal is not.

Eartha Kitt was there one night. I leaned in next to her so a photographer could take a picture, and as she reached to grab my face, her long fingernail went up my nose and gave me a nosebleed. I had to ask for a dinner napkin and walked around for an hour afterward telling people I’d been scratched by Catwoman. Eartha never realized she did it.

ANDY COHEN, producer, Bravo TV.

I had my 30th birthday party at Beige 13 years ago. Lady Bunny D.J.’d and Ricki Lake came.

One night about three years ago, I brought NeNe Leakes from “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and Vicki Gunvalson from “Real Housewives of Orange County.” They were astounded by how attractive all the guys were. NeNe and Erich really bonded, sitting there whispering, going super-deep. I brought Natasha Richardson there once when she was doing “Cabaret” on Broadway, and she was like: “Who are these people? Where do they come from?”

DEREK NEEN, doorman from 1994 to 2010.

Jocelyne Wildenstein came almost every week for five or six years. She was gracious and lovely, very shy and sweet. “May I come in?” she’d kind of purr. Then she’d sit in Banquette 42, 43 or 44 with Erich, the coveted spots that faced the garden. Alexander McQueen would come. He was always very low-key and sweet, unlike our good friend Boy George, who was there quite often.

On many nights the line for Beige would snake all the way around the corner to Marion’s restaurant. I’d fast-track the right people up the little steps, always keeping in mind who was a regular through the long, cold winter. We had a code word: Wreck Beach. That’s a famous nude beach in Vancouver where I live now. Erich would tell anyone fabulous to just say to me at the door, “Wreck Beach.” That’s how I knew they were a friend of Erich’s.

BOY GEORGE, performer

When you’re in New York, it’s the first port of call to locate people because you know everyone cool will be there.

Five years ago, I discovered this Brooklyn electro band, Avenue D. I was looking everywhere to find the lead singer, Debbie D. And lo and behold, she was a waitress at Beige.

Another time, I was cornered by Jocelyne Wildenstein trying to kiss me. She’ll deny it, but she was quite forward. I told her, “No tongue!”

It’s that kind of club: it’s so cool it hurts. It was a temple of gorgeous freakdom.


Charo came one night. She asked the D.J., Jon Jon Battles, to play a CD of her music and then she cootchy-cooed around the room performing, lip-syncing. I followed her with a flashlight for a spotlight.

JON JON BATTLES, waiter turned D.J.

One night Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake came in when they were dating, with a table of people. Jocelyne Wildenstein and Joan Collins were also there, at separate tables.

Britney’s table orders a round of drinks, then gets up to leave without paying. I asked Erich, “Is Britney comped?” He said, “No, she has to pay.” So I run down the street and knock on the window of her S.U.V. and say, “You didn’t pay.” She was very aloof, said nothing. “How much is it?” one of her friends asked. I hadn’t brought the check, so I made up a figure, $300. It was in all the papers that the poor waiter got stiffed, but what annoyed me is they didn’t even use my name!

Justin was nice, though. He touched my hand.

MICHAEL MUSTO, night-life columnist, The Village Voice.

Celebrity drop-ins were pretty frequent, and I was always amazed to spot people like Kirstie Alley and Lucy Lawless there, and less shocked when I’d find Calvin Klein, Rupert Everett or a Pet Shop Boy.

But since Beige brimmed with attitude, so many of the cute guys there ended up going home alone. The craziest the crowd got at Beige was putting a little extra mousse in their faux hawks, or popping the collars on their Marc Jacobs shirts.

I likened it to Liz Taylor because you thought it would always be there.

SOPHIA LAMAR, transsexual Beige hostess.

I was at Beige from the beginning. It just worked organically, the right mix of fashion people, straight, gay, rockers, metrosexuals, editors. Patti LaBelle used to come and sit with P. Diddy’s mother. They loved the scene. Beige was a party but also a restaurant, so people who denied that they went to nightclubs could say, “Oh, I’m just having dinner.”

ERICH CONRAD, founder of Beige.

Calling it Beige was my idea. Beige was everyone’s least favorite color during the early ’90s, so it was tongue in cheek. I wanted to have a fun clubhouse, a canteen with a mix of all kinds of people, after the heaviness of AIDS in the ’80s.

Then it became hyper-chic and the supermodels started coming: Linda Evangelista, Amber Valletta, Naomi Campbell. People didn’t want press in the ’90s when they went out, unlike today, so we were a safe place for them because we had a no-cameras policy.

One night I was sitting in a banquette between Dolly Parton and Gloria Gaynor. They started reminiscing about a duet they were supposed to do once long ago and then started to sing it. ...

I feel quite sad, but I hope somehow I can retranslate it somewhere else.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.