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Sweetbitter Author and Series Creator Stephanie Danler On Being ‘Hungry’ For New York City

Stephanie Danler

Lots of television shows mythologize New York City. But few succeed in depicting the city’s magnetism and allure as precisely as Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, adapted from her 2016 debut novel of the same name. Premiering last Sunday on Starz, the new series centers around Tess (Ella Purnell), a 22-year-old small town transplant pursuing a job as a waitress at a high-end Manhattan restaurant in 2006. Though the story is fiction, Danler — who is the series creator, writer, and executive producer — based it on her own experiences as a recent college grad navigating New York’s high cuisine scene. Nowadays, Danler spends the majority of her time in Los Angeles, but she still has a soft spot for the city — even during summer weeks like this one, when a stroll down the block can feel like “swimming in a thick soup.”

Bedford + Bowery chatted with Danler on the phone this week after the Sweetbitter premiere last Sunday. We talked city life, oysters, and how she can tell which of the season’s six episodes were directed by women.

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Musician Rafiq Bhatia On Throwing Out the Manual to Make His New Album, Breaking English

(Photo by Seth Hale)

For the past five years, Rafiq Bhatia has been pushing out from the style and instrument that has made him a highly coveted collaborator.

A virtuoso guitarist that quickly earned a pedigree in the jazz world, Bhatia began to feel weighted down by the patterns he’d been adhering to on his debut album Yes It Will and EP Strata. His pair of 2012 releases gestured at times towards the warped soundscaping that define his newest album Breaking English, but was orchestrated within ensemble-minded compositions familiar to jazz listeners.

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Turntablist Legend Kid Koala On Venturing Into Video Games and His ‘Totally Bonkers’ Live Show

(Photo: Corinne Merrell)

It’s hard to imagine now how groundbreaking Radiohead’s Kid A was. I’d seen Radiohead in a small Dallas club when “Creep” was hot, and ran to see them all-grows-up at MSG in 2001—but equally jaw-dropping was the opening act, Kid Koala. For music dorks-slash-turntable geeks, Kid Koala executed skillz that were technically mindblowing, while playing actual music that was swoonable for audience members who weren’t hawk-watching the camera trained on his decks.

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Throwback Bar-Venue Coney Island Baby Fights ‘Vegan Socks and Gluten-Free Toilet Bowls’

photo by Ilaria Conte

Coney Island Baby soft-opened on Thursday with performances by a host of downtown music staples: Murphy’s Law, Craig Finn of the Hold Steady, and HR of Bad Brains. One of the long-gestating bar-venue’s owners, Jesse Malin, a veteran of the Manhattan hardcore punk scene and owner of nearby Niagara and Bowery Electric, also performed with his band. For this new venue in the former home of HiFi Bar, Malin has teamed with Laura McCarthy, owner of the legendary venue Brownies (which also occupied the space, from 1987 to 2002) and Velvet Elk Records co-founder Don DiLego, who will run the label and curate special live recordings from the venue.

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Clint Michigan On Making His New Album With Members of The Moldy Peaches and Julie Ruin

Clint Michigan. Photo by Allison Michael Orenstein

Clint Asay has a chipper demeanor, as you’d expect from a former cocktail waiter at Sidewalk Cafe and bartender at Metropolitan. But he also records heart-heavy, semi-biographical folk as Clint Michigan, which is why I recently found him telling me, with a self-deprecating laugh, “I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me.”

Centuries, Clint Michigan’s second album for Kiam Records and first proper record in nine years, revisits a very specific segment of Asay’s history, when a struggle to stay clean stalled his creativity. The album’s very existence is a victory against those roadblocks, even if he doesn’t believe they’re entirely behind him: he cites his unwavering perfectionism in the studio, minor bouts of stage fright and, at one point, questions the idea of calling himself a musician, believing he lacks some virtuoso quality all artists must possess. But Centuries fashions a success for itself on two of Asay’s foundational strengths as a songmaker: the clarity of his bleak lyrical reveries and his arrangement of collaborators, which includes members of Julie Ruin and The Moldy Peaches.

Ahead of his album release show at Union Pool on April 29, Asay spoke to Bedford + Bowery about his roots in comedy music, his friendship with Quelle Chris, and walking the fine line between writing honest songs and self-obsession.

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Book Jackets: Stephanie Marano Combines High Fashion With Works of Literature

Image via God Save the Misanthropes

Tavi Gevinson caused quite a stir among Donna Tartt fans last week when she posted an Instagram photo of a custom-made jacket inspired by Tartt’s 1992 novel The Secret History. Designed and sewn by Stephanie Marano, a Brooklynite and fellow book lover whom Gevinson, the Rookie founder and influencer par excellence, happened to meet on a subway platform, the jacket is equal parts awe-inspiring and allusive. The response on Instagram was enormous, and now Marano’s exclusive “book jackets” have become the must-have piece for any bibliophile worth their salt.
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At 21, Sophia Elaine Hanson Already Has a Steampunk Trilogy Under Her Belt

Sophia Elaine Hanson hasn’t yet graduated college, but she has topped Amazon’s list of Young Adult Steampunk bestsellers. In case you didn’t know, the category is a mix of science fiction and fantasy, with elements of technology woven in. Basically, if you’ve read The Hunger Games and Divergent and are craving another dystopian world, you’ll want to read Hanson’s Vinyl trilogy.

The final book in the series, Siren, is set to be released in May. It’s set in Revinia, a world where the government ensures loyalty via The Music, a type of mind control that dulls emotions and passions. In an Instagram post, Hanson tells her 4,600-plus followers to expect “steampunk cities, ride or die squads, queer ships, and plot twists.”

Aside from the two previous books in the series, Vinyl and Radio, Hanson has also released a collection of poetry, and her second one is due out in April. We spoke with the 21-year-old NYU junior about her writing process, the merits of indie publishing, and more.

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Watch Harvey Weinstein’s Paper-Thin Apology, Sung By a Cut-Out Doll

Image courtesy of Lauren Maul / Shark Party Media

In the past year, numerous men in the entertainment industry and beyond have come under fire for their sexually abusive behavior. In attempts to save face or mitigate their impending PR crises, many of the accused have issued public apologies for their wrongdoings. Lauren Maul, a New York-based comedian and performer, was struck by the tone of the mea culpas, which range from ridiculous to horribly misguided. Inspired to create an album of musical interpretations of these statements, Maul constructed songs around the public apologies issued by men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. With accompanying music videos for the catchy songs featuring the apologizers as singing paper dolls, Maul hopes to bring a little bit of levity to what has otherwise been a sobering time.

Maul’s album “Apologies for Men” is now available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and more, with 100% of the proceeds going to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. The album features the apologies of Weinstein, Spacey, Louis CK, Matt Lauer and others, with a special instrumental piece for the men who’ve been accused but haven’t yet apologized. Check out her video of Weinstein’s apology, fittingly called “The Culture Then,” below our conversation.

Image via Lauren Maul / Shark Party Media

BB_Q(1)
I’ve seen some of your videos, from your Apologies from Men album, and they’re very DIY. They’re hands on, obviously, but they’re also really unique in their approach to this pretty serious subject matter. Why did you choose to make an album and videos with singing paper dolls? Did you immediately know that was something you wanted to do when you heard about these allegations and subsequent apologies?

BB_A(1)
When I was reading the Louis C.K. apology, I was like, “Ugh, this is so gross. But it’s also good that it’s coming out.” So then, I decided– I was at a concert– that I wanted to do a concert like this. Like a fun concert, with my friends onstage, singing and playing music. And I wanted to do it to this Louis C.K. apology. And then all of these other apologies came out, and I was like, “Oh, my god, it has to be a whole album. What did I get myself into?”

And then when it came to videos, I had just come off of making a web series [Amazon Reviews: The Musical!] that took a lot of people and a lot of crew, and just a lot of scheduling work, and it was just something I didn’t want to do again for a while. And so I decided I’d just make [the videos] all by myself in my office, and have them be paper dolls. So I can make them do basically whatever I want. And I thought it was fun to actually belittle these men, because they had so much power that they abused and took advantage of so many people. It was just a fun way for me to turn the tables. And I just wanted the men to really be the butt of the joke. I never want the survivors to feel like I’m making fun of them, I don’t take jokes about assault or rape lightly. People– like comedians and artists– have a big responsibility, that if you are going to talk about rape culture, you’d better do it in a non-triggering way. Because I don’t want to cause them any more pain. They’ve been through enough.

BB_Q(1) How can a more comedic approach to these pretty serious issues affect our discussion of them? Do you think that comedy can help us take a different look?

BB_A(1) Yeah. I love that art is like the mirror you hold up to society– and comedy is the funhouse mirror that you hold up. It’s just that if you’re able to talk about it and laugh about it, then you can learn from it and heal. And also, it helps people talk about rape culture. For instance, my mom showed my grandma the Matt Lauer [apology] video. It’s like, would they even be talking about sexual harassment [otherwise]?

BB_Q(1) I’m assuming that’s kind of what you’re hoping people can take away from your videos, right? This idea of entering into a conversation about sexual assault, because it’s being portrayed in a different light than what we’ve seen in the media previously. Is there anything else you’re hoping people will take away from your approach to this?

BB_A(1) Yeah, I just wanted it to be very accessible. And that’s why I did it very handmade, to show that you can also do this at home, too. It’s not rocket science. I want people to feel like they can make their own art in response to difficult situations. And also I want this project to sprinkle a little joy in an area where there was formerly no joy.

BB_Q(1) The album and the videos definitely take a pretty unorthodox approach to all of this. What would you say to someone who– maybe they’re a sexual assault victim, maybe they’re not– thinks that maybe this isn’t the right avenue for comedy? That maybe these crimes are so heinous that they shouldn’t be treated in such a lighthearted way?

BB_A(1) I would just say that, first of all, I never want to offend someone who is a survivor. I would never make them the butt of the joke. So far, the only people who have been offended are like, straight white dudes. And that’s fine. If I’m offending them– they’re not my target demographic. I would say that’s the role of comedy– to turn shit into glitter. And I’m trying to do a service by turning a terrible situation into something that we can talk about, and even laugh about, but laugh at these men. Because they did something wrong. But yeah, it is touchy. And that’s why I try to be very thoughtful with what I do. Of course I can’t not offend everybody, but there’s this great Ricky Nelson song that’s like, “You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself.”

BB_Q(1) So what are your boundaries? What is something you feel like, it’s not my place to make jokes about this, or include this in a bit?

BB_A(1) Well, one of the apologies that I did not include was the Olympics doctor [Larry Nassar], just because the magnitude and the sheer number of children he assaulted. Maybe someday someone will be able to make a funny musical about what a creep he was. But right now, his victims are still kids. And so, it’s like, I can’t– someone else may be able to go there, but I personally could not. It’s like, oh boy, this is too much. And plus, I have to really dig in to write these songs– I have to read the apology a lot, and do a lot of research on these men. And they all gross me out. But some of them, I’m just like– nope, can’t even touch, don’t want to go there. Too gross, too scary.

BB_Q(1) I watched the Harvey video earlier, and I think the contrast between his “apology,” if you could even call it that, and the DIY, eye-catching visuals is great.

BB_A(1) Thank you! It’s so funny how he just goes off the rails [in his apology]. Like, it makes no sense at the end. Each time, with each video I edited, I’d get to a point where I was like, “Yeah, this is done,” but with the Harvey one there was never a point where I was like “This is done,” because it was just always like, “This is too weird. Is it done? I think it’s done enough.” It’s just so off the rails.

The fun part was making his little childhood bedroom. Because [for the video] I just pictured him moving back into his childhood bedroom after all this– his wife left him, he’s just moving back. And I put these posters of infamous creeps on his wall– like Phil Specter, O.J., Jimmy Page. Like, yikes! So it’s kind of like, here’s his heroes. And here’s how well that worked out for him.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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‘Sex Work Has Enriched My Life In Everlasting Ways,’ Says Escort Turned Author Andrea Werhun

If you’ve ever wanted to know what life is really like for a sex worker, then Andrea Werhun’s Modern Whore is definitely worth a read. The 28-year-old University of Toronto graduate, who spent a few years escorting while in college and after graduating, shares her experiences and insights in the new book, which features fine art photographs by collaborator Nicole Bazuin. Werhun, who also writes for Playboy, is candid about her clients and the stigma she’s encountered, and hopes her new book will change perceptions of sex workers.

Life after sex work has been busy for Andrea; in addition to writing, she’s also acted in several films, and, with Bazuin, cofounded the multimedia production company Virgin Twins, which is responsible for the release of Modern Whore. The New York book launch and reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on March 3 at the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village. In the meantime, here’s our conversation with Andrea. Discussing everything from noteworthy johns to the #MeToo movement to her current endeavors, she proves that there’s no such thing as a stereotypical sex worker.

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Mr. Throwback, Giant of Jerseys, Isn’t Doing the Super Bowl Shuffle This Year

Mr. Throwback (Photos: Matt Silver)

Whether you’re rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles or New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII this weekend, or just want to see if Justin Timberlake screws up the half-time show again, Mr. Throwback has the vintage sports apparel to give you the appearance of an authentic football fan. The popular East Village store, which boasts more than 92,000 Instagram followers and recently upgraded to a more spacious spot on East 9th Street, is the brainchild of Michael Spitz (aka Mr. Throwback). We spoke to the Long Island native about everything from getting fired by the Knicks to wearing Air Jordans at his wedding. He also gives his (somewhat offensive) Super Bowl pick.

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Listen to the Premiere of ‘White Noise’ By CHAPPO Before They Tour With Flaming Lips

(Photo: Drew Reynolds)

Shortly after appearing to hit their stride, Brooklyn’s psychedelic garage trio CHAPPO were hit with band-shaking tragedies– three, to be exact. In short succession, the band separated from their drummer and producer; guitarist David Feddock and his wife lost their young son; and frontman Alex Chappo’s best friend committed suicide. After a period of mourning, Alex, David and keyboardist Chris Olson found their way back to each other, and began digging deeper into the joyous corners of their songwriting. They ended up touring with Flaming Lips and Mac DeMarco, and are announcing today that they’ll play more dates with Flaming Lips in March.

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Rachel Brosnahan On Playing a ‘Type A’ Downtown Comic in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Rachel Brosnahan (Photo: Natalia Winkelman)

The opening scene of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the new Amazon show starring Rachel Brosnahan as a ’50s Upper West Side housewife turned downtown stand-up comedienne, finds Midge Maisel delivering a giddy, champagne-tipsy toast at her own wedding. We soon learn that lack of inhibition is one of Midge’s defining traits, along with a talent for cooking brisket and a motormouth with a witty bite.

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