This week, we continue with our series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.
The Workers Laboratory Theatre, headquartered at 42 East 12th street in the 1930s. (University of Wyoming American Heritage Center Archives)
In June 1931, with America’s working class still deep in the grip of the Great Depression, a handful of actors in New York City performed Art is a Weapon, a skit first adapted by the New York’s Workers’ Laboratory Theatre. It begins with a Capitalist, with a “silk topper and over-refined accent,” making his declaration about the limited uses of art. The workers respond by making the distinction between proletarian and bourgeois art; between art intended to amuse and enlighten the elite and art meant to liberate workers.
This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.
30 Cliff Street today. The metal bar “Iron Horse” located in background.
At dusk, bearded men dressed in suits take hurried strides towards 30 Cliff Street, a nondescript building on a relatively quiet strip between busy Fulton and John Streets. Through metal and glass doors reminiscent of a hospital, men file into the prayer room and prostrate in unison on a floor covered in cheap knock-offs of Persian rugs, the mosque’s only pretension to traditional Islamic grandeur. Very little about Masjid Manhattansays mosque the way the word is understood in Istanbul, Tehran or Lahore: no grand domes and minarets, no call to prayer over a loudspeaker; it’s almost as if the place doesn’t want to call too much attention to itself, and it isn’t hard to understand why.
Protestors yesterday at TK (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)
It’s hard to imagine how anyone could get pissed off about ice cream. It’s pretty delicious stuff on its own, but when ice cream comes free, it’s capable of turning almost any New Yorker with a broken-AC situation into a sedated, softly smiling master of chill. But the tenants at 325 East 12th Street– owned by Brookhill Properties, a real estate company founded by notorious landlord Raphael Toledano, who’s currently under investigation by the State for tenant harassment– have been moved to a level of frustration that can’t be solved with tasty bribes. That’s why, when they started receiving invitations to attend an ice cream social bought and paid for by Brookhill, the tenants organized an ice cream protest.
Amanda Charchian “Ana in Costa Rica,” 2012 at “In The Raw: The Female Gaze on The Nude” Exhibit, (Courtesy of Untitled Space Gallery, New York)
Opening night for In the Raw: The Female Gaze on the Nude (on view now through May 21 at The Untitled Space) was predictably packed, and not just because it’s Frieze week and the gallery was giving out free booze. I’d like to think that people were there for the actual art exhibition, which was billed as an all-female, all-nude art show where 20 women artists, aged 21 to 60-something, from Russia, Chile, and beyond, “explore a perspective less chartered, that of a woman’s eye on another,” and in the process “challenge the status quo with a liberating and authentic beauty.” Or maybe they were there because Victoria de Lesseps (daughter of Real Housewives “star” Countess LuAnn de Lesseps) is also on the roster of participating artists. Who could tell?
Indira Cesarine, who curated the multimedia art show along with Coco Dolle of Milk and Night, told me that she felt the exhibition was a “timely” one. Dolle told Whitehot magazinethat the work is “saleable.” They’re in no way wrong.
Queens-born rapper Awkwafina (the alter-ego of Nora Lum) says she’s been doing some serious “hustling” in the last couple of years: recording an album, putting out an NYC guidebook, and making the big move to Greenpoint. She’s not there for the cute boutiques and charming scenery (after all, she made her fame with “NYC Bitche$”, in which she deftly buried an entire section of our humble Brooklyn borough for being overrun not just by transplants, but adult-baby transplants). Rather, she has a “rent control situation” weighing in her favor (“I’d live anywhere if it was cheap,” Lum told us last spring).
Taking a stance against nuclear weapons proliferation might not be as controversial as hating on vaccines– as we saw when Tribeca Film Festival announced it was pullingVaxxed: From Cover-Up toCatastrophe, the doc made by a disgraced doctor that pushes the dubious theory linking autism to vaccines. But the filmmakers behind The Bomb(premiering Saturday, April 23) are nevertheless hoping t0 strike an equally urgent chord with festival audiences, even if they’re reluctant to call it an “activist” film.
“Well, it’s an immersive film and music experience. It’s a human story, too,” explained Smriti Keshari, one-half of the filmmaking team behind theimmersive, multimedia documentary focused on the persistent threat of nuclear weapons. “It’s one that makes you realize just how powerful individuals can be when they care about something. I think all art is political if it’s a reflection of what’s happening around you.”
Clayton Patterson’s new book with Jose “Cochise” Quiles, cover photo by Clayton Patterson (Image: Nicole Disser)
Last week, Elliot Caldwell was fatally shot outside of Campos Plaza, the NYCHA public housing project where he’d grown up. An EV Grieve commenter noted that the 23-year-old had been arrested in 2013 when the Manhattan DA busted alleged members of the Money Boyz, a coke-dealing gang based out of the East Village housing project. DNAinfo wrote that a woman claiming to be Caldwell’s aunt told reporters: “He was a great father. He changed his life for his son. He just got caught up in a bad situation.”
The NYPD told B+B that the suspect in Caldwell’s shooting is described as a “black male wearing a red hoodie,” who “fled from the scene on foot.” So far there have been no arrests, and police say the investigation is ongoing.
At 81 years old, D’yan Forest describes herself as a “young Betty White.” The octogenarian and veteran performer doesn’t mask her sexual conquests in grandma-speak. Indeed she speaks Millennial more fluently than some natives I know– she’s sex positive, has done her fair share of swiping left on Tinder, and is open-minded toward all kinds of people. Before I set off to the West Village apartment to meet D’yan where she’s lived since the ’60s, I phoned her and she assured me: “I’m very interesting, too, darling.” Click. It’s hard to argue with that: the multi-instrumentalist’s career spans at least three continents, and she can sing in nine languages. On top of all that, she’s now trying to hack it as a stand-up comic.
Center in red, Hilly Bodin as Snow White , Laura Careless as the Queen (Photo by Mark Shelby Perry, courtesy of Company XIV)
I was not feeling particularly delighted when I nestled into my seat at Company XIV‘s stage production of Snow White. Firstly, the theater smelled like a brothel before Yankee Candle Company was invented (intentionally, I assume), and Sundays are the last day I want to be getting all experimental with my olfactory receptors. All. Organs. Ache. Even my ability to laugh is usually squandered at this point– lolz are wasted on the youth, am I right? So when this baroque, gyrating, barely-clothed, indulgent mishmash of Versailles’s gaudiest decor, the charming Weimar cabaret, classical ballet, pole dancing, and remnants of the Brothers Grimm managed to turn my bottom-grazing sulk into 100-percent authentic laughter and delight, I was so, so happy I’d crawled out of my bed to be with Company XIV’s Snow White.
Thin shelves spell bad news for St. Mark’s Bookshop (Photo via St. Mark’s Bookshop)
A lawyer for the struggling St. Mark’s Bookshop tells us “they’re probably not going to be around much longer, we’re talking days.” Since we last reported on the shop’s fight against eviction in the face of $62,000 in back rent, its problems have only mounted in the form of a $34,400 tax lien and a dispute with one of its biggest book distributors involving thousands more dollars in debt. Yesterday, the shop announced a “clearance sale” in a last-ditch effort to raise money before a forthcoming auction.