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18 May 2011, 1:00 pm One Comment

Party Review: Black on Beige – An Appreciation by Our Party Critic

Event Details: Black on Beige - An Appreciation by Our Party Critic - :

Submission by Chris Robbinson, TNG NYC’s new contributor and party critic

Join our new Party Critic on his quest for the places we’ll want to be this spring and summer. He’s leaving no club, house party, or dive unturned – and no neighborhood for that matter. With an optimistic eye, an ear for music, a sense of thrift, and a wealth of curiosity – let the search for “good times” begin, or in this case, come to an END.

How to celebrate the end of a utopia? For Beige, B Bar’s vogue Tuesday party for 17 years running, the end came with both a bang and a whimper last week. The finale was an epic open-casket wake for the party’s epochal legacy in gay New York social life. Throngs turned out to pay their respects: mainstays of the scene, such as Amanda Lepore, Gayletter’s Tom Jackson and Abi Benitez, and Michael Musto (will I ever be able to write a column without dropping his name?); celebrities both major and minor—Alan Cumming, Bravo’s Andy Cohen, Lance Bass with the A-List’s (not to be confused with the A-List) Rodiney Santiago; and masses of commoners, like myself.

I came to Beige at all the wrong time. Having only moved to New York last fall, my first Beige was in the winter, on a brutally cold night. The drinks were overpriced and underpoured (though, to its credit, B Bar was a rare place where I could unselfconsciously drink a martini). Even the heat-emitting phalli of B Bar’s patio couldn’t keep me warm. But despite these adverse circumstances, there was a lively scene happening. The bar was full of merry Marys chatting, drinking, eating, seeing, and being seen. I had found a gay oasis in the middle of a cruel Manhattan night. Last Tuesday—only a few Tuesdays later—I watched that oasis flame away.

The end of Beige spawned a number of reminiscences from its devotees (see here, here, and here). Common among them was the sense that Beige represented a sort of utopia of New York gay life. It was a night where gays were a large majority in a largely mainstream (read: not-gay) establishment. The gays it attracted were themselves attractive, real-life “It Gets Better” stories (or, at least, “It Gets Wealthier and Better Dressed” stories). The vibe was more social and less predatory than most gay clubs, with minimal pressure for hooking up on a Tuesday night. And, last and certainly least, celebrities would drop in on occasion—Britney Spears, Dolly Parton, even, as the legend goes, our current president.

According to the party’s founder, Erich Conrad, Beige was pressured out by noise complaints from the new luxury condo across the street. Count it as another casualty of the continuing push for purgation from prudish community boards in the East Village.

Only steps from B Bar, the architect Rem Koolhaas recently installed an exhibition in a former kitchen supply store on the Bowery entitled Cronocaos. The exhibit exhorts viewers to reconsider our attachment to nostalgia in preserving historical space. It encourages, instead, an acceptance of destruction as an essential part of preservation. Koolhaas has been especially fond of using the metaphor of Pompeii to make this point in recent lectures.

Beige’s last party was a Pompeian scene of legacy amidst destruction. At the same time as it was coming to an end, people and stories emerged from its history to be caught in one last scene. On the last Tuesday of Beige, you didn’t want to be caught dead not attending.

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