We were incredibly honored to host the first openly gay royal in the world, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of India. As an activist, organic farmer, public health educator and humanitarian, Prince Manvendra has gained legalization for homosexuality in India, founded multiple organizations to support the gay and lesbian community of India and educate about HIV prevention, and travelled far and wide with a message of self-empowerment, mutual aid, and political and social enlightenment.
During his stay at Ace Hotel New York, he found a moment to tell us more about his experiences, his activism and his take on the gay and lesbian culture in the US.
How are you finding your stay in New York?
Oh, wonderful. The Ace Hotel is really looking after me very well, it’s rather pampering me, I would say. And my stay has been really wonderful until now, very enjoyable and meeting up with a lot of people. And I must say, New York is very warm and friendly.
Oh, good, I’m so glad to hear it.
Even though the weather is not warm, the people are warm. So I’m having a very comfortable time here.
I’m curious if you feel that being part of the royal family has made it easier or more difficult for you to come out as gay and do the work that you do?
Initially it was very difficult because I happened to be the only openly gay royal in the whole world and the first person to come out and talk. And I think I still enjoy the monopoly, nobody has yet come out and talked that openly. And it was very challenging for me because I was disowned by my family, publicly disowned and publicly disinherited, my effigies were burned in the fire and people kind of protested against my coming out and there was a lot of outcry. And then gradually it faded down because I told the media that I don’t blame the society, I blame their ignorance.
And it is bound to happen that whenever something new happens, or this kind of thing happens, in society people are bound to react. And it is my duty to make them aware of what is the facts of life and I always say if one has to solve a problem, one has to go to the root of that problem. And in order to do that, one has to realize or one has to accept the facts of life or one has to accept the reality, come to terms to the reality. Then you can solve that problem. So now I started doing that, media has helped me a lot. Indian media really has brought out very positive stories on homosexuality, which they were not doing in the past. And I’ve managed to sensitize the media, the print media as well as the television media and especially the vernacular media and through their help I managed to sensitize a lot of people, made them aware of what is the truth. A lot of misconceptions about homosexuality we managed to kind of remove from their minds and that’s how the process began. And now it’s fine, people have started accepting gradually. And more than that, I think my attachment to a call or a larger call helped me a lot for the people to accept me. And the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of social work, not just for the gay community but for others as well in the fields of employment, education, agriculture, health.
So that branding of mine, I would call it, helped me to gain… regain the respect from the people, from my town, from my family. And again, Oprah’s interview made a difference because when people realized that I was the third Indian to be invited by her and the only one to be invited twice, they realized that if Oprah is calling me all the way to Chicago and I mean there are a lot of Oprah fans in India and all of them know that Oprah is not gay. So if there’s a person who’s not in the community and yet she is so openly supporting this whole entire call, I mean there is something, there’s some substance to my fight. So that’s how people… I could change people’s attitudes and mindsets and it’s gradually happening. I mean I am kind of realizing that very soon we will be kind of, you know, achieving our freedom very soon.
We’re excited to announce the kick-off of AfterFest at Ace Palm Springs — we’re hosting DJs, late night screenings and really, really late night dining at King’s Highway all throughout the Palm Springs International ShortFest. We’ll also feature interviews with some of the festival’s directors over the next week or so. First up: Melissa Osborne, director of the short film Change, which screens Friday, June 24 at 5:30pm.
Change is a about a gay Black teenager on the eve of Obama’s election and the success of Prop 8, wherein California voters banned state-sanctioned gay marriage. Can you talk about the film’s inception and how much the final cut reflects your intentions?
The film came about because I wanted to make a short film that I hoped would do more than entertain -– that would get people thinking. I was astounded by the irony on November 4th when Obama was elected and Prop 8 passed and I knew I wanted to tell that story. So I started imagining what that day might have been like for a black, gay teen. What did we — older and “wiser” adults — teach teenagers on that day? I was also aware of my blind faith that Prop 8 wouldn’t pass. I naively assumed that because we lived in California — a “liberal” state -– there was no way the voting residents would let the prop pass. I was wrong. So, those points became the starting blocks for the script CHANGE.
OTHER MUSIC'S NEWEST COLLECTION AT ACE HOTEL NEW YORK
Other Music curates selections of vinyl and CDs for Ace Hotel New York, and this is their latest collection. You can come check it out for yourself — everything’s for sale on the wall just to the right of the taxidermy birds. If you want something good to play in your room and take home with you, just call the front desk and they’ll send some things up.
THE RETURN OF SOUND SYSTEM SCRATCH — VARIOUS ARTISTS
Culled almost exclusively from recordings made at his famed and doomed Black Ark studio, The Return of Sound System Scratch is prime-era Scratch and the comp presents a fantastic showcase of Lee Perry’s amazing studio trickery. The vocal tracks are the gems here, with versions of great songs originally voiced by Junior Murvin, Candy Mackenzie, Leo Graham, George Faith, Jimmy Riley, Jack Lord, and the Silvertones, all served with the dub-plate treatment and thus swimming in a sea of floating cymbals, sweaty guitars, dripping-with-reverb organs, and minimal yet groove-filled percussion.
AMON TOBIN — ISAM
With the release of his tenth album, Amon Tobin steps forward in his study of sound design, ISAM being a collection of textured and melodic pieces completely composed from self-created sounds, which he then manipulated through state-of-the-art software and hardware. Similar to Matthew Hebert, Tobin favors the use of household items like old rocking chairs, light bulbs, springs, tools, etc. The results are great, and while you still hear his trademarked breakbeat inflections, hip-hop informed beat patterns, jazzy interludes and abstract chord structures, the actual sound has been completely re-envisioned. His always-cinematic constructions play more like dramatic film scores here; the use of familiar and natural sound elements never lose their organic origins, even as they are pushed, pulled, shrunken and expanded into an array of atmospheres. It’s a compelling concept and honestly, the results are hard to describe.
Our friends at MoMA PS1 just announced their summer lineup for the annual Warm Up music series out in Long Island City, taking place every Saturday between July 4 and Labor Day. We’re lending a hand by acting as a homebase to some of their visiting performers from far-flung corners of the earth, and we’ll be giving away a handful of tickets to Warm Up events each week to blog readers so stay tuned here for updates on how to get yours. Find the lineup below — get here by plane, train, automobile, unicycle, skateboard or magic carpet. And keep an eye out for this year’s hard-to-miss YAP installation by Interboro Partners + WHATAMI by stARTT.
Chris Israel is an old friend and enterprising culinary freestylist recently nominated for a James Beard award. His newest venture, Grüner, explores the Alps, the Black Forest and all manner of obscure root vegetables and hard-wrought, herby, nearly-medicinal liqueurs and apertifs. On any given afternoon, you can watch Chris’ team in the midst of hours of preparation for that evening’s ingredients, prepared from scratch, before your check is delivered to the table in a tiny old book. It’s a nice place, and we got a chance to chat with Chris about it while he was staying at Ace New York during the James Beard Award events.
Grüner is one of our favorite places — you’ve said you hope to “create an audience for this underloved cuisine,” and you seem to have succeeded. How do the local food culture and resources influence your menu? You seem to steer clear of gimmicky takes on the Alpine meets Pacific Northwest angle.
Portland’s food community is filled with excellent purveyors and passionate farmers whose offerings inspire chefs like myself to consider the possibilities.
I want my menu to tell a story so I try to imagine the similarities between the Pacific northwest and the Alps.
The beauty of what you offer at Grüner is that it’s specific enough to create a sort of culinary fetish, in a place that is dark and dreary enough, often enough, that people are always in the market for a new food obsession. Has Grüner provided some kind of extra satisfaction for you beyond Zefiro and Saucebox, for this reason?
Yes. I knew that Grüner would be a harder sell and to watch it become successful has been rewarding. German & Austrian food isn’t inherently sexy like Italian or French.
You’ve been nominated for a James Beard award — a pretty enormous honor. Tell me about how the team of people who work with have led you to this point? Who has influenced and inspired you, and who supports you in the day to day?
Besides my mother & grandmothers, I would say my experience working at Square One restaurant in the 80’s under chef & author Joyce Goldstein was my biggest influence for food. There I watched, learned and tasted the regional cooking of the Mediterranean and the rest of the world over a five year period. The menu there changed every day so it was an enormous undertaking which was very successful. I was drawn to the sense of theatre and the fluid dynamics of an ace team of talented people enjoying what they were doing. I like to create a full experience so I’m concerned with every detail — graphic design and architecture have always been important to me and history, ephemera and links to the past. Day to day, my support team is my partner Jason, my chef de cuisine Jake Sheffield — we’ve worked together for a number of years — and my GM Yaduki is my godsend.
Last time I was at Grüner, the communal table in the back of the dining room was entirely devoted to making what looked like fresh ravioli and sausages — the ravioli was this mesmerizing tide of golden ribbons. It’s making me want to walk over and beg at the back door for some right now. What’s it like to keep the balance between running a restaurant efficiently and remaining devoted to this kind of human, handmade and authentic element of food?
I think of Grüner like a ship — it’s small but every element relates to the next so there’s no wasted space or movement. That, combined with the feeling that I don’t have to worry about who’s steering the boat means I can relax a bit more and think about the menu, which allows me to respond to the season quickly, capture the moment through tastes and textures.
The Grüner menu explores the alpine regions of Europe — who devised the spirits menu and cocktails, and how do you hope this contributes to the whole experience?
Our original bartender Shane Firstein created some amazing recipes using spirits from Germany, Austria, Croatia and the Czech Republic (our geographical boundaries also include countries on the Danube river which starts in the Black Forest and ends at the Black Sea. He thought about classic drinks and how they would be interpreted using these different but similar ingredients. The drinks were created to express a mood or feeling — we had a drink called “The Monk’s Path” which imagined what a Carthusian monk’s walk might have felt like in the forest on a warm spring day. These are the monks that make Chartreuse which is an incredibly floral and herbal liqueur.
Our original wine goddess and GM Dana Frank put together our amazing wine list and also contributed to our beginning menus.
Where are you spending your downtime in NYC?
I’ve been hanging with old friends, eating and celebrating at spots like Fatty Cue, John Dory, Buvette, Torys and ABC Kitchen. Also The Met and Cooper-Hewitt and even got to see Oregon Symphony rehearse at Carnegie Hall before I left for Paris & Strasbourg.
Please settle this once and for all — is the food better in Portland?
After spending two weeks eating in New York and Europe, I would have to say yes — the quality of ingredients and the value our smaller metropolis offers is unbeatable.