To many, Linda Gerard needs no introduction. She has a cult following of devoted fans who journey to sunny Ace in Palm Springs to catch a glimpse and an earful of this self-described — Older, Wiser Lesbian. She’s everyone’s femme idol, the apple of our eye and one of our favorite human beings. She’s also a ridiculously talented woman with many an industry notch on her belt. That she’s decided to settle down with us in the desert, hosting Sissy Bingo every week and otherwise wowing those in the know as well as virgin ears and eyes, makes us incredibly blessed. Linda’s voice carries the oceanic vibrations of every great Broadway star before her, and she lets it ricochet ‘gainst the walls of King’s Highway when the mood is right. Her penchant for show-stopping eyewear and envy-inducing collection of let-your-light-shine sweaters and blazers leave us swooning.
We recently released a vinyl-only limited edition of Linda’s greatest hits, Fabulous Selections on our shop, and for our mutual dear friend DJ Day — another Palm Spring legend — we also present his first album, Land of 1000 Chances, on the shop. Day and Linda sat down recently to thumb through a bit of Linda’s life story — the stuff of big dreams, massive love, brave independence and a woman from whom we all have a lot to learn — entrusted to a confidante half her age but who’s definitely dancing to a similar drummer.
Find below the first of three chapters — you’ll see more in the weeks to come. And check out Linda’s and Day’s albums on our shop.
Let’s start from the beginning.
I was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1938, to a very orthodox Jewish family. Kept kosher, did the whole bit. I was always a performer. I always got up in front of people and sang. So, when I was old enough to get on the train my parents would let me go by myself to study in New York. I studied singing, dancing, acting, elocution and all that stuff. My parents wanted me to go to private school, but I said, “No, no, no. I don’t want to go to private school.”
I went to Trenton High School and I was in all the plays and the musicals and that was fun. Then when it was time to go to college and my parents wanted me to go I said, “I want to be in show business, but I’ll go to college if I can go to New York City.” There was a college in New York City called Finch, and it was on 78th Street between Park and Madison. I knew that if I got in I could sing on the weekends because that’s what I wanted to do. I got into Finch and on weekends I sang at 1 Fifth Avenue. I was always singing. I didn’t get great grades but I didn’t care. My parents cared, but I didn’t care. So the following year I didn’t want to go back. I said to parents, “Let me audition for the American Theatre Wing,” which was a very good school, for musical comedy.
A biomimetic 3D-printed shoe collaboration between Dutch fashion designer Marieka Ratsma and American architect Kostika Spaho, inspired by the skull of a bird, reflects the lightness and highly-differentiated bone structure of the cranium. The structure requires less support material, resulting in increased efficiency, strength and elegance — one of the many alluring aspects of biomimicry that, when combined with emerging technologies such as 3D mapping and printing, fuses an Old World, Da Vinci-esque principle of worshiping and mimicking the natural world to further human evolution, with an otherworldly animal-machine-human future (or present) straight out of Blade Runner. Kostika will be working with designers tomorrow in the lobby at Ace Hotel New York for our Fashion Week 3D printing jewelry design bazaar — unless Mother Nature biomimics us back on our asses. In which case, enjoy the reading material.
op·u·lentadj: 1. characterized by an obvious or lavish display of wealth or affluence 2. in richly abundant supply
The Opulent Project is a Portland-based designer/maker collaborative founded by Meg Drinkwater and Erin Gardner a handful of years ago. Drinkwater and Gardner make “jewelry about jewelry” — and they’re of particular interest to us in this moment not only because their work is stunning, inspiring all sort of covetous, curious thoughts — but also because their 3D Ring has us thinking about the metaphor of 3D printing in the era of DIY, “makers” and the conflation of art and fashion. Culled from Google Image Commons, the ring is a stack of digital images never intended to see the light of day IRL. Having broken this unspoken contract, they’ve made something beautiful, thoughtful and slightly dangerous.
"We like to make objects. We are curious about the relationship our society has to its objects. We ponder infatuations. We are interested the nature of possessions. With that, we become a factory.”
The term ekphrasis refers to the act of “making art about art” — it comes to mind when you mention making “jewelry about jewelry” in that both practices invoke translation, cynicism, celebration and a sort of intentional nonsense-making, calling into question the social, aesthetic and material scaffolding around “real,” “fake” and “meaningful.” How cerebral do you get in your process — does it touch on these points or is more about play? Or both?
This is a great question and I think it considers our process and approach very well. Our process is absolutely rooted in a cerebral investigation of a subject matter, however the outcome, or the product, is very much about play. We try not to take ourselves too seriously. But the viewer/wearer response can be varied in relation to this question. We recently had a bit of a debate with our gallerist in New Jersey about this exact subject. She was wondering if people were ever insulted by some of our projects. Where I had thought we were blending all of the above: translation, cynicism, celebration and intentional nonsense making, she seemed to think some of our work could be more on the cynical side. She thought some of our projects could be seen as a bit more of a sarcastic representation of jewelry than a celebratory one, as though we were saying, “Oh you want a fancy ring; I’ll give you a fancy ring.” We can be pretty cynical and we are of course critical of the established system of value related to commercial jewelry and luxury objects, but we regard this culture with fascination, not necessarily disgust. Our work is not angry, but curious… We are asking questions, not making statements.
We kick off our Fall Fashion Week interviews with designer and sorcerer Chris Habana. Raised in the Philippines and the US on a steady diet of sci-fi, fantasy role play, Dungeons and Dragons and 90s gay counter-culture, Chris’ work blends gothic iconography with a playful and aggressive take on a pop lens. Amidst sketching up his collaboration with thefuturefuture on a series of pieces for our in-house 3D-printed jewelry bazaar at Ace Hotel New York this weekend, Chris talked to us briefly about Catholic School, his queer icons and being an early adopter of 3D mapping in the fashion world.
Talk about how your binational, big gay life has fused with sci-fi to create your strong visual statements about religion, salvation and human agency.
My design process is very organic. My day to day life experiences, my lovers, my encounters — all influence the work. With regards to religion, sex, gay counter-culture, and sci-fi — well, how many times have you heard that story of the young geeky Dungeons and Dragons-playing Filipino immigrant who went to Catholic School and came to the States to realize his goth/angst homosexual dreams in the club and fashion world?
We’re proud to have sponsored a screening of the fantastic documentary Brooklyn Castle for afterschool students at St. Nicks Alliance in Williamsburg. The film is nominated for an NAACP Image Award at tonight’s awards show, and it’ll be available on iTunes February 5. If you yourself haven’t yet seen the film, find a way to do so — and contact them about sponsoring more kids from public schools to attend screenings at independent theaters around Manhattan and surrounding boroughs.
Though she’s getting ready to give birth to a chess champ herself, director Katie DellaMaggiore answered some questions for us — including a couple from the St. Nicks crew themselves.
Were you an avid chess fan prior to filming, and if not, are you one now? And! Did you ever play against any of the students from IS318?
I wasn’t a chess player before we made the film and I still don’t consider myself a chess player after finishing the film either. My husband still enjoys kicking my butt every opportunity he gets. And I’m proud to say I finally got the nerve to play my first game against one of the kids recently. It was against Pobo, and he said I actually didn’t play so bad – so I’m pretty proud of that!
What moved you to make this film?
In 2007, I read a NYT article about Shawn Martinez, a talented chess player at Murrow High School in Midwood, Brooklyn, a neighborhood just a few minutes from where I grew up. I did some digging and found out that the feeder junior high school to Murrow was I.S. 318 and that not only had they won more national chess championships than any junior high school ever, but they were basically breaking down all the tired, negative stereotypes associated with inner city public schools. I was intrigued by the idea that the story defied expectations — people don’t expect a Title I school (more than 60% of the students are from low income households) in Brooklyn to have the number one chess team in the nation.
What was it like getting to know these kids? Do you still see each other?
In documenting the lives of our subjects trust was always our number one priority — we think the kids know they can come to us if they ever need advice or have a problem and that they can really trust us. We’re also always trying to find opportunities for them to prosper from the movie. Last summer Pobo got to speak at an afterschool conference on Capitol Hill. He did a stellar job, of course. We were able to connect Rochelle with an awesome summer job at a top law firm this summer. After four years of working on this film we’ve become a Brooklyn Castle family and we’ll likely be in each other’s lives for a long time.
Do you have plans to do any sort of follow-up documentary in a decade or two? How can we stay apprised of these kids’ lives and growth?
No plans for that yet, but it would be interesting to see something like that for sure. I mean, Pobo will most certainly be president one day, don’t you agree? We haven’t seen the last of him. He’s got a twitter account @pobama318 for anyone in need of a political advisor. Rochelle is off to Stanford, where she received a full scholarship. We’re invested in their success and we know that people that see the film feel the same way too, so we’ll keep you apprised.
What resources do you recommend to parents with kids in public school who would like to initiate this kind of program at their own school?
I.S. 318’s chess teacher Elizabeth Vicary has shared a guide for getting a chess program started in your school on our website. The Afterschool Alliance also has a ton of great resources on how to start an afterschool program. If you need help finding a volunteer you can reach out to two great organizations: Citizens in Schools and Community in Schools.
What’s next for you?
I’m about to have a baby, our first, any day now. Ask me in six months. Seriously though, we have a bunch of ideas cooking. Scott Rudin acquired the rights to remake the film into a Hollywood feature, so Brooklyn Castle could be coming again to a theater near you. Albeit, ‘based on a true story’…
Johanna Jackson, a treasure of the West Coast and of the universe, introduced to most of the world through Beautiful Losers, has six hand-knit sweaters and a blanket strung up at the new Portland Museum of Modern Art, a makeshift gallery inside Mississippi Studios on North Albina in Portland, Oregon. Her show, The Big Fig, reflects her roots in street and folk art culture, and celebrates craft, feminized mediums and the psychically, physically and philosophically dynamic metaphor of weaving and knitting.
You still have a few more days to catch the show in Portland — it’s up through Saturday.
I’m curious if other textile artists like Sheila Hicks or Lenore Tawney provide you with any inspiration. Hicks has a book called Weaving as a Metaphor the pages of which hold all of her miniature weavings she’s done over the last 40, 50 years in Paris, Mexico, Florida, wherever. Each one is like a poem — how the weft expresses the way the wind was moving that day and the deep blue ribbon was a man she’d spoken with on the corner. Do you feel like your sweaters are part of this sort of kinesthetic storytelling tradition?
I do feel influenced by Tawney and Hicks, but more influenced by people way outside of the professional art world, like Bertha Gray Hayes and Martha Stewart. Still, I love Hick’s poetry, and I feel the cyclical loop within loop motion of the knitting process mimicking a kind of narrative impulse — it turns the formless enormity of time into fabric the way a story turns the infinite succession of events into a finite chain of events, looped one to another.
Does art have to be useful? These sweaters are real and will keep animals and humans warm. They could even insulate tomato plants or reupholster the driver’s seat of a car. Does it feel different to make art that can be useful in real life?
I don’t think that art has to be useful. I mean, it’s all dust.
It seems like you and your partner Chris have strong feelings about not worrying to much about shit and just living the good life. What is there to learn from letting go of the label of “artist” — or conversely, spreading it out to encompass everything you do?
Life is the best thing that I have. I don’t want to block it by labeling myself, limiting my creativity or prioritizing some of my life work (say painting) over others (brushing my teeth). I want to be here for all of it, who knows where the art is?
During Fall Fashion Week in New York on Saturday, February 9, we’re partnering with Shapeways on an interactive encounter of technology and design that explores how digital technology can revolutionize the future of fashion — with Michael Schmidt, Dita Von Teese, Material ConneXion and some of today’s most forward-thinking CAD artists and analog jewelry designers.
At 2pm in the lobby, we host a group discussion for students about 3D printing and fashion’s future with designer Michael Schmidt —creator of wardrobes for luminaries like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Deborah Harry and Madonna, and of the rope installation in the lobby of Ace Hotel & Swim Club — and 3D design evangelists Michael Curry and Duann Scott from MakerBot and Shapeways, respectively, and Brooks Hagan, textile artist and Acting Head of the Textile Department at RISD. All students are welcome to attend.
Material ConneXion presents a gallery show focused on the materiality of fashion to come, and Michael Schmidt — creator of wardrobes for luminaries like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Deborah Harry and Madonna, and of the rope installation in the lobby of Ace Hotel & Swim Club — with Computational Designer Francis Bitonti unveils a fully articulated 3D-printed gown to be debuted by Dita Von Teese as muse and model at a party to herald fashion’s forthcoming digital future.
We’ll be posting interviews, inspiration boards, studio visits and more here in the days leading up to the big shebang.
Some time when the river is ice ask me mistakes I have made. Ask me whether what I have done is my life. Others have come in their slow way into my thought, and some have tried to help or to hurt: ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say. You and I can turn and look at the silent river and wait. We know the current is there, hidden, and there are comings and goings from miles away that hold the stillness exactly before us. What the river says, that is what I say.
INTERVIEW : OUR OLD PAL MICHAEL CAVADIAS AKA LILY OF THE VALLEY
Though you would never know it by the title or lead image of this post — actor, singer, DJ and performer Michael Cavadias is not, in fact, old. He is young, he’s fucking beautiful and he’s FULL OF LIFE. Michael aka Lily of the Valley (to some from a certain era) is one of New York’s most treasured gems, and we’re honored to both know him and host him on the decks in our lobby on a regular occasion. Never were more seductive tracks dropped mere inches below such a winsome mug. At long last, we asked Mister Cavadias to tell us a bit about his life story and his work. Catch him tonight in the Ace New York lobby and come bask in his glory yourself.
I spent a few years in the 90’s performing and working as “Lily of the Valley.” This name came from an improv when I was living with Antony (of…and the Johnson’s) when were were at NYU theatre school back then. Lily was a delusional woman who believed that dozens of angels were living on her toes and giving her messages. But the character changed considerably after that and Lily became an umbrella character for many different creative pursuits. She performed weekly at the Blacklips Performance Cult at the Pyramid in dark little plays and then at Squeezebox with a rock band many many times. It wasn’t traditional drag in any sense but a bit of a natural femininity and etherial presence. It was a great time exploring that character and working with so many inspiring people like Antony, Page (who passed away in 2002) and Dean Johnson (passed away in 2007). People who taught me so much about how to be your authentic self.
As an actor my favorite job would have to be working with Michael Douglas, Robert Downey Jr. & Tobey Maguire in Wonder Boys. I played Tony/Antonia Sloviak who was Robert’s date to a faculty party but he ditches me for Tobey and then I have a couple scenes with Michael Douglas. It was an amazing experience. I learned so much and met some wonderful people like Jane Adams (Happiness, Hung) who is one of my closest friends to this day.
I can’t say I’ve had any truly nightmarish auditions — I suppose just times I was called in for things I just wasn’t right for. In the past few years, I’ve been concentrating on producing more of my own work. A show I wrote called “The Mystery of Claywoman” (directed by Rob Roth) finished a successful run in 2012 at Abrons Art Center and I performed as Claywoman at The Meltdown Festival in London in August, which Antony curated. Rob and I are also finishing a film called “The Doctors” where I play an evil physician. Other than that I’ve been working in other people’s projects a lot lately. There is a great scene of performers and actors, writers Downtown right now like Cole Escola, Erin Markey, Stephen Winter, WIll Janowitz, Antony & Rob Roth. All of whom I’m really excited to be working with.
DJing is actually a great way to tie everything together. I’ve always been obsessed with music. I’ll fixate on an artist and play their songs over and over again like a meditation. I’m fascinated by the progression of artists through their careers and how they change. I love looking at a DJ set as almost a score for a historical documentary on music, trying to weave the songs together so that the relationship between different songs of different eras and artists can sort of comment on each other as though there’s a narrative flowing throughout the night. Not that the listener would necessarily pick up on that, but it’s a fun way to put it together in your head.
We love you Michael, Lily and everyone else on your toes.
We started to have a talk about Minor and Ansel, and she began to tell stories about these younger friends of hers, who in her opinion couldn’t properly take care of their health — she was 91 at the time. Then she began to gossip about Ansel and what a prude and tight-ass he was. “He’s always showing off,” she said.
Ansel had done an advertising campaign for Yuban coffee, and they used one of his Yosemite pictures on the outside of the can. Ansel sent a five-pound can to Imogen, and the coffee was excellent, and she figured, “Well, I now have to pay him back.” So she put a bunch of earth in the can and some seeds and sent it down to Carmel with the directions, “Just add water, Ansel. Here are some beautiful plants for you.” He did as she directed, and the plant came up strong and healthy. And then one day his buddy the sheriff came to visit in his home and looked at it and said, “Ansel, what are you doing growing dope? You know I can arrest you for this.” Needless to say, Ansel then got on the phone to cuss her out. She just thought it was hilarious.
Photographer Abe Frajndlich on his first meeting with prankster and photography legend Imogen Cunningham, and her punking of Ansel Adams, in his book Penelope’s Hungry Eyes. Imogen’s spiritual kinship with painter Georgie O’Keefe is the subject of one lens in the Seattle Art Museum’s Elles exhibition — a look at work by seminal female artists, up through February 17. If you need a place to stay while you’re here, let us know.