. In COOLTURA
Nightlife, Victor P. Corona, and his downtown memoir, “NIGHT CLASS” (with exclusive photos!)
I usually don’t wear wigs to interviews, but this one is special. The interview, I mean. The wig isn’t special at all—I only got it because I needed something with bangs when I don’t feel like gluing down a lace front.
I’ve always said that the only thing worth taking seriously in life is FUN. So I was thrilled to find out that a sociologist(!) with a PHD(!) who teaches at NYU(!) wrote a memoir about nightlife in downtown New York(!!!)
I always say that people should absolutely—almost exclusively—judge a book by its cover. If someone writes a “good” book but then lets some graphic designer plaster a cliché all over it—that means the writing can’t really be good because the brain behind that writing isn’t “in touch” with what I, personally, think is COOL. And who has time for that?
When I saw a glittery eyelid drooped over a sneaky eyeball, peering through a pervy peep-hole on a glossy black cover, I was sold. When I noticed the letters spelling out N-I-G-H-T-C-L-A-S-S were made to look like cocaine or finishing powder—two substances of equal importance in nightlife—I thought, what a gem! I snagged that shit before I even read the blurb.
I contacted Victor P. Corona on Instagram. I guess I technically “double DM’d” him, first inviting him to the Ladyfag party I was hosting and then pressing to interview him about his book over drinks. He agreed, which was great! What wasn’t great was the fact that I had only read like, two pages by then. Lols.
Once Victor and I planned the interview, I figured I should probably prepare something to interview him about. I committed to reading the first few chapters on Thanksgiving morning while hung-over out of my brains at the café attached to the ROXY Hotel in Tribeca. The previous night I was there too, at the bar attached to the ROXY, aka Paul’s Baby Grand. The party there sucked so I ditched my friends under the pretense of “having a smoke” and ended up at a jazz club (sorry, Paul). On my way to my hotel that morning I complained to my [lucky] driver about how Wednesday nights at Paul’s were “so much better once!” Hours later, as my temples pounded like speakers at the Boom Boom Room, the pages I read were voicing my same sentiment (and resentment) about other parties, past and present.
“Pick your nostalgia. You’ll find someone in New York who shares it.” Pg. 30
This book covers pretty much everything that could have happened to anyone “worth knowing” downtown. Gaga, Warhol, the Factory, Queens, Club Kids—Michael Alig himself, in all his horror! Reading juicy gossip, bitchy quotes and fascinating facts lifted my hangover.
I’ve always said the only thing worth splurging on is TIME. Your days on earth are numbered so if you have to eat less or dress worse to afford taxis, that’s fine! On Friday night (the one after the Thanksgiving after that Wednesday at Paul’s) I hopped into a cab to interview my new fave author!
I always love when journalists describe how people are dressed in interviews, so FYI: I’m wearing a hot pink Malibu Barbie dress I got off of UpscaleStripper.Com. It’s freezing outside, but I’m not wearing tights because they’d show through on my belly, which is exposed, obviously! I’m wearing matching pink rhinestone platform sandals, also from UpscaleStripper.Com. And that un-special wig, from Wigs.Com.
UpscaleStripper.com is my fave store!
Victor! He’s wearing all black, so he could either be in Rick Owens or Uniqlo, I have no idea. That’s the thing about wearing black. Point is, he’s gorgeously mysterious, physically and otherwise. He wears sunglasses inside!!! He wrote a lot about how his image has changed through his experience in nightlife. Corona didn’t really start “going out” till his late twenties, after finishing his PHD. The book opens with a scene many of us know painfully well: feeling underdressed and unwanted at the gates of a cool ass party you aren’t on the list for. He says that being rejected by doormen made him a better version of himself. I can relate. I never liked my clothes in my early twenties which is why I was so eager to take them off.
Corona experimenting with teal hair back in 2013 in Los Angeles, where he’s moving in January 2018.
We’re ~conducting~ the interview at Boiler Room. It’s a gay bar that offers a FREE second drink during happy hour! (That’s cool, but still doesn’t make up for the fact that there are no mirrors in the bathrooms.) I’m laying down on a couch with my shoes off (ouch) and he’s seated on the sofa to my right. I’m drinking wine, he ordered a beer. They’re both served in equally enormous glasses. (Another point for the bar but still not enough to forget those mirrors!)
Despite having talked to everyone who is anyone (the book bounces between Vic’s personal stories and interviews with superstars, star-fuckers, wannabees, has-beens, are-nows and all the in-betweens) Victor doesn’t name drop or indulge himself in conversation. He uses his velvety voice to only say things that matter. Which is a SHOCK, after spending countless nights with people who fear they’ll fall off the face of the earth any second they aren’t SCREAMING random information about themselves! (I may or may not be included in the latter).
We hit it off! After our interview Victor invited me out with him, which is what I had hoped for when getting all dressed up in the first place. We got drinks at the Bowery and crashed a party at Public. I guess the rest is “off the record” so unfortunately I can’t talk about that or his Serious Heterosexual Writer Friend who obviously happens to be French aka annoying 😉
The following has been lightly edited for clarity. (I removed roughly 1,000 words about Lady Gaga.) Enjoy with a drink or ten!
Lady Gaga and ex-boyfriend Lüc Carl at Motherfucker, 2007. Photograph by Geraldine Visco.
TH: You just released “NIGHT CLASS” this past June. Congrats! Has it changed your life?
VPC: Well, there have been reactions that I didn’t expect. I was worried how it would affect me teaching at NYU. To my surprise, they ended up promoting me in the fall! Some people didn’t like it. They didn’t like how they were treated. But the book is very honest and in terms of this idea of ‘spilling tea,’ I also spilled plenty about myself! About my heartbreak, how I struggled to make my way through nightlife, how I was treated. I had never before revealed that I had been undocumented! Nobody knew that, not my students, not my friends, not people I dated. I think that it’s in the warts, it’s in the honesty that we see our common humanity. So I understand that some people will never wanna talk to me again. But it’s amazing to get messages from people like you or people around the world who enjoy the look I gave them into New York.
Zaldy at the Copacabana. Courtesy of the Alexis DiBiasio Collection and Ernie Glam.
TH: Don’t spill the tea if you can’t drink it! What made you want to write this book?
VPC: Well, the first version didn’t fly because it was a purely academic, dry treatment of it. The sociology of nightlife. It’s what I thought I was “supposed” to do, as a sociologist. But the people that I would give it to would all essentially ask what you did: “why did a sociologist choose to write this book? How did you manage to be at a Ladyfag party or a Susanne Barsch party or at the Box?” We reached a point where an editor just didn’t like it and my students said, “you have to let the reader know why you did this.” So that was the final push I needed to make it more of a memoir. I’m just using my own story as a vessel to open up these other stories. What it was like to work for someone like Michael Alig and what I learned about myself and my own flaws through someone as unbelievably pathological as him.
TH: You say at one point that being rejected by a doorman made you a better version of yourself. More fabulous! But where do you draw the line between a doorman being critical for the sake of a party and simply being an asshole?
VPC: That’s a really good question. It’s that fine line that determines an ultimately successful party. There is actually one doorman in New York who is very very popular, and there’s a party that goes on every Tuesday that I just don’t go to because he’s just straight up an asshole. If you show up and you’re not dressed well, sure, you don’t deserve to get in. But if you’re clearly making an effort, and you’re known, and he just wants to go out of his way to be an overlord, it’s not fun. So it is a fine line. I think the best door people, like Kenny Kenny, know how to remain beloved while maybe being a little mean at times. Kenny is obviously featured prominently in the book. He’s the most legendary doorman in New York. And he’s known to be very sassy, to read you to the point of tears, but he’s loved because he’s not an asshole. Nobody in New York would ever call Kenny Kenny an asshole. It’s what I say in the book: everyone needs to make the effort. Make sure you’re contributing to the positive energy and to the visuals.
Mr. Pearl and Susanne Bartsch. Courtesy of the Alexis DiBiasio Collection and Ernie Glam.
TH: I was a door girl for a couple years and at first I thought it was just about the names and beautiful people but eventually you learn, like, “OK, that 18 year old kid wearing pajamas has been here 3 times and wants it badly-they’re gonna make the party better than the 30 year old with the great LQQK, who’s just buying a bottle.” It’s ultimately about intuition.
VPC: Oh! Where did you do the door?
TH: In Milan in my early twenties! This party called PUNKS WEAR PRADA, by Natasha Slater. We had great DJ’s and an amazing, mixed crowd. That was my first experience working in nightlife. Anyway, I really appreciate that you take nightlife seriously. Most people think that nightlife is frivolous but I think that it’s more important to a community than church! Often it’s the ONLY important thing in a community. Why do you think “society” people don’t give it the respect it deserves?
VPC: Because most people are extremely beige and boring. That’s what I’ve realized. I’ve come across a few very serious book editors who will just not write about the book. Because, that’s exactly it, they think it’s frivolous.
TH: Maybe they were just never let into a party and they’re bitter.
VPC: That’s another part of it! Yeah! They know that for all their money and their fabulous townhouse or gorgeous loft in SOHO—that because they and their spouse are so heteronormative and dull and boring, they can’t get into the places that you go to or your friends go to. That 18 year old who can’t pay for drinks, he gets in and they can’t. And they resent us for it.
Michael Musto and Joey Arias. Courtesy of the Alexis DiBiasio Collection and Ernie Glam.
TH: Do you think nightlife is for everyone? Do you think people can learn to be a part of it?
VPC: I think my example shows that everyone can find some way. I’m 35 years old, I’m not a male model, I shouldn’t be walking around in a jock strap. But I can still put on a decent look and dance and have a good time. So I think it’s about finding your own way in. You don’t have to show up dressed like Walt Paper or dressed like Ladyfag. But you can make the effort to show that you belong. I don’t think anyone should feel like they can’t. And that’s the magical thing about New York! I think if it was truly that exclusive, it wouldn’t endure as a sort of mecca for freaks and artists.
TH: How has social media has impacted nightlife?
VPC: It’s something that a lot of nightlife folks are wrestling with. On the one hand, you want people to broadcast and be free advertising. On the other, there’s a sort of general consensus that excessive selfie-taking in parties really ruins it. And that’s why a space like the Box doesn’t allow photos. I end the book with guidelines. And one of them is: like, you, you look fabulous, so by all means, go out with your friends and when you get there and your hair and makeup are flawless, take a selfie! Let everyone know how fabulous you look! But then. Put. The phone. Away. For your sake! Just enjoy the lasers and the lights and the music.
TH: When I hang out with my younger friends and try to explain this to them. I try to describe the magic that we USED to feel when we DIDN’T have phones at parties. A party should be a secret shared only between everyone there. A place you can explore yourself and the things you shouldn’t do. To feel like the star of your own film! That possibility is cut off the second you get a notification. You’re brought back to earth or your own bullshit curated self—I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to ‘the purity.”
I think the ideal party runs like a town: there’s the doctor, the postman, the whore, the criminal, the mother, kid, the dog, etc. And each party that really works, works because each person inside is playing their role. There’s the drug dealer, the too-drunk girl, the good dancer, the untouchable hottie, the dude who starts fights, the DJ cling-on, the pervert—my question is: What’s your party persona?
VPC: Well first of all I love that analogy! I love that construct! It sounds like you may agree that the true holy grail of any nightlife scheme is the MIX. It does take a village to throw a party! And I think the best nightlife people are able to attract them all. The Box has the Wall Street hedge fund millionaires and the club kids straight off the bus from Iowa!
Michael Musto and James St. James with the iconic club kid lunchbox. Courtesy of the Alexis DiBiasio Collection and Ernie Glam.
TH: Yes! I used to go to male model agency parties because I used to..*ahem* date them, but those parties blew ass! It doesn’t matter how hot the type of person is, one single type at a party just doesn’t work! Mix. It. Up! So, you still think the Box is the best place in town?
VPC: Um…well…Speaking of spilling tea, Chapter 6 of the book is devoted to the Box. It got me banned.
TH: What! That’s so fucked up!
VPC: Well everyone was so surprised. Everyone who works there, who performs there, they said, “thank you for recognizing us, thank you for being free advertisement for us, thank you!” I think it’s the most academic chapter of the book. They were ready to throw a party with free three tables for me. Extremely generous, I was so grateful. They said, “just send it to Simon Hammerstein.” I interviewed him for the book. They said reach out to him to get the OK. But then he banned me! For reasons that aren’t understood. The good news is that it seems that the ban will be lifted in the next few weeks. But I’m actually moving to LA in January.
TH: Wait but. But I don’t get it!
VPC: It’s not entirely clear to me. I can speculate off the record but I think a place as interesting as the Box, I think he was concerned about how it’s represented. Anyway, I want to answer the question about what my party ‘role’ is. The word that comes to mind, because of the book, is Voyeur.
TH: Loves it! I NEED voyeurs because I’m the exhibitionist. Without you I’m nothing. So. Why are you moving to LA?
VPC: Because I guess I just got restless.
TH: But they just promoted you!
VPC: Some people think it’s stupid. I want to try something different. A lot of the people who I’ve interviewed who have moved to LA talk about how, for performers and for nightlife people, it’s a lot cheaper. Certainly there’s a lot more space. Here we’re walking around in 30 degree weather and in LA its 90 degrees.
TH: Is writing a book like getting a tattoo? Once you get one you want more?
TH: How hard was it?
VPC: I know what you mean about tattoos. You get one and then you know the next five. But now that this came out, when I do book talks, some kids ask about it and I say: Tell the story that only YOU can tell. If you’re gonna be a writer and write a book, you gotta make sure it’s something that only YOU on this miserable planet can tell. I went into this book knowing this. I knew that whether nobody bought it except my mom, it wouldn’t matter, because it’s the story that only I could tell. And I just have to get to that place again. I want to try Hollywood. I’m writing a film and trying for a TV series.
In chapter 3 of Night Class Victor described the moment when Party Monster Michael Alig came at him with a knife. Photo: Victor P. Corona.
TH: Oh, can you tell us about it? Or it’s secret?
VPC: The TV adaptation of the book that’s really in question in terms of how close to the book it should stick. The film is more of an experiment, to think about all these different scenes in contemporary culture. Because what it is now, post-Bloomberg New York, is very different than what it was during, say, the Club Kid Era. Like even just the street that we just walked by, there are gorgeous, expensive, luxury condominiums. And that’s just not the New York that gave birth to the Club Kids.
TH: Yeah its sad. Speaking of sad, let’s talk about Gaga! I just finished the ‘Stef Infection’ chapter. I have a complicated relationship with Gaga. Growing up as a lil punk, Gaga was the first pop star I let into my heart. And I let her in hard. Like double penetration! My friends all told me, “she’s bullshit she’s stealing from other artists” and I was like, “you know what? Who fucking cares? I love her so much!” And then. For me, the downfall began when she wrote a column for V Magazine. I was like, “she didn’t write this.” She seemed so full of herself! The next thing, OK, I loved ‘Artpop,’ I thought it was a masterpiece, but she did that music video with R KELLY and TERRY RICHARDSON. At the SAME TIME! Which shows that she’s not genuine about what she pretends to “care” about, socially. Then, Tony Bennett. I love Jazz but what are you doing Gaga? I know you just got hip surgery, who hasn’t? Do a performance in a wheelchair! You did in ‘Paparazzi,’ maybe this is your punishment for playing around in a wheelchair for a music video! Take your consequences, don’t punish your fans! Now, ‘Joanne.’ I was like, this sux, but I’ll listen to it. But the NETFLIX doc was my last straw. She isn’t being honest. What do you think?
Lady Gaga at Motherfucker, 2007. Photograph by Geraldine Visco.
VPC: I really sympathize with a lot of what you just said. I think that I was drawn not just to the catchiness to her music but I liked the fact that she was trying to deconstruct fashion. But then she started believing her own myth. She laid it on too thick. I think that everyone can admit that she has a mean set of pipes. As a performer, she’s unique. Once in a generation! She’s able to understand spectacle the way that Andy [Warhol] and Michael [Alig] did, in a way. But unlike Andy, she really started to believe in it. And that’s what you saw in ‘5 Foot 2.’ She started shoving it down our throats.
TH: Eating her own shit. What do you want people to learn from your book?
VPC: That fame is a fascinating but dangerous thing. And that my journey through these different scenes in New York made me question why we want fame so desperately. Like, during my big book talk at Rizzoli, that was one of the first questions that came up. In light of all this, how do you make sense of who is in the White House now? And I’m like, the chickens came home to roost! Are we surprised that a society as obsessed with spectacle—
[VICTOR GETS RUDELY INTERRUPTED BY ME]
TH: —Why couldn’t it be George Clooney though? Ugh. Now everyone wants to be famous because of Instagram and shit.
VPC: Exactly. This is what I go through in all my classes. Fame is something that we understand so poorly and its something that people end up regretting. You can’t prepare for it! Nobody on this planet can prepare you for fame.
TH: What you’re saying counts for having kids, too. I don’t wanna have kids. But I do wanna be famous because I don’t wanna die. Most people are OK with dying as long as they have children. Fame is like having children. Nothing can prepare you for it, you usually regret it, and its dangerous! It’s a big deal! But you want a LEGACY. There’s more and more of us, the world is ending, politics are scarier than ever, technology is bigger than we are. More of us want to be famous because we’re afraid of disappearing now more than ever.
VPC: It’s a way to be immortal.
TH: If we can just cling to our phones and our followers—
VPC: Sure, I can go with that premise. But when is enough enough? Like, when you messaged me, I wanted to know who you were, so not only are there these gorgeous photos of you but you’re really funny! So you already have, for example, what Dorian Corey in ‘Paris is Burning’ called ‘a small fame.’ So if you were to get smacked by a bus tonight you’d already have that. So what is enough?
TH: It’s never enough. When I was 23 I thought, “if I just get a Vice column I’ll be happy.” Got it! Wasn’t happy. “If I just get a TV show I’ll be happy!” Got it, wasn’t happy! And you probably said, “if I could just pblish a book”—it’s not enough! Lady Gaga, queen of the world. It wasn’t enough! She had to start wearing flats to find a new purpose!
VPC: Think of all the men she’s lost. Her fame cost her the loves of her life.
TH: That’s the problem with fame.
VPC: I thought the answer to wanting fame was: to want less.
PS: Yes I finished the book before writing this! Thank you for believing in me!
PPS: Buy ‘NIGHT CLASS’ here!!!