5.01.2010

Bourgeois bohemians in the almost naked city: The Penny Arcade Experience at Le Poisson Rouge, 4/23/2010

-- Miss Arcade engages the concepts of individuality and rebellion in a world that currently markets the corrupt idea of Bourgeois Bohemia. “Bourgeois and Bohemia are two entirely different value systems..” Miss Arcade says, ”You can no more be a bourgeois bohemian than you can be an atheist catholic.” --
So, we made a short trip to New York. I have some slight familiarity with the city but after living in Vermont for more than 20 years being in a noisy, crowded environment is quite overwelming. Predictably, we got lost several times and also managed to spend lots of money in a short period of time.

Saturday we had tickets to a performance of La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera...so for Friday night I wanted to find something less refined and polished. A short listing in a free newspaper clued me in to an event at a club on Bleeker Street in the Village, not too far from our downtown hotel:

Not knowing quite what to expect, we marched up Broadway in search of Le Poisson Rouge.

Penny Arcade (bio here -- her history in New York, goes back to the early 70s, and the end times of Warhol's Factory) harangued the crowd while the show's entourage of erotic dancers watched from the stage.

The two topics most addressed in the course of the production were:
  1. The artist's distaste for formal, academic artistic criticism and analysis of gay culture.
  2. A requiem for old, pre-gentrification, pre-Guliani, pre-Bankster culture, New York. Ie, Ms. Arcade finds the new, cleaned-up-by-Disney Times Square district to be emblematic of what is wrong with the present state of the city.
Lest the reader come away with the impression that this was an evening of pedantic diatribes, most of the show consisted of erotic dancers of both sexes -- the event really served as a celebration of gender-bending -- swaying to pulsing dance music.

Unlike at many shows, taking photos was not at all discouraged.

DJ Lady Miss Kier sporting some way big hair.

At one point in the proceedings, the Pope showed up to rail against the immoral goings-on.


Dancers hustled for tips. Another one of Penny Arcade's complaints about contemporary New York was the rise of "happy burlesque"...

There was a certain irony in our presence at this event: We were tourists on Bleeker Street, waifs from the countryside who had made a supersized version of some suburban college kid's weekend journey from the suburbs of New Jersey or Connecticut (where I spent a lot of time growing up) to the lights and glitz of New York, and who had our return tickets safely booked.

I remember the dismissive phrase "bridge and tunnel crowd" from my days in college and there's no doubt this could be applied to our trip. I must say, however, that I enjoyed the show, and also that I felt quite at home in what was a rather louche and freaky environment. In some ways Vermont is a cultural mecca -- there's always something going -- but it's very small and there is a lot of homogeneity here, and not many people seem to live on the edge.


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