New Play by Nora Burns Offers Flashback to Wild ’80s NYC – Broadway World (January 6, 2017)


A powerful new comic memoir about the electrifying joy and intoxicating madness of New York City in the 1980s will take the stage at The Club at La MaMa from January 27 through February 5, created by and starring veteran downtown performer Nora Burns.

DAVID’S FRIEND is an achingly funny coming-of-age story about love and loss at the center of the universe: New York City. It’s a true-life epic about Nora and David, best friends who met as teenagers and moved to Manhattan, where they immersed themselves in the zeitgeist: a speed-of-light journey through sex, drugs, disco, love and heartbreak. DAVID’S FRIEND is the outrageous and riotous saga of an era when rents were cheap, sex was waiting around every corner, and friendship was the most important thing of all.


DAVID’S FRIEND is written and performed by Nora Burns (the long-running comedy troupes Unitard and The Nellie Olesons). This comic odyssey is directed by Adrienne Truscott (Asking for It) with dramaturgy by Lucy Sexton (Spalding Gray, Stories Left to Tell, The Legend of Leigh Bowery) and featuring Billy Hough (Scream Along with Billy). DAVID’S FRIEND is a multi-media presentation with production design by Tal Yarden (The Crucible on Broadway), videos by Len Whitney, costumes by Connie Flemming and disco sound design by Carmine Covelli.

“My best friend David died of AIDS in 1993,” says playwright Nora Burns. “I spent a long time mourning him and this unfinished friendship. I wrote DAVID’S FRIEND to celebrate one of the most important relationships of my life, as well as the time and place in which it happened: New York City in the eighties. This show is my loving tribute to David, to thank him for making me who I am today. I tried to make sure it’s as fun, funny and full of life as he was.” Performances of DAVID’S FRIEND will take place at The Club at La MaMa, located at 74A East 4th Street, 3rd floor, NYC. The show schedule is Friday, January 27th, and Saturday, January 28th, at 10:00 PM; Friday, February 3rd, and Saturday, February 4th, at 10:00 PM; Sunday, January 29th, at 6:00 PM; Sunday, February 5th, at 6:00 PM. Tickets are $20/adults; $15/students-seniors. Order at or call 212-325-3101.

DAVID’S FRIEND premiered at the Provincetown Afterglow festival and has toured to Manhattan’s Dixon Place, as well as Los Angeles, Toronto and Seattle. The show garnered powerful accolades from members of the theatre and arts community during its workshop phase.

Nora Burns is a founding member of the comedy groups Unitard (1999-present) and the Nellie Olesons (1993-present). She has performed at PS122, La MaMa, and Joe’s Pub in New York City, and Highways, Cavern Club and The HBO Workspace in Los Angeles. Comedy festival gigs include Just for Laughs in Montreal and We’re Funny That Way in Toronto, and the prestigious Aspen Comedy Festival (now HBO Comedy Festival). Her first solo show, “Honey, I’m Home,” premiered at Dixon Place in NYC, and toured to Los Angeles, Provincetown and Hudson, NY. Since 2013, Burns has hosted “New York Stories” at the historic Stonewall Inn, where celebrated Manhattanites like Michael Musto and Anthony Haden-Guest share sordid personal tales of days gone by. Burns’s film work includes “Broken Hearts,” “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” “Club,” “Boys Life 3” and “Florent: Queen of the Meat Market.” TV appearances include Logo’s “Wisecrack” comedy show and “The Sandra Bernhard Experience.” Photo credit: Rebecca Black. Website:






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Nora Burns is a founding member of the comedy groups Unitard and the Nellie Olesons and has performed across the country in venues from PS122, LaMama, and Joe’s Pub in NYC to Highways, Cavern Club and HBO workspace in LA. She has also performed at the Aspen Comedy Festival, Just for Laughs in Montreal and We’re Funny That Way in Toronto. She just finished performing her first solo show, Honey, I’m Home in NYC and LA. She has appeared in the films Florent: Queen of the Meat Market, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Broken Hearts Club and Boys Life 3, among others. Her television appearances include Logo’s “Wisecrack” comedy show and the “Sandra Bernhard Experience.” Get to know Nora Burns in this weeks Fierth i-ON Interview :

BRIAN MILLS: Where are you based, where do you call home?
NORA BURNS: New York City, always!

BRIAN MILLS: How tall are you?

BRIAN MILLS: How do you describe your work?
NORA BURNS: Whacky off-beat comedy

BRIAN MILLS: What about your work (or process) frustrates you?
NORA BURNS: Money or lack thereof

BRIAN MILLS: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
NORA BURNS: That I’ve been able to do this thing that I love for over 20 years

BRIAN MILLS: To get to where you are now, what were some decisions you made that helped you on your path?
NORA BURNS: To eschew material wealth for the sake of campy comedy

BRIAN MILLS: What do you like most about what you do?
NORA BURNS: Making people laugh and/or say ‘oh shit!”

BRIAN MILLS: How do you keep it real?

BRIAN MILLS: What is the secret to success?
NORA BURNS: As far as financial success you’re asking the wrong person, as far as artistic, just keep doing what you love as long as at least a few people tell you you’re good at it, otherwise, get a real job.

BRIAN MILLS: If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
NORA BURNS: Speak German

BRIAN MILLS: What exactly are you wearing right now?
NORA BURNS: Black, as always

BRIAN MILLS: What motivates you in life?
NORA BURNS: Instant gratification

BRIAN MILLS: If you weren’t doing what you are doing now, what do you think you would be doing?
NORA BURNS: Eating chocolate

BRIAN MILLS: Have you ever felt hopeless? How did you get through it?
NORA BURNS: Seldom, but taking a walk around NYC cures everything that ails me, how can anyone be sad, lonely or bored in NYC?

BRIAN MILLS: If someone wrote a biography on your life, what do you think the title should be?
NORA BURNS: The Late Bloomer

BRIAN MILLS: How would your best friend describe you?
NORA BURNS: Energetic and up for almost anything

BRIAN MILLS: What are some qualities you value in your friends?
NORA BURNS: Humor, intelligence and liberal politics (which goes with intelligence)

BRIAN MILLS: What were you like as a child?
NORA BURNS: Bossy (only child)

BRIAN MILLS: Where did you grow up?
NORA BURNS: Cambridge Mass

BRIAN MILLS: What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?
NORA BURNS: Gossiping

BRIAN MILLS: My generation was …

BRIAN MILLS: The kids today …
NORA BURNS: Stare at screens a lot

BRIAN MILLS: What makes you angry?
NORA BURNS: Republicans and greedy landlords

BRIAN MILLS: What’s the strangest thing you’ve done this month?
NORA BURNS: Gone to a medieval ritual in a park in Queens

BRIAN MILLS: What is the worst advice you have ever gotten?
NORA BURNS: Go with the flow

BRIAN MILLS: Are you a morning or night person?
NORA BURNS: Both, I just hate afternoon

BRIAN MILLS: What were you doing last night at Midnight?

BRIAN MILLS: What do you daydream about?
NORA BURNS: Being paid for doing what I love

BRIAN MILLS: What do you think is the meaning of life?
NORA BURNS: Happiness, I don’t believe in an afterlife, so it’s all about enjoying this time

BRIAN MILLS: What is your beauty secret?
NORA BURNS: Excersize and no smoking

BRIAN MILLS: Describe your home in 6 words or less.
NORA BURNS: Small, messy, well-located

BRIAN MILLS: Do you collect anything? If so, what?

BRIAN MILLS: What’s the weirdest item you’ve ever mourned losing?
NORA BURNS: I lose everything so I try not to get attached. I just lost my son’s retainer and a beautiful photo of an old friend

BRIAN MILLS: What is your greatest extravagance?
NORA BURNS: Gym membership, my sanity

BRIAN MILLS: What is your guilty pleasure?

BRIAN MILLS: If you could buy anything regardless of cost, what would you buy?
NORA BURNS: A beautiful loft!

BRIAN MILLS: What is your favorite swear word?
NORA BURNS: F&#%-ing sh^$t

BRIAN MILLS: You can trade places with any other person, living or dead, for 24 hours. Who would you choose ?
NORA BURNS: Malia Obama, I want Michelle to be my mama

BRIAN MILLS: Who are your main inspirations?
NORA BURNS: Great thinkers and doers: Jimmy Carter, Barak Obama (pre-pipeline, Noam Chomsky

BRIAN MILLS: Which stars, if any, leave you star struck?
NORA BURNS: Tina Fey, Key & Peele

BRIAN MILLS: Whom do you despise?
NORA BURNS: Cheney, and 99.9% of all Republicans, though I can’t think of the .1% I like, maybe someone’s clueless mom

BRIAN MILLS: What’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for you?
NORA BURNS: Told me I had a booger coming out my nose

BRIAN MILLS: Do you believe in karma? (If so, how have you seen it?)
NORA BURNS: Nope, sadly, or Bush,Cheney et al would have died grisly deaths

BRIAN MILLS: Which places have you traveled to that you feel had changed your perspective of the world?

BRIAN MILLS: Which causes do you believe in the most in, and why?
NORA BURNS: Animal, Environment, they need us bc they can’t do it alone

BRIAN MILLS: What is the funniest joke you have ever heard?
NORA BURNS: Can never remember jokes, argh!

BRIAN MILLS: You can re-live any point of time in your life. The time-span can only be a half-hour, though. What half-hour of your past would you like to experience again?
NORA BURNS: Dancing with my best friend

BRIAN MILLS: How can we find out more about you?
Face book: Nora Burns


BWW Interviews: Nora Burns in HOUSE OF TARDS at Stonewall Inn

May 20
6:10 2015

Related: HOUSE OF TARDS, Nora Burns, Stonewall Inn

BWW Interviews: Nora Burns in HOUSE OF TARDS at Stonewall Inn

The acclaimed comedy trio Unitard, with the combined talents of beloved downtown artists Mike Albo, Nora Burns and David Ilku, debuted their latest show HOUSE OF TARDS at the historic Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village) last fall. One critic called it “the second biggest RIOT the Stonewall has ever seen” when the show returned earlier this year. After multiple extensions, HOUSE OF TARDS will play its final two shows of the spring on Thursday, May 21 and Thursday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m.

For over 15 years, the Unitard trio has performed from coast to coast and points in between, as well as Canada. Collectively and individually they have performed in venues and festivals across the US including: We’re Funny That Way: Toronto, Aspen Comedy festival, Toyota Comedy Festival, Joe’s Pub: NYC, HBO Workspace: LA, PS122: NYC, Highways: LA, SF Sketchfest: San Francisco, Andy Warhol Museum: Pittsburgh, Theater Offensive: Boston, Oberon: Harvard Square Cambridge, The Maui Cultural Center, as well as Portland OR, Seattle WA, Provincetown MA and Columbus OH. Some of their work has been featured on, CNN, Bravo, VH1, Logo TV, and Comedy Central.

Nora Burns is a founding member of Unitard, as well as the Nellie Olesons, and has been seen on stage in New York City venues such as PS122, LaMama, and Joe’s Pub – as well as in venues across the country. She recently performed her first solo show, Honey, I’m Home in NYC and LA. She has appeared in the films Florent: Queen of the Meat Market, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Broken Hearts Club and Boys Life 3, among others. Her television appearances include Logo’s “Wisecrack” comedy show and the “Sandra Bernhard Experience.” had the opportunity to interview Nora Burns about her career and the Unitard trio.

When did you first realize your gift for comedy?

Like many other performers of a certain age, I was obsessed with “The Carol Burnett Show” as a child, and my best friend and I would put on shows for the whole apartment building. But when I moved to NYC, I didn’t know I could keep doing that kind of comedy. I took some acting classes and went on some auditions, but hated that world . . . So, I was basically just a party girl for a few years. But then I happened to get cast in a gay comedy group called Planet Q and realized I loved writing and performing my own stuff. Eventually some of the other performers and I quit that group and formed the Nellie Olesons. Now I do Unitard, which is like the money shot of comedy for me and I feel very blessed (in a non-angel/spiritual/religious way) to be able to work with these brilliant comic freaks.

Which performers do you enjoy?

Tina Fey, Key & Peele, Jackie Beat, Dina Martina . . . Anyone who’s pushing the buttons and doing something different.

How is Unitard distinctive from your other shows?

I love working with Mike Albo and David Ilku! They’re both genius comedians, each with a distinctive voice and style. I feel like we work really well together because we have the same off-beat sensibility but such different styles. We love commenting on culture and politics and artisanal everything. We like to take people out of their comfort zones . . . Humorously, of course.

How have NYC audiences responded to Unitard’s HOUSE OF TARDS?

It’s been great, I think this show has really hit a nerve with people because we’re ragging on things like crazy NYC real estate, and Facebook and Grindr, and stuff a lot of people can relate to, but also keeping it whacky with sketches ranging from Vampire stand-up to junkie talk show hosts.

What next for you?

After our last NYC show on May 28th, we’re going to take this show on the road for a bit, to our usual haunts like Hudson, Provincetown, then back to the West Coast (we debuted the show in LA and San Francisco back in March) and then up to Canada. And hopefully we’ll return to NYC in the fall. I still feel like there’s a big audience here we haven’t reached yet and we want to touch them in titillating places.


A mom walks into a bar – our interview with funny lady and life long New Yorker, Nora Burns

  • Posted on 14th May 2015
A mom walks into a bar – our interview with funny lady and life long New Yorker, Nora Burns
Moms are funny. Y’know how they say everything changes when you become a mom and how true that is. How before you have a baby you’re this person, the one you were before you had the baby, and then you have a baby and it’s poof, you’re a mom. And of course you’re still that other person, but now, more importantly, you’re the M O M. Yes, yes, we can all still have fun and shake it like we’re 24…okay, 34 but perspectives and paradigms have shifted, there are people that need to be cared for, you deal with more shit (literal and figurative) than you ever thought possible and you don’t have a choice, you’ve changed.
And you’ve also become kind of funny. Not always haha funny, but funny in so many other ways, funny in the way you handle your kids, the way you deal with your family and friends and neighbors, funny about what’s important and what isn’t. And as a collective, moms are so easy to make fun of. My god, I drive a hybrid, spend way too much money at Whole Foods and farm a teeny tiny plot of land at the community garden. I sometimes run on the weekends and don’t let my kids watch commercial tv. I eat lots and lots of kale and dark chocolate and drink way more wine than is good for me. I wear Birkenstocks! I listen to and support public radio! And I’m not alone but also sometimes I feel very very alone. As mothers we take ourselves far too seriously and need to be laughed out, if only for our deep sincerity.

Thankfully there are people like Nora Burns, professional funny lady extraordinaire, to remind us of who we are, and that there aren’t any of us who aren’t a bit of a joke. Nora writes and performs her comedy stylings around the country, mostly in New York, where she hosts the amazing New York Stories, tales from pre-Guiliani days told by heroes of the downtown scene. Nora is also one third, along with David Ilku and Mike Albo of the hilarious comic trio Unitard, which if you hurry, you can still catch them killing it on Thursday nights at The Stonewall Inn.

IMG_1194Nora was nice enough to sit down and answer a few questions about what’s so funny about motherhood.

Who’s in your family? Where do you live? What do you do?
It’s me, my daughter Fred, 13, my son Bruno, 11, and my husband Pedro, old like me. I do edgy weird gayesque comedy. The kids and I live in an old school rental in Soho and my husband lives in Maui which he refuses to leave because men get to Hawaii, put on board shorts and flip flops, think they’re pirates and never want to leave.

Wait, you don’t live in Hawaii when you could?
Ugh, NO!   It’s a hideous place to live! I still don’t know what happened, my therapist is getting rich while I try to figure it out. My husband, then boyfriend, had decamped to Maui “for a couple of years’ which was fine bc we always did our own thing, then I had the kids and he wouldn’t leave. I should have just stayed in NYC but being a woman, we don’t always do the things that are in our own best interest so I wound up going there. I finally packed up the kids and came back 6 years ago bc my dad was dying. My husband has been saying he’ll come back for 6 years, but all I can say is he has a lot of frequent flier miles.IMG_1069

So, let me get this straight – you chose New York City over Hawaii to raise your kids?
Hawaii is a miserable place for a New Yorker to raise kids. I hate driving but I spent my days loading the kids in and out of the car, and once they were in I didn’t even know where the fuck to take them because I didn’t have any friends there and there are no playgrounds or parks or museums or cool things to do. People there just go to the beach, which is dull as shit day after day. My entire memory of my kids first few years is slathering sun screen on them and looking in the rear view mirror saying, ‘Beach again?’

The bummer was getting back to NYC w them and realizing how amazing it would have been to raise them here from birth. Before I had the kids I didn’t have any friends w/ kids bc my friends were mostly gay men, who hadn’t started breeding like rabbits the way they are now so I had no example of what life was like w/ kids in NYC. I knew I didn’t like being a mom in Maui, but I didn’t know how much I was missing here, which is    dumb bc my favorite thing has always been walking around NYC, so I could just have been doing that while pushing a stroller. I’ve also met all these great parents since I’ve been back and it would have been amazing to have had that all along, for my kids too. Since I didn’t have any friends, they didn’t have any friends, and I’m a public school person and in Maui all the whites (haoles) send their kids to private school and the local kids tend to just hang out w/ their families (ohanas) so my kids never got invited to birthday parties or playdates, it sucked.

Okay, but it’s HARD raising kids here and everyone’s always leaving to go be with their kids in nature. So what makes this place so great?
There’s just SO much to do with kids, besides parks, playgrounds and museums there are always all sorts of fairs and plays and events, it’s amazing, and the schools are wonderful and I encourage everyone to send their kids to public school and help make them be awesome. My daughter is 13 and she can travel around by herself and meet up with friends, it’s amazing, anywhere else I’d have to be driving her to the mall. I just LOVE planning stuff to do w/ my kids and their friends, like a trip to the Queens Science Museum or Rock Climbing in Long Island City or to Leroy St pool and lunch at Cowgirl. It’s really bumming me out that they’re getting to old for me to arrange their lives, dammit. I can’t believe I found out I was a great NYC mom right at the end.

IMG_1165What are you working on now? We’re still running Unitard every Thurs at Stonewall, which is a blast and I’m working on a new solo show about my best friend who dies of AIDS years ago, a comedy.

Who are your favorite mommy characters to play? I love playing horrible mothers, I have a whole series of awful mothers I’ve written at every stage I’ve gone through. The pregnant women who think they’re god’s gift because their egg met a sperm, the interrupting mother who can’t stop paying attention to their kid, the special need mom who’s obsessed w/ their kids allergies and learning disabilities, the list goes on…..

There’s so much to poke fun of in the world right now, what top three things would you write a sketch about? over-sharing on social media, hipsters and of course Republicans, a never ending source of material, unfortunatelyIMG_1195

Do your kids think you’re funny? Not really, but I think they appreciate that I’m not terribly serious about anything and try to make them laugh if they’re bummed about something.

How do you find balance between performing and mothering? It’s pretty similar, it’s all an act you hope you get away with.

If money was no object, where would you go on vacation right now? African Safari, it’s my obsession.

What’s the best piece of mothering advice you’ve ever received – from who?
Kids should be part of your life, not your life – from a dad friend

What’s one piece of mothering advice you would give to a new mom?
Don’t move to Maui!

Michael Musto Reviews UNITARD

Michael Musto
October 28 at 10:03pm
Unitard–that sterling comic trio consisting of Nora BurnsDavid Ilku, and Mike Albo–were a scream in their show at Stonewall tonight, as they lovingly lambasted the foibles and pretensions of patronizing, needy New Yorkers–you know, “cis-gendered” people who take ubers to their Scruff hookups and gluten-free muffins. Ilku scored as a burka-wearing comic (“What did the terrorist say during Fashion Week? ‘Does this bomb make me look fat?’ “) Albo rocked as a robotic gay best friend to two overly enthusiastic straights, who love the way he does their hair and escorts them to sample sales. And Burns was a scream coming out with her arm around an imaginary person and a black bar over her eyes, saying, “Hi, I’m the girl next to you in your Grindr profile pic.” Be sure to catch the ‘tards next week and don’t be surprised if you find yourself up on that stage. Maybe even literally.


Unitard Reviewed by Trey Speegle



I’ve known these guys for years. Nora Burns, Mike Albo and David Ilku are Unitard, the long-running sketch comedy troupe. I thought I might describe or review the show, “House of Tards” but, I have to admit, it all comes so fast and funny, that I don’t have the skills to adequately prepare you for what they deliver. Suffice it to say that’s it’s gay, gay, gay, UBER-topical (lots of social media jabs) and very New York-centric (plenty of digs at what the city is becoming, funny because it’s just true, which makes it sad.) It starts with the lament;

Man we’re beat, we’re drowning in our funk, too young to hang with Warhol, too old to krunk”.

Nora is also a rich bitch who moves from Greenwich Connecticut to the new, much-hated luxury building located where St. Vincent’s Hospital used to be;

“Here I am reimagining West Village living at The Greenwich Lane, which delivers an unheard of level of character, it’s our own West Village Versailles!”

Mike is tongue-tied as to how to address transgender actress Laverne Cox in a meet and greet, Nora is a girl with a black bar over her eyes in her gay pals Grindr profile photo, and David is Karl Lagerfeld hawking for Purina with an insane song. And they all three are GUTTED at the death of various celebrities and think “it’s important” to post pictures of yourself with said celebrities when they die. It’s smart and hilarious. Oh, and sit in the front row and you may get to dance with Junkie Jones, like I did. (bottom right) Catch them tonight upstairs at The Stonewall Inn, October 28, and next Tuesday, November 4, 8PM. Be a tard, trust me just GO, it’s only 20 bucks.

Below is a video from two years ago which will give you a taste of their kind of funny. (The gays always get it both barrels.)

PRESS: “Someone Had Just Died on the Dance Floor:” True Tales of ’80s Nightlife Insanity by Michael Musto


PAPERMAG, October 9, 2014

‘It’s arguable whether New York used to be better than it is now, but it was definitely wilder — a time when crack addicts outnumbered strollers and bohemian life was so vital that major club events would have even more people waiting to get in than line up today for organic clam dip at Trader Joe’s. Comic Nora Burns has tapped into this reality by throwing a series of rollicking, nostalgia-drenched events at Stonewall Inn called New York Stories, whereby survivors of the golden age hobble to the stage and remember the good, bad, and ugly of a time when the only rule was to not be boring.

At last week’s edition, Burns began by admitting that she doesn’t want to be one of those people chronically complaining about NYC’s changes. “If you’re 22,” she said, “it’s still exciting, with the artisanal beer gardens and Brooklyn things. But when I was young, it was this wonderland of freaks and weirdos and little old Italian ladies leaning out of windows.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 1.28.10 PM

Writer Anthony Haden-Guest talked about walking around covered in fake blood after shooting a cameo in a 1980s Troma film. “No one batted an eyelash,” he marveled. “This was crazy New York.”

Moving on to other bodily fluids, fashion publicist James LaForce remembered going to the raunchy gay sex club the Mine Shaft in the 1970s, dryly admitting, “I really envied the guy who laid in the bathtub there every night. He really owned it. The Mine Shaft was his Cheers.”

Writer/actor Ryan Landry spoke about another sexually charged gay club, the Anvil, where he would go cruising at the age of 15. To look older, he said, “I put mascara on my upper lip, on the few hairs that were there.” One night, a hot stud asked Landry to dance, so he obliged, and as they were bumping to the beat, the guy started spraying ethyl chloride on him, apparently a common practice in those parts. “He accidentally sprayed it across my eyes,” related Landry. “I kept dancing as I was crying, and it was really painful, but I was trying to keep my cool. After a while, he looked me in the face and walked away. The mascara had run down my face! I looked like Fu Manchu! I realized it was all over.”

But the nightlife stories kept coming. Performer Clark Render sprayed metaphorical ethyl at us by recounting the horribly funny tale of a skankhole called the Fallout Shelter, a hard-hat clubbing experience for those who dared. “It was on 43rd Street in a building that was later condemned,” he said. “The entranceway was strewn with garbage and dead birds. There was no plumbing, as we think of it, so they had rented Port-o-sans. The bar was a folding card table. The cash register was a cigar box. And if you worked there, you had a 50/50 chance of getting paid.” Remembering a night when the Port-o-sans exploded, thereby “spewing chemicals and feces over the entire street,” Render decided that Fallout Shelter was the best club ever! It was certainly more interesting than a trip to the Olive Garden.

Jackie 60 legend Chi Chi Valenti talked about the feeling that permeated the creative, pre-Giuliani clubs in the early ’90s. She said that involved “doing something with terrible tech and taped-together shoes and a sense of doing something so important it was bound to succeed.”

Ex-door-gal Sally Randall Brunger spoke about the goldmine of opportunities back in the ’80s, if you happened to be in the right place and looked right. When Sally worked in the office of a fashion company, “this woman came by like the wind and looked back at me. It was Diane von Furstenberg. She said, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I’m a file clerk.’ She said, ‘No you’re not. You work for me!’ ” That led to two and a half years of fabulous employment — “everything from compiling the fashion show seating charts to meeting with Polly Mellen to show her the collection.” Not to mentioning hobnobbing with major celebs. At one von Furstenberg event, Sally ended up on a couch with Paul Schrader and Marisa Berenson, who were gabbing about the glories of Studio 54, insisting she come with them to the dazzling disco. But just in case we were getting too entranced by the past, Sally added, “They dumped me at the front door, of course.”

Jump ahead to 1985, when Sally was working for another designer, Norma Kamali, who doled out a wake-up call of her own. At one point, Kamali handed Sally a pink slip and a phone number, saying, “I love you, but you’re a terrible sales person.” The number was that of former 54 co-owner Ian Schrager, who was opening the splashy new Palladium on 14th Street. Sally promptly met with Schrager and suggested she do PR for him, but he said, “No. I know who you are. You wear wigs and are friends with [scene queen] Dianne Brill and you really know Raquel Welch. You’re the doorperson. You’re the bridge between two worlds.” And they called it the birth of the clipboard.

And finally, Jorge Socarras, who worked for the high-concept Tribeca club Area, remembered the night when a 40-something man in a suit collapsed unconscious while dancing there. Knowing that drugs could be bad press for the club, Socarras called 911, then ran to the bathroom to warn staffers that the EMS workers were coming. “I hoped they’d make it look like a real bathroom by time they got there,” he said, laughing. When the help arrived, patrons started realizing this wasn’t part of the club’s monthly theme, but most of them kept dancing anyway. But by time a blanket was thrown over the corpse, “a concentrated hush” came over the room, and it threatened to interfere with the fun. They dragged the guy out on a stretcher, and at just the right moment, DJ Johnny Dynell pumped up the hot Madonna song of the moment, “Holiday,” as the crowd went wild. Said Socarras, “No one who walked in at that moment would have known someone had just died on the dance floor.” It was to die for.

By the way, I also spoke, reading a 1992 column about Grace Jones throwing cake at clubbies and pouring champagne on them too, warning, “Close your eyes. It burns.” Oh, and it makes your lip mascara run.’

Michael Musto Reviews “New York Stories”

“I will only interrupt my own tired rants about how much wilder and more fun New York City used to be in order to hear other people indulge in the same sort of ritualized kvetching. I feel it’s imperative to support their grievances in order to keep the old-fogey genre alive. And they really outdid themselves last week at a presentation called New York Stories/’80s-’90s Edition. The invite itself was kvetchily irresistible: ‘Remember when New York City was a wonderland of fabulous freaks and misfit toys? When there were hookers instead of the Highline and you couldn’t swing a Fiorucci jumpsuit without hitting a hopped up hustler? It’s still our fabulous home, but behind all the TD banks and Bugaboo baby strollers are legendary tales. Everyone has a great New York Story. Come hear some of the best.’

The resulting event — part of a series of retro bitchathons — brought a packed house of survivors to Stonewall Inn, a place that could really tell some stories. It proved to be wonderfully bitter, varied, and rich, with lots of love for the pre-Chipotle days, though some speakers boldly suggested that the dangerous element back then made NYC less than consistently stellar. (There’s mud in your rose-tinted glasses!)

The host was wiry blonde comic Nora Burns, who remembered dancing at the legendary disco Studio 54, only to have musical oddity Tiny Tim pick her out of the crowd and decide that she should dance for him on his new tour. ‘That tour,’ she remembered, ‘involved us going to three discos in strip malls in Long Island, where Tiny Tim sang and I danced behind him. Behind the scenes, he brought cans of beans with him wherever he went.’ Still, the chance for a Lana-Turner-style opportunity, however small scale, seemed way more possible in old New York than today. ‘Beans!’ to those who disagree.” – Michael Musto

(Read the full, excellent review at PAPERMAG)

(Photo, Keith Haring Jacket from PAPERMAG archives)