SoHo Just Got Hipper


I was heading south on Greene Street from Houston, after checking out Moss, the coolest contempo home furnishings store, and going to that horrible post office with the insanely rude "I can't be fired" management, when I noticed something new. A great big new Paul Smith store had opened very quietly, more or less across the street from Kelley & Ping.

I went inside and, before I knew what hit me, I'd bought three ultrahip new shirts: two florals and one sort of op art. I sense a bit of 1967 in the air, especially there. It's a great store, and it's huge compared to the one on Fifth Avenue which is smaller than some people's closets. This is the best menswear news in ages. And the new suits and shirts and socks are really great. They even have a big selection of great books. I picked up the Mondino guitar book as a birthday present. I wish their wide ties were a little thinner or their thin ties were a little wider, but why nit pick: This is one of the best men's shopping experiences in New York.

Here's one of my new shirts (displayed in my living room). Maybe I'll start a band.


The Periodical Table (and Self-Promo)


This place on Broadway at Broome is maybe the best magazine store in New York. You can also get coffee, a sandwich, a piece of cake, or a Vitamin Water. I'll bet they sell more copies of GQ than just about anybody, including all those other editions from the UK, Germany, Korea, etc. You can read Style Guy in the German and South African editions here.

They have just about any periodical you might want, including such rarities as Me Magazine, and real-deal music magazines like The Wire. They also stock all the rare, groovy fashion magazines, and I can't believe how many of them there are. I have a really good piece on the "wigger" phenomenon in the new 10 magazine, and an interview with artist Christopher Wool and a piece about Senegal in the new Purple Fashion, which has Vincent Gallo on the cover. (Inside is Vincent modeling the best of the season's women's couture, bearded.)

There's a really good interview with Gore Vidal by me in the new Another Magazine—Vidal's new memoir, Point-to-Point Navigation, is out very soon. There is also a fascinating story on Vidal in the newly redesigned L'Uomo Vogue, where you'll also find a piece by me on my old pal Jean-Paul Goude (and the English translations are back!). This is also a place you can buy one of the world's most expensive magazines, Self Service. The new one will be out soon with my big Tom Sachs interview.

Universal News also has Internet access, so if yours is down you can always check in with me here on my… Oh, I hate the word "blog," my electronic diary.

Howard's End

Howard Street runs just four blocks in Soho, from Mercer Street to Centre Street, so chances are lots of cab drivers don't know it. But it's a gem of a shopping area. Especially the part where Crosby Street begins. You can start your tour of Howard Street at the Visionaire Gallery, at Mercer and Howard, which shares a space with Visionaire, the publication, and V, the spectacular fashion magazine. This is a good time to visit because they currently have a fantastic magazine show up, featuring the rarest and most peculiar periodicals on the planet (including my own literary magazine, Bald Ego). It's a delightful and educational show, and many of the magazines are for sale.

Farther east on Howard, just east of Crosby Street, is E. Vogel, probably the best bespoke shoe shop in the city. Vogel is famous for their custom-made riding boots, which are notoriously light, comfortable, and flexible, but I actually learned about them from guys who stand around a lot. Several of my painter friends, who spend a lot of time on their feet, have their shoes made here and swear by them for comfort and durability. Next time I'm flush I plan to try a pair. Their samples are certainly handsome, too.


A few doors West of Vogel's you'll find the chic, discreet shop of Ted Muehling, one of the most interesting designers and accomplished artisans in the city. Several times a year I find myself hiking down Crosby toward Ted's door, hoping to find a gift for my wife as the clock ticks down toward our anniversary or Valentine's Day. Ted makes extraordinary jewelry that is both classical and contemporary, and he also designs incredible tabletops, glass, and porcelains. His amazing and rather pricey porcelains are manufactured by Nymphenburg in Germany, and often they express his fascination with nature. Around the shop and in his studio in back are scattered interesting branches, eggs, nests, shells, stones, and other sublime natural, found objects. I love the porcelains and I always have to remind myself that I have a six-year-old to avoid spending even more money. Ted also sells the designs of Lynn Nakamura, Stephen Allendorf, Lee Hale, and Gabriella Kiss, all of whom share a kindred sophistication and elegance.


My wife loves jewelry, and I think I enjoy her jewelry as much as she does. If I were rich I'd probably head up to Fred Leighton on Madison Avenue more often. I think that's probably the best collection of antique and estate jewelry in New York, but sometimes my good taste causes my jaw to drop there. But then I discovered another fantastic collection of antique jewelry and amazing objets d'art at De Vera, a sort of mini-museum of delightful things on the corner of Crosby and Howard.


De Vera is run by world traveler Federica De Vera, and it sells genuine antique jewelry as well as a collection of his own creations, such as necklaces made from ancient sigils and intaglios. There are also exotic boxes, cigarette cases, cufflinks, daggers, vases, icons, santos, opium pipes, Asian lacquers, artisanal glassware, watches, statuary, and oddities. It's not only a remarkable gift resource, it's one of the very best browses around.


If you have any money left after visiting these fabulous stores, you can walk a few doors up Crosby from De Vera and check out a great selection of Vespas. Vroom!


I Got a Medal

Sometimes I'm an atheist. I love H.L. Mencken, America's greatest philosopher, and I go around quoting him all the time—like, "The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind." On the other hand, I grew up Catholic, and always got off on the spectacle of Latin high mass. I'm a sucker for European cathedrals. Incense gets to me. It's not easy to quit that stuff. But other times I think that there's nothing wrong with Western Civilization that a complete reversion to polytheism couldn't cure. So usually I'm a pagan. That's the highest form of Catholicism, baby.


Gore Vidal's Julian, the story of the Roman emperor who attempted to restore paganism after Constantine had made Christianity the official religion of the state, is one of my all-time favorite books, and I'm of a mind with the great writer Robert Graves that things were far better when the Goddess was running the heavens. The good thing about Catholicism, as practiced by someone like my dear departed grandma Flora, is that it is so pagan. The Virgin Mary is the goddess, and the gods are all there, mostly celebrated on their ancient days, disguised as the Saints. In little villages in Italy the same feasts and rites have been practiced for thousands of years. They make the sun come up, and the barley.

I don't think that's what Mary Jo Pane had in mind when she created Miracle Icons, her line of jewelry. She finds wonderful antique Catholic medals and mounts them on chains and bracelets of fine patina. You can find them at Barneys New York, Maxfield, Fred Segal in Santa Monica, and Traffic L.A., among other places. Funny, but it turns out that many of her best customers are Hollywood stars not known for their piety, and often people whom you might expect to wear a Star of David rather than a St. Maria Goretti or St. Francis of Assisi. I guess you could say that these icons have been de-accessioned, but one's nominal faith isn't really important. As the atheist said, "I'm not taking any chances."

I haven't worn a medal since high school, but it's a good look and I'm moving back into it. It's a very Mickey Rourke-Eric Roberts-Pope of Greenwich Village-Vinnie Gallo kind of aesthetic. (Although the last time I saw Vinnie he was wearing the compass-and-square of that famous secret society.) It's badass spiritual. Anyway if you see me wearing one of Mary Jo's chains, it's not that I'm a pro-Benedict guy (although I do like him better than the last Papa) but that I'm chained in honor of Aphrodite. She's very green, you know. I like all the goddesses and I'm all for feminizing heaven. And on earth as it is in heaven.

I'm placing myself under the protection of Mary, the Mom, and also Magdalene and her other incarnations Isis, Venus, Hera, and Diana. Have mercy, baby! In an era of increasing intolerance, with holy wars proclaimed against novelists, comedians, and cartoonists, not to mention those who crack the boiled egg on the wrong end, there is a certain relief in polytheism. It's not so "fascist." If you don't like what God says, you can always get a second opinion.

Mencken said, "The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance, cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame." But it's okay to wear some medals when you're doing it for good luck. In the End Times, while the big three monotheist conglomerates maneuver to finish the others off, we do what we can to protect and nurture culture, nature, and each other, along with a little help from the gods—and the saints, the sprites, the fairies, and leprechauns.


I used to hang out at CBGB. I met many, many good friends there and some nice girls, too. I played there several times with my band Konelrad. Once some girls threw some drinks at our handsome guitar player and, unfortunately, those drinks belonged to some Hells Angels, who began wiping up the place with the girls and their entourage. It was a great moment for me. I did my best Mick Jagger imitation, shouting into the microphone, "Brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters, why are we fightin'?"

I saw amazing shows there: Blondie, the Ramones, Suicide, Television, Talking Heads, the Patti Smith Group, the Dead Boys, the Dictators, Jayne County, Tuff Darts, Robert Gordon, the Heartbreakers, Mink DeVille, the Fleshtones, the Marbles, the Mumps, the Kojaks, the Damned, the Jam, Erasers, the Sic Fucks, Steel Tips, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Walter Steding, and Zev, just to name a few. I even saw AC/DC there.

It was a great place because it was big and loose. And it happened completely by accident. The owner, Hilly Kristal, got fantastically lucky. He opened the place as a venue for country and bluegrass; then, one day soon afterward, the guys from Television were walking down the Bowery, went in, saw the P.A. system, and asked if they could play there. The rest is history. I saw Television there, maybe at their first engagement. The place was a hellhole, but the bands were great.

Hilly was nice. I don't think he knew what was going on, but he knew a good thing when he saw it. Photographer Roberta Bayley was the maître d' during the good old days, and she saw everything. Right across from the front desk where you paid was a check room. Nobody checked their stuff. That's where Hilly "walked" his dogs. It was not a place to order a hamburger, but it boasted one of the largest bars in New York City, along with décor that was totally anomalous and weird, but which was eventually subsumed by graffiti and volcanic ash from nearby Pompeii.


I think it's great that CB's hung on for all that time. It gave a lot of bands a place to grow up. But CB's should have known when to O.D. I hated all the whining and posturing of the last few years. This is New York, not a socialist country. Pay the rent or move somewhere else. Hilly didn't pay his rent for years, then acted like he was being treated unfairly for political reasons. And, of course, the club became a poster child against the development of the Bowery. As someone who lives a block away from the Bowery I'm all for the new hotels and the New Museum and the new Whole Foods on Houston Street. I may someday miss the unbelievable architectural eclecticism of the Bowery, but having a good memory of being chased by guys with knives there may make me view the gentrification of this ancient neighborhood with some optimism.

CB's had a great run. Its closing is not Bloomberg's fault, or Giuliani's. It's the way things are in New York. I am more concerned about losing all of our parking lots and gas stations to condos for the rich.

Hilly has been talking about moving the club to Las Vegas. It sounds good to me. I would love to be able to go to Vegas and see Patti Smith. In fact I think that's where she belongs. I miss young artists living in New York, but Manhattan's for rich people now. I always laugh when I hear Giuliani take credit for the drop in crime. Hey, all the criminals had to move out. Except the white collar guys.

And While You're in the Neighborhood…

A couple of blocks below Nom de Guerre—I mean further downtown, not in the sub-sub-sub-sub-basement—are some really great stores. Whenever I'm in Florence I go to Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, a truly fabulous institution. It's a pharmacy, founded in 1612, that sells its own fragrances, candles, herbal remedies, tonics, liqueurs, and such. You may have seen it in The Silence of the Lambs, it being one of the favorite haunts of Hannibal Lecter, that creepy connoisseur. You'll never find a more atmospheric store than this one, run by nuns for almost four centuries on Via della Scala. Where else are you going to find the four-hundred-year-old anti-hysteria remedy Acqua Anisterica, today known as Acqua di Santa Maria Novella? Well, actually now you can get much of what you'll find in the Florence Store at Santa Maria Novella of New York on Lafayette Street between Houston and Prince. It's no renaissance storefront, but it is a very handsome place, loaded with wonderful products ancient and surprisingly modern—such as their line of ceramics.


This is one of the best gift sources in New York. If a man had mistresses he could buy them all different scents here. My wife and I just pretend we have multiple personalities, and so it comes in handy to have the bathroom cabinet stocked with Acqua di Colonia in Tuberosa, Potpourri, and Melograno (pomegranate). There are wonderful scented candles, great shaving products, and accessories. When you're downtown, check it out.


Also, I'm loathe to recommend antique shops because… what if they get popular? You won't find the good stuff anymore. But I will mention Paula Rubenstein on Prince between Lafayette and Crosby for one good reason: I've never bought anything there. I've come close, but let me explain: I have way too much stuff. I love looking in the window there. I never walk by without looking to see what oddity has been added to the floor-to-ceiling stock. You'll see rare pieces of mid-century modern furniture, twisted folk art, rustic bespoke furnishings, utterly peculiar amateur oil paintings, vintage photos of sailboats, antique commercial signs, huge balls of string, industrial and commercial furnishings of bygone days, and an amazing collection of quilts and blankets. Almost everything is a curiosity of some sort, and absolutely everything has patina. I'm sure Ralph Lauren envies this little spot.

Related: The GQ 100: Our continually updated archive of the best stores for men in America.

The Real Style Underground


You enter Nom de Guerre like you enter the subway. You walk down a stairway at Broadway and Bleecker and there, right next to a copy shop, is one of New York's most resourceful boutiques for cool male apparel. The windowless shop is on two floors, basement and sub-basement, and when the R train goes by it's like an earthquake. If there's a low-rent district in Manhattan this must be it, but that could be why there is such a great variety of hip vines for chill cats. You've got to be in-the-know to find the door (hint: it's next to Swatch).


Nom de Guerre's own line is fly yet classical in concept—no victim-wear here. The clothes are made with excellent materials and created with quality to endure. The fall collection was inspired by a film about a Russian navy ship posted in the arctic, so there's plenty of fine cold-weather gear here in heavy wool-cashmere, flannel, heavy cotton fleece, and raw denim. It's one of the best places around for parkas, peacoats, and sweaters. They also offer rare sneakers, the kind that don't look like they were designed by mad scientists—I bought a fantastic pair of plaid Jack Purcell lowcuts here a few seasons back.


You can also find a smart selection from other excellent lines, like A.P.C. and Fun by Comme des Garçons. And very selected books and periodicals, too, like Me Magazine.

Check out the shoulder button detail on my new heavy black cotton sweatshirt.


You can also pick up their highly recommended merch at Stel's in Boston, Colette in Paris, Nomad in Toronto, Loveless in Tokyo, Blackbird in Seattle, Liberty on Regent Street in London, 1206 in Copenhagen, and Fred Segal in L.A. and Santa Monica.

Related: The GQ 100: Our continually updated archive of the best stores for men in America.

Lily Allen: You Heard It Here First

The tastemakers were out in force for the U.S. debut of Lily Allen on Tuesday night at the Hiro Ballroom, the big Tokyorama space at the Maritime Hotel. Lily Allen is an adorable, smart, and musically provocative young singer from Britain who's the real deal, and the notables were out in force to validate the positive vibes that have been shaking the grapevine. Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, the Talking Heads who became Tom Tom Club, were there to check out the 22-year-old, as were Michael Zilkha, the founder of Ze Records, already an enthusiast, and his daughter Lucinda, who's the same age as Ms. Allen. Punk rock photography's éminence grise Bob Gruen was in attendance with his wife Elizabeth. So were Aaron Hicklin of Out magazine and David Hershkovits of Paper; artists Tom Sachs and the Neistat Brothers; former Island Records chief Hooman Majd, who's now covering the Tehran beat for The Huffington Post; legendary British rock scribe Vivian Goldman; and Sean McPherson, the guy who owns the place. All were skanking to the beat.

Hiro was packed, and it was a curiously happening scene for the debut of a relative unknown. There was a sort of momentous electricity about the gig. Zilkha said it reminded him of seeing Bruce Springsteen open for Larry Coryell, auditioning for John Hammond of Columbia Records. Wow. Zilkha doesn't look old enough to remember Bruce as an unknown. And aside from the credentialed cognoscenti there was a big, hip crowd representing everyone from the My Space Cadets to the Bad Rad Fashionistas.

Lily Allen was delightful. She reminded me and my pals of Althea and Donna (whose reggae lilt "Uptown Top Ranking" hit number one in the UK in 1978), and also the Waitresses and Neneh Cherry, but she was also totally original. She's reggae- and ska-inflected but with a sweet, silken pop vocal style and witty lyrics. It's not like a Gwen Stefani gig. This is more rootsy and more witty, and there's something jazzy and weirdly early Peggy Lee about it.


Lily's band was terrific and they all looked to be in her young-adult demographic, but they played the hell out of their instruments like session vets. They're an odd combo, with a keyboard whiz, a bass player, and a three-man horn section. They put out a big, body-swaying sound with no drums and no guitars. You don't miss them. Drum machines can do a lot these days, and the horn section was tight and nuanced and the music danced around the room, getting the kids skanking with delight. Maybe jazz singers are coming back with sass and a backbeat.

Her album will be out in January, she said, but in the meantime you can check out tracks from her UK EP, including the UK number-one hit "Smile," in the iTunes Store.

Tom Tom Club (Chris Frantz, left, and Tina Weymouth) and Mr. Ze Records, Michael Zilkha:


Reggae journalist legend Viv Goldman and Hooman Majd:


Lily wore home-girl gold jewelry and a fifties-style dress that was quite adorable, but the foot fetishists in the audience couldn't keep their eyes off the monitors:


Film Fiesta II

I met Alejandro Jodorowsky when El Topo was a hit, playing midnights at New York's Elgin Theater. I think I was the first American to review it—under the title "Midnight Mass at the Elgin"—for the Village Voice. It's hard to believe that El Topo, the greatest midnight movie of all time, has never been released on tape or DVD. Same for the others. The reason? A disagreement between Jodorowsky and Allen Klein—the man who managed the Stones and the Beatles, and who controlled the rights.


So there was Jodorowsky, sitting in Klein's chair in a corner office on the 41st floor. His smile and peaceful manner helped my hangover, and we had a good talk in front of the cameras. The interview was taped as an extra for the DVDs that will now appear, thanks to Alejandro and Allen hugging and making up after about thirty years of disagreement.

Jodorowsky looks wonderful. I guess you should if you're in the healing business, and that's what he does these days. He's into what he calls "psychomagic." But he didn't put a spell on Klein. I think Klein's kids did. They are fans of the Chilean surrealist's films, which are extraordinary and fabulously eccentric. Sort of Fellini meets Clint Eastwood with a little Bunuel, Dali, and Golden Dawn Society thrown in. I think these films will find a whole new generation ready to blow their minds on them. But Jodorowsky doesn't recommend blowing minds on other things. He's against drugs because illegal drugs support criminals and violent behavior. He's anti-violence, and the one thing he doesn't like about his old films today is that some animals were injured in their making. I told him that last night I was showing my wife The Holy Mountain and, when it came to the scene where a lot of frogs on a Mexican pyramid seem to get sacrificed, I said, "Don't worry, dear. No frogs were harmed in the making of this picture." But then when the pyramid blew up it was pretty clear I was wrong.

The man has definitely mellowed. He says the old Jodorowsky was an idealist, and that today he's a realist. But he's a funky realist who reads tarot cards for the President of Chile. She's the only politician he likes. He considers the rest of today's leaders idiots. He also expressed his dislike for actors, who are "idiots and monsters." He made his last film with Peter O'Toole, and that seems to have put him off actors permanently.

Jodorowsky is planning on making a new film next spring. He'll be eighty then, but he's still going strong. But this time he's not doing it with actors and he doesn't want to do it for money. He wants to show it for free. To heal the world.

Film Fiesta!

So the New York Film Festival is in town. I haven't seen any films but have been caught up in peripheral action. Last night was a big dinner hosted by Paper magazine for Pedro Almodovar and his new film Volver, which is debuting at the festival. I was not seated at Almodovar's table, nor at Penelope Cruz's (and she looked hot with her hair up), Michael Stipe's, or Moby's, though I did chat with those eminent musicians. Fab Five Freddy got to sit with Rosie Perez. I'm not complaining. I shared a table with my lovely and the lovely Adi and Ange from ThreeAsFour, those talented and intrepid fashion designers. I'm big fans of theirs although I kind of miss Kai, the Fourth, who is now a solo designer. Kai always made any party more interesting with his hair-trigger social imagination. Anyway, next time Paper magazine better put me with a movie star or ELSE!

Here are my fake paparazzi pictures. Two of ThreeAsFour:


Moby and Paige Powell, who used to be Andy Warhol's favorite date, wearing vintage Stephen Sprouse. I miss Stephen and so does fashion. He was a real artist.


Van Neistat, just back from Paris:


Fab Five Freddy and Jordan Tesfay:


And there was an amusing floor show:


Her name is Julie and she was amusing. Unfortunately dinner was served about midnight. Great food as always at Indochine, but by then I'd had several vodka mojitos, breaking my no spirits rule, as the Ecco Domani was just not going down right. So this morning I wasn't really in the mood, but I had agreed to interview my old friend of decades ago, Alejandro Jodorowsky, who was also in town for the festival and for the release of his films El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and Fando and Lis on DVD. More on that meeting in my next post…