Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Petronio Gala, or What's Lee Marvin Got to Do with It?

Jean says: On Tuesday evening, April 5th, we made our annual pilgrimage to the mecca of dance -- the Joyce Theater -- for the opening night gala performance of Underland by the Stephen Petronio Company. The performance drew a very fashionable and artsy crowd: Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, John Bartlett, Hamish Bowles, Jill Brienza, Patricia Field, Harold Koda, Karen Erickson, Liz Gerring, Craig Hensala and Doreen Remen, just to name a few.

Choreographer Stephen Petronio (right) and partner Jean-Marc Flack (wearing a great Junya Watanabe jacket) share a moment after the show (looking almost like twins, adds Valerie). Stephen choreographed Underland for the Sydney Dance Company, with costumes by Tara Subkoff (who also did Imitation of Christ), lighting by Ken Tabachnick and video images on a huge triptych by Mike Daly. Highlights of the music by Nick Cave included The Weeping Song, The Mercy Seat, The Ship Song and Death is Not the End. Yesterday, I picked up The Murder Ballads CD by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds because I loved the music so much. It's playing in the background as I compose this posting. (Valerie interjects: is that a great name for a group and an album, or what? And the music is really haunting. It sticks with you.)

Natalie Mackessy in a blood-red dress and Barrington Hinds danced a ferocious duet to Nick Cave's haunting rendition of Stagger Lee. The caliber of the dancing matched the masterful choreography. These eleven dancers are thoroughbreds, ready out of the gate to jump, spin, change direction, go limp and then leap high into the air. The partnering and lifts were exhilarating to watch and must have been exhausting, but the dancers never looked tired or wearing down. Although Underland is an evening length piece performed without intermission, time flew by. (Photograph courtesy of

When Divas collide: Dumpling Diva Marja Samsom, in bright red, meets Delusional Downtown Diva Joana Avillez, who did the wonderful drawings we posted in a recent entry. I introduced them to each other at the reception after the performance only to find out that Marja knew Joana's grandmother -- small world! Six degrees of separation -- paging Kevin Bacon...

Dancer Amanda Wells and her husband Jonathan unwind after the performance. A couple of months ago, Valerie and I ran into Jonathan and his mom on the subway, the day after I'd seen Amanda perform an excerpt from Underland (The Ship Song) at a Petronio fundraising event. It was one of those wonderfully fleeting chance New York encounters.

Amanda appears front and center in the Robin's egg blue tutu in the gorgeous Sarah Silver photograph that graced the gala benefit invitation. (Photo courtesy of

The gala cocktail reception after the show was held at the Hotel Griffou. Jean says: I think it is located on the same site occupied years ago by a restaurant called Maryanne's. You walk down six steps from street level to enter the restaurant which is divided into a series of separate rooms, lending an air of intimacy to the space. (On normal occasions, that is, says Valerie. This particular night the people were wall to wall, elbow to elbow. It was like Carnivale in Rio. You had to hold on to people if you hoped not to lose sight of them.) Here Ariel Lembeck, Petronio's Marketing and Tour Director (center), and her friends glam it up at the far end of the bar.

Marja compares notes with fellow partygoers in front of a huge gold leaf art work that nearly covered an entire hallway wall.

Petronio board member Claire Flack and her husband Fred hang out and take in the scene. Claire's vintage cheongsam was an absolute knockout. David Bowie's song China Doll tickled at the back of my brain.

Jean-Marc and Stephen and friends partied in one of the largest back rooms.

Dancer Gino Grenek and Ori Flomin check out the crowd and celebrate. Gino's eerie, macabre appearance in "The Carney" promises to put me off clowns for the forseable future. The performances by all of the dancers, but by Gino in particular, were very layered - facial expressions perfectly synchronized with the dance narrative to set the mood that ranged from gothic to morbid without a trace of predictability. To say I LOVED Underland is an understatement.

Joshua Tuason, looking as dapper as ever, is the stuffing in this dancer sandwich. His performance in The Ship Song was positively riveting. The audience couldn't take their eyes off him. His dancing was brilliantly muted to fit the material.

Since Absolut Vodka was one of the generous sponsors of the gala reception, the cocktails were marvelous! I had a tasty concoction called the Orient Express that included (among other ingredients) Absolut citron and champagne - delicious.

Cavalcade of Friends:

Artist and designer Kirsten Hawthorne biked to the Joyce and from the theater to the after party. No wonder she stays so slim!

Frank Winter and Zenith Richards gathered in the doorway that connected three of the party rooms - for the best view of the evening's festivities. Photographer Zenith Richards shot Time Out New York's recent feature on the 32 Most Stylish New Yorkers (in which we were thrilled to appear). To check out his website and more of his photographs click here . Jean says: Zenith's skinny pale grey leather tie was a real fashion deja vu. My husband had one just like it when we were dating in the 1980s.

Nancy Ng is seated under a vintage Kennedy-Johnson campaign poster in a back room that featured nautical flags on the ceiling and Kennedy family photographs and paraphernalia on the walls and mantle.

Cathy Perez and her sister Cecile stopped for a chat and a hug before they headed home for the evening.

Valerie says: Forest City Fashionista said she was really excited at the prospect of our getting to see Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. We did get to see them, briefly, as we all thronged out of the performance. I had my camera, but felt it was a private moment, and didn't want to make a nuisance of myself, so I - we - let the moment pass by. But we did see them with our own eyes, and were close enough to have asked for an autograph. This is a stock photo from the internet, but it's quite charming, and a nice stand-in for any photo we might have taken. Jean says: Before Valerie arrived, I walked up to Laurie in the lobby before the show. When I said I had a Soho Weekly News circa 1982 with her photo on the cover that I wished I'd brought to her, she smiled and showed those famous dimples. After the show, I found myself walking right next to Lou (wearing his uniform of black motorcycle jacket and black jeans) as we were exiting the theater, so I pounced and asked him if he loved the show. He looked a little startled, smiled and said he did. Then he and Laurie disappeared together into the night. Sigh.

We also saw Harold Koda, head of the Met's Costume Institute. Later I said to Jean 'I wanted to say something, but I didn't know what to say.' Jean responded 'say What did you think of the performance?' How clever is that? And how obvious, except to the uninitiated and clueless, like me. (This is another stock photo, from, because again we were unable to assail the object of our affection. We are the un-paparazzi.)

Neither of us saw Hamish Bowles, so we borrowed this picture from The Sartorialist (whom we have yet to seduce with our unique sartorial charms). I suspect Mr. Bowles is a master at not being seen. Maybe he takes his glasses off to travel incognito? Or wears an old baseball cap till he gets to his destination?

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Murder Ballads and the Sons of Lee Marvin:

Jean says: While researching this posting and refreshing my memory about Nick Cave, I learned that murder ballads are a sub-genre of the traditional ballad form with lyrics providing a narrative describing the events of a murder include the lead up and the aftermath. Real crimes are often fictionalized or take on a nearly mythic nature. There is a long murder ballad tradition in England, Scotland, Scandinavia and here in the Appalachian Mountains. (See for example The Long Black Veil, sung by Johnny Cash, among others.) I remember Australian singer, songwriter, screenwriter Nick Cave as a thin, pale punk rocker from The Birthday Party (1980-83), The Immaculate Consumptions (1983) and from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (1983 to present).

What I didn't know and find hilarious is the fact that he is a member of The Sons of Lee Marvin, a semi-secret society formed by writer/director Jim Jarmusch "for certain select people who bear a more than passing resemblance to Lee Marvin". Members include Jim himself and Nick Cave, along with Thurston Moore (from Sonic Youth), Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Neil Young and John Lurie (from the Lounge Lizards). I confess that after looking at photos of them when they were young, I can definitely see the resemblance - most especially around the mouth!! I have assembled photos of Nick, Jim, Iggy, Neil and Thurston for you to view and decide for yourself. It is the pout that really sold me.

Here's one of the man who started it all. (Photo from

Nick Cave at his punk peak. (Photo from

Young Jim Jarmusch channeling his inner Lee Marvin. (Photo from

Iggy Pop in his Burlingame High School Class of 1959 photo. (Photo from

Although I questioned Neil Young's bona fides the most, this shot of him from his Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young days convinced me. (Photo from

Singer/guitarist Thurston Moore was also a dark horse in the running, but this picture sealed the deal. (Photo by

I thought John Lurie would have been a close second to Tom Waits, but this particular image doesn't quite capture the Lee Marvin look I was hoping for. [He's doing that "model mouth" thing.] (Photo by

Hands down, Tom Waits wins the prize in the Lee Marvin look-alike contest. (Photo by

Valerie says: I had a crush on Lee Marvin in my childhood, and swooned with envy when my father said he'd seen him on a Manhattan street one day. After the whole Michelle Triola mess (only women of a certain age will remember that affair), his star lost a lot of its luster, but I have to say he's still hard to beat for fabulous chiseled features.

What We're Wearing:

Valerie is wearing a vintage rust straw Patricia Underwood hat with added vintage rust feather; glasses by Morgan; red vest, black blouse and skirt by Issey Miyake; red lacquered wooden bud vase from Sara; woven red leather belt from Century 21; Frye boots. Marilyn/Andy splint should be coming off soon.

Jean is wearing a vintage black wool felt hat with red velvet sea anemone flowers (no label); black quilted and laced jacket by Prada; black linen pants by illi; black and white lace-up crepe platform brothel creepers by Underground Originals from Trash & Vaudeville; bag by Lux De Ville from Enz; vintage red wooden necklace, assorted red bakelite earrings, rings and bracelets; vintage 1980s frames from Fabulous Fanny's.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your Lou and Laurie moment! I was thrilled that you remembered that I asked for a photo and I understand completely why you wouldn't want to take one at the gala. The photo you have posted is a lovely portrait of the two of them and is much appreciated. I have always liked Nick Cave's music, but don't own any, but after reading this I may have to get my own copy of The Murder Ballads. The Lee Marvin section brought back my own memories as my father was a big Lee Marvin fan, and some of his friends called him Lee Marvin as a nickname.

  2. Love those "Lee Marvin" photos - gotta agree about the resemblance!

  3. Another wonderful post! You two are so was as though I was out for the evening, too! As always, your outfits were over the top amazing (Im not sure what the Sartorialist is waiting for...). I briefly met you (and snapped your picture) about a year ago at the Manhattan Vintage Show and was thrilled to rediscover you recently. love love LOVE the blog :)

  4. For the Lee Marvin fans who posted...