Meet the Muffia

Written by Jamie Peck on . Posted in Posts.


HOTEL MOTEL, A monthly party at Bushwick’s Tandem Bar, boasts a young
and lively scene. The speakers blare hot ’90s jams as a willowy blonde
with a bowl cut grooves over her laptop. One girl chugs liquid Vicodin
as she watches others entwine sweatily on the dance floor. Someone shows
me a secret lesbian handshake in which various hands and mouths combine
to simulate cunnilingus. I’m pretty sure she made it up, but it’s
amazing.

This is what lesbian
nightlife looks like in 2010: There aren’t really butches to speak of
here, but neither are there femmes—just a bunch of rad girls getting
down.

The city’s flashy,
influential gay men have, for one reason or another, often overshadowed
its lesbians in the media and popular culture. But that may be slowly
changing. While the female pioneers of yesteryear now work hard at
getting married and adopting Guatemalan children (or entertaining the
masses on TV), an entirely new generation define the city’s nightlife
and culture. Take K8 Hardy, for example: The 31-year-old artist has made
videos for Le Tigre, MEN and Lesbians on Ecstasy, styled the band
Fischerspooner and created a fashion line called j’approve.

She says she hangs out
mostly at her studio but can occasionally be found going out to dance
with the gals. Some are surprised by the unexpected humor in her art,
but Hardy doesn’t see any reason she can’t be politically aware and
entertaining. “A lot of people think political art has to be didactic,
but that’s not where I’m at,” Hardy explains. “It’s funny, because if
you say you’re a feminist or political, people want to know what your
point is. They don’t expect that of other artists. I find that
expectation really frustrating.”

Hardy is among a young and vibrant group of
women—artists and musicians, chefs and actors—making New York lesbians a
force to be reckoned with. Listen up: These are the ladies who pack a
punch.

Shantell
Martin

This
29-year-old Bushwick dweller has shown her work, hand-drawn visuals made
in nightclubs using a tablet and then projected on walls, at MoMA and
the National Arts Club. An April 19 episode of Gossip Girl will
also feature her work. And she’s only lived here for nine months!

“When I first moved to New
York [from Tokyo], my mind was blown. I was like, ‘Wow, there’s a
billion lesbians in this place.’ It was kind of overwhelming, but I kind
of did get a sense of what a community actually means.”

She mostly hangs out with
her posse of creative types, but running with a chic crowd hasn’t kept
her from indulging in a few stereotypical Sapphic pastimes.

“I met [my girlfriend] Liz
at a WNBA game,” she says. “It was my first basketball game ever. My
friend said, ‘Let’s check out a game,’ and… we went to meet some more
friends and Liz was there. She sat next to me and we shared some
popcorn.”

Next up
for Martin will be a drawing/ exhibiting/VJ-ing tour of Tokyo, a solo
show at the Collette Blanchard Gallery (opening May 15), a live
illustration event May 22 at 3rd Ward, an appearance at the Gershwin
Hotel’s cabaret-esque The Talent Show April 29 and the release of
the latest in her yearly T-shirt series.

Rebecca
Collerton

Running
Saltie, one of Williamsburg’s most popular new restaurants, hasn’t
given 45-year-old Collerton much time to date (“I’m always at work,” she
admits. “It’s difficult to find time”), but the lust that her
creations—including “The Captain’s Daughter” and “The Ship’s Biscuit”—
seem to inspire shouldn’t leave her lonely for long.

After working at hotspots
Diner and Egg, the chef teamed up with her friends Caroline Fidanza and
Elizabeth Schula to open Saltie last September. And while it might not
attract the same crowd that nearby gay bar Metropolitan does, it’s not
completely homo-free.

“I think the community that I’m involved in at the moment is the
food community of Williamsburg, and there’s a community that’s evolved
from this place as well,” Collertain explains. “It just so happens that
some of them are gay. The issues are more about being a woman in this
industry than being gay. Coming up in kitchens and such… kitchens are
notoriously sexist.”

She’s currently looking forward to summer, when market
availability of more ingredients will allow her, Fidanza and Schula to
expand their offerings. “We’ll have to come up with more ridiculous
names,” she says. “It’ll be exciting.”

In the meantime, the “very single” Collerton
remains enamored with the dayto-day running of Saltie. “We’ve all spent a
long time in this industry, defining palates and what we want to eat…
coming up with the sandwiches was the easiest part of the process,” she
says. “It’s great. We’re not working for the man anymore!”

Holly
Miranda

With
her new album, The Magician’s Private Library, out now and a May
26 headlining gig at Bowery Ballroom, singer songwriter

Miranda, who lives in
Prospect Heights, is currently making girls (and boys) weak in the knees
as the opening act on tour with lesbo duo Tegan & Sara. Not that
she hasn’t done plenty of that right here in New York.

“I’ve dated quite a bit in
New York,” she confesses. “I think it’s hard in New York because there
are so many beautiful people. But if you can look beyond face value,
you’ll probably be better off in the long run.”

When she goes out, it’s
usually to catch free music at Zebulon in Williamsburg or spend time
with friends, like JD Samson (of MEN and Le Tigre) and the singer Sia.
Having been on the road for several months, however, Miranda says, “I
don’t necessarily seek out lesbians to be my friends, but I definitely
feel a kinship with other musicians… who are openly gay… I haven’t had
time to hang out in a while.”

She’s coming home just in time, having found life on
the road isn’t always hospitable. “I’ve certainly gotten in some tiffs
in Oklahoma and Kansas when I’ve dedicated my songs to [people who were
hurt by] Prop 8.”

Lauren
Flax

A
critically acclaimed DJ and musician, Lauren Flax has appeared all over
the world with such big names as Fischerspooner, Moby and even Madonna.
But despite her impressive resume, the 31-year-old jetsetter is
disarmingly nice. “The idea behind it is friendship,” she says of her
Hotel Motel (i.e. HoMo) party she throws
with her friends Lauren Dillard and JD Samson and rotating guests. “It’s
just a sweaty dance party in this big back room. People take their
shirts off. A girl with a giant mouse head came last time. It was
hilarious.”

Although
she spends most of her breaks from traveling working in her studio,
Flax makes time to hang out with her friends whenever possible, either
out at Tandem or at home in her Bushwick apartment with the gay-themed
Logo network playing in the background. Flax prizes the diverse group of
gay girls that exists in New York City. “I definitely think there’s a
new wave of non stereotypical lesbians, the younger ones coming up now,
and it’s kind of refreshing,” she says.

The electronic songbird is currently recording
an album of her own and planning out her live show, which will include
cello and trumpet players. She’s also launching a new “dark dance”
project called CreeP, a collaboration with Dillard and Melissa from
Telepathe that will feature sexy vocals by Romy from The XX. It’s no
surprise, then, that this busy lady desires a romantic partner who is
equally driven. “I want to be number two in somebody’s life and have
career be number one, ’cause that’s how it is for me,” Flax asserts.
“I’m single and looking for an Aquarius if there are any out there…
I’m even accepting summer homos.”

Jess
Barbagallo

Like
many struggling artists in New York, Jess Barbagallo has toiled in
coffee shops for almost five years. Unlike many an NYU and Brooklyn
College grad, however, she’s turned her day job into a source of
inspiration. “She’s pretty much a lot like me,” she explains of her
character in the live-action lesbian serial drama Room for Cream, which
she also helps write. “Your standard barista: Kind of a smartass, sort
of irritated by their job.”

Now in its third season, the show is set in a
fictional Massachusetts town called Sappho, which is—in either a utopic
or dystopic twist—populated solely by lesbians. Although some people
have watched it from the start, Barbagallo says this isn’t necessary to
understand it: “It’s a soap, so you can walk into any episode and get
what the vibe is.”

In a reflection of the play’s universe (or is it the other way
around?), the 26-yearold Greenpoint resident finds her dating world to
be somewhat small. “I have the problem that, in addition to being a
lesbian, I am also in the theater and both those communities are
completely incestuous,” she says. “It’s like incest squared.” But the
scene’s insularity is not without its benefits. A self-described serial
monogamist (current Facebook status: “It’s complicated”), she never has
to look far for her next relationship. “Things just seem to fall into my
lap,” she jokes.

Next
on the agenda for Barbagallo is a show with the Builders’ Association
and a turn as a sociopathic lesbian Iraq war veteran in the independent
film, Made Up Language. She’s also looking forward to finishing
the play that’s been occupying her thoughts 24/7. “I’ve been spending a
lot of my time at coffee shops writing lately,” she says. “Variety,
Bittersweet… I’m a nomad.”

Ellie
Conant

Ellie
Conant knows how to get sexy results. “I handcrafted my parties,” the
30year-old boasts. “I took them from nothing and made them into
something nasty. You’re gonna go there to hook up.”

Despite facilitating steamy
hookups for all at Snapshot (Tuesdays at Bar 13), Choice Cunts (last
Saturdays at Santos Party House) and Muff Muff Give (which until
recently was taking place at Public Assembly), the 30year-old nightlife
veteran doesn’t mix business with (her own) pleasure. “I decided to have
a girlfriend who doesn’t live here because I don’t want to mess with
these girls,” she says, explaining her long distance relationship with a
woman from Boston she met while in Provincetown. “It makes me more
professional. I was fucking my go-go dancer for a while, and it just
gets ugly.”

With
such staid avoidance of omnipresent temptation, it’s clear she takes her
job seriously. “I like to think of myself more as a community builder
[than a promoter],” she explains. “I will honestly say that my parties
have brought in the most diverse crowds ever. I think being an Asian
promoter, more people can access me somehow.” These multicultural crowds
have also been competing with the boys in flashiness. “I think lesbians
have become more fabulous,” she says. “I don’t mean more femmey… boy
dykes out there are getting cute, putting on glitter! We’re all joining
forces to look fabulous and be extreme.”

When not presiding over one of her own parties,
Conant can be found throwing some back at Girls Girls Girls (Wednesdays
at Metropolitan) or Stiletto Sundays (at Maritime Cabanas) with her
pussy posse, which includes DJ Nasty Esquire, party photog Sabrina
Haley, DJ Roze Royce and DJ Lesbian Van
Halen.

And although
she may not be out there looking to win over those new to the pleasures
of girl-on-girl action, she has advice for anyone who is: “Tequila will
turn a bitch. We’re gonna have tequila at every party.”

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