Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sometimes I Act Part Two (and land myself on the poster of a horror flick)

Featured in VICE Magazine


Jill Di Donato, Photo Credit: Taji Ameen for VICE

For this week's Mahal, I met with author and sex columnist Jill Di Donato at a garden in the Lower East Side. The garden was the perfect place to talk to Jill about her new novel and videoBeautiful Garbage, about the commercialization of sex and art in the LES. Sitting around the cement and trees, we spoke about Jill's great new book, the history of sex in the LES, and how she managed to interview a bunch of prostitutes.
VICE: Historically, what role has sex played in defining the tone of the LES?
Jill Di Donato:
 If you think about infrastructure, the LES is flat; architecture is horizontal. People are coming and going. Art is in galleries, as opposed to the museums of upper Manhattan—everything spills out onto the streets, whether that's food, art, or sex. I'm not using a metaphor. I'm speaking literally. Fighting, gambling, punk rock—these are part of this neighborhood's history, a neighborhood founded by craftspeople, artisans, cooks, and lovers. That's not to say the Upper East Side didn't house brothels and Fifth Avenue mansions where wealthy men kept mistresses. But sex on the LES put up less of a facade.  
At the turn of the century, Canal Street cigar stores catered to sailors and working class men looking for prostitutes. With the rise of factories, people were fucking in alleys and doorways of industrial buildings. Even back then, there was this voyeuristic appeal in capturing the seedy sexuality of the neighborhood. In the 1940s, you've got Monogram Pictures documenting the original bad boy crew, the East Side Kids (also known as the Bowery Boys).  A decade or two later, an influx of artists, musicians, and writers settled in the East Village and SoHo, and the LES took on a more industrial tone. In the 1970s, the LES was an incredibly dangerous place. From the 1980s until recently, the LES became known for hot, underground nightlife. The neighborhood hummed with this cult of exclusivity, but in the most bohemian way. 
In what ways have you seen sex influence the art world?
There's never been a time where sex has not been a part of art. The art world, which is driven by a constant searching—for beauty, talent, money, the newest thing—is inherently sexy. Whenever there's a yearning for any of these things, let alone all these things in concert with one another, there's going to be lots of sex. 
In your work, you seem to suggest that all people—not just sex workers—use sex to make a living. How does this happen in the New York art scene?
The obvious metaphor is the notion of the art whore, a person who will give any part of him or herself for the recognition factor. I suppose that's true in any industry, but in the art world, sex and beauty is part of the currency.  Inherently art, at its basest definition, intends to elicit an emotional response. We're all whores to something.
As part of your research, you interviewed prostitutes. How did you end up meeting them?
In Manhattan, I interviewed women who worked as escorts in the 1980s, and many of them went to Ivy League schools and were doing it to keep up with the glamorous lifestyle they stepped into. There were stories of girls being coerced into sex work. Girls who were vulnerable and manipulated. Girls who became mentally ill from prostitution. Girls who were murdered. I wanted to be able to write about a prostitute without exploiting her—without myself feeling like a pimp. 
How has sex evolved in the New York art scene?
I love going to art shows where there's gratuitous nudity, hardcore porno images, and sex paraphernalia, and watching all the erudite uber-cool New Yorkers take it all so seriously. Nothing is dirty any more. I mean you have to be really dirty to be considered dirty these days. Literally, you have to be covered in filth.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My Huff Post Review of THE CANYONS One Part Noir, One Part Snuff, One Part La Lohan

The Canyons was all I was expected, and more. Full frontal nudity, Lohan's bruised up limbs, red lipstick and cigarettes, unsettling sex scenes, melodramatic misogyny. This is pulp film making in a generation of Kickstarter, where studio men like Bret Easton Ellis (whose Patrick Bateman of American Psycho will go down as one of cinema's most charmingly idiosyncratic sociopaths) and Paul Schrader (who penned Taxi Driver) roll up their sleeves to get raw with a project that drew not only tabloid fodder, but a New York Times profile on the production titled "Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie."

In a world where Hannah Montana twerks and Bad Girl RiRi posts pictures on Instagram smoking a blunt in an outfit with the word p***y plastered on it, no one does sexy Hollywood hot mess like La Lohan. She has always been lauded for her acting "potential" but aside from her tween turns in no more than three films, it is her celebrity persona, her self-projected image as Marilyn or Liz that has kept her relevant. I would have loved to see her in Lovelace, but The Canyons has proved to be a better choice for her because of its snuff-like qualities. Really, therein lies the genius of The Canyons, which will ascend into cult status as a film that deploys Lohan and "Boy Next Door" porn star (what neighborhood do you live in?) James Deen to remind us that in Tinseltown, all that glitters isn't gold.
Without giving too much away, in this erotic thriller and case study of sociopathy inherent in Angelenos with cash to burn and vanity to eclipse any sense of empathy, at the heart ofThe Canyons is the dynamic between a want-to-be director/porn star (Deen) and his troubled starlet girlfriend (Lohan) who indifferently agrees to star in her boyfriend's skin flicks. The plot revolves around the unraveling of their relationship, haunted by S&M undertones, and codependence gone wrong. What we see is a biopic of a romantic relationship built on mistrust. The banter between Lohan and Deen as Tara and Christian is filled with constant nagging -- "Where are you going?" "Who is that on the phone?" -- that shows a chilling portrayal of surveillance in a world, where, as Christian tells Tara, "Nobody has a private life anymore." The exchanges between Lohan and Deen are gritty and naturalistic in their icy desperation and paint a picture of a couple of two broken people trying to coexist in a world of sex, drugs, money, and ennui. Watching them together is riveting. Lohan's puffy skin, her maudlin make-up, freckled bare breasts, hair and lash extensions, tattoos, raspy voice may or may not be creations. But, as a producer of the film, she had the foresight to know that all of the above would sell Tara, and, in noir tradition, Tara is the film's centerpiece. Deen doesn't disappoint either as a trust fund brat with daddy issues and rigorous pursuit of control, by any means. Though some critics have called Deen's performance "green," I fell hook, line, and sinker for his portrayal of Christian, who discusses both four-way orgies and his hatred for "the asshole" (his father) with his shrink, but seems to live for nothing but the tight grip over his girlfriend's life.
Lohan carries the opening scene at the Chateau Marmont, home to the actress' most wildest antics, but it is the scene where, weeping, she tells her ex-boyfriend that she is with Christian because she "just needed to be taken care of" that gives the audience the Lohan performance we've all been waiting for. She is tremendous in this scene -- raw, vulnerable, as paranoid as a battered woman, yet strong in her resolve to live a luxe life, (of "shopping" and "laying out") no matter what the cost.
Voyeurism is a necessary ingredient for all thrillers, but in The Canyons, with all the hoopla about its stars, the project itself begs the question: is this low-budget train wreck a filmic version of reality TV or cinematic verite at its finest? I don't really care. Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning's sexy score, the fancy interiors and beautiful bodies on screen sell it. The aforementioned ambiguity works for me, and makes the experience all the more enjoyable. Now what does that say about me? La Lohan, go ahead and have the last laugh. You've earned it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

City Gal/Country Gal - Style Secrets

Whether you're a city or country gal, dressing up isn't just to wow your date, but also to make you feel your sexiest. My tip: start from the shoes and work your way up, pick and choose each detail of your outfit to relay signature style. 

Photo Credit: Scott Furkay
Style Icon: Kate Moss
Shoes: Ballet Flat

This Viennese native and New York City art history student has urban edge coupled with elegant simplicity. The result: natural beauty.

“I think guys like me partly because of my simple spontaneity. I tend to wear neutral colors with basic shoes that are easy to walk/run/bike/jump in, so I'm pretty much ready for anything and everything …”

She feels sexiest for date night in "high-waist pants with a crop-top, ballet flats and hair down."

Photo Credit: Tyler Chin-Tanner
Style Icon: Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Harry
Shoes: Wedge Sneakers

This Brooklyn native now keeps it real (and romantic, with her husband) in Portland, Oregon. As a poet, educator, and editor, she's quite the brainiac. But with her savvy style, she proves she's no bookworm. 

“I feel sexiest when I'm wearing pieces that are authentic to my personal style. I'll wear sneaker wedges with leggings, skinny jeans, shorts, maxi dresses, or to dress down a girly outfit with a bit of tomboy chic."

For date night, she opts for comfortable wedged-kix, "Which is super important because we live on a hill and we like to trek around, but they still give me that little lift that makes me walk with a bit more swagger. I think heels/wedges change the way you hold your body, which changes the way your outfit looks and the way you feel about yourself in it."

Garden Party

Country Garden Inspiration

Lattice Work 

Mood Lighting

Irie Flower Pot

Guests Begin to Arrive

Babe in the Pool

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

In the News

Read my full article on how to have a breast O here.
-- Media Bistro

Read the full article as New York Times best-selling sex writer talks sex with me here

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sometimes I Act

In sixth grade, I played the title role in our school play, Pinocchio. At the time, this whole scenario was really dope - a girl playing a wooden puppet who eventually becomes a real boy - gangsta. This gender bending, and the sass I carried about myself as a result of my star-turn, made me the sixth grade "It Girl" (peaked at 17). But even more than junior high popularity, I loved the ritual of rehearsal everyday after school in preparation for ... a spectacle. The concept of performing something that I'd premeditated a certain way but also required, relied on spontaneity, intrigued me. I also had the privilege of attending a school that valued theatre and all the creative arts that went along with it, like set and costume making, sound editing and lighting design. As a result of my creative juices being so fluffed by my school, Saint Ann's,* which also gave me and my classmates a lesson in the origin of Western theatre (we had to memorize Aristotle) has educated some of today's most relevant and talented artists, designers, actors, writers, musicians etc. (Thank you mom and dad for picking the chill NYC private school.)

It has an entry in the Urban Dictionary. Check it out:
*Saint Ann's School
391 up94 down
Ranked the best school in the country, St. Ann's is located in NYC. Known for the clintele of celebrity parents and constantly stoned high schoolers, the school excels in getting its students into their top choices for college, which gained the school the top percentage for a high school recieving the most acceptances into Ivy League schools. There are no grades, percentages, or anything like that at St. Ann's, substituting impersonal numbers and letters for long written essays about each student's accomplishments. The girls at St. Ann's are known for their incredibly expensive clothing and amazingly hot looks, while the boys at St. Ann's created and fullfilled the definition of a "Wiggah", but many still dress as preppy as possible. St. Ann's has insane ragers every weekend, where the weed is free and abundant. St. Ann's is the best, in all ways possible.
Oh, she went to St. Ann's, she must be brilliant.

Dude, I hooked up with a girl from St. Ann's!

There's a St. Ann's party this weekend!
Edge of 17 

At 17, I played Perdita in A Winter's Tale opposite John Buffalo Mailer. "She who has been lost" (my character's namesake) was pretty much on point for my tortured 17-year-old self playing the role of a princess raised by a shepherd. Like my character, and, perhaps every 17-year-old girl at times, I felt like no one could see my real beauty. 

Latin Poetry Class, Junior Year at Saint Ann's

Oh, and I adored flowers. My favorite monologue was Perdita's homage to flora. As a grown woman, I'm a flower enthusiast. Here's a glimpse into my present-day bedroom garden. 

My terrarium. 

Senior year of high school, rather than taking the stage myself, I wrote a play in my playwriting class that the headmaster deemed too provocative for students to act in for our playwriting festival, so the theatre department gave me a budget to hire actors. The play was called The Collector, and it was about a man who collected disposal women (drug addicts, prostitutes - people who wouldn't be missed) and kept them as pets. Matty Powers, who played the "Collector" was homies with Mickey Rourke and did a movie with Tupac. 

Anyway, I was more interested in boys and getting into the Ivy League (see Urban Dictionary def of the St. Ann's girl) than pursuing anything in theatre. So I gave it up. 

In my 30s, while I was getting ready to publish my book, I met some amazingly talented theatre and film people, like Lauren Rayner and Jeremiah Kipp and I decided I wanted to make a trailer for BEAUTIFUL GARBAGE. Making the film, I realized I still have a passion for production and visual aspects of narration. 

Several months after I made my book trailer, Jeremiah approached me about playing a drugged-out stripper in a short film he was directing, Lauren was producing, and which has recently been released, and garnering praise. You must check out The Days God Slept for a gritty look into indie filmmaking in NYC. It is an amazing short film about sexual repression and the mystery of getting to know a person intimately starring Lauren FoxWho'd have thought I'd catch the acting bug again as a 30-something? I wrote a column about the experience for The Huff Post

Production still from the set of The Days God Slept 
With Actress Kelly Rae Le Gault

My next role was as The Grey Sister, a Wiccan seductress who is part of a coven that entraps men and, after using them for sex, murders them in a bloodthirsty ritual. I spent 12 hours shooting Aualarre, an art film by Guillermo Barreira. 

With Actor Matt Cullen in Aqualarre

Soon I'll be expanding my range from stripper/sexy witch to a more challenging role (!) that I'm thrilled about. The project is in nascent development now, but is going to be a noir/sci-fi commentary on memory repression, sadomasochism, and repetition compulsion. There will also be bossoms, as I don't want to disappoint my fans. 

Burlesque Book Launch of BEAUTIFUL GARBAGE

I celebrated the release of my novel BEAUTIFUL GARBAGE with a burlesque book party at the Leadbelly, a speakeasy on the border of the LES and Chinatown. Guest of a Guest covered the event as did A Mix of Things and NYC Prowler called the party a "huge success!"

We drank the tequila rose, ate Scotch eggs and lamb sliders, listened to dub step and enjoyed a burlesque performance from Fifi la Flea who danced to Try a Little Tenderness. 
Fifi la Flea

Elizabeth Cole jewelry, Birchbox, Moleskine, Alacran Tequila, China Glaze nail polish offered guests special treats, because what's a party without a lil swag?
Elizabeth Cole Mohawk Earring

Needless to say, a good time was enjoyed by all. Thanks to all my party people. xx
Publicist, Paola Velasquez and Jill Di Donato wearing Bacall earring by Elizabeth Cole 

Jill Di Donato, Dana Reichman of Lifebooker, and Fifi la Flea

Jeweler "Bijules," Jules Kim and Actress/Model Kelly Rae Le Gault

Jill Di Donato signing book for Writer and Guerilla Lit Reading Series Curator, Marco Rafala

Melisa Harris, Jill Di Donato and the Gnarmads

Jill Di Donato and Actor, Malcolm Madera

Fifi la Flea 

Thanks for providing spirits, Alacran x the Leadbelly tequila rose

Dancing Queen, Julia Fox  and her entourage 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fashion Report - Fall/Winter 13 Collection by HARBISON X Jewelry By Heath Wagöner NY

Thursday, April 4, 2013 at the C24 Gallery in Chelsea marked the debut presentation of The HARBISON COLLECTION, by Charles Harbison. 

Guided by the principle that dressing is an opportunity to present your most intimate and intricate self to the world, Charles Elliott Harbison has created HARBISON, a collection of clothing as layered as you are.
With an education in the arts and the sciences (North Carolina State University, Parsons The New School for Design), and a career that spans illustration, textile design, accessories, menswear, and luxury womenswear (Jack Spade, Michael Kors, Luca Luca, Billy Reid), Charles has diffused the duality and complexity he loves into a collection of luxury womenswear.
HARBISON is designed for the woman who embraces her femininity…and her masculinity. It speaks to sexual vulnerability and strength, to the hard and the soft within each of us—a balance of contradictions. The peony is the definitive icon of the collection, a blossom at once fragile and substantial, historically representative of everything from love and compassion to the nobility of a warrior. HARBISON seeks to serve the woman—and man—who sees beauty through the lens of androgyny, modernity, and luxury…

"FW13 was birthed from the complexity of my interests: from the intimate connection and trans gender beauty exhibited by Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe to the modernist signatures of the Bauhaus and my love of American sport and sportswear," says the designer on his collection's inspiration.
"We were as Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the world… No one could speak for these two young people nor tell with any truth their days and nights together." – Just Kids by Patti Smith
A wonderful addition to last Thursday's presentation was the inclusion of jewelry by my good friend Heath, creator of Heath Wagöner NY. Heath's jewelry is a melange of bespoke tailoring and urban street style and complements the "hard and soft" that Charles Harbison was reaching towards with this collection. 

Here are some of my snapshots (courtesy of my Android) from the evening:

The designer himself

Check out the bracelet 

Heath Wagöner