All Hooched Up
Hooch, newly available in New York bars and liquor stores, is an alcoholic beverage that tastes like Hi-C. One slug and you’ll say, “I can’t even taste the alcohol.”
Which is exactly the problem. In England, where the stuff is made, Hooch was the source of a big row. Its sweet taste and goofy packaging, critics argued, would make kids into drunks; the controversy peaked when a 14-year-old boy burned down a school after downing several bottles of lemon-flavored Hooch (it also comes in grapefruit, black currant, orange).
Bass Brewers brought it to the United States about a year ago, test-marketing it in San Diego and Miami. Now it has invaded Manhattan.
Anseo, a dim Irish pub in the East Village, serves Hooch. The manager, Sinead Dolan, insists she doesn’t stock the drink to attract club kids. “For us,” she said, “it’s a matter of being able to offer something that tastes sweeter for people who want mixed drinks and who want an alternative to beer.” Does she like it? “It feels sort of refreshing,” Ms. Dolan said, “but if you drink too much, it’s kind of sickly.”
The city’s Department of Consumer Affairs hasn’t received any complaints about Hooch-but spokesman Shonna Keogan said the department is looking into how Hooch is being sold in the city, with an eye toward whether the stuff is being sold alongside soft drinks in delis and bodegas.
David Witchard, 35, is an avid Hooch drinker. “I could see the danger in the deli man not even knowing it’s alcoholic, so kids might try and buy it,” he said. “But you have to have ID for buying alcohol-so it’s no different from beer or wine in that respect.”
Mr. Witchard, who deejays at Anseo every Saturday night, tried Hooch six months ago. “We saw the name Hooch and it just conjured up images of the Deep South and Deliverance and hillbillies,” he said. “We just cracked up at the name and ordered it for a laugh, really. But I actually like it.”
Years ago, Mr. Witchard would sleep all day and drink all night in his native London, until he got sick of the whole routine and hopped a plane to New York. He never went back. At first he was entranced by the city’s club scene-nights at Area, Danceteria and Nell’s in the good old pre-H.I.V. days-but he’s slowed down since then. He’s married now and edits a new soccer ‘zine called Matchday and he swigs Hooch just two or three nights a week.
He said he enjoys his weekly gig, spinning trip-hop music at Anseo, because it forces him to get out of the apartment. He doesn’t charge anything for deejaying at the bar, since he’s pals with the owners. “But they pay me in Hooch,” he said.
Another Depraved Night
A party at Nello restaurant on the Upper East Side, Feb. 2, 1998. Night. The place is about the size of a subway car and the uptown crowd was crammed in there like proles in the R train going back to Queens.
“Larry! Larry! I’m starving!”
“This is a frickin’ madhouse.”
At the table with actor Armand Assante was Donald Trump. There were also four beautiful ladies present. One of them was Annie Ilie, identified by a publicist as “a Romanian chess player.” She was busty and blonde, wore a sheer black dress. A dead pig’s head was staring up at Mr. Trump from the buffet table. He was working his way through a plate of veal scallopine, penne with basil and tomato sauce, artichokes and risotto with black truffles, a bottle of Coke. I asked Mr. Trump if he ever felt guilty about eating in restaurants.
“You know, I guess you can always feel guilty about everything,” he said, “but I never feel guilty, because a lot of people are working, a lot of people are making the restaurants great, so I think it’s a really positive thing.”
Does a nice restaurant make for a good prelude to sex?
“I’ve never viewed it as a good prelude to sex, but you could perhaps get there,” he said.
Is the President guilty?
“I think that his choice of women is not very good,” Mr. Trump said.
Outside, Radioman (a.k.a. Craig Schwartz) stood there watching several dozen men in black tie and their elegant dates trying to get in. Radioman is a guy who rides around town on his Schwinn and hangs around movie sets and carries a radio in a blue plastic bag. Tonight he was hoping to get an autograph from Mickey Rourke. He looked inside.
“It’s just, you know, a bunch of rich people getting together, it’s like a huge bull pen-a pig pen!-of fuckin’ rich people, waiting to get into a party that they probably won’t be able to get into, because there’s no goddamn room. Unbelievable! To do what? To mingle around inside there to have some drinks and talk some bullshit and walk out the door?”
Dana Sessen was there. She’s a lovely actress, Off-Broadway at this point, over 6 feet tall. She was wearing a black dress with spaghetti straps.
“It’s a fun party,” she said. “Maybe it’s a little bit overcrowded. Great pasta. It’s a good crowd. Lot of familiar faces. There’s a lot of slutty girls here.”
She added she was just kidding or something. I asked if she ever felt like she was wasting time when she was having a big restaurant meal.
“Yes, I do,” she said. “I do. Once in a while it’s nice. But too much I find it’s a waste of time. Sometimes you’re there, you have a conversation and then you forget about it. How does that make you a better person, how do you grow ? How do you grow spiritually, mentally, anyway? You talk, you eat, and it’s like, you don’t need the extra calories, you know?”
“So why do you do it?”
“Why do we do it? Why do we do it? I think that’s-I don’t know- that’s New York. You know? That’s New York.”
Mr. Trump was leaving. Flashbulbs popped. He put a hand on Ines Misan. She’s a former model from Latvia who was a tabloid star about two minutes ago. But who remembers that her ex-boyfriend (a Wall Street guy) sued her for all the jewelry he gave her and she ended up winning the case?
“What did you eat tonight?”
“Nothing. I’m doing a blood test tomorrow, so I can’t. A blood test just for my health.”
“Is going to a restaurant a good prelude for sex?”
“No,” she said. “That’s good with an empty stomach. After dinner, you go cuddle. That’s it.”
Ivana Trump was now leaving the party. Her boyfriend led her away just as Mickey Rourke was arriving. He breezed past the Harley-Davidsons parked at the curb.
“Hey, Mickey!” said a photographer. “Get on the motorcycle!”
“I’m not doing that anymore,” he said. He went inside.
Radioman was still on the sidewalk. “I think the party’s better now that Mickey showed up,” he said. “He didn’t sign my pictures yet, but he’s coming out shortly, because he has a movie to do tomorrow, Stand Up Tragedy . I’ve been holding my piss in. I have to go take a leak, but I can’t go.”