Whites Trashed … Who Is The Mysterious “Cha Cha”?

Whites Trashed

On the evening of July 30 , Coyote Ugly , a Flashdance -like movie inspired by a bar in the East Village, premiered at the Ziegfeld Theater on West 54th Street. After the screening, the crowd departed the red-velvet palace between the zaps of flashbulbs and paraded slowly through the drizzle to Roseland, just a few blocks away, where a white trash theme party was being thrown to cap off the evening.

The crowd itself was mostly white, professional and clean-cut–Hollywood style. Fragile hugs, straight blond hair, spaghetti straps and subtly, surgically altered features abounded.

“Like, I did not recognize you with your brown hair,” a blond woman in the lobby squealed to a long-lost acquaintance wearing leopard-skin hip-huggers and draped under a pashmina shawl. “Like, you’re inspiring me to make my hair brown!”

“Couldn’t you just die!” a hefty woman declared as her daughter snapped a shot of actress Bridget Moynahan, who plays the archetypal tough girl Rachel in the movie, as Ms. Moynahan declared to a friend, “I just need a hug!”

Roseland was decked out like a gigantic Brothers BBQ, with neon cowboy boots and steer horns gracing the walls, oil-drum cocktail tables, wagon wheels woven with dingy brassieres, mountains of chili, corn bread and pecan pies, and galvanized washtubs full of watermelon.

Smack in the middle of the dance floor, the Coyote Ugly bar had been reconstructed, complete with a staff of leather-panted, cowboy-booted, black-bra’d, big-belt-buckled broads in command of the 40-foot length of wood and the menfolk who were flocking there. The ladies pouring the alcohol stomped their cowboy boots and sprayed each other with whatever liquid was handy. In true Coyote fashion, they whirled the whiskey bottles like batons, humped the air, shook their hair, waved their gold lamé cowboy hats, hooted, hollered and spat liquor at the swaying crowd, which seemed delighted by the sticky showers.

As Blondie’s “One Way or Another” crescendoed, one of the hotsy-totsy barmaids lit her cigarette lighter and spat a burst of Cuervo at the flame. Before anyone could scream “inferno!” a tequila fireball hurtled toward The Transom. Pain fastened its teeth on our left eyeball. Temporary blindness followed. As a motorcycle revved over the sound system, The Transom clutched a handful of Coyote Ugly napkins to the wounded eye and stumbled away to a less hazardous vantage point.

Trying not to dwell on the cosmic absurdity of nearly losing an eye at a movie premiere, The Transom decided to interview the film’s co-stars about where they picked up their bar-dancing skills. For instance, where, exactly, did Adam Garcia, who plays Kevin, the male lead, learn to break dance and thrust his pelvis with the reckless abandon of a Gaiety dancer?

“Oh, on the street here and there,” Mr. Garcia replied, laughing modestly and peering through his très sophistiqué burgundy-framed eyeglasses.

Ms. Moynahan chirped that she “learned in L.A., from scratch! Did I pull it off?” she added demurely, not seeming to expect an answer.

Izabella Miko, who plays Cammie, the sluttiest of the Coyotes, trained as a professional ballet dancer in Poland, but for the film, she said, there was a choreographer who “taught the spicy moves.” Then, to the sounds of Charlie Daniels’ “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” she pranced onto the dance floor and proceeded to shake herself all over an older gentleman in a dark suit.

Elsewhere in the crowd, partygoers were deciding who was their favorite Coyote Ugly dancing barmaid. Country singer LeAnn Rimes told The Transom that Ms. Miko was her bra-flinger of preference. Then, as a diplomatic afterthought, she added, “She and Bridget were very good.”

‘N Sync’s Justin Timberlake said that he fancied “Tyra Banks, of course,” adding, “I loved the booty!” It was unclear whether Mr. Timberlake was referring to Ms. Banks’ booty or the sheer preponderance of said subject in the film. But before he could be pinned down, Mr. Timberlake disappeared into the depths of the dance floor.

Meanwhile, Mr. Timberlake’s ‘N Sync partner, Lance Bass, said that, although he could not think of her name, he liked “the blonde–the one that looks like a Spice Girl.” He was undoubtedly referring to the Baby Spice-like Ms. Miko.

The consensus amongst the plebes, however, was that the liquor-spitting, fire-breathing barmaids at Roseland were the barmaids of choice. “Let’s be real right now,” a young blond guy named Robbie hollered over “Mississippi Queen.” “I prefer the dancers on stage because they touched me. They acknowledged me, and they actually gave me their hat.”

A young gentleman wearing a leopard-skin cowboy hat and white polyester short-sleeved dress shirt with dragons on it was sitting alone at a table eating from a plate piled with what appeared to be chipped beef. When the partygoer, who said his name was Emmanuel, was asked what he was dining on, he replied in French-accented English: “Well, that is a good question, because I have no idea what I’m eating. Let me say that I have been drinking for the last three hours, so after three hours, if you are a nice guy, you really don’t know what you are eating. You’re really just out there for the fun of the situation of the food, which is not too bad. It’s okay. It’s not as good as the pussy, but it’s fine.”

The Frenchman also had been enjoying liquor dispensed straight from the bottle by the dancing barmaids. “I got a bunch of shots,” he said. “It’s funny, with these woman, you are just pointing at them. They come to you, and you just pray. You pray that whatever they’re gonna put in your mouth tastes good. And honestly, it doesn’t taste good. It’s a Hollywood premiere, so they obviously try to have the budget tight, so it’s always shit-fucking whisky, shit-fucking scotch, shit-fucking vodka. Whatever. It’s bad.”

While getting a vodka shot poured into his mouth by one of the Roseland Coyotes, Emmanuel had also taken liquor, albeit unlit, in his left eye. But he was not deterred, and went back for another. And another.

Emmanuel said that he preferred the live, dancing barmaids to the ones in the movie. “Tonight we’ve got the real complete thing!” he yelled at his plate of beef. “We have no camera angles, we have no, no whatever the fuck they were trying to do with cranes and closeups and cuts. Tonight we got the real thing! So, as a guy, if you give me the entire thing, even if it’s not performed that well, I enjoy that. I’m gonna go for it. The movie makes me want to see more. To get more. It’s not enough hands-on for me, but again, I am French.”

Emmanuel was not the only hooch-fueled partygoer looking for more of a hands-on situation. There was also “Bullwinkle,” a slim, middle-aged guy with an indeterminate outer-borough accent and a substantial ring of keys jangling from the belt loop of his faded jeans. “I’m going to tell you a little secret,” Bullwinkle said as he waved a plastic cup full of a red beverage. “I’m just a lowly truck driver who brings the equipment.” Having revealed his standing in the movie-premiere food chain, Bullwinkle told The Transom: “I’ll tell you the truth: I don’t care about the dancers in the movie because these dancers are live! They’re outrageous! They’re gorgeous! Their bodies are slammin’!”

Bullwinkle had spent the last couple hours letting the Roseland Coyotes pour liquor into him. “I gotta drive a truck, too,” he said. When The Transom expressed great surprise at this notion, Bullwinkle replied: “‘Holy shit’ is right! A big truck. It’s about 30 feet in total length–that’s including the cab.”

The Transom then recounted our tequila fireball mishap and asked Bullwinkle if he, too, had gotten any burning liquor in his eye. “No, it all went down my throat,” he said. Bullwinkle then put to rest any doubts about this when he said in a longing voice: “You are so beautiful when you got tequila in your eye.” Shortly after that, Bullwinkle asked for a kiss, which, for the record, was politely declined. Bullwinkle paused, then made his second-best offer: “I’ll let you know when I’m leaving,” he said, “and this way you won’t have your car in the way of my truck.”

–Beth Broome

Who Is The Mysterious “Cha Cha”?

Hurley’s, a wood-paneled theater district eatery, was bursting with big Brooklyn men in slacks and loafers when the stars of The Opportunists , Cyndi Lauper and Christopher Walken, arrived at the premiere party for the film.

A very short man with a thick black mustache, an immense, rolling stomach and a long ponytail protruding from beneath his baseball cap stood by the hors d’oeuvres table. He was holding a few deep-fried mozzarella sticks and talking to a bunch of similarly built men. The man with the cheese sticks called himself Cha Cha, “just Cha Cha.”

“Who is Cha Cha?” wondered Ms. Lauper when The Transom asked if she knew him and described the stocky fellow to her. “No, but he might be somebody I might want to know,” she said optimistically, batting her white sparkling eyelids that were much more reminiscent of her She’s So Unusual days than her trim Nicole Miller corsaire outfit. Ms. Lauper wore a brown velvet corset top with diaphanous sleeves over patterned clam-diggers and knee-high, pointy-toed black leather boots, her cropped hair dyed an ashen platinum color and tucked neatly behind her ears.

Ms. Lauper’s shaggy-haired escort for the evening was also her stylist, who goes by the name of Cannon–”just Cannon.” He described that day’s last-minute 6 p.m. dash to Otto Tootsi Plohound on a boot-finding mission for the singer and actress. “She wanted Victorian lace-up boots. I went for something a little more rock ‘n’ roll,” Cannon explained.

Ms. Lauper also described her outfit as she bent over to reach for a pastry puff. “I’m serving a little,” she said. “But, hey, you know.”

Ms. Lauper plays a Queens bar owner who is Mr. Walken’s down-to-earth love interest in the movie, and she agreed that she had felt at home in the character. “But I still die when I hear my accent. ‘Pwease,’” she said mocking one of her character’s pleading one-liners in the movie. “I gotta fix that. Oh, come on! Don’t tell me that’s me! I don’t mind my accent. I just mind havin’ a speech impediment, that’s all.”

Cha Cha’s real name, it turned out, is John Ciarcia. He is the owner of Cha Cha’s In Bocca Al Lupo restaurant on Mulberry Street. Cha Cha is also a friend of Mr. Walken, whom he had met thanks to the actor’s now-infamous foray into televised cooking shows. The show aired in September on the Independent Film Channel’s Split Screen program. In Cooking With Chris , Mr. Walken, Cha Cha and the artist Julian Schnabel get together and go grocery shopping, then retreat to a restaurant on Mulberry Street to prepare a light meal. Mr. Schnabel, wearing his usual sarong, made a sandwich of black bread, cream cheese, horseradish, watercress, cucumbers and bresaola. Mr. Walken made a dish of sautéed shrimp which, to the silent consternation of the restaurant guys watching Mr. Walken cook, exploded in flames.

Cha Cha had fond memories of the culinary adventure. “Chris had seen a cooking pilot that I’d done at William Morris and then he asked me if I would do a cooking show with him,” he reminisced. “So me, him and Julian Schnabel went walking around and buying groceries and all that, and we went down to Il Cortile restaurant in Little Italy and cooked ‘em. It went fantastic,” Cha Cha said. “There was a big explosion. I asked him, I says, ‘Is that the way they explode?’ He says, ‘No, it’s not supposed to happen that way.’”

Later, The Transom asked Mr. Walken if there were plans for another episode of Cooking with Chris .

“No,” he said, staring vacantly ahead, a Mona Lisa smile on his mouth.

It was up to Cha Cha to elaborate. “No, we’re gonna ride roller coasters next,” said Cha Cha. “They’re gonna film me and Chris riding roller coasters,” he claimed. We asked if Mr. Schnabel, would also be on board, like old times. “The two of us,” replied Cha Cha. “Julian is welcome to come along–but you can only fit two in a roller-coaster car,” he noted regretfully, perhaps having already considered how Mr. Schnabel’s sarong might behave on the downhill portion of the roller-coaster ride. Then Cha Cha excused himself and walked away, parting the crowd stomach first.

–Renée Kaplan