“I was born with a charisma!” Cyprus-born singer Anna Vissi declared. “I don’t sing for money or for fame. I became famous and I became rich, but …. ” She shrugged, rattling the sequins on her vintage 1920’s halter from a Portobello flea market. A sparkly Patricia Field belt held up her black satin Gucci pants. She was standing in Ms. Field’s living room, or what will be her living room when the flamboyant costume designer moves into the East Village duplex next month. For now, it’s a raw, empty loft with brick walls, heated cement floors, a seven-foot parrot hanging from the ceiling and a giant gold snake winding its way up a wall. It’s an odd room (a former kitchen-supply store) but a decent party space, and on Dec. 20 the duo were celebrating the release of Ms. Vissi’s new single in January. “I told Anna, ‘I know everyone in New York, so let me introduce you to everyone here,'” said Ms. Field.
The women met two years ago when Ms. Vissi played Madison Square Garden Theater. “Before the concert, I went over to Astoria and picked up a T-shirt with Anna’s image on it and made myself a tube dress out of it,” Ms. Field said. “Then I made her a little tube dress out of an ‘I Heart New York’ T-shirt, and when she was onstage singing, I threw the dress at her.”
As the exclusive clothier to the Sex and the City gang, Ms. Field has personally controlled the fashion trends of the last six years. However, whether her endorsement of the Greek songbird can similarly influence the music industry remains to be seen.
“It’s difficult to say what’ll happen when someone from overseas comes here. We’re very used to exporting our own talent. It’s difficult for outsiders to make it in America,” said Marianela, the 25-year-old host of Daily Download on the Fuse network.
Thus, Ms. Vissi sagely enlisted the help of Jerry Blair, the former executive vice president of Columbia Records Group, who used to manage the careers of Ricky Martin and Mariah Carey (when they had them). Of course, if she doesn’t go the way of Joss Stone, Ms. Vissi will always have Athens. This past summer, she performed at the Olympics closing ceremony. “Oh my God, she’s the most well-known singer in Greece!” Marianela gushed. “She’s, like, Madonna over there! You put her on and people lose their minds!”
“Everyone calls me the Madonna of Greece because I’m constantly reinventing myself, but I think I’m more like Bruce Springsteen, because I play for three or four hours at a time,” Ms. Vissi said, tossing her highlighted waves. “I like to break the rules, mess up the place, make mistakes, fall on the stage. I hate when you go to a concert and nothing real happens. You need to rock it.”
She frequently lets her audience storm the stage during her concert, which is what happened the last time she performed at Beacon Theater. “I let, like, 30 people come running onstage and we all started dancing, but then security got mad. They’re afraid of the performer getting hurt. I’m not afraid of people, anyway-I know my audience. Besides, it helps break the ice! I will say that the show was thoroughly fu … um, messed up.”
Bruce and Madge aside, others claim the singer is to the Greek community what Frank Sinatra was to the Italians. Several weeks ago, Ms. Vissi had caused a near riot when she gave an impromptu performance during dinner at Periyali, a popular Greek restaurant on 20th Street. “Everyone was talking about it,” said Timothy Corscadden, 32, the vice president of a small fabric company, whose leather vest and pants showed off his extensive tattoos, including a three-pointed star down to his groin. (“Eventually my penis and scrotum will be solid black, but the head will be left as is!”)
“I did not sing at Periyali!” Ms. Vissi said indignantly the next afternoon after partying till 8 a.m. “It’s a very quiet place, a taverna. It has class and is not a place for someone to sing. Besides, they already play my music!”
Said Mr. Blair: “We’ll go to a little restaurant in Astoria, and she’ll come in with her own fish-that way, she can make sure it’s fresh-and have them prepare it for her. And they’ll do it gladly, because everywhere you go in Astoria, they all have her picture up.”
Nearby, next to the inevitable girl in the tutu, was actor Chris Gampel. “Everyone’s full of champagne, and if they’re not, they should be-and that’s one of your problems because you need a drink badly!” the octogenarian roared at The Transom. A tweedy man (and the only one at the party in earth tones), Mr. Gampel has appeared in Annie Hall, The Wrong Man and, most recently, on television’s Ed and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. He befriended Ms. Vissi at a screening of The Merchant of Venice. He said that he’d come to the party for the food and that his musical tastes lean towards classical, so conversion was unlikely. “I don’t understand it,” he said of the party’s ambient music. “It’s noisy and it makes me yell and I DON’T LIKE TO YELL!” he yelled.
However, Anneliese Estrada, creative director of DIFFA, says it’s only a matter of time before Ms. Vissi conquers the U.S. She’s been a fan since the singer performed in Miami at the White Party, a gay, lesbian and transgender bash. Ms. Estrada put her arm around her girlfriend, “You know, the gays always spot the good people first!”
Looked up Nicky Hilton’s number on the Internet and gave her a call. Well, actually I found Nikki Hillton, and figured it was a misspelling. In the picture on her Web page, she looked sexier than I’d imagined, with bigger breasts (36C) and taller (5-foot-9), and she wanted some company: “Holidays got you down? Well come spend some time with me!” Further down, she described herself as a fully functional pre-op transsexual who’s “hot, horny and very accommodating.”
GG: Hi, is this Nikki?
Nikki: It certainly is.
GG: Wow! I’m a …. I’m a huge fan.
Nikki: Why is that?
GG: I don’t know, I’ve just been watching you and-
Nikki: Oh yeah, that doesn’t sound very good.
GG: I’m not a stalker or anything, but-
Nikki: Yeah, well, and anyway, it really honestly doesn’t sound good. Ha-ha! Really doesn’t sound good.
GG: How’s Paris? Wait. When can I see you?
Nikki: Um, it won’t be until later in the week. Right.
GG: What are you doing now or the next coupla days?
Nikki: Uhhh. Who’s this? Who is this?
GG: My name’s George, I saw your ad.
Nikki: All right, George. And I don’t know you, I’ve never met you.
GG: No, no, no, no-no-no-no-no. But can you give me some idea what we could do together?
Nikki: Uhh, you know, I’m really quite versatile. George, I’m not really getting into any more specific details than that? I’m very versatile.
GG: “Versatile”-I like that word.
Nikki: It’s kind of a descriptive, yet non-descriptive word. Um, and I’m going to be in midtown, but it probably won’t be until later in the week.
GG: O.K., I live on the Upper West Side.
Nikki: All right. I am going to be in midtown, 34th and Lexington.
GG: Oh, cool. I always hang out around there. I go to Bungalow 8 sometimes-I saw you there the other night. I didn’t talk to you, though, but you, uh, cut the line at the bathroom.
Nikki: It wasn’t me, sweetie-I’m not in New York!
GG: Oh, oh. Anyway, I’m glad that you broke up with Todd-that guy was kind of a loser, wasn’t he?
Nikki: O.K., I don’t know who that is.
GG: You’re not in New York right now?
Nikki: No, sweetie. Not yet. But I will be.
GG: Are you working on your clothing line?
Nikki: (Pause) I think you’ve got me really, really confused with someone else.
GG: But you are going to be here at the end of the week?
GG: And are you going to Bungalow for New Year’s, or that party in Miami?
Nikki: I honestly don’t think so. I think I’m gonna be here-well, when I get to New York, I’m gonna be in New York.
GG: What else might we do together? You said you’re versatile, some idea of an evening we could spend together? And how much would it be?
Nikki: Uhh, well, it’s $200 for the hour. I’ll leave it at that.
GG: That’s good, that’s good.
Nikki: What we could do? We could have some fun-a lot of fun. I’ll leave it at that.
GG: Great. And what should I do in the meantime?
Nikki: Umm, go about your life? I don’t know. (Laughs) I’m not really sure what to tell you, sweetie. Listen, call me later in the week, O.K.? All right, sweetie. Bye, now.
The Transom Also Hears …
… that society bands around the country have been busy in recent weeks competing for the ultimate gig-playing at the Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. Dozens of white-suited orchestras have prepared videos and sent them to the Inaugural Committee, which has yet to decide on all of the entertainment scheduled for the eight balls celebrating the re-election of George W. Bush that night. One New York bandleader, Alex Donner, who might appear to have the inside track-after all, he’s the President’s cousin on the Walker side of the family-is worried that the connection could actually hurt his chances.
“I knew it was always a disadvantage to be related to the President in New York City, where everyone is so liberal-I’ve lost more business than I’ve gotten because I’m a cousin of the President,” said Mr. Donner, 50, who used to work as a lawyer for the late McCarthy-era legend Roy Cohn before becoming a high-society bandleader. His Alex Donner Orchestra, which brags that it covers everything from big band to Beyoncé, recently merged with another group, New York, New York Orchestras. “Now I hear that though they love the music, we may not be asked to play because the Inaugural Committee wants to avoid the appearance of nepotism, and because a New York society band may not project the image they’re looking for.”
… that Bernard Kerik’s trials and tribulations may be making headlines all over New York, but the rest of the country doesn’t seem too fazed. The ex-NYPD commissioner, who recently withdrew his appointment as Homeland Security czar in the wake of numerous scandals and is now the subject of an inquiry by the city’s Department of Investigation, is still the keynote speaker at the American Correctional Association’s winter conference in Phoenix, Ariz., on Jan. 10. “Mr. Kerik was invited to speak last August, and we have not revisited that decision,” said the A.C.A.’s spokesman, who wouldn’t reveal Mr. Kerik’s speaking fee. “We are looking forward to listening to him. He’ll talk about issues related to law enforcement.” Another group that stands behind Mr. Kerik is MedAire, a company which provides medical assistance around the globe to travelers and provides security consulting to Americans living abroad. Mr. Kerik joined the board of the Tempe, Ariz.–based company in May, and although he’s visited its offices twice, he skipped the quarterly board meeting on Dec. 21. “He’s still on the board-he hasn’t resigned or done anything on those lines, and there’s nothing underfoot to change that,” said a spokesman.