The basement beneath the store called the Freemans Sporting Club contains the headquarters of an actual sporting club called the Freemans Sporting Club.
On the street level, in Freeman Alley just off Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, fellas shop for $2,013 hand-made suits, $1,680 peacoats, $228 “work shirts” and $200 moccasins. And down the rickety wooden staircase lurks a clubhouse with a barebones archery range: large, shot-up foam pads and some paper targets are laid up against a wall.
Somewhere between these two separate enclaves arise questions and answers about manliness. Is the emo-boy era finally over? Are women necessary? Should Cargo really have folded? And what do today’s boys like anyway?
A small radio blasts classic rock through the empty, narrow room. “We keep the radio on at all times, even when no one’s down here. It’s always tuned to K104, just to sort of keep the energy alive, you know,” said Taavo Somer, the clubhouse leader and owner of the store. He’s the proprietor of the nearby Freemans, a hipster-favored, taxidermy-adorned restaurant. “It’s one of the rules.”
On a wall of the basement, members keep track of their triathlon times the way a farmhouse family would chart the kids’ height in the family kitchen. “We’re going to have another triathlon tomorrow night in honor of our friend Sam’s return,” said Mr. Somer on a recent evening.
“Basically you drink a beer, run upstairs, ride a bicycle around the block, come back downstairs, chug another beer and then shoot three arrows into the target,” he said. “So it’s basically like a biathlon—but triathlon because of the added element of the beer.”
Nearby sat a large, legit-looking bow and a small arsenal of BB guns. Mr. Somer and a member named Andy are currently tied for the best time.
The club was formed a year ago, give or take. There are roughly 20 core members. Mr. Somer described the F.S.C. membership as “a few photographers, a leatherworker, musicians, some people from the gallery world, the unemployed—Sam rides motocross.”
“Last August, the club started doing regular Thursday-night meetings” above Freemans, said Tim Hout, 29, a photographer from Oakland who met Mr. Somer while party-promoting at the Pussycat Lounge. “We’d go and play some pool above the restaurant and talk about some concepts of the modern day and where everybody’s headed and what the current trends are.”
“The concept behind the group of us was trying to sort of like rediscover outdoorsmanship and sportsmanship and hunting, shooting, fishing and camping—in a way, sort of like a new primitivism,” said Mr. Somer. That night, he was wearing a gray bespoke wool suit of his own design. He has a widow’s peak, a clipped beard and a ruddy Scandinavian complexion. “So much of urban-ness and fashion, like high fashion, is sort of like a detachment from things that are primitive, sort of like the basic things that we should know how to do.”
“It’s just like not being all those fucking metrosexual dickfaces,” said F.S.C. member Jack Dakin. “It’s an awesome thing. It’s just a bunch of people who hang out and chill, but then we actually do stuff.”
“I think it’s hard, if you’re from a country-ish area, to feel comfortable in the metrosexual mode all the time,” said Tom Martin, 34, a software consultant who grew up in Chadds Ford, Penn., with Mr. Somer.
“I mean, we’re all creative young people, but we also have balls,” said Mr. Dakin, 29, an interior designer from Marin County, Calif. Most recently, he said, he’d created the aesthetic of Dirty Disco on 14th Street. “I grew up in a family where I was hunting for ducks and fly-fishing. Even if we don’t get to do that too much, we still have people who are out there to be assertive.”
“It’s like we’re all growing up, and we may as well organize and try to do something,” said Matt Brown, 27. “Fuck trying to be cool and trying to get into the back of BlackBook. Let’s go shooting!”
“We were all hanging all the time anyway, and Taavo was like, ‘Let’s get organized about this,’” said Mr. Dakin. “He’s a great organizer.”
“Recently, someone was like, ‘Do you guys want to join the Masons?’” Mr. Somer said. “And we were like, ‘Why would we want to join the Masons? Do they even do any fun stuff?’”
“I’m still lobbying pretty hard to get an F.S.C. float in the Macy’s parade,” said Mr. Brown, who was a member of the N.R.A. when he was younger. “And then do like they did in Animal House, you know—that would be amazing.”
Other club activities include going to the gun clubs, playing pranks on other stores in the area and whittling. That activity caught on after a recent camping trip.
“It’s kind of half just good times and half serious,” said Mr. Martin of the whittling. “One of the guys made tongs, which we used on the trip. That was pretty amazing. Another guy made a slingshot,” he said.
“Lately, on Thursdays, we’ll all get together and whittle and just hang out,” said Mr. Somer. “We just got in a German whittling knife we ordered, so we’ll probably try that out soon.”
Mr. Somer said that most of the core group has been hanging out for at least five years.
Then Freemans opened in 2004.
And so then, later, the store took the name of the club. It represented exactly what he wanted to convey: a brand with “a masculine identity.”
The store proper features a barbershop in the back, owned by fellow F.S.C. member Sam Buffa, who is on an endurance motocross team. It’s old-school, too: antique barber chairs, straight-razor shaves, walk-in service only. The F.S.C. barber offers shaves for $40.
“This really isn’t about ‘Hey man, we’re cool—we hang out in the Lower East Side and have an archery range,’” said Mr. Brown. “We’re just trying to do stuff …. It’s like in order to go to the shooting club in Chinatown, you have to not go to Max Fish, you know.”
For Halloween weekend, the boys rented a big hunting lodge in upstate New York and got a group of 30 or so people to come up. They even allowed girlfriends. “We had this big party where people would go shooting or motorcycle-riding,” said Mr. Somer. “Just tromping around in general.”
They’ve done a number of smaller camping trips, with fishing, hiking and skeet-shooting excursions from there. A Christmas “mixer” is also in the works, which will be open to friends and neighbors. Mr. Somer said the party will have a fund-raising element—proceeds will be donated to a nature preserve.
“Of course, members will be required to wear a Freemans Sporting Club suit,” said Mr. Somer.
“Three or four times a week, people are calling about how to join the F.S.C.,” said Mr. Brown. “It’s not really like that. We don’t need a bunch of guys we don’t know or trust running around with guns in the woods.”
At some recent date, Sante D’Orazio became known as the man before whom to drop trou. Pamela Anderson, Stephanie Seymour and Christie Turlington are among the names of the elite but growing class of women who have been so lucky as to have the goateed celeb photog snap them in the nude.
“Everybody wants to sort of be a part of that group,” said Mr. D’Orazio last week at the Gramercy Park Hotel, partying for his latest book. “You gotta see the e-mails I get. I get e-mails from people all over the world, and it’s like a girl stark naked saying, ‘I can be the next Pam Anderson.’” He often strokes his goatee between thoughts. “And I’m like, ‘Well, not really.’ I collect them; it’s quite hysterical.”
The book, Katlick School, documents the transformation that model Kat Fornseca goes through in the year after graduating Catholic high school. Over the course of a number of photo shoots, she loses some of her innocence, as well as that “symbolic” plaid skirt.
“It’s an instinct,” Mr. D’Orazio said of how he came to select Ms. Fornseca. “I meet a lot of girls all the time. I work with a lot of models, and it’s a sense and she had it. She told me she had just graduated Catholic school, so what came to my mind right away was, ‘You still got the uniform?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘All right.’”
“Hey, babe,” he responded to a passing pretty young thing who had yelped his name. The bar was packed with distracting models. He had invited The Transom to hear more of his philosophy in the quietude of the lobby. “What the uniform is, is a symbol,” he explained. “It represents that supposed sense of purity, and that ends up triggering every other response after that. Because of the symbolism, it forces you to participate in the erotic.”
He said the transformation from schoolgirl (sitting upright on the church steps) to bad girl (sprawled on a leather couch in boots) had happened naturally. Almost a year after their first session, Ms. Fornseca had called him. “She was in the neighborhood, wanting to show off her new Channel thigh-high boots, and she came over. She took off her clothes, put on the thigh boots. It was her idea.”
At that point, he said, between strokes of the goatee and tugs of shoulder-length hair, he realized he had the makings of a book. “It’s reality,” he said. “It’s the seasons of our lives. It’s symbolism. It’s mythology. The symbols are different; the themes are ancient.”
On the subject of symbols: In the photographs, Ms. Fornseca wears a particular sort of, er, haircut. How you say, Brazilian?
“You know, I’m not really into a 70’s bush, but I like a little something there,” he said. He was a wearing a black blazer, black T-shirt, jeans and some boots. “It’s all the same right now. You know what it is? Everybody’s influenced, whether they know it or not, by the whole porn culture. At least she kept a little something there. God bless her.” Indeed.
Back in the bar, Ivanka Trump walked by. “No, I would never pose nude,” she said in a soft but stern voice.
And did Ms. Trump have any thoughts on trends in pubic hair? “I’m not going to comment on that,” she said, with a gasp.
Mickey Rourke and Val Kilmer were there, too. Both said they were set to be photographed by Mr. D’Orazio in the coming week.
Would Mr. Rourke take it all off? He smirked. “I don’t know anything about it. You’ll have to talk to Sante.”
All right! So Mr. Kilmer, were ya nervous about the shoot? “No, I’m not nervous,” he said.
The brunette on his arm leaned in. “Val’s not nervous. Sante’s the one who should be nervous,” she said, and then kissed her man a few times, all sexy style.
And Ms. Fornseca couldn’t be happier. She was wearing a backless Imitation of Christ slip that elegantly exposed a jewel-encrusted Victoria’s Secret thong. She had just flown in from Paris, where she had done a L’Oreal shoot. She said she was especially pleased with the nudes, which will be on display at the Stellan Holm Gallery sometime next year.
“My career goals are to live life, be happy and always do artistic things,” she said. “I love the arts.” She had some advice for all the young Catholic girls out there: “Don’t hold back, and live life to the fullest.”
A mixed crowd of on- and off-the-wagon literary folk turned up at Double Sevens last week to celebrate the publication of a holiday stocking-stuffer: Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers. The book, illustrated by Eddie Hemingway—grandson of Ernest!— and written by Mark Bailey, chronicles what various famous writers liked to drink and the wacky adventures they got into.
The two came up with the idea at a Christmas party in the city five years ago. “There were a lot of writers there and an open bar, and not that many people were taking advantage of it,” said Mr. Hemingway. “You know the famous myth of the great American drinking writer—you know it’s like a myth—and it was like: ‘What’s happened?’”
“Now it’s like they get together at Starbucks and talk about the good old days and write these apologetic memoirs, and meanwhile they’re like 28,” he said.
Jay McInerney begged to differ. “Some of us still drink alcohol and don’t exercise,” said the writer, who turned up at the Thursday fête despite the hard rain. “I’m still drinking too much, but I’m not a lush.”
“It’s a real mistake to think that being drunks made them great writers,” he said. Children, are you hearing this? “When I was a kid, I sort of thought, you know, because of all those guys, I thought if you drink enough, you’ll be a good writer. And it turns out that wasn’t right.”
Mr. McInerney was standing with Maggie McGuane, the daughter of acclaimed writer and legendary partier Thomas McGuane.
“I was just talking to Maggie about her dad, Thomas McGuane,” Mr. McInerney said, “and how, the first time I met him, I offered him some coke, ’cause I wanted to break the ice. And he almost ripped my head off, ’cause he’d just quit drinking. And McGuane actually said to me, ‘It’s really a drag having a dinner party for my writer friends, because either they’re ex-alcoholics or they’re practicing alcoholics, and either way, it’s kind of fucked up.’”
Mr. McGuane’s daughter said her father considered his drinking days “invisible—never happened.”
She used to be married to the writer Walter Kirn. “He used to be a big drinker, but now he’s a teetotaler, too,” said Ms. McGuane, who resides in Montana and works as a journalist. “If I had any message, it would be ‘Beware of the teetotaler.’ Because they’re absolutists, and they can be a little dangerous.”
“I don’t drink any more,” said the novelist Edmund White. He cradled a glass of water in his large, pillowy hands. “I drank too much, and so I stopped in 1983. One night I couldn’t get up the ladder to my loft bed, so I said, ‘This is ridiculous.’”
“It’s cute to be drunk in your 20’s or your 30’s,” Mr. White said, “but it’s not so cute in your 40’s or 50’s. Writers can get away with drinking, because they don’t have to get up in the morning for work.”
The younger Mr. Hemingway’s mother, Valerie, was also in attendance. She had been Papa’s assistant for many years before he died. “I certainly hoisted many a glass with him. He was a big drinker, but those were days where if you didn’t drink, you were far more suspect,” she said.
Sister, I’m a Poet
On Saturday night, Paul Sevigny hosted a birthday party for his famous little sister, Chloë, at his über-hip, not-quite-open West Village watering hole, the Beatrice Inn.
The Transom had stealthily attended the party on the coattails of a much hipper friend and called up Ms. Sevigny afterward to get the rundown.
“It was a great birthday—it was so much fun to see all my friends,” said the Big Love star, who says she currently lives in L.A. “against her will.” “What I like about that bar”—aside from her beloved brother owning it—“is that in the downstairs, the music is at a level where you can still have a conversation. And then upstairs you can dance. Now that I’m 32, I can have more civilized conversations,” she said.
The fête, which was held on the actress’ actual birthday, started out as an intimate affair. “Two of my cousins were there, and my mom, who should have known better than to stay that late.” Her elegant, martini-sipping mama finally left at 1 a.m. “She had to take the last train back to Connecticut. I was worried.”
Ms. Sevigny, in a frilly pink dress, diligently mingled amongst her friends. At one point she was overheard saying, “I’m going to go in the other room and make sure everyone’s talking.”
A New Yorker since 1993, she said she was thrilled to be joined by so many of her old friends. There were many. She said she found one or two of the wild ones who had managed to get by the door a tad exasperating. “I’m not going to name names, but there was a certain individual who required too much supervision.”
In accordance with the birthday girl’s wishes, there was no cake and no balloons. A cake “draws too much attention”; balloons “don’t fit with the décor or the low ceilings.” But it’s not like the sultry fashion plate has turned into a complete schoolmarm.
“I danced all night long. I felt bad—the Zac Posen loaner reeked of cigarettes,” she said. “But I said I’d take care of the dry-cleaning bill.”