Ages of Consent
At the premiere of Notes on a Scandal on Monday night, it was the film itself that had The Transom squirming. Without revealing too much, it deals with, among other things, a love affair between an older woman and a 15-year-old boy.
Midway through one of the film’s rather explicit sex scenes, Men’s Health editor David Zinczenko leaned over and whispered, “This is intense.”
The after-party, held in the hallowed and gilded chambers of the Metropolitan Club, was buzzing with praise for what a wonderful, moving film it had been. But The Transom just wanted to pry into everyone’s most age-inappropriate sexual fantasies.
“Basically, from the age of 20, my big ambition in life was to get it on with an octogenarian,” said Zoë Heller, who wrote the novel that the film was based on. “The biggest gap has been my husband, who’s about 16 years older than me. So I like the old guys.”
She said her inspiration had come from wanting to write about some kind of “transgressive love affair” and then becoming interested in the Mary Kay Letourneau case. She said she herself had never fantasized about a younger man.
Bill Nighy, one of the film’s stars, theorized that relations between older women and young boys had probably been happening forever.
“Human phenomena are pretty consistent,” said the great British actor. He wore a black suit and a white shirt. A pair of big black actorly frames sat on his thin nose. “Stuff happens pretty routinely. I don’t know in fact whether it’s in fact more prevalent now than it ever was before. I doubt it.”
So true. Ever fancy a teacher, Sir Bill?
“I had no relationships with the Jesuits I was educated by, no. Apart from the fact that they used to beat you on a regular basis, which was perfectly acceptable in those days. It gave me no sleepless nights.”
But there was nothing sexual about those beatings? As soon as the question emerged, The Transom knew it had tested the delicate boundaries of cheekiness on the wrong man.
His eyes narrowed, visibly, even behind those hulking black frames. “I think I’m going to say goodnight now,” he said and turned away. Then all of a sudden he whirled back on his heels like a viper and hissed, “After watching this film, that’s the question you have?”
The author Gay Talese, on the other hand, was a geyser of information on the subject. He had already plumbed the depths of deviant sexual behavior in his book, Thy Neighbor’s Wife.
“The performances tonight bring such a depth of emotion to being, not deviant, but dalliant,” said the dapper don of New Journalism. “Judi Dench, I think this was one of her great achievements. The sadness and the sexual craving and the loneliness—amazing.”
Mr. Talese said he’s always preferred the deep end of the pool. “I’ve found that women, mature women, are much sexier—and I’ll tell you why. Mature women are people who are willing to take risks. More than young people. Because mature women—and by that I mean 60’s, 50’s, 40’s, 60’s, 70’s.” He was holding a martini. “I’ll tell you the sexiest woman I probably think that I saw—I was at a dinner party about 15 years ago, and I sat next to Clare Booth Luce, who was 78.”
“CLARE BOOTH LUCE, for Chrissakes! She was Henry Luce’s wife. She was like 75 or 76. Very sexy.”
“No, I think women who are older are much more desirable, in terms of dalliance,” he said. Indeed, as a lad Mr. Talese had once fantasized about a teacher, Dorothy Day. He wrote a short story, called “Getting Even,” about it. “She was beautiful, beautiful—very much like Cate Blanchett.”
Dave Zinczenko and his best bud Dan Abrams, the MSNBC dude, were nearby ogling that very actress, who looked stunning in a sleek silver suit.
“I went through Catholic school—none of the nuns ever looked like Cate Blanchett. None of them ever looked like Mary Kay Letourneau. So I had no distractions,” said Mr. Zinczenko. He sneaked another glance. “If I had Cate Blanchett for a teacher, I wouldn’t have learned a thing.”
Mr. Abrams declined to comment.
But where were their own ladies this night? What was up with their man-date?
Mr. Zinczenko laughed. “What? This wasn’t a chick flick, man.”
On Canal, between Orchard and Ludlow, squats a cute three-story building with mirrored windows. The words “Asia Song Society” are embossed on a glass door, which is all covered up with paper, except for a makeshift peephole.
There is a bit more security. “There are video monitors on each floor so we can see who’s trying to come in,” said Terence Koh. The space is a collaboration with his art dealer, Javier Peres, who owns galleries in Los Angeles and Berlin. “If we don’t know you, you’ll get the silent treatment,” he said.
But that will change. “Probably by next year we’re going to have a madhouse,” he said. Mr. Koh was in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. He has a chiseled face, close-cropped black hair and a pencil-thin black mustache. The other day, he wore an oversized hoodie, sweats and socks. There are no shoes allowed in the A.S.S., as he calls it. His left arm was adorned with two Chanel watches, one black, one white. He took sips from a frosty bottle of Jägermeister.
“I’m going to start recording stuff, and start doing my magazine again, and doing Web stuff and events and stuff like that, because I just work in multidimensional ways. So I guess by next year it will be almost Factory-like.”
It’s a spacious building, very minimalist, bathed all in white. The place contained hardly any furniture, a few work desks and a bookshelf. It was also more or less devoid of art, save a few rubber dildos and one neon rooster on the third floor. It was a Mr. Koh original: title, Big White Cock; price tag, $26,000. He said he doesn’t like “stuff.” His boyfriend had to convince him to install a kitchen.
The magazine is called Asian Punk Boy, which was a name Mr. Koh sometimes used as well. But Mr. Koh is currently focusing on his upcoming show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He will dominate its lobby gallery, beginning Jan. 19. Still, he has big plans for the magazine’s second issue. “The new issue is going to be called ‘The New Heterosexuality,’ because now it’s all these heterosexuals in the art world,” he said.
When Mr. Koh puts the call out, the A.S.S. serves as a giant party pad for artists to gather, talk and “drink until 8 in the morning,” he said. “After the first three parties, we had to repaint …. I like white because it shows dirt. It shows how dirty we are.”
Mr. Koh said he’s had five parties since November. Regulars include Barnaby Furnas, Dan Colen, Ryan McGinley, artist Dash Snow, the D.J./designer Ben Cho and the D.J./actor Leo Fitzpatrick.
And it’s not just a lot of drinking and, to use the parlance of Mr. Koh, “stuff.”
“There have been like little art-making sessions,” said Mr. Koh. “Ya know, taking photographs of each other and different stuff.”
“The art world’s funny,” said the painter Barnaby Furnas, who appreciates the communal aspect of the A.S.S. “When everyone’s sober, everyone’s sort of catty with each other, and then everyone gets high and everyone wants to be friends and love each other.”
Mr. Colen, who lives nearby, said he’s looking forward to the clubhouse that Mr. Koh plans to build in the basement. He’s currently installing a sound system. “It has a lot of potential. It’s just gonna be a place artists and friends can come by whenever and just go down there and hang out. There’s no other place like it in the city,” he said.
Thus far, no party-till-dawn hang session has been planned for Christmas Eve, but Mr. Koh promised his A.S.S. would not disappoint. “We’ve going to have a merry, white Christmas for sure,” he said.
Festival of Lites
Just when The Transom had resigned itself to a full week of merrily bobbing about in a punchbowl of holiday cheer—equal parts eggnog and Manischewitz—a sobering press release arrived for a musical event in Williamsburg: “A Very Faggots Chanukah.” The concert offered performances “by queer Jews and Jews who are just kinda gay.” There was no mention of free booze in the program.
Nevertheless, on the third night of Hanukkah—also called Sunday—The Transom found itself wading into a crowd of punk rockers and mangy, arty types at the Galapagos Art Space.
“This is an actual Hanukkah party,” boasted Dan Fishback from the stage. He is the front man of the band the Faggots and had organized the event. “I would like to introduce you to my imaginary lesbian aunts Ethel and my aunt Estelle,” he said. “They’re actually not Jewish or lesbians, but they are in my imagination,” he whispered into the microphone.
The imaginary aunts, done up in thrift-shop costumes and wigs, were positioned off to the side of the stage at a table decorated with a menorah, as well as a bottle of mustard and a bottle of mayonnaise.
First up was “Soce, the Elemental Wizard,” a.k.a. Andrew Singer, of Manhattan by way of New Hampshire. He explained that his raps center on such themes as “video games, gay sex and finding yourself.”
“Bob ya head. Bob ya head, what?” He repeated the refrain several times, while bouncing to the beat—or somewhere thereabouts. He wore a green T-shirt and black Reebok exercise pants. “It’s very faggot-y, won’t you come with me, to my Hanukkah tree.” He continued: “I am a Jew, I’m gay, I’m white, I’m a rapper. I write my rhymes while I’m sitting on the crapper.”
Outside, there was a young smoker named Jody Fletcher Bowman. “I sometimes wish I were Jewish,” she said. “I like faggots and I like Hanukkah. It just seems like a really good mix to me.” The attractive brunette was clad mostly in black. She explained that while not gay herself, “lots” of her family is. “I’d say like 30 percent of my family is. Well, that might be a little high. But it seems that way at family reunions.”
Back inside, Soce had moved onto his next song, “Suck a Dick.” Eve Sicular was feeling the beat in the front row. Ms. Sicular is a drummer in the band Isle of Klezbos. After the Wizard, she did a video presentation on the queer subtext in Yiddish film. “Queer-friendliness and Judaism are a match made in heaven,” she said. “This is the best Hanukkah ever.”
She tempered her enthusiasm later when another act, the O’Debra Twins—a comedy duo that is neither gay nor Jewish—preformed an “artistic abortion” skit on the stage. “Well, maybe not the best ever,” said Ms. Sicular.
Mr. Fishback had resumed the stage to bring the night back into focus. “Does anyone not know what Hanukkah is like about?” he asked.
“So the thing that I find fascinating about Hanukkah is that it’s supposed to be the Jewish people’s overthrowing of this imperial power, the Syrians, that were preventing them from being Jews,” he said. He has a squeaky voice. He wore a hat with earflaps, rectangular black glasses and a trench coat. “But what’s amazing about it is that it was like this guerrilla war that was like not just fought against the Syrians but also against the Jews who were collaborating with the Syrians, and in a way it actually sort of resembles the insurgency in Iraq.”
A few hearty “Yeahs!” arose from the crowd.
“Because it was like a bunch of people fighting an imperial power and also like killing the people who collaborated with the imperial power,” he said with vigor.
“And also hanging out in the caves!” offered a voice.
“Yes, and also hanging out in the caves,” agreed Mr. Fishback. Satisfied with his lecture, he set about lighting the menorah. Shortly, though, he turned back to his supportive audience, “Wait, I’m not too clear on whether it’s the third or fourth night of Hanukkah.”
The Transom missed the last two acts, including the Faggots.
Jay-Z may have thrown himself a $3 million birthday bash earlier this month, but he hasn’t forgotten the spirit of Christmas, ya heard?! On Saturday afternoon, the rapper’s 40/40 Club hosted a Christmas party for 150 homeless children.
“I got to see Santa,” said Kaesha, 7, of Harlem. “He said, ‘Were you good today?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Are you gonna be good tomorrow?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’” Kaesha was holding on tight with her tiny fingers to a bag containing two gift-wrapped presents. She said she’s really hoping for a Game Boy this year. Oh, and also a cell phone. “I got two presents. I wanna open one,” she said.
“Not till Christmas, honey,” said Greg G., of the Faces shelter in Harlem. He had helped transport some 21 children to the club that day. “I think Jay-Z’s doing a beautiful thing, giving back to the children in the neighborhood.”
“I want a black doll,” said Courtney, 5, also of Harlem. The Transom had to bend way down to hear her tiny voice. She had also just met Santa. “He said, ‘Ho ho ho.’ I met my favorite Santa Claus in the whole wide world,” she said and smiled. There was hip-hop playing on the sound system. “I like Jay-Z. My favorite song is ‘Deja Vu.’ It’s nice.” The place had been transformed into a veritable Chuck E. Cheese.
“I’m not into that,” said Steven, 9, of the Bronx, of his decision not to get his face painted. “I liked the food. I had pizza and fries,” he said.
Was it good pizza?
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Extra cheeeeeese.” The word seemed to give the boy great pleasure. Steven had yet to decide what he wanted from Santa. “I’m still thinking about it,” he said, nodding.
Each year, the Coalition for the Homeless hosts a Christmas party in collaboration with about six shelters from around the city. “This party is often the only opportunity that these kids have to celebrate Christmas,” said Josh Klinski, who has been working at the coalition for the last three years. “So everything from Santa down to the full spread of lunch, you can tell that the kids just eat it up. No pun intended.”
Mr. Klinski said this year’s party was particularly exciting for many of the kids, but not because of the costumed characters, magicians, face-painters or even the visit from Santa.
“These kids know who Jay-Z is, and they know what the 40/40 club is, and to actually be listening to hip-hop music here and to be able to dance to it here is probably something that they never thought that they would be able to do. And so giving them this experience in addition to the actual presents is so special to us,” said Mr. Klinski, who added that each kid would leave with two presents from the coalition and some clothing donated by Jay-Z (real name: Shawn Carter).
And it wasn’t just the littlest having a happy Christmas that day.
“They gave me a whole bunch of clothes—I can’t even carry some of it,” said Kadeem Mason, 14, of Harlem. “He’s the best rapper. I look up to him. He inspires a lot of children, you know. He don’t never tell not one child the wrong thing to do. If he says something to a child, it’s always positive.”