A Chat With: Ray LeMoine
In October, Ray LeMoine emailed me, passing along news of his night spot Heathers closing down after its landlord changed the locks to the club. As I read Mr. LeMoine’s email, it dawned on me that Ray may be the first operator to tell me his or her club closed down without me having to inquire first.
Since Heathers’ closure, Ray and I traded emails about nightlife, rap music and a certain drug that may be making a comeback in New York. Ray quickly became one of the people who I consider to know things. Realizing his name is not one you often read about in gossip and nightlife columns, I asked the Boston native if he would be up for an interview the week leading up to Art Basel and as you guessed, he agreed. My plan was to help tell Ray’s story and make his name a little more known than it already was to the people who read my tweets and blog posts. The plan was going off without a hitch until I began reading Page Six during the last day of Art Basel and thought to myself: “oh shit, this motherfucker’s already famous!” Ray’s name was splattered all over Page Six, TMZ and other gossip rags for his alleged assault on Barron Hilton. Because you can read all about that incident elsewhere, I did not want to waste time mentioning it (more than once) here.
Here’s our unedited chat, where I ask Mr. LeMoine a random array of questions:
I grew up in the woods north of Boston. About five miles from my house was the town youth center, called the Red Barn. The prettiest girl in my grade’s mother ran the local skate shop and had started booking hardcore punk shows at the Red Barn. I started helping with Barn show in 8th grade (1993) as a way to both charm my way into the hot girl crew and because I loved hardcore music.
It worked on one front: I kept promoting shows in and around Boston until 1999, when I quit to focus on a sportswear company I’d started. Oh, how wrong I was. It was right when the record industry was imploding and live music was to become the major revenue stream for musicians. My partner in the shows at the time, Matt Galle, kept booking artists and is now a top agent at Paradigm. He basically invented arena emo. He broke My Chemical Romance, FUN., Ke$ha, Bruno Mars and so on. We’re still friends at least.
In the mid 90s, when I started coming down to New York for hardcore shows, I saw the last days of Twilo and Tunnel—mind blowing the size of those places. We also went to clubs like Life and Spa and were shocked: skaters were hanging out with models. Same deal at Max Fish. Stuff like this didn’t happen in Massachusetts. During the 90s in Mass, skaters and hardcore kids got beat up, there were no models at all and people loved nu metal.
Around 2001 a friend from Boston, Gibby Miller, moved to New York to DJ. He lived directly above Lit when that bar opened. The owner was his roommate. That was a fun apartment, as you can imagine. I also enjoyed places like The Hole and OpenAir.
Then I spent a few years overseas. I came back wanting to party, which terrified my live-in girlfriend. A friend was dating a club promoter named Vegas. It was 2005. Vegas had Tuesdays and Thursdays at Stereo, Wednesdays at Marquee, Plumm on the weekends. Vegas is the reason I am doing this interview, he was my main introduction to mid-2000s west side nightlife.
When Beatrice and The Box opened in 07, there was a whole new scene between the LES, Soho and the West Village. Cafe Select let us have a dinner party on Tuesdays followed by a party in the industrial, two-level back room behind the kitchen. That party stayed underground for a year until a Times freelancer came in and wrote it up for Styles. The Back Room wasn’t up to code, and it closed after the story, reopening legally almost a year later.
Next we moved to White Slab’s side room with Travis Bass. He knew the owners. Same concept: dinner then a party (we had $1 oysters tip 4am!). But there was no AC in the side room and it was summer. After a two weekends, Travis wanted to stop until we fixed the climate problem. I had a birthday booked and thought to go literally next door to Congee Village and see if they had a private room. They did, and White Slab Palace Back Room at Congee Village Basement was born. It was a joke, a one off, and Travis hated it. Travis did apparently like the Chinese restaurant-as-club idea.
At Select I met my current partner Mike Herman. He had been working with ACME as the owners/landlords prepared a sale. Vegas got Paul Sevingy involved, another ex-hardcore kid who we think is the best operator in nightlife. Beatrice had just closed and Paul had always wanted ACME. The landlord put together a better deal, though, with the Indochine guys and Jon Neidich. And Paul wound up at Kenmare with Nur Khan. Wewound up dicks in hand.
We took a lease in fall 2010 for the cafe at Bowery Poetry Club under the pretense of doing a cafe and running events in the back. The first party we did, our opening, was with Cam’ron during Fashion Week. It was one of the best nights financially in Poetry Club history. Yet things never worked out with the poets. They were in fact fascist poets. If it wasn’t amateur or slam poetry, you know, if it was an actually published author, they hated it. If it wasn’t some up and coming horrible pay-to-play concert, why bother? We had serious acts and great writers begging to take the stage. Nope. Success scared these poets. We couldn’t force them to make money. So we left.
In spring 2012 we did a pop-up on 14th Street and 2nd Ave for the Frieze Art Fair with our Bowery neighbors The Hole gallery. Naturally it was called Hole Foods. And then we did the Heathers deal that summer and ran it until this October. I basically sat drinking in that bar for 15 months straight.
Thanks to Heathers, we work with people like Anthony Pappalardo, Matt Koshak, Becka Diamonad, Steve Lowethal, Cole Rachel, Sandy Kim, Tamaryn, Liza Thorn, Colby Hewitt, Jack McCready, Maddie McCormick, Alexis Penney, Justin Strauss, Billy Caldwell, Tommy John, Andy Beta, Mikey IQ, Viking, Chinx, Marly, Lord, Prodigy, Marv, Skitzo, Duke and countless others that not only we plan to work with again recommend everyone works with.
You’re now throwing parties at Mug Lounge, which is nearby your former club, Heathers. What is your role at Mug Lounge and what will become of the space?
In late October, we agreed to a deal in principle with Michael White, the owner of Mug who’d renamed the bar M.White Lounge. It’s right across Avenue A from Heathers, like the actual neighboring bar. We figured with Basel and the holidays coming, we’d do a few pre-parties. We did two weekends. It went well. But the room isn’t finished. The deal is agreed upon andat contract. Hopefully things move fast, then we do a quick renovation. We are also working on a project on Flatbush Ave between Prospect Heights and Park Slope.
None really. Obviously think Park Slope could use a few more options. Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn by the East River is already great with Bar Henry and Long Island Bar. Chinatown should continue to grow. Long Island City is being further PS1-infied with the steakhouse by the M Wells and a new PS1 venue in an old school, and we will probably see some more action there.
Who knows, maybe DeBlasio will cut the “quality of life” task forces against nightlife and spend that money on improving peoples’ actual quality of life. Then the whole city would be prime. In fact, the new mayor should be lobbied to bring culture to the poor parts of New York. He should cut the stupid cabaret law and let people dance again. It’s a law that was originally designed to keep whites from dancing with blacks, as NY Nightlife Twitter told me, and that kind of segregation is exactly what Dante’s afro stands against.
It depends on the situation and the person. On a high stress night it might make sense not to drink. On a high stress night it might make sense to have a drink. If you can’t handle drinking, don’t drink.
Flyer drama is so annoying, seriously. My logo needs to be here, change this, that’s ugly blah. I always felt flyers should be funny.
You’ve thrown some parties at Sapphire in the past. Do you feel other strip clubs will try throwing parties in 2014?
I don’t know. Todd Smolar asked me to help. We figured that doing something at a strip club had to involve women or else you’re just doing a gross stripper party. Writer Sarah Nicole Prickett and designer Berkley Poole had just launched ADULT Magazine, a literary erotica magazine, and the fit seemed right. We do a dinner party at the steak house, once or twice month. It spills into the strip club which is one of the wildest parties in New York right now. We’ll be back with ADULT on the 19th.
I’ve never wanted to be a DJ, mainly because my record collection is basically all hardcore and punk, which people don’t really like at clubs. But I’ve always wanted to be strip club DJ. What a cool job. So at Sapphire’s I DJ with Todd a bit—mostly strip club songs by the Project Pats and Guccis of the trap game. Strippers also love nu metal. Which is my second favorite strip club music style after trap rap. A lil Godsmack here, some System of Down there, a dash of Linkin Park and you have some happy strippers.