As Seen on TV: Clubs and Bars of NYC

As Seen on TV: Clubs and Bars of NYC

by Clubplanet
05.16.2008


[Gossip Girl photos courtesy of CWTV.com]

Like many kids growing up isolated in the Midwest, I learned everything I knew about New York from TV—a warped, possibly dangerous way to learn about the most heterogeneous city on the planet. But TV’s representation of the Big Apple, as distilled in the ‘90s, grew up with me. When I was in elementary school, Manhattan revolved around the Central Perk coffee shop on Friends. New Yorkers didn’t have jobs, they just inherited chic apartments and adopted monkeys and ducks. City life was appropriately PG, full of lattes, coincidences, and museums, and sex happened, sweetly, between groups of friends, almost always for the betterment of the social circle.

Around the same time Ross kissed Rachel for the last time, my PG-rated grade school life was careening into the less family-friendly territories of adolescence. Carrie Bradshaw took the reins, and while I was too busy obsessing boys and beers to pay much attention to a show about 30ish women obsessing over martinis and men, the New York of my imagination had subtly shifted. I still hadn’t been to the city itself by the time I entered college in sunny Virginia, but the dim recesses of my brain knew that there was a darker, less sanitized destination waiting north. I pictured a city with its own fog machine powered by steam vapor, subway exhaust, and heavy smokers. My newly R-rated TV set had taught me that New York women lived like glamorous college students on a much larger campus—smoking, drinking, jobless sirens swanning around W. 27th St., fending off charismatic and deeply fucked-up men in suits.

To a college student who had spent the majority of her undergraduate social life fending off sappy English majors and slack-jawed frat boys, New York sounded like heaven.

Of course, the rest of my story aligns with nearly everyone else who moves to this sprawling city sight-unseen, duffel bag in hand, just another young idealist who’s never heard the death rattle of a dream or a crazy homeless guy demand money. When I watch old episodes of my favorite shows, the line between fantasy and fact blurs, even when viewed through the lens of a resident New Yorker.

And now, in the fly-over states, in the backwoods of the South, in sheltered McMansions of every suburb, a new flock of tweens are consuming permutations of the same New York fantasies that once compelled the mass numbers of our present population to drop everything and move here. Meanwhile, current New Yorkers sit in front of their own TV sets, sometimes leaning forward and exclaiming, “Hey! I’ve been there!”  The shows are different, the bars are different, but the warped theatrics still pull them inward, promising, fibbing, tugging.


Marquee
289 10th Ave
646.473.0202

Another scene-stealing venue that was more fun to watch on the little screen than teeter around in real life, Marquee made its cameo on Gossip Girl when Blair Waldorf (a diminutive plutocrat who puts Heather Chandler to shame) pressures sophomore Jenny Humphrey into joining her scheming group of tween minions. That Jenny is too young even for Marquee’s beauty-before-age standards is grossly apparent, but the scenario encapsulates every non-native’s secret fear that New Yorkers have a bloodhound’s smell for naivety and intimidation and will thusly exploit newcomers to their advantage. Marquee itself enjoys a photogenic makeover that renders the over-crowded quarters spacious and comfortable, and the group of I-bankers who prey
on such obvious jailbait come off less like the
self-entitled date rapists of reality than fumbling Big 10 grads.
Click for more info on Marquee New York. 


The Box
189 Chrystie St
212.982.9301

All glister and gold, The Box was erected (zing!) as a cabaret-style venue for kitshy eroticism and carnivale thrills, a Moulin Rouge-meets-upscale Coney Island. When Gossip Girl's prodigal son Chuck Bass tries to win back the affection of his straight-laced father by opening up a decadent cabaret hall, The Box fit the gaudy shoe as its thinly-veiled stage. Masquerading as "Victrola," the sweeping shots of the interior's gold balustrades, burnished French floors, and plush red velvet booths all but pegged the real venue as Simon Hammerstein's burlesqueish brainchild. While the real Box has struggled to maintain its reputation for cutting-edge shows (has a performer bent over and lit a fart on fire yet?), Gossip Girl's rendition is pretty darn sexy: queen bee Blair sheds her prim demeanor with a jaw-dropping strip tease that strikes the perfect balance between hauteur and vulnerability. If only the real Box could commission that show.
Click for more info on The Box New York.


PJ Clarke’s
915 3rd Ave
212.317.1616

With a Gilded Age pedigree dating back to 1884, PJ Clarke's was already a venerable institution by the 1960s. When Mad Men's league of scotch-swilling copywriters need to loosen their skinny ties after a day of hard drinking and heavy smoking, they stretch out in the wooden booths to eat Cadillac burgers as the secretaries sway to jukebox hits. While the decor has gone through a string of renovations, the owners have staunchly preserved its antiquated charm--right down the antique porcelain urinals in the men's room. For decades those urinals were the only devices available, as women's weren't even allowed in the bar until 1960. Not to be outdone, contemporary girl-culture recently gave PJ's a shout out via a Gossip Girl episode: "You can no longer shock me," one jaded tween says to another, ”I've seen you with vomit in your hair making out with I-bankers at PJ Clarke's."
Click for more info on PJ Clarke's New York.


Capri Social Club
156 Calyer St, Brooklyn
718.383.8833

One of Rescue Me's stock scenes involves anti-hero Tommy Gavin nursing a pilsen while contemplating life's demolishing disappointments. The dim, unnamed bar is actually a decades-old Polish establishment in Brooklyn called the Capri Social Club, where many a staged bar fight and fraternal commiseration fest has taken place between Denis Leary and his fellow cast members. Wedged in the corner of an apartment building in residential Greenpoint, Capri undoubtedly slips through a loophole in commercial zoning laws by grace of its dubious "social club" categorization—also why patrons can get away with smoking indoors. A "members only" sign is boldly taped on the window (picture aging Poles wearing white cotton/poly jackets), and the few intrepid personae non grata who berthed Capri's doors have returned with tales of withering glances rather than a brotherly welcome. We can only imagine what Rescue
Me
's interloping crew members have suffered.
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