The Black President Comes To the Great White Way Top Broadway Production for 2009

Whether you are walking or driving in Times Square, the gridlock can feel as if you are going to a United Nations Summit.  The electricity from the flashing lights and projection screens places you are on another planet, but when you walk into the Eugene O’Neil Theater you are transported into time. 

After passing through the doors you are no longer in modern day New York City, you are whisked to Lagos, Nigeria.  Pictures of black leaders adorn the walls colored in rainbow hues.  The espiritu of the Orishas openly gather like spectators at a coming out party.   It is the time of bell bottoms and dashikis and on the continent of Africa Afrobeat is being brought to the masses.  Who is pied piper you ask, the black president of course, not Barack, but Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

On Broadway the spirit and long overlooked legacy of Fela Kuti is being resurrected through Fela! The Musical, courtesy of director Bill T. Jones.  From the opening curtain to the last one, Fela!  The Musical leads the audience through a high energy journey that follows a particular time in Fela’s life.  The musical takes place in the Shrine, Fela’s famous club in Lagos.   It may his final performance, as he is contemplating leaving Nigeria six months after the brutal murder of his mother, played by Lillias White, by the hands of government soldiers.  His existential crisis is explored through the number “Trouble Sleep.”

Like the actual performances held at the Shrine, Fela, brilliantly portrayed by Sahr Ngaujah, interacts with the audience through his music, testimonials to the corruption in Nigeria and storytelling.  The play tells the story of how Fela came to be the originator of Afrobeat, focusing on his influences like the Yoruba religion and artists like James Brown and John Coltrane.  It takes the audience back to Fela’s friendship with Sandra Isadore, played by Saycon Sengbloh, a relationship that spawned Fela’s awareness of self.  This awareness was brought to life in the number “Upside Down.” 

Fela began to reflect this awareness in his music and took it back with him to Nigeria from abroad and it is of course Fela’s music that is the highlight of this production.  For the majority of the people Fela! The Musical will be their first introduction to Fela’s music, but for me this musical is a homecoming.  As a devout househead, Fela is one of our high priests; his music is extremely influential to our community and music. 

My feet were moving to Fela’s feverish horns, African rhythms and powerful lyrics way before I knew about the man and the sacrifices he made for his beliefs.   At times it was torture to remain seated while watching numbers like “Zombie”, “Expensive Shit”, “I.T.T. (International Thief Thief)”, “Yellow Fever” and “Water No Get Enemy”, some of my favorite Fela tunes.  I wanted to get up with the rest of the cast, gyrate and move my feet in praise of the black president.

The choreography was magnificent with footwork; pelvis grinding and aerial moves that remind me of the incensed lit, baby powered dance floors I spin on and dance circles I revolve in.  In fact, everything about the musical feels authentic.  The use of multimedia helps to guide the audience deeper into Fela’s world.  Sahr Ngaujah is perfect as Fela Kuti.  Sometimes I thought he was Fela; the extensive research he did for the role paid off.  He delivers a performance that is worthy of a Tony nomination and win. 

The most powerful point in the play is the recreation of the raid on Fela’s compound.  “The Storming of Kalakuta” was one of the most compelling dramatizations I have seen on stage.  The impact of the barbarous acts committed on that day was not lost on the audience although the scene was not visually graphic, yet the visions were still seared into your mind anyway.  Fela! The Musical is a tour de force in American musical theater, long live Fela Anikulapo Kuti. 

Video courtesy of FelaonBroadway.com

From Harlem to Off Broadway Top off Broadway Production for 2009

Women had The Vagina Monologues; thanks to Jim Jones hip hop heads have their own soliloquies.  Hip Hop Monologues: Inside the Life & Mind of Jim Jones first debuted off Broadway in 2008 and had a brief revival in March.  It was a theatrical listening party of sorts as it featured singles from his album Pray IV Reign.  The play appears to be an autobiographical account about Jim Jones.  Playing himself, Jim Jones returns to Harlem to take the audience through different sequences of his life –relationships with his baby’s mom, fake friends, the police and himself are all examined.  Ultimately Jim has to decide if he should give his street life.

Director J. Kyle Manzay makes great use of the stage blending props and multimedia to give the audience the ultimate Harlem experience.  When I think of Harlem, I think of a place where cats are always on the move, even when they are sleeping they are looking for ways to make moves.  Hip Hop Monologues: Inside the Life & Mind of Jim Jones moved and Harlem shook from beginning to end.  It is a cleverly crafted showcase of an artist who is definitely on my top ten best rapper list.  My sincere hope is that more productions like it will be debuting in the decade to come.

History of Violence Top Live Art Installation for 2009

Violence is almost as American an activity as baseball.  This country was liberated by war; our forefathers were nothing more than wig wearing rebel rousers.  This fact, I’m sure, was not lost on British artist Russell Young when he first envisioned A History of Violence

In March, Bagatelle teamed up with Keszler Gallery to present a private viewing of the exhibit.  Young’s work added a sassy energy to the romantic French bistro.  The dimly lit chandeliers and track lighting glimmering off the freshly painted silk screens gave the restaurant sex appeal.  It was a delight to sip wine and watch Russell create right before our eyes.

Before the art world beckoned, Russell past incarnations included celebrity photography and directing music videos.  A History of Violence examines the connection this country has to violence through iconic imagery and eye popping color.  I’m sure Russell’s background in photography aided in his selections of photos, which were stunning and told individual stories that help to contribute to the entire visual narrative.

Don't talk to me about heroes, most of these men smoke cocaine. 2006 Screen print on canvas

Hollywood has always had a fascination with the Wild West; in fact movies depicting boisterous stories from that time help to save Hollywood and television.  Shows like Wagon Training, The Rifleman and Maverick taught generations of kids about the rough frontier existence, morality and how violence is sometimes a necessary part of living.  No movie sums these lessons up better than The Magnificent Seven.  The movie was just as majestic as the soundtrack.  To see Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and company astride their steeds, ready to save the day, all in pink plays with the ideas of masculinity, vigilantism and heroism. 

Marlon Brando "Oh that boy's a slag" 2007 Acrylic and enamel screen print on linen

What makes bad boys so appealing?  It is a question that has perplexed parents and their daughters since the beginning of time.  Russell chose one of the ultimate bad boys to make his statement about the allure of a man who lives outside of the law, makes his own rules and still has a heart –Marlon Brando in The Wild One.  Painted boldly in red, Brando in his biker gear and looking defiant as ever in dark shades shows exactly why the bad boy is so tantalizing – there is nothing more intoxicating than the idea of a man being able to protect a woman from peril and no one messes with a bad boy.

Beauty, at times can be tragic, like a moon plant that dies in the face of dawn.  The photo of Marilyn Monroe trying to shield her face as she suffers is the epitome of tragic, fragile beauty.  This photo shows that sometimes the violence can come from within and is inflicted on ourselves.

The most compelling installation completed that night was of a gun cataloged by police.  By sight it is an ordinary handgun until the audience learned that it is a photo of the gun that killed John Lennon.  Instead of paint, Russell uses blood. 

Mouths hung as Russell smeared the blood on the silk screen.  The silence in the room while he is creating the piece was beyond creepy as we all came face to face with the mayhem that a violent mind can create.  As we sipped our wine in this trendy restaurant, the idea that violence is a part of our history and our present was never clearer to me.  Safety is only a hope, not a guarantee. 

The Dali Lama stated, “It is my belief that whereas the twentieth century has been a century of war and untold suffering, the twenty-first century should be one of peace and dialogue. As the continued advances in information technology make our world a truly global village, I believe there will come a time when war and armed conflict will be considered an outdated method of settling differences among nations.”    It is this sentiment that came to mind when I witnessed the canvas of President Obama shimmering in gold paint. 

It is no wonder the photo sold that night, Obama represented hope and change to many around the world, and is the perfect visual representation of historical change.  Art is at its best when it stimulates your senses.  The History of Violence did that and more.

Photos courtesy of KB Network News and http://www.russellyoung.com

The Call Was Answered Top Event at MSG for 2009

September 11th will always be a day of remembrance and reflection for New Yorkers, but this year Jay-Z sent out a call and answered without a shadow of a doubt.  New Yorkers made their way through the downpour of showers to Madison Square Garden to witness Hov deliver a knock out performance.  The Jay-Z and friends concert proceeds were donated to the New York Police And Fire Widows’ And Children’s Benefit Fund providing awareness to this worthy cause as well as an additional boost of pride on the usual somber day.

The friends that came out for this show included Kid Cudi, Diddy, John Mayer, Memphis Bleek, Pharell, Kanye West, Rihanna, Santo Gold and Jigga’s wife, the diva Ms. Bey.  The tickets sold out faster than a New York minute and thanks to Fuse those who were unable to witness the concert live were able to see the concert without interruption. 

The energy that was circling at the Garden was crazy.  The concert was a genuine celebration of every life lost in the 911 attacks. Every time another artist came out on stage the energy heightened.  Everyone was rocking and singing along, it was the best representation of hip hop I have witnessed in a long time and made me realized why I loved this music.  The Garden has played host to many events, this will undoubtedly rank in the top of all time.  I just hope Jigga will give us an encore next year.

It Most Certainly…WAS Top Tour for 2009

That it I am referring to was Beyonce’s “I AM…” world tour.  I checked out the show at Madison Square Garden on June 23rd and can honestly say even P.T. Barnum would have fallen crazy in love with this display of fabulousness.

French designer Thierry Mugler has always been known for his fashion forward, futuristic designs.  Both Beyonce and alter ego Sasha sashay in some the best work from Mr. Mugler since George Michael’s Too Funky video.   He mixes opulence, sexiness and strength seamlessly.

Beyonce’s all-female band can be summed up on one word, rockin’.  These ladies can jam and made sure that crowd did not remain in their seat for too long.  I also enjoyed the background vocals from “The Mommas.”  These ladies reminded me of days when Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes sang behind Sylvester.  They’re thick, beautiful and full of soul.

The show began with Crazy In Love and featured a special on stage surprise from Jigga himself.  Beyonce performed songs from “Dangerously In Love”, “B-Day” and “I am…Sasha Fierce.”  My favorite highlights included If I Were A Boy (in which Beyonce broke into Alanis Morrissette’s break-up classic You Oughta Know), Baby Boy (in which “the diva” was hoisted above the crowd with wire cable, performing mid-air somersaults ala Cirque du Soleil), Ava Maria (which shows just how Beyonce has grown vocally since her days with Destiny’s Child),  At Last (which shows video footage from the march on Washington, D.C. and ends with footage of the first couple dancing at one of the Inaugural balls), and of course Single Ladies, the new anthem for single ladies everywhere.

Another favorite of mine was the Ego interlude because that was what the show had, ego from beginning to end.  Beyonce’s “I AM…” tour delivered in every way imaginable.  The wardrobe changes on stage were effortless. She performed all her hits even those from Destiny’s Child.  The choreography is upbeat and sensual with hip swinging, booty shaking, leg jiggling and hair flipping action that would make the great Tina Turner proud.  The energy that was exchanged between Beyonce and the crowd would make anyone feel as if they had been hit with a lightening bolt.  The show provided glamour, excitement and empowerment.  It didn’t matter what seat you are in, you were included in the party.  Whether you called the show fierce, fabulous or fun, it was…all of that

Happy Holidays NYC

FAMERS, it is my sincere hope that you all had a happy, healthy and blessed holiday.  The after Christmas sales are in effect, and the kids are home on vacation.  I received a special gift on Christmas evening; a parking ticket (thanks NYPD).   

New York City is magical during the holidays – the window displays, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park and Central Park only add to the holiday appeal.  I suggest everyone take an afternoon to take in the city during the holidays.

Christmas also marks the end of the year, but this year also marks the end of the decade.  As the final days of 2009 draw to a close, I will post F.A.M.E. NYC’s Top 2009.  I am also going to take my own suggestion and spend an afternoon in the city to take in the holiday décor.

Please stay tuned.

All American Creation

“Born in the USA,” would definitely be the phrase used to describe An American Art and Craft Collective, held at Grown and Sewn, located at 184 Duane Street in Tribeca.  Inside this store is a perfect weaving of art and fashion. 

Figures

Bruce Springsteen’s classic song brought attention to the disenfranchised in America in the 1980s – those dealing with the repercussions of the Vietnam War, joblessness and a struggling economy.  In the wake of the Great Recession, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and issues with our environment, there is no greater time to have a merged exhibition like An American Art and Craft Collective, especially since we are on the verge of a new decade.

Purvis Young

An American Art and Craft Collective brings together the works of urban visual griot Purvis Young and the Grown and Sewn collection. Grown and Sewn Dry Goods Collection is an innovative approach to casual fashion.  The collection’s signature product is the “Kax” and takes the best elements from the khaki and jean. 

The Kax is 100% cotton and is washed, baked and finished.  Every aspect of Grown and Sewn is American made down from the cotton used in the clothing to the rivets sewn on the Kaxs.  All the manufacturing of this product is made in the USA, with almost every region of the country contributing to bring Grown and Sewn to the masses.  This clothing line makes a powerful statement toward fixing what ails our society by offering a product that is environmentally friendly and provides jobs to Americans. 

Up in Arms against the System, c. 1987

The work of Purvis Young is provided by Skot Foreman Fine Art.  Purvis is a self-taught artist out of Overtown, Miami, Florida.  In his work he reuses squiggly lines and eyes to display the underbelly of American society, individuals caught in the system of poverty, incarceration and street life.  His pieces are full of rage, passion and reality that shine a spotlight on topics that most people would rather not focus on. 

Angel Baby Crib, c.1991

Purvis used the debris of Overtown, old cribs and pieces of wood, to create a body of work that tells a specific story, a somber story, that is nonetheless part of the American experience.  What is more disturbing to me is the thought that without artists like Purvis Young, this story would not be heard. 

Although I have viewed Purvis’ work before, seeing it in this setting was like witnessing it for the first time.  Purvis’s work is layered in such a way that upon each viewing a new facet is discovered.  The store’s décor also added a special element to his work.  There are huge bales of cotton cleverly placed through out the store; the tables are hand crafted with antique figurines and an old sewing table.  These raw components help to accentuate the coarse quality of Purvis’ work. 

Eyes, c. 1992

An American Art and Craft Collective will be on display until January 15, 2010 and is a marriage about what is best about American culture at a time when America needs it most.  After braving the blistering wind to get to Tribeca, I was electrified by what I saw and warmed with a renewed sense of hope.

Photos of Purvis Young’s artwork courtesy of Skot Forman Fine Art and Purvis Young.com

NYC On DVD

While stuck in bed with a cold, it becomes rather difficult to tell any tales of the Big Apple and the people that thrive in it, hence the reason why there were no posts last week.  But a clever mind is always at work.  While sipping tea and Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and taking the occasional dosage of Nyquil, I was able to view NYC via television.  When shut in the house with a cold, there is no greater time to break out the old DVD collection. 

Since I was unable to experience New York City first hand, I did the next best thing, I watched movies about it.  While eating a bowl of ice cream or two (to soothe my sore throat, of course), I riffled through my vast DVD collection and came up with my list for the best NYC movies.  These movies were chosen because they used Manhattan as another character.  Part of the movie’s success is because it is set in New York City and the movie may not have worked if the location was elsewhere.  Also these films used NYC landmarks in ingenious ways. 

10.   It Could Happen to You – This feel good tale about a cop and a waitress is sure to pull on anyone’s heartstrings.  Really, isn’t wonderful to think that a person might offer half of their potential lottery earnings in lieu of a tip?  It is as unbelievable as unicorns in Central Park, but that is the reason why it is so endearing.    My favorite scene in the movie is when Charlie Lang and Yvonne Biasi, played by Nicholas Cage and Bridget Fonda, take the neighborhood kids to Yankee Stadium. They run through the house that Ruth built, chew wads of gum like it was tobacco and received a picture of themselves catching a fly ball.  I’m an adult and I would pay to have an outing as cool as that one.  The movie also captures wonderful views of the Plaza Hotel as both Charlie and Yvonne check in there to recuperate from their deteriorating relationships and discover their love for each other.  When the instant millionaires lose everything, New Yorkers band together to help them out and shows that the true beauty of New York is not in its landscapes, but in its resiliency.

9.     42nd Street – This musical is set during Depression era Manhattan and has seen many incarnations on Broadway.  I believe the reason why this musical has endured is because it is a play about one of the most magical places in the world, Broadway.  42nd Street takes the viewer through a stage production from soup to nuts and provides a few great numbers along the way.  My favorite songs are “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and of course “42nd Street”, which I sang in the school chorus as a child. Like I said, I grew up in a household where musicals ruled. 

8.     On the Town – What would a movie list about New York be without Frank Sinatra?  This musical, based on a Broadway play, also stars the incomparable Gene Kelly, one of the best dancers/choreographers that ever lived.  The movies highlights the Manhattan of the 40s as three sailors, played by Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin, go tracing around the streets of New York looking for love on a temporary pass.  The Museum of Natural History, Empire State Building, Carnegie Hall and Coney Island are all shown in their heyday.  On the Town is one of the best musicals to come out of the MGM hit factory, the dancing is incredible, and the songs are infectious.  It is a wonderful movie about a wonderful town.

7.     The Mirror Has Two Faces – Unless you look like new mom Gisele Bündchen or Naomi Campbell, I’m quite sure that you have felt like an ugly duckling every once in while.  Also if you have siblings I’m sure you have experienced your share of sibling rivalry.  This delightful romantic comedy explores body issues, sibling rivalry, dating insecurity and relationships between parents and children – best of all these issues are shrewdly explored through an adult point of view.  Starring Barbara Streisand, Jeff Bridges and the immortal Lauren Bacall, The Mirror Has Two Faces shows how two Columbia professors, both scorned by love, try to take love out of the equation only to realize they are a perfect match.  Only in New York can jadedness turn into romance.  Also, the film shows great shots of Tavern on the Green and Central Park in spring.  

6.    Die Hard:  With a Vengeance – NYC is a place of constant action, after all it has been dubbed as “the city that never sleeps.”  Die Hard: With a Vengeance certainly serves up a lot of action all over Manhattan.  Starting on the streets of Harlem the movie takes us all over the city and underneath with heart stopping explosions, mind bending riddles and a heist of the Federal Reserve.  Reprising his role as NYPD officer John McClane, Bruce Willis throws a monkey wrench in the plans of another Gruber brother.  Simon Peter Gruber, brilliantly played by Jeremy Irons, uses McClane, sending him and all of the NYPD on wild goose chases all over city only to clear downtown of cops so he could rob the Federal Reserve.  Along for the ride is Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Zeus Carver, the sidekick for this edition of the Die Hard franchise.  His loudly pitched banter with McClane helps to keep the pace of the movie.  I’m a girl that loves a little action in her life and Die Hard: With a Vengeance provides it in spades.

5.    Home Alone 2:  Lost in New York  – New York is named in the title; it had to be on the list.  Home Alone and Home Alone 2 are two of my favorite Christmas movies.  Set in NYC at Christmas time, Home Alone 2 is a fabulous showcase of the city during the holidays.  As Kevin McCallister, played by Macaulay Culkin, battles with the “Sticky Bandits”, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, he also learns lessons about the spirit of giving and friendship.  The co-star of this holiday comedy is definitely New York City as the Plaza Hotel, Carnegie Hall, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and more are showcased.  The film also shows the awe-inspiring beauty of Rockefeller Center at Christmas. 

4.    Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist Where’s Fluffy? is the theme for this New York City movie as Nick and Norah, played by Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, and their friends chase the band Where’s Fluffy? all over the city to witness an impromptu concert.  Along the way the “bridge and tunnel” teens realize they not only like the same types of music, they also like each other.  While on their quest to find the elusive band, they discover love as the movie showcases different bars on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  A poignant moment is shared between the two at one of the most famous musical landmarks in New York City, Electric Lady Studios.  The charm of this movie for me is that it showcases a typical Friday night in the city for a teenager trying to play an adult and reminds me of when I used to bar hop at that age.  Now, I legally bar hop.

3.     25th Hour - Everyone wishes for more hours during the day, especially if it is the day before you start a prison sentence.  It is certainly the case for Monty Brogan, played by Edward Norton, as he takes the viewer through his last day as free man which is full of reflection, regret, suspicion and anger.  Directed by Brooklynite Spike Lee, 25th Hour also captures the somber of mood of New York City directly after the 9/11 attacks.  Monty is a microcosmic reflection of the city.  I love how Spike captures Monty’s lost mood through shots of the countless posters of the missing that were everywhere during that time and Tribute of Light at the World Trade Center site – blue shadows of what was once there. Another aspect Spike showcases in the film is NYC nightlife, an integral part of the culture of New York.  Although I get a serious knot in my stomach every time I watch this film, the main reason why I love it is because it shows the resiliency of New York City at a time when the world was watching to see if this city would remain on its knees.  Monty faces the most difficult time in his life without running, although his father offers to help him go on the lam, and the viewer knows at the end that whatever happens in the future Monty will survive and so will New York City.

2.     The Thomas Crown Affair  – Like Thomas Crown, played by Pierce Brosnan, I also love the Met.  My favorite place to go in the Met is the Temple Of Dendur, but unlike Thomas Crown, I don’t have the moxie or money to steal it.  Simmering, sexy and stylish, The Thomas Crown Affair is an adequate remake of the Steve McQueen classic.  As insurance investigator and vixen Catherine Banning, played by Rene Russo, chases Crown all over the city and the Caribbean to catch her man she gets more than what she bargained for as the cat becomes mouse in a game of love.  Besides the fashion Rene Russo wears and the storyline, I would watch this movie time and again just to see the Met.

1.   Sex and the City:  The Movie – New York City has always been the true star of this franchise and no other television series pays homage to New York City they way Sex and the City did.  The movie merely picks up where the series left off.   Four years after the series ended the ladies who made cosmopolitans cosmopolitan come together for more tales of heartbreak, love, romance and of course sex.  Like the series, Sex and the City: The Movie is a love letter to anyone that loves NYC, fashion and the HBO Series.  Highlighting the New York Public Library, Bryant Park during Fashion Week and the Meatpacking District, New York City lives up to its role as the silent star of the movie; I can’t wait for the sequel.

Stimulating Simulation

Sergey Dikovsky ANSWER (2008) Oil on canvas

December in New York City guarantees three things – hordes of people at Rockefeller Center, a steady drop in the temperature and the occasional cold.  While fears of the H1N1 virus have the whole country in the grips of fear contemplating whether to get a flu shot, I am waging my own battle with the common cold.  Since the topsy-turvy weather and my cold have kept me indoors this week, I unfortunately was unable to go to any galleries, parties or shows.  Then I remembered, thanks to Jessica Porter I have a gallery right at my fingertips.

Jessica Porter

In 2006, Jessica launched Raandesk Gallery with an accompanying live exhibition in Chelsea.   Raandesk Gallery is an alternative to viewing art in a traditional venue allowing anyone with access to the internet the chance to broaden their visual horizons and expose potential art buyers to an experience that is less stodgy than the traditional gallery visit.

Jessica has always dreamed of owning a gallery.  The dream was present when she attended the University of Delaware where she studied Art History and French Language & Literature with the intent of becoming an international corporate curator.  A dwindling market prompted Jessica to become a consultant for an international fine arts shipper.  She also attended at the University of Maryland and received her Juris Doctorate in 2001.   Throughout her various career paths, Jessica never abandoned her original dream and in 2005 she began to turn her dreams into a virtual reality.

Raandesk Gallery currently represents over 30 artists and their work is only a click of a mouse away.  Along with the virtual gallery, Raandesk conducts several live exhibitions in venues throughout the city including Vino Vino and Gallery Bar.  In fact, my first introduction to Raandesk Gallery and Jessica Porter was at Gallery Bar.   From our first meeting I could tell that Jessica is passionate about what she does as well as the artists her gallery represents, which is always a good thing for an artist. 

Laura Salierno MARCH 3:42 PM (2005) C print, shot on 645, 220 Fuji film, printed on Fuji crystal archive paper with a luster finish

ART2Gift, Raandesk Gallery’s latest exhibition, can be found at 16 W. 23rd Street and online.  ART2Gift is a multi-medium marketplace that allows consumers to buy cotemporary art at extremely affordable prices ranging from $35 to $500.  The exhibition will be on display until January 2010.  So if you’re stumped for ideas for Christmas this year, a piece of art might be the way to go.  Whether you are viewing the work in person or online Raandesk Gallery always delivers the opportunity to dive headfirst into the world of contemporary art, stuffy nose and all.

To learn more about Raandesk Gallery, their artists and art rental program please visit www.raandeskgallery.com

Photos courtesy of Raandesk Gallery

 

B. Productions Grown and Sexy

Bill Marpet

The sun gives off a luminous glow as I step out of a taxi in front of 583 Park Avenue.  As I watch the doormen stand patiently outside the venue waiting for guests and the fashion elite to arrive, I notice Bill Marpet walking down the street.  He is dressed in a blue suit with white New Balance sneakers; his salt and pepper hair is pulled back in the classic ponytail that he has become known for.  The mantra for the day is comfortable chic.  Bill escorts me through the doors.  The hall inside of 583 Park Avenue is breathtaking.  An enormous chandelier hangs from center of the ceiling.  The green and white décor, Chaenomaeles trees, and white chairs exude a resort feel. The u-shaped runway is barren, but soon their will be a cadre of young women stomping in their heels, sporting luscious creations from Oscar De La Renta’s Resort collection. 

Bill working behind the scenes.

Once inside Bill begins checking on last minute details with B Productions assistant director J.D. Moll.  He discusses capturing the models as they walk with the crew downstairs, then it is up to the control area in the balcony where Bill will remain until the end of the show.  Everyone appears calm, but inside they know the stakes are high.  So much is riding on the next fifteen minutes, there is no room for error and nothing can be repeated.  After the show is over Bill leaves quietly through the door, the next step is to edit the film that was shot.  

That was my official introduction to Bill Marpet and B Productions last year; however I had a long standing relationship with this niche company that I was unaware of.  Some might say the Bill Marpet is the Keyser Söze of fashion; most models work with him and don’t know it. Bill doesn’t have a face as recognizable as Tracey Reese, Donna Karen or Ralph Lauren, but if you have watched Full Frontal Fashion then you have seen his work. 

Bill Marpet and Michael Kors

He and his team are the magicians behind the scenes ensuring that the designer’s runway shows are shot and edited for presentation to the masses.  B Productions videotapes over 300 runway shows yearly.  These videos have been shown on various channels including NBC, CBS, Fox and Oxygen.  For a man that devotes a huge portion of his working year to taping runway shows, fashion was not an industry Bill envisioned for his career path.  “I was a freelance camera man when I started out,” Bill comments about the creation of B. Productions, “I started getting hired to shoot things, not just fashion, but news magazines.  Then I started getting busy beyond what I could do.  I started hiring other cameramen to fill in, and that’s when I started the company.”

B. Productions was created in 1983 with a crew of two people.  It has now grown into a full scale production company hiring freelance crew to accommodate the demands of Fashion Week.  “In the beginning,” Bill says, “it was mostly fashion clients, and it was mostly the bigger names. Early clients were Calvin Klein, Bill Blass, [and] Anne Klein.” 

Bill Marpet and Carolina Herrera

From these early clients B Productions and Bill Marpet created a place to call their own within the fashion industry. “Designers didn’t have a record on video of their collections, Bill says, “they had their own shops within stores like Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman and they wanted video that they could show there.  They wanted their own vision translated into video.  Gradually it just kind off steamrolled and kept going; I got selected more than me picking [clients] out.  When I first started my business we were doing around fifteen percent fashion, after a few years it grew into about eighty percent fashion and I kind off fell into this niche.” 

This niche is the cornerstone of B Productions, but this company isn’t only known for fashion.   Besides fashion B Productions shoots image pieces and corporate videos, news releases, commercials and documentaries.  Their hard work has garnered Bill and B Productions many accolades such as a CEBA and New York Emmy.

I’m sure for Bill Marpet and the members of B. Productions, 1983 must seems light years away. Generally when a model turns 26 he or she begins to think of other career options, but the appeal for B. Production’s services has only increased. When the tents were raised for the 2010 spring collections at Bryant Park B Productions videotaped over 100 shows and events, they also hit the internet taping a block of webisodes for WWD.com.  The titans of 7th Avenue still look to B. Productions to produce video that shows the artistry and sexiness of the fashion industry, sometimes getting old isn’t a bad thing.    

  Photos courtesy of J.D. Moll of B. Productions