And Justice for Winkie

Pinocchio and The Velveteen Rabbit are enduring children’s fables about toys that experience the unconditional love of a child, desire to and eventually become living entities.  In both stories, the protagonists experience different trials before their wish is granted.  These tales have survived over the ages to become classics that are passed down to each generation like an heirloom toy.  And as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 looms over Manhattan, 59E59 Theaters stages a stuffed Molotov cocktail with a terrorist twist in the world premiere of Clifford Chase’s Winkie – sure to be a classic itself. 

Clifford Chase’s Winkie is a 2006 novel written by author Clifford Chase and chronicles the accounts of an 81-year-old teddy bear named Winkie.  Winkie has been a part of the Chase clan for as long as he could remember.  He first belonged to Ruth (Clifford’s mother) and then to her children until he finally became the toy of young Clifford, but as Clifford grows up, he leaves Winkie behind like everyone else before him.  Winkie sits for years on a shelf filled with the memories, until one day Winkie miraculously wills himself to life.  He throws a book out of the window and runs away determined to experience three simple wishes – freedom, eat and go “doo-doo.”  Winkie also experiences an immaculate conception as he gives birth to an off-spring, a fuzzy small teddy bear named Baby Winkie.  The innocence of Winkie’s new life comes to an abrupt halt when his child is kidnapped by a bomb-making lunatic, and he is beaten, shot, taken into FBI custody and charged with 9,678 charges including terrorism, sodomy, witchcraft, treason and vandalism (basically all the crimes of the man that stole his baby).  He is also accused of being the leader of a worldwide terrorist organization that were responsible for the 9/11 attacks and others.   Winkie is brought to trial and the world thrusts itself into “Winkie-mania” as battle lines are drawn and crackpots, liberals, conservatives and everything in between add their two cents to the saga about a teddy bear accused of the most heinous acts against mankind.

The Godlight Theatre Company scored a winner with Clifford Chase’s Winkie.   Playwright Matt Pelfrey cleverly constructs an irresistible, profound and inspirational adaptation that offers a stellar translation to Clifford Chase’s novel for members of the audience unfamiliar with the book.  Director Joe Tantalo wills this play into fruition, tactfully threading a production that weaves humor, hysteria, imagination and sentimentality and totally relies on the cast to sell it.  The theater is completely devoid of a set, but scruffy, little Winkie and the rest of the cast (which features Nick Paglino, Greg Konow, Adam Kee, Elliot Hill, Sean Phillips, Chris Cipriano, Michael Shimkin, Erin Wheelock and Geraldine Johns) absolutely compensate for the lack of scenery.  From the moment Winkie is place on the stool center stage, I was completely enthralled in the story.

Like a good allegory, Clifford Chase’s Winkie draws its audience in with a strong relatable character.  It is clear the teddy bear has a Christ-like aura.  He comes into this world (which is a miracle) knowing nothing but love, he creates a life in his image (another miracle) and he is persecuted by the very people he wanted love and share love with.  Winkie eloquently states during his trail, “So many times and worst of all when I lost my child, my eyes wanted to click shut forever – yet somehow I still had love to give, and always have.  Why, why, why?  Despite it all.  Why was I created, and why do I love?  What is it about me that survives?  Despite it all, despite it all:  It ‘s my heart: I can’t help it.”  And what makes this production so appealing is its heart.  It is a gutsy, unflinching portrait of what society has become in the wake of the age of terrorism.  At times I was howling with laughter and others I was holding back tears, but throughout the play I listened (as Winkie did) with an open mind.  The idea that a stuffed animal could be a terrorist is completely asinine, perhaps just as unintelligent as profiling certain groups of people or using the justice system and war to create one’s own personal witch-hunt.

The 2011 theatre season is still unfolding, but this production is the best show I have seen thus far.  Clifford Chase’s Winkie may not be the story you recite to your kids at bedtime, but it is the type of show you can take your children to in an effort to explain the absurdities of the world and take something away from it for yourself.  After watching terrorists create battlegrounds and casualties whenever and wherever they choose, the world may never be the same, but it does not mean that we have to succumb to fear, intolerance and meeting naked aggression with more aggression – there is always room for love and humanity.

 Photos:  Sean Dooley

The War Is On

Have you ever been inspired to unleash your creative vision on the streets of NYC but were scared to do so because of fear of the NYPD?  Well, now there is an app for that.  Graffiti Wars, by Stink and Muse, version 1.0.2 is now available for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS.  This GPS based game allows you to create graffiti with your own personal aesthetic.  The player earns extra points by tagging over rival graffiti spots; the points can be used to protect your graffiti.  Although there has been a previous version of this app available, this version boasts an improved performance, bug fixes and other game play tweaks.

I am not sure about you FAMERS, but this app sounds like it is quite addicting and supplies another reason for people to walk with their heads down, not watching where they are going.   This game gives new meaning to the saying, “Tag, you’re it.”  Sign me up!

To learn more about this app or to see more apps from Stink and Muse, visit

A Night Fit for the King

March in New York City is known for two things, gusty winds whipping around skyscrapers and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  But on the evening of March 12th, a zephyr blew the trendy and fashionable to Millesime, located on 92 Madison Avenue, for The Luxxx Ball presented by Legendary Damon, American Apothecary and Remy Martin.  Just in case you have not heard, The Luxxx Ball is Legendary Damon’s annual birthday celebration.  And for all you FAMERS in bed by the stroke of midnight, Legendary Damon is a stylist, a high priest in the religion of fashion and the king of NYC nightlife. 

Using the Studio 54 blueprint (a well mixed masala of average Joes with celebrities du jour) Damon has had the NYC party scene on lockdown for over a decade.  His parties are as renowned as his name and this year’s The Luxxx Ball can certainly be added to the pantheon of great events.  Wall to wall there were people trying to do their best to adhere to the invitation’s request “dress to impress the king.”  The VIP was spilling over when the nightlife czar made his grand entrance complete with Kente cloth, head wrapped rose bearers sashaying to the “King’s Motorcade” from Coming to America.  Legendary Damon glittered in royal blue and canary yellow and sported a blue crown.  And who entertained the King, the Queen Bee.  Lil Kim brought the crowd to a frenzy performing her greatest hits as well as a track off her new Black Friday mixtape.  Rapper Unique and Mic Murphy from The System also serenaded sultan of style.  After observing the events of this momentous evening, I have only one comment: It is good to be the king.

Photos:  Jason Rodriguez

What Happens In Jersey…

What is it about Jersey that gets such a bad rap?  Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lewis, Joe Pesci and Bon Jovi all came from the Garden State.  Before Sin City opened its first casino, Atlantic City was a gambler’s playground for years and with its beach and boardwalk, it played host to the Miss America Pageant for decades.  But despite these facts, New Jersey is constantly the butt of tri-state jokes and poorly depicted in the media, i.e. Jersey Shore.  Then came a fictional story set in an attic in Ridgewood, New Jersey, touted as a gothic fairytale, and my hopes that New Jersey would be seen in the public eye as more than a fist-pumping toxic dump was restored.    Unfortunately, Play Nice! did little to enhance New Jersey’s public image nor did it fully live up to its potential as a gothic fairytale.

Play Nice! focuses on Isabelle, Luce and Matilda.  On the surface, their lives seem ideal, but behind the doors of their home their reality is quite different. Each of the kids are forced endure their fare share of abuse from their mother, who is an obese alcoholic.  Determined to prove to her neighbors that she deserves to live in this affluent bedroom community 20 miles from New York City, the children’s mother demands perfection in and out of the home, which is only partially furnished to enhance her façade.  The bulk of Luce and Isabelle’s time is spent in the attic escaping into their world of make believe where there mother, the Dragon Queen, cannot reach them.  Matilda is relegated to be the maid and her mother’s verbal whipping girl.  The play’s dark plot primarily takes place in the attic – very V.C. Andrews’ gothic, but that is where the similarity stops.  On Thanksgiving Day the mother is poisoned after having her afternoon tea and the children must utilize their active imaginations to simulate the  events leading up to the poisoning.

Play Nice! is a journey in which pretend can uncover truth and stretches the idea of what a fairytale can be.   It also challenges one’s typical perception to the term gothic.  My issue with this dramatization was the venue in which it took place.  I believe the stage, especially an Off-Broadway one, might not do this story justice.  Ridgewood, New Jersey is a very well-to-do village, but with exception to the mother’s references to this idyllic town, the audience does not get to experience it.  The pretend sequences between Luce and Isabelle once he runs away from his mother are well acted, but the lack of background diminishes the somberness of their reality.  Play Nice! will end its limited run at 59E59 Theaters on March 27.  While it is not necessarily my cup of tea with regards to a play, I firmly believe this story would work well if not better as a film and would happily pay $8.50 to see if my theory is right, as well as to see a few scenes of New Jersey shown in a better light.

Photos:  Richard Termine

Love in Bloom

On a stage at the Westside Theatre, located at 407 West 43rd Street, the house lights dim and the stage lights brighten, a young girl with a shaggy blonde cut and pink nightie is sprawled unconscious across the bed, the oven door is open and “What the World Needs Now Is Love” is skipping on a record player.  If not for the intervention of a geeky Good Samaritan, the young girl would be a goner.  Sounds like a scene from Promises, Promises, right?  But it is actually the opening scene of the hilarious revival of Cactus FlowerCactus Flower debuted at the Royal Theatre on December 8, 1965 with Lauren Bacall, Barry Nelson, Brenda Vaccaro and Burt Brinckerhoff completing the original cast.  After a close to three year run, the show closed and in 1969, it was adapted into a film starring Ingrid Berman, Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn.  There is no question of the show’s success as Vaccaro and Brinckerhoff were nominated for Tony Awards and Hawn won an Oscar, but the question that lingers for me is was this farce about love written by Abe Burrows or Puck?  Cleary Burrows took inspiration from those misguided lovers from Athens and like A Midsummer Night’s Dream this romantic comedy is just as zany and genius as the Shakespeare classic. 

Cactus Flower grows around the love lives, and in a certain case lack thereof, of Dr. Julian Winston, Toni Simmons and Stephanie Dickinson.  Julian is a good looking, middle-aged Park Avenue dentist and one hell of a ladies’ man.  He claims to love Toni, a bright-eyed hopeless romantic that is in love with Julian despite the fact that he has told her that he is married with three kids.  What makes this idyllic young girl love the dentist is his honesty about his ball and chains, but what she doesn’t know is that his wife and kids are figments of his imagination – an embellished cover to protect his liaisons.  After Igor, the young, geeky writer next door, saves Toni from certain doom, Julian decides to marry her.  But there is a problem, his wife and kids.  Toni demands to meet his wife to ensure that she also consents to the divorce.  Enter Stephanie, Julian’s old maid secretary.  Last time she had a good time Eisenhower probably was in office.  Her thorny, abrasive demeanor and efficiency in taking care of Julian mask her love for the good denstist.  Julian, after much convincing, enlists Stephanie to help him in his web of lies, and the rollercoaster of laughs start from there.  While keeping up his façade, thus keeping Toni in the dark , Julian winds up falling for Stephanie and Toni realizes that Igor is the man for her. 

This revival of Cactus Flower tickles the funny bone and blossoms with stellar performances.   Maxwell Caulfield may be best known for being Sandy’s cousin in Grease 2 and for his stint on Dynasty and The Colby’s, but as the philandering Dr. Julian, Caulfield is both deceitfully charming and amusing.  Jenni Barber as Toni is probably the most delightful scatterbrain I have ever seen.   Throughout the play her dizziness can drive you to want to jump on stage and shake until she finally displays a modicum of sense, but her immature quest to find perfection in love is admirable.  Barber’s portrayl of the idealistic, young Toni is infectious.  The character of Stephanie is the true star of the story.  She is the cactus flower, prickly and barren that eventually bursts with femininity and sensuality.  Lois Robbins simply flourishes as Stephanie Dickinson.  She is witty, venerable at times and funny all the time.  Stephanie may be the personification of a cactus flower, but Robbins is no shrinking violet.  Her performance is as sweet as a rose.  Jeremy Bobb is droll is the Igor Sullivan, the writer from next door.  He knows his position and plays it well.  The definite scene stealers in this production are John Herrera, Anthony Reimer and Robin Skye.  Their portrayals as Señor Arturo Sanchez, Harvey Greenfield and Mrs. Durant are thigh-slapping, laugh-out-loud humorous.  Anna Louizos received a Tony nomination for her set designs for In the Heights and High Fidelity.   She creates another stunning visual setting to accompany a great cast of actors and direction from Michael Bush.  Although the changes throughout the scenes were not seamless, it in no way diminished the authenticity of the show nor pulled the audience out of the fantasy.  Cactus Flower’s new run will end at the Westside Theatre on May 29.  I assure you, a desert plant has never been so entertaining.  Cactus Flower provides a great 60s soundtrack, lively performances and smiles that will keep growing for days. 

Photos courtesy of O&M Co.

Pompeii Rises from the Ashes

The Day After Tomorrow, Twister and Volcano are Hollywood’s idea of what a cataclysmic natural disaster would be like.  But in August 72 A.D., Mother Nature played out its own story when the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried alive under ash and pumice from a colossal eruption from Mount Vesuvius.  Very few natural catastrophes have ever rivaled the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum as an entire existence was obliterated in a 48-hour span.

Pompeii and Herculaneum was inadvertently unearthed in 1599 and was once again forgotten about until 1738 when Herculaneum was rediscovered by workers digging for the King of Naples’ summer palace.  Pompeii was found 10 years later.  In 1860, archeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge of the excavations and had the spaces left by the victims of the eruption filled with plaster to create perfect casts of the citizens that were unable to escape.    Pompeii and Herculaneum also marked the first major find in the budding discipline of archaeology.


What made the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum such an ideal discovery was the cause of its demise.  The pumice and ash created a tomb for the municipalities and its occupants.  Everything about the Roman towns remained the same as it did when eruption began – lying undisturbed and waiting for human civilization to resurrect it from its petrified state.    More than any other find, Pompeii and Herculaneum gave people the opportunity to witness what daily life in the ancient world was like.   Now New Yorkers can incorporate this once thriving city and its surrounding town into their daily routine by visiting Pompeii the Exhibit: Life and Death in the Shadow of Vesuvius at Discovery Times Square.

Pompeii the Exhibit is a comprehensive exploration into the commonalities of the human existence – a visual display that reminds of the audience that the song “Everything Old Is New Again” rings undeniably true.  Over 250 artifacts are exhibited; we learn about Pompeii’s principle gods and goddesses, which were adopted from Rome, Greece and Egypt as well as view their money system, weights for measurement, a wall of graffiti, jewelry and a recreation of a room in a brothel.  Also included were utensils, beans, a loaf of bread and partially restored frescos. 

Perhaps the most creepy and bone-chilling aspect of the exhibit was the six-minute video that recreated the extermination of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the body casts and skeletal remains of those who perished.  Patrons enter a dark room with a screen.  Minute-by-minute the details of the eruption are witnessed as crashing, fiery effects are projected from the speakers and with a cold blast of air, the doors open to reveal the replicas of the citizens that endured the worst horror one’s mind could ever conceive.  But what is equally fascinating and daunting was that unlike the rest of the exhibit, reality had been exhumed and presented right before our eyes.  In other rooms of Pompeii the Exhibit: viewers could imagine a man entering the brothel room with his chosen lover or the gladiator that wore the helmet and shin guards that protected him in a glorious win.  But there was no need to imagine the pain that was wracked in the face of a chained dog as he twisted on his back or the man that covered his face with his tunic to avoid inevitable suffocation.    The room was filled with ghosts telling their story.

Pompeii the Exhibit: Life and Death in the Shadow of Vesuvius will run at Discovery Times Square, located at 226 West 44th Street, until September 5.  Like the King Tut exhibit, a portion of the proceeds of the exhibit will go toward the preservation of the Pompeii site.   Ticket prices range from $19.50 to $25.00 and the last tickets are sold 90 minutes prior to closing. 

Photos:  F.A.M.E NYC Editor, MWW Group

American Apothecary’s New Prescription for Fall

During Fashion Week we get to see a designer’s concept for their collection come to fruition right before our eyes – a one night only performance that will never be replicated again.  This year American Apothecary merged the artistry of ballerinas and skate boarders for their Fall 2011 collection, and on Thursday the fashion rebels with a cause invited members of the press to a private preview in their Midtown galipot for a meet and greet with designer Anastasia Fokina.

There is always a welcoming, family atmosphere present when visiting American Apothecary’s showroom.  It is more like a cool clubhouse than a space that displays fashion.  While sipping on wine and eating an array of delectable cheeses and fruits, members of the press learned American Apothecary’s remedy for autumn is a palette of rich colors which includes, merlot, rust, Dijon, olive, royal blue and aqua.  Printed logo scarves and sweatshirts add depth to a line that takes a closer look at how fashion can suit style, consciousness and art to a T.

Photo and slideshow: F.A.M.E NYC Editor

Video Shot the Photographer

Photographer D. Austin has made it his mission to pursue art through his camera lens.  In an effort to evolve his craft, he has decided to say goodbye to still photography and is now producing HD videos set to music to showcase his love of imagery.  D. Austin is an artisan that is consistently pushing the envelope of art.  So without further ado, D.  Austin presents Ghost Dance.

Video courtesy of D. Austin Photography

Pop Beats?

Many mourned the departure of Fat Beats when they closed the doors to their Manhattan and LA stores last year.  But as a wise man once told me, nothing is ever really gone.  The legendary record store is back and in Brooklyn, at least for day.  That’s right, those who crave the crackle only vinyl can supply will be ecstatic to know that Fat Beats will begin a monthly pop-up shop in their warehouse, located in the DUMBO section of the borough at 110 Bridge Street, starting on March 5.  On hand to bless Fat Beats’ reopening will be some of Brooklyn’s heavy hitters on the ones and twos, DJs Spinna, Evil Dee and Rich Medina.  Doors will reopen at noon.  If you consider yourself to be a true hip-hop head, mark your calendar for Saturday and pop-up at the pop-up shop.

Photo courtesy of Audible Treats,