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Deanna Kirk

Fall of ’92, I flew from San Francisco to Newark. After a most dehydrating flight, a silvery beast of a bus shuttled me to Grand Central Station. Then, I busted my taxi cab hymen en route to my first college dorm called Marlton House. I dragged my schlep into the world’s slowest elevator and waited a year for it to arrive at the seventh floor. I found my room and pushed open an orange door heavier than a busload of bowling balls.

A twin bed, a desk, and a chest of drawers, none of them flush with any of its four feculentastic walls. My new home was so compact that in this unfortunately furnished riddle of horror, there was nowhere for the luggage of a lost little girl, except atop a dank mattress.

Marlton House is at 5 West 8th Street. It was built in 1900 and was basically cheap single room lodging for struggling artists, poets and transients. Poached by the New School in ’87, it was the hip haps for Beatnik types. Wikipedia told me that Lenny Bruce stayed there during his infamous sixth month trial for obscenity. To which he argued:

“…that to is a preposition, and come is a verb, that the sexual context of come is so common that it bears no weight,,, and that if someone hearing it becomes upset, he or she probably can’t come.”

Lenny was lucky to have lived during an age when the word come wasn’t alternatively used as cum in reference to ejaculation or orgasm. Even in my horniest hour, I despise the order of those three letters. Don’t ever type or text that mess to me.

(But I do love Lenny Bruce.)

My new home was one block from the entrance to Washington Square Park and a spit’s distance to MacDougal Street. The lobby was petite. A stairwell, an elevator and a tiny front desk with small numbered mail cubbies were all jammed into 500 square feet or so.

I can only assume the school didn’t do much to rid the building of its residual inhabitants. I estimate there were two “original” residents average per floor. Doesn’t seem daunting? Consider this. We shared toilet seats and showers with these creatures.

Don’t forget we are talking about New York City here. As glamorous as you want it to be is about how god damn dirty it is.

Since I signed up for housing late, I was placed on a waiting list and received the only available and least desirable room. This was the smallest (literally), and biggest (figuratively), craphole in the crapheap.

Shrouded in scaffolding, it was moody and menacing. It felt damp and dejected, weepy and wilted. It was kind of brownish and maroon all over. The elevator smacked gothic insane asylum. My room was number 709. It was easy to remember because it took approximately seven hundred and nine seconds for the elevator to get me there and right about the same number of sobs to get me to sleep.

709 smelled like my brother’s sweat socks as if he had wiped his ass with them after pooping in the grass during a long distance run on the hottest day of the year. After several nights in this place I’ve just described, and having made no friends to speak of I decided to slip the fuck out. I descended the cold marble stairs while sparring with my inner crybaby.

I know it must seem like I was very spoiled, because I was. And as it turns out, this would turn out to be one of the better living situations of my life in New York City… considering all possible variables. But… you know… I was young and lame. So please, allow me a few more paragraphs of drivel before you administer any real lasting judgment.

There was a public phone on every floor of the dorm. I would soon learn there would always be some fucker on each of them. Anyone I witnessed talking on any of those phones, I immediately and vehemently despised. I generally hate anyone in my way, but this was an extraordinary variety of contempt, particularly if I returned 30 to 45 minutes later to see the same individual enjoying the same conversation.

I saw a purple Post-it next to the sixth floor phone that read: “Peter, we are in the Village at Cafe Rafaella. – Martin.”

As I walked, I pondered the purple missive. I had heard of this Greenwich Village. I wanted to see it. Manhattan is narrow. How far off could I find myself? I wanted to accidentally stumble upon them.

I fantasized that Martin was a tall dark number with big hands and that his friend Peter was a European version of the gorgeous garbage-hauling boyfriend that I left back in Walnut Creek. And as I walked, I imagined the three of us chewing on espressos. I would behave as my very astute mother had advised me, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” (That meant I would smoke unfiltered cigarettes and put out almost immediately.)

I would be Catherine in a modern day Jules et Jim. And my terrible dorm room wouldn’t matter because we’d be in chic cafes all year. Then one night, right before summer break we would have a fantastic threesome in which I was the star. We’d share a hookah pipe afterward, giggle ourselves to sleep in a naked triangle flanked with a hodgepodge of pillows and not even one of us would be ashamed of our perilous pubic hair.

I walked way beyond my comfort zone. I kept thinking along St. Mark’s Place that I should turn back, but there was no phone or TV in 709. It was dark, late, hot and humid. I kept on until I reached Avenue A which I didn’t recognize until I realized the shadowy park that frightened me, would be one Tompkins Square.

All around me people in drab clothing droned and smoked… each and every one of them with a mess of things hanging from them. Beads, chains, scarves, dreads, drool. It was like the Halloween apocalypse. My need to squirt caught up with my hunger so I ended up at some dump where I read a Village Voice over a pile of salty Vegetable Don and warm beer.

(I have a very gastronomically complicated relationship with beer.)

For a change of scenery, I decided to walk back on E. 7th St. I was having a behemoth carbohydrate hangover. Sluggish and gassy, I passed a black unmarked door with the coolest music happening behind it. I walked on a bit, but couldn’t let go of that music, so I turned back. As I opened the door, a grenade of cigarette smoke slapped me across the face.

The music was marvelous and the room was small. A jazz quartet struggled to conform to a corner. There was a Steinway, a stand up bass, a saxophonist and a bearded bad ass on a snare drum. The music was so loud that no one could speak and so divine that no one would. Everyone sucked on cigarettes. There was a bar to my left and some tables to my right and not a single empty seat. I stood against the bar until I saw one. The ceiling was low and stained brown and yellow, the walls lined with dark purple curtains. This was the most important place in the world.

I only had ten dollars so I sat down and drank a glass of offensive red wine. I presume an hour, maybe two, had passed. I began crushing on the bassist. He had longish hair that was real, real dirty. His eyes were closed mostly. When he finally opened them they landed on my brand new pink Vans.

I had to go, because my Vans were so stupid.

I farted my way back across town… to my extraordinary new home in Greenwich Village.


This was a stupid fucking story about a special moment in New York’s jazz history.

(I can’t believe you actually read it.)

For five gorgeous years, seven nights a week, there was Deanna’s. It was just exactly, specifically what every proprietor of every stupid speakeasy or “indie” venue is currently trying to pull. But Deanna didn’t try… It was just good.

So good.

Deanna Kirk is a legendary vocalist and pianist from Long Island. She was discovered at the Bolshoi Ballet in the late 1980’s by some British entrepreneur types who helped her realize her very own club in New York’s East Village.

Her first recorded album was live and entitled Live at Deanna’s. (I can’t believe I don’t own it. After I publish this post I will be sniffing around the internet for it.) She is not just a performer, but also a writer. Her studio albums, entitled Marianna Trench and Where Are You Now, received messes of positive press and acclaim.

Tragically, the venue of my dreams burned to bits and Deanna was left to salvage her memoirs.


In 1983, the era of Save the Robots began as not much more than a storefront and basement at 25 Avenue B. Operating after hours, the venue wasn’t completely of legal standards in the beginning, although why that is remains unclear. The club shut down for a spell due to a fire violation and reopened legit. They only sold vodka, soda and juice. Street level was “the sandbox” and the basement was a frighteningly dark and loud dance floor… Wall to wall people danced to various DJs and a small strobe light.

Craig Ferguson, the talk show host was once a bouncer here, and Dean Johnson was a regular fixture. Dean was an East Village icon. He was a transvestite, musician, artist and FOW (Friend of Warhol). He was an integral part of the Queercore movement, which was somewhat of a homosexual punk subculture. Save the Robots also birthed Lady Bunny.

In 1993 the club closed because it was too out of control for that neighborhood, which is really saying something. I don’t have to tell you that anyone who ventured to Second Street and Avenue B in the eighties at 4AM was most definitely a deviant:

Avenue A was for the Adventurous

Avenue B was for the Brave

Avenue C, for the Crazy

Avenue D for Dead


The Stingy LuLu crew took over and tried to capitalize on the Save the Robots name without consent, by calling it Robots.

Just as you might imagine, none of the original clientele patronized.

When I moved into my third floor apartment at 40 Ludlow, I did that shit by myself. And its a good fucking thing I collected books. Once I was able to corral all of that crap inside, I locked the door behind me and left to go check the neighborhood. I needed a restaurant where I could rest my rump and thighs over a cocktail and then eat my face off. But first I needed a New York Post.

When I eat alone, I like to slobber over some Page Six.

There were a lot of 99 cent stores and a lot of laundromats around. An adorable elementary school, a funeral home, and a whole mess of dusty massage parlours.

At Canal and Ludlow I found a French African Brazilian bar/eatery thing called Les Enfants Terribles. This was it. I had found my lair. My deal closer. Shadowy, sexy and small, the bar wrapped all the way around to make a rectangle. The low hanging lamps over the bar were dim and reflected on the copper bar, on the gilded ceiling, and in the floor to ceiling windows. I gave up trying to wrap my mind around the music; world music, hip hop, forgotten 80’s new wave layered with house, and even some Mowtown.

I ordered a cocktail with vodka, a bunch of sugar and smooshed up green grapes. I drank four or five of those before ordering mussels and some Moqueca, a seafood-coconut-milk stew, which was just jammed with shrimp and came with a steaming bowl of white rice. The bartenders were deliciously dismissive and and a perfect D.J. dude with salt and pepper dreadlocks served up some Snoop Dogg and Shirelles. My only gripe was the octagonal shaped bar stool my ass was swallowing. I had to keep standing up and twisting my seat a shade to distribute the the pain and possibility of a puncture wound.

I ate enough food for two of those asses. I burped my way back to 40 Ludlow, up those three flights and slipped into a coma on my old mattress and new floor.

I didn’t go to Les Enfants Terribles every night thereafter.

I went almost every night.

Once I worked in a cube opposite an insufferable music buff. He went on about every kind of music. Even Christian shit. It was 2004 and I didn’t drive or listen to the radio so I relied on other people’s recommendations. He often barfed out a barrage of band names, but before I got bored of listening, he had already schooled me on the magic of Magnetic Fields, touting their album 69 Love Songs… which is actually, a collection of 69 love songs.

I had to have these 69 Love Songs. I bought them at Virgin on Union Square. I put them on my desk. I liked the way they looked on my desk, so those love songs lived there for a long while.

I went to a bar on East 14th Street called Nowhere. I went to a lot of bars. But this one I remember because only like one fiftieth of the bars I go to are gay ones, since I am only one fiftieth gay. I met my friend Monika there. She brought her main gay Michael, who is a little bit of a bitch. Monika and Michael knew everyone there because Michael had lived upstairs since the Summer of Sam.

I used the unisex toilet with the defective doorknob as soon as we arrived. Mid squirt, the bartender walked in on me. It wouldn’t have been so humiliating if it weren’t for the threadbare Playtex Powershaper hiked up around my waist. Back at the bar we chuckled and chortled about our very intimate encounter. He went back to work. Michael and Monika gossiped while I sucked on a Stinger. Then a shortish guy came up to me holding a shiny white binder chock full of tabs. The bartender introduced me to his friend Stephin. Stephin asked me how tall I was. I told him 5’6″. (If it were a straight bar I would have lied and said 5’7″ because, you know, all straight guys are completely shallow.)

He opened his shiny white binder. There were pages upon pages of name tags, MY NAME IS in red, and then mail merged with a spreadsheet of the names of celebrities and historical figures. The pages of these name tags were three hole punched and filed under tabs marked with the numbers of different human heights organized in ascending order, inch by inch. People peered over his shoulder to see what the binder was all about. Stephin chose “Napoleon” for me. Indifferently, he peeled it off and handed it to me hanging off of his pointer finger. “Here,” he said, and then turned away as if he were an unpaid intern at an event passing out actual nonfictional name tags.

Stephin’s next subjects were not as accommodating. Michael screamed, “OH MY GOD, what is this stupid mess??” He gestured wildly, “Stephin, you spend way too much time on the internet.”

Stephin’s reply was monotone, however his eye roll could be felt as far away as Central Park, “I do not spend too much time on the internet.”

My breasts were beasts and my Napoleon name tag boomed as I overheard Michael say to Monika, “He’s got some pretentious fucking band called Magnetic Fields.” Soon everyone except Michael had a name tag and Monday morning I finally broke open the cellophane and listened to a steady stream of love songs for the next several months. The music is brilliant to say the least. It is tender and painful… melodic and hypnotic… layered and lovesome.

Stephin suffers from a permanent condition called hyperacusis, which is basically over-sensitivity to loud frequency ranges. He talks and sings on the quiet side and when he performs live he wears earplugs to hear himself. He also plays the guitar, keyboard and ukelele. He wrote an off Broadway musical called “Coraline” which is based on a novel by Neil Gaiman. He also wrote the music for a the soundtrack of Pieces of April, a silent film, the score for some show on Nickelodeon, a jingle for a Volvo commercial, and various other musical theater productions.

He is a beautiful poet, and an all around artistic genius who is often misunderstood.

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