Once upon a time the John Varvatos store reeked of rat poison, sweaty skinheads and Iggy Pop's low-hanging balls. But last night, the scent was decidedly sweeter for me, because I totally partied on a tour bus with Perry Farrell.
Yeah, I know that it's been three years since Varvatos transformed the skuzzy CBGB space into a tasteful showcase for his high-end suits, leather jackets, and rocker boots, but last night's "Free the Noise" concert was the first time I had seen live music there since I was a 14-year-old punk at a hardcore matinée headlined by Agnostic Front. The sight of scarily-tattooed L.E.S. tough guys nearly made me poop my Pampers back then, but this time around I'm almost old enough for Depends. Or at least I enjoy wearing them on weekends!
Last night's show was a battle of the bands between three unsigned acts. The winners were local favorites Reckless Sons, who scored a record deal with Island/Def Jam and a Varvatos ad campaign. I heard they were pretty good, but I missed their set because I spent most of the night in a big black bus parked in the alley behind the store. That's where I met the judges of the contest, Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell, photographer Mick Rock, Spin editor-in-chief Doug Brod, and Varvatos himself, just before they went inside to hear the show.
Perry wore a black vest, silk scarf, slim-fit shirt and pants, and pointy black boots. He sat next to his distractingly buxom wife, Etty, who was encased in a sequined mini-skirt from Top Shop in London, a black American Apparel tank top and YSL pumps.
"Where are you from?" he said.
I'm from Gawker.
"You're from Dockers?" Everyone laughs. "I'm like, 'How does a guy from Dockers get on here?' That's about the only pants in the world I can't wear. I'm wearing Varvatos from head to toe."
Had he seen any shows during Fashion Week?
"We went to one show," he said, already bored. "We saw a lot of sneakers and tall girls."
I asked how they were preparing to judge the bands, and Varvatos made a smoking-a-joint gesture. What are you listening to these days, John?
"Kings of Leon, Bravery, The Killers, My Morning Jacket. There's a brand new band called Alberta Cross, which are unbelievable." Seen any good fashion shows? "No," he said.
Mick Rock, who is best known for his iconic shots of a Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, has a model daughter who probably walked in this week's shows. But he was more interested in busting on me than talking fashion. "I wish you were better looking," he said. "I want some young boys for the evening. You're very nice, but I don't find you attractive. It's problematic."
Then everyone got off the bus, including me. I ran into another famous rock photographer, Bob Gruen. What was his favorite shot he took at CBGB? "That's like having a favorite kid. But the Runaways were one of the best shows, in '76." Had he seen any fashion shows? "My wife, Elizabeth, is a designer. But we don't really get involved in the shows. It's not about fashion, it's about commerce."
Nobody I talked to seemed to care about Fashion Week anymore, including me. So I went back on the bus, and met Bobby, a forty-something nightclub promoter. He told me he was really into models. A few tall, pretty girls he had invited began to arrive. Soon, he was showing me pics on his iPhone of himself partying with topless girls in a hotel room. In some of them, his pants were undone, and his junk was exposed. This was starting to get weird.
A few hours later, the fridge full of Heinekens had been drained, and Bobby was handing out shots of Patron. Perry Farrell and his wife returned. Perry looked at all the strange people on the bus, said, "Whoa!" and went to a curtained-off nook in the back.
I started talking to Perry's wife, Etty. "We've been married 7 years," she said. "I've actually danced with Jane's Addiction since 1997, and that's how we met. I was wearing a fishnet body stocking and pasties. They had a two-story high stripper pole. And ultimately, as we got to know each other, I got more clothing. I got a bra, and I thought, 'This is great. I have a bra."
She invited me to come to Rose Bar for a drink with Perry's assorted hangers-on, but I felt like I had already worn out my welcome. Besides, I was as bored of this scene as I was of Fashion Week itself. Before I went across the street for a nightcap at the Bowery Hotel, I asked Perry if he had any parting advice for me. "Never wear a shoe that makes your foot look small," he said.
After all, it is still Fashion Week, right?