Meet the Muffia

| 13 Aug 2014 | 04:10

    HOTEL MOTEL, A monthly party at Bushwick’s Tandem Bar, boasts a young and lively scene. The speakers blare hot ’90s jams as a willowy blonde with a bowl cut grooves over her laptop. One girl chugs liquid Vicodin as she watches others entwine sweatily on the dance floor. Someone shows me a secret lesbian handshake in which various hands and mouths combine to simulate cunnilingus. I’m pretty sure she made it up, but it’s amazing.

    This is what lesbian nightlife looks like in 2010: There aren’t really butches to speak of here, but neither are there femmes—just a bunch of rad girls getting down.

    The city’s flashy, influential gay men have, for one reason or another, often overshadowed its lesbians in the media and popular culture. But that may be slowly changing. While the female pioneers of yesteryear now work hard at getting married and adopting Guatemalan children (or entertaining the masses on TV), an entirely new generation define the city’s nightlife and culture. Take [K8 Hardy], for example: The 31-year-old artist has made videos for [Le Tigre](, MEN and [Lesbians on Ecstasy](, styled the band Fischerspooner and created a fashion line called [j’approve](

    She says she hangs out mostly at her studio but can occasionally be found going out to dance with the gals. Some are surprised by the unexpected humor in her art, but Hardy doesn’t see any reason she can’t be politically aware and entertaining. “A lot of people think political art has to be didactic, but that’s not where I’m at,” Hardy explains. “It’s funny, because if you say you’re a feminist or political, people want to know what your point is. They don’t expect that of other artists. I find that expectation really frustrating.”

    Hardy is among a young and vibrant group of women—artists and musicians, chefs and actors—making New York lesbians a force to be reckoned with. Listen up: These are the ladies who pack a punch.

    [Shantell Martin]

    This 29-year-old Bushwick dweller has shown her work, hand-drawn visuals made in nightclubs using a tablet and then projected on walls, at MoMA and the National Arts Club. An April 19 episode of Gossip Girl will also feature her work. And she’s only lived here for nine months!

    “When I first moved to New York [from Tokyo], my mind was blown. I was like, ‘Wow, there’s a billion lesbians in this place.’ It was kind of overwhelming, but I kind of did get a sense of what a community actually means.”

    She mostly hangs out with her posse of creative types, but running with a chic crowd hasn’t kept her from indulging in a few stereotypical Sapphic pastimes.

    “I met [my girlfriend] Liz at a WNBA game,” she says. “It was my first basketball game ever. My friend said, ‘Let’s check out a game,’ and… we went to meet some more friends and Liz was there. She sat next to me and we shared some popcorn.”

    Next up for Martin will be a drawing/ exhibiting/VJ-ing tour of Tokyo, a solo show at the Collette Blanchard Gallery (opening May 15), a live illustration event May 22 at 3rd Ward, an appearance at the Gershwin Hotel’s cabaret-esque [The Talent Show April 29] and the release of the latest in her yearly T-shirt series.

    Rebecca Collerton

    Running Saltie, one of Williamsburg’s most popular new restaurants, hasn’t given 45-year-old Collerton much time to date (“I’m always at work,” she admits. “It’s difficult to find time”), but the lust that her creations—including “The Captain’s Daughter” and “The Ship’s Biscuit”— seem to inspire shouldn’t leave her lonely for long.

    After working at hotspots Diner and Egg, the chef teamed up with her friends Caroline Fidanza and Elizabeth Schula to open Saltie last September. And while it might not attract the same crowd that nearby gay bar Metropolitan does, it’s not completely homo-free.

    “I think the community that I’m involved in at the moment is the food community of Williamsburg, and there’s a community that’s evolved from this place as well,” Collertain explains. “It just so happens that some of them are gay. The issues are more about being a woman in this industry than being gay. Coming up in kitchens and such... kitchens are notoriously sexist.”

    She’s currently looking forward to summer, when market availability of more ingredients will allow her, Fidanza and Schula to expand their offerings. “We’ll have to come up with more ridiculous names,” she says. “It’ll be exciting.”

    In the meantime, the “very single” Collerton remains enamored with the dayto-day running of Saltie. “We’ve all spent a long time in this industry, defining palates and what we want to eat... coming up with the sandwiches was the easiest part of the process,” she says. “It’s great. We’re not working for the man anymore!”

    [Holly Miranda ]

    With her new album, The Magician’s Private Library, out now and a May 26 headlining gig at Bowery Ballroom, singer songwriter

    Miranda, who lives in Prospect Heights, is currently making girls (and boys) weak in the knees as the opening act on tour with lesbo duo Tegan & Sara. Not that she hasn’t done plenty of that right here in New York.

    “I’ve dated quite a bit in New York,” she confesses. “I think it’s hard in New York because there are so many beautiful people. But if you can look beyond face value, you’ll probably be better off in the long run.”

    When she goes out, it’s usually to catch free music at Zebulon in Williamsburg or spend time with friends, like JD Samson (of MEN and Le Tigre) and the singer Sia. Having been on the road for several months, however, Miranda says, “I don’t necessarily seek out lesbians to be my friends, but I definitely feel a kinship with other musicians… who are openly gay… I haven’t had time to hang out in a while.”

    She’s coming home just in time, having found life on the road isn’t always hospitable. “I’ve certainly gotten in some tiffs in Oklahoma and Kansas when I’ve dedicated my songs to [people who were hurt by] Prop 8.”

    [Lauren Flax]

    A critically acclaimed DJ and musician, Lauren Flax has appeared all over the world with such big names as Fischerspooner, Moby and even Madonna. But despite her impressive resume, the 31-year-old jetsetter is disarmingly nice. “The idea behind it is friendship,” she says of her Hotel Motel (i.e. HoMo) party she throws with her friends Lauren Dillard and JD Samson and rotating guests. “It’s just a sweaty dance party in this big back room. People take their shirts off. A girl with a giant mouse head came last time. It was hilarious.”

    Although she spends most of her breaks from traveling working in her studio, Flax makes time to hang out with her friends whenever possible, either out at Tandem or at home in her Bushwick apartment with the gay-themed Logo network playing in the background. Flax prizes the diverse group of gay girls that exists in New York City. “I definitely think there’s a new wave of non stereotypical lesbians, the younger ones coming up now, and it’s kind of refreshing,” she says.

    The electronic songbird is currently recording an album of her own and planning out her live show, which will include cello and trumpet players. She’s also launching a new “dark dance” project called CreeP, a collaboration with Dillard and Melissa from Telepathe that will feature sexy vocals by Romy from The XX. It’s no surprise, then, that this busy lady desires a romantic partner who is equally driven. “I want to be number two in somebody’s life and have career be number one, ’cause that’s how it is for me,” Flax asserts. “I’m single and looking for an Aquarius if there are any out there... I’m even accepting summer homos.”

    [Jess Barbagallo]

    Like many struggling artists in New York, Jess Barbagallo has toiled in coffee shops for almost five years. Unlike many an NYU and Brooklyn College grad, however, she’s turned her day job into a source of inspiration. “She’s pretty much a lot like me,” she explains of her character in the live-action lesbian serial drama Room for Cream, which she also helps write. “Your standard barista: Kind of a smartass, sort of irritated by their job.”

    Now in its third season, the show is set in a fictional Massachusetts town called Sappho, which is—in either a utopic or dystopic twist—populated solely by lesbians. Although some people have watched it from the start, Barbagallo says this isn’t necessary to understand it: “It’s a soap, so you can walk into any episode and get what the vibe is.”

    In a reflection of the play’s universe (or is it the other way around?), the 26-yearold Greenpoint resident finds her dating world to be somewhat small. “I have the problem that, in addition to being a lesbian, I am also in the theater and both those communities are completely incestuous,” she says. “It’s like incest squared.” But the scene’s insularity is not without its benefits. A self-described serial monogamist (current Facebook status: “It’s complicated”), she never has to look far for her next relationship. “Things just seem to fall into my lap,” she jokes.

    Next on the agenda for Barbagallo is a show with the Builders’ Association and a turn as a sociopathic lesbian Iraq war veteran in the independent film, Made Up Language. She’s also looking forward to finishing the play that’s been occupying her thoughts 24/7. “I’ve been spending a lot of my time at coffee shops writing lately,” she says. “Variety, Bittersweet... I’m a nomad.”

    [Ellie Conant ]

    Ellie Conant knows how to get sexy results. “I handcrafted my parties,” the 30year-old boasts. “I took them from nothing and made them into something nasty. You’re gonna go there to hook up.”

    Despite facilitating steamy hookups for all at Snapshot (Tuesdays at Bar 13), Choice Cunts (last Saturdays at Santos Party House) and Muff Muff Give (which until recently was taking place at Public Assembly), the 30year-old nightlife veteran doesn’t mix business with (her own) pleasure. “I decided to have a girlfriend who doesn’t live here because I don’t want to mess with these girls,” she says, explaining her long distance relationship with a woman from Boston she met while in Provincetown. “It makes me more professional. I was fucking my go-go dancer for a while, and it just gets ugly.”

    With such staid avoidance of omnipresent temptation, it’s clear she takes her job seriously. “I like to think of myself more as a community builder [than a promoter],” she explains. “I will honestly say that my parties have brought in the most diverse crowds ever. I think being an Asian promoter, more people can access me somehow.” These multicultural crowds have also been competing with the boys in flashiness. “I think lesbians have become more fabulous,” she says. “I don’t mean more femmey... boy dykes out there are getting cute, putting on glitter! We’re all joining forces to look fabulous and be extreme.”

    When not presiding over one of her own parties, Conant can be found throwing some back at Girls Girls Girls (Wednesdays at Metropolitan) or Stiletto Sundays (at Maritime Cabanas) with her pussy posse, which includes DJ Nasty Esquire, party photog Sabrina Haley, DJ Roze Royce and DJ Lesbian Van Halen. And although she may not be out there looking to win over those new to the pleasures of girl-on-girl action, she has advice for anyone who is: “Tequila will turn a bitch. We’re gonna have tequila at every party.”