Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Out and About in the East Village

In this weekly feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village.


[Photo via Kathryn Cooper]

By James Maher
Name: Shari Albert
Occupation: Actor, Writer, Producer
Location: The Immigrant, East Ninth Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue
Time: 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8

I'm from Philly. I moved here to go to NYU. I was a kid actor. Nothing big, some local Philadelphia television and a lot of commercials, and then I came to the city and went to NYU and got some training.

I moved to this block my sophomore year, and I've been here ever since. I remember… it might have been my first day in New York. Everybody was like, 'Don't go to Avenue A. Don't go to Alphabet City.' I'm like, 'First thing I'm gonna do is go check it out!' So I remember walking down here, going more toward Tompkins Square Park, and I saw a drag queen. I was like, 'Ooh a drag queen, that's exciting!' Then I saw another drag queen and I'm like, 'This is amazing.' Then I saw more and more drag queens. I was like, ‘These are my people. I love this place. This is fantastic!’ I didn't realize that it was Wigstock, back in the day when they had it in Tompkins Square Park. I just knew I was home at that point. It was absolutely magical.

I did a movie in 1995 that won the Sundance Film Festival called "The Brothers McMullen." I was Susan, the youngest brother's fiancĂ©. That kind of start the whole… well, I had the bug before, but now the bug was actually being fed. That started the whole professional career.

I do mostly movies and television. I also love theatre, I just haven't been able to do a lot of New York theatre because right after college I got "Brothers McMullen" and so my career went by the way of film and television, but I did a lot of musical theatre growing up. I had to drop out of NYU for a semester to go to Paris to do a musical, but after that my agents and I went more toward the film and television side of things. I mean, I'd love to do a play. There's nothing like doing a play in New York City — it's kind of the best thing in the world, but it's been awhile since that happened.

I play a lot of women from Long Island and Brooklyn for some weird reason. I'm not really sure why, because I don't have an accent in real life. Turning on the accent now is like turning on a water faucet. I play lots of best friends, lots of sisters, lots of neighbors.

It's pilot season now. It happens right after Sundance, late January through the end of March. That's when the new television shows are auditioning for the following season. You get it the night before, they say, ‘Oh here's 15 pages that you need to memorize and work on for tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.’ You're like, 'Oh, OK, I guess I have to cancel everything tonight.' That's kind of how you have to roll. Look, there's nothing better when it's good. It's the best thing in the world to be able to be paid to be creative and to create characters, whether you're acting them or writing them.

I'm also a writer. I'm a freelance writer by trade, and I have written a bunch of television sitcom spec scripts, so I'm trying to get into TV writing, which is how I want to transition. I'll always be an actor, but I want to get into the creating aspect of things. I did a Web series that I shot in New York called "Good Medicine." It's about a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, but we shot it here. We raised $20k through Kickstarter and shot five episodes.

I love my neighborhood. I've been on the block for a long time and I've seen a lot of changes, and some of them are great and some of them... Like everything, I have a love-hate relationship with it. I might be biased, but I personally think that East Ninth Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue is the most beautiful block in the East Village. I love it because there are beautiful little boutiques and shops, and it's just really nice to come home and greet everybody.

My favorite thing about Ninth Street and the neighborhood was when my dog Sid and I would walk around. We met so many lovely people. Everybody knew Sidney, everybody. She had one eye. She was an achievement. She would go into different places and run around, into Fabulous Fanny’s or when this was Change of Seasons. I had her for 16 years and she just passed away last April.

I made so many really good friends through her. When she passed, the outpouring of love from the block was overwhelming, and I got beautiful condolence cards. It was very touching because people that I would see on a daily basis, we would stand on the corner and we would cry together. It was really touching and beautiful. I just think that this block is super special. That's the good aspect of this neighborhood.

The bad aspect is all the bro kids who move in — the same kids who do SantaCon and dress up as sexy Leprechauns on St. Patty's Day and throw up in my hallway. I just loathe the new regime of the bro coming in. It's the worst. The 13th Step, that used to be Telephone Bar, which was fantastic. You could meet somebody there and have a decent conversation. Now it's like, oh my God, children. It's frat boy city. I've called 911 more times in front of that bar about fights or people who are passed out in front of there...

Especially with Coyote Ugly around the corner, who I have like a raging one-woman campaign against. I hate them. They are a pox on the neighborhood. I have a real war going with Coyote Ugly because of my bedroom. They have a courtyard where they empty and recycle at all hours of the night, so they're emptying glass bottles at two, three, four in the morning, and then they open up their backdoor and you hear Jon Bon Jovi, 'Shot through the heart, and you're to blame.' Look, I like Bon Jovi as much as the next girl. I'm from Philly. I totally am down with Jon Bon Jovi, but I don't want to hear that shit at four in the morning. And then 'Woooooo!'

I'm like, 'Was I like that when I was in my 20s?' I don't… I'd like to think not. I was living in this neighborhood, and it was so different because we didn't have those kinds of bars. We got drunk in our apartments, respectfully.

James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Re: Coyote Ugly--call 311 or submit a noise complaint online. Contact the Community Board, the State Liquor Authority, and Coyote Ugly itself. Ask your neighbors to complain. At a certain point it will be easier for them to be quiet than to deal with complaints from all sides...

Anonymous said...

Great interview, this one. Thanks to all.

Anonymous said...

"Was I like that in my 20s?" I think that all the time (now being 50). And I agree with her...while we may have done stupid things, it wasn't like it is now.

Great interview..as always!

John M said...

The gal from Philly is so much more a New Yorker than all the little dork woo boys (and girls) put together. Can we clone her and force the jerks out through sheer numbers?

Anonymous said...

I adore that part of 9th street too :)

Hello, from the outside... said...

The little boutiques and shops on 9th street are also disappearing, e.g. Cafe Pick Me Up, The Upper Rust, Dusty Buttons, being replaced by more businesses catered to the self-illusion of selectivity.

Telephone Bar was the best. One of the few place where one can get a half-pint, or 20 ozs. pint for a $1 more, and lets you wile away the day, thinking, and without a hipster bartender in a fedora or trilby and vest hassling you. Unlike the bro-places today where the bars try to push as much and upsell you on the alcohol in a little amount of time. 'Do you want another?' 'Do you want another round?' 'Do you want another?'... even when your glass is still half-full. And agree with her where it was a place where one can have a conversation friend or stranger. It was a good neighborhood bar. It encourages socialization, a living room of the neighborhood, a place where you are neither co-worker or relative but breeds a sense of identity and connection, comfort and possibility, where values, interests, gossip complaints and inspirations intersect. So those that keep being a contrarian arguing that there were always bars in in the East Village, yes there were -- neighborhood pubs.

The "Brothers McMullen" is a good archive of NYC in the '90's. But a certain commenter and blogger here ain't no fan of Ed Burns. But Shari is awesome!

And it's a shot through the heart and ears and brains, and Coyote Ugly is to blame, that bar gives that block a bad name.

-- Comment via i̶P̶h̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶s̶m̶a̶r̶t̶p̶h̶o̶n̶e̶ rotary phone.

Anonymous said...

I'm exactly the same age as Anonymous 9:53, and feel the same way! We did stupid things, absolutely, but generally went relatively quietly from point A to point B, not shouting and screaming on the sidewalk on the way. I definitely remember having the conscious thought to be considerate of residents and neighbors. Seems like those thoughts don't even come up in the bros' little lizard brains.

Very nice interview. Lucky duck, getting to live on that pretty block. Also, I didn't know Sidney, but condolences on her loss.

Anonymous said...

Dusty Buttons relocated to the next block of Ninth Street between 1st and 2nd avenues.

Anonymous said...

"We got drunk in our apartments, respectfully."

Ms. Albert, speak for yourself.

blue glass said...

anonymous who is 50 and other "old timers" it's not just you who behaved differently when drunk or high. the neighborhood was also different. there were not so many bars, no nyu and other dorms, clubs were more about music than violence and volume, getting high was not a vomit fuck fest, and even the folks at the electric circus or fillmore east were not as disruptive. perhaps the first really disruptive club was webster hall.

marjorie said...

Great interview! My kinda girl. So sorry about your dog and your woo-bro neighbors.

IzF said...

Telephone Bar and Holy Basil in one building. Delicious food and chill ambiance. I miss them both.
But we can support Lui's Thai on E 4th St. Lek (sp?) the chef/owner used to own Holy Basil!

Anonymous said...

And bars were still neighborhood. Meaning that if you acted up, you'd get the crap knocked out of you. Bros back then had they existed would have been rolled out in a basket.

Anonymous said...

@2:26pm: You go speak for yourself!

I stayed sober 99% of the time, both in and outside my apartment. And yet I have enjoyed my life tremendously. I realize the bro's can't imagine having fun that doesn't involve being piss-drunk - but that just indicates the level of brain-damage they already have.

Anonymous said...

She sounds like such a smart and interesting person. I am glad she is in the neighborhood. Now if we could just turn back time and get all the partying bros out. It is so awful around here now at night because of them. I wish the police would patrol and give out tickets for public intoxication and noise violations.

Gojira said...

IzF, in the early 90s there was a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant on 14th near B called Montien Thai; Lek was the chef, so she has been in the neighborhood for at least 25 years. We got to know her quite well, because we went there so often, and she would come and sit at our table and chat. That was when we learned that she used to be a chef in the kitchens of the King of Thailand. I lost track of her when Holy Basil closed, so thank you VERY much for mentioning her presence on 4th Street.

This was a great interview. Without ever having met Ms. Albert, or known what she was like when she was 20, I can pretty much stake my life that no, she did not act like a total raging asshole the way these immature jackasses that have infiltrated the EV do on a weekly, almost nightly basis. Thanks for your presence in the nabe, wish we had more like you. And I second Anon. 12:21, I am sorry for the loss of your beloved Sidney. She sounds like a wonderful puppy.

Anonymous said...

One of da best Out and About.

Eden Bee said...

I love that block too. I lived on it when i was 16-18 and it was some of the best times I've had here.

Scuba Diva said...

Telephone Bar was owned by Rudy Bader who was Swiss (from Basel) and also owned a Swiss bakery called Encore on 2nd avenue between St. Mark's and 9th. (Where Otto's Tacos is, I think, because J. Baczynsky meats has been there forever.)

He's long since retired.

Anonymous said...

Nah, things have changed since then. The way I see it the 20 somethings now are not like what I was or even a generation after I was in my 20's.

What has happened is back in the day it was more about self discovery and finding your way and who you wanted to be. This is why there was much more individualism and creativity. But the youth of today, and it's no fault of theirs. But the marketing machine has completely fine tuned how to get the most $'s out of that demographic and they have been totally played since an early age, and they are just to caught up in being what they are told to be to realize it. It's the sex in the city bullshit that everyone thinks that's a cool ideal to work towards, and for the guys, the bro-ism which was the anti-cool back in the day is now the manly image everyone has to portray...

Oh, and let's not forget the money side of it. These kids these days are either spending left over student loan money, or being bank rolled by mommy & daddy. Back in the day, sure, my folks helped me out, but I was humbled by that and respected it. The kids of today don't give it a second thought, and this is were much of the underlying unhappiness in that generation comes from. As time passes they know this ideal of life and how to live it isn't something they personally can support. With student debt and the outlook on financial wealth through personal gain isn't very achievable. This removes a huge amount of 'true' self-worth that they already didn't have much of, and creates an angry mindset of, 'I was told there would be fucking cake. You all owe me some fucking cake!!!!' And the cycle continues on a downward spiral to getting in fights outside 12th step. Cause after all, it's always someone else's fault, and there is no way they possibly could be responsible for their own actions...

I truly feel sorry for the 20 somethings of today, they really are missing out on a beautiful time of their life. Yet they are all to stupid and to consumed with trying to keep up with who they were always sold they would be, and the truth hurts and they all sooner or later figure it out. You are not special. You are not a unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We're all part of the same compost heap. We're all singing, and dancing crap of the world.

I'd like to thank Tyler for that last part...