If on Wednesday night at the Public Hotel in Manhattan you went down the stairs to the club in the basement, you might have found four of the best-looking people you’d ever seen: all high cheekbones and sharp jawlines; long, yaki wigs down to the backs of their knees; wearing slinky, satin dresses, and smoky eye shadow. They sported a slicked-back, wet look hair and high heels that showed off sinewy legs. When asked how they identify, one replied “a gender-fluid twin,” motioning toward their sibling, who stood next to them.
They were just four of the many attendees in drag at the party, sponsored by Alcone with FHI Heat and Svedka and held inside Public Arts, to celebrate the new book, “Richard Bernstein Starmaker: Andy Warhol’s Cover Artist.” Bernstein, who ran with the Pop Art crowd and famously did the cover art for Interview Magazine for 20 years, was commemorated at this rager in spectacular fashion. The inside of the place was transformed into some kind of Studio 54, club kid carnival, with cutouts of Warhol holding the cover of the book lining the walls and pictures of Grace Jones blown up to larger-than-life proportions. Guests dressed in fanciful creations — some looks had to be seen to be believed. One man wore a jewel-encrusted skull on his head. Someone in a full, plastic pig’s head danced down the red carpet that had been installed in the space. On stage, drag actors wearing huge wigs, sequined dresses and gold lamé shorts danced to “Relax.”
Among those in the crowd included Miss J. Alexander, who wore silver brogues, a cluster of long silver chains and a silver cardigan as a dress. He stood in the back with his drink, greeting various groups of friends — one of whom ran up to him and said, “I miss ya, b—h! Do you miss me?” then inquired as to whether Alexander would be attending the Ulla Johnson New York Fashion Week show.
When Amanda Lepore showed up on the red carpet, the camera flashes went off like crazy. Standing off to the side of this hubbub was a short woman with large, round earrings and glasses. She observed the scene, bemused.
“They certainly did a good job of re-creating parties from the Seventies and Eighties,” she yelled over the thumping music. “I’ve been to a million of these parties.”
This woman was Toby Rabiner, Bernstein’s longtime friend and, as the New York Times’ obituary for Bernstein describes her, his “companion.” Rabiner said they were certainly together, but the relationship wasn’t so black-and-white.
“Richard used to talk to me so much that I told him I would charge him, like a shrink. And he paid,” she said gleefully. “Because he hated people. He was very shy and had to do drugs to be comfortable, to relate. But if you were trendy, he liked you. He was always with people who were trendy at this time, starting with Paloma Picasso.
“All this was bulls–t,” Rabiner continued, motioning toward the covers of Madonna, Diana Ross and Debbie Harry mounted on the walls. “He painted large canvases, that was the real art. He loved me because we were both from the Bronx and I spoke Yiddish. He was very charming, very handsome, very talented and well-connected.”
Rabiner paused to survey the crowd and, pulling a face, changed the subject. “All the people here are just so gorgeous,” she said.
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