A prominent nightlife operator is campaigning to be the city’s new “night mayor.”
Bronx native Gerard McNamee, who served as Webster Hall’s director of operations for more than a decade before the venue was sold to a corporate partnership for $35 million in April, is proactively seeking the role of nightlife ambassador.
Though the newly created post will be an appointed position, the 48-year-old McNamee paid a visit to City Hall on Thursday afternoon — where city officials were meeting about the new position — to ask how he might bolster his chances.
In June, a spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment announced that the search for a nightlife ambassador was underway and that the appointee would serve as a liaison between city officials and the booming bar and club scene.
Though Webster Hall’s 1,500-person capacity makes it one of downtown’s larger music venues, it had for 131 years mostly been a family-run operation that was in relatively good standing with its neighbors, thanks in part to McNamee’s diplomatic prowess. He’s also a co-owner of the popular East Village Social bar on St. Marks Place.
But according to one insider familiar with the ambassadorship plan, being a bar owner could work against McNamee.
“The concern is that having a stake in a nightclub poses a conflict,” according to that source. “It’s hoped that the agency will be an impartial liaison between nightlife businesses and residents.”
McNamee confirmed he’s in the hunt.
“I am officially announcing that I will seek the appointment for New York City’s first nightlife ambassador,” he said in a statement. “I have my finger on the pulse of the industry ... I live, eat and breathe it ... I am perfectly suited for this position ... I curate community and culture.”
McNamee also says that he’s headed to Europe in September to meet with Amy Lamé, who holds a similar position in London; Clément Léon R, who has the gig in Paris, and Mirik Milan, who is the “night mayor” in Amsterdam.
“New York City will be home to the largest and longest-running party the world has ever seen,” according to McNamee.
Hoo boy, the race for Night Mayor is heating up! After the City Council voted Thursday to establish an official Office of Nightlife, Bronx Native and former head of Webster Hall Gerard McNamee has announced his intention to run for the position. Before the ownership changewas announced this year, McNamee worked as director of operations for the 1,500 capacity club.
The head of NYC's Office of Nightlife will be appointed by officials, but that's not stopping McNamee from hitting the campaign trail. According to the Daily News, the former nightclub boss was stumping at City Hall Thursday afternoon shortly before the vote.
"I have my finger on the pulse of the industry. I live, eat and breathe it. I am perfectly suited for this position. I curate community and culture," McNamee wrote on Facebook at 2 a.m. Friday morning (nightlife baby!). "It is what I do, it is who I am. After the holiday weekend I travel to Europe for a listening tour. I will meet w key European 'Night Mayors'. If appointed New York City Nightlife Ambassador I will represent New York City Mayor de Blasio and his initiatives."
Citing the city's nightlife scene as a key source of jobs and economic growth, McNamee praised Mayor de Blasio for giving "long overdue recognition to the role that night life plays in our great city. Instead of shutting off the lights and shuttering businesses, this mayor wants the lights shining bright so that business will boom."
With his extensive experience, McNamee may appear to be a leading candidate for Director of Nightlife Night Mayor. However, a source familiar with the ambassadorship plan told the News he may be too close to the industry.
"The concern is that having a stake in a nightclub poses a conflict," the unnamed source told the paper. "It's hoped that the agency will be an impartial liaison between nightlife businesses and residents."
The creation of the Office of Nightlife is thanks primarily to the efforts of Councilmember Rafael Espinal, who represents parts of Bushwick, East New York, Brownsville, and Cypress Hills. "NYC's nightlife culture is an integral part of its identity, yet bureaucratic red tape, rising rents and lack of community planning has made it increasingly difficult for venues that contribute to our iconic nightlife to stay in business," Espinal said in a statement Thursday. Along with the Director of Nightlife Night Mayor, a Nightlife Advisory Board comprised of 12 relevant stakeholders will direct the new city office. Eight of those board members will be appointed by the City Council Speaker, while four will be appointed by the mayor.
It’s official: New York City is getting a “Night Mayor.” After being proposed by Councilman Rafael Espinal earlier this year, The City Council voted Thursday (8/24) to create a Nightlife Commission, with 12 members, plus someone to head it. That person, the “Night Mayor” (not their official title), will work as a liaison between the city’s $10 billion-a-year nightlife industry and the city and its residents. The commission and its chairperson will be chosen by The Mayor and Bill De Blasio has two months to pick someone.
Someone who is actively campaigning for the Night Mayor job is Gerard McNamee, who spent the last ten years as Webster Hall’s head of operations. Now that the venue is undergoing renovations for new owners, he has some time on his hands. From the New York Daily News:
Though the newly created post will be an appointed position, the 48-year-old McNamee paid a visit to City Hall on Thursday afternoon — where city officials were meeting about the new position — to ask how he might bolster his chances…
…“I am officially announcing that I will seek the appointment for New York City’s first nightlife ambassador,” he said in a statement. “I have my finger on the pulse of the industry … I live, eat and breathe it … I am perfectly suited for this position … I curate community and culture.”
McNamee also says that he’s headed to Europe in September to meet with Amy Lamé, who holds a similar position in London; Clément Léon R, who has the gig in Paris, and Mirik Milan, who is the “night mayor” in Amsterdam.
“New York City will be home to the largest and longest-running party the world has ever seen,” according to McNamee.
Yes, the “dad” driving his “family” across America is none other than Gerard McNamee, longtime manager of the rock palace.
For years now, the dapper McNamee has been moonlighting — er, daylighting — as an actor.
The dewy-eyed, 90-second ad for the largest VW vehicle sold in America shows an older Irish woman fulfilling her late husband’s dream of seeing the USA with their son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren.
“I guess I fit the bill,” says McNamee, whose own parents were born in Ireland (his dad, Gerard Sr., is a retired NYC transit cop). “I’m
single, so my mother laughed when I suddenly gave her the grandkids
she’d been waiting for!”
The 24-day shoot rambled across seven states. The end result, airing in eight versions, is said to be the most expensive commercial VW has ever produced.
Webster Hall, the historic East Village music venue, will officially close for a major renovation early next month, the club’s manager said Sunday. The final club night before the overhaul will be Saturday, Aug. 5 and the final night will be Wednesday, Aug. 9, according to a Facebook post by Gerard McNamee, the club’s director of operations. “Sad but true, the legendary and world-famous Webster Hall has been sold and will close as we know it,” McNamee said. The concert hall was sold in April for approximately $35 million to the corporate entities behind the Barclays Center and Bowery Presents. $35-mil Webster Hall deal could be complicated by domestic issue. The venue will be closed for an “undisclosed period of time,” McNamee said. The landmark, which was built in 1886 at 125 E. 11th St., has hosted many big-name singers over the years, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Guns N’ Roses and Metallica. McNamee urged music lovers to visit the 1,500-person-capacity venue one last time before the overhaul. “Please come celebrate our rich . . . history of being the biggest, baddest and longest running nightclub in the history of New York City,” he said. Fans of the musty spot were saddened by the news. “Sooo many fabulous shows and was my favourite venue,” Karen Frederic responded to McNamee’s post. “Things change but the great and special memories will remain firmly intact!”
The last night to party at beloved East Village venue Webster Hall, in its current form, will go down this August. The venue has planned a series of Final Shows, which right now include gigs with Rag N Bone Man, Michelle Branch and Good Charlotte, and goodbye nights for its regular party nights. The last of those at the moment is August 9. After that, the venue will undergo an extensive renovation as part of its sale to AEG and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (the company that owns Barclays Center). When it reopens, its booking will be handled by Bowery Presents, which was also acquired by AEG last year. Webster Hall has had many different forms since the first theater was built on the site in 1886. In the 1980s, it operated as storied club the Ritz, and since the '90s has been run by the Ballinger family. As one of the biggest independent venues in city, Webster Hall has always had a kind of grimy charm. It's unclear how much of that will change with the new iteration, but you may want to say your goodbyes. On the venue's closing—and the last night of its GOTHAM club night—general manager Gerard McNamee posted the following statement.
Ladies and Gentlemen/Friends and Family:
Sad but true, the legendary and world-famous Webster Hall has been sold and will close as we know it for its final club night on Saturday August 5th, 2017, which just so happens to be my birthday, which is certainly somehow apropos. It will be closed for an undisclosed period of time for demo, reno and transition to corporate ownership under Barclays/AEG/Bowery Presents. I highly recommend that you all stop by before the end of this era to pay your respects to the Ballingers and the building for providing us with a lifetimes worth of memories. There are only 12 club nights left. Please come celebrate our rich 25 year history of being the biggest, baddest and longest running nightclub in the history of New York City.
The beloved Webster Hall music venue “as we know it” will close next month, manager Gerard McNamee announced on Facebook Monday.
“Sad but true, the legendary and world-famous Webster Hall has been sold,” McNamee wrote, continuing to explain that the venue will hold its final club night on Aug. 5 and undergo renovation. According to the club’s website, concerts are still scheduled through Aug. 9. Good Charlotte, Michelle Branch and Declan McKenna are among the performers currently set up as the venue’s closing acts. Shows scheduled for the fall have since been moved to other venues, including Highline Ballroom and Terminal 5. “I highly recommend that you all stop by before the end of this era to pay your respects to the Ballingers and the building for providing us with a lifetimes worth of memories. There are only 12 club nights left,” McNamee added. “Please come celebrate our rich 25 year history of being the biggest, baddest and longest running nightclub in the history of New York City.” Renovations have been scheduled by the venue’s new owners, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment and AEG Presents, which previously acquired Webster booker Bowery Presents. According to documents filed by the Manhattan community board in April, the renovation includes plans to transform the existing Marlin concert room into a “pre-gathering space and waiting area for grand ballroom events.”
McNamee did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It’s not yet clear when the venue is expected to reopen. Longtime concertgoers aren’t taking the news well. Tweets of disappointment flooded Twitter after the announcement. “Webster Hall’s void will leave a big hole in New York nightlife,” David Ireland wrote. The 40,000-square-foot landmarked club at 125 E. 11th St. opened as a performance venue in 1886.
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PUBLISHED 30/05/2016 | 02:30
Gerard McNamee on acting, singing, flirting with Madonna, hanging with the Clintons, and his Irish parents
Gerard McNamee tells Barry Egan about acting, singing, flirting with Madonna, hanging out with the Clintons, Axl Rose, his Irish parents, and the tragic death of his brother Brian
Impresario and Musician Gerard McNamee is one of the kings of New York
Brian McNamee's young life was taken from him in a fire in Burlington, Vermont in late 1994. He was 21. He was finishing his final year at university and was, remembers his younger, and only brother, Gerard, "coming into his own." "Brian and I had a great summer that year. We were at Giants Stadium to watch Ireland beat Italy in the World Cup" on June 18. Then on September 23 - horrible fate intervened. Brian had moved into a house in Vermont just before uni started. He died a month later in an electrical fire.
"There was seven of them living in the house," Gerard says.
"Brian and his room-mate Anthony were sleeping in the attic when the fire started. They didn't stand a chance. The five boys downstairs were plucked out by the fire brigade when the fire started. Brian and Anthony didn't make it out alive," says Gerard, adding with heart-rending emotion: "I'll never see his red headed smiling face again. Brian had no warning - no chance to say goodbye . . . no nothing."
Gerard McNamee is one of the kings of New York. He has run the world famous rock venue Webster Hall - "New York City's largest and longest running nightclub and 1,500-person capacity live music venue" - for decades. He knows everyone - and has worked with everyone - in the city that never sleeps. To call him a character would be an understatement on a par with saying Jose Mourinho is fond of himself. I met Gerard, who was over in Ireland last week for a quick break, for coffee in Dublin. He hasn't touched alcohol, nor anything in the category of illicit stimuli, in a very long time. Gerard oozes so much charisma that he doesn't need stimulants. He has hung out with The Spice Girls ("a great laugh"), Metallica, Snoop Dog ("A cool guy"), Axl Rose ("He was amazing but very Axl"), Brandon Flowers, Trent Razor, Hillary Clinton ("She was great").
Indeed he recalls personally looking after Bill Clinton, when he was President, when he played a saxophone show at Webster Hall. There was a veritable army of Secret Security agents in the building. Gerard had to show the snipers how to get up on the roof. He also looked after Madonna when she came in to play a show just as she had become a global superstar. She turned up in a limo at the backstage door of Webster Hall, realised all the crowds were at the front of the building then told her limo driver to bring her to the front of the building.
She eventually got out of the limo wearing nothing but a fur coat, heels and her underwear. Gerard swears as Madge was ushered up to her dressing-room she stopped, turned around and eyed him up.
He is the star of the new ad for Webster Hall. He is called Sir Gotham in that. He was also the lead in the 2011 art-house movie Hip Priest. "So if I never got another acting job in my life, I will go down in history as 'hip priest' and 'Sir Gotham'," he laughs.
The iconic impresario, who owns a bar called East Village Social and is in the process of opening another one, is a sometime singer-songwriter. A few years ago he wrote a song, A Moment Of Silence, about the Omagh bombing in August, 1998. "My dad is from Omagh," Gerard told me last week.
His father, also Gerard, was a NYC transit cop who came to New York in 1957. Gerard's mother Helen, who hails from Clare, came over to Amerikay in 1959. (To this day, Helen is the assistant to the Monsignor at the local parish church.) She and Gerard met at an Irish dance in Manhattan in the early 1960s and married on April 29th, 1967. They had their first child Patricia on April 24, 1968.
"Patricia died five days later on their first wedding anniversary," says Gerard. "I came along in 1969."
July 21, 2016
Daily News May 1, 2015
Interview: Gerard McNamee – Webster Hall’s East Village Badass
By Live4ever - Posted on 19 Nov 2014 at 7:16am
There’s a lot to be done behind the scenes if one is to have a great party. After working in various sections of the entertainment industry, Gerard McNamee understands this simple truth.
During the past twenty five years McNamee has dabbled in music, management, and most recently film with outstanding success. The Bronx native has been described as ‘the epitome of a NYC badass'; wherever he goes he brings a hardworking attitude and an effortlessly cool demeanor with him.
By way of introduction, if it’s needed, McNamee is perhaps best known as the director of operations at New York City’s world famous Webster Hall venue. He is also the owner and visionary behind East Village Social – a bar on St. Marks Place and, in addition to being a successful entrepreneur, he now also has a budding acting career and will feature as a co-star on an episode of USA Network’s ‘White Collar’.
Born in the Bronx to a hardworking Irish family, McNamee is first generation Irish-American; the ragged toughness he exudes can be attributed to this traditional upbringing. “I literally have Irish blood running through my veins,” McNamee tells Live4ever, with pride, during an exclusive interview. “But I’m a Yank.”
Raised Irish Catholic, he matured and began forging his own identity through a love of motorbikes and entertainment – this diverse set of passions can all be traced back to one source. “It all happened through music,” he explains. “I grew up listening to Irish music and country music.” Soon, bands like The Clash and Led Zeppelin were unearthed and the progression from Celtic traditions to country and rock n’ roll started to shape not only a new identity, but a life in the entertainment world too. Then, in 1983, McNamee experienced perhaps the most significant party of his life – it came after his 8th grade graduation.
When celebrating graduation from Lady Mercy with the entire local Irish community, a family friend showed up with a wooden dancefloor and set up a DJ booth. “It started with Irish music in the background,” he recalls. “And then, by the time everyone had a couple cocktails in them, forget it! Five hours later, we were in the throws of a fucking discotheque.” After the party, McNamee went out and spent all his money on a rig – he’s been DJing ever since.
After graduating from Fordham University, McNamee saw an opening for a nightclub managing position posted in The New York Times. “Oh my God, that’s my job,” he tells us, reflecting back on the posting. He applied and got the job and was managing at the historic Webster Hall, one of RCA’s most famous studios during the 40s and 50s. Rat Packers Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. recorded frequently there, while Bob Dylan’s first professional recording was laid down at the hall. McNamee’s career was off to a promising start.
Soon, under his watch, the biggest stars and celebrities in the world were coming to Webster Hall for a party, huge artists such as Madonna, and even the Clintons.
A brief encounter with Madonna was particularly memorable; not wanting to go in through the back door, McNamee was forced to bring the popstar and her entourage through the front door. Whilst fighting through her rabid fanbase, Madonna stopped. “She looks me up and down, with lust in her eyes, and continues into her dressing room,” McNamee remembers with a laugh. “And that’s the last time I ever set eyes on Madonna…”
After working at Webster Hall for five years, McNamee decided he wanted to created his own business within the entertainment industry. Thus it was that he opened a bar in Hunter Mountain, which ran for several seasons. During one of the summers, another bar was built, and had outstanding success. For a few years, McNamee alternated between the two, spending summers in Montauk and winters in Hunter Mountain. Another, East Village Social, soon followed in St. Marks Place.
It was 2008 when McNamee was approached by filmmaker Gregg de Domenico, a man determined to have the Webster Hall owner star in a film. Two and a half years later, McNamee made his acting debut, starring in the short film Hip Priest – a piece directly inspired and written with him in mind. Hip Priest led to new opportunities, opportunities which also presented new challenges. He began taking acting classes from Sharon Angela (The Sopranos), John Mato and other respected industry professionals. After working on and auditioning for small parts, McNamee landed a gig doing commercials for the Kindle Fire. “I’m facing a fear,” he says when discussing the appeal of acting. “Acting for me at this point is not fun. It is exciting, it is exhilarating, but it’s not fun.”
McNamee’s fearlessness and dedication towards his craft – whether it be acting or managing New York’s most famous club – has helped him become one of the city’s most successful go-getters. “It’s about throwing a good party,” he believes. “I like to entertain people. My job here at Webster Hall defines me. I love every minute of it. I get off on the ridiculousness of it all.”
An hour in the company of such an infectious, passionate, driven individual makes it clear just why McNamee has become so successful – come on, who wouldn’t want to party with him?
KATY HITS THE HALL - AUGUST 11 2014
“Last Friday Night” singer Katy Perry spent her Saturday night at Webster Hall at the after-party for the Mad Decent Block Party in Coney Island. Webster Hall GM Gerard McNamee welcomed Perry and boyfriend DJ Diplo, aka Thomas Wesley Pentz, to the legendary East Village concert hall, where they joined nearly 3,000 other partygoers including nightlife VIP Jerry Brandt, who owned Webster Hall in the ’80s, when it was known as the Ritz. It was a quick stop for Perry. She performed in Chicago Friday and had a Sunday concert in Michigan.
In nightlife, one of the hardest jobs to fill is general manager. Everyone and anyone can be an owner. People who never did more than promote a prom end up calling themselves owners at joints around town. Great GMs are a rarity. Gerard McNamee is the GM at NYC's longest running nightclub, Webster Hall. Being a GM at a lounge or midsize club is not the same as running a joint that holds 1500 and up. Webster Hall is ginormous. It holds concerts, special events, corporate events, and fund raisers, and is open as a club with thousands of people from all over the world passing through.
The buck stops with Gerard, who is tasked to make hundreds of decisions a night and run a huge staff. He juggles this monumental task with an acting career. He plays the lead in a short film which just won two awards at the Independent Film Quarterly Film & New Media Festival. I asked him a few questions and got volumes from him, including this edited down description of himself:
"My name is Gerard. I currently operate New York City’s largest and longest running nightclub and 1,500-person capacity live music venue, the legendary and world famous Webster Hall. I dispense alcohol. I entertain thousands from various cultures each week. I am all business. I work long hours. I do volume and roll full throttle. I don’t burn out. I thrive under pressure. I am decisive, a decision maker and delegator. I am a mentor. I am a protégé. I am a teacher. I am a diplomat. I have been told so. I am a businessman and entrepreneur. I curate art, fashion, music and theatre. I have shown so. I am local. I am international. I wear a suit well. I don Italian boots and shoes. I enjoy travel and work. I drink black coffee, espresso and fresh squeezed juices. I live in Chelsea and ride a Harley 12 months a year. I park my ’99 BMW 323IC convertible on 15th Street. New York City is my home. I am charming and have character. I am a natural host. I throw parties."
What isn't mentioned here is that he is a gentleman, a man who gets and gives respect. I am honored to be his friend and to tell you about this tireless player who gets less sleep than most who dwell in the city that never sleeps.
You are the General Manager of Webster Hall, a big job. But like everyone in nightlife, you have a shadow career as an actor. Tell me about that side of you, and how you manage to act and manage one of the biggest clubs in NYC? Tell me about your club career?
I have had an interest in acting since grammar school, where I played the lead roll in our annual Christmas play three years in a row. But then in high school, sports took over my life. My interest in acting has always been in the back of my mind, but I don't particularly have the personality for it. I am a wallflower, a behind-the-scenes type guy. It's just my personality. However, I was constantly told that I should put myself out there and that I would get work based on my look alone. I knew that this would probably be the case, and that I needed to get over myself and do it. I have been drawn to it. I promised myself that I would never be a starving actor, depending on acting to survive. I didn't know if I wanted it that badly that I could commit and devote myself to it as a craft.
I already had a craft that I was a natural at, and that was throwing parties. I had done it from childhood. I used to spend all my paper route money as a child, every July on illegal fireworks and throw a party for all my neighbors at the house out on Long Island. I was in third grade, it was 1976, America's Bicentennial. Several years later my mom and dad had an eighth grade graduation party for me. I had survived the nuns of our Lady of Mercy grammar school, and the celebration was on. My mom called her buddy, Johnny Broderick, to see if his son would DJ the event. The day of the party, Johnny and his son showed up to the house with a truck and an old beat up horse trailer. The contents of that horse trailer changed my life forever. They loaded out nine big sheets of plywood attached to 2 x 6 beams. Piece by piece up the long driveway and into the backyard they attached the pieces together with six inch lag bolts. It was a dance floor. Then, out came the sound rig. Two big ass JBL's, two Techniques 1200 turntables, a JVC double cassette deck, and two extremely heavy, big fat crown amps. I took all the money I received at my party that day and went out and bought me a rig. I've been doing it since. That was the summer of 1983. I DJd through high school and through college. The day after I graduated from Fordham University I was invited out to The Hamptons. Within two hours of my arrival in Hampton Bays, I was bar backing at a place called "The Beach Bar." I went home only once that summer, much to my mother’s chagrin. I had only gone out there for a day trip. When I finally returned home after the season, without a penny in my pocket (I had been literally partying like a rockstar), I sat in the room that I had grown up in, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my business degree and my life.
I was borrowing my 14-year-old sister’s babysitting money to buy myself cigarettes and beer. My parents were fed up and disappointed at my lack of a real existence. My father gave me the ultimatum: "Start looking for a job to utilize your university degree or get out! You must at least make an effort." So that Sunday, I borrowed 5 bucks from my Dad and went and got me a copy of the New York Times. In the Classifieds, an ad read "NIGHTCLUB MANAGER WANTED. 40,000 square feet of adventure, must have 5 years New York City experience, Fax resume." I sat up in my bed as I read this ad and thought, Holy Shit! There's my job!
I had two years experience booking bands and DJs at the college bar I worked at in the Bronx, and that was it. So I fashioned and fabricated a resume and faxed it away. They liked the fact that both my parents were from Ireland, which in their mind made me a farmer (they were farmers). I was hired in December of 1993, by Lon, Steve, and Doug Ballinger, at the legendary and world famous Webster Hall. I lasted until May of 1997. By that time, I had been sober since New Year’s Eve, a 5 month span. The temptation was great. I had to blow New York City in order to stay sober, so I bought a bar up at Hunter Mountain. Buying a bar was probably not the best idea for a guy that had been partying hard for a dozen years and who was trying to kick the habit, but I made it.
For the next 10 years, "The Cross" (short for Sixmilecross, the town in the north of Ireland that my Dad was born and raised in) existed in several locations. I had one up in Hunter Mountain and another out in Montauk, in East Hampton, and one most recently on City Island, in the Bronx. I returned to Webster Hall on Halloween of 2008. It was around then that Webster Hall hired a team of videographers to archive Webster Hall’s history. I met Gregg De Domenico and Jerry Zecker. Gregg assured me that one day I would be his muse. A few years later, he had an epiphany based in a photograph he saw while on a 5 month sabbatical to Spain. It was on this day that “Hip Priest" was born. Gregg wrote the character specifically with me in mind.
You meet a lot of people. How do you channel that into acting?
Yeah man, I do meet a lot of people. Thousands a week. They all have different needs. I "act" appropriately for all of them. I can literally hang with presidents. I hung with Clinton at Webster Hall for a few minutes on several occasions when he kicked off his ‘96 campaign there, or a homeless man on the street and everyone in between. I am a people expert. I diplomatically and genuinely give them what they need. I react to them as I react to my fellow actors. It's all about them.
What does a day in your life look like?
Somebody asked me the other day, "How's it going?" I answered "Same old, same old." and then immediately thought that my "same old, same old" was not the ordinary man’s "same old same old." I sleep at 6am or later, and I rise at noon. Upon awaking, I immediately begin to navigate through, and prioritize dozens of emails and dozens of texts regarding the next 18 hours of my life. Within minutes, I engage in the first of approximately 10 to 12 cups of coffee I enjoy each day. It is non stop everyday of my life, from when I wake to when I sleep. Webster Hall is a 24 hour 7 day a week machine. We book dozens of bands and DJs each week. We process between 5 and 10 thousand patrons each week. Three quarters of them we dispense alcohol to, the other 25% we have to monitor to make sure they do not imbibe illegally, as it is a privilege for us to allow 19 and 20 year olds to our venue. Attending Webster Hall is a right of passage for kids around the world. It is literally chaos and insanity between my job and juggling my acting career.
Tell me all about the movie, including where it will be showing, your character, and where inside you he dwells.
It is funny how things happen. Some Soho casting agent stopped me on the street a few months ago while I was sipping my espresso in the East Village. They paid me 8 grand for the day—comical, really. The next week I shot Hip Priest, a short art house film. We have just begun entering it into festivals. Hopefully, someone will notice it and screen it for all to see. I have been fully humbled twice in my life: once when my brother died in a fire in 1994 when I was 25, and again 3 years later when I stopped drinking. I think this Hip Priest experience has humbled me again. The title character in Hip Priest was written specifically for me, with me and my personality in mind. It has made me realize that people expect something from me. Everyone wants a piece, and I say that in the most respectful of ways. It is a weight I have always bore. It is a weight that I welcome and exploit. Hip Priest dwells inside me through my genetic makeup. I cannot help myself, it is how I am, it is who I am. I am a Leo, I love and lead.
Year Released: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 28 minutes
“Hip Priest” is, quite honestly, an incredible short film. In it we follow a day or two in the life of a (you guessed it) hip priest (Gerard McNamee) who walks among the commoners in New York City. By commoners I mean the daytime drunks, ne’er do wells and city park denizens who play chess and dominoes all day while concealing their liquor in brown paper bags and Styrofoam cups. The priest gives help and companionship to the forgotten of the city but at the same time, he’s one of them.
Rarely without a cigarette in his lips, the priest is unshaven and walks with the ambling grace of an aged hipster. His suit is baggy, unkempt. His pant legs too short, his socks pulled too far down. If it wasn’t for his white collar and the respect he commands from those who know him, we’d never think he was a man of the cloth. But then again, maybe he isn’t and is just helping where needed.
Much like the dichotomies presented in “Hip Priest,” I think there’s also two ways you can look at the film itself. Presented in glossy black and white, this film is highly stylized. Director Gregg de Domenico and editor Gerald Zecker Jr. aren’t afraid of the slow motion shot set to a killer soundtrack and shots like that will be loved or thought of as overdone and derivative. I land on the positive side as I loved the choices in the way the film looks, what is said (or read) by the priest and especially the soundtrack. Early in the film the priest ambles over to a bar with “Hip Priest,” a kick-ass track by The Fall playing in the background. Later he hits up a dirty punk rock bar in slo-mo while Joy Division blares in the background. While the dichotomy of a priest doing these things onscreen is clear, viewers can also be split. You can either give yourself over to the highly stylized film or think it’s pretentious bullshit. I went with the former and I’m glad I did.
As you might guess, “Hip Priest” really won me over. I really dug the priest character and would watch Gerard McNamee act again in a heartbeat. He has the worn-down look of a drunk but a style and sense of humor about him that knows more than he lets on about the world he lives in. It’s a fantastic performance. I also loved the way the filmmakers would cram in philosophy from Alan Watts near lyrics by The Who. Later, Henry Miller’s words come forth from the priest’s mouth as he reads aloud to a little boy. I loved the mash-ups that were going on all set against a truly fine eye for direction. Again, some may be put off by the confidence shown here as this film is highly stylized, but to dismiss it without seeing the simplicity involved is a big misstep. “Hip Priest” is a simple tale told in a really interesting way. If you take the time to get to know the priest, you too will be more apt to throw some love into the collection plate so he can buy drinks for the drunks at the bar.
Ghostwood Country Club
SAYING GRACE WITH HIP PRIEST
Posted on April 14, 2013
Film: HIP PRIEST
Directed by Gregg De Domenico
Inspired by a Paul McDonough photographImage
Run Time: 27 minutes
CONFESSIONS, RITUALS AND REDEMPTION…SEARCHING FOR SALVATION IN THE RUBBLE OF THE ANCIENT MODERN CITY…SAYING GRACE WITH HIP PRIEST
People are often reflections of their environments, and vice versa. Surgeons gamble with life and death in operating rooms. Performers conjure magic on stages and athletes thrill crowds with finesse on the designated fields or courts of their chosen game. For an ordained clergyman, one assumes their central place of business is the chapel or temple house of worship, where from the altar to the confessional they attend to the spiritual needs of the faithful.
The main character of the film Hip Priest is identified and referred to simply as “Priest”. His true church is the sprawling city streets. Priest’s followers and constituency are all the people of urban society who make the cold concrete hum, buzz, sing and cry with living energy. Priest is a beacon of spirituality for the many wounded lost souls floating through the wreckage, desperate for sympathy to ease their palpable suffering. He carries a gentle understanding, a charming sense of humor and a warm lack of judgement. In the mold of a classic local folk hero, Priest is beloved and respected by everyone from the innocent children cheerfully dancing and playing on the sidewalks in the afternoon sun to the rough-edged older crowd of grown up kids getting loose at a live rock show in the ominous night.
Hip Priest succeeds as a memorable and intellectually satisfying film on several levels. From a visual perspective it looks gorgeous. Shot in black and white, every frame is elegant in composition and dynamic without appearing manufactured or fake. The lack of color beyond dark, light and gray tones gives a pleasing aesthetic that enhances the emotional weight of the subject matter. Whether intentional or not, the exterior shots of New York City boulevards, parks and architecture strongly echo the crumbling ruins of ancient Rome. The city itself is another lost soul, exhibiting both the fantastic ambition of the initial dream of the metropolis super-structure and the battered morning-after reality of survival in harsh conditions.
Priest glides along, eyes shielded behind thick black sunglasses, crisp short-brimmed black hat and ever-present smoldering cigarette dangling. The film is very much about playing off the contrasting images of the traditionally typically restrained, orthodox conservatism of professional priests re-imagined as a well-dressed hipster preacher man with a sly wit, a street-wise swagger and a familiarity with the edgy, dangerous side of the nightlife. Priest takes confessions in bars from emotional folks getting an early buzz. He tenderly consoles an agonized woman reeling over a visit from the dreaded touch of Death. For his personal pleasure and release, he goes to small rock club to watch a band play, shaking his head in affirmation with the new wave trance of the music as guys bash around up front and girls dance up and down around him.
Leading man Gerard is very convincing and natural as Priest. His presence on screen is formidable, cutting an imposing figure in all black as he marches through the urban jungle. Gerard brings a wry sense of humor and emotional weight to Priest, creating a well-rounded, charming and believable human character. We all wish we had someone like Priest roaming our neighborhood, to console us in despair and laugh with us in joy. The definition of where Priest ends and Gerard begins is a comfortable gray area. This aspect is another mirror of the city itself.
Are the people finding true happiness in the rituals from chess to softball to whiskey, achieving a poetic level of simple, humble grace and bliss? Or are they screaming and whimpering under the massive weight of all that immense stone, steel and rubble, being slowly crushed by the constant pressure of feeling overcrowded, under-paid and rattled by sensory overload? Ask anyone who has lived in any big city for long enough to not feel like a tourist and they’ll confirm it’s always a bit of both, another washed out pale gray, deciding its level of hope or doom based on the momentary mood of the day.
Hip Priest winds down with a hopeful sense the citizens are in good hands. They’re not yet completely doomed. Salvation and redemption are not fully out of reach. Spiritual older brother Priest is there to help show them a simple, straightforward path toward forgiveness and light. Some of the best scenes in the movie occur when Priest delivers several monologues directly to the audience, quoting passages from the pages of the thick, tattered book he carries everywhere, like a personal updated edition of the Bible. If the Old Testament and New Testament comprise the original, Priest reads from the Gray Testament; a compilation mix-tape of verse from Oscar Wilde, Alan Watts and Henry Miller commenting on the Ego-wracked hysteria of modern society. Not truly despicable nor close to glory, somewhere in-between the human drama unfolds like an infinite puzzle within a maze within a nightmare and a dream.
*Watch Hip Priest at
By MARCUS BARAM & K.C. BAKER
Thur, August 27, 1998
PAUSE FOR A CAUSE The bomb that took the lives of 28 people in Omagh, Northern Ireland, stunned no one more than New Yorker Gerard McNamee. The songwriter, whose family hails from Omagh, has recorded a lament to the victims will Bill Campion of the Bogmen. Call (212) 768-4031 for a copy. All proceeds from "A Moment of Silence" go to the Omagh Memorial Trust Fund. Donations to the fund can also be made care of First Trust Bank, High Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Daily News photographer Michael Schwartz' provocative portraits of Belfast's children go on display Sept. 8 at the Cooper Gallery in Jersey City.
By RICHARD JOHNSON
Wed, September 16, 1998
ROCKAWAYS police and Parks Dept. officials have no sense of humor. After reading our item on the Bogmen's annual unsactioned, free-spirited beachfront concerts there, town brass pulled the plug on this year's event - even though the gig was city-approved and permit-promised this time around. We shouldn't have waved those old concerts in their faces, said contrite percussionist P.J. O'Connor, who sat on a beach all night last Saturday, turning away fans who'd come from as far as the Jersey shore. The cancellation was a particuar blow to the Wheelman, a Rockaways local with muscular dystrophy, who was to benefit from the show's proceeds. What's more, frontman Billy Campion had planned to debut A Moment of Silence, written with pal Gerard McNamee. Proceeds from that song are going to victims of the bombing in Omagh, Ireland where McNamee has family