NYT: Behind an Unmarked Door, the Party Guests Are in the 1930s

dave sanders for nytimes

NYTIMES City Room blog has a write-up of Saturday’s Bastille party at Shangai Mermaid:

Late on Saturday night, Marie Antoinette had not yet been beheaded, and it did not look as if it would happen anytime soon. The queen, in a lacy white gown that frothed at her feet, was sitting for a portrait before the artist Toulouse-Lautrec. She sipped a martini, batting false eyelashes long as bird wings.

Tolouse-Lautrec was actually a student at the School of Visual Arts. Marie Antoinette was portrayed by the performance artist Sequinette. And the club they were in was no Moulin Rouge or wing of Versailles, but rather a 6,000-square-foot warehouse behind an unmarked door in Crown Heights, which hosts the monthly underground costume party Shanghai Mermaid.

Saturday’s theme was Bastille Day. And no one seemed to find it ironic to celebrate a riot that marked the end of decadence with … decadence. An aerialist painted his body to resemble the Bastille, a jail. A social studies teacher knitted endlessly, in the spirit of Dickens’ Madame Defarge.

“Here in Crown Heights on this sketchy block, there’s some desire for the exotic,” said Juliette Campbell, who founded Shanghai Mermaid in 2007 with the idea of recreating the red-walled 1930s cabarets she had always read of. As the recession rolled on, with speakeasies and burlesques becoming mainstream, the party became more popular, settling into its current space in 2009.

Read the complete post here.

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