A GAGA GUIDE TO THE LOWER EAST SIDE By Noah Witke Mele for EYE ON THE ARTS
It’s the first true day of spring and a small troupe of people find themselves waiting for a walking tour to begin on an unassuming street corner near Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Two things that make this walking tour special: first, it’s led by a die-hard fan of the mother monster herself, Lady Gaga, and second, it isn’t a walking tour at all. Instead, A Gaga Guide to the Lower East Side The tour guide introduces himself as Phill—a role played by a rotating cast of Lynwood McLeod, Taylor Hillard, and Adam Lawrence—but as he leads the group through the streets of LES it soon becomes clear that he’s much more than an ambitious little monster. In fact, a scandalous Yelp review left the day before has spurred fifteen more minutes of fame for the former reality TV star.
Between fielding calls from his agent, and explaining the historical significance of places such as Katz’s Deli, and CBGB, he finds the time to bring the group up to speed on his short stint on Let’s Make Up, a fictional reality series something like a mashup of “Big Brother, America’s Next Top Model, and RuPaul’s Drag Race”.
After going on a tirade about the network for attempting to sue him for making merch with his catchphrase (he first said it on the show) and accusing the producers of giving him a villain edit (all eight-and-a-half minutes he was on screen were spent scowling), he points out the handful of clubs where Lady Gaga gave early performances.
Most of the tour covers the history of buildings and monuments, unrelated to Lady Gaga, such as the preserved facade of The Providence Loan Society of New York, where Jasper Johns kept his studio for many years. But the highlight of the tour is a rather unassuming apartment building, which Phil reverently declares to be the birthplace of Lady Gaga. Sure enough, Stephanie Germanata was living on the fourth floor when she invented her superstar alter ego.
Closing the tour standing around a circular map of LES, Phil says something that borders on profound; the reason that he loves Lady Gaga and giving this tour is that the city’s constant transformation reminds him of our capacity for change, that we could reinvent ourselves whenever we want.
And it’s certainly true for him because he’s just been invited to appear in the upcoming Let’s Make Up: All-Stars season.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele