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April 2010 Email this to a friend
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Party all night long

By John Rambow

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It used to be that the better the gay nightlife was, the harder it was to find. If the party of the moment wasn't on an obscure side street in Chinatown, then it was in a Brooklyn neighborhood only locals could successfully navigate without the help of a GPS.
But things change, and recently style-conscious hotels have been trying to get in on the act, hooking up with promoters to make sure their bars and clubs gets lots of attention -- it's one more way for hotels to stay relevant and keep their names in magazines and websites.
One hotel that's held firmly to this concept from the get-go is the awkwardly named Out NYC, a 125-room hotel set to open in Hell's Kitchen in 2011. If all goes according to plan, this gay but "hetero-friendly" hotel will come with a big, throbbing appendage -- a 9,000-square-foot club that's likely to be the second coming of the much-lamented XL, a Chelsea landmark that closed its doors in 2003. As we all wait to see what the Out is like, here are some party-friendly hotels you can stay in right now.

Located near the sweet spot where Chelsea merges with the Meatpacking District, the Maritime Hotel (363 W 16th St, 212-242-4300) has been a stylish place to lay one's head since it opened in 2003. Designed as a center for members of the National Maritime Union of America, its rooms come by their five-foot porthole windows and other seamanly touches honestly.
Although such a fashionable place attracts gays every day of the week, things get especially pink on Sunday nights, when the Asian-inspired Hiro Ballroom hosts the Cuckoo Club. The night's a creation of Erich Conrad, the legendary promoter who's also the force behind Beige, the long-running and seemingly never-ending party at the East Village's B Bar.

Names can be deceiving. Although management might wish you to assume otherwise, George Gershwin never slept at or probably even visited the large Greek revival building that now houses the Gershwin Hotel (7 E 27th St, 212-545-8000). Instead, this stripped-down but funky place gets its tuneful name from its proximity to Tin Pan Alley, where Gershwin and others plunked out a great deal of what became the Great American Songbook. As for the hotel itself, its mix of hostel accommodations and plain-and-simple rooms doesn't make for much luxury, but everything is upbeat and well-priced. The art-crowded walls, including a signed Warhol soup can, add to the style quotient.
In keeping with its arty aesthetic, the Gershwin has its own performance space on the ground floor, dubbed the Living Room. It keeps a busy schedule of art showings, parties and performance art, much of it with a gay twist. One recent screening was a sneak preview of Beautiful Darling, a 2010 documentary about transexual Warholian superstar Candy Darling. If anything here fails to (tin) pan out, keep in mind that more saucy fare can be found just down the block, at the Museum of Sex.

Nine out of 10 tastemakers agree: the Hudson Hotel (356 West 58th St, 212-554-6000), an Ian Schrager hotel designed by Philippe Starck, is not the grooviest hotel in NYC anymore. Its minimalist representation of luxury just hasn't aged that well. What is hot here is the Wednesday-night party, The Happening. Hosted by Ryan McKnight, it attracts a crowd of younger downtown gays and professional party people. All in all, it goes a long way toward making mid-week midtown a place worth heading to rather than running from.
The Happening takes a bit of its energy from the glam nightlife of the late '80s and early '90s, with the House of Aviance voguers doing their thing and One-Half Nelson, Jackie Birdy and other weirdly dressed conversation pieces recalling the great clubkids of yore.

When it opened last year, the Roommate Grace Hotel (125 W 45th St, 212-354-2323) got lots of attention quickly. It was a slick, boutiquey change from the more typical Times Square-area hotels, which tend to the mammoth and staid. In addition to stylish and efficiently designed rooms that make the most of their small dimensions, the Grace stands out for its shapely pool, located behind the ground-floor lobby. It gets lots of use, since it serves both as a backdrop for a bar (one floor above) and as the centerpiece of many events.
Take Drenched, a gay pool party with a difference. This one doesn't overflow with schools of twinks soused on contrived cocktails. Instead, it's for the bears and those that chase their... um... tails. The party is organized by Joe Fiore, who's also behind Dance 208, the longest-running dance party in the city. Drenched is primarily for the hirsute -- it is co-hosted by Metrobears, after all -- but almost everyone's welcome. At the night's premiere, there were reports that some British women were glad to mix it up with the swimsuit-clad guys and their beer bellies. Although only two Drenched nights have been held so far, Fiore and the Grace plan for more in 2010. In the meantime, the weekly Drip party attracts a see-and-be-seen crowd.

With its legendary inhabitants and its winning formula of fleabag chic, the Chelsea Hotel (222 West 23rd St, 212-243-3700) needs no introduction. But just because it's known as the place where Jasper Johns, Robert Mapplethorpe and Rufus Wainwright once laid their heads (and probably other things), that doesn't mean it's stuck in the past. The Star Lounge, in the basement, may not always be appreciated by the hotels' often crotchety longterm residents, but for the rest of us, its Sunday house night, Sexy Relapse, fits in just fine. The party's beats attract a primarily African-American crowd.

See more area coverage in our New York article of March 2010, with related links.

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