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Read Bjork's2001 interview with Juergen Teller from the index archives.

Kathleen Hanna discusses writing and making music in this interview from 2000 with Laurie Weeks.

Isabella Rossellini spoke with Peter Halley in this 1999 interview.

Check out our interview with Crispin Glover by Richard Kern from 2000.
Alexander McQueen's 2003 interview with Bjork.

Amy Sacco, 1999


The first time I walked up to the tightly stretched velvet rope in front of the door at Lot 61, nearly as far west as you can go on 21st Street, there was a French cad in a natty pin-striped suit who stopped me cold.  Unlike my original visit to Studio 54, when I was still in college, I just wanted to get back in the cab and go home.  But I had good instincts.  I quietly asked to meet the owner, Amy Sacco.
Just thirty years old, Amy stands six-foot-something in flats.  She has a longer, straighter, blonder version of the Egyptian bob than Nell Campbell or Anna Wintour.  Though she dresses beautifully, what you notice immediately is that she’s mostly legs and all personality.  One night, Amy wears a dress with heels; the next, it’s head-to-toe Helmut Lang.  But more importantly, she’s smart, and unlike Elaine in the ’60s and Regine in the ’70s, she’s both a voice for women and for women restaurateurs.  Surprisingly to some, she actually came up through normal restaurant channels — studied at Johnson & Whales in Providence, hostessed at Bouley and then at Lipstick Café, and helped manage Vong for Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
On her arm, during this first visit, I passed the bar, which has a rather large open fireplace against one wall, and joined a group of friends — including Jared Paul Stern of The Post’s Page Six.  We sidled up to a wall in a booth in the main room, which has the proportions of an airplane hangar.  The wooden beams overhead have been fireproofed white, and there’s a giant spot painting by Damien Hirst hung from the far wall.  The floor is a maze of purple-red rubber couches borrowed from a mental institution by Diana, the wife and partner of Rafael Vinoly.  Together they made up Amy’s design team.  The rubber originally protected the couches from inmates who couldn’t control their bodily functions (more on yuppie bladder control later).
On subsequent visits, the young literary types in this pleasure booth were replaced by a fun-loving, slightly sauced Hollywood group, including Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Paul Sorvino, Michael Douglas, Kevin Costner, and Stephen Dorff.  On another night, after wading through a crowd of youths in baggy pants who made me feel about as vital as Ernest Borgnine, I found Tommy Hilfiger holding court in the back room with China Chow, Billy Zane, and Rebecca Romijn.
On a regular hip-hop Monday night, I was dragged here by a twenty-something photographer friend, Greg Kessler, who works for party photographer Patrick McMullan.  That night, Amy, in camouflage pants and a baby-T, tour-guided us to the back storage area, where we found Marilyn Manson and his roadies and a few made-up Manson wannabes packed in, elbowing for inches.
On less exalted nights, Amy is often jammed into a booth with just one or two of her $10 million-plus-per-picture film-star buddy regulars — whose names we have been asked not to mention.  She pops up to make sure we get the polenta or crispy oysters we’re meant to taste, and that the stars have had their drinks replenished.  And she’s winning the battle with the regular DJ, whose game plan late at night is to deafen the action heroes, teen idols, and steady stream of heavy-smoking models.
At 3:30 AM, last call, when the room is really swinging, you can barely wade through.  It feels as if everyone will fall to the ground when the last cubic centimeter of oxygen has vanished.  I may feel a little old to still be partying into the wee hours, but Amy keeps drawing me back.  Between visits, Amy and I sometimes chat on the phone for hours.  I find both her and her story irresistible.

Jeff:  To me, you’re like an updated character in an old movie.  Marlene Dietrich would have played you.  So I’ll start with a Modern Screen-style interrogation.  Where does a tall drink of water like yourself come from?
Amy:  Chatham, New Jersey, small-town USA.  It’s a mile wide and full of Stepford wives and white-collar criminals.

Jeff:  Your first nightclub experience?
Amy:  By the time I was fifteen, I lived in a great set-up over the garage of my parents’ house.  Having long legs, I was able to climb out the window.  Hanging from the gutter, my toes would touch the ground.  So it was easy to sneak out.

Jeff:  That must be why all those tall models seem so worldly.
Amy:  The naughtiness of sneaking out is such a seduction.  I’d hop into a limo with the waiters I worked with after school.  As soon as I arrived in the Michael Todd room at the Palladium, everybody wanted to dance with me and buy me drinks.  Within about five seconds, I was picked up by this gorgeous French model named Gabriel.  People were dancing naked, doing drugs everywhere.  Rick James and Brooke Shields, the Calvin Klein baby, were practically doing it on the dance floor next to us, being really, really wild.
     But when Gabriel called me on my teenage phone line during the week, I was afraid he’d know where I lived, that my mother would find out, or, worse, my five brothers.  I was holding my Princess phone, and my face got so hot, I hung up.  I didn’t want him to know I was a geek.

Jeff:  Do you see this kind of thing happening at Lot 61?
Amy:  Our crowd isn’t that young, but I always see naïve nice girls talking to guys, pushing the envelope.  I just say, “Girls, is this guy talking to you too much?  I could have him removed.”

Jeff:  It’s so cool to have a woman in charge.  You’re very thoughtful.  I loved that movie, Night at the Roxbury, but do those types ever manage to get inside?
Amy:  We try to keep the Neanderthals out, but there’s always one that scoots in with friends who are hip, the guy who paid for the limo, somebody who thinks he’s powerful and wants to pick up chicks.

Jeff:  Do you ever help people hook up?
Amy:  Occasionally, if I know an interesting writer, say, and a filmmaker, I might match them up.  But I do it cautiously.  Opinions are like assholes — everybody has one.

Jeff:  The club scene can be so rough.
Amy:  It’s true.  The first time I went to the Tunnel, I had to go to the bathroom.  Two men were having sex in one stall. A guy and a girl were having sex in another.  People were shooting up.  The doors were open, and I could hear it all, see people having sex, doing lines.  I was like, fifteen, and I wanted to watch, but I didn’t want people to think I was a narc.  My family was so anti-drugs — my brothers believed that you were either a pot-head or a jock.  They were jocks.

Jeff:  So it was kind of shocking.
Amy:  To see someone getting a blow job behind a bathroom door, not caring if somebody saw them, if somebody knew their name.  To a fifteen-year-old, that was just so funny.

Jeff:  Today, can you tell if someone’s on something?
Amy:  My waiters know.  They say, “That girl’s fucked up on coke.”  It’s the eyes, the nose.  It’s not allowed in my space.  If we find someone doing drugs, we throw them out.  I can’t search people coming in, but I’m responsible for everyone who walks through my door.  Look, it’s my license.  Seventeen years of hard work, and all some yahoo has to do is smoke a joint to take it away from me.

Jeff:  Do you watch a lot of people come apart at the seams
because of partying?
Amy:  You never know.  Some people are amazing — they can party rough for years.  Others go down in a short time and crash.

Jeff:  Speaking of debauchery, I heard that your waiters caught a well-known director getting a blow job in the handicapped bathroom?
Amy:  I don’t know about that.

Jeff:  Let’s talk about Marilyn Manson’s look the night he stopped by.  Does he rule or what?
Amy:  He was wearing tight, shiny plastic things, platform shoes — very Rocky Horror Picture Show, full makeup.  Nonetheless, he was well-behaved, considering his band had just trashed their dressing room upstate.

Jeff:  Security appeared tight.
Amy:  It was very dramatic.  I know he’s popular, but they double-checked how they were going to bring him in and “get him down” — sit him at a table.  They did so much pre-security work.  We back-doored him, but before Marilyn would come in from the car, they kept saying, “Clear the way, clear the way.”  His own party wouldn’t move.  They kept saying, “I’m with Marilyn.”  And he had to wait for a half hour in the limo.  And then he came in and sat with the same people who were blocking him.

Jeff:  I’ve heard the Saturday Night Live parties are good.
Amy:  At times, they’ve had so many VIPs arriving at the same time, we had to use both front and back doors.  Jerry Seinfeld, Cameron Diaz, Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jennifer Love Hewitt, the Beastie Boys, Jim Carrey, Ben Stiller, Natalie Portman.  They have really, really great parties.  We shut down at midnight for them.  It’s just the people who work on the show, the VIPs, and their friends, so everybody just hangs out.  Jim Carrey was sitting there telling stories for hours.

Jeff:  Remember anything funny that happened?
Amy:  I was leaning over, talking to John Goodman, who I know.  I was getting a drink for John, taking care of him.  And Jerry Seinfeld sat down at the next table, only I didn’t see him.  I was still bent over when I turned to get up and my boobs hit Jerry in the face.  I’m thinking, Oh, my God, I just smashed some guy in the face — and I start riffing, “A little milk in your coffee?  Nothing like wanting a cocktail and getting a little breast in your face.”  And he went right along with it.  “No, I rather enjoyed it.  Thank you!”

Jeff:  Which was the most amazing party?
Amy:  Giorgio Armani’s.  He had a guest list of 250 celebrities — and only one camera, Roxanne Lowitt.  At the end, Mr. Armani and his family sat in the corner and had dinner.  But there was Scorsese, De Niro, Sophia Loren, Mira Sorvino, Ed Burns, Lyle Lovitt.  My jaw kept dropping.

Jeff:  Any other fun fêtes?
Amy:  When the design crew at Helmut Lang threw a party, there were go-go boys dancing on top of the banquettes in leather shorts with studded chains around their necks and nothing else.  We like a surprise.  We once had a mariachi band walk through.  Even if people think it’s tacky, they never know what to expect.  The Versace styling team decorated tables for their dinner with fishbowls and pebbles and floating candles.  The table was amazing, and they had The Baroness, this famous drag-queen opera diva who dresses up in beads and sequins, singing during dinner.

Jeff:  I love her.  She’s the nanny for Susanne Bartsch’s little boy.  Do any of these parties ever get really wild?
Amy:  Kirsty Hume and Donovan Leitch had an outrageously fun Halloween party.  People were standing on top of tables, taking their tops off, dancing.  Sandra Bernhard came with a group of boys dressed as the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.  Kevin Costner came dressed as the Edward Munch painting, “The Scream.”  There were four of them, so you wouldn’t know which one was him, but eventually he took his mask off.  Kirsty and Donovan were a geisha and a samurai with really amazing makeup.  Shalom Harlow was the chalk outline that police draw around a body.  She kept laying on the floor all night to help everyone figure it out.

Jeff:  Wasn’t Leonardo DiCaprio at that party?
Amy:  He and two other people were dressed as Kiss.  We turned him away the first time because he wouldn’t tell us who he was — you had to be on the list.  The second time he came by, he said, “Okay, it’s me, Leo.”  He’s so funny and shy and quiet.  He doesn’t act up, like everyone says he does.  He doesn’t whine about a table or bug the staff.  None of his crew gets uppity or snotty.  He’s been here a lot.  And it was so cute seeing him when nobody knew who he was.  He loved it.  He was running around the room like Kiss, drinking champagne, jumping up and down, trying to act like Kiss, sticking out his tongue.  He seemed so happy that he could be himself — that is, until the word got around and his cover was blown.

Jeff:  It must be tough when everyone knows who you are and wants something.
Amy:  Can you imagine?  I don’t even like when too many people know who I am when I’m out.  They send you things, watching to see if you like the food, try to overhear what your next project is.  I used to date a restaurateur, and he could hardly eat a meal in public.  And that’s beginning to apply to me.  I’m always sensitive to how my friends behave.  Were they loud and obnoxious, did they leave a tip?

Jeff:  But I’ve noticed that the well-known people really react well to you.
Amy:  At the end of her party, I introduced myself to Cameron Diaz and said, “I’m Amy Sacco, this is my place, and I just wanted to thank you for bringing your party here.”  She’d had such a fun time at a Saturday Night Live party that insisted they throw her post-premiere party here.  And she said, “You own this place?  That’s excellent.”  When they find out that it’s a woman who owns it, they always go crazy.  Oliver Stone picked me up and twirled me around the room — “Hah,” he shouted, “do you have balls!”

Jeff:  I saw you talking to Jack Nicholson forever the night of the Chase LensCard party.  What did he say to you?
Amy:  I went over and said, “Hello, can I give you some privacy?”  And he said, in that slow, deep voice, just like one of the characters in his movies, “It’s your joint?  That’s a lot of woman for just one restaurant.”

Jeff:  Do some people party so hard they lose control?
Amy:  This guy in a three-piece suit got so intoxicated that he peed on the floor under his table.  I couldn’t believe it.  I saw them mopping it up, and I’m like, “You have got to be kidding.”  Security put him in a taxi.  But whenever you cut a person off, you’ve embarrassed them, and suddenly they’re the most important person on the planet.  They’ll have us closed down by every department under the sun.  I tell them to write the owner and complain.

Jeff:  That happens a lot?
Amy:  Constantly.  One night this guy was screaming obscenities out front, because we told him he couldn’t come in unless he put his shirt on.

Jeff:  Is there a dress code at Lot 61?
Amy:  It’s easy — pants must cover your private parts.  We mostly turn away people wearing shorts that expose part of their butt.  And this guy was screaming, “I’m a reporter, I’ll destroy you,” and that we weren’t letting him in because he’s gay and black.  And I screamed right back — that if he’d put his stupid shirt on, we’d let him in.  And this really sweet celebrity and his 13-year-old daughter were just leaving at that moment.  He smiled at me to say goodbye.  After that, he called me “fearless Freddie,” and we became really good friends.

Jeff:  How good?
Amy:  He’s offered me the use of his vacation house.

Jeff:  Are there a lot of perks?
Amy:  People offer me designer clothes, plane trips, houses — but I make sure my boyfriend is also invited.  Promoters have this, too.  They’re around people with privilege, and many of them enjoy sharing it.  They want fun people around.

Jeff:  Life is so expensive in Manhattan and L.A. that everyone has that kind of cash-register outlook.  They look at a restaurant or a person and think: four-star, banker, film star, Gucci, Hermes, expensive address.  It’s sad — you either add up immediately, or you don’t.  And they either latch on to you or write you off.
Amy:  Exactly.  It doesn’t leave any room for self-expression.  Everyone wants to categorize, and in five minutes, they put you in a box.

Jeff:  I know you’re proud of your menu, which is so delicious.  I find your short ribs inspirational.  Have you had trouble getting people to realize they can have a quiet dinner here early on in the evening?
Amy:  We’ve had people write that there is no food here, but we’ve got more food on our menu than half the restaurants in New York.

Jeff:  When I was talking with Michael Douglas at a private party here, a line of young women sort of smiling and offering themselves to him started to form.  I guess they’ve heard he’s a womanizer.
Amy:  Normally, we post a security person by the table so celebrities can decide if they want to talk to anyone.  They sense that they can trust me.  I think the real reason we stay friends is that I don’t call them, don’t ask to take pictures with them.  I try to protect them.  The only person I ever asked for an autograph was Sammy Sosa, the baseball legend.  Don’t ask me why.

Jeff:  What impresses me most about you is that I see you at 3:00 in the morning.  The music is pounding.  I can barely walk or breathe I’m so tired.  I feel like I need a month in the country.  And then the next morning, I call the office at 11:00, and you answer the phone.
Amy:  This isn’t the ’80s.  These days the party warriors are in their offices at 9:00 or 10:00 AM — whether they need an ice pack or an Alka-Seltzer.  So if food critics or celebrities walk in first thing in the morning, we have to have our act together.

Jeff:  I notice that the young people here are a different breed than when I came to New York.  I see a lot of society yuppies wearing Prada, with their cell phones in constant use.
Amy:  Gadgets are less expensive than they used to be.  The parents give kids phones so they can know where they are.  But I find that kids are much more entrepreneurial than we were at that age.  They’re also different in Manhattan than the rest of the country.  In New Jersey, most 15-year-olds can’t get to a club.  In Manhattan, they just take a taxi.  They don’t have to worry about driving drunk.

Jeff:  Any advice for the young and the restless?
Amy:  Don’t worry about your belly button all the time.  You’re not the center of the world.


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