Sharp memories: “Big Sonia,” a poignant documentary about Sonia Warshawski, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor stubbornly operating the last store in a defunct Kansas City shopping mall, is currently screening at the Quad Cinema on W. 13th St. The film mixes the present with memories of her nightmarish past, which are portrayed in animation. We caught the premiere, complete with a “talk back” with the subject and filmmakers, last Saturday evening. Afterward, we asked Warshawski her thoughts about being in the Village for the movie’s opening. Basically, the idea had terrified her! Eighteen years ago, she visited here for either a wedding or bar mitzvah, and it was a frightening experience for her just to walk down the street. “I looked to the right, and I saw a man and a woman putting needles in their arms,” she recalled. “My granddaughter told me, ‘It’s not like that anymore.’ ” Her son, Morrie Warshawski, a consultant and poet from Napa, California, who was at the event, told us it’s true. “I remember she came back and she said, ‘Oh, Moishela, you can’t believe what I saw.’ They were walking in the Village and people were shooting up.” He said he didn’t recall if it was in the West or East Village. Also on hand for the screening were the two filmmakers, Sonia’s granddaughter, Leah Warshawski, and her husband, Todd Soliday, from Seattle. It’s a very touching film, and Leah and Todd stress that they really want it to educate young people about the importance of tolerance in today’s world.
Seeking senate seat: With Brian Kavanagh moving to the state Senate, two Democratic candidates have so far declared they are in the running for his Assembly seat. Harvey Epstein, a former chairperson of the East Village’s Community Board 3, who is currently the Urban Justice Center’s director for its Community Development Project, is one. Epstein, who is also a tenant member of the Rent Guidelines Board, has long been interested in seeking political office. He was reportedly interested in running for City Council in the East Village’s District 2 in the past, but never actually did it. The other candidate who has declared to date is Mike Corbett, a former Teamster who now works for the City Council, and has lived in the district his whole life. Corbett served a number of years as president of the New York State Young Democrats, where he was known for his organizing efforts. The 74th Assembly District stretches from up around the United Nations down through Stuyvesant Town and the East Village. We hear the special election will most likely be called by Governor Andrew Cuomo in early 2018.
Get the goose: Now that it’s turned cold again, the Canada Goose vegan protesters have returned to Soho, picketing outside the winter-wear company’s Wooster St. flagship store, between Spring and Prince Sts. They’re trying to be both a little more strategic and mysterious this time around, Nathan Semmel, one of their members, tells us. “We are going to try to stay unpredictable in terms of scheduling this year,” he said. “We are also beginning to target boutique stores that carry CG. We have had a couple of successes. Our tactic has been writing, calling and dropping by the stores first. If they refuse to stop selling CG (and ultimately all fur, if they carry additional brands), then we are going to protest outside of those stores.” For example, last Saturday, they demonstrated outside Canada Goose for about an hour, then moved on to Kith, a “street-gear” retailer, at Lafayette and Bleecker Sts. The vegan activists charge the down in the Canada Goose coats is cruelly repeatedly “live plucked” from the birds, and they condemn the use of real coyote fur for the garments’ collars. Clearly, the signature black coats, with their distinctive circular “Arctic Program” red-white-and-blue patches on the left shoulder, are suddenly again everywhere you look. Beyond the coats’ cruelty, it’s surprising that in such a style-conscious place as New York, everyone wants to look alike. Some say people like to wear the coats because everyone knows that they are expensive. “They really are everywhere,” Semmel said of the pricey parkas. “However, awareness regarding the cruelty of fur is growing. We have recently seen Gucci and some other big brands declare they will no longer use fur because of the cruelty. Just today, Burlington pledged to no longer sell fur. I agree it is primarily about status. What a sad commentary.”
Getting in the paper: It’s an open secret that if you’re a writer who wants to get into newspapers or other publications, Susan Shapiro’s class at The New School (“Write for NYC News, Mags, Web”) is a great place to start. However, it was just by chance that a former student of hers, writer Gail Eisenberg, landed on the front page of The Villager’s Nov. 9 issue — in a photo. Eisenberg, who wasn’t identified in the caption, was pictured at the Refuse Fascism march, wearing an “Arrest Trump” T-shirt and holding a photo of a prison cell with the caption, “The Fall White House.” We don’t know if Shapiro can take credit for the photo, but she did tip us off that it was her former student!
High hopes: After the City Council recently voted to strike down the city’s Cabaret Law, which bans dancing in places with liquor licenses that lack a cabaret permit, we reached out to Ian Dutton, our favorite goth commercial airline pilot / rivethead (person who likes industrial dance music). Starting in 1999 and for a few years after, Dutton was active with a group called Contempt that fought to repeal the law. “Honestly, I’ve given up on New York’s nightlife,” Dutton e-mailed us. “As I write, I’ve just landed in London — we’re here to go to two amazing club nights that have no equivalent in NYC, before heading to Munich, where I co-host and appear in a latex-designers fashion show and Shea [Shea Hovey, his wife] models in it, as well. Again, there is no parallel to this event in NYC. After we were unable to convince the NY State Court of Appeals that the state Constitution protects social dancing, and early in the Bloomberg years there was a Trojan-horse proposal to end the Cabaret Law, the enforcement of the law tapered off, as did my involvement. At the same time, my job gave me the opportunity to travel regularly to cities where underground nightlife was still thriving, so I stopped fighting and started dancing — just rarely in New York. I’m thrilled that New York will finally bury the last bits of this law of racist origin. After years of community board service [Dutton was a member of Community Board 2], I still maintain that the presence of dancing is irrelevant in determining whether an establishment is a good neighbor. I’m hopeful that this is a step in re-establishing New York’s credentials as a cultural Petri dish.”
Correction: A caption on a photo of a woman in last week’s article on the Club 57 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art did not properly identify her as artist Marlene Weisman. Weisman exhibited at Club 57 in shows curated by Keith Haring.