Entrepreneur, event producer, actor, opera singer, host, innkeeper, club promoter, Levi Johnston’s Ass Whisperer–this outspoken and fascinating Renaissance Man has done it all and lived to tell about it. From the wings of Carnegie Hall, to the partitioned-off lust caves of the Ice Palace, to the offices of Playgirl Magazine, to a cross-country bus filled with drag queens and gogo boys, the man has been everywhere and shows no signs of slowing down. With dozens of projects in the works to dish about and gallons of T to spill, Thotyssey is proud to bring you Daniel Nardicio!
Thotyssey: Daniel, hello! Thanks for finding time in your insanely busy schedule with the events produced by your company DWorld to chat with us. You’re always involved in a ton of goings-on, and I see you recently presented a meet-and-greet with city council candidate Carlina Rivera at Easternbloc. How did that go?
Daniel Nardicio: To be completely honest, I ended up not being able to go to that event. I’m bouncing back and forth between Fire Island and Club Cumming, and that day one of my innkeepers was at Gay Days, being faggotty. So, I had to stay at the Inn doing laundry like a scrubwoman. My drag persona would have been Duma Sheets, who sings negro spirituals like “Go Down Moses” every 38 minutes (the wash cycle lasts that long), and you can only tip Duma in quarters ‘cause she needs them! Like Tina Burner. Anyway, I’m excited about Carlina, and the event went great according to my spies–and Alan, who went. And a big shout out to Lily of The Valley, who put it together.
Easternbloc, the East Village gay bar, will very soon be revamped as Club Cumming when the ownership baton is officially passed to your friend and frequent collaborator, actor and author Alan Cumming. You’re going to be heavily involved with events and branding there… what do you think the angles/themes/purpose of the new venue are going to be? Or is it too early to tell?
Oh God no, it’s well underway. First off, I’m a huge fan of how Alan combines celebrity and usefulness and nightlife. He’s a real gem. I know I don’t look it, but since I’m a woman of a certain age, I’m looking to do more adult events, like live music and stuff for after work. The 7-10 slot. Then after, we’re looking at very eclectic stuff, like Ana Matronic spinning obscure 70’s disco and classics (June 23rd), to Johnny Dynell giving you 90’s house music in Fired Up! June 30th.
My personal favorite is “Bette, Bathouse and Beyond” where powerhouse vocalist Amber Martin will do Bette-inspired Continental Bath songs, while the entire audience is wearing towels (which we provide). That’s June 22nd, and the response has been fantastic to the idea.
And another fave is “Reading For Filth” (June 21st) where various authors and notables read erotic literature–some clothed, some not. Natch!
My girl Glace Chase will be reading there that night! There have already been a few installments of “Reading for Filth” at Easternbloc/Club Cumming. Where do you find the readers?
It was started by Hattie Hathaway, Joe Birdsong and Dean Johnson. They held it a few times at sex parties I was throwing, before we opened the doors. I love the concept, and we don’t charge admission because I want it to be a community event, so the readers don’t really make anything, but they love reading their work.
I just want to create really varied programming. It’s very easy for bars to become very samey-samey–each bar doing the same thing. I want to try to be more interesting, and the great thing is, Club Cumming is small enough that their isn’t a huge risk if it doesn’t work. Plus, I have the sexiest partners in the world, so going to work isn’t a trial. I mean, have you seen Ben’s ass??
And you’ve got some other events going down there this month as well, right?
Yeah, one party I haven’t mentioned–but I’m stoked to do–is “Dirty Deeds” with Michael T. It’s bisexual, trans, big-dicked white straight and gay dudes who like rock-n-roll–very mixed. That happens June 16th, and we have trans diva Dina Marie Delicious hosting.
In general, being the NYC nightlife veteran that you are, is part of you like “It’s completely insane to open a nightlife venue in NYC today?”
It would be if Club Cumming was a gay bar. I would never open a gay bar. Club Cumming is a completely open bar, as long as you bring something to the table! Your energy, your enthusiasm… Everyone is welcome. Everyone is encouraged.
Okay, maybe not bachelorette parties. But I’m even thinking of doing one night a month when they are allowed. Can you imagine a bar where everyone is part of a bachelorette party?? It’s so bad, it might become Genius! Penis balloon hats for everyone!
A Cleveland native, you’ve had a long history as an actor and opera singer before you got into event production. Do you still take opportunities to perform on a stage here and there, or has that desire completely left you?
A little known fact: I quit because I became insanely nervous performing. So I decided to go behind the scenes where I could get all my needs met, but didn’t have the pressure of actually going on stage. I just in the last year got comfortable enough to host a show, but it’s not where I want to focus. I stay in my lane. I see too much of people doing too many different jobs, and not progressing. I promote.
I was fortunate enough to get cast as myself in a TV pilot of a show called West 40’s, about gay dudes who live in HK in their 40’s, but I had to bow out because my day job was too fucking busy (day job = Club Cumming, Fire Island, NOLA… etc.). But I have to laugh–an actor friend emailed me: “YOU GOT CAST IN WEST 40’S??? You don’t live on the West Side and you’re NOT in your 40’s!”
Your gay events have always been notorious for raunchy elements. Is it a constant struggle to keep authorities and “taste mongers” at bay?
No, I just do it and worry/don’t worry about the authorities. You know who I don’t like? People who steal my ideas, or come to my events for years and then invite me to a bland knock-off of what I do, pretending they came up with it. I always call them out on it. And I’ve learned this: If you stick around long enough, they mostly disappear. But it does get annoying. I’m like: “get your own fucking voice!”
Your looooing running DWorld Underwear Party–currently Friday nights at the Ice Palace–was the site of the most scandalous episode of my life, which I remember fondly. Do you think the sexier elements of gay nightlife are in danger of dwindling in these changing times?
Nope. With PrEP, and the relaxed attitude towards sex, I don’t think anything is in danger in gay bars except ingenuity. No more drag bingo! No more of the same boring “parties.” And no fucking alliteration! “Thirsty Thursdays” is not a concept! ”Frisky Fridays” is not an idea.
Grindr is not killing gay nightlife. Boring nightlife is killing gay nightlife. Oh, and alliteration. Oh, and Brandon Voss.
The legendary Johnny Dynell, whom we’ve already mentioned a few times, has been DJing a lot of these underwear parties. Do you have any other things in store for the recurring party this summer?
I mean, we learned early on that the more you throw in, the less people want you to butt in. I’ve had years where Bianca del Rio hosted, where I’ve had Bridget Everett sing “The Climb” to an orgy… I’ve even had Lady Gaga perform for my birthday, and people just want three things: to get naked, get a drink in their hand, and dance. So I cut out the extras years ago, and just invest in great music (Johnny), great gogo, and more staff to get people in fast!
I always thought your career was so fascinating because it rotates between these very gay-specific gay nightlife celebrities like Bianca, Dina Martina and the wonderful Sweetie, and also with these major Hollywood stars like Alan, Liza Minelli and Margaret Cho. How did this broad canvas of collaboration evolve to what it is today?
Thanks for noticing! It was a very conscious decision on my part to move into concert producing. I wasn’t given much respect in gay nightlife, except from sex addicts who loved my work. So I branched out into music, and suddenly people say the nicest things about me, not just “AIDS peddler,” but “Impresario!”
But the funny part of it is that the shows more often than not aren’t the real breadwinners–it’s the parties. The shows just make me happy. And I love working with talent, whether it’s Liza or Adam Killian–because keeping an erection for three hours while dancing is as big an accomplishment as holding a high note for two bars, in my book. I’ve done both, and they are both a talent!
Liza & Alan, the cabaret collaboration between friends Alan Cumming and Liza Minelli that you produced, was such a huge success–everybody loved it. Was that a career highlight for you?
Understatement. Hearing from Liza’s people that she was into my idea of pairing her with Alan for Fire Island was my single best work day ever–and I’ve been lucky to have a lot of great days. The show, working with such pros, and the end result of getting to record an album of them both together–which some day we may get to release!? Heaven.
Boy, that took off! I was just exhausted seeing Ginger’s posts [campaigning for] Homecoming Queen in Cherry Grove Untucked, and I decided to throw my hat in the ring to heat things up. People got very upset, thinking that I was serious and making fun of Ginger. I mean, I was, but it wasn’t mean-spirited. It was another example of people taking things too seriously, and getting offended easily.
But I had fun, and the smart people that got it thought it was hilarious. I may run again next year. My platform is simple: Daniel Nardicio: A troubled man for troubled times. Lesbians on leashes and tax breaks for bottoms!
I was wondering what your opinion was about the current Kathy Griffin situation. Was the whole Trump’s severed head photo thing a line-crosser, was it wrong for her to apologize, and is it scary for all of us who are vocal about our dislike of the current administration that she’s being investigated?
I met her when I did the show once, and I thought she was warm and lovely, but exhausted.
My take on this is: It’s just as much work to stay famous as to get famous, and Kathy, like Joan Rivers, works tirelessly to stay famous. It was more or less a publicity stunt, which the Repubs–in their need to take focus off the horrible record of our “president”–used like a football. Do you really think Barron was fooled into thinking Kathy Griffin was holding his fathers real head?? Oh PLEASE.
Kathy is running with this, as she should, and it will make her millions long term. People have, as Penny Arcade so astutely noted, “cultural amnesia” nowadays. Old people still talk about Hanoi Jane, but young people can’t remember what used to stand where that Starbucks is. It’s a sign of the times. Next week, they’ll be outraged at someone else.
Speaking of Sweetie earlier, everyone loved the final birthday party you threw for her. The event was loaded with legendary figures in NYC nightlife and beyond, and it was a great night. What was it about Sweetie that made her such a special person and entertainer?
Sweetie was, bar none, the best lip syncher I’ve ever seen. And a really great host who could regale a room on stories about being “drunk on dick” the night before, that were so funny I couldn’t catch my breath. She was a hilarious person, often calling me and impersonating a sex worker talking about dildo-ing herself (the verb of “to dildo oneself”), or calling me and saying “I just got my cunt busted in Bethpage.” Her love and use of the English language was so unique. There will never be another Sweetie. She was also my friend with whom I shared holidays, birthdays… in other words, family.
I saw a video–some sort of pilot, I think–of you on a bus filled with gogo boys and drag queens and etc. (including Sweetie, Bianca and the always fun Robbyne Kaamil) touring the country and trying to spread gay cheer while getting harassed by law enforcement. You could probably write a whole book on that experience alone!
That was a trip! It’s in my book, Every Inch The Winner, coming out when I fucking finish it, mmmkay??
I went to Logo and tried to sell it, but they didn’t want drag queens! Look at them now, sucking at the teat of Ru. Such a wasted opportunity, Logo was. They passed on great stuff, and gave us The A List. And that Fire Island show??? Five queens in a house in the Pines, and no one was doing drugs or fucking?? I’d be getting that shit on camera! Sam, my assistant, gets more ass in our Jacuzzi at Big Dick’s Halfway Inn on one Friday than they got all season.
If you really want to see shows on Fire Island, sit in the bushes and watch Sam in the Big Dicks jacuzzi do his “Dance of the Seven Veils”–it’s MUST SEE TV.
Did you catch legendary entertainment columnist Michael Musto’s celebrity roast? I watched some live video of Jinkx Monsoon being hilarious, but running way too long and getting yelled at onstage by Judy Gold!
I loved it, and I adore Michael. BUT, Jynkx turned me off because as a producer, she went on too long! I mean, respect the rules of the roast! Michael is one of the greats because he really keeps the articles real, was out before anyone (he outed Cole Porter!), and has integrity. We’re working on a show of duets for Club Cumming! He sings!
As someone who has also worked for a long time in marketing and publishing, you’re notorious for being the man who served us Bristol Palin’s babydaddy Levi Johnston’s butt in Playgirl’s most famous issue. It was a pretty cute butt! Do you think Levi realized that it would be basically all men who’d be ogling it, though?
Straight men always tricked themselves into believing that only women were flicking their beans to their cocks in Playgirl, when we all know that gay dudes love it too. For the record, Levi had a fat cock that looked like an upside down Oscar! I wanted to accept it like an award!
If you were still doing marketing for Playgirl today, would you be pursuing Jared Kushner’s ass for an issue?
No, I never really went for the obvious. Even when the uppers at Playgirl would say ”go after Justin Bieber,” I was like: “why would a kid with that kind of money do Playgirl? The request wouldn’t even get through his people.” You had to think outside the box.
Damn, that would have been a great tagline for Playgirl: “Thinking Outside the Box Since 1973.” Missed Opportunity!
Some gay nightlife moguls have gone under fire in recent years for sponsoring Republican events. In your opinion, is this an absolute no-no if you want to keep doing gay events, or does modern reality dictate that you have to suck it up and work for whoever can pay your fee?
I do what I want, and I don’t really care if it upsets people. I just live by the “I’d rather ask for forgiveness than permission” motto, which works for me. Thankfully, I’m not attracted to Republicans or things that will get me too much attention.
I actually am surprised that I don’t get into more trouble. I try! Last week I wrote ‘Midgets are Sketchy” on Facebook, because in my career, almost all midgets I’ve worked with have been sketchy! Then, some moron sent a complaint email to me and CC’ed a “Little People” group–but they didn’t even care. I didn’t know you couldn’t say “midget”–I can’t keep up with people’s manufactured outrage. I was just told yesterday that midgets don’t want to be called Little People anymore, its now PORG: Person of Restricted Growth. I mean, c’mon! I’m no longer Daniel, I’m a PWEP: Person With an Engorged Penis.
Let’s talk about this DWorld Season. Besides the underwear parties, you’ll be doing stuff all summer and beyond on Fire Island. First off, on July 1st, you’re bringing Alyssa Edwards and her Haus to the Pines, along with Shangela and DJ Pearl. Why do you think Alyssa Is everyone’s favorite Drag Race gal?
As actress Bianca Leigh says, “I could watch Alyssa read a phone book.” She’s captivating! Such a kook! Plus, Sam my PORG-Y Assistant lives for her, so he told me to book her. When the children speak, I listen!
Side question: who is/was your favorite queen on this Drag Race season?
Valentina! But that lip synch??? Peppermint is also one of my favorite people in nightlife. Unlike me, she has never said a bad thing about anyone. She lights up a room. I was Team Valentina, but now I’m Team Pep, or Sasha–I love me a cerebral queen!
And I see you’re bringing Lady Bunny’s hilarious stageshow Trans-Jester to the Ice Palace on July 14th. I got a chance to see the show towards the end of it’s run at Stonewall recently and loved it. She’s a comic genius, but she ain’t politically correct by any means! Do we need Bunny and her brand now more than ever?
Yes. Plus they don’t call me “The Wizard of Was” for nothing: Liza, Chita, Carol Channing, now Bunny! I get ‘em while they’re lukewarm! Just kidding: Liza, Chita and Carol aren’t lukewarm, they’re still hot.
Seriously, Bunny’s new show is exactly what I mean: people, lighten the fuck up.
Another NYC legend, actor and writer and all-around fabulous human Charles “Psycho Beach Party” Busch brings us a new event you’re producing, Naked & Unafraid, to the Pines on August 12! How long have you known Charles, and how would you explain his genius to the uninitiated?
I cant! Charles is such a gem, and a real gentleman. I don’t know him well, but I cant say enough nice things about him. I haven’t actually seen this show, so I’m excited! And he’s doing this show naked, which will be a treat! It’s in the title!
Cho is the best! I like her as a person, I like her politics, and she does two back-to-back shows on Fire Island of new material… and they are two DIFFERENT shows! That’s three hours. She’s been good to us gays, all the while being hilarious.
And looking ahead into September, you’ve just announced the return date of another annual event that men across the globe who like dancing with naked men put on their calendar: Spartacus at the Belvedere on the 9th! This event includes the infamous Mr. Nude Belvedere Contest. I’ve yet to see one of these Nardicio nude contests, but it’s certainly on my bucket list. I bet it’s the only gay contest a person can enter these days without spending two months rent on a look.
Less is more at Spartacus! But I love this party. I know I sound like I love everything I do, but I do, and that is why I feel successful. I’m not rich, or particularly great-looking, but I got the dick of death and I enjoy my life a lot–its work, but I enjoy it.
Spartacus is also a great way to see the Belvedere Guest House, which is like Liberace’s starter house, it’s so opulent.
As earlier mentioned, you’re the owner of Big Dick’s Halfway Inn at Cherry Grove all year long, which is a fun sexy destination for vacationers and day trippers alike. How on Earth do you find the time to oversee an inn all summer long (or beyond) while doing everything else that you do?
I have the best guy in the world working for me: Sam “Porg” Benedict. He’s simply the best. And Jason “Naked” Barker, comes in a close second. The trick for me was to ally with people who liked my vision, and who could help to take it further. Sam and Jason run the inn, I just pay the bills and promote it! They call me BIG DICK behind my back!
You’d have to ask Dina–she’s simply the funniest person I know. No title of any show has anything to do with the actual content, and that’s Dina in a nutshell. Iv’e been blessed that she’s allowed me to squire her ‘ballpark figure” around the states in shows.
I’m sure I’m missing a lot… is there anything else we should be talking about that’s coming up for you?
Girl I’m tired of typing! NO!
[Editor’s Note: I’ll mercifully chime in here and add that Daniel just announced the application process has opened for his production of the 6th Annual New York Boylesque Festival.]
Okay, last question: if you could produce a show right now headlined by three divas, no matter how famous they are or how unlikely they would ever work with each other… who would you pick?
Shirley Bassey, Dolly Parton, Kylie. I would DIE!!!!!!!!!
A Holy Trinity if there ever was one, and if anyone could make it happen it’s you! Thanks so much, Daniel!