Longtime Brooklyn scenester and former restaurant manager, Anna-Lisa Campos is the producer of Macri Park’s vital WALLBREAKER monthly benefit show which has it’s epic third anniversary this week. Anna-Lisa tells Thotyssey how she got here and where she’s going… but first, we dish on the joys and sorrows of coat check.
Anna-Lisa Campos: Fun! My favorite part of Saturdays at Metro are the beginning and the end of the shift–the lead-in is Reaubert’s delightful “Honey Please,” which sets a cool tone to kick things off, and we have such a motley assortment of special guests and a regular crew for Frankie Sharp’s METROSENSUAL that I just adore. I missed a big chunk of the season due to a gnarly marathon bout of pneumonia, and I’m glad to be back in the mix—I missed everyone! Since I’ve started making appearances again, the weekends have been downright balmy and tropical lately… so it hasn’t been too wild just yet. How has the season been for you?
Not bad! Pieces has been incredibly busy, and now that our baby sister bar Playhouse is finally up and running down the street, the West Village has been booming. But as far as the business of coat check goes: it’s supposed to be a simple transaction. But I find that whenever it doesn’t go smoothly—people don’t have the two dollars, they lose their tickets, they’re basic assholes, etc.–it makes me lose faith in humanity a little! Am I exaggerating?
Not at all! The sole purpose of the role is to help people. You’re watching their things so they can have fun, dance, do whatever. So, it’s confusing when they are resistant to friendly suggestions or common courtesy. For the most part, everyone is lovely, and it’s fun to be there–but I do need to remind myself that the late night weekend crowd is out to have fun, and they are drinking and I’m not.
There’s always a few unpleasant folks in any service scenario. I’ve had folks try to check their coat with their significant other’s because “they are basically the same person,” and I regularly have folks try to collect their coat a second time, while already wearing it. I recently had one of my more wild situations, where someone had hidden a bottle of wine in their coat sleeve. You’d think that basic comprehension of, say, the laws of gravity would render that a bad idea, but it didn’t–and when the bottle fell out of the coat while I was checking it, they didn’t apologize for the broken glass or wine mess, but rather they claimed it was a $400 bottle of wine and asked about how I was going to rectify the situation. Unbeknownst to them, I am a wine professional by trade, so as a certified sommelier I knew that the bottle was something that retails for less than $20–baller bottles generally don’t have tasting notes and pairing suggestions on the back label–but I digress.
You go, girl! So besides coat check at Metro and sister bar Macri Park, I know mind the door for some shows at both venues. And then of course there is the monthly benefit show Wallbreaker you produce, which we will get to in a bit. But how did your association with these two bars begin?
I’ve gone to Metro a bunch over the years, kinda casually, and I even lived around the corner when it opened–newer folks have no idea what a big deal it was when these doors opened! I used to organize art shows and band showcases around the city in the ‘90s and early aughts. I kinda caught the end of the fun nightlife time, and when I was a teenager it was super easy to chalk up the old NY IDs with some Aqua Net and pastel pencils from Pearl Paint.
Anyway, I’d slowed down on nightlife, and then started coming around to Sugarland and TNT to see my friend Ruby Roo–who I had met pre-drag, when they were still Bow/It Boy, and had hired at the restaurant I was managing at the time. I went to TNT a lot, and when that closed I started going to Macri and Metro more.
I made a career change just about two years ago, and for the first time ever had weekend nights free. [Metro co-owner] Maty was super lovely, and had me pick up Saturday coat check and some door shifts here and there. And then [Metro co-owner] Steven invited me to start working at Metro on the weekends. It’s a real privilege to have worked in both spaces, around such talented and funny and smart friends. Maty has given Wallbreaker such a true home, and I’m glad I still get to be a part of Macri at least once a month. Steven is an incredible manager, really fair and open and invested in this space that’s an institution–he’s so good that he reminds me just how much I don’t want to go back to managing bars and restaurants myself! I’m super happy just making my weekend cameos as a helping hand here and there.
You’re a married lady! Is your husband a Metro and Macri regular as well?
Not so much! He’s a writer and a bit of an earlier bird. He prefers more low key situations. He likes The Exley quite a bit! Everyone there is really great, and we are both big fans of their trivia night. I can occasionally wrangle him to a happy hour at Macri, but I haven’t been out as much myself these days. Hopefully soon!
So, Wallbreaker has been a monthly showcase at Macri Park that functions as a benefit for different charities each installment. How did this all begin, and how did you first become involved?
BibleGirl666, Jay Lauren and Cameron Cole dreamed this concept up in the wake of the devastating election results in 2016. They had brought me in to help with the first party in January of 2017, the month our current shitshow got inaugurated, so I’ve been around since the beginning. The first few months it was us, along with Meg Cavanagh. Over time, the team evolved, and I took on more of the production aspects. My main contribution is based in my organizational skills, but it was fun to get back into producing which I hadn’t done since I was doing those art nights and band showcases back in the day.
Our first organization was Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, who I’ve since become more involved with outside of Wallbreaker, and we’ve raised money and awareness for a wide variety of activist and advocacy groups. We try to focus our attention to local and more grassroots efforts, where these contributions can have the most impact. Over the years, I’ve definitely had the most consistent hand in keeping the show running, behind the scenes and off stage, but I view Wallbreaker as a collective at heart–and it certainly isn’t possible without the scores of artists that have contributed their time and talent over the years.
I have a dream of being 65 and showing up at Macri, no one knowing who I am, and Wallbreaker still being alive and well. It’s an honor to be a part of this thing, which is so special, and it’s seriously my favorite part of every month. The current team is myself, Meg, and more recently Blvck Laé D and Magenta. It’s a true pleasure and privilege to work with this team, and I feel like we all bring our own special and unique energy to this endeavor, which I think is crucial in order for it to continue to thrive and grow.
I know how challenging it can be to get a bunch of artists together for anything, let alone an unpaid benefit… organizing a monthly recurring benefit show must be unbelievably taxing.
It is, for sure. But the generosity of spirit that exists in Brooklyn is so inspiring, and I am truly in awe every month at how much good will and interest people have in participating in the show or attending the party.
I remember last year, there was this article about RuPaul being the “patron saint” of the city’s gay bars, and it featured Metro’s viewing party. It was cool exposure for the bar and that party, but I couldn’t help but think that a story that would be more true to Brooklyn would be all of the awareness and fundraising parties we have in BK! It is endlessly inspiring. I’ve been able to be a part of the charitable aspect of the BNAs the past two years, but folks like Tyler Ashley, Untitled Queen, Horrorchata, Switch n’ Play, Ickarus, The Nobodies, my co-producers at Wallbreaker, and so many others are just a constant force that makes the Brooklyn nightlife community even more of a rich place to be: as generous as it is creative, challenging our systems and social injustice just as much as it is challenging everything else through art.
It can sound sappy, but despite the hard work it really is a privilege. And I really get to work with the best team that comes together to make Wallbreaker happen each month, because it’s inherently a team effort across the board.
Does anything stand out to you as the greatest Wallbreaker moment in the show’s history so far?
Oh gosh! So many! Certainly one of the most unique and truly special was this past September, when we had members of QDEP perform along with us – there were live performances, and this absolutely jaw-dropping group number to “Vogue.” These are queer folks that came to NYC as asylum seekers, most of whom were performing for the first-time ever in a queer space. The energy in the room was overwhelmingly supportive, and the space was bursting with love. I teared up!
On a terrifically different note, Wallbreaker is also the reason for the birth of my queen Ramen Bitch – and for that I say to Brooklyn both you’re welcome, and I’m sorry. I also hear from my Wallbreaker teammates that we’ve got some cute surprises in store for the anniversary this week, which I’m so excited to see!
Yes, it’s now Wallbreaker’s third anniversary! Did the time fly by?
In some ways! However, with the very impetus for the party being intrinsically tied to the sham that is this dangerous and terrifying presidential administration–hence our name, “Wallbreaker.” Our work won’t be done regardless of who is in office, indicated by the mere fact that organizations like QDEP have been on the ground doing the same work since before Wallbreaker even existed. However, my hope is that for our fourth anniversary we will be celebrating an inauguration that offers something that is, in the least, more hopeful than what these past few years have been.
Have an amazing show! Sidebar: Ruby’s long-running and popular Macri Park show Mondays on Mondays is now officially over! Can you believe it?
I can’t! I’ve made so many real, true, amazing friends by going to Mondays back in the early days at TNT, then at Macri. Its basically where I met my friends that were a part of the original Wallbreaker team. It’s the rare comedy show that created a true community around it. Without exaggeration, its a place where bar regulars became friends, and friends became family. It’s such a singular presence and I’m so sad to see it go. I haven’t been out much recently, and it’s one of those institutions that you take for granted will always be there. It’s truly the end of an era.
Indeed! So, what else do the children need to know?
Besides Wallbreaker, me and baby sis Lady Simon are coming back to Macri to host the most fun Oscar Party in Brooklyn on February 9th! We have ballots for a prize, but also play Oscar Bingo for drinks and shots, and have lots of free popcorn and snacks for the show.
On a more serious note, I’d like to encourage everyone in the nightlife community or hospitality industry to learn and speak up about the proposed 100% tariffs on wine, spirits, clothing, cheese, olive oil, and more from the EU. The Trump administration is playing fast and loose with jobs and small business with the threat of these tariffs. The ramifications can be severe for independently owned bars and restaurants, so it’s crucial for folks in nightlife to speak out in opposition!
An absolute must. Okay, in closing: what would your drag name be?
Oooh, good question! If my embarrassing undergraduate dabbles in performance art are any indication (a savvy internet search can sometimes turn up a choice piece of VHS video art that involves scotch tape and smooth jazz I made while studying with Marina Abramovic in ‘99), it’s safe to say a career in performing isn’t in the cards for me. That said, probably something booze-related: Fernetta Boutit? Shotta Fernet? Sham Pain? Sherry Drinker? Are these taken? I’m absolutely at my best when behind the scenes, rather than on stage!
We’ll take you any way we can get you! Thanks, Anna-Lisa!