A longtime writer on music, entertainment and the nightlife beat who’s recently covered some major stories in the scene, Michael Cook is also an event producer and promoter (and recent GLAM nominee). Now he’s here to tell us about a major drag event happening on the other side of the River!
Thotyssey: Michael, thanks for chatting tonight! Spring is here… are you enjoying the season so far?
Michael Cook: My partner and I have a home in Rehoboth Beach, DE so we are opening the house for the season–and at the same time, I am preparing for a fantastic summer in Asbury Park, NJ! I’m happy and blessed to have options.
As a nightlife writer, you turn up basically everywhere! Do you have a favorite venue that you enjoy frequenting in NYC?
Bar-wise I am a huge fan of Gym Bar; the staff is amazing, and their happy hour has a consistently great vibe. Rockbar is fantastic, the Eagle rarely disappoints (especially when DJ James Anthony spins) and the Monster remains a classic (Sunday Disco with Greg Scarnici and Robin Byrd)! Showtunes at the Duplex and cocktails at Stonewall have become somewhat of a NYC Pride week tradition for my friends and I. I also love popping into spaces that I haven’t checked out yet, and discovering brand new favorite places as well.
You’re actually one of the few folks regularly writing about queer nightlife in this City. Is it still fun and interesting to cover the scene, or do you get burnt out from it?
Nightlife never gets boring to me. I love to discover people doing things in a completely new and inventive way, and putting a fresh spin on it. I also love to see people giving spaces to new and emerging talent; so many of the legends we have today were birthed at places like “Drag Wars” at Barracuda and the Pyramid Club (RIP).
Can you tell us a bit about where you’re from originally, and what your early history is with writing?
Originally I am from Bogota, Colombia but I was raised and bred a complete Jersey boy. When I first started hitting the New York City scene, HX Magazine, Next Magazine and The Village Voice were my bibles and my North Stars. I would read “La Dolce Musto” (by Michael Musto) religiously (what an honor it was to be considered in the same category as he for a GLAM Award)! I soaked up magazines like Genre, The Advocate, and Out Magazine, and dove into the nightlife culture all over the country head first.
You’ve written for Hornet.com, Out, Instinct, and other magazines and sites. Currently you’re currently with WERRRK.com. How did you come into the world of nightlife writing?
A friend of mine worked for a local NJ publication, and asked me to come on board and write a music column. I did so, and slowly expanded into entertainment. There were no shortcuts, and there were a lot of “no’s” that came my way in the beginning. Slowly though, I built relationships with PR firms and networks– many of which I still work with over a decade later. I recently looked at my high school yearbook, and one of my life goals was to become a writer. Box checked, I guess!
Did you ever get any memorable feedback from a reader, or whomever, on something you’ve written? Maybe even from the person you wrote about?
Someone very wise told me a long time ago: “don’t read the comments”–although I’ve definitely peeked at a few once or twice. I’ve gotten some lovely messages on pieces I’ve written from the people I’ve spoken to, and that never fails to be a complete thrill… especially if it is someone I’ve admired. I also made Joan Rivers laugh out loud; nothing will ever be better.
One major change in journalism is that social media is now essential to share articles.
You’re right, social media is crucial for journalists all over to distribute their content. I’ve also developed great contacts through social media, and had some amazing collaborations with people I’ve met on social media. I encourage anyone in the industry to look at the new and emerging artists, authors or recording artists that come up as you scroll on Instagram or TikTok. I’ve discovered some true treasure, and been lucky enough to feature them. People like Jared Milian, John Duff and Anne Steele are so talented, and I’ve gotten to turn others onto their music through my writing.
What was your favorite “era” of nightlife to have written about, or just experienced?
MC: My first nightlife era was the end of the Club Kid Era. I got to know some of them during that era, but it was slowly ending at that time. My most vivid nightlife memories are from the era of the big nightclub; everywhere from Palladium for Junior Vasquez’s “Arena,” Twilo, Roxy, and Tunnel. I met countless people at that time, some of which I get to call friends today. The experiences I had at these spaces shaped my own nightlife sensibilities, and framed how I write about the nightlife culture of today. Years later, getting to know people like Hex Hector, Junior Vasquez, and the dearly departed Peter Rauhofer outside of the DJ booth never won’t be a treat.
Your more recent articles about The Q’s many problems got tons of circulation, and even got you a well-deserved GLAM nom! Was it crazy to see how those articles really helped to change people’s perspectives about that particular place, and about the bad habits of local venue spaces in general regarding inclusivity, drugs, etc.?
Thank you so much for the kind words. Accountability is so crucial, and the behavior that allegedly was occurring at The Q is not acceptable in today’s nightlife landscape. I was beyond pleased to see people not just read the articles, but to take action by pulling their shows and not patronizing the venue any longer. Is there one more chapter for me to write on downfall of The Q? There just might be…
Also, the crash and burn of the Oasis nightclub in Asbury Park, before it even opened and, like, a day after it was announced (!), was another wild ride you covered. Those would-be owners really messed up with the tone of that announcement, didn’t they?
The missteps made with this announcement were exactly that. In short, community is to be revered, respected, and when you enter into a new market, your homework should be done. Asbury Park has a famed nightlife history with multiple LGBTQ establishments existing at the same time. Paradise for example, is a tentpole of the LGBTQ community in Asbury Park and on the East Coast as a whole; even remotely bashing any business in print is never going to work in your favor.
What’s happening now in the country with this anti-drag legislature is bewildering. Do you think that this speaks to the intense queerphobia that still exists everywhere?
This is a rinse and repeat of Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign in the 1970’s. And while I’m not suggesting anyone should slap an elected official with a cream pie like they did to her, it was not about saving children then any more than it is now. It’s about those with an overly puritanical view of the world trying to impart that on us; and it most definitely is not going to work. Our community is strong, diverse, galvanized and ready to take on this fight.
You are currently promoting what looks to be a very important and entertaining day-long event at Paradise on Sunday, May 7th: “Drag Queen Visibility Day!” The activities of the day are centered around uniting the community in the face of this anti-drag rhetoric, educating folks on voting and politics, and also just pure entertainment with shows and panels hosted by queens like Jolina Jasmine, Victoria Courtez, Pissi Myles, Bella Sky, Tastie, Cee’Mour Cox, Miss Paradise 2023 Sapphira Cristal and more.
There is a reason that Paradise just received a mention on the RuPaul’s Drag Race main stage; countless drag queens can call it the place where they got their start. RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants Honey Davenport and Olivia Lux have even been crowned Miss Paradise. Drag Queen Visibility Day truly has something for everyone; a Drag Queen Story Hour with Jolina Jasmine and “Drag Zumba” with Victoria Courtez. The event culminates in a proclamation from the City of Asbury Park declaring May 7th officially Drag Queen Visibility Day. This is a day for not just the LGBTQ community to show their support for the drag community, but for our allies to unequivocally show that they stand in solidarity with us.
What else is going on with you, or coming up for you?
I am about to dive into another season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8 to do weekly elimination interviews, which will keep me very busy. I have some big-name interviews that I am about to conduct and schedule; one is particularly “Wicked.”
I’ve also gotten into event production of my own in the past couple years. I have two seasons of consistently sold-out “Pork Roll Egg & Queens” drag brunches at Curtains Restaurant in Avenel, NJ. I also work closely with the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, NJ and have helped develop their Ocean Pride brand. We’ve had some spectacular drag showcase events, and are about to announce a big event for Pride month where you may see a few familiar faces.
By the way, any interest in writing a book someday?
Have I been approached? Yes. Do I have ideas of my own? Yes. I’ll say this: if I have something to announce shortly, you’ll be the first to know.
And finally: as you said, the cast of Drag Race All-Stars 8 was just announced! Whose team are you on?
This season has everything: classic performers like Mrs. Kasha Davis to hometown favorites like Kandy Muse; this is my favorite type of All Stars cast. I think RuPaul says it best: “I can’t wait to see how this turns out…”
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Michael Cook’s upcoming appearances, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
One thought on “On Point With: Michael Cook”
What an amazing human being! He is a trusted member and thought leader in our community in Asbury Park. In addition, he constantly supports + mentors our Drag Queens from negotiating contracts to ensuring personal safety of the artists, and everything in between.