THE EDITOR’S DESK: About Last Night

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Last night was The Rumpus Launch Party at Crash Mansion in New York. I didn’t have enough volunteers. Actually, I didn’t have any volunteers. There were people that volunteer for The Rumpus, like Juliet Linderman and Thomas Seely. But they were there to see the show. Ainsley Drew was there with her family (note to Ainsley, I’m sorry I didn’t meet your family!). But I didn’t have any volunteers that were there to like, WATCH THE DOOR.

So I needed a cashier. Juliet stepped up, along with our esteemed books editor Andrew Altschul. So did James Frey and Davy Rothbart. If you came last night chances are you gave your money to the founder of Found Magazine or the author of Bright Shiny Morning. But that’s just the way it is at The Rumpus. Everybody does his or her part. The famous people work door lines in the freezing cold, the assistant editors of the world are paid exorbitant salaries, much more than the editor-in-chief. Here at The Rumpus, we’re turning everything upside down.

Wait, I have to tell you about last night. Because two things happened. There was Rumpus, and there was not so Rumpus. There was Will Sheff and Tim Bracy and Beth Wawerna, all crooning like the world was ending to a spellbound crowd rocking gently on vinyl sofas and sitting on the floor. There was Davy Rothbart threatening Jonathan Ames to say away from his girlfriend and Jonathan Ames interviewing people in the audience. Starlee Kine did her sticky notes and Michael Showalter showed a video he made and Kristen Shaal talked about the transformation she made when she joined Flight of the Conchords. Andrew Greer was drunk and jetlagged and kind of brilliant and so good looking. It was like he was an advertisement for why it’s better to be gay and Rick Moody was there, just hanging out.

But when I was on stage I didn’t talk about The Rumpus. I talked about what was going on in San Francisco. Over the last seventeen days my neighborhood had banded together to stop American Apparel from opening on Valencia Street. “What wrong with American Apparel?” you ask. And I say, “It’s not about American Apparel, it’s about formula retail. It’s about every street and mall in American looking the same, with the same stores and the same coffee shops.” I say, “Formula retail is the death of art and a whole lot of other things. And even if American Apparel is cool, it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. Because there are 250 of them in 20 countries. You can’t have an American Apparel on your street and any kind of character. And yes we have to deal with gentrification and save rent control and work harder and come together more. And we had to stop American Apparel, because they would have been a beachhead and then it would be Urban Outfitters and Gap and Starbucks and welcome to any street USA.”

And at the same time The Rumpus launch party was happening the planning commission was meeting in San Francisco. There were more people than had ever shown up for a planning meeting (or so I’ve been told). Hundreds of people, with two overflow rooms. The meeting extended into the evening. And I have to say here, because I want to give credit but also where it intersects with me, I started the Stop American Apparel campaign. I put up the posters and the website and got the local merchants together. I didn’t do the majority of the work. That would be Isaac Fitzgerald first and foremost, and the merchants along Valencia. And Chicken John. And tons of neighborhood groups and co-ops like Pirate Cat Radio and Artists Television Access. But I started it, I had a stake. It feels so good to care about something.

And at 9:33p.m., New York time, just before I introduced Will Sheff, the final act of an amazing night, (Will fucking Sheff, c’mon people!) I got the call (text, actually) that we had won. That with only 17 days (you have to put up your sign for the planning commission hearing 20 days before the hearing) we had stopped American Apparel. Stopped them cold. The planning commission had voted 7-0 against them. I started jumping on the stage. I was in New York, my fist hit the low ceiling. Everybody wanted to hear Will Sheff.

“We won we won we won!”

And then I explained a little. And I apologized for not talking about The Rumpus all night, which is what the whole event was really about. But then maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was about a whole lot more things. And Will Sheff, he came on the stage, and he rocked it out.

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Video from the launch party:

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Not related at all, an interview with Christina Maria on Cable Access.


Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books, including the memoir The Adderall Diaries and the novel Happy Baby. He is the founding editor of The Rumpus. His feature film debut, About Cherry, was distributed by IFC. His second movie, based on his novel Happy Baby, is forthcoming. More from this author →