Category Archives: East Village

Celebrating a Sitcom Life

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul gets emotional over a celebration with co-stars, friends & family.

Stayed tuned for more pics courtesy of Jamie at FromMe-ToYou.Tumblr.com

Last night, I once again channeled my inner-Mary Tyler Moore to hold it together as I thanked co-stars, guest stars, featured actors, crew members and, of course, friends and fans at the official Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life Book Launch Party.  I couldn’t have created a better set than the Alphabet City Wine Co.—featured in today’s New York Times.

As I told the group, everyone in the room participated in some way getting me to this moment.  Some in deep ways, like Susan, who has been part of so many stories, and listened and counseled me when to pull back or use pseudonyms.  Others in the room were wearing badges of honor with slogans like “My Part Got Cut from Alphabet City,” “I’ve Been Banned from Alphabet City,” and my favorite, “Who Do I Have to F**K to be on Alphabet City.”

Here’s a little Flip video of my remarks courtesy of co-star Angela.  Or read on below for a summary.

But seriously, everyone there—and reading here—has helped me get to this point because you’ve provided encouragement.  And you can’t underestimate how much encouragement means to an artist and an author.  It’s tough staying true to your work, dedicating time and following your dream.

I’ve had the opportunity to follow my dream three times now.  First, becoming a filmmaker by writing, directing and producing GayTV: The Movie.  Second, living in the city of my dreams—New York City.  And now third, being an author.

This third time has been the sweetest, really.  Because there has been someone there for me supporting me and nurturing me the entire time.  Chef has loved me and loved that I was following my dream.  Thank you, Chef, for being such a great foil and partner—after nearly ten years together, you’re the most amazing co-star I could ever imagine!

And so, a virtual toast to all of you—thank you for being such an important part of my sitcom life and helping me turn the world on with a smile.

See you on book tour!

UPDATE: A few photos courtesy of Jamie at from FromMe-ToYou.  Like a celebrity on the red carpet, folks keep asking me about my outfit.  My super cute navy blazer with the red accents–Brooklyn Industries!  Glasses by Paul Smith.  Shirt & Pants by Parke Ronen.

With my friend Clare in front of the blow-up of the cover that makes me laugh.

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40, Love: Small Packages

Today on Alphabet City: JP learns during his first Christmas in NYC that handsome wrapping can’t make up for small packages.  Viewer Discretion Advised.

My first Christmas in Alphabet City turned out to be rather disappointing.  Although I was alone, I wasn’t sad exactly.  Living thousands of miles away from my Texas family finally provided me with a terrific excuse for not suffering through their dysfunction.  On top of that, I didn’t have any money and someone needed to take care of the menagerie of animals living in our apartment.

While my roommates trotted off to warmer climes, I stayed behind and decided to keep myself busy building new Christmas Eve rituals and memories.  All bundled up, I set out for a big walk filled with iconic New York moments: watching couples ice-skate in Central Park, smirking at Barney’s holiday/pop-culture window displays, pushing through crowds gawking at Rock Center’s Tree.

Everything was going fine until the Titanic.  A tradition I imported from Texas was my Christmas Eve enjoyment of movies with a non-traditional holiday theme—nothing sappy or sweet for me.  I prefer something really off-kilter like Misery or even Monster’s Ball.  But 1997 was in short supply of depressing features and so I thought a movie about hordes killed aboard a huge shipping disaster might be okay.  Boy was I tricked.  The doomed love story brought to life by Leo and Kate sunk me into a sea of loneliness.

As I walked the eerily empty streets of Alphabet City, I decided to drown my sorrow with a few drinks at my go-to dive The Boiler Room.  Surely I wasn’t the only lonely East Village gay boy?  And this seedy joint had always been good for some guaranteed pick-ups.

Let’s just say it was slim pickins’ that night—maybe about 7 sad souls nursing beers and watching the animated version of The Grinch That Stole Christmas on the TV over the bar.  Really?  What kind of cock tease buzz kill is that?  I almost turned around and left when I noticed a handsome Latino fellow at the bar.  I figured I had nothing to lose, and hopped onto a stool next to him.  He smiled and leaned over to me.

“I’m visiting from Argentina and never seen this funny show before.  Can you explain to me?  Is this the way you celebrate Christmas?”

I smiled and gulped my beer.  Things were looking up—if I played my cards right, the night might not end so badly after all. Continue reading

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Raising Canine

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul lands an appointment with a much sought after NYC doggie dermatologist.  REMINDER: Take my survey

“New York, where everything is harder than it should be.  And more expensive,” said my dear friend Martin (in a made-up Brooklyn accent) many years ago when he helped me move to the Big Apple.  And boy if the past decade (and a half) hasn’t proved him right.

Take child rearing, for example.  People always talk about the challenges of raising a child in Manhattan.  Now a co-parent of my second Bichon Frise pup, I whole-heartedly agree.

Chef and I have been lucky with our Au Pairs.  In Alphabet City, we had Kasia from Poland who would take Winnie, and later Frida, out for hours and hours at a time.  Since Kasia was a visual artist, I assumed my little ones were assisting in her workshop and learning a third language, since they were already bi-lingual in English and Spanish.  When our family moved to Washington Heights, Kasia moved to Maine, but not before Frida was the guest of honor at Kasia’s gallery opening in Alphabet City.  Frida chose two provocative oil paintings now hanging over the couch in her study.

Frida handing over a check to her artist-Au Pair Kasia at her gallery opening

But as anyone will tell you, it’s health care that’s a killer.  Despite the fact that it takes over an hour by subway to visit trumpet playing Argentine Doc Moscovich in the East Village, I’m loyal to our puppy-pediatrician.  But now he’s referring us to an Allergy-Dermatology Specialist for Frida’s ongoing hot-spots problem.

Just the words “referral” and “specialist” make my heart beat faster.  Not because I worry about the outcome.  But because I know that as a New Yorker those are fighting words.  It means doing battle to score an appointment.

“Let’s see.  The first thing I have is a little over a month away.  How would January 7 work?” said the extremely nice nurse at Animal Allergy and Dermatology.

“Sure, but we’re leaving town for a couple of weeks for the holidays and was hoping for something sooner.”

“That’s understandable.  But unfortunately, January 7 is all I have.”

Seasoned New Yorkers know when faced with a velvet rope rejection that a little name dropping is in order.

“My dear friend’s Chris and Tom just rave about Dr. Peikes.  Say she’s just done wonders for Edie.”

“Oh, you know Edie?”

“Yes, she’s actually Frida’s cousin.  They sort of grew up together.”

“Well, in that case, why don’t I put you on a waiting list in case anything comes up I can call you?”

I’ve played the “waiting list” game before—it’s how I scored a coveted table at the French Laundry in Napa.  Put your name on the list, then call the host every day and flirt, and beg, and plead until something “magically opens” up.

Guess what?  Frida and I are off for our first round of allergy testing today.  But only after I fill out a 4-page Dermatology History Report that is more extensive than the paperwork at my own specialists.  I stopped myself on seemingly simple question like, “Pet’s Name.”  Do I own up to her full gay Dad from Mexico name—Frida Carlota Xochtil Amarilla Buchmeyer Chavez?

New York, where everything is harder than it should be.

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Keys to the City

Today on Alphabet City: Long before he takes real estate advice from an Oscar-winner, Jon Paul battles Japanese Power Rangers to score his first NYC apartment.  Guest star: Marcia Gay Harden.

As repeat viewers may remember, on last week’s Kitchen Knightmares I served a fishy dish to the editor of Washington Heights’ neighborhood newspaper.  Well, turns out he survived to tell the tale—literally, he wrote all about it in this week’s Manhattan Times, the opening of the piece tells the story of how I found our current brownstone thanks to encouragement from actress Marcia Gay Harden.  Reading it reminds me that I’ve always been blessed with good Big Apple real estate karma.  While many young transplants spin tales of tiny Manhattan studios with tubs in kitchens, I escaped those nightmares when I first moved here in 1996.  Instead, I did battle with costumed characters to score my first pad in the East Village.

Here’s an excerpt from Alphabet City’s Epsiode 2: Will He Make It After All?

Just like when Mary first arrived and battled Rhoda over an insanely well-designed apartment, I had a similar fight over my first NYC home—only not with my best friend.  In my sitcom set-up, my pal from college Angela and I joined forces and battled a group of Japanese Power Rangers.  The East Village apartment we desired was in a newly renovated building, and while it was slightly more than we could afford, it had two levels, and a backyard, perfect for my foofy dog Winnie who was accustomed to carousing in her own grassy yard in Texas.

JP with Winnie in backyard of first NYC apt

Only thing standing between us and our new sitcom set were seven Japanese kids who had just graduated from high school, dressed head-to-toe in colored leotards with matching helmets, and flashing a wad of cash.  Their parents were willing to pay the entire year’s rent up front.  It was an offer that John the Greek landlord, just venturing into the realm of NYC real estate, could hardly refuse.  Our shot at a fabulous pad was slipping away.

But if there’s one thing I learned from Mary, it was a little charm goes a long way.  I invited John the Greek Landlord to lunch—he looked like a guy who didn’t miss a meal.  Over latkes and applesauce at Leshko’s Polish Diner just down the block, Angela and I asked John about his family.  He beamed as he showed us wallet-size pics of the strapping young men.

“It’s a very big Greek family.  All my sons in the business with me,” he said.

I wondered if any of them were single.

“Well, I can’t wait to meet them,” I said.

“Must be so wonderful with them being so close for you to look after them,” Angela added.

“It’s so hard for us moving to New York from Texas, so far from our families,” I chimed in.

I looked away out the window—like I was about to cry, when actually I was about to burst out laughing at the lie I was telling.  Angela was certainly close to her family—but I was purposely escaping my crazy brood back in Dallas.  My father’s parting words echoed in my head.

“This will be the biggest mistake of your life.”

I turned back to the landlord, and went for the close, ready to pick up the check, intending to pay with money I had borrowed for the apartment’s security deposit.  I leaned in, looking him squarely in the eyes.

“John, let’s be honest, after all the blood sweat and tears you put into that amazing apartment, who would you rather have in there?  Two good kids from Texas that are going to care for the place like a real home?  Or the hard-partying Power Rangers who will trash it in a year?”

While thinking about the cash the Asian superheroes were flashing, John looked at Angela, then at me—my eyes pleading with him for a break.  He smiled.

“Alright, it is you who will have apartment.  Welcome to Alphabet City.”

After dreaming about this moment for over 20 years, I grabbed the keys to my first New York apartment—and the beginning to a new sitcom life in the Big Apple.

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Like Moths to a Flame

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s night in the East Village doesn’t go as planned

Last night, the anxious crowd queuing down Alphabet City’s East 3rd street outside the Nuyorican Poets Café for a storytelling event was ready to take matters into their own hands.  It looked like we weren’t getting in, and a young woman pointed to a fellow near the front of the line in dreadlocks and shouted.

“They’re not letting him to tell his story.  So he’s going to tell us one outside!  Who wants to hear a story?!”

We all cheered.  The 60-something Puerto Rican doorman with an unruly mustache sprung into action against the storytelling vigilantes.

“There’s no storytelling on the street! This place isn’t like it used to be.  This lady that lives next door will come down here and say, ‘Keep it down! I pay $4,000 to live in these apartments.’  Then she’ll call the cops.”

“That’s just wrong!” called out a disgruntled patron in line.

I wasn’t sure if she meant the infringement of First Amendment storytelling rights in Alphabet City, or the fact that the woman was paying that much to live there.

I had come to my old ‘hood to experience a storytelling night from an organization called The Moth, recently profiled in the New York Times.  What started out as an underground get together of people interested in sharing, well, stories, has turned into another way of meeting agents and producers—scoring an Off-Broadway show or book deal.

And hey, I’m willing to try anything to help get Alphabet City published—and also to keep up my enthusiasm for the project despite the daily onslaught of rejection (from agents, not you dear readers).  This blog is one of the ways I’m trying to escape the isolation of writing—getting it out there for people to read.  A shout out and thank-you to everyone who has commented either here or on Facebook—it means the world to me to get any type of feedback.  Keep it coming!

So, I thought checking out a storytelling night might spur some extra connections or ideas about what to do next—Alphabet City the one-man show or musical, anyone?  My friend Shannon—star of my movie GayTV and one of the KFC Glamour Girls in one of my crazier PR stunts (see Episodes 1-9 and scroll down to bottom for picture)—was the perfect companion for the night.  She had participated in a Moth storytelling event back in the days when people still called the East Village Alphabet City. Continue reading

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