QUEEN OF THE NIGHT
“Dianne Brill is a fashion designer who makes nobodies feel like somebodies with the big hellos she gives to everybody. She was the first young girl in decades to really play up a big body with big curves and big cleavage. In mid-eighty-six, she operated full tilt all night all over New York as the ultimate Party Girl and earned herself the title “Queen of the Night”. From Andy Warhol’s PARTY BOOK. 1988.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: To the Future Through the Past is a photographic odyssey mapping the role of New York City and its Queen Of The Night Dianne Brill in the cultural revolution of the 1980s and 1990s. The innovative show highlighting the era’s creative explosion of art, fashion and club life comes to Zurich, Switzerland January 12-16, 2018 at PHOTO 18, Halle 622 Therese Giehse Strasse10 – 8050 Zurich, Switzerland. Doors open 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Hundreds of spectacular images of Dianne Brill, celebrated as a prominent figure in the movement, with roles as diverse as celebrity model, author, fashion designer, cosmetic queen and currently YouTube’s Fairy Godbabe. Hundreds of published and never before seen, private photographs convey the excitement of the unique era known as the Art/Club years in the world’s most exciting city.
The exhibit is a time capsule of New York in the period that spawned a cultural revolution in the arts that spread to Europe and worldwide, forming the roots of many of today’s culture norms and global views on art, style and self-promotion through the use of modern media. Dianne Brill exemplifies this revolution as the Pop icon and head cheerleader for The FAB 500, an authentic conglomerate of A- list, creative young artists, writers, and club stars who turned New York nightlife into a beacon of originality. Andy Warhol said of Dianne, “If you were at a party and Dianne Brill was there, you knew you were at the right party!” Also at the party, backstage and on set, were famed photographers Robert Mapplethorpe, Annie Leibovitz, Steven Klein, Mario Testino, Patrick McMullan, Michel Comte, Bill King, Greg Gorman and others. Their photographs spark the show with images of the famous artists, writers, rock stars, actors and fashion and club friends in Dianne’s glamorous circle. Dianne Brill’s contributions to the scene went far beyond parties and celebrity modeling. She was featured on countless ￼￼￼magazine covers, appeared in several films and music videos, and designed clothes for rock stars and TV leading men of the era. She authored a best-selling self-help book. She served as muse for artists Andy Warhol and Keith Haring and for such fashion heavyweights as Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood. Mannequin manufacturer Adel Rootstein translated her famed hourglass figure (named the Shape Of The Decade) into store- window commercial mannequin in stores worldwide. Testament to Dianne’s, and the movement’s, enduring popularity, these curvaceous mannequins can be spotted today in boutiques in Europe and the United States. The Shape of the Decade is still shaping fashion and attitudes. Her role also as an original touchstone of the art, club and media worlds of the formative years of the Cultural Revolution is undeniable. The photographic journaling of Dianne Brill’s contributions brings the past into focus as precursor to the future in this remarkable show! Sponsoring the exhibition is respected art patron Gabrielle Baer of Zurich.
Tickets Available at www.photo-schweiz.ch or directly at the Photo18 Zurich event. Press Contact: Ilona Mclean Ilona.firstname.lastname@example.org Mclean Communications, Schulstrasse 21 -8266 Graefeling Munich +491728121351 +498912711484
PONYBOY: Dianne, we’ve been longtime big fans! We want to hear all about your photo exhibit. But to begin, please tell us about your upbringing. Where were you born and raised?
DIANNE BRILL: Thank you for asking me to do this. I love PONYBOY! I was born in Wisconsin and moved to Florida. For a while I was in London and now I live in New York City, but am always on the move.
PONYBOY: How did you end up in New York City?
DIANNE BRILL: I had visa problems in London and by some twist of fate I wound up in NYC. I lived in 10 different sublets until I finally landed my own place. It was tiny and cozy with a loft bed and covered wall to wall in shiny pink PVC. I had the best time making it my own little love pad. When I moved downtown in Manhattan I felt finally understood. There were people like me who understood things as I did, who dressed in my direction, listened to music that I did and more, loved the same books and films, and were just as thrilled as I was to finally find my ‘tribe’.
PONYBOY: Tell us about the early days for you in New York. What was it like when you first started going out to nightclubs, before the fame?
DIANNE BRILL: I was trading in vintage clothes, shoes and new wave buttons from London that everyone wore on their new wave-inspired biker jackets. I would buy up basements of new/old clothing in stores in Florida visiting my mom and bring it to the city and sell it to Japanese and Swedish buyers of vintage clothes who exported it. Also I sold to Patricia Field, Trash and Vaudeville and stores in Soho (which was still cool) and individually owned small stores. I just walked in with samples and boom; it was what people like me wanted to wear, and you could not find it in stores. There was no Zara or H&M, or even many hot designer owned stores. I had cash to spend and NY was cheap then. An apartment was only $300 a month. So we had time to be creative and to express ourselves and to try new things all the time without fear.
It was an environment of freedom and everyone who went out became a supportive and wildly creative community of really interesting authentic and cool people. Some became famous, but all were damn cool!
As far as going out in NY during that time, if you were cool and authentic, you were welcome. If you were not, then no. You could never buy your way into a club. Never. The doorman may take your bribe, but he or she would not let you in the door! It happened fast when I came on the scene. I looked good. I always dressed up. And I was genuinely enthusiastic about almost everyone I met. I mean artists, writers, musicians and actors. Creators everywhere.
PONYBOY: When would you say the turning point was for you as far as getting recognition at the clubs, as well as on the streets of Manhattan?
DIANNE BRILL: Well, I think once we started to define ourselves as a group, then I became the cheerleader of the group. We were the Fab 500. Rudolf Pieper of Danceteria started calling us the Fab 500 based on a guest list system. First you invite the core group, the Fab 500, then you build a party by adding different scene guest lists to that group. People say I make the person I am talking to at any particular time feel like they are the most important person in the world. The truth is they are the most important person in the world to me when I am speaking to them. I like people and enjoy listening to stories or just hanging out. I like nature, but not at all the way that I like people.
But I’d say it was when taxi drivers started yelling out my name from their taxis, or when I was outside going somewhere. And later photographers were at the airport to photograph me. I thought, “Wow! This is really happening!” I guess I was relatable and approachable at the same time. I always included and mixed up different people together that were from so many kinds of places and backgrounds, but somehow fit. I have an eye for that. Being Queen of the Night I took my position seriously. It takes a lot of self-discipline to go out every single night (except Saturday and Sunday), and have a day job as well. I don’t drink or do drugs and never did after I left Tampa at around 20.
I worked the press, sure, and was careful in my self-promotion to be grateful and acknowledge the people who supported me. I never got paid for all those famous parties I did because I thought that as a queen I would have to kiss up to the ones who were paying me and I did not want that. Maybe I got carried away with all that, but I felt that way. Money took more of a back seat then because YOUR RENT WAS $300. So, you could take risks and indulge your personal wishes. Freedom to be true to yourself, I guess. And I loved being Queen.
PONYBOY: Tell us about your friend, Andy Warhol.
DIANNE BRILL: Andy was so fun and I enjoyed our times together. He was a bridge for me and I was a little bridge for him along with many, many others. He loved to be where something exceptional was happening. He was so cool and wanted to be wherever that seed of cool was sprouting; and that was with us! I am going to write another book because I want to tell my story, as well as other stories that were once in a lifetime experiences, and about other people. Anita Sarko always comes to mind. She was so smart, funny, ironic…and sometimes bitchy, but always fabulous. Keith Haring and I had an excellent friendship. I truly loved him. And he, like Stephen Sprouse, is one of my favorite people ever, as well as Mauricio and Roger Padilha, of course!
But back to Andy, he really was a blast though, even with his blasé’ pose. You wouldn’t think so, but he was naughty and always telling me things. Like in front of Jean Michel Basquiat, he would say, “Dianne you should really be sleeping with Jean Michel. Do you think he is sexy? And Jean and I were like ahhh…….” Or Andy and I would be at a dinner and I was just talking to someone and he would just take his finger and poke me slowly on the hip or butt or my ribs, and I would say, “Stop it, Andy! What are you doing?” And he did this for about a week or so and finally I figured it out. He thought I was padded and that I was actually not an hourglass figured babe, but someone wearing a fake body. HA! I set him straight!
Andy really was so odd and charming. He spoke as if he was always nervous about something, but he was confident and in charge. He was not asexual. He had boyfriends that adored him. And I just loved his hair and we could always find each other in a club if we got separated. Me 6’4 in hair and heels and he as well, just ANDY!
PONYBOY: You were quoted as saying you weren’t one of those “Warhol Girls”, i.e. a Warhol superstar with a lot of press, but no meaning or drive. You wisely used the press and NY nightlife as a stepping stone for business opportunities, which was very forward and modern thinking. Tell us more about this.
DIANNE BRILL: Being famous is so good for opportunity. It’s like everyone wants a piece of the pie. I liked it and I enjoy being treated well. Who doesn’t? Business-wise, I have always been ambitious and driven by the identity of being a creative person who believes in something and keeps going, until in some way it happens. I do not find business boring. I like it if it’s something I believe in. Having open doors from being known is great, but you have to walk into those doors and you have to deliver what the people offering those possibilities want. I like to complete things and then take a moment to celebrate it. I make cosmetics now and every production completed makes me feel so good, like I just won something.
PONYBOY: You mentioned your cosmetics line, Dianne Brill Cosmetics, which seems like a very natural direction for a glamour girl like yourself. Is that your main focus these days?
DIANNE BRILL: Yes. My cosmetics are pretty successful in Europe online. I love creating the packaging and chemistry. I love chemistry; it’s actually like magic. You can make things happen to skin for the better by just mixing in a bit of this and a bit of that…and a bibity bobity boo! I also have a Youtube channel, the Brill Of It All and I am the FairyGodBabe who gives advice to help in so many social situations, such as how to make an Entrance, Texting Etiquette, etc. I do interviews with friends like Amanda Lepore and Joey Arias. And I’m also backstage during New York Fashion Week.
PONYBOY: Speaking of fashion…at one point you were a designer and had a menswear label named, “The New Millionaires Club”. Tell us about your stint as a menswear designer. And did you also make the clothes you wore out at night, like those fantastic rubber dresses, etc.?
DIANNE BRILL: I started re-cutting clothes for men and began making clothes for pop stars like Prince. And later with an investor I had a line of clothes called the New Millionaires club and did suits for Duran Duran, Mick Jagger and others. I designed menswear and tailored men’s jackets, coats and pants mostly for stage, videos and clubs. But I sold to stores, too, and was nominated for a Cutty Sark Menswear Fashion award, which was good at that time. I also did clothes for TV shows and movies like Miami Vice and Prince’s Purple Rain. I would have named it New Brill-ionaires Club today (a much better name). Actually, with Dianne Brill Menswear, I did a huge fashion show at the Palladium when it was owned by Steve Rubel and Ian Shraeger (former owners of Studio 54). My friend Keith Haring modeled in my show with a former NY State Lotto winner Curtis Sharp, who was a camp NY favorite. He was on TV all the time and even did mustard commercials. I love pop people!
I wore rubber dresses personally and was the first in Manhattan to wear rubber as fashion most of the time. I had them made up in London fetish stores along with matching boots, gloves, etc. in all kinds of colors. I wore a red rubber dress, boots and gloves as a guest on the David Letterman Show and lucky enough I was on the cover of The NY Post that day. So, Dave and I had a lot to discuss, but he just got obsessed with the rubber. It is a great fabric.
PONYBOY: During your reign in the 80s, you were married to Danceteria club owner Rudolph Pieper. Was he instrumental in planning your nightlife image?
DIANNE BRILL: Rudolf was absolutely important to my becoming Queen Of The Night because he always suggested to me to go to this place or that place. He always knew what was going on that mattered. He was creating all the most amazing clubs (and still is in Brazil) and every event had his mark on it somehow. He also compared me to Jayne Mansfield all the time, which encouraged me to dress more like her and play with the idea of her in my style. We had so much fun just walking into a party. I love to make an entrance! It is so hopeful and exciting just to walk into that room. Anything absolutely amazing always happens that way. Just walk in the door, take a pause, stop and let the others walk in and have their moment and then with some space in front of you, you walk in! Love that. Back to Rudolf, he invented the term Fab 500 based on his club’s guest list system.
PONYBOY: You met your second husband, Peter Voelkle. You packed up and moved to Europe. Was it a hard decision to make at that time, leaving NYC and the nightlife that made you famous?
DIANNE BRILL: I never left NYC. I just spend more time away than before.
PONYBOY: You wrote a book in 1992, Boobs, Boys and High Heels – Or How to Get Dressed In Just Under Six Hours.
DIANNE BRILL: Well I just love Glamour and it was so fun to do because I got to tell my story first hand and added a bit of self-help in it, too. I wrote it as if I was speaking to my best friend, Janis Savitt (we are still best friends!). Famous for being Fabulous was an unusual concept before the internet. Now it’s normal, but it’s because of the Fab 500 that this is just normal today. Like it or not, we set that up for you.
PONYBOY: What was it like when you spent time with designer/artist Stephen Sprouse?
DIANNE BRILL: I loved Stephen. I loved his face. I loved to hug him. I loved to drink coffee and just talk for hours. He was so beautiful as a man and loving. Every time I would meet him, which was often, I was just so thrilled to see him. He shot a ton of polaroids of me one night after a party at my apartment. I felt so pretty when he photographed me. He made an amazing art piece as big as a movie screen of me taking a photo of me and then putting it through an old-fashioned roll fax machine and wiggling it around. Later he made these huge silk screens and created this one-piece where I am holding a Brillo box, but my hand is over the O so it looks like Brill. He did a show with me, Debbie Harry, and Iggy Pop, I think, and a couple of other mega-huge images with a guy who he was dating, who wore his hair, clothes and style the same as Stephen.
Once I made Stephen a complicated bone crown for his birthday and he made me homeboy hats and a silver leather coat. He was generous and mysterious. He wrote in permanent marker on the inside of his arms always, his same graffiti you have seen in his clothing, artwork and on Louis Vuitton bags. I miss that boy.
PONYBOY: We love the Adel Rootsein mannequin collaboration. Is it still in production?
DIANNE BRILL: Yes! Selling better than ever. The Shape of the Decade (DB1 ,DB2, & DB3) lives on!
PONYBOY: You’ve walked the runway for incredible designers, including Jean Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler and Vivienne Westwood. What were those experiences like?
DIANNE BRILL: I am hopelessly devoted to Manfred Thierry Mugler and he influenced my life greatly. I walked for him for nine years and it was a complete dream. He made me look like I could only have imagined in the mind of a girl, imagining what it would be like to be a muse for a fashion designer in Paris.
I have awesome stories walking for Gaultier and Westwood. These three designers, I believe, are the best that have ever been and I almost can’t believe I had the crazy luck and good fortune to model for such legends. AND OMG THE PHOTOS!!!!!
PONYBOY: Let’s discuss your photo exhibition. Tell us how it all came about.
DIANNE BRILL: A friend, who is also the patron of the exhibition, Gabrielle Baer came to me and said, “Dianne you have to tell your story of the 80s art/club scene in NYC and Paris Catwalk backstage during the 90s. Your life is amazing and unusual and why wait for someone else to tell YOUR story?”
She is right. I am so pleased to be able to show photos from my private photos and Polaroids, as well as all the great photographers that I have worked with who have truly awesome shots. To see them all together tells a lot. Andy always encouraged me to take as many pics as possible, and this was when people did not have cameras in clubs unless they were professionals. No cellphones. I had a Minox spy camera and other small cameras and took photos because I knew this had to be documented. It is all so beyond fabulous; there had to be a moment that I could just stop and hold on to. I am so glad I did. We’ve blown some images up so big you have to step back to really take it all in. And then the Polaroids are so tiny from shoots with photographers like Mario Testino and Michel Comte, who wrote little sentences all around the rim of the shots and gave them to me. So cool.
I am so grateful to my friend who started the fire with her idea. And I know when someone walks into this show they will have to work hard to catch their breath because so much is happening.
PONYBOY: Who are some of the photographers who have contributed?
DIANNE BRILL: Photographers like Patrick McMullan just owned the insider scene in the 1980s clubs. He was everywhere always. I love his work and we are great friends. Michel Comte, Steven Klein, Pierre and Gilles, Robert Mapplethorpe, Mario Testino, Ben Buchanan, Gerard Musy, Terry O’ Neil, Bill King and even Annie Leibovitz, Kevin Davies and many others.
PONYBOY: Was it difficult for you to gather photographs from over 30 years ago?
DIANNE BRILL: Ha, ha, ha! Oh, yes! I went under beds, in boxes, found my model agency books, looked in NYC at my mom’s and in Europe. I have storage everywhere. I scratched the surface and out of a few thousand images I reduced it to 500, and 500 to 200, and from there a bit over 150 photos. I’ve cataloged a lot of photos because I want to write another book. And what I’ve found is so exciting for me. Also, photographers reached out to me on Instagram and Facebook and have said, “Hey! I have this great shot of you!” And boom, it’s in the show!
PONYBOY: Do you have any plans to take the exhibition to other cities or do a photo book?
DIANNE BRILL: Yes, absolutely! A book for sure. And I want to do my exhibition, of course, in NYC, then London and Munich. We’re already getting calls with interest in taking my exhibition to Munich and NYC, and we haven’t even opened yet!
PONYBOY: You’re now the mother of three children, a business owner and spending your time between Zurich and New York. What’s life like for you now?
DIANNE BRILL: My family is everything. And family, when it is healthy, is a feeling that is priceless. My Mom is very important to me. She is my touchstone and has taught me a lot about love, which is very valuable as a mom myself and a wife. Before this exhibition, I would think I didn’t want to look back too deeply because I thought I want to be in the NOW. I’m a fresh person with a lot to say and a lot to learn. I’m in the now, but through the past I am going to the future. And I want to include my amazing history in my life now. It’s not one or the other life in the past or life in the now. It’s BOTH To the Future Through The Past! That’s why the name of the show is powerful to me: To the Future Through the Past. I mean it.
PONYBOY: It all seems like such a colorful, fantastic story. You’ve written one book already. Your memoirs really should be next. It would make such an incredible movie!
DIANNE BRILL: Oh! Yes, Yes, Yes! It would make an incredible movie. It is an unbelievable story and it is all true. I am working on a book.
All images courtesy of Dianne Brill. Thank you to Mauricio and Roger Padilha.