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SAVOIA
THE TAILOR

We at Ponyboy were extremely saddened by the loss of our dear friend Michele Savoia, known globally as “Savoia The Tailor”. Savoia made the most exquisite custom made suits for both executives and movies stars, including Robert De Niro, Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke. When we first met Savoia it was in the mid- 90’s. He had just opened his beautiful haberdashery on East 7th Street in New York City, a throwback to 1930’s-40’s men’s Hollywood glamour. Heavily wooded with the finest touches, it also had a classy bar in the back for entertaining both clients and beautiful women. He was quite the character, like something out of a movie, with his bold Italian mannerisms. However, what really caught our attention was his impeccable sense of style and taste as he was always dressed to the nines back in the old days, never too cartoonish or “swing”, but more like he had just walked off a 1940’s Beverly Hills golf course or country club. His style had changed more in the latter years, but Savoia was way ahead of his time, a predecessor of sorts for the birth of hipster haberdasheries and fancy gentleman’s cocktails. At $4,000 a pop, his dapper suits were something most of us could only dream of owning. After 9/11 Savoia lost a chunk of his wealthy clientele and his shop in the East Village closed. Re-opening well over a decade later on Essex street, his new “gentleman’s club” would sadly be open for only a couple of years. But Savoia went on to teach at the Fashion Institute of Technology, made suits for Ricky Martin for the Broadway show “Evita” and had many other projects in the works, including a reality show. We asked some of his “inner” circle for some final thoughts on Savoia “the friend” and here are their responses.

MICHELE SAVOIA

A NEW YORK CITY LEGEND

  • The incredible tailor Michele Savoia, photographed in his haberdashery in New York City by Alexander Thompson for Ponyboy Magazine.
  • The always dapper tailor Michele Savoia photographed for Ponyboy Magazine by Alexander Thompson in New York City.
  • A b&w portrait of tailor Michele Savoia, photographed by Alexander Thompson for Ponyboy Magazine in New York City.
  • A silk robed Michele Savoia photographed in his haberdashery by Alexander Thompson for Ponyboy Magazine in New York City.
  • A heavily tattooed and shirtless Michele Savoia photographed on the Lower East Side in New York City by Alexander Thompson for Ponyboy Magazine.
  • Tattooed tailor Michele Savoia photographed by Alexander Thompson for Ponyboy magazine.
  • Tailor Savoia getting tattooed in New York City, photographed by Alexander Thompson for Ponyboy Magazine.
  • Savoia and a pit bull, photographed for Ponyboy Magazine by Alexander Thompson in New York City.
  • Leopard print back on tailor Michele Savoia, photographed by Alexander Thompson for Ponyboy Magazine.

EDDIE CLENDENING, musician:  Savoia was a stylish motherfucker, that’s without question. He was also in every sense of the word, a character…who had character. He was abrasive and over the top in everything he got into, and I loved him for that. For all his flash, he had a love and respect for his friends that is rare to find. What he will be is missed; what he will never be is replaced.

REBECCA WEINBERG, stylist:  Savoia is was a gem! A gentleman through and through! NYC will never be the same. We’ve lost a true NY talent and icon.

BROOKLYN BABYDOLL, go-go dancer:  A wonderful artist, an unsurpassed talent, and a cordial welcoming friend. We had some mutual acquaintances and amongst that group of “gentlemen” he always treated me like a baby sister.

STEVEN EPSTEIN, client:  Certainly Savoia was a true bespoke tailor, fluent in every aspect of the process, from design to fabric selection, detail, proportion, and a perfect finish. What is much more difficult to describe, however, is the intangible “cool factor” that he imbued into every piece of clothing he made. I am afraid that the fashion world has lost a true icon.

KATY K KATTELMAN, designer:  When I was still in New York in the 80’s he turned me on to some contractors who helped me produce my western shirts. The last time I saw him was 2011 at his shop. We communicated on Facebook as recently as 2 weeks ago. I often bragged about him to my Nashville friends as he was the best men’s tailor outside of Manuel that I ever met. I had an oil painting of a sailor that I bought at a garage sale that I wanted to give him for his boat. It hasn’t really sunk in, this whole thing. I’m sorry…

ELLEN CHRISTINE, milliner:  A needle in a haystack, talent through the moon, style to beat the band, and a true Downtown spirit. With his leaving the scene, so goes another piece of true flavor of Manhattan.

BLAIR MCSORLEY, former personal assistant:  He taught me so much about how to carry your own personal style. And he flourished with those who were bold enough as he was to flaunt it. Which was truly inspirational, and touched many people he came across both personally and professionally.

BETTINA MAY, burlesque performer:  Savoia was such a fascinating character, with his iconic personal style. He left his mark on the men on New York and beyond with his beautifully made suits. I’m so lucky to have known him, however briefly; he will be greatly missed.

LUIGI “BABE” SCORCIA, photographer:  The “Fat Black Pussy Cat” was Savoia, Hood and myself. I first met Savoia at a Brooklyn BBQ party run by Roddy C. At the party was the cast from “Good Fellows” the movie, and those guys might have been good actors but Savoia was the real deal. The next time I saw him was in “93 in South Beach, on the beach in his famous leopard print bathing suit (he loved animal prints, man did he have style)! I then met a doorman named John Hood, and we all agreed to do a night where we drink for free and our friends drink for free. This began “Fat Black Pussy Cat” story. Each week there was a new secret password to get in, like “Witches’ Brew” (Miles Davis’ composition). Hood came up with it after he did a line for inspiration. I had the voice machine at my condo to call in the password. I would photograph the celebs at the club and post them in the nightlife section of the “Miami Herald”, which I worked for with “The Queen of the Night” Tara Solomon. Savoia designed the club in, of course, leopard print. He was the pied piper of pied pipers, and he new every movie star, drug dealer, drag queen, politician, cop, sportscaster and gangster on the beach. He loved his gangster 101, and would quote all the mob movies. He knew every line from “Scarface”. He was “all mobbed up”, a term that means dressed to kill with style. We drove around in my ‘69 yellow coupe Deville Caddy driven by Big Ben, who was a bouncer at the club by night and tattoo artist by day. Savoia was bigger then life, lived large and when he fell he would always bounce higher than before. There will never be another Savoia in my lifetime or yours. With a body full of tattoos, the one that first comes to mind is “Veni, vidi, vici”. Savoia went out with style like we knew he would. He was one kool kat who had more then nine lives. How he lived in one-day, most people couldn’t do in a lifetime. In the end I bet Saint Peter at the pearly gates would comp him and his guests.

“Me, I want what’s coming to me. The world, and everything in it.”, from the movie “Scarface”.

R.I.P. Brother

BETTINA MAY
BURLESQUE QUEEN

Bettina May. Red head. Pin-up model. Burlesque Queen. Always in demand. Always on the go. With bombshell movie star looks, Ponyboy caught up with this beauty recently before she jumped on a plane for a quick chat. All photos courtesy of Bettina May.

THE BEAUTIFUL NYC REDHEAD

40’s-50’s PIN-UP MODEL

  • Bettina May photographed in NYC 2013 at R Bar. Photo by Alexander Thompson for Ponyboy Magazine.
  • Photo collage of Burlesque Beauty Bettina May for Ponyboy Magazine.
  • The beautiful Bettina May, collage for Ponyboy Magazine.
  • Photo collage of pin-up model Bettina May for Ponyboy Magazine.

PONYBOY:  You hail from Canada originally?

BETTINA MAY:  Yes, I was born in a little town in British Columbia near Vancouver and moved to Victoria to go to university. And from there I moved to New York.

PONYBOY:  How did you get into burlesque performing?

BETTINA MAY:  I got into it through vintage culture, hairstyles and outfits. I did pin-up modeling first  and through that was introduced to the burlesque world. I basically saw it as a way to explore my love of all things vintage.

PONYBOY:  It really is a true talent, not just something that anyone can do. Who are your burlesque idols?

BETTINA MAY:  I have to give a huge shout out to Dita Von Teese for bringing the modern burlesque resurgence to a more mainstream audience without diluting the art form.  I also love the work of Tempest Storm, Tiffany Carter and Bambi Jones – true legends of burlesque.

PONYBOY:  Have you always been into the  vintage aesthetic? 40-50’s?

BETTINA MAY:  Yes, it has appealed to me for as long as I can remember.  I grew up watching “I Love Lucy” and “Leave It To Beaver” and couldn’t wait to dress like all the stylish ladies I admired onscreen.  I dabbled with 60’s and 70’s styles in grade school and spent a lot of time working on perfecting hairstyles, makeup and collecting clothes from the 30’s-50’s.

PONYBOY:  All that glamour you have…you must get stopped in the street a lot. Do people recognize you?

BETTINA MAY:  People are definitely not used to seeing red lips and precisely coiffed hair out in public, even in New York City. So I do get a lot of attention. Once in a while people recognize me, but mostly they just think I must be someone legitimately famous. People still associate that high level of glamour that Hollywood starlets in the golden age of cinema flaunted with celebrity, so I get asked if I’m “somebody” quite a bit.  Short answer: No! Hahaha!

PONYBOY:   Are you a natural redhead?

BETTINA MAY:  While red hair runs in my family  and I prayed for years that it would come in, my dreams did not in fact come true. I took matters in my own hands.

PONYBOY:  In your burlesque career, what has been your favorite performance?

BETTINA MAY:  Oh goodness, that’s a tough one!  Every time I get on stage is my next favorite because I enjoy being up there and sharing my love of dance with every person in the audience and feeling their enjoyment reflected back on me.  I think the one I’ll always remember was during my first European tour in 2007. I performed in a beautiful little club in Lisbon, Portugal to a gorgeous, perfectly dressed audience of vintage culture enthusiasts. Unforgettable!

PONYBOY:  Who was your favorite celebrity to perform for?

BETTINA MAY:  Performing for Brooke Shields was my favorite experience. We got to meet her after the show. She was so lovely, genuine and sweet – everything I’d hoped she’d be.

PONYBOY:  What brought about your Bettina May Pin-up classes?

BETTINA MAY:  When I started performing I had so many ladies come up to me after shows asking me for hairstyling and make-up tips. After a while of trying to explain the finer points of a proper roller set in a loud night club to drunk fans, I decided a proper class was in order.  The first class in 2006 was a great success. And since then I’ve brought my class around the world and tour the US with it at least once per year.  It’s been amazing to see how life-changing it can be for my students. It’s truly heart-warming.

PONYBOY:  Congratulations on your green card. Any big plans for the future?

BETTINA MAY:  Thank you so much!  It seemed an impossible task, but now that the US Government has declared me an Alien of Extraordinary Ability in burlesque and pin-up modeling, I’m inspired to set much larger and loftier goals.  I’m currently booking another European tour for Spring 2014, and lots of other exciting projects are in the planning stages that I need to keep under wraps for now.