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My LES: James Vincent

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This popular feature spotlights a wide variety of people who live and work on the Lower East Side. If you know someone you would like to suggest be featured in “My LES,” please email us here.


What do you do?

I am a Makeup Artist, Beauty Editor, Mentor and Downtown DJ.

How long have you lived on the LES?

I moved to NYC and the LES on August 31, 1997. The day princess Diana died. I remember because I moved here specifically   on that day to go to Wigstock and be the best man at a Green Card Wedding between a gay man and a Scottish girl. Then Princess Diana died so we spent the entire bachelor party around the television waiting for news of her death. You can not put Brits and gays together and lose a princess and expect a party to continue.

Favorite block in the hood?

I really love the two blocks on Clinton Street between Houston and Rivington. When I moved here it was desolate and boarded up. My first apartment was on Ludlow Street and that gentrified in such an aggressive way that I felt like I was being forced out by the noise and crowds. I have lived on Ridge Street for 12 years and the changes in the neighborhood feel much more respectful and inclusive.

Clinton Street does have places that get crowded, like Clinton St. Baking Co., but also has LES gems like Alias, WD 50, One More Thai, and Cocoa Bar, that have come in and fit in nicely with my long time tailor, hardware store and barber shop.

Favorite date spot in the hood?

I have a few ‘types’ of dates that I like. When I was single I liked to trick my dates into thinking I was somehow exciting and attractive. I based the date on them:

One is quiet and romantic or “LES in the know.” I love Cocoa Bar and then a delicious dinner for that date. Some of my favorite places for dinner would be Grotto on Forsyth Street. for Italian food, or Azul on Suffolk Street. Both have great service and make you feel like you are taken care of by the staff.

I love Stanton Street Social or Essex for impressing people who don’t know the LES. They both have great menus and cool clientele. Les Infants Terrible is always a big hit, as well, and as it is usually noisy you have to get close to your date for intimate discussion and eye gazing.  I usually like to walk through some of the galleries after that or finish with a drink at The Delancey, The Thompson LES or Schiller’s.

My other date is more Rock N’ Roll. I might start with a more causal dinner somewhere like Alias or Beauty & Essex and then hit Arlene’s Grocery for a show or Karaoke. There are some great venues on the LES and some great galleries — a show and a gallery stroll are a big M.O. of mine. Then I would finish somewhere like St. Jerome’s for a few whiskey shots and then come back to my place for a nightcap.

Favorite coffee in the hood?

As a native New Englander I drink iced coffee all year long, so I look for the places that serve it and still try to avoid the chains.

The coffee at The Juice Shack and Juicy Lucy is my favorite in the hood. The Juice Shack at 1st street and First Avenue is technically above the LES, I guess, but she was there when nobody else was and her Café Bustelo coffee is still the best deal at less than $1. She also has the best pressed live juices and smoothies. A lot of people have tried to open up and compete…I mean literally three other juice bars within a few feet…but Rene Hendriks, who owns it, is “Old Skool NYC” and she will always have my business.

My new favorite place is Café Vitta on Ludlow between Rivington and Delancey. I originally only went in because the boy serving it looked cute but the coffee is amazing and definitely worth a try.

Favorite cheap eats in the hood?

Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop is a go-to of mine. The salads are filling and always fresh and the food is delicious. Vanessa’s Dumpling is where I eat when I am poor or on my way out. Two of us can eat on 5 dollars and be full all night.

Where do you take your visitors when they’re here?

The New Museum on the Bowery is one of my favorite spots for visitors to see. I love walking with them below Delancey or through Chinatown and into Little Italy and back over and up, thru Delancey, to give people the downtown tour. Sampling all of the different delicacies and cuisines of the different ethnicities is exciting not only for visitors, but for me as well. I love the differences — from the Italian to Chinese to Kosher bakeries, and ending up at Doughnut Plant. That is always a hit!

Favorite dive bar in the hood?

Parkside Lounge has a great bar staff and is always friendly. I love it during the week but avoid it on the weekend. St. Jerome’s is a go-to for me. Great music, great drinks, and rock ‘n’ roll boys behind the bar. It is what I though NYC looked like before I moved here. Motor City Bar has been a haunt of mine for over a decade. Great DJ’s and cheap beer is always good in my book. Welcome to the Johnson’s is fun for a night with friends that just want to drink.

Schiller’s is great with my fashion friends and people that want a scene — and to be seen. My favorite place is Fontana’s. I love the staff and it feels like home. It is diverse and everyone is welcoming. I have brought everyone from my celebrity clients to my mother-in-law to Fontana’s and they always have a great time. Whether you are there to play pool, see a show, dance to some Rock music or flirt with one of the sexy bartenders, Fontana’s does not ever disappoint.

How has the neighborhood changed in the last few years?

There have definitely been big changes in the look and feel of the neighborhood. I hate that I wait in line now to eat dinner on the weekends, or how the bars have become a bit “bridge and tunnel,” but I do appreciate that there is a quality of life here now that didn’t exist before. I might miss the grunginess sometimes and CBGB’s but the fact that we have world class hotels and restaurants within walking distance has opened up a world of possibility.

I pay more rent but I have wine shops and sushi bars instead of boarded up buildings and six bodegas to a block. There is a trade off but maybe because I am older I see it as very positive, especially for the small business owners who have put so much time and effort into making the LES a destination.

Favorite LES memory?

I have so many…

One of my favorites would be doing Joan Jett’s makeup for the premiere of The Runaways movie at The Sunshine Theater and After Party at The Bowery Hotel. Hanging out with music legends from the downtown scene like Joan and Debbie Harry and Patti Smith was mind blowing for me. I am a huge fan of female Rock ‘N’ Roll and seeing these women get together and talk about music and still be excited about it was mind blowingly brilliant and inspired me to keep doing what I love.

My second would be the blackout that happened a few years back. We were without power for a few days and I just remember the whole ‘hood coming outside and drinking beer together and playing games on the sidewalk and sharing food — we were all grilling and drinking beer and I was reminded about what I love about the LES. It is a truly diverse place where $2800.oo/month apartments are next door to rent controlled places where 40-year residents pay a hundred dollars and we all do it together. The number of languages and cultures I see everyday are so exciting to me. The energy and art are still something you feel. I love it here.

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