jazz age lawn

Chum for the self-aware

Several sections of the New York Times exist only to report on quirks of white culture. The intended audience is wealthy people on the Upper East Side who want to know about the lively and pointless lifestyles of the artistic class (“How droll!”) or how hard it is out there for the 1% (”I only own THREE seasonal homes!”) without leaving their Uptown bubble. 

I am not the intended audience. I know this. I KNOW THIS. 


The article on Michael Arenella, the wedding musician/1920s cosplayer who founded the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island, feels like the result of an algorithm designed to trigger in me a pulse of disdain so electric that it melts the marrow of my bones. Look upon these words. LOOK AT THEM. Take my hand and walk through hell with me.

[T]his was no “Great Gatsby” theme party. Mr. Arenella, in fact, takes issue with the book. “It painted a picture of frivolity, reckless abandon,” he said. “The era was more than that. The lucky few were able to live in a world of comfort, but most were hard-working people giving birth to the modern era, creating things with their hands and minds. Flippancy doesn’t resonate with me.”

“ACTUALLY, The Great Gatsby DIDN’T capture the zeitgeist of the Jazz Age. I, a man living a century later than Fitzgerald (a flippant hack), am the TRUE expert on the 1920s.”

Mr. Arenella, 38, said he was drawn to the “rebellion and exploration and freedom” of the era. “I am dedicated to the culture of the ’20s,” he said while sipping an elderflower liqueur and prosecco cocktail. “I was hungry for an opportunity to perform music in a setting that wasn’t shticky or schmaltzy, just outdoors on a sunny afternoon unfettered by technology.”

Laugh at his drink if you must, but a party with well-made cocktails and music played at a reasonable level is all right by me. The party is fine. Do your thing, Jazz Age cosplayers. Just, please: don’t speak to the Times.

His manners, like his clothes, are reminiscent of another era. At 6 feet 1½ inches tall, he is built like a strongman with broad shoulders, and most of his vintage-look clothing, including the white cotton suit he was wearing, must be custom-made.

NOT six-foot-one! Six-foot-one AND A HALF! The extra half-inch cements his strongman build. 

Oh and here’s his white cotton suit:

Urkel-ass pants

His head is partly shaved, and a wave of curls cover part of his forehead; he has a mustache just slightly thicker than the one John Waters pencils on.

Ah, one of those hypermasculine old-timey body builders who look like John Waters. Got it.

He and his costume designer girlfriend, 

I think I found the source of his custom-made clothes.

Analucia McGorty, 34, split their time between a cabin in Pennsylvania and an apartment in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where they do have air-conditioning. “We watch old movies on my computer, we have internet and email,” Ms. McGorty said. “We still have to live. We don’t eat period foods. I feel like that would be just aspic.”

“I am dedicated to the culture of the ‘20s. The clothes, the music – everything except the food, the literature, the oppressively hot living conditions, and the complete lack of modern technology. Otherwise, TOTAL ‘20s-head. Definitely the real deal.”

The two met through his music. “She saw me for who I was, not an act but a real person,” he said. 

"I’ve built my life around looking like an actor in a period piece, so of course it wasn’t easy to find another poseur equally full of bullshit.”

Has that been a problem in the past? “I guess I fit the mold for leading-man fantasies.”

Which leading man? When did Errol Flynn play Lenny in Of Mice and Men?

For Mr. Arenella, music is a full-time job. His band plays 60 weddings a year, and so much of his time is spent transcribing 78 r.p.m. recordings by hand and practicing. When he relaxes, he does not put on sweatpants, nor does he even own a pair.

I don’t own sweatpants. Where’s my Styles profile?

“At home I’m generally naked,” he said. (He also doesn’t wear underwear.)

Have fun cleaning that white cotton suit, breh.

After playing, he enjoyed a bare-chested ferry ride back to Brooklyn

A shirtless boat ride! Just what Teddy Roosevelt would recommend. Breathing deep of the sea air is good for the constitution and wards off tuberculosis. 

“I’ve been starting to dress like this all the time,” said Steven Wong, 29, a dancer who performed at the festival. “I don’t have a girlfriend now, 


Someone who dresses like he’s in a Baz Luhrmann film DOESN’T have a girlfriend? Fetch my monocle, it fell out when my eyebrows shot up in surprise.

but I would like her to be into the ’20s. All the girls I like are into the ’50s.”

“Well, not exactly the ‘50s. They’re actually into the ‘80s, but that part of the ‘80s that was into the ‘50s, you know? Baby Boomer nostalgia stuff like Back to the Future and Huey Louis and ‘Old Time Rock and Roll.’ Hello, I’m fucking awful.”

On the other side of the room, Mr. Arenella could be seen writing a text message on another outdated device: his flip phone.

"The aughts were the 1920s of the 21st century.”