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INTERVIEW: Author Victor P. Corona Dishes On His Storied Introduction To Manhattan’s Nightlife

Nicole Barylski

Author Victor P. Corona, Ph.D. (Courtesy Photo)

This weekend, author Victor P. Corona, Ph.D. is bringing a bit of downtown Manhattan's nightlife to the Hamptons.

On Saturday, August 12, Corona will be signing copies of Night Class: A Downtown Memoir, which was named one of 12 Must-Read Indie Books Coming This Summer by Barnes & Noble Reads and given a shout out by actress Emma Roberts on Instagram, at East Hampton Library's Author Nights (authorsnight.org) and on Sunday, August 13, he'll take part in a conversation with writer and poet Dayna Trois at Harbor Books (20 Main Street, Sag Harbor, www.harborbookssgh.com).

We recently caught up with Corona about his first book.

Night Class: A Downtown Memoir is Corona's first book. (Courtesy Photo)

Did you set out on your six year journey with the intention of writing this book?

VC: Yes, but it started out as an academic research study and then the book became a much more personal story about why a sociology professor would dive into an outrageous world like New York nightlife. Although written by a sociologist, it's now a juicy set of tales about the downtown characters that make Manhattan such an interesting arena. And I talk about aspects of my own life that made me curious about them.

How did you find yourself part of the club kids?

VC: The book is partly about my transformation from a bald, nerdy, plain researcher to someone with colored hair and glitter make-up who could access some of the hottest parties in New York. But I would never call myself a club kid. Nightlife never paid my rent. Even after the coolest night out, I had to get up, put on my brown, tweedy professor clothes and go teach my courses. The club kids of both the Limelight era and today's parties are wonderfully talented creators of wearable art. Go see their looks!

As a sociologist, what intrigued you about Night Class: A Downtown Memoir's subjects?

VC: The people I introduce you to in the book are without a doubt the most fascinating people that I have ever met. From the Warhol Superstars to the Limelight / Tunnel club kids and Lady Gaga's Lower East Side crew, they are extremely creative, talented, and glamorous people. But they're so hungry for fame. So the book is really a meditation on how fame, spectacle, and delusion are interwoven in downtown New York.

What sets New York nightlife apart?

VC: New York is the city that never sleeps. Its energy pumps non-stop. Nightlife may go through trends and eras but it's always vibrant and exciting. Chapter 6 is all about The Box, which I consider to be downtown's best nightclub. It attracts A-list celebrities, hedge fund managers, and some of the most fabulous club kids in town. You will see outrageous performance art there that you won't see anywhere else! Go on a Thursday night when the great Amanda Lepore hosts!

How have nightlife queen Susanne Bartsch and Sex and the City costume designer Patricia Field shaped the scene?

VC: I devote chapter 5 to them and title it "Midnight Matriarchies." They are two tough and savvy entrepreneurs who have created magical havens where so many artists and performers have launched their careers. Susanne hosted my book launch at The Standard and at one point I went over and told her, "New York owes you so much. One day we'll all tell people that we were at a Susanne Bartsch party." Chapter 5 tries to make sense of what it takes to build a downtown empire like Susanne and Pat did.

How did you end up working for club-kid killer Michael Alig?

VC: I visited him in prison thirteen times as book research and at that point it seemed like he really wanted to start over as a mature and drug-free writer and artist. When he was released in May 2014 I had a light summer teaching load and wanted to see how he would reacclimate to free life. Chapter 3 is the story of what it was like to work with him and why I eventually stopped contact with Michael.

Have you ever been to the Hamptons and if so, what are some of your favorite spots?

VC: I have been only once before with the writer Dayna Troisi, a lifelong area native and my former student at Hofstra University. We spent a lovely day at the beautiful home of my mentor and friend Wednesday Martin and her husband Joel. Wednesday is a brilliant thinker and bestselling author who has also written about Hamptons culture. Dayna and I also popped in to a fabulous reading at Harbor Books by poets Lucas Hunt and Esther Mathieu and then had an amazing meal across the street at Page. I need to go back! We then stopped by artist William Quigley's opening in East Hampton. This Sunday Dayna and I are actually headed back to Harbor Books for a dishy Q&A together about fame, New York, and nightlife. Come!

For more information about Night Class: A Downtown Memoir, visit www.nightclass.ny.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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