Michael Kors and Interview Take the Stonewall Inn

On Tuesday night, we kicked off the week’s Pride festivities at the legendary Stonewall Inn with cocktails and an intimate conversation between Michael Kors and Interview editor-in-chief Mel Ottenberg, hosted by drag superstars Symone and Gigi Goode. After a raucous discussion that covered everything from gay liberation to ’90s nightlife, guests including queer icons Jordan Roth, Hal Baddie, Christeene, and Richie Shazam sipped cosmopolitans and spiraled the night away to the sounds of Jojo Americo. Below, revisit the celebration with a transcription of Kors and Ottenberg’s conversation and exclusive party pics by celebrity photographer Gary Lee Boas. Happy Pride!


OTTENBERG: Hey, Michael Kors.

KORS: Hey, Mel Ottenberg.

OTTENBERG: Happy Pride, 2023. We still got to celebrate. Nothing is promised these days.

KORS: We need to stay out, loud, proud, and let everyone know we’re not going back.

CROWD: Never!

OTTENBERG: We have to remind people that New York is the mecca for gay life. When I was a kid and I met so much homophobia in my area, but I read books about the Factory or Studio 54, or Interview magazine and I was like, “I’ll just go party with these people. I’m fine.” The kids need to know.

KORS: I took acting lessons on Bank Street when I was 14, and we would come into the city from Long Island on the subway. We’d get off at Christopher Street and I would come up those subway steps and be like, “I’m home. This is it.” I’ve lived in the Village my whole life.

michael kors pride party at stonewall

OTTENBERG: Amazing. I mean, I have not, but I live here now. But let’s ask Michael Kors about Stonewall and really get it going. Michael, you’re involved in philanthropy with the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, which is great. Will you tell me about it?

KORS: Living in the Village and walking down Christopher Street, you always think to yourself, “I’m walking by hallowed ground,” but there are generations of people who have no idea what happened here. And I always wondered why there wasn’t a monument that could explain to people what happened. Then I got a phone call like, “We’re going to have a visitor’s center at the Stonewall Inn.” Don’t you love the idea of going out drinking while learning something?

OTTENBERG: Beautiful.

KORS: I was like, “Yes. This is a dream come true.” This is hallowed ground, and it’s a great chance to drink and learn and teach new generations everything that transpired here. When marriage equality passed in Massachusetts, everyone said to my husband and I, “You guys can go to P-Town and get married.” But I’m a New Yorker. I need it to be here in my city. We were actually watching television when they cut in and said, “Marriage equality just passed in New York.” I was like, “Do you want to get married?” And the two of us immediately got off the sofa and came here to Sheridan Square, because I mean, this is it. We ran into neighbors of ours from Fire Island, one of whom was here the night of Stonewall, and he was crying. He and his partner had been together for 40 years. He was like, “I never thought this would happen,” and I said, “I know, but here we are celebrating this.” So this is just an amazing spot. Here’s to real heroes and heroines who fought for us. We’ve got to honor them and honor the story.

michael kors pride party at stonewall

OTTENBERG: Amen. Thank you for keeping Christopher Street and Stonewall from becoming a Chase or a QQ Nails, because it literally could have happened. It only became a landmark in ’16, right?

KORS: It’s pretty recent.

OTTENBERG: Now it’s 2023 and we’re living on the edge of hell. Freedom ain’t a promise, Michael Kors. Liberation itself is on the edge. It’s fucking ridiculous. Any thoughts? 

KORS: Too many thoughts. Why is it human nature that every time we move forward, people slide back? I guess it’s just a reminder that it’s never over.

CROWD: It’s like when your house gets dirty. You got to keep vacuuming.

KORS: That’s the best way to look at it. Don’t let the dust accumulate.

CROWD: You don’t use the vacuum cleaner one time and throw it away.


michael kors pride party at stonewall

KORS: When I was a kid, you’d watch television and wait for Bewitched because Paul Lynde was going to be on. Never in a million years would you think that we’d get all these shows. Queer As Folk? I mean, my god. 

OTTENBERG: I was sort of down on Pride a little bit, but now that we’re here, I’m so grateful that we can laugh and kiki and dance. What’s your first iconic club memory of New York? I was told I shouldn’t tell mine.

KORS: No, you’re telling it now.

OTTENBERG: I was told not to tell.

KORS: I want Mel to go first.

OTTENBERG: Well, it was 25 years ago and I’d just moved here. I didn’t like gay people. [Laughs] I had sex with a few of them, but I didn’t think they were cool. I was like, “I don’t make sense at The Tunnel and I don’t fit in at SqueezeBox! There’s nothing in the middle.” So, these girls were like, “We have to go to this new bar called The Cock.” I don’t know where I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to go to The Cock. These girls dragged me out and I walk into The Cock and it was so fucking major. It was filled with drag queens and gays and everyone looked amazing. It was this night called Foxy where people would do the most outrageous thing possible, and you would scream and throw these Foxy dollars at the person you liked the most. The person that got the most bills, who was the most outrageous, won a hundred real dollars. So Justin Vivian Bond starts introducing people and this queen comes up named Krylon. She comes on in roller skates with a drive-in apron on and a tray of hotdog rolls, ketchup, mustard, and relish. Sings the Oscar Meyer song, “My wiener has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R.” The next thing you know, the wiener comes on the thing, it gets slathered with ketchup and mustard and relish and onions and she says, “Want a bite?” And everyone screams. Then one person grabs it and eats it. And I had found my home. I went there five nights a week for 10 years. It was the greatest thing ever. But I walked in being like, “I don’t like gay people,” and then I found my existence in New York.

michael kors pride party at stonewall

KORS: Everyone’s going to be like, “This is so fucking bougie.” So it’s Long Island, the high school prom is coming and I could give a shit. But all I wanted was to see was these three girls who I knew would look amazing. So we drove down to watch the red carpet arrival and they looked great, so we got out of there fast. My friends and I were like, “What are we going to do to celebrate the prom?” So I said, “There’s this club that just opened in New York, and it’s supposed to be the greatest club in history. We should go to Studio 54.”

CROWD: In high school?

KORS: I had graduated. I was 17. The crazy thing was, Soho wasn’t Soho yet. It was just galleries and empty streets, so sexy and barren. We went to a restaurant called WPA, which was a very cool restaurant at the time. I later found out that the restaurant was designed by a brilliant designer named Scott Bromley, who was, hands down, the most beautiful man in the Pines. Scott designed Studio 54, and he also later was the architect for my house on Fire Island.

CROWD: [Cheers]

KORS: I digress. We had no clue. We’re 17, we’re from the suburbs. I weighed less than a swizzle stick. I looked like Peter Frampton. No one knows who that is.

OTTENBERG: What size jeans?

KORS: A 26. 

CROWD: [Cheers]

michael kors pride party at stonewall

KORS: We didn’t know that it was such a big deal to get in. We just went. And the next thing you know, I hit that hallway, and I was like, “This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life.” It was sexy, glamorous, a ridiculous mix of people. I had the best time. That summer before going to FIT, I would drive in by myself in my shitty Oldsmobile convertible and go to Studio 54. And when we started at school, Mel, I was a regular.

OTTENBERG: Yes, yes, yes.

KORS: But I never got invited to the cellar.

OTTENBERG: You know what? You’re here to tell the tale.

CROWD: What year was it?

KORS: 1977.


KORS: Yes. It was the Summer of Sam. I was at a party once and Diane von Fürstenberg was sitting there, and I mentioned Summer of Sam. She goes, “Who cared about Summer of Sam? I was out every night.” I said, “So was I.” New York was so rough, but we didn’t think so at all. We ran around like crazy people. We had the best time.

michael kors pride party at stonewall

OTTENBERG: I saw Girlina dancing at The Tunnel in 1996, and I was like, “I need to know these people.” I was just telling her that. What is the drag moment that changed your life, Michael Kors?

KORS: I did not grow up in the most traditional of houses. This is an understatement. So it was my birthday, in the summer. And Lypsinka, who I was just enraptured by, was going to be performing at the Pines Community Center, which was just a dump. My mother and I and a group of friends were all at our house, and my mom is being very cool about the whole night. We go, and John was unbelievable, as always. And then my mother says, “Let’s go say hello backstage.” I said, “I don’t think they have a backstage. I don’t even think they have a bathroom here.” And she says, “No, no, they do.” We walk downstairs and Lypsinka is wearing a lace catsuit, Michael Kors.


KORS: With a huge tulle overskirt that Naomi Campbell had worn in the show. I walk in and Marilyn singing Happy Birthday is playing, and Lypsinka has the cake. I’m literally crying and peeing my pants laughing, all at the same time, because I’m the only one I know with a mother who would make sure that Lypsinka was wearing Naomi’s outfit and that Marilyn was playing. It was perfect. And it all started with playing with towels. It’s a cape, it’s a skirt, it’s a dress, it’s a turban. It’s everything. Give it up for towels, people.

OTTENBERG: When you don’t have anything else, the towel.

KORS: And when you have a mother who never asked why you use six beach towels to take a shower.

OTTENBERG: That’s an ally. Okay, I’ve got one too. So I was in high school—I’m from DC—and I was grounded. They had a motion detector on the ground floor so if you stepped on the first floor, the thing went off. My friend did too. So we went to the hardware store and bought these ropes. My friend had gone to Girl Scout camp and knew how to make these loops, so we both tied them to our second-story bathroom radiators, threw them out the window, and crawled down. We went to Kevin Aviance’s new club, Life, in 1991, and took acid. It was Sunday, a school night, and I was a very 10th-grade Mel Ottenberg. We just watched the drag show for hours. There were grindhouse movies in the background. It changed my life, and I didn’t get caught. My friend got caught.

KORS: You got home and what?

OTTENBERG: I just smoked cigarettes and stared at the window and then eventually climbed up at seven in the morning. My friend got caught, but she also brought Kevin to the prom. So it was a whole drag prom.

KORS: Prom is our theme.

OTTENBERG: Prom is our Jewish boy theme. And we both live in the Village.

KORS: When COVID first happened, I ran into Mel waiting in line at Citarella. We had to stock up. We can’t just have mustard and mayonnaise in the house. 

OTTENBERG: I was buying like 14 potatoes and 12 onions. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to cook. [Laughs]

michael kors pride party at stonewall

KORS: The Village has been my friend my whole life. The first time I came to the West Village I was with my mother and my grandmother. We were uptown and I looked at my mother and I said, “Let’s go to MacDougal Street.” I think I was nine. She said, “What do you want to do on MacDougal Street?” And I said, “I want to get love beads.” Thank god we’ve maintained streets like this so that New York still has its flavor.

OTTENBERG: I love it. And I love you. Is there anything else to talk about, anything loose and inappropriate?

KORS: Oh my god, loose and inappropriate, Mel. [Laughs]

OTTENBERG: And gay, obviously. Loose, inappropriate, and gay.

KORS: Well, my first office was where I lived in a loft on 28th Street. There was a bathhouse up the street called the “Ever Hard” Baths, but it was the Everard Baths. I had an insane friend who was literally there every night, all night. He would show up as all of my seamstresses were cutting clothes and getting ready for the day, like, “Oh, I stink.” He’d run into the bathroom, take a shower, and ask them to drape him a dress. That studio was where I first started and it was equidistant between flowers, the bathhouse, and FIT. So I was destined for success.

OTTENBERG: Bravo. Michael Kors, everybody.

\michael kors pride party at stonewall

michael kors pride party at stonewall

michael kors pride party at stonewall