TCQ&A: “I Can Be Naughty at Times So Let’s Skip That Question”

When we last checked in with Marla Mase, it was about her event-planning companies, PartyPoopers and PartySwank. What we didn’t get into at all was her life as a musician and playwright “known for her balls-to-the-wall performance style and her no-holds-barred honesty,” according to the press release for the newly released CD soundtrack of her rock-and-roll musical, A Brief Night Out. (Buy it here.) “I love music, I love words, especially what’s in between the words,” she says. “That’s what I try and get at when I perform.” When not singing, writing, or planning parties, she’s been raising her two kids. Oh, and her second CD, Speak, comes out in the spring. (Portrait by Malaika “Eagle Nebula” Beckford, courtesy Marla Mase.)

How long have you lived in the area?
I moved to Tribeca when I was 19 from my parents’ house in Canarsie, Brooklyn. That’s 1983.

Which restaurants do you frequent most often?
Edward’s, Edward’s, Edward’s, Takahachi, Gigino. I admit it—I’m at Edward’s probably at least three times a week. It’s relaxed. I like the burgers, I like the tuna wasabi sandwich, I like the waitstaff. I hold all my meetings there. They probably know more about my life than my journal does. Love Takahachi too—the sushi, the rolls, the Chilean sea bass dumplings—and I love that when I go in there they know me by name. Makes me feel special. Truth is, I don’t know how they know my name but they do. Gigino—whenever my parents visit that’s where we go; my father loves that place. And their pizza is the best.

Which restaurants do you tend to go to for special occasions?
Nobu, Il Giglio, Acappella—on birthdays we go to these places. My son loves Nobu—we all do, that tuna sashimi salad dressing, the black cod—also love the giant parmesan at Il Giglio that they hold in front of you as they cut you pieces from it. And no one anywhere sings “Happy Birthday” as badly as the waiters at Accapella. They are known for this. Everyone at least once in their life needs to be serenaded by these guys. Not to be missed.

Where do you order in (or get take-out) from? Are there dishes you always order?
We get a lot of takeout from Pakistan Tea House—white-meat chicken platter and vegetarian platter (right). Their freshly made nan is fantastic and you can’t beat the price. We also order in from Cornerstone Grill—those barbeque chicken wings are a fave snack for my 14-year-old. And of course the Bouley Studio roast chicken is a great “I didn’t cook dinner again” meal. Sun Café is great for sushi—they have this avocado-and-peanut roll that I just love.

Which shops do you find it hard to resist popping into when you pass by?
Housing Works—I find my best clothes there, really. And I’m a hat person, so I’m always on the lookout for that special hat which I will most likely never take off for an entire season.

What was the last non-essential item you bought in Tribeca?
Oh that’s a toughie, I’m not a non-essential type of shopper. Probably some herbal supplement/vitamin at Willner Chemists or Bell Bates that I’m too afraid to take.

Are there any services (salon, fitness, etc.) that you’re particularly glad are in the neighborhood?
Yes, Rare for hair—been going there for years. The owner, Ruth Roche (left), is a doll and she hires very down-to-earth hair cutters, colorists, and stylists. It’s like a mini-vacation when I go there. A three-hour one. And, of course the best yoga studio—Kula Yoga on Warren. I urge everyone to check it out. It’s saved my life. I’ve been going there since it opened and I wasn’t even a yogi then. Not really a yogi now, but man does that place set me straight.

What’s the area’s best-kept secret?
Hmm…. Rare and Kula. Kevin’s class at Kula is the bomb. Reade Street Pub Thursday nights with Chris Decker playing cover tunes on the guitar—he’s really very good, and he’s all set up with his pedals and tunes and he has a great voice. I find myself gravitating there many Thursdays just to hear him.

Where do you always take out-of-towners?
Hudson River Park—to walk by the river, and see all the little Alice in Wonderland characters and those little worker-people sculptures. They all want to go to Ground Zero and Century 21.

Which neighborhood building do you wish you lived in and/or owned?
I love the old houses on Harrison Street (right), of course—they have backyards and trees. That would be nice.

What’s your favorite part of the area (street, park, whatever)?
I love Harrison between Greenwich and Hudson down to Reade between Greenwich and Hudson. Buildings are beautiful and it’s the most quiet part of the neighborhood. I love to sit and get some sun on the stoop near Yuya Nail Salon on Reade and Greenwich. And of course Hudson River Park—on the grass—near the basketball and handball courts.

Your most memorable celebrity sighting?
I’m so bad at recognizing people, I always think they’re just someone I know but not sure from where. Actually Susan Sarandon was in my daughter’s music class at Church Street School for Music and Art years ago and it wasn’t till the evening when I went to see Little Women that I was able to place her face. Up till then I kept thinking, How do I know this woman? How do I know this woman? I’ve seen De Niro, Harvey Keitel (all the time), Ray Liotta, Mary Louise Parker, Scarlett Johansson, Edward Albee (memorable because I love his work and I write plays so he’s kind of an icon for me). I remember seeing John Kennedy Jr. once on an early Sunday morn (I didn’t even know who he was—someone told me) walking his dog and then a few feet behind, following him, three or four photographers. I actually felt bad for him. Poor guy couldn’t even walk his dog and get a newspaper on a Sunday morning without paparazzi. Pretty awful if you ask me.

If you could change one thing about the neighborhood, what would it be?
Stop building so high. We’ve lost all the sunshine. Have to go to the river now to find it.

What’s changed around here that you like? That you don’t?
Well, I’ve been here a long time. Seen many changes. I love the use of the Hudson River, the parks, the piers, the bike paths, makes us remember that Manhattan is actually an island, that we are surrounded by water. I don’t like that they took away most of the ballfields in the park near the movie theater. It used to be a great place to hang and now it’s been cut down so small you can’t do anything but huddle together to watch some kids’ game. I also dislike the huge building they built in front of the movie theater. We need some breathing space. I do miss the bohemian feel of Tribeca, but change is change.

What’s your best Tribeca story?
I can be naughty at times so let’s skip that question. It might appear in one of my songs or plays—or perhaps it has already. Keep a look out.

Any questions you wish you’d been asked?
How I ended up in Tribeca to begin with? Oh well, next time…

Recent TCQ&As
Elisa Casas: “Jenny McCarthy Had Phone Sex in My Bed”
Connie Connors: “I’ve Always Loved the Chicken from Cornerstone Grill”
Tania Anthony: “Tribeca Needs a Good Chinese Restaurant”
Loretta Thomas: “Harvey Keitel Always Smiles Back”
Carla Sullivan: “The Babysiting at Equinox Has Been a Lifesaver!”

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