PAPER People: NYC Icons, Freaks and Legends

27 views 2:22 pm 0 Comments January 23, 2024

Any magazine’s ability to exist today is a notable accomplishment, let alone to survive across 40 years. For PAPER, this feat has only been made possible by our community: all the people we’ve featured, the creatives who’ve contributed their time and talent and the fans who’ve kept showing up to read our oddball coverage now for four decades.

In many ways, this anniversary cover lineup feels deeply personal to my own New York experience. But being that NYC living is shared by millions, witnessed at any given moment from multiple perspectives and one collective memory bank that only grows in wealth with each year, I’d imagine you can feel connected to this collection of personalities, as well.

There are stories from our local legends: Getting past supermodel Connie Fleming’s list at the door of every party that matters; seeing PR queen Kelly Cutrone expertly manage front row seating during NYFW; witnessing LES icon Clayton Patterson photograph cool kids outside his longtime home on Essex Street; hearing Bernie Wagenblast’s iconic voice announce the arrival of MTA subways during every commute; Susanne Bartsch still serving looks.

Then, a newer cast of characters, many of whom have leveraged the internet to unlock the world’s attention: Julia Fox’s A-List ascension after years being the Big Apple’s secret darling; Blizzy McGuire dominating newsfeeds while influencing the personal styles of fashion’s biggest it-girls; Emira D’Spain reaching millions through her “sugar daddy” TikTok beauty tutorials; Sabrina Brier’s painfully relatable impersonations; Davis Burleson’s viral Washington Square Park interviews; Gia Love’s tireless advocacy that makes a tangible cultural impact.

It’s all nonstop chaos and magic. Few can handle it, but everyone wishes they could — and PAPER has been on the frontlines to document and celebrate it all since first launching in 1984. Below, learn a bit more about 30 PAPER people we love, in a special dinner party shoot inspired by our own archives. We cast each cover group to be as random and dizzying as any night out in NYC — so if you’re wondering why? That’s exactly correct.

Justin Moran, Editor-in-Chief

Gia Kuan

If not NYC, then where?

Shanghai, because I feel like it is a New York City parallel and it has a lot of amazing energy. I just went there recently and the youth culture is amazing. Also, it ties to my Chinese roots.

If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

I’m really good at making food look good and I love to eat. My Instagram algorithm is crazy, it’s just girls eating noodles.

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

I was going to run an errand at Sant Ambroeus on Lafayette in 2012. I’m sitting at the bar and someone taps me on the shoulder. It’s Whoopie Goldberg and she’s sitting there having lunch with André Leon Talley. I’m wearing this Comme des Garçons skirt ‘cause I used to work there and [this girl] is like, “Child come over,” and I’m quivering and she’s like, “Come to the table and do a twirl so they can see a 360 view of the skirt,” and they’re all clapping like, “Bravo! Where is it from?” That was my favorite moment, we took a picture.

Connie Fleming

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

Walking for Thierry Mugler in Susanne Bartsch’s second Love Ball. I got to wear one of the fairy outfits, I think it may have been Linda [Evangelista’s] fairy costume. It was like an amoeba metal dress. That was the most iconic because we went up to the showroom and we were shuffled to the show in a limo and we really got to bond. Yeah, that was the first time working with [Thierry] that we really got to bond, so that’s my favorite.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on the subway?

A topless woman dancing to Biggie Smalls.

If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

I think I’d be good at therapy because as a trans person you’re always in a place of looking at both sides. It’s so much a part of who I am to look at something from all aspects.

Clayton Patterson

What was NYC’s best year?

1988. I did a video that night with my wife, Elsa Rensaa, and it became known as the Tompkins Square Park Riot. That night changed my life. I came to New York in 1979, and I was making it in SoHo getting shows and I hated that. I moved to the Lower East Side and I gave up that career and went for the adventure. I had a life on the Lower East Side that was just adventure.

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

The basement of the Pyramid [Club] one night. I was in there documenting a drag queen and on that night I met a guy named Nelson Sullivan [who was using] a handheld camera. If you watch the movie capture, you can see the minute I met him. He showed me that video camera, and it took me about a minute to understand it and it changed my life. I think it’s important to remember the person that opened the door for you.

Naushin Khan

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

My first show I did around Times Square right before we got into the pandemic. I was backstage with Lady Gaga and I used to look up to her a lot because she defies all formalities. She was telling me about her life story. That’s what got me started in the industry, my faith to continue.

If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

I am Muslim and I grew up in New York City. My main passion is helping other people, so I think I would run a nonprofit similar to My Sister’s Keeper where you can help domestic violence victims.

Who from this shoot would you choose to be stranded on an island with?

Julia Fox, she can keep a conversation going. You will never get bored or even realize you’re stranded.

Sabrina Brier

What NYC restaurant would you eat at forever?

L’Artusi, I’m definitely an Italian restaurant West Village girlie. I always feel like walking into that restaurant I’m transported somewhere — like you’ve kind of forgotten you’re in New York City. I love the ambiance and I also love the vibes of the people, it’s always so calming and the food is blasting with flavor. I love to put my face into a big plate of pasta.

Jessel Taank

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

I remember the first time I ever came to the city. I was in a yellow cab coming from JFK to the city and all of a sudden I saw the skyline. I completely teared up because it represents hope and an oasis of opportunity. In that moment, that’s when I knew I could become whatever I want.

Who from this shoot would you choose to be stranded on an island with?

I would pick Julia Fox because she’s just so interesting. I feel like she has nine lives. Plus, she doesn’t wear clothes. She’d probably make an outfit out of seashells or something, or she would grab a fish, descale it and use the fish scales as nipple covers. She would be so entertaining the whole time.

Sonja Morgan

What NYC restaurant would you eat at forever?

Definitely Scalinatella. It’s not really a fashion scene like you would see at L’Avenue. It’s two blocks from my house. You get these finance guys in there with the wives that I kind of grew up with. It’s discreet, nobody’s doing selfies or taking photos. Nobody has their eyes around the room, so for me, that can be very relaxing. And the food is the best ever, they have an amazing wine list. I always take a victim who’s paying the bill, it’s very expensive.

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

When I had my fashion show for Sonja Morgan New York and it was filmed on Bravo. The house was full and everyone was genuinely happy.

Alexander Roth

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on the subway?

Cruising IRL but like, to the nth degree, like actually stroking each other. Maybe they were best friends, maybe they were boyfriends. Who knows these days? You never really know. They were just having a good time.

What NYC restaurant would you eat at forever?

Cafe Himalaya. It’s around the corner from Lucien. I order in, take out and bring my situationships there. It’s the place to be.

If not NYC, then where?

New York or nowhere.

Linux

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

You know, I went to Rikers Island. I threw the best party ever in my jail cell with all the dolls in my unit. It was so crazy. All the girls, we all got ready. We like, did cornrows in each other’s hair. I got a radio and I made the music really loud on “I Like It” by Cardi B. It was the same day that Cardi threw the shoe at Nicki. So we had a Cardi B party. It was beautiful.

Who from this shoot would you choose to be stranded on an island with?

I have to think realistically, so I would say Julia Fox. Like, she’s a mother, she has gone through shit and she came out on the other end. We could also make it glam. We could be giving like full moon and spirituality.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on the subway?

Just so much jerking off. But is that wild?

Emilio Tamez

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

Me and my friends left a party and decided that we wanted Sonic, so we put 10 people into a sedan and drove outside the city limits. We played “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey on full blast like six times in a row. That was a very good moment. Those cinematic New York moments are definitely my favorites.

Tanner Fletcher

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

Our first runway show was pretty iconic. That’s something we’ve been dreaming about doing for a long time. And then when it actually happened, it was kind of a pinch me moment. As the models were walking, we weren’t planning on running down the runway after, but once it got closer and closer to the end, we were like, “Should we go?” Right at the end, we were like, “Let’s just do it.” So we grabbed each other’s hands and ran pretty fast and both blacked out.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on the subway?

Probably us. One night, the train was completely empty. We had a few drinks and were like, “Let’s go crazy.” We went running up and down the train and were dancing. It was a moment.

Gia Love

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

Every summer in August, I have a cookout for the celebration of Black trans women. We turned it out and filled Herbert von King Park in Brooklyn with so much love, so much joy, so much freedom. We provided a platform for Black trans women to experience liberation in a public space. That’s the centerpiece of the work that I do. It’s like, going down in history.

What NYC restaurant would you eat at forever?

Dudley’s in LES. As a trans woman, I just want to be treated with respect, be seen and feel regular. And when I go there, not only am I treated like that, but also so nicely. I get the shrimp linguini, the burger with no cheese, the brussel sprouts, the truffle fries or the calamari.

Emira D’Spain

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

Obviously my time at PAPER when I used to be the Beauty Editor, and here we are now… on the cover.

What NYC restaurant would you eat at forever?

BondST, hands down. I could eat there until I’m sick. I love sushi, specifically anything with spicy tuna. It’s my favorite.

Davis Burleson

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

The first time I filmed my show in New York, I went out and started interviewing people on the street. It was a very humbling experience. I thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was. I was like, “This is true New York.” Everyone was so busy, no one wanted to talk to me. I had a mask on and just this mini mic. I would say, “Can I ask you a question?” Or run up with a random question and people would just flat-out ignore me, like not even look at me or anything. It was constant. I would ask like, 50 people, and I would get one good one.

What NYC restaurant would you eat at forever?

I love Corner Bar and Swan Room at Nine Orchard. The steak is so good and their desserts are incredible. They’re very moody, and I love a dark and sexy restaurant. I’m all about lighting. I have yet to go there on a date, so this is anyone’s sign to take me there.

Ivy Getty

What was NYC’s best year?

The summer of 2016. I was interning for PAPER then. That was the most iconic summer ever and I heard a lot of other people say that, too, like it’s not just me. There was something magic in the air and anywhere you went felt like the best night ever. Most of my craziest nights have probably been at Paul’s Baby Grand, which I still love and adore. It’s my favorite club in the entire city forever.

What NYC restaurant would you eat at forever?

Miss Lily’s. I never even go in person, I order it a lot. I love Caribbean food like roti bread, jerk chicken, jerk salmon. I just love tropical flavors.

Blizzy McGuire

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever worn on a night out?

My head goes to a pair of shoes where I’m already out and I’m in pain [but] gonna keep going. I wore these terrible quality Mary Janes to a Tinashe show and I’m like, “Let me dance,” and my feet hurt so bad. I was like, “Okay, I have to leave.” I left the show early, but I looked good and I had fun.

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

I saw Funny Girl with Lea Michele on Broadway. I was with Jeremy O. Harris, they took me. She was meant to play that role, so that was a very “you live in New York” iconic moment.

If not NYC, then where?

I would live in Italy with my family. I want the food, I want mussels so bad.

Richie Shazam

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

That’s hard because I’m so inherently iconic. I think everything I do has a little bit of icon attached to it. For me this year has been working on my photo book because I really got to encapsulate my New York family and work with people I care about and re-envision myself in so many different ways. To be a true icon in your work, you have to be willing to shed your skin and be your authentic self. You’ve got to be willing to make mistakes and take risks. Working on my book was definitely one of the most iconic things I’ve done as of late.

What was NYC’s best year?

2007. I was coming of age and remember the hedonism of the night. I really found myself. You were meeting people for who you are, not who you were pretending to be. It was about keeping it 100, keeping it real. I miss that frequency where you really had to meet someone as you and I think that’s forgotten now.

Who from this shoot would you choose to be stranded on an island with?

Julia. I just know when push comes to shove, she knows what to do. And she’s all about her instincts. It’s about trusting someone that obviously has your back, but she would keep it together because I would be losing my shit. Also, we’d have a really good time. We would just be lol’ing and talking to the volleyball together. We’d make a new friend, like a volleyball or coconut.

Willy Chavarria

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on the subway?

The first time I ever brought my parents to New York from a very small town we took the train and less than five minutes after we were on the train, a man came and squatted directly in front of us and took shit. My parents were mortified. I mean, I have so many. I got a handjob by an anonymous person on the subway once, I’ve been here a long time.

If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

I have tried to do other things, but all I can do is fashion. I would very much like to open a Mexican bakery in Copenhagen because it’s super nice and clean there, and they’re unexposed to that. I think I’d make a good fortune there while living a lovely lifestyle.

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

Having sex at the Guggenheim.

Julia Fox

What was NYC’s best year?

2007 was really great. The parties were really bumping. It was right before the collapse on Wall Street. It just felt really alive. I was 17, so I was younger but I still felt old. You know, I still felt like I had been around the block. But yeah, I feel like every year since then has been a little… yeah.

If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

Social worker. I love children and I think I’d be really good at helping kids going through something.

Who from this shoot would you choose to be stranded on an island with?

Richie, Richie. We’re already stranded on a desert island, it’s just me and Richie ‘til the day we die.

What NYC restaurant would you eat at forever?

I have to say Lucien because I have been eating there my whole life. It’s an institution, a New York staple.

Kuby Lin

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

Mostly people waiting in line to get into a party, that’s my memory of New York City.

What NYC restaurant would you eat at forever?

Taiwanese Pork Chop House in Chinatown. They have chicken legs over rice and Chinese medicine soup that’s really good.

Who from this shoot would you choose to be stranded on an island with?

Willy Chavarria, because I love his clothes so much. I met him today in person and he loves my look. [I told him], “I love your clothes so much, can I get a discount?”

If not NYC, then where?

I actually really want to live in Paris. I’ve never lived in Europe before and I really love all the uncut guys.

Jordan Roth

Who from this shoot would you choose to be stranded on an island with?

Richie Shazam. We’d have a blast and create fabulous looks together until we got rescued.

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

Walking with my husband to the Bethesda Fountain.

If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

I’m making it happen as we speak. You’ll see, stay tuned.

Miss Madeline

If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

I would be a preacher because people listen to what I have to say.

Who from this shoot would you choose to be stranded on an island with?

Jonah because we’re both extremely good looking and we would make really pretty babies just for like, the sake of keeping pretty going.

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

Finally moving out of New Jersey.

If not NYC, then where?

Los Angeles, because I make pop music.

Jonah Almost

Who from this shoot would you choose to be stranded on an island with?

Kelly Cutrone. I met her recently at this event, and she looked at one of my friends and was like, “Let’s get out of here. I’m taking you guys to a steak dinner.” She just dumped the night, and took me and my friends out for steak. When I saw her here she was like, “Show me your looks, I’m going to style you.” I feel safe with her and I just know she would be chopping wood, hunting down animals. We would be okay on that desert island because she’s gonna get us together.

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

Walking in here has been pretty iconic. I’m honestly so starstruck by the voice of the subway lady [Bernie Wagenblast]. I mean, there’s too many to count. But actually one time when I was 19, Connie [Fleming] clocked me at the door with a fake ID and she kicked me out of the club. So that’s a funny full-circle moment.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on the subway?

One time I went to sell a chair off Facebook Marketplace. I was in a Times Square subway station and there was a guy naked on the ground fisting himself. I actually have a video, I have the receipts.

Kelly Cutrone

What was NYC’s best year?

Up until 1991, the city was banging. It was still a place where a lot of artists could live, and young kids could come and anything went. People weren’t as structured about who they were and how they represented themselves, it was just a freak show.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on the subway?

I’ve only taken the subway once in my life and I said, “Never again.” I literally was an assistant for Susan Blond in 1987 and she would ask me to go to Chinatown from 57th Street to get Chinese herbal medicine. I walked, I just couldn’t take the subway. I’m too psychic, I can feel everything. It’s too much. So I’ve never seen anything on the subway, except my first ride and they were very rude. I didn’t know how to get a token, and I was from Syracuse and felt stupid. Then when I got on the train, I thought, This is Hell, and never went back.

If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

I think I’d be a great wedding planner because I’m a bitch and I know how to get shit done. And I don’t give a fuck about the bride.

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

Meeting Ronnie Cutrone, my first husband, at Carmelita’s, which was an old bordello on 14th Street. We went to [the club] Save The Robots afterward and I left an eight ball of coke in his pocket. Then the next morning I still wanted to party and I realized I had left coke in his pocket. I found his number in the phonebook and figured out where he lived and started banging on the door. But it was the door of Robert De Niro’s father, who then walked me to Ronnie’s house. Then I had sex with him on the roof and we got engaged.

Jazzelle

Who from this shoot would you choose to be stranded on an island with?

Blizzy would be a fun time. She’s crafty and will keep up the morale.

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

My first year here. I can’t really say a standout memory because there’s so many, like, going out every single night somehow, getting my looks from the dollar store and making it fucking happen. Then somehow meeting Susanne at some party out and then hosting her party and just being with all the girls.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on the subway?

I was in full eleganza drag one time and got stuck on the D train in between stops. This guy just sat there looking at me from across with a knife in his hand and a bottle of vodka just talking good shit to me. But like, I couldn’t tell if he was being cunty about it or if he was about to kill me. But I was like, Let’s just roll with it.

Susanne Bartsch

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

The Love Ball in 1989, bringing people together to fight AIDS. And the way New Yorkers came together, I got to rally them. It was the most iconic night ever, if you ask me. No money can buy that. Then I did another one in ‘91. And then did one in LA in ‘92. And one in Paris in ‘92 or ‘93 at the Folies Bergère. But the New York one, that first one, was magical. Every single person donated their time and love, giving and not wanting anything back.

Bernie Wagenblast

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on the subway?

This is gonna sound kind of egotistical, but because I’ve been doing a lot of publicity, people are now starting to recognize me. So having people come up to me, asking me if I’m the voice of the subway and then wanting to take selfies with me has been really crazy. I’m honored that they recognize me and that they want to take a photo with me.

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

It was being in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1980, pushing a biplane down Broadway. We wore aviator costumes looking like we were in World War One, and we had little loudspeakers where we would announce our names.

What was NYC’s best year?

I’m going to say 1940. I think people came together because we had a common purpose during the war. The photos I’ve seen of what was going on in the city, in terms of people coming together and working together, is inspiring.

Peter Demas

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

When I got to New York, I was just like, This is my moment to start living how I want to live and dress how I want to dress and do what I want to do. But I hadn’t actually done it yet. Then I met this amazing group of people that encouraged me to be whoever I want. There was this one night, my first winter in New York, we were all drinking and having fun playing cards on the floor and listening to music. It was very, very wholesome and felt like a coming-of-age film. It was a very cathartic moment for me to be like, I’m here. Now I’m going to be able to do whatever I want.

Ish Couture

What’s your most iconic NYC memory?

The Baroque Ball in 2021 that Nosferatu threw was like, the most iconic shit I’ve ever been to. Crazy experience. The glam, the music, the energy. I had just moved here too, so that was my welcome to New York. It had me hooked since I’ve been here.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on the subway?

I think people being flashy and doing random shit isn’t really that crazy, but seeing people being disrespectful to other people, not showing respect for another human, is crazy.

Photography: Oscar Ouk
Styling: Mel Reneé
Set design: Jacob Burstein
Hair: Sean Bennett
Make-up: Andrew D’Angelo


Editor-in-chief: Justin Moran
Managing editor: Matt Wille
Editorial producer: Angelina Cantú
Fashion editor: Andrew Nguyen
Music editor: Erica Campbell

Social editor: Alaska Riley

Photo assistants: Vincent D’Oria, Chris Cook
DIT: Michael Granacki
Styling assistants: Hannah Atira, Gabby Weis
Make-up assistants: Iona Moura, Nat Carlson, Tommy Napoli
Hair assistants: Matthew Sosnowski, Jonahi Ortiz Rosa, John Novotny, Dylan Silver
Set design assistant: Cullen O’Grady

Stylist, Jordan Roth: Michael Philouze
Makeup, Jordan Roth: Sil Bruinsma
Hair, Jordan Roth: Brent Lawler

Makeup, Susanne Bartsch: Deney Adam
Hair, Susanne Bartsch: Francis Rodriguez

Production assistant: Abi Lorenzini

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