Daniel Nardicio has been called it all. The Village Voice awarded him Best Gay Party Promoter, New York Magazine called him a “sleaze impresario,” and he’s also been called the “Gay Howard Stern,” “Gay Hugh Hefner,” and “The Spirit of New York.” The Eye sat down to talk to the man behind the biggest Underwear Party in the world, EuroPride in Poland, and Levi Johnston’s Playgirl shoot.
How would you describe the vibe of your parties and events?
What I tend to do with any of my events is I look at certain adjectives, and I stick to them. One of them is sexy, because I work a lot with gay men and work in the gay milieu, so I stick with that. And I tend to be really irreverent. And fun is the third one. A lot of what I do tends to be very sexually charged, but not everything. I’m doing a concert with Alan Cumming and Liza Minnelli March 15th.
I thought that happened already.
It did, but it was such a success on Fire Island that we decided to bring it to Manhattan. It’s Liza’s birthday party. On that note, a lot of the things that I like to do are alchemy. Putting together different sorts of things and seeing how it works to create something completely unique. Anyone can do a Liza Minnelli concert. And anyone can do an Alan Cumming concert. But putting them together creates something completely new. And no one has done it. I was the first person to put them together on stage. They’re two old friends, and you just watched the magic happen.
What would you say was the best event you created?
The wackiest event I created was in Williamsburg, when I first started in New York. I found an aquarium. There was a massive shark tank in the middle of the room, and I just threw a party there. Everyone was in their underwear and running around. Jake Shears was there—from the Scissor Sisters, before he got really famous— and he was in the shark tank with Justin Bond, a cabaret performer who has done Carnegie Hall and Broadway. That was a pretty amazing event. That was an example of being irreverent, sexy, and fun. I took a space that was pretty unconventional, and I thought, let’s throw a party here, with waterfalls coming down and people making out on the floor.
How do you come up with these ideas?
What I don’t do is go out a lot. I feel like when I go out and see what other people are doing, I get worried that I’ll do the same thing.
So you don’t let yourself go out?
I don’t go out a lot, no. I used to. But I realized at some point that it was more important for me to run the ride than to ride the ride. It’s more important for me to be in charge and run these events. I don’t go out a lot because I find myself getting really influenced by what I see and going, “I want to do that!” You find yourself wanting to do the exact same thing someone else has done. But I go out in other cities a lot.
What cities do you go out in?
I bought a place in New Orleans a few years ago, so I go there a lot. I lived in Berlin for five years, so I go back to Berlin a lot. I did a series of parties in Poland for EuroPride in 2010, so I spent time in Poland. It was a very depressing place. It’s really gray, and the people are gray, and they’re very homophobic, and they’re afraid of anything that looks different. There wasn’t a lot of self-expression, which you see a lot in New York and New Orleans. It was a mess there. We got eggs thrown at us. It was a pretty scary time.
You’ve also worked at Playgirl, and it was out of print when you started?
I worked at Playgirl for three years. It was only online when I started, and I said, “I want to bring the print version back,” and I got Levi Johnston to pose for the magazine. When that happened, there was such an interest for the magazine, that they did the print version again.
How did you come up with Levi Johnston?
I was watching Bravo, and Andy Cohen had a show. He asked Levi if he would do porn. He said yes. And at that point, I was doing negotiations with Playgirl, and I thought, “This is the perfect person for this.” He’s connected with Sarah Palin, who most people don’t like. Or at least, people in my circle don’t like. I thought, wouldn’t this be a great way to fuck with Sarah Palin? That’s the irreverent part of my business strategy. I scheduled his shoot the day Palin was on Oprah Winfrey. I created this media circus on the day she was trying to promote her new book. CNN and all these people were reaching out to me, “How was the shoot? Was it full frontal?” And I released the information to undercut Sarah. It was a funny day. I got Oprah to say “Playgirl,” which made me really happy. Oprah asked Sarah Palin how she felt about Levi doing Playgirl. I remember thinking, “This is one of the singular most exciting moments of my life.”
Were you successful in messing with Palin?
I think it had a significant impact on the way that people see Sarah Palin. People realized, “God, she can’t even run her own family.” Levi technically wasn’t her family, but it kept reaffirming that her daughter had this kid out of wedlock. She kept espousing all these right-wing beliefs, but then her daughter’s knocked up. She’s a hypocrite.