Holding Court

Ash Nowak and Jon Dones as interviewed and edited by Rebecca Mazzei. Photos by Lauren Montgomery.

Haute to Death is a black patent leather mess with fingerprints, lipstick and booze stains. It smells like teenage lust and your mother's liquor cabinet. Coco Chanel is flirting with Raymond Pettibon, so neither notices that the record has been skipping.

It came about because most of the parties that we liked going to either ended or moved to other cities. We wanted to throw something for the displaced socialite refugees of the Dorkwave/Sass/Untitled parties before us — parties that were so fun you didn't recognize the amount of thought that went into them.

We started scouring the city, from weird bars in Indian Village to a couple spots in Mexicantown, for the most fitting place for our party. At first glance, Temple Bar seems like your standard bar, but once you get inside, you notice there are no gross beer mirrors and the regulars are mostly older gentlemen who are a bit more polished up. Whatever it is — their hair, their posture, jewelry — they make the best of it.

At any other place the guy next to you is sipping whiskey and beer. The first time we met with George, the owner, we sat next to a guy who was sipping gin and blush wine. The clientele has always been really nice to us. They've been kind enough to open their doors to us and our friends. The night works so well there because we really want to show each other a good time.

We hosted our first event on Halloween, as Gianni and Donatella Versace, requesting that our guests come dressed as their favorite dead, un-dead or should-be-dead celebrities. We got an incredible response: Lucille Ball, Nikki Sixx, Courtney Love, the Kurts (Vonnegut and Cobain) and many more.

Haute to Death also draws on the spirit of the late 19th century danse populaire scene in Paris — all artists and debutant hussies, working-class intellectuals and bourgeois savants. The nightlife was erotic and stylish, representing the dissolution of daytime social boundaries. People of any class or profession could get together on the dance floor. This whole thing was best captured by painter Toulouse-Lautrec. Most people grossly romanticize the kind of scene it was, like in the movie Moulin Rouge. When you really look at his paintings, he was actually quite unsympathetic, but there was soul and style.

Fashion icons:

Ash Nowak: Deborah Harry, John Hughes inceptions of Molly Ringwald, Kim Gordon's pristine dresses paired with a bass guitar and bored-yet-commanding snarl. Gibraltar Trade Center (the Taylor location, thank you.) Richard Prince paintings, Wes Anderson set design.

Jon Dones: Woody Allen, Andy Warhol, Ian Curtis, Dries van Noten, Hedi Slimane, Nom de Guerre, United Bamboo, Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless, Max Fisher from Rushmore. I think Chloë Sevigny is spectacular for a myriad of reasons. Oh, and the works of Banks Violette and Josephine Meckseper.

What kind of music they play:

Ash Nowak: Whitney Houston and Bauhaus.

Jon Dones: Whatever good-looking jet-setters listen to. The first song we ever played was Bowie's "Panic in Detroit." Because that's what we want to evoke.

Haute to Death is planning a prom at Temple Bar (2906 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-832-2822) for May 17, Check out www.myspace.com/hautetodeath for more details.

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