It's not every night you see Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker hanging out in the back room of a dimly lit bar on lower Avenue C. But at the opening party for the new bar Bedlam last week, the couple provided a surprising splash of formalwear amid a sea of flannel. They were there with their friend Andy Cohen, the Bravo executive, and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper supporting Benjamin Maisani, the bar's co-owner. "I'm a little obsessed with taxidermy," Maisani admitted to guests as he led them around the bar.
It shows: There are stuffed birds and animals protruding from walls at various intervals, and a massive moose head dominates the entire front room. Maisani is also interested in anatomy, and collects hundred-year-old scientific journals pages from which serve as wallpaper. There are also detailed models of the human body and authentic, massive vintage medical diagrams in frames (Maisani says Bedlam is actually the name of whats considered the oldest mental institution in the world, dating from the thirteenth century).
Maisani who came to America from Paris nearly two decades ago first entered nightlife as a bartender at Barracuda, the Chelsea gay bar. He eventually opened Eastern Bloc, a trendy gay dive in the East Village, with a pair of partners. But he swears this new project will cater to a mixed crowd.
"I'm a big old gay, and I own a little gay bar. Just because of that I'm sure I'll get some of my regular customers," he said. "But I want to open this as much as possible to everyone. I certainly do not want to do like a straight sports bar that will be sort of obnoxiously straight. A lot of my gay friends when they go out they don't necessarily go out to a gay bar. They like to hang out on the Lower East Side or Williamsburg. That's the kind of environment I want to create."
On opening night, the crowd seemed to be largely young, hipstery, and, well, gay. Maisani's co-owner Pablo Raimondi, a comic-book illustrator, said that he planned to try to draw his own friends eventually, just not right away. "Have you ever been to a comic-book convention?" he asked. "Have you seen pictures of a comic-book convention?"
Bedlam, 40 Avenue C, nr. E. 3rd St.; 212-228-1049