#BeYourOwnBabe At Alex Koones' Pop-up Dinner Party | Babetown
Created by chef Alex Koones, Babetown is a pop-up dinner party for queer women and trans and non binary people, offering an evening of food, wine and gayness in a series of private homes. As the inspiration for one of Fluide's most popular liquid lipsticks, we were excited to learn more about Babetown and its founder, Alex Koones.
When was your first Babetown and what was the original inspiration or idea for it?
Well, I’ve been throwing a party that is essentially Babetown for my whole life right in my house. I love cooking for queer people in the way some people love shoes or concert tickets—it’s what I’ve always spent all my money on. For my Pride party, which happened to fall right after Pulse happened, a lot of people brought friends and a ton of new people came to that party. I started thinking to myself; “how could I make it so people could bring tons of friends all the time, but also set up a system where it’s easy for them to throw me some dollars for all of it.” I told people I was going to call it “Babetown” and everyone laughed at me.
Someone once said to me while they were leaving a party at my house, like, “Wow, you have so many different types of people from different walks of life at your house right now and if this was my party I would be so nervous putting all these different types of people together, but you just throw everyone together and put out food.” That definitely describes how I’ve always thrown parties—I’m like “here’s the food, music is playing, you’re adults” but as Babetown has evolved, I’m a lot more organized. It’s no longer just me, I have a bunch of volunteers who come and help me and can jump in to help—whether it is spilled wine, or anything else. There is much more facilitation and scheduling that goes into it now.
What is the most outrageous thing that has happened at an event?
Outrageous? Hm.... Our first ever party was really wild—a threesome happened in the bathroom! People were having sex all over the place, honestly. Since then, Babetown has really tamed a lot. I think the craziest thing I’ve personally experienced at a Babetown was when I threw a Clam Bake and this woman came and she told me when she arrived she was allergic to shellfish and I was like “This is not the party for you, you should go” and she goes “No, it’s cool, I know my body.” Less than three hours later, I was cleaning up her vomit and just like “this is bananas.”
What does a successful event look like? What’s a “bad night” and do you even have any?
A successful event to me is when I look around and people are sitting in groups throughout the apartment, smiling and laughing and some folks have turned up the music and are dancing. That’s when I feel like the party has really taken off. In terms of “bad nights,” I have a latke night curse. I have thrown two late nights and at both, I have run out of food, which is really bizarre, because at every other event I make way too much food. But for some reason, the latke night evades me and it’s always really embarrassing. I just can’t make enough latkes for the queers! This year, I plan to make like 300 latkes.
Any other queer spaces that were important to you in the past or now?
Henrietta Hudson’s for sure, that’s really where I feel like I grew up going. I remember being 21 and going there after work and just feeling like my whole universe existed there. Also, Hot Rabbit of course. The person who throws it, Emily, used to go up to people at queer parties and introduce herself in this really warm, friendly way. She was so different from what party promoters were like then. A lot of them were super cool and dressed really cool and could never remember who you were, but Emily greeted everyone at Hot Rabbit with a hug and a smile and was this down to earth, relatable person who dressed really cool. Going into Babetown, her demeanor and the vibe and atmosphere she created was a huge inspiration to me, and even today in challenging situations, I’ll often be like “What would Emily do?”
What is the best part of running Babetown?
Every time someone comes up to me at a Babetown and hugs me and tells me how many new friends they made and how this was their first time really relaxing in a while, it means so much to me. There was this podcast that came to Babetown, “Nancy,” and I was in the living room when my girlfriend comes in and is like “Babetown is in this podcast.” And plays it for me. They’d come to the pool party and interviewed people and the sounds of my guest’s voices are coming through this speaker, talking about how meaningful this event has been to them and what it’s like to find a space where they can really let their guard down and let loose with their community, about the new friends they made and things they learned about themselves. I definitely sobbed for what felt like a million hours. I think I wrote the MC of that show too intense an email after that, just like “THAT MEANT EVERYTHING TO ME.”
What are the most challenging aspects?
Babetown consumes the time and responsibility of a full-on business, while not really being a profitable business. So, it’s sort of a balancing act to do it while trying to excel in a real career in a hustler’s city like New York. But I could never give it up – Babetown is my canvas for creating food that I’m really passionate about and it allows me to express my full creativity.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Do you like to travel and do you have any queer spaces outside of NYC that you love or would like to visit?
I do love traveling when I can. I think the queer scene in Ibiza would be cool to check out or Majorca.
If you could get anyone, living or deceased, to attend Babetown, who would that be?
Lena Waithe is the first person who comes to mind, but I’ve also always wanted Hari Nef to come.
Banner photo by Louise Palmberg; all other photography by Grace Chu.