January Issue: People to Watch Feature Package

For this feature package, I highlighted eight local up-and-comers: April Bukofser & Marin Milio, Clare Galterio, Todd Sandler, Stan Rosenberg, Malcolm D. MacDougall III, Stephen Ferri, and Jay Alvear.

People to Watch

The Hostess 
Clare Galterio

“Show me some dance moves,” Clare Galterio, 26, says to an older gentleman at a slot machine. Sure enough, he starts up with a jig of sorts. Galterio joins in.

“I deal with eighteen-year-olds all the way up to eighty-seven-year-olds,” Galterio says. “I need to be able to talk to anyone.” You want her to talk to you, too, because Galterio is the in-person and on-air hostess who does the big giveaways at the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. The public relations manager has given away cars, cash, even ShopRite gift cards to lucky gamblers. The filmed bits she does to promote the casino’s prizes are simulcast on cable and shown in casinos, racetracks, and bars all over the country (and a few in Canada, too). She’s also done segments for WPIX. Right now, she is auditioning for other TV hosting gigs. 

Galterio’s easy charm with people—which lets people do goofy dances without feeling silly—makes her a natural host. “I grab people from the audience. I do trivia. We do dance-offs.” Then again, Galterio is no stranger to performing. Growing up in Bedford, she danced her way through the studios of Westchester. “I’ve been dancing my whole life, but being on TV has always been my dream.”

Soon, that dream will be realized on an even bigger screen. Recently, she was cast—right off the casino floor—in Imogene, a movie starring Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening. She plays, fittingly, someone who gives away a car. “I did a tour for the directors when they wanted to film at Empire City,” she says. “They said, ‘Listen, we have a part written for someone to give away a car. Would you like to be in the movie?’ That was amazing because people don’t just give away roles like that, especially for speaking parts.”

Auditioning for other hosting jobs is not always easy. For example, she auditioned to be the new Nets announcer—on crutches. “I had to do it on a sprained ankle.” (She didn’t book the job, but the basketball season was truncated anyway.) In the meantime, life is good at Empire City. “I make people really happy,” she says. “I’m not the machine that they want to take out all of their frustrations on.”

Click through to read the rest of the feature package online.

Photo by Cathy Pinsky.

January Issue: Q&A with Cecil Suwal, Formerly of the Emperor's Club VIP Escort Service

Prison Break
Cecil Suwal goes from tabloid fodder to personal-growth expert.

When you meet Cecil Suwal, you’d never guess that the 27-year-old Harrison native was a felon. She’s pretty, well-spoken, and graduated summa cum laude from Fordham University; she plans to get a PhD. But she and her then-boyfriend, now husband, Mark Brener, 65, were both sent to prison for running the Emperors Club VIP, the escort service that brought down Eliot Spitzer.

Suwal pleaded guilty in 2009 to money laundering, conspiracy, and conspiring to promote prostitution and served six months in the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. (Brener was sentenced to 30 months.) “Prison was extremely difficult,” she says. “We lost everything. But I can’t necessarily say I regret it, as it has helped us grow up in ways that we wouldn’t have had if we were still living the life we were living before.”

After a brief return to Westchester post-prison, Suwal and Brener are reunited, married, and together have written a self-help book, The Science of Activating Your Supreme Power, and founded a website theoneworldinitiative.com, They’ll also be teaching a personal-growth class at The Learning Annex in Manhattan. We asked Suwal about her experiences.

[Q&A Excerpt]

What was your reaction when Mark told you he was running an escort service? Did you have any reservations about working there yourself? Conceptually, for me, an escort service is okay—a prostitution ring is not. An escort service is designed to fulfill needs like having a date on the town, traveling together, and going to dinners and shows. That idea seemed perfectly legitimate and fun in my eyes.

What was prison like? Prison was the absolute most difficult time period in my life. I was isolated from the rest of the world, isolated from my family. I had to leave my school, leave my entire life and everyone I loved.

And now you’re married? Mark wanted to marry me before. I wasn’t ready. Being separated from him made me realize I was ready to marry him. Being away from him meant that I experienced life without him, and I could say that I preferred life with him to life without him.

How did your previous experiences inform the book you’ve written? We wanted to write a personal-growth book. Mark and I were always trying to help people, though, clearly, the vehicle we were using wasn’t a good idea.
Click through to read the rest of the Q&A online.

The Daily Traveler: Hangover Cures


Recover on New Year's Day Like the Cast of The Hangover Part II

The Bangkok Cure: Kill That Hangover with Vitamins—and Another Drink
Alex Holzer, mixologist at The Dome at Lebua in Bangkok, Thailand, has a cocktail with a special connection to hangovers, because it was “specially created for the cast and crew of The Hangover Part II,” he says. In addition to some hair of the dog, Holzer loads his cocktail up with healthful ingredients: “Honey is a source of carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and protein. The Chinese have known about the medicinal benefits of green tea since ancient times, using it to treat everything from headaches to depression. Rosemary contains antioxidants and is an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6 and C, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and copper. Its connection with memory has been noted for a long time. Green apples contain sodium, and we add Vitamin C by making juice out of it to maintain the green clear color.”

  • 1 oz Chivas 12-year-old blended scotch whiskey
  • 1 oz Zen green tea liquor
  • .3 oz Martini Rosso
  • .5 oz green apple juice
  • .3 oz Angostura Bitter
  • .3 oz honey/rosemary infusion (house-made)
  • garnish with a rosemary sprig

Click through to read hangover cures from London, Sydney, Moscow, and Milan on The Condé Nast Traveler website.

The Daily Traveler: Underground Tours

Underground Tours that Won't Make You Miss the Sunlight

The most memorable experiences are not always up on the surface—sometimes you have to go underground. Of course, journeying to the center of the Earth isn't always easy: Right now, Brooklyn railway historian Bob Diamond is suing New York City for access to an old Long Island Railroad tunnel where he used to take groups. Though we won't know the outcome of his case for a while, in the meantime here are five underground tours that are so interesting you won't miss the sunlight.

The Coolest
Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

Location: Seattle, Washington
Cost: $8 for children, $13 for students and seniors, $16 for adults
The Tour: After the Great Seattle Fire rolled through Pioneer Square in 1889, the city took the opportunity to rebuild on top of the ruins, protecting itself against floods, mud, and seepage that had plagued the low-lying area. Bill Speidel's Tour takes you through what remains of the old city, where places that were once first-floor storefronts and streets remain eerily intact. FYI: Come thirsty—tours begin at Doc Maynard's Public House, a college-crowd bar known for its live music.

Click through to read the rest at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Photo: Bill Speidel's Underground Tour, Seattle, Washington

PopMatters's 75 Best Albums of 2011

For PopMatters's year-end round-up of the 75 best albums of the year, I contributed the write-up for No. 55.

They Might Be Giants
Join Us

They Might Be Giants has been making music for close to three decades, but the band never abandoned a spirit of experimentation. Though John Flansburgh and John Linnell’s songs always bear their personality, the band never settled on one signature sound or settled in to writing one type of song over and over. This diversity is present throughout Join Us, an album that offers “Can’t Keep Johnny Down”, a sparkling, the La’s-style pop song; “Judy Is Your Viet Nam”, a straight-ahead rock anthem; “Dog Walker”, which features heavy use of crazy digital vocal effects; and “Old Pine Box”, which comes across almost like a folk song. The arrangements on Join Us are sparer and with less elaborate instrumentation. The stripped-down aesthetic recalls They Might Be Giants's earliest albums, when the band was an experimental two-some, but the immense strength of the craft evident on Join Us proves that the Johns have learned a thing or two about songwriting over the past 30 years.

Click through to read the rest of the list at PopMatters.

PopMatters: The 75 Best Songs of 2011

For the site-wide list of the best songs of the year, I contributed the write-up to number 12.

The Strokes “Under Cover of Darkness”
The Strokes have never been able to recapture the acclaim that followed the band’s debut, but, as a song, “Under Cover of Darkness” bears all of the hallmarks that made Is This It such a success. It comes in the same package of world-weary attitude and effortless cool. Its lyrics tap into the same universal anguish—the band’s lyrics were never poetic so much as they were relatable—and include phrases you might hear outside of any dorm in America. (The lyrics to the big, rousing chorus are “Don’t go that way, I’ll wait for you.”) “Under Cover of Darkness”, however, surpasses its predecessors by moving beyond the droning guitar sounds and allowing for more playful melodies, keeping the Strokes from, as they put it, “singing the same song for ten years”.

Click through to see the story at PopMatters (and read the rest of the list).

The Daily Traveler: Strangest Vending Machines Around the World

Strangest Vending Machines Around the World

In Germany, when financial panic strikes and the need to convert all assets into gold—immediately—arises, jumpy investors head to the Gold to Go vending machine. You can buy peace of mind in increments as tiny as 1/10 of an ounce for $5.

Click through to read the rest of the article at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Image courtesy of Gold to Go.

DVD Review: Fast Five

'Fast Five' Is as Fun as When You Were a Kid, Smashing Your Toys Together

From the opening moments of the movie—when two flashy muscle cars conspire to collide with the prison bus, which tumbles and rolls and everyone walks away without a fatality—it’s clear that Fast Five is going to be at least a little silly. The characters drive off cliffs and leap out of windows and suffer neither broken bones nor scratches and bruises. It is, however, aware of its own outlandishness. “There’s nowhere in the world where people with cars hang out with models. We get that,” director Justin Lin says in his solo commentary on the movie’s extended edition, which runs a full one minute longer than the theatrical cut.

But there’s no harm in running away with the fantasy of it. In the commentary, Lin suggests that everyone just “embrace the ridiculousness of it.” There’s no reason not to, since going along with it means you get to see high-powered cars going up against buses, trains, and, eventually, bank vaults. The joy is similar to the one you experienced when you were a kid, smashing your toys into one another—only the movie has far more expensive toys. Lin estimates that more than 200 cars were destroyed during filming.

Click through to read the rest of the review at PopMatters.

The Daily Traveler: Ten Hotels in Unlikely Places

For a recent slideshow on the Condé Nast Traveler website, I rounded up hotels that can be found in properties once used for disparate purposes, such as a plane, old train cars, a prison, a primary school, etc.

Ten Hotels in Unlikely Places

The Långholmen
The Långholmen operated as a prison from the 1840s all the way to 1975, and it's kept some cheeky nods to its past in its décor. You'll see them as you walk the cell blocks where the rooms are located. (Are those multi-paned windows supposed to look like they have prison bars?) A high wall surrounds the property, but thankfully it's flowers—not barbed wires—that decorate it.

Click through to see the rest at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Photo Credit: Vincent Castello

The Daily Traveler: Starbucks Bathroom Policy Change Could Leave Travelers with a Problem

Starbucks Bathroom Policy Change Could Leave Travelers with a Problem

You're out discovering a new city, and, after a long day of sightseeing, shopping, and seeking out the best street-food vendors, it's finally time for a bathroom break. What used to be your go-to for a dependable public restroom—the closest Starbucks—may not be available to you anymore.
The New York Post reports that, though not an official policy, branches of the chain has been "steadily closing some of its restrooms," at least in New York City, because its own employees are forced to wait in line behind customers.
So, what's a weary (and full-bladdered) traveler to do? Where will you turn for your next pit stop? Leave us your best public-restroom-finding strategies in the comments.