If you lived in New York any time between, say, the mid-1980s to 2017, chances are you read the Village Voice.
And if you read the Village Voice, you almost certainly read Michael Musto, who wrote the gossip and entertainment column La Dolce Musto for the Voice for more than two decades. In it you would find the all the bold names, dipped in glitter and lightly spritzed with acid. It was funny; it was sharp; it was self-deprecating and it was perfectly bitchy.
“At first I was too nasty. I didn’t care for the daily gossip columns that were too positive all the time, acting as if they were publicists of celebrities,” he tells Brooklyn Magazine. “All the rules changed with the internet and social networks.”
An outspokenly out and proud gay man in the media at at time when that was a rarity—especially at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s—Musto was an early activist against homophobia and government silence around the epidemic.
And this week Musto—for whom the qualifier “legendary” has been tossed around liberally and rightfully—is the guest on “Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast.” His run at the Voice only ended because the Voice itself ended in 2017—and on this episode, we talk about the legacy of the tabloid, and what might coming down the pike now that it’s being revived by Street Media, the owner of LA Weekly.
Musto remains a frequent columnist, TV commentator on pop culture, an occasional B-movie actor and the author of four books, including “Downtown” and “Manhattan on the Rocks.”
And he’s from Brooklyn. On the podcast he describes growing up in Bensonhurst, the only son of Italian parents.
“My favorite spot of all was the Walker [movie] theater. For some reason for a dollar you could see a movie that had crash landed,” he says. One of the films he caught there wasn’t a dud. He was rapt by the first run of “Rosemary’s Baby,” which he took his parents to in an attempt to bond with them. It didn’t go as planned: “As Mis Farrow’s being raped by the devil my mother’s doing the sign of the cross and praying, and my father’s just rolling his eyes through the whole movie going, ‘This could never happen’.”
“The ‘70s was a pretty extraordinary time,” he says on the podcast. “When I graduated Columbia, I entered into the world of disco and eventually Studio 54, which was the greatest club of all time. It really was everything it was cracked up to be.”
Perhaps surprisingly, though, he says the current cultural moment is as exciting as any he’s lived through so far—which is saying something as a nightlife columnist who has had no nightlife to columnize about recently. We’ve all been in this together, he says, just as we will be when the city emerges blinking from the darkness of the coronavirus year.
“It’s going to be incredible. It’s going to be beyond the Roaring ‘20s,” he says. “The nightlife is going to be better than ever. It might even surpass the ‘70s.”