The Subtle Art of Living
By Jerry Portwood
Photography by Alec Hemer
Taylor Mac is known for playful provocation. Having embodied a giant flower in an epic five-hour theatrical search for identity and performed as a hermaphroditic Coney Island sea creature, he’s best recognized when encrusted with glitter and sequins, wearing false eyelashes and platform heels. So walking up to his apartment building, located in New York City’s Gramercy Park -- a gentleman’s address that takes pride in its London-style gated garden -- is a bit of a shock. Surely it’s a tumbledown walkup, a hidden gem of rent-controlled refuge. But no, a doorman greets me in the entry and guides me to the elevator. Am I in the right place?
Mac is aware of the dissonance between what’s expected of an edgy downtown performer and his posh digs. “I felt fancy because of the address,” he says, “but when you’re living in a studio apartment with somebody else, it’s not as fancy as all that. And the building itself is not really my taste; I’m used to something a bit more grungy.”
He lived in a Park Slope brownstone in Brooklyn for eight years and briefly subletted a closet-sized East Village room with a mattress on the floor. “I guess I thought at a certain point, as this place started to solidify, I feel like a man now. I was 35, and, Oh, I have man things. But I come home in drag late at night every so often, and sometimes there’s a new doorman and he thinks I’m some crazy homeless person. I explain, ‘No, I live here.’ ”