Photography by Greg Endries
Big Ang is ready to get the fuck out of town.
I know this because one of the first things she says to me is, “I need to get the fuck out of town.”
Luckily for Ang, she will. She’s about to begin shooting a yet-to-be-named reality TV show for VH1 in South Beach, where she’s also opening a second branch of her cozy Staten Island joint, the Drunken Monkey.
When I meet her there, the place is surprisingly full for a Thursday afternoon. The television shows a Proactiv commercial, and most of the stools are occupied. Before she sits down to talk with me, a Twisted Tea in her hand, Ang chats animatedly with a woman in a frilly blouse who has come in expressly to ask for a picture and an autograph.
Also present are Ang’s cousin, Sallyann Lombardi, and a friend who calls herself Ang’s “personal photographer.” They’re in the corner sipping drinks, arguing about the going price for a facelift and razzing me for walking from the ferry, which apparently was hilariously stupid.
“That’s a fuckin’ long way!” rasps Ang, who insists that I have a Twisted Tea. She has, she says, cases and cases at her house.
In between discussing her summer plans and what’s next for the show, Ang keeps up at least five conversations with her family and the other patrons, shouting down the bar. She remarks on how much weight Tommy, a regular, has lost (he cut out carbs), and thanks Sallyann for the advice on what to give her albino pit bull, Kilo, for his allergies (people medicine! Antacids will balance a dog’s “internal yeast”).
Ang and her husband, Neil, plan to export their TuesGays parties to the Drunken Monkey south, which Ang says will have a more contemporary, Miami look (“All white, with black monkeys”). I ask her how the gay night got going in the first place, and she tells me that she decided to start it when she noticed that Staten Island had tons of gay people and nary a gay bar.
Now, people are coming out for it from Manhattan. “It’s wild,” she growls.
There may be more competition for gay bars in Miami, but you’d be hard-pressed to find Ang’s brand of grandma-trapped-in-a-Russ-Meyer-girl’s-body hospitality on the beach. She laughs a lot from lips that are looking particularly full today; she divulges on the Botox party she had at her salon the previous night.
“Last time, it was Botox, Restylane, fillers -- I don’t even know what!” she says. “It feels like this and this and this,” she adds, pinching me on the nose, cheeks, and chin.
I ask what she’s going to do for fun in Miami, and she considers the question. She’ll be busy with the bar and her family and the show. She says she loves the food there; there’s a Greek place in Fort Lauderdale, and there’s Mr. Chow, a Chinese chain restaurant with two locations in Manhattan. But she’s also an incredible cook and shares her recipe for the perfect hot-weather dish: tangerine zest linguine.
She punctuates each ingredient by tapping a silver nail on my arm. “Minced garlic, olive oil, and Parmigiano on fresh linguine -- you can get it at the macaroni store -- then you zest a tangerine over it. Salt. Fresh black pepper.” She rolls her eyes back in ecstasy, then tells me she wants to lose 20 pounds.
Does she have a bathing suit? “I’m having four custom made,” she says with gravity.
With great tattoo artists in Miami, is she getting any more? She shows me the ones she has: the names of her family members on her wrists and the very large monkey tattoo on her hip, which hurt like hell.
She thinks she’s done with the ink, unless she and her daughter get the matching ones they were considering the other day. She can’t remember the phrase they liked, so she calls her up.
“Tomorrow’s Promised to No One,” she dictates from the phone. “Oh! And the other one is: I Never Told a Lie, But the Truth Isn’t for Everyone.”
It’s a veal-gray day on the Island, and I ask her if she’s going to miss it. “I won’t miss the drama,” she sighs. “I don’t do drama.”
But some drama is inevitable if you’re hanging out with the Mob Wives crew. The secret to avoiding it, she tells me: ignore, ignore, ignore. Any more secrets? She can’t think of any -- she’s an open book. Although she does confess, “I don’t wear sunscreen.” Her friend, the photographer, offers something up: She’s in possession of a pretty spectacular picture of Ang in the buff.
Will anybody ever see it? “For the right price!” Ang says and laughs.
Pretty soon we’re doing lemon drop shots (not her favorite, but I ask what their specialty is and the bartender, Margot, shrugs, then makes these). Sallyann is dancing half-seriously on a chair, while Ang smokes a thin brown cigarette and pumps Tommy for more information about the Atkins diet.
When I ask Margot to call me a cab, Ang and her friends chorus in unison, “OK, you’re a cab.”
En route to the ferry, the cab driver asks if “Big Lips” was at the bar today.
“I don’t think she’d like you calling her that,” I bristle.
“I know she wouldn’t,” he agrees. “I called her that once, and she said she’d kick my ass. We’re actually really good friends now.” I fight the urge to whisper, “So are we.”