A few weeks ago Parker Posey sat down with film programmer Miriam Bale at 92YTribeca to discuss the 1995 cult classic film Party Girl, which she stars in, after a sold-out screening of the screwball comedy. Tickets were in such high demand 92YTribeca had to add a second screening to follow the Q&A. The enthusiasm for this little film seemed endless. On 92YTribeca’s Facebook page, the Party Girl post generated over 300 comments and the audience at the Q&A seemed to hang on every word Posey spoke.
Party Girl depicted a New York that could only exist in the early-mid 90s. A city filled with a generation of twenty-somethings who just watched the first season of MTV’s The Real World. The East Village was dirtier and grittier. Graffiti, baggy jeans and a rotary phone Posey’s Mary uses while in jail. Rudy Giuliani was still settling into his mayorship and the AIDS epidemic was waning but still a very real thing people were dealing with.
Watching the film almost twenty years later, you realize it’s a testament of the 90s; it is truly a time capsule. It depicted an era of blithe and hedonism. Ball culture, drag queens and raves. Illegal parties were thrown at random locations throughout Manhattan. Posey was asked if Mary was similar to her and if she experienced the same things living in New York City back then. She replied with an enthusiastic yes. Posey asked the audience if they have ever seen the documentary Paris is Burning and there was a collective yes heard in the room.
Drag and ball culture had already trickled down into all clubs and bars. It was no longer confined to particular “houses” anymore. She remembers going out with the cast and crew while filming and they would dance and dance and dance. She explained they would all go out to have a good time, not to find someone to go home with. They weren’t interested in that. She joked that Giuliani stopped dancing, or he never danced at all and started “cleaning up” New York. If the mayor stops dancing, the city stops dancing.
The hedonism of the early 90s seemed to stop and the culture started to evolve. The ethics of grunge no longer held any weight. Sex and the City premiered on HBO just three years after Party Girl was released. The anti-capitalistic, Kill Your Television generation of grunge seemed to suddenly accept and adopt materialistic principles. “Sex and the City” was a perfect example of this consumerism and material consumption. Posey points out this shift in culture as a reason why it is so much more difficult for young people to be creative in New York City. It’s expensive to live in this city. She doesn’t want to come off pessimistic and apologizes and says that she still sees artists all over New York and jokes that they all live in Brooklyn.
Posey talks about how grueling it was to make an independent film like Party Girl. The shooting schedule is short with barely any time to sleep. She remembers cuddling with Guillermo Díaz, her costar who plays Leo, on a couch on set between takes. Also, she vividly explained that she was so exhausted from shooting and partying that she wanted to pull out her eyeballs and soak them in water. She mentions that Liev Shreiber, who plays her on-again, off-again boyfriend hated her. “He thought I was really dumb. It wasn’t until after filming that he realized I wasn’t just some vapid actress,” Posey says. (This is not an exact quote. I’m paraphrasing here). Someone asks her if they improvised on set of Party Girl and she said no, it wasn’t a Christopher Guest film. She also mentioned that kind of improvisation didn’t really happen back then and gives all writing credit to Harry Brickmayer, the screenwriter.
Parker Posey is a New Yorker. She loves New York City and has called it home ever since she moved here after college. She attended SUNY Purchase which she speaks highly of when asked about her transition from theater to film acting. She knew while filming this movie, that it would inspire others to leave their small towns in Middle America for the city. Many people in the audience corroborate that. They share with Posey how much the film either inspired them to move to NYC or inspired them to become a librarian.
Someone asks her if she has had any crazy encounters with fans and she says no. She elaborates a bit more and explains that she doesn’t remember a lot of things. Posey explains to live in New York you can’t remember everything. You tend to block out the horrific and absurd things you encounter and experience. It’s a defense mechanism she adopted to function in a city like New York. Despite all of this, she still can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s the only city where she was able to build a life outside of acting. She does say Los Angeles is a necessary evil because most acting jobs are out there and that she visits from time to time. “If you don’t they will forget about you. They don’t remember how you bled or how you were funny and sad at the same time. They don’t remember any of that,” she deadpans.
Los Angeles is where she picked up a recent guest starring role on FOX’s New Girl. Television is where you will find most of Posey’s recent work. Her current arc on this season of Louie has been widely adored. Not to mention her guest appearances on television series like The Big C and The Good Wife. Last year she starred in the comedy Price Check, which was released by IFC. Check out the trailer below. Also, be sure to check out all of the amazing events that are happening at 92YTribeca as well.
Almost twenty years later and Party Girl still remains a cult classic; its still a staple in Parker Posey’s oeuvre. It was a rare, staggering and phenomenal performance only Parker Posey could have pulled off. After the Q&A, my friends and I gathered outside the theater gushing about watching Party Girl for the first time in a theater. One friend admitted that back in the late 90s he took sound bytes from the film and used them as sounds for AOL Instant Messenger. I kept repeating the “imitate a cat puking,” line over and over. Posey mentioned she ate so much falafel while they were filming that she couldn’t eat falafel for years, but then recommended a great falafel place nearby. I’ve never craved a falafel so much in my life and could not remember where Posey said I could find the best one. It’s been a few weeks since the event and I still have not fulfilled my craving. All I really want to do is walk up to the counter and ask for a “falafel with hot sauce, a side order of Baba Ghanoush and a seltzer” and pretend for a moment that I’m Mary, librarian by day, party girl by night.