The Queen of Philly Nightlife – Natasha Hulme

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

If you have been out in the Philadelphia gay nightlife scene, you know Natasha Hulme.  She has been bartending and hosting fabulous events for years, and she has some of the best stories that you will ever hear about Philadelphia nightlife.  She is currently the host in Pure Pink (the downstairs “fur” lounge at Pure), Fridays being various game-style events, and Saturdays being one of the best and most recognized Karaoke nights in town, Karaoke Blvd

Never a one-trick pony, Natasha has also forged a name for herself as a web designer, and you will know her work if you have ever looked at Woody’s, Bump or Pure’s web sites.

I had the chance to catch up with Natasha, and, as you will read below, Natasha’s resume is long, and she has been one of the most pleasant, humble and energetic shapers of our scene.  This gal’s got a lot of crust!

Tell me about your infamous events in Pure Pink.  

When Pure opened in 2004, I wasn’t even slated to host any events at the club. Instead, I was to bartend. It was what I did along side party promoting since I was 19.

What I would see from behind the bar was a stage begging to come to life.

Pure Pink was supposed to be open 7 nights a week starting at 9pm each night and for an after-hours club, I can tell you that it was a tall order to fill.

After a few weeks of standing behind the bar playing second fiddle to piano bar acts… I stepped out behind the bar and asked for the chance to make something of Pure Pink.

I was basically given full access to the Pure Pink Lounge by Billy Weiss and Tre. I could do whatever events I felt would be successful.

Saturday night became Karaoke Blvd. It’s known for a real family (unconventional) feel where everyone knows everybody, and if someone just wanders in we welcome him/her to the family. There are fun spirited jabs and singing contests for drinks and sometimes cash.
I think back when I had only about 1500 songs in the library and Karaoke Blvd. won a City Paper Award for Best Karaoke.

Friday nights are and have been my real favorite events. Trivia Queen was originally slated for Bump but was moved over to Pure to help build the numbers up during the ‘piano bar’ entertainment. I shared the stage with the talented Steve "Keys" Cohen in the beginning. After many incarnations and original game show ideas, Games like "Picture This" which was a Pictionary style game, Homopoly divided the entire room into 4 instead of property names it was trivia question categories, and in place of change and community chest were challenges like The Karaoke Blvd Sing-Off and "EveryBody Drinks!".

There were a few game shows that required the building of sets each week like  Balls or No Balls (played like Deal…) and The Gayborhood Squares, which put 9 Gayborhood "celebrities" in an actual "grid" set on stage.

Not all of the game shows were blatant rip-offs however.

Who’s your Daddy was one of my favorites. This game had hand held buzzer for contestants to ring in after they figured out the unscrambled puzzle photo a notable celebrity. Trivia Queen 20 was another original that counted down 20 hints about a person, place or thing.

The thing that make all of the game shows popular is that, unlike bar/pub Quizzo where a host just reads questions, I utilized all of Pure Pink’s audio/visual elements at my disposal. Audience sees their team names on the "Big Board" projection and that, in turn, makes them feel like stars.

Trivia Queen has come full circle with this latest installment Trivia Queen Quizzo is free for everyone to play as a team or alone. Basic Quizzo with a different twist for scoring, given to me by one of my regulars.

If anyone tried to duplicate what I do, they would realize that it’s a lot of work. I truly love what I do on the Pure Pink stage and I love when the audience is having a great time.

 You have a very loyal following that comes every week and is there at doors open.  Did that take you a long time to build up?

I’ve always been somewhat of a promo-whore. I remember the first night of Karaoke. There were 3 people there. Me, Frankie Morelli and Sandy "The Sandman" Smith. The following week we had a slightly larger crowd. The numbers kept growing each week because of the interaction with one another. It’s like Gay Cheers.

Married?  Single?

Spoken for.

You reminisce a lot about the cultural institution that was the Black Banana.  Can you illustrate the magic for us?  Did you work there?

The phrase, "You don’t know what you got, till it’s gone", never had more meaning until after the Black Banana closed.
The Black Banana and I were the same age as it began as a restaurant in 1970. In the early 80’s the Black Banana moved to it’s final home at 3rd and Race Streets.

The Black Banana wasn’t "state of the art", it wasn’t a monster sized club, and you smelled funny after you left it, but it was magical.

As a 19 year old, I didn’t understand what a genius owner Garrick Melmack was. It was only after his death from AIDS in 1991 was it evident how important Garrick was to keeping the Black Banana cutting edge.

I assumed responsibility as the resident conceptual artist and planner after his death but never really got the support needed to accomplish much.

It was my playground, but I left in 1995 when management & security lost sight of Garricks original intention. Gay people started to be treated badly, I chose 6 months of odd jobs instead of being associated with it.

Memorable Black Banana moments include:
Sitting around and watching the video masterpieces of Nick London that we would create in the club during the daylight hours.

Sitting by the fireplace upstairs waiting for the late night crowds to show up.

Bringing Bottle Service to Philadelphia, after returning home from Miami in 1993, I went to Slossberg Auction House and bought $500 worth of vintage furniture and turned a small corner of the club into a private VIP room.

Tell me what you do via your design firm, Lux55.

Web design, Flash animations, video and sound editing, web advertising and commercials, viral marketing, 3d rendering for product concept and real estate, kiosk applications and photo restoration.

Can you tell me about one of your best club nights ever?

Yes. Some of favorite club nights happened on a Monday. It was called Vagaond and 6 guys named Dozia, Josh, Nicholas, Tom, Blake and Isaac would transform a different nightclub, restaurant, or bar into something incredible. The music was always amazing, every Monday was an adventure and the after-party was at either the Black Banana or Revival (alternate weeks in good faith… that doesn’t happen anymore.)
My favorite Vagabond was at the Trocadero when attendance topped 1100 people, ON A MONDAY! Sister Dimension and Gigi were the guest star djs that night and busloads of NYC freaks came down in busses.

It was truly revolutionary. That was also the night I was approached by Lee Chappell and we forged our partnership giving birth to one of the hottest and legendary weekly Gay parties in Philadelphia : Saturday Nights at The Troc

What’s your funniest nightlife story/anecdote?

When you and I wrote a little song about a drag queen dropping something in the back hallway at Shampoo.

What’s next for Natasha?

I’d like to write a book, produce an animated series, be the host of a reality television show, compete on Top Chef, throw a kick ass Roller skating party, be able to look good in a bikini again, work as Henri David’s apprentice for a day, launch a fragrance, write and produce a Broadway musical and win an Academy award when said musical is turned into a movie.


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