Florent: A Downtown Swan Song

David Sigal's Tribute to the Legendary New York Bistro

Until its closure in June 2008, New York bistro Florent was that rare place where you could simultaneously eat a burger, catch a drag act and—if you were lucky—glimpse Calvin Klein. Named after its owner, the indefatigably flamboyant Florent Morellet, during its 23-year existence the 24-hour restaurant attracted hordes of celebrities, scenesters and fashionistas to the Meatpacking District, its famous clientele including everyone from artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude to Studio 54 doyenne Diane von Furstenburg. At Florent, anyone was welcome, and anything could happen. It was a place brimming with quirky traditions, where every Bastille Day would be marked by a debauched, cross-dressing party, and where Morellet—HIV-positive and a tireless gay rights advocate—would post his T-cell count above the daily special. Long-time Florent devotee David Sigal (director of The Look and producer of Naomi Watts’s latest, Fair Game, which premiered at Cannes this month) decided to make a film about Florent in early 2008 as a tribute to Morellet’s pioneering spirit and the bistro’s iconic status. When he heard whispers of Florent’s possible closure due to sky-rocketing rents in the once-rogue, now ultra-gentrified neighborhood, the documentation of its wild parties became all the more important. Sitting with the director, one can tell that making the film was an immense pleasure for him, as well as for the impressive array of personalities he interviewed about the establishment’s fabulous history. “The film has a Warhol vibe to it I think, of looking back on an era that I’m so glad I got to preserve,” says Sigal. Florent: Queen of the Meat Market will debut at the New York City Food Film Festival in June.

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