It's A Mod Mod Mod Mod World
Kate Pierson, member of the glam rock group the B-52's, has opened up a new retro motel near Woodstock that brings back memories of the Swinging Sixties and Fabulous Fifties.
It¡¯s A Mod Mod Mod Mod World
The B-52¡¯s¡¯ Kate Pierson opens up her very own Love Shack ¡ª a rad retro motel near Woodstock
by Jorge S. Arango
Looking for a love getaway? Well, here it is: Kate Pierson, the redheaded B-52¡¯s rocker with the mile-high bouffants, has recently opened Kate¡¯s Lazy Meadow Motel, her hip foray into the world of hospitality in Mt. Tremper, Ulster County. But don¡¯t worry about her spoiling the woodsy character of the area with a sudden influx of rock-star glam and ritzy gentrification: this is not the Helmsley Palace. And although Pierson is certainly a dance-rock queen, she¡¯s no Leona.
¡°You¡¯re not going to have someone breathing down your neck, saying ¡®Our pleasure¡¯ all the time,¡± assures Pierson. On the contrary. Visually, Kate¡¯s Lazy Meadow is Pierson¡¯s tribute to the wacky 1950s and ¡¯60s aesthetic that informs the B-52¡¯s¡¯ go-go garb and much of its music. In spirit, it¡¯s more like a low-key flophouse for the ¡°Deadbeat Club,¡± the laid-back, party-happy clique she sings about on the band¡¯s Cosmic Thing CD.
The origins of Kate¡¯s Lazy Meadow can be traced to Pierson¡¯s childhood in New Jersey during the time period in question. ¡°I¡¯ve always loved that era, and I was very influenced by it,¡± she admits. Her parents¡¯ home was filled ¡°with a lot of used furniture they¡¯d inherited from relatives,¡± but one flourish burned a hole in her mind: ¡°They had these curtains with atomic symbols on them!¡±
She also recalls perusing decorating magazines during those years, developing an affinity for jelly bean¨Ccolored Russel Wright china and the furniture of Charles and Ray Eames and other mid-century design legends. Then there was her grandmother¡¯s cabin in Erskine, New Jersey. ¡°That really formed a lot of my ideas of what a country house should be,¡± she explains. ¡°Really rustic, and surrounded by woods and wildflowers.¡±
Mix up some modern design, a little rustic architecture, and bucolic surroundings, and what do you get? A Catskills cocktail, circa 1960, of course. But that doesn¡¯t totally account for the visual wit and humor of Kate¡¯s Lazy Meadow. That is more a product of Pierson¡¯s renegade nature, something that was not entirely appreciated during her time at Wheaton College, a school that has only recently allowed square dancing on campus. (Slow dancing is still taboo.)
Fortunately, her penchant for good-natured parody received a warmer welcome during the disco 1970s in, of all places, Athens, Georgia. Athens was a liberal-minded town in the buckle of the Bible Belt that nourished her talents (as well as those of R.E.M.¡¯s Michael Stipe and other fledgling musicians). It was there one night in 1976, after drinks at a Chinese restaurant, that the B-52¡¯s were born. (The name is a Southern colloquialism for exaggerated bouffant hairdos.) As their popularity ¡ª and their hair ¡ª grew, the band eventually made its way to New York, playing at clubs like CBGB¡¯s and becoming regulars on MTV.
But in 1985, after a string of hits ¡ª ¡°Rock Lobster,¡± ¡°Private Idaho,¡± ¡°Give Me Back My Man¡± ¡ª guitarist Ricky Wilson died. The band spent the next three years grieving and trying to refocus their efforts. It was during this time that fellow band member Keith Strickland decided he wanted to get out of the city. So Pierson tagged along on a weekend real estate¨Chunting trip to Woodstock. ¡°We fell under the ancient Indian spell,¡± says Pierson, explaining that according to local legend, ¡°if you stay here three nights, you end up living up here.¡±
Shortly after, they each bought homes in Woodstock. The area¡¯s history, its large population of musicians, and recording facilities like Dreamland and Bearsville Studio proved fertile ground. Parts of the Cosmic Thing and Good Stuff CDs were written and produced there. And while Fred Schneider and Cindy Wilson settled elsewhere, Woodstock is now home base for Pierson and Strickland, where they recuperate from their tour schedule (still frenetic) and solo projects.
In 2002, Pierson bought the sadly neglected motel property on Route 28 in Mt. Tremper. Built in 1952, its three buildings sat on nine acres along the Esopus Creek surrounded by sweeping mountain views. ¡°I was struck by the beauty of the land,¡± says Pierson, a self-described nature girl who, off-stage, usually foregoes make-up and dresses in favor of loose, comfortable clothes. She loved the ¡° ¡¯50s vibe¡± of the place, too. ¡°I got caught up in a fantasy. I wanted to make each unit a ¡¯50s dream suite.¡±
The main building, which houses four units and is now painted a violet-tinted red, was gutted and reconfigured, though Pierson retained the period kitchens with their Jetsons-style chrome accents and kooky colors. (One is cotton-candy pink, another a slightly lurid turquoise.) She raised the roof of another building, creating two duplex spaces. A third building sits waiting for inspiration to strike; Pierson isn¡¯t sure whether to make it a lodge or convert it into two more units and build the lodge elsewhere.
Pierson enlisted the help of interior designer William Stewart (based in Atlanta and New York) to choose a palette that harks back to the glory days of Technicolor. ¡°He picked these amazing combinations that really zing and pop out at you,¡± says Pierson. In one unit, you encounter shades of olive, aqua, terra cotta, lime, chocolate, and buttery yellow in riotous cohabitation. ¡°It¡¯s definitely not boring,¡± says Pierson. She also called in Poughkeepsie-area potters Phillip Maberry and Scott Walker (whose psychedelic former cabin was the setting for the ¡°Love Shack¡± video) to create tiles for the bathrooms.
But why stop there? Dean Riddle, a well-known Woodstock landscape designer, is on board to plant gardens. And Pierson has bought several AirStream trailers, which she will park by the Esopus for guests who want to have more of a camping (or is that campy?) experience. Not that they¡¯ll be roughing it: Todd Oldham has agreed to design one, Maberry and Walker another.
The furnishings and art for each of the four-person units are Pierson¡¯s doing. ¡°The idea of being able to go junking and antiquing with a purpose gave me license to shop,¡± she says with a laugh. ¡°There¡¯s a kitsch factor, but it¡¯s not totally kitsched out. There are things that are nostalgic, but it¡¯s mixed with some modern stuff that¡¯s just genius.¡± The latter includes bedding by Oldham, contemporary paintings by Marko Shuhan (of Accord, Ulster County), and melamine wares from Cynthia Rowley and Ilene Rosenzweig¡¯s Swell collection for Target. There is also a preponderance of garden gnomes. ¡°It wasn¡¯t planned,¡± says Pierson of Lazy Meadow¡¯s Lilliputian residents. ¡°There was this store in Phoenicia that had a lot of them in the window, and one day we just got inspired and bought them all.¡±
All this is obviously un-Helmsleyesque, which is the way Pierson likes it. The only staff is a manager (sorry, Pierson herself won¡¯t be behind the desk). Guests are encouraged to explore the region: go tubing down the Esopus, visit a farmer¡¯s market, shop for tie-dye in Woodstock. Still, if vacationers prefer to practice their couch-potato skills, each unit has phones with voice mail and DVD/VHS and CD players. (The video library is stocked with appropriately mindless B-movie fare like Russ Meyer¡¯s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, the forgettable surfer flick Go for It, and the Elvira vehicle Eegah. There¡¯s also high-speed Internet access.
Or do as the denizens of the Deadbeat Club would sing:
Let¡¯s go crash that party down
In Normaltown tonight
Then we¡¯ll go skinny-dippin¡¯
In the moonlight
We¡¯re wild girls walkin¡¯ down the street
Wild girls and boys going out for a big time.
Sounds like a plan. ¡ö
For more information about Kate¡¯s Lazy Meadow, call 845-688-7200 or log on to lazymeadow.com.