Michael Musto, Lynn Yaeger and Mickey Boardman: Friends for Life
The longtime crew has been all around New York together and witnessed the city remake itself time and again. What’s endured is its members’ bonds with one another.,
It was Manhattan’s print journalism scene that served as matchmaker to the Paper magazine editor at large Mickey Boardman, the writer Lynn Yaeger and the columnist Michael Musto, who have been friends for over 25 years and dedicated New Yorkers for even longer. In the early ’90s, Yaeger, then the fashion editor at The Village Voice, assigned a story to Musto that never made it to press. “My article was so appalling she didn’t run it, but then we became friends, partly out of gossip and partly because we were on a lot of the same lists for parties,” says Musto. He met Boardman in 1994, after receiving an invite to Paper’s 10th-anniversary bash. “Michael and Bill Cunningham were, to me, the legendary documenters of downtown culture,” says Boardman, who was subsequently introduced to Yaeger by Lauren Ezersky, the host of the television series “Behind the Velvet Ropes,” after she spotted the two aboard a long-since-retired Fashion Week bus that carried attendees from show to show. That bus is a good metaphor for what their friendship became: “It was uptown, downtown, Midtown, everywhere,” says Musto.
Indeed, his and Boardman’s weekly routine went something like Sugar Babies on Mondays, Jackie 60 and Beige at BBar on Tuesdays, Flamingo East on Wednesdays, BeavHer on Thursdays, Squeezebox at Don Hill’s on Fridays and the Roxy, Tunnel or Sound Factory on Saturdays, with Yaeger joining occasionally for a good story or the thrill of getting dressed and past the doorman. Once inside, though, she did what she had to to protect her clothes. “I had this sable coat, and when I would go to a nightclub, I used to bring a giant trash bag and haul it around in that because I didn’t want anything to happen to it,” she says. It’s easy, then, to see how the friends became well-known and instantly recognizable city dwellers — even now, it’s not uncommon to spot the (masked and vaccinated) trio out and about, or one can simply tune in to “The Mickey and Lynn Show” on Instagram for musings on pop culture and more (Musto made a guest appearance just last month, and floated the idea of sending the entire British royal family to outer space).
That’s not to say it’s been all fun and games with the threesome — as they say in T’s 2021 Culture issue, they lost mutual friends to AIDS and have seen each other through plenty of other hardships. But what’s remained undiminished, and has in fact deepened over time, is their connection — as well as their ability to enjoy each other’s company. Over the past year, they’ve signed in to Zoom for twice-weekly virtual movie club meetings, and are looking forward to watching Sunday’s Academy Awards together again. “A big bonding moment for the three of us was when Michael first invited us over to watch the Oscars,” says Boardman, in response to which Musto quips, “I think ‘Gone With the Wind’ won that night.” Here, a smattering of images that offer a window into the group’s friendship in the intervening years.
Michael Musto: We met there — it was a party for Patrick McMullan that was held at Saks. I’m always on my bike, and I like going uptown. Though I brought a touch of downtown with my salmon pink jacket, which I also wore for the picture for T. It was procured at a Housing Works. I don’t pay retail, so I’m not your typical Saks patron.
Mickey Boardman: I’m in an old Stephen Sprouse jacket that the Paper co-founder Kim Hastreiter gave me, and a Marni T-shirt. Yeah, Lynn got me into designer fashions. I used to be more of a vintage, found-on-the-street kind of person. Lynn, you’re wearing a Dries cape, right?
Lynn Yaeger: It’s a Dries Van Noten jacket. I think I got it at Linda Dresner, if memory serves.
M.M.: Patrick is a real go-getter and social magnet. He loves people, and he loves introducing them, even if they already know each other. Once, he said to the publicist Kelly Cutrone, “Kelly, do you know Ronnie Cutrone?” and she said, “That’s my ex-husband.” It became a joke but really, he brings people together.
L.Y.: Michael, you’re very skinny.
M.M.: Oh, yeah, Patrick took that. I found that button at a thrift store and, in a way, it was a response to Rudolf Piper, the club owner, who had a T-shirt that said “Whoever Has the Most Things When They Die Wins.”
L.Y.: That’s my motto.
M.B.: That was taken for the first big story about me in The New York Times. This guy William Grimes, who’s an amazing writer, did a thing about new advice columnists and it was me, Glenn O’Brien and E. Jean Carroll, who’s suing Trump. They came to shoot me at the Paper office, which was on Spring and Broadway at the time, and the next week, before the story even came out, I got sent to rehab because I was a drug addict at the time. So that was the moment of my greatest triumph, being featured — the picture ran above the fold in the Style section — followed by rehab. But I do love that picture. I would never actually wear a feather boa, but someone had one on their desk and the photographer asked me to put it on. Otherwise that was kind of my everyday look. The top is very Northern California-housewife-takes-a-painting-on-fabric-class, and I love that. That’s my favorite kind of look.
L.Y.: This was a terrible idea I had — to cover Lollapalooza for The Village Voice. Catherine McGann was shooting it for me. It was very hard to get to. It was on, like, Randall’s Island or something, and I thought all the kids would have these fabulous outfits and we would do this great big street style thing and interview them about their looks and blah blah blah. I was trying to be a real reporter — you see my little notebook in hand. But of course, I was the only one who was dressed up, and it was hot and muddy and terrible. Though I do see an early Prada bag over my shoulder.
M.M.: We’ve always been rabble-rousers and can’t ever seem to R.S.V.P. “no” to a rally. Here we’re protesting George Bush’s policies, the wars, favoritism of the wealthy, homophobia and everything else. I hated the normalizing of W. under Trump, with people saying, “Well, maybe he wasn’t that bad.” Yeah, he was.
L.Y.: But what a cute picture. AllSaints used to make very smocky, Lynn-y-type dresses, but then they realized I was the only one buying them and that was the end of that. Over my shoulders is a rare, collectible Voyage cardigan.
M.M.: A publicist named Dan DeMello had approached me and said he wanted to put on a roast of me. I was hesitant, but then he told me it would raise money for Callen-Lorde, an L.G.B.T.Q. health clinic. Plus, I’ve dished it out for so many years, it was only proper to have people give it back. A member of the Imperial Court of New York, which is a drag organization, lent me that outfit, and we assembled an incredible group of people — Bruce Vilanch was the M.C., Rosie O’Donnell gave the first speech and Lynn, Mickey and the rest of the movie club did a fabulous video. In the end, I loved being insulted and even wrote some of the jokes for people, partly because I felt it would hurt less.
L.Y.: No, it was all in good fun, Michael, it wasn’t that mean.
M.M.: And Rosie matched what was raised, so it ended up being really a lot of money for charity.
M.M.: Patrick McMullan had come out with a book called “Kiss Kiss,” which is all photos of people air-kissing or tongue-kissing or whatever. Also, this was a Valentine’s Day party. I’m sporting my Joni Mitchell Woodstock look.
M.B.: I remember that party and that club, which was in the meatpacking district. That’s the club kid Jun Nakayama, whom I love, who’s kissing me.
M.M.: Amanda Lepore is with the guy she was dating at the time, Tim. He dressed like a pig normally and called himself Petey the Pig.
L.Y.: Not pig as in sloppy — he literally had a costume of a pig. A whole suit, a whole furry suit.
M.B.: I’m wearing a Dries Van Noten kind of sparkle sweater, and that was a little necklace from H&M with tassels.
L.Y.: And I’m in a Jean Paul Gaultier dress. I can’t quite see which of my many coats the coat is, but I know it’s a Gaultier dress. I think, at that time, we were both trying to be fairly serious journalists in a funny kind of way, and trying to see everything. Mickey, would you agree?
L.Y.: I met Timo at Beige. I liked his ties. They were kind of jazzy.
M.B.: I actually remember this dinner — it was at Barneys.
M.M.: It was for Simon Doonan’s book, and it was a magical night with so many kooky people.
L.Y.: Why was I not invited to this? Do you think I was in Europe?
M.M.: Daniel Nardicio, the downtown promoter, brought together Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming for a show in Cherry Grove. There was a big crowd, but it was still intimate — held in this kind of medium-size venue. (This was the dry run for what became their show at Town Hall, which I also went to.) There was so much electricity in the air, and it was so great to see Liza up close.
L.Y.: It was an amazing night, it really was.
M.M.: They did separate numbers and they did duet numbers. This was during intermission, and we were just catching our breath because it was so fabulous.
L.Y.: That’s a Prada coat from a really long time ago. I knew Madonna had the same one when I found it at Century 21, and I was very excited. You can tell that this is very early on. When does everyone think it’s from, any idea?
M.B.: We’re not at Wigstock because you can see buildings in the background, but I don’t know where the hell it’s from.
L.Y.: Michael, is that that Lauryn Hill jacket I got as a press thing?
M.M.: Yeah, the “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” tour jacket, which they gave as swag to the press. Also, this was when I was wearing dark glasses 24 hours a day.
L.Y.: And Mickey, I see that’s a Missoni sweater that you’re wearing. Are you still wearing that?
M.B.: No, but I still have it. I used to wear only Missoni, and then that’s a vintage camouflage jacket and necklace from Screaming Mimi’s.
M.M.: I live for the Supremes and in the ’80s had a Motown cover band called the Must, so I’ve always treasured Mary Wilson as the key backup singer. She was there from day one and had a real star quality. In this show at the Carlyle, she just exploded onstage — she sang standards and did some Supremes songs and told stories. It was incredible.
M.B.: We saw her many times over the years, and she was never better than that night. That’s at the Carlyle by the elevators because they don’t really have a backstage area. Sadly, she passed away this year.
M.M.: She told us about the Supremes fashion book she was coming out with, and then we went to Newark for the Supremes fashion exhibit at the Prudential Center.
L.Y.: That was one of the last things we did as a group before lockdown — we went with other movie club members, and without masks or any concerns.
L.Y.: This is one of my favorite pictures. I have very warm memories of Bill. He was very kind to me when I started. Fashion people can be challenging and he always, I thought, went out of his way to be nice to me. There used to be an actual printed fashion calendar, and he would come over to me and ask me to circle which kind of weird, obscure shows I thought were important for him to go to. And I would feel really special that he was asking me to do that. But he was also nice to me before I was a writer — when I was just somebody who dressed funny in New York.
Interviews have been edited and condensed.