Slaves of New York

Slaves of New York

Infobox Film
name = Slaves of New York

caption = movie poster for "Slaves of New York"
director = James Ivory
producer = Ismail Merchant
Gary Hendler
Fred Hughes (associate)
Vincent Fremont (associate)
writer = Tama Janowitz based on her stories
starring = Bernadette Peters
Adam Coleman Howard
Chris Sarandon
Mary Beth Hurt
Madeleine Potter
Steve Buscemi
music = Richard Robbins (score)
Boy George (theme song: "Girlfriend")
Michael Butler & Johann Carlo
Neneh Cherry
Les Rita Mitsouko
Joe Leeway
Ambitious Lovers
Inner City
Iggy Pop
Maxi Priest
cinematography = Tony Pierce-Roberts
editing = Katherine Wenning
distributor = TriStar Pictures
released = March 19, 1989
runtime = 124 minutes
country = United States
awards =
language = English
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
amg_id = 1:45128
imdb_id = 0098347

"Slaves of New York" is a 1989 comedy-drama Merchant Ivory Productions film. It was directed by
James Ivory, produced by Ismail Merchant, and starred Bernadette Peters, Adam Coleman Howard, Chris Sarandon, Mary Beth Hurt, Madeleine Potter, and Steve Buscemi.

Based on the stories "Slaves of New York" by Tama Janowitz, the film follows the lives of struggling artists in New York City during the mid-1980s.


The story follows Eleanor, an aspiring hat designer, and a group of artists and models in the "downtown" New York City art world. Eleanor lives with her younger boyfriend Stash, an unknown artist, who is unfaithful and treats Eleanor with careless indifference. Eleanor expresses her feelings for Stash when she tells him that she was once attracted to him because he was dangerous. She stays with him despite the crumbling relationship because she has no where else to live—she is, in effect, a "slave."

When a clothing designer, Wilfredo (Steve Buscemi), discovers her hat designs and offers to use them in a fashion show, Eleanor gains the self-respect—and money—to leave Stash. There is an elaborate fashion show sequence.

While buying food for a celebratory party, she meets Jan and invites him to the party. After the party, Eleanor and her new friend talk, and then ride off into the morning sunrise.


Tama Janowitz had written a script for Andy Warhol, based on the Eleanor and Stash stories in her 1986 collection of short stories, "Slaves of New York". When Warhol died, Merchant-Ivory bought that script.

In discussing casting the role of "Eleanor", James Ivory commented: "...but out of 100 girls, there was not a single one with Miss Peters's originality. We wanted someone unusual and different but also ingenuous and not too knowing." ("New York Times", Erica Abeel, March 12, 1989.)

"Slaves of New York" was shot on location in the Lower East Side of New York City, starting on April 4, 1988, with a 10-week shooting schedule. There was a "modest" budget—$5 million—that meant there were no lengthy rehearsals. There was one read-through before shooting began. ("New York Times", April 5, 1988)


"Slaves of New York" received mostly unfavorable reviews at the time of its release. Janet Maslin wrote that the film "...simply drifts from situation to situation" and is "never terribly involving" ("New York Times", March 17, 1989). Roger Ebert, who gave the movie a half-star rating, opened his review with the statement "I detest "Slaves of New York" so much that I distrust my own opinion." []

Domestic gross was $463,972 according to boxofficemojo.

"Slaves of New York" became a cult classic amongst the gay communities in the United States. It is notorious for a scene that features a very convincing drag act performing "Love Is Like an Itching In My Heart" by The Supremes while making their way down a street in full regalia.


* Bernadette Peters as Eleanor
* Chris Sarandon as Victor Okrent
* Mary Beth Hurt as Ginger Booth
* Madeleine Potter as Daria
* Adam Coleman Howard as Stash
* Nick Corri as Marley
* Charles McCaughan as Sherman
* John Harkins as Chuck Dade Dolger
* Mercedes Ruehl as Samantha
* Joe Leeway as Jonny Jalouse
* Anna Katarina as Mooshka
* Bruce Peter Young as Mikell
* Michael Schoeffling as Jan
* Steve Buscemi as Wilfredo

*Michael Butler as Performance Artist
*Johann Carlo as Performance Artist
*Richy Canatta as Saxophonist
*Betty Comden as Mrs. Wheeler
*Anthony Crivello as Hairdresser
*Christine Dunford as "B"
*Adam Green (son of Adolph Green) as Max
*Tammy Grimes as Georgette
*John Harkins as Chuck Dade Dolger
*George Harris as Super
*Paul Jabara as Derelict
*Sakina Jaffrey as Wilfredo's Receptionist
*Tama Janowitz as Abby
*Freddy Korner as Party Guest
*Anthony La Paglia as Henry
*Philip Lenkowsky as Fritz
*Maura Moynihan as Mona
*Richard Steinmetz as Party Guest
*Stanley Tucci as Darryl


* This was Bernadette Peters' second role as a hat designer, having played one in the 1985 Broadway musical "Song and Dance".

* There are several cameos in this film: for example, Producer Ismail Merchant, lyricist Betty Comden and Adam Green, son of her writing partner, Adolph Green, and Tony-Award winning actress Tammy Grimes appear in party scenes.

External links

* [ Merchant Ivory Production]
* [ Boxofficemojo]

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