Maybe you’ve heard of him. Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you visit his website everyday looking for alternative ways to spend your evening other than melting into your sofa. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you carry his book, The Hipster Handbook, around with you everywhere you go, double-checking your lingo so that you remain tight with the cool kats. Or maybe you hate everything he and his hipsterly heroes stand for.
Regardless of which “maybe” you said “yes” to, you’ll have to agree that FREEwilliamsburg.com founder Robert Lanham is one of Williamsburg’s most important personalities, someone who has had his hands (and opinions) in so many cookie jars at once that – whether you know it or not – you’ve most likely been influenced by one of his many trains of thought.
You don’t believe me? Lanham’s been a resident of Williamsburg for more than ten years and his website FREEwilliams-burg.com has been live since ‘98. That means that for longer than most of you newbie’s have been wearing out the soles of your designer shoes on Bedford Ave., Lanham’s been documenting neighborhood events, reviewing local restaurants and bars and commenting on the latest art exhibits. It’s partly why he’s become such a popular writer, anthropologist, and instigator, with works of his being featured in The New York Times, Time Out New York, Nylon and Playboy, to name a few. And it’s why I decided to interview Lanham about why he loves Williamsburg, where his favorite hangouts are, and most importantly find out how he really feels about hipsters and their controversial role in the increasingly obvious gentrification of North Brooklyn.
Why did you start FREEwilliamsburg.com? The idea was that it was a place where artists and writers could have a place to write online. It started as restaurant and bar reviews and now it’s kind of like an arts and culture site about Williamsburg.
What’s your favorite local bar?
Spuyten Duyvil. There’s a good beer selection. It’s as simple as that.
I’m out of the loop with the gallery hopping, but Pierogi. Is that even there anymore?
Why did you move to Williamsburg?
I moved here from Richmond, Va., for practical reasons. It was cheap and it seemed like it was a growing community that catered to the artistic sensibility.
Were you serious with The Hipster Handbook?
The entire book was a farce – the whole faux-vocabulary, everything. It was meant to be a send-up of the culture. I figured if I out-hipped the hipster community it would probably create a little but of curiosity. And it worked. A lot of people took it hook, line, and sinker. I even had Page Six calling me asking, “Are these words real?”
Are you a hipster?
I don’t think anyone answers in the affirmative to that question. No one wants to be called a hipster. It’s become a four-letter word.
Do you think that hipsters have had a positive effect on Williamsburg?
There are legitimate hipsters that are doing some good art. What gets on my nerves, though, are the Wall Streeters who have come into the area to “get dirty with the artists” and have brought their condominiums with them.
Do you think hipsters have given Williamsburg a bad name?
People that criticize Williamsburg – I think that’s kind of retarded. Ninety-nine percent of America is strip malls and Walmarts that are devoid of artistic spirit. The fact that a place like Williamsburg exists with galleries and a bunch of cool bars. At the end of the day, I think that’s pretty exciting.
More exciting than Greenpoint?
I love Greenpoint. I think that for the people who have been here since the early ‘90s, people who are sick of the fashion catwalk of Bedford Avenue, it’s been a place to relocate to. It’s still a mixed community. It’s less college campusy, there’s a lot of galleries, and there’s a lot more space!
Got any new projects on the horizon?
One of my pieces just came out in the July/August issue of Radar Magazine. It’s about Generation Y-ers and how they are being praised for the very same qualities that the Baby Boomers criticized my Generation X for. What used to be called ADHD is now called multitasking.
What about any new books?
I just finished the book tour for my latest book, The Sinner’s Guide to the Evangelical Right. I’m working on another, but I’m keeping that book a secret for now.
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