Why I love NYC: Nile Rodgers
The disco legend shares his favorite New York City haunts.
Tue Oct 11 2011
Photograph: Roy Cox
As the cofounder and guitarist for disco-funk band Chic, and the producer of classic tunes like Diana Ross's "I'm Coming Out" and Sister Sledge's "We Are Family," Nile Rodgers gave Studio 54--era New York its theme music. Raised by loving—but lax—parents in a beatnik-filled Greenwich Village, Rodgers got in tune with city nightlife from a young age, sleeping on subway cars and finding his way to LSD-fueled hippie love-ins by his early teens. The music-industry vet shares the details of his uniquely New York upbringing, his decades-long career and his recent battle with prostate cancer in Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny (Spiegel & Grau, $27), a new memoir—named for Chic's best-known tune. We asked Rodgers—who is now in recovery and splitting time between the Upper West Side and Westport, Connecticut—to tell us where he likes to go for some good times of his own.
"I live near Central Park—it's still one of my all-time favorite places to go. Prior to my surgery, as part of the therapy process, the doctors wanted me to walk every day. In New York, I can walk up any street and memories will come flooding back. When I go to Central Park, I feel the same way. When I was a young hippie, [I] sort of lived in Central Park, sleeping on park benches. The Great Lawn makes me think of the  Moon landing. Many people don't realize this, but they put up a JumboTron—or maybe just a movie projector—and showed the Moon landing.... Most of us in a certain community, that's where we watched it." 59th St to 110th St from Fifth Ave to Eighth Ave (212-310-6600, centralparknyc.org)
"I just went to this place for the first time—it wasn't even open to the public yet—but I know I'm going to go back a lot. I did a television shoot there last [month]. When we started performing, people walking past the hotel wanted to come upstairs. We let them in, and they became part of the shoot. I was shocked at how Williamsburg felt like Greenwich Village in the old days. I hadn't really been." 160 North 12th St between Bedford Ave and Berry St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-7500, hwbrooklyn.com)
"This is my West Side hangout. Not only [does it have] great food, and the people are cool, but it's loaded with memories—it's in the same structure where Ungano's was. That was a famous nightclub where the Stooges and lots of other bands played in the early '70s. My band [New World Rising] played there too. The second time we were supposed to [perform], they tried to make us sign a management contract, and we didn't do it. We wound up playing Max's Kansas City instead, right after the Velvet Underground finished their long stint there." 200 W 70th St between Amsterdam and West End Aves (212-873-7411, cafeluxembourg.com). Mon, Tue 8am--11pm; Wed--Fri 8am--midnight; Sat 9am--midnight; Sun 9am--11pm.
"The food is cooked in a taboon oven, and it's the best Middle Eastern [food] you could have. And the entertainment is top-shelf. It's mainly South American cats and a lot of Cuban musicians playing Latin music, but all of them are super virtuosos. On Monday nights, you can't even get in—there's a line even in the winter." 773 Tenth Ave at 52nd St (212-713-0271). Mon--Fri 5--11pm; Sat 5--11:30pm; Sun 11am--3:30pm, 5--10pm.
Grand Central Terminal
"I used to drive [from Westport to Manhattan], but it's much cooler to take the train.... You can get on your laptop and write; I like to write at the station while I'm waiting for the train. The din of all those people creates a perfect background that masquerades as serenity for me. I need a noisy environment. As soon as I hear this cacophonous, indecipherable stuff, it makes me relax—probably the same way people use white-noise machines to fall asleep." 42nd to 44th Sts between Vanderbilt and Lexington Aves (212-340-2583, grandcentralterminal.com)